On Wednesday, March 4, 2015 the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in King v. Burwell, one of the most talked-about cases of the October 2014 term. At issue is whether the Internal Revenue Service may permissibly promulgate regulations to extend tax-credit subsidies to coverage purchased through exchanges established by the federal government under Section 1321 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Those challenging the statute argue that tax-credit subsidies can only be legally extended to those purchasing insurance in state-run exchanges – fewer than 20 states have created such exchanges. Professor Jonathan Adler, widely regarded as one of the architects of this most recent challenge to the affordable care act, attended the oral arguments and offered his thoughts to a live Teleforum audience.
Prof. Jonathan H. Adler, Johan Verheij Memorial Professor of Law, Case Western Reserve University School of Law
On Tuesday, March 3, 2015 the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in City of Los Angeles v. Patel. Los Angeles has an ordinance that requires hotels to maintain certain records about their guests and to produce those records for police officers upon request. The officer does not necessarily need a warrant or any particular suspicion. Hoteliers claim that this regime violates the Fourth Amendment. Interestingly, the hoteliers do not allege that any particular search was illegal. Is this kind of “facial” Fourth Amendment challenge to a statute or ordinance (as opposed to an “as applied” challenge to a particular search carried out under the statute) permissible? This issue raises fundamental questions about the constitutional structure of judicial review, with importance reaching far beyond the Fourth Amendment context.
Prof. Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz, Georgetown University Law Center
One of the Federal Trade Commission’s key duties is to protect consumers from deceptive advertising. The FTC does this, in part, by ensuring that advertisers can substantiate their claims. While executing this duty, the FTC generally seeks to prevent consumer harm while maximizing the amount of useful information available to consumers. Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen believes that, in some cases over the past several years, the FTC has required a heightened level of substantiation, thereby reducing the useful information available to consumers. In a recent decision, POM Wonderful, the D.C. Circuit offered additional guidance on striking the proper balance, echoing themes that Commissioner Ohlhausen has raised in debates with her colleagues at the FTC. Commissioner Ohlhausen discussed this and other recent cases and how the FTC should address deceptive advertising in the future.
Hon. Maureen K. Ohlhausen, Federal Trade Commissioner
Miriam Ibrahim is a Sudanese woman who was arrested in Sudan and charged with adultery in August 2013 on the grounds that her marriage to a Christian man from South Sudan was void under Sudan's version of Islamic law, which says Muslim women cannot marry non-Muslims. The court added the charge of apostasy in February 2014, and she was sentenced to hang after refusing to renounce Christianity. Though her father was Muslim, he left her Ethiopian Orthodox mother to raise her from early childhood, and she was raised a Christian. Though she eventually was released in July 2014 and is now living in the United States, her arrest raises the question of whether and how the United States should respond to instances of the denial of religious freedom in other countries.
Prof. Thomas F. Farr, Senior Fellow and Director, Religious Freedom Project, Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, Georgetown University
Tina Ramírez, Founder and Executive Director, Hardwired, Inc.
Since the 1980s, the Department of Justice has utilized civil asset forfeiture as an effective tool to seize and forfeit billions of dollars-worth of assets allegedly connected to criminal activity as either an instrumentality or fruit of the crime. Since the inception of the asset forfeiture program, the Justice Department has shared much of these funds with state and local law enforcement authorities under its equitable sharing program, and many states have their own civil forfeiture laws and procedures. Critics of the program believe that civil asset forfeiture is fundamentally unfair, claiming, among other things, that it has the potential to warp law enforcement priorities, that the existing procedures are stacked against innocent property owners, and that it is simply wrong to seize someone’s property when that person has not been charged with, much less convicted of, a crime. Several proposals have been introduced in Congress to reform the civil asset forfeiture program, the Justice Department has announced that it is conducting an internal review of this program, and a number of states have recently undertaken a review of their own civil asset forfeiture laws.
John G. Malcolm, Director and Ed Gilbertson and Sherry Lindberg Gilbertson Senior Legal Fellow, Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, The Heritage Foundation
John W. Vardaman, III, Assistant Deputy Chief for Policy, Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, United States Department of Justice