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SCOTUScast 7-18-17 featuring David A. Cortman

On June 26, 2017, the Supreme Court decided Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer. The Learning Center is a licensed preschool and daycare that is operated by Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc (Trinity Lutheran). Though it incorporates religious instruction into its curriculum, the school is open to all children. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) offers Playground Scrap Tire Surface Material Grants to organizations that qualify for resurfacing of playgrounds. Trinity Lutheran’s application for such a grant was denied under Article I, Section 7 of the Missouri Constitution, which reads “no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, section or denomination of religion.” Trinity Lutheran sued, arguing that DNR’s denial violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the First Amendment’s protections of freedom of religion and speech. The district court dismissed the suit and a divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause did not compel the State to disregard the broader anti-establishment principle reflected in its own constitution.

By a vote of 7-2, the United States Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Eighth Circuit and remanded the case. In an opinion by Chief Justice Roberts, the Court held that the DNR’s policy violated the rights of Trinity Lutheran under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment by denying the Church an otherwise available public benefit on account of its religious status. 

Justices Kennedy, Alito, and Kagan joined the Chief Justice’s majority opinion in full, and Justices Thomas and Gorsuch joined except as to footnote 3. Justice Thomas filed an opinion concurring in part, in which Justice Gorsuch joined. Justice Gorsuch filed an opinion concurring in part, in which Justice Thomas joined. Justice Breyer filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. Justice Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Ginsburg joined. 

And now, to discuss the case, we have David A. Cortman, who was lead counsel in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Pauley and is Senior Counsel and Vice President of U.S. Litigation, Alliance Defending Freedom.

SCOTUScast 7-18-17 featuring Vikrant Reddy

On May 30, 2017, the Supreme Court decided Esquivel-Quintana v. Sessions. In 2009, Juan Esquivel-Quintana, who was then 21, pleaded no-contest to a California statutory rape offense after engaging in consensual sex with a 17-year old. California criminalizes “unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor who is more than three years younger than the perpetrator,” and for this purpose considers anyone under the age of 18 to be a minor. The Department of Homeland Security then initiated removal proceedings against Esquivel-Quintana under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which allows for the removal of any alien convicted of an aggravated felony, including “sexual abuse of a minor”--though it does not define that phrase. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) denied Esquivel-Quintana’s appeal, concluding that the age difference between Esquivel-Quintana and the minor was sufficiently meaningful for their sexual encounter to qualify as abuse of a minor. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, deferring to the BIA’s interpretation, denied Esquivel-Quintana’s petition for further review.

The question before the Supreme Court was whether a conviction under a state statute criminalizing consensual sexual intercourse between a 21-year-old and a 17-year-old qualifies as sexual abuse of a minor under the INA. 

By a vote of 8-0, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Sixth Circuit. In an opinion by Justice Thomas, the Court held that in the context of statutory rape offenses that criminalize sexual intercourse based solely on the ages of the participants, the generic federal definition of "sexual abuse of a minor" requires the age of the victim to be less than 16. Because the California statute of conviction did not fall categorically within that generic federal definition, Esquivel-Quintana’s conviction was not an aggravated felony under the INA. All other members joined in Justice Thomas’s opinion except Justice Gorsuch, who took no part in the consideration or decision of this case. 

To discuss the case, we have Vikrant Reddy, Senior Research Fellow at the Charles Koch Institute.

Short video featuring Richard Epstein

How can an association that doesn’t own property make rules that govern it? Professor Richard Epstein of NYU School of Law discusses the principles governing complex property arrangements, giving an overview of the Neponsit case, which created a modern rule for how a property can be governed by an organization and not an individual owner.  This development makes condo associations and other more efficient uses of property possible.

Professor Epstein provides an alternative to the conventional view that property rights are arbitrarily created by the state, and therefore can be changed at will by the state; a few simple rules, he argues, are universal principles of social organization, consistent across time and culture, which form the basis of social gains.

Professor Epstein is the inaugural Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law at NYU School of Law, a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and Professor of Law Emeritus and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago.

Short video featuring Richard Epstein

What kind of rules provide stable property possession within the complex system of property ownership and leasing? In the fifth installment of a series on the Common Law, Professor Richard Epstein of NYU School of Law gives an overview of property arrangements rooted in the English Common Law system, explaining how these arrangements started with William the Conqueror in 1066 and continue in modern lending.
 
Professor Epstein provides an alternative to the conventional view that property rights are arbitrarily created by the state, and therefore can be changed at will by the state; a few simple rules, he argues, are universal principles of social organization, consistent across time and culture, which form the basis of social gains.
 
Professor Epstein is the inaugural Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law at NYU School of Law, a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and Professor of Law Emeritus and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago.

Free Lunch Podcast featuring Jonathan Riches and Alan Guichard

Flytenow was a ridesharing platform for small planes. The company was founded by two pilots, Alan Guichard and Matt Voska. This kind of cost-sharing arrangement was explicitly authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The Flytenow software facilitated the cost-sharing in accordance with FAA rules and also provided a breadth of information about the flight and the pilot including his/her license type, experience, past flight ratings, and social media.

The service was a great win-win for both parties. That is until the FAA caught wind of all the innovation and deemed the online nature of Flytenow to be prohibited. The FAA reasoned that posting flight plans online, as opposed to physical bulletin boards, was impermissible because it could attract a broader segment of the public. Flytenow, with the help of The Goldwater Institute, challenged the FAA’s ruling all the way to the Supreme Court; but unfortunately, the Court declined to take up the case in January of this year, effectively upholding the lower courts' siding with the FAA.

Flytenow is now pursuing a legislative route to make ridesharing in aviation a reality. 

Speakers:

  • Jonathan Riches, Director of National Litigation, Goldwater Institute
  • Alan Guichard, CFO and Co-Founder, Flytenow, Inc.

Moderator:

  • Devon Westhill, Director, Regulatory Transparency Project