United States v. Wurie
(opposing warrantless searches of cell phone pursuant to a lawful arrest)

admin Searches and Seizures

Wurie was a Fourth Amendment case involving the warrantless search of a cellular phone pursuant to an arrest.  The government argued that, any time it makes an arrest, it has the right to search a person’s cell phone without a warrant as a matter of course, “incidental” to the arrest.  Wurie was convicted based upon information found in the search, and he sought U.S. Supreme Court review. Read More

Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus
(opposing the Ohio “ministry of truth” for political speech)

admin First Amendment

This was a First Amendment case involving an Ohio law giving the Ohio Election Commission the power to “proclaim” the alleged truth or falsity of statements during political campaigns.  Taking a page out of Orwell’s novel 1984, and dubbed the “Ministry of Truth” by its critics, the law permits the government to decide what can and cannot be said about it.  CLDEF’s brief argued that in the United States the people — not the government — are sovereign, and the government has no power whatsoever to decide truth and falsity.  Indeed, Thomas Jefferson declared that “the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction.”  This case resulted in a successful outcome in the Supreme Court, and on remand, the district court struck down the Ohio statute. Read More

Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius
(challenging the Obamacare abortifacient mandate)

admin Healthcare

As the federal government uses the term, the term “contraceptive” no longer describes ways to prevent conception.  Rather, the term now includes terminating a pregnancy after conception occurs.  Thus, many of what are now called “contraceptives” are really abortifacients — drugs and devices that induce a miscarriage and the death of the embryo in the womb.  Under rules adopted after the enactment of Obamacare, the federal government seeks to require all employers providing group health insurance to provide these abortifacients, calling them contraceptives. Read More

Quinn v. Texas
(opposing government use of “no knock” raids based on gun ownership)

admin Firearms Law

The Quinn case involves both the Second and Fourth Amendments, relating to a no-knock raid by the police.  Police executed a warrant to search John Quinn’s home, looking for drugs owned by his son who lived there.  Rather than honor the age-old practice of knocking on the door and announcing themselves, the police battered down Quinn’s door, shooting him when he understandably reached for his handgun to defend himself from what he thought was a burglary.  The police justified the no-knock raid solely because they believed that Quinn owned firearms. Read More

Christopher Hedges v. Barack Obama
(challenging the unconstitutional detention of U.S. citizens authorized in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012)

admin First Amendment, Other Constitutional Cases

This case involved a challenge to Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (“NDAA”), which authorized military detention of civilians based on vague standards of providing “support” for an adversary of the United States, similar to the Japanese-American internment camps during World War II.  Journalist Christopher Hedges and a group of journalists and lawyers brought this challenge to the NDAA. Read More

United States v. Castleman
(opposing unreasonable application of Lautenberg Amendment)

admin Firearms Law

This case arises under the so-called Lautenburg Amendment of 1997, amending the Gun Control Act of 1968.  The government argued for an expansive definition of what constitutes a Misdemeanor Crime of Domestic Violence, under which a person who engages in offensive touching, pushing, or even spitting in the context of a domestic relationship meets the federal requirement of “physical force.”  The penalty for such an act is a lifetime ban on firearms ownership, and even innocent efforts to purchase or possess a firearm can result in the person becoming a felon. Read More

Abramski v. United States
(defending right of former police officer to buy gun for elderly uncle)

admin Firearms Law

Abramski is a Second Amendment case challenging ATF’s use of its “straw purchase” doctrine to convict one eligible person who bought a firearm for another eligible person.  When buying a gun, a person is asked on the ATF Form 4473 if he is the “actual buyer,” even though federal law only requires him to be the “transferee.”  Congress never actually criminalized “straw purchases,” and it is not up to ATF or the courts to create new crimes in order to fill in the perceived blanks.  The government argued that the gun dealer was “required” to keep information about the “actual buyer,” but federal law requires him to keep only the identity of the “transferee” — the person physically present to obtain the firearm. Read More

NLRB v. Canning
(opposing Obama’s broad recess appointment power)

admin Other Constitutional Cases

Barack Obama made several recess appointments between Senate pro forma sessions, purporting to following Article II, Section 2, Clause 3, the Recess Appointments Clause.  A challenge was brought against an action by the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) against an employer who alleged that the NLRB action was invalid due to a lack of quorum because a majority of the Board members had received recess appointments.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed with the employer, and the NLRB sought review by the U.S. Supreme Court. Read More

Cotterman v. United States
(opposing border exception to the Fourth Amendment)

admin Searches and Seizures

Cotterman was a Fourth Amendment case about whether the federal government can seize a laptop at a border checkpoint and copy the contents without a warrant, probable cause, or even reasonable suspicion.  Cotterman was convicted based on such a search, and he sought review by the U.S. Supreme Court.  CLDEF’s amicus curiae brief, in support of the petitioner, argued that the case should not be analyzed based on non-textual “reasonable expectation of privacy” standards, but instead involved a “general search” absolutely prohibited by the Fourth Amendment.  This would be no different than if the government seized a person’s firearms and copied down the serial numbers as part of a general search to see if they were stolen.  CLDEF’s effort in this case continues to press for a revitalized Fourth Amendment principle to protect property, not just some watered-down notion of a reasonable expectation of privacy — an expectation which is rapidly shrinking in the digital age. Read More

Moose v. MacDonald
(defending Virginia’s crimes-against-nature laws)

admin Family and Life

Moose v. MacDonald involved a challenge to Virginia’s “crimes against nature” statute.  A federal district judge found that the statute violated the Fourteenth Amendment.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that this law had been invalidated by the Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence v. Texas.  The state of Virginia sought Supreme Court review. Read More

United States v. Edith Schlain Windsor
(defending the federal Defense of Marriage Act)

admin Family and Life

The Windsor case involved the federal Defense of Marriage Act — a federal law defining marriage as between one man and one woman for purposes of federal law.  The case also addressed the standing of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group — representing the House of Representatives — to defend that statute in federal court after the Obama administration refused to do so. Read More

Dennis Hollingsworth v. Kristin Perry
(defending California’s Proposition 8 constitutional definition of marriage)

admin Family and Life

This case involves a challenge to California Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment which defined “marriage” as between one man and one woman and was approved by a majority of voters in California. California’s government (led first by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and then by Governor Jerry Brown) refused to defend the amendment enacted directly by the people of California, and so the proponents of the amendment stepped in to defend it. Read More

Shelby County v. Eric H. Holder, Jr.
U.S. Supreme Court
(Fourteenth Amendment)
(challenging the preclearance requirement of the Voting Rights Act)

admin Election Law and Campaign Finance

CLDEF’s amicus curiae brief argued that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (“VRA”) of 1965, as amended in 2006, exceeds the powers vested in Congress by either the Fourteenth or Fifteenth Amendment, including the enforcement provisions of those amendments.  Under the 2006 amendments, the purpose of the preclearance is to “protect the ability of [minority] citizens to elect their preferred candidate of choice” and is no longer concerned with preventing voting law changes that mask racial discrimination denying or abridging the right to vote.  Further, Sections 4(b) and 5 of the VRA as amended in 2006 put Alabama on an unequal footing, in violation of the statute admitting Alabama to the union and the Tenth Amendment.  The Supreme Court held that Section 4’s coverage formula is unconstitutional in light of current conditions and can no longer be used as a basis for the preclearance requirement. Read More