Speech Code for Lawyers? Free Speech & Election Law, Litigation, and Professional Responsibilities & Legal Education Practice Groups Teleforum Friday, June 03, 01:00 PMFederalist Society Teleforum Conference Call
The American Bar Association (ABA) model rules of conduct have long wrestled with regulating the intersection of discrimination and the law of lawyering. The current model rules forbid discrimination in the practice of law only as a comment to the prohibition on lawyer conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. After much discussion and pressure, the ABA has proposed expanding the language to become new model rule 8.4 (g). If enacted, this rule would prohibit (in its own right) discrimination or harassment by a lawyer engaged in the practice of law against a list of protected classes, including ethnicity, gender identity, and marital status. Perhaps anticipating a challenge, the new rule's comment states that the new rule does not apply to non-lawyer conduct or activities protected by the first amendment and also exempts times when references to such protected groups and facts are needed to effectively represent a client. However, this new rule would apply to all conduct at primarily firm and legal events, including firm related social events.
What is discrimination or harassment over socioeconomic status? Since this rule applies to social settings, where is the line to be drawn and what chilling effect might be created? What about free speech and free association? To aid in our understanding, this Teleforum welcomes free speech expert Eugene Volokh of UCLA law who has written extensively on this subject.
SCOTUScast 5-17-16 featuring Adele Keim
- Prof. Eugene Volokh, Gary T. Schwartz Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law
On April 26, 2016, the Supreme Court decided Heffernan v. City of Paterson. Jeffrey Heffernan was a police officer for the City of Paterson, New Jersey. A fellow police officer observed Heffernan picking up a campaign sign for the mayoral candidate running against the incumbent. Although Heffernan disclaimed any political motives and said he was merely picking the sign up for his mother, his supervisor demoted him. Heffernan sued Paterson claiming a violation of his First Amendment rights, but lost on the grounds that, his supervisor’s erroneous belief notwithstanding, the fact that Heffernan was not actually engaged in political activity doomed his claim. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the trial court’s judgment. The question before the Supreme Court was whether the First Amendment bars the government from demoting a public employee based on a supervisor's perception that the employee supports a political candidate.
By a vote of 6-2, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Third Circuit and remanded the case. Justice Breyer delivered the opinion of the Court, which held that when an employer demotes an employee out of a desire to prevent the employee from engaging in protected political activity, the employee is entitled to challenge that unlawful action under the First Amendment and Section 1983 even if the employer's actions are based on a factual mistake about the employee's behavior. Justice Breyer was joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Justice Thomas filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Alito joined.
To discuss the case, we have Adele Keim, who is counsel at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. SCOTUScast 5-16-16 featuring Andrew Grossman
On April 4, 2016, the Supreme Court decided Evenwel v. Abbott. As required by the Texas Constitution, the Texas legislature reapportioned its senate districts after the publication of the 2010 census, formally adopting an interim plan that had been put in place for the 2012 primaries. Plaintiffs, who are registered Texas voters, sued the Texas governor and secretary of state, asserting that the redistricting plan violated the one-person, one-vote principle of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, by failing to apportion districts to equalize both total population and voter population. A three-judge district court ruled in favor of the state officials.
On appeal, the question before the Supreme Court was whether the three-judge district court correctly held that the “one-person, one-vote” principle under the Equal Protection Clause allows States to use total population, and does not require States to use voter population when apportioning state legislative districts.
By a vote of 8-0, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the three-judge district court. Justice Ginsburg delivered the opinion of the Court, holding that constitutional history, precedent, and longstanding practice demonstrate that a state may draw its legislative districts based on total population. The Chief Justice and Justices Kennedy, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined Justice GInsburg’s opinion for the Court. Justice Thomas filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. Justice Alito also filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, which Justice Thomas joined except as to Part III-B.
To discuss the case, we have Andrew Grossman, who is Partner at Baker & Hostetler, LLP. Criminal Law & Procedure and Free Speech & Election Law Practice Groups Podcast
On Wednesday, April 27, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Robert F. McDonnell v. United States. The Court will review the public corruption convictions of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell to determine whether the definition of “official action” as used in the federal bribery statute, Hobbs Act, and honest-services fraud statute is limited to exercising actual governmental power or the threat or pressure to do so. If the definition is not so limited, the Court will also consider whether the Hobbs Act and honest-services fraud statute are unconstitutional—given that such a broad definition could include political activity protected by the First Amendment. Our experts attended the oral arguments and offered a summary and analysis to Federalist Society members.
Civil Rights Practice Group Podcast
- William J. Haun, Associate, Hunton & Williams LLP
- Stephen R. Klein, Attorney, Pillar of Law Institute
On April 20, the United States Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion in Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, a case challenging Arizona's state legislative district map as partisan gerrymandering. Our expert discussed the opinion and what it means for the Court’s voting rights jurisprudence.
- Hon. Hans A. von Spakovsky, Manager, Election Law Reform Initiative and Senior Legal Fellow, The Heritage Foundation