Commentary

Hines v. Quillivan, no. 19-40605  (5th Cir. Dec. 2, 2020). Reversing and remanding on the dismissal of a First Amendment claim but affirming dismissal of an Equal Protection claim, the Fifth Circuit finds Texas' prohibition against veterinarians providing telemedicine advice unless they have actually seen the animal in question-even though medical doctors are not bound by that restriction-is supported by rational basis. This opinion opens with the question presented: "Does a veterinarian have a right to engage in telemedicine for a pet...

The day before Thanksgiving, the Supreme Court issued a per curiam (unsigned) 5-4 opinion enjoining New York from imposing its 10 and 25-person occupancy limits on religious institutions.  Specifically, New York imposed restrictions on attendance at religious services in areas classified as “red” or “orange” zones in the State. In red zones, no more than 10 persons may attend each religious service, and in orange zones, attendance is capped at 25.  Religious entities in the state challenged the order claiming...

Today, in a great victory for the City of Nashville and IMLA, the Sixth Circuit decided that Nashville did not violate the First Amendment when it fired a 9-11 dispatcher who used a racially offensive slur in the context of the 2016 election in a public Facebook post that identified her as an employee of the City.  The parties all agreed that her post was on a matter of public concern given the broader context of the election even though...

Mays v. Governor, no. 157335 (Mi. July 29, 2020). In a 4-2 opinion affirming the courts below, the Michigan Supreme Court declined to dismiss a class action for inverse condemnation and bodily harm against former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and other state and local officials for their actions which resulted in toxic water from the Flint River being supplied  to Flint residents, causing a major health crisis, damage to residential water systems and a precipitous drop in property values. For more than...

On Friday night, the Supreme Court denied a request for an injunction by a church in Nevada seeking to hold in person services on the same terms as other facilities in the State, including casinos.  The order limits religious gatherings to 50 people while allowing restaurants and casinos to operate as 50% capacity. The majority that denied the injunction offered no written opinion accompanying its decision (which is not unusual for this type of request), but Justice Alito (joined by Justices...

Today, in a 5-4 decision, in McGirt v. Oklahoma, the Supreme Court held that a large swath of eastern Oklahoma, including most of the city of Tulsa, is “Indian country” for the purposes of the Major Crimes Act (MCA).  In a decision that was as much a history lesson as a debate over statutory text and interpretation, the majority concluded that Congress never disestablished the Creek Nation reservation in Oklahoma and therefore, the state of Oklahoma lacked jurisdiction to criminally...

Today, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court held that the current administration’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) was arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), but 8 Justices agreed that the decision did not constitute and Equal Protection violation.  The facts in this case were fairly unusual because everyone agreed that administration could rescind DACA at any time because it does not like the policy.  But instead, the federal government has...

The Supreme Court held in a 6-3 opinion in Bostock v. Clayton County, that an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII.  Writing for the majority, Justice Gorsuch explains “[s]ex plays a necessary and undisguisable role” in an employer’s decision to “fire an individual for being homosexual or transgender”, which is “exactly what Title VII forbids.” The textualist opinion includes numerous examples of why it is “impossible to discriminate against a person for being...

As lawyers, the ABA model rules of professional conduct tell us that we “should seek improvement of the law, access to the legal system, the administration of justice and the quality of service rendered by the legal profession.” [i]  Further, as lawyers we are instructed to further the public's understanding of and confidence in the rule of law and the justice system because legal institutions in a constitutional democracy depend on popular participation and support to maintain their authority. A lawyer...

South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom, no. 19A1044, 590 US ___ 2020 (U.S. May 29, 2020). A 5-4 Supreme Court majority has declined to enjoin Governor Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order restricting in-person religious gatherings. In an apparent response to Justice Kavanaugh’s dissent, Justice Roberts wrote a late-night  individual concurrence, deferring to elected officials responsible for protecting the health of their constituents and citing the fact that California’s limits on the size of in-person activities affect not only worship services but...