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Civil Rights

Privacy and Cell-Site Simulators

Criminal Law & Procedure Practice Group Teleforum Tuesday, July 19, 01:00 PMFederalist Society Teleforum Conference Call

Cell-site simulators are devices used by law enforcement. In response to the signals emitted by a cell-site simulator, cellular devices in the proximity identify the simulator as the most attractive cell tower in the area and transmit signals to the simulator that identify the device. Using these simulators, investigators can locate cellular devices whose unique identifiers are already known to law enforcement, or determine the unique identifiers of an unknown device by collecting limited signaling information from devices in the simulator user’s vicinity.

It has been a subject of debate whether the use of cell-site simulators by the government requires a warrant supported by probable cause. In September 2015, the Justice Department released a policy requiring federal investigators to obtain a warrant prior to employing a simulator, except under exceptional circumstances.

Is there a Fourth Amendment reasonable expectation of privacy in the data collected by cell-site simulators? Who is in the best position to establish limits in this area (if any), Congress or the courts? Should investigators be permitted to use simulators, even with a warrant?

Featuring:

  • Howard W. Cox, Adjunct Professor, George Washington University
  • Prof. Brian L. Owsley, Assistant Professor of Law, UNT Dallas College of Law

Supreme Court Rules on Affirmative Action and Immigration - Podcast

Civil Rights and Federalism & Separation of Powers Practice Groups Podcast
Josh Blackman, Roger B. Clegg, Hans A. von Spakovsky June 23, 2016

On June 23, 2016, the United States Supreme Court issued a 4-3 decision in Fisher v. University of Texas, upholding the University’s affirmative action program. It also announced a 4-4 tie in United States v. Texas, affirming the decision of the Fifth Circuit to block President Obama’s executive order on immigration. Our experts discussed both developments and answered audience questions.

Featuring:

  • Prof. Josh Blackman, Assistant Professor of Law, South Texas College of Law
  • Roger B. Clegg, President and General Counsel, Center for Equal Opportunity
  • Hon. Hans A. von Spakovsky, Senior Legal Fellow, The Heritage Foundation

CRST Van Expedited, Inc. v. EEOC - Post-Decision SCOTUScast

SCOTUScast 6-16-16 featuring Kenton J. Skarin
Kenton J. Skarin June 16, 2016

On May 19, 2016, the Supreme Court decided CRST Van Expedited, Inc. v. EEOC. In 2007, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a sexual harassment suit against CRST Van Expedited (CRST) on behalf of approximately 270 female employees. When a number failed to appear for depositions, however, the district court barred the EEOC from pursuing their claims as a discovery sanction. The remaining claims were dismissed on various other grounds, including 67 claims that the district court dismissed for failure of the EEOC to separately investigate, find reasonable cause for, or attempt to conciliate them. In addition, the court awarded CRST some $4.46 million in attorney’s fees and expenses, on the basis that the claims were frivolous, unreasonable, or without foundation. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of all but two claims, vacated the award of fees and costs, and remanded the case. On remand, one of the remaining claims was withdrawn and the other settled. CRST renewed its petition for fees, costs, and expenses, and the district court again awarded it approximately $4.6 million.

On a second appeal, the Eighth Circuit again reversed the award, finding that claims which had been dismissed for the EEOC’s failure to meet presuit obligations could not serve as grounds for a fees award, and remanding for an individualized determination as to whether other claims were frivolous, unreasonable, or without foundation. 

The U.S. Supreme Court granted CRST’s subsequent petition for certiorari, vacating the judgment of the Eighth Circuit and remanding the case by a vote of 8-0. Justice Kennedy’s opinion for a unanimous Court held that a favorable ruling on the merits is not a necessary predicate to find that a defendant is a prevailing party for purposes of awarding attorney’s fees award. Justice Thomas filed a concurring opinion.

To discuss the case, we have Kenton J. Skarin, who is an Associate at Jones Day.

Williams v. Pennsylvania - Post-Decision SCOTUScast

SCOTUScast 6-15-16 featuring Cassandra Burke Robertson
Cassandra Burke Robertson June 15, 2016

On June 9, 2016, the Supreme Court decided Williams v. Pennsylvania. Terrance Williams was convicted and sentenced to death for the robbery and murder of Amos Norwood. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania affirmed Williams’ conviction and sentence, and his initial attempts to obtain state postconviction relief failed. His subsequent petition for federal habeas relief also failed. He again sought post-conviction penalty-related relief in state court and prevailed in the Court of Common Pleas on a claim of unlawful evidence suppression. On appeal, however, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed the grant of relief and lifted the stay of execution (though a temporary reprieve was later granted by the governor for other reasons). The Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Ronald Castille, who had joined the opinion reversing the grant of relief to Williams, had also been the District Attorney for Philadelphia during Williams’ trial, sentencing, and appeal. In that capacity, Castille had authorized his office to seek the death penalty for Williams. Williams had moved to have Chief Justice Castille recuse himself from hearing the appeal of post-conviction relief, but Castille declined to do so.

The central question before the U.S. Supreme Court was whether Justice Castille’s denial of the recusal motion and his subsequent judicial participation violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. By a vote of 5-3, the Supreme Court vacated the decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and remanded the case. Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court, which held that under the Due Process Clause, where a judge has had an earlier significant, personal involvement as a prosecutor in a critical decision in the defendant’s case, the risk of actual bias in the judicial proceeding rises to an unconstitutional level. Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion. Chief Justice Roberts filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Alito joined. Justice Thomas also filed a dissenting opinion.

To discuss the case, we have Cassandra Burke Robertson, who is Professor of Law, Laura B. Chisolm Distinguished Research Scholar, and Director, Center for Professional Ethics at Case Western Reserve University School of Law.