In Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee and the consolidated case of Arizona Republican Party v. Democratic National Committee, the Supreme Court will address issues raised under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the Fifteenth Amendment. Under Section 2—which restates and expands the protections of the Fifteenth Amendment—”no voting qualification or prerequisite to voting or standard, practice or procedure” may be imposed in a manner that is intentionally discriminatory or has a disparate impact on a racial or language minority.

In this case, the DNC challenged two of Arizona’s voting procedures: discarding out-of-precinct provisional votes where the ballot itself was filled out properly and disallowing third parties to collect and deliver completed vote-by-mail ballots. The DNC argued the provisional ballot rule has a disparate impact on African American, Native American, and Hispanic citizens and the ban on third party delivery was enacted with discriminatory intent. On appeal, the Arizona Republican Party challenges the Ninth Circuit’s finding of discriminatory intent and argues that race neutral and generally applicable voting laws which offer all citizens an equal opportunity to vote do not violate Section 2. Although Arizona won at the District Court level and a three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit affirmed, the Ninth Circuit reheard en banc and reversed, finding the District Court clearly erred.

During the last weeks of the Trump Administration’s Treasury Department, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen) unveiled a rule that received more comments than any other proposal in FinCen’s history. Over seven thousand commentors weighed in, despite only a 15-day comment-period stretching over the Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays. The proposed rule would impose certain Bank Secrecy Act reporting requirements on unhosted virtual currency wallets. (An unhosted wallet is the digital equivalent of a physical wallet, whereas a hosted wallet is the equivalent of a brokerage account.) Opponents argued that the proposed rule violated privacy rights, was ineffective, inhibited innovation, and violated the Administrative Procedures Act. Proponents asserted the proposed rule and its abbreviated review period were necessary to limit money laundering, and other illicit activity.

This disagreement represented a shift in positioning between the virtual currency industry and the regulators. Previously, many virtual currency adherents had argued its unique characteristics made standard regulations inapplicable. Regulators generally disagreed, imposing traditional financial regulatory frameworks such as the Howey-test, know-your-customer, and money transmitter requirements. Now virtual currency advocates claimed they were being singled out unfairly, and instead should be treated as their equivalents in the traditional financial system. Regulators argued that the unique characteristics of virtual currency justified a more stringent approach. This debate has significant consequences for the scope of government, combatting terrorism and other unlawful activity, personal privacy, and the future of money.

After living in relative obscurity since its passage in 1996, the Congressional Review Act caught the nation’s attention in 2017 when a Republican-led Congress and newly-elected President Trump used it to overturn 14 “midnight” regulations issued at the end of the Obama administration. Some prominent Democratic lawmakers opposed the CRA’s framework as well as its individual uses in 2017. Will roles be reversed in 2021 regarding Trump administration “midnight” regulations? Can they be completely reversed? The teleforum will review the mechanics and overriding purposes of the CRA. The technical elements include the law’s expedited congressional procedures, the types of actions covered, time frames for disapprovals, number of votes needed to overturn an action, and the consequences of disapproval.

— Todd F. Gaziano, Chief of Legal Policy and Strategic Research and Director, Center for the Separation of Powers, Pacific Legal Foundation
— Moderator: Prof. Susan E. Dudley, Director, GW Regulatory Studies Center & Distinguished Professor of Practice, Trachtenberg School of Public Policy & Public Administration, The George Washington University

While China is the paramount strategic priority for the United States, the Middle East remains a region of significance for U.S. national security interests. The Trump administration prioritized pressure on Iran, efforts to reduce the number of U.S. military personnel in Iraq and Syria, and good relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia. The incoming Biden administration is expected to continue some aspects of the Trump approach while changing course in others. Our two experts will assess the Trump record in the region and what they expect from the Biden administration. Please join us for this timely discussion.

— Matthew R. A. Heiman, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary, Waystar Health; Senior Fellow and Director of Planning, National Security Institute
— Prof. Jamil N. Jaffer, Adjunct Professor, NSI Founder, and Director, National Security Law & Policy Program, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University

In 2018, the City of Baltimore filed climate change litigation in state court against multiple energy companies seeking damages from the impact of climate change. The energy companies moved the lawsuit to federal court, arguing it was the proper venue; however, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland disagreed and ruled the case belonged in state court. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia affirmed the lower court’s decision and the energy companies appealed to the United States Supreme Court. Last October, the justices granted their petition for writ of certiori requesting review of the Fourth Circuit’s ruling remanding the case to state court. Oral arguments are set for Tuesday, January 19th.

Indiana Solicitor General Tom Fisher joins us to preview this pivotal hearing, the implications for similar litigation around the country and his role in leading a 15-state coalition that is taking a stand against climate change litigation.

On December 14, 2020, the Supreme Court released its decision in Texas v. New Mexico. By a vote of 7-1, Texas’ motion to review the Pecos River Master’s determination – that New Mexico was entitled to a delivery credit for evaporated water stored at Texas’ request under the Pecos River Compact – is denied. Justice Kavanaugh’s majority opinion was joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Thomas, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Gorsuch. Justice Alito filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part. Justice Barrett took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

— Anthony L. Francois, Senior Attorney, Pacific Legal Foundation

The case of Edwards v. Vannoy will have oral arguments before the Supreme Court on December 2, 2020. At issue is whether the Supreme Court’s decision in Ramos v. Louisiana applies retroactively to cases on federal collateral review. William McClintock joins us to offer commentary on the case and the oral arguments.

— William S. McClintock, Associate, King & Spalding LLP

The post-modern social science framework of “critical race theory” is well-known in certain academic circles and trending in corporate settings. CRT-inspired concepts and terminology– such as “white privilege,” “intersectionality,” “implicit bias,” “microaggressions,” and “systemic racism”—are increasingly used in ethnic studies curricula in higher education. Robin DiAngelo’s NYT best-seller “White Fragility” (2018) brought mainstream attention to some CRT concepts and terminology. This year, the death of George Floyd served as the impetus for many institutions, including corporate employers, governmental entities, and some K-12 school systems, to adopt responsive training for employees and students. In some cases, existing EEO and diversity training programs were enhanced to target anti-racism issues.

Critics have charged that CRT training itself contains racial stereotypes, assigns blame to individuals based solely on their race and sex, and imputes race discrimination as the reason for all disparate outcomes in society. Some employees have complained that being subjected to CRT training constitutes workplace harassment and/or discrimination. Proponents of CRT contend that disparate outcomes can only or best be explained by lingering, systemic racism. President Trump generated controversy in September when OMB Director Russell Vought released a memo instructing federal agencies to identify CRT training within federal agencies, with an eye to stop funding such programs. President Trump also issued an executive order forbidding such training by federal contractors. Our speakers will discuss the background and utilization of CRT, and explore whether the use of CRT (or similar theories) in workplace or K-12 contexts raises legal issues. They will grapple with the foundational question: Is CRT’s focus on race contrary to the traditional goal of a color blind society?

This teleforum reviews the November 4 oral argument in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. In March 2018, Philadelphia’s Department of Health and Human Services stopped placing foster children with families certified and supported by Catholic Social Services because the agency, as an arm of the Catholic Church, has a sincere religious objection to endorsing same-sex or unmarried heterosexual relationships. Three foster families supported by Catholic Social Services sued, seeking to continue partnering with their chosen agency and challenging the city’s decision on religious free exercise and free speech grounds.

The issues before the Supreme Court involve the appropriate standard for a free-exercise claim, reconsideration of the Court’s decision in Employment Division v. Smith, and the grounds on which a government can condition foster-care participation.

Under the Clean Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must approve clean water intakes, used by factories to cool machinery, before any are built. The EPA is required to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service to conduct a study of the new intake on marine life. The Sierra Club made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records made by the EPA during the agency’s rule making process, including the documentation of consultation with the services. The Services records were withheld citing Exemption 5 of the FOIA shielding from disclosure documents subject to the “deliberative process privilege”. The district court determined twelve of the sixteen restricted documents were not subject to Exemption 5. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s order to disclose some of the records but reversed the decision regarding two of the records. Our discussion will review the record and discuss next steps.

— Damien Schiff, Senior Attorney, Pacific Legal Foundation
— Moderator: Nancie G. Marzulla, Partner, Marzulla Law

This week, the United States Department of Justice launched its rumored antitrust law suit against Google. The government’s complaint brief alleges that Google has a monopoly in search and search advertising, and has unlawfully maintained that monopoly. Among the many complaints, the government points specifically to the billion dollar payments google pays to Apple, in exchange for Apple carrying the search engine on be the de facto search engine on its IOS platform. The Government is alleging that these practices are not in the best interests of consumers or competition. The case is the most high profile antitrust case in decades, and could potentially remake google, antitrust law, and the internet as we know it.

Today’s Teleforum is cosponsored by The Bork Foundation, a non-partisan, nonprofit educational foundation just launched, led by Robert H. Bork, Jr. who chairs a board which includes today’s speaker, George L. Priest, the Edward J. Phelps Professor of Law and Economics and Kauffman Distinguished Research Scholar in Law, Economics, and Entrepreneurship at Yale Law School.

The case of Midwest Institute of Health, PLLC v. Whitmer concerns the state-law claims (brought to the Michigan Supreme Court through the certified-question process from federal court) made in challenge to all of Michigan Governor Whitmer’s Executive Orders issued after April 30, 2020. On that date, the Michigan Legislature refused to extend Governor Whitmer’s emergency declaration. She asserted this denial was irrelevant under Michigan’s 1945 Emergency Powers of Governor Act, which unlike Michigan’s 1976 Emergency Management Act, does not have an explicit mechanism permitting the Legislature to terminate an emergency declaration. Governor Whitmer has issued around 175 COVID Executive Orders and almost all of the 41 still-active ones were issued after April 30, 2020. Plaintiffs focused their argument on the statutory construction concept of constitutional avoidance – specifically that if read in the manner that the Governor claimed, the 1945 EPGA would violate the 1963 Michigan Constitution’s separation of powers provision as it would be an unlawful delegation.

— Patrick J. Wright, Vice President for Legal Affairs, Mackinac Center for Public Policy

In Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, the Supreme Court confirmed that federal law permits employers to include class action waivers in employment arbitration agreements. In the wake of that decision, employers have increasingly adopted arbitration programs to gain the benefit of class action waivers. Employee-side class action attorneys have responded by filing “mass arbitrations” as a substitute for traditional class actions. Mass arbitrations can involve hundreds or even thousands of individual arbitrations filed simultaneously. Our panel will review the increasing use of the mass-arbitration approach from the perspective of employer-side and employee-side attorneys. In addition, the panel will discuss proposals for modifying arbitration procedures to accommodate mass arbitrations, including, in particular, the new Mass Arbitration Protocol released by the International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution.

— Allen Waxman, President & CEO, International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution (CPR)
— David E. Gottlieb, Partner, Wigdor LLP
— Moderator: Christopher C. Murray, Shareholder, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.

Now six months into the COVID pandemic, the Internet has offered Americans a welcome economic, educational and sometimes even psychological lifeline to weather the crisis. Given Americans’ increased reliance on broadband, politicians on both sides of the aisle are now actively campaigning on the issue of expanding broadband deployment. Republicans are focusing on promoting private-sector deployment, while Democrats are pushing for the expansion of government-owned networks (“GONs”).
While the debate over the merits of municipal broadband is nothing new, what has been missing from the debate over the years is a cohesive legal and economic analysis to frame the discussion. A new 100-page study recently published in the Federal Communications Law Journal attempts to fill that gap. To explore this important topic in detail, we will be joined in this teleforum by two of the authors of this new study to discuss their findings.

Note: The full paper, The Law and Economics of Municipal Broadband, 73 Federal Communications Law Journal 1 (2020) may be downloaded here.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act provides liability protection to platforms, internet service providers, and other online intermediaries for third-party content they host or republish. It also provides liability protections for actions taken “in good faith” by such entities to moderate content. Section 230 has recently come under scrutiny from President Trump, members of Congress, and others who have raised questions about the appropriateness of these protections and their continued viability “in the Age of Twitter.”

In May, President Trump issued an Executive Order that directed the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to file a petition for rulemaking with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposing regulations to clarify the scope of Section 230. The FCC is currently soliciting public comment on the NTIA petition, which was filed on July 27.

Join us as Mike Pompeo, the U.S. Secretary of State, discusses the priorities and work of his office before, during and after COVID-19.

— Hon. Michael R. Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State

On Monday, the Supreme Court released its decision in United States Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International. By a vote of 5-3, the judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit is reversed. The justices held that the enforcement of a law requiring foreign affiliates of domestic groups receiving funds to fight HIV/AIDS to have a policy opposing prostitution and sex trafficking does not violate the First Amendment. Justice Kavanaugh’s majority opinion was joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch. Justice Thomas also filed a concurring opinion. Justice Breyer dissented, joined by Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor. Justice Kagan took no part in the consideration or decision of the case. Our speakers will discuss the decision and its implications.

— Casey Mattox, Senior Fellow, Free Speech and Toleration, Charles Koch Institute
— Krystal B. Swendsboe, Associate, Wiley Rein LLP

In Seila Law LLC v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the Supreme Court decided the constitutionality of the CFPB, an agency long criticized not just by the business community but also constitutional scholars who see major problems a single-director agency seemingly unaccountable to the president or anyone else. The lawsuit was brought by a law firm that assists in resolving personal-debt issues, among other legal work that puts it in the crosshairs of those who want greater regulation of consumer-facing financial services. The CFPB is the most independent of independent agencies, with power to make rules, enforce them, adjudicate violations in its own administrative hearings, and punish wrongdoers. It doesn’t need Congress to approve its budget, because its funding requests are met by another agency insulated from political control: the Federal Reserve. Even CFPB supporters concede that the CFPB structure and authority is unique. John Eastman and Brian Johnson join us to discuss the Supreme Court’s decision and the greater implications.

— John Eastman, Henry Salvatori Professor of Law and Community Service and Director, Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, Chapman University Fowler School of Law
— Brian Johnson, Partner, Alston & Bird

John Malcolm and John Yoo continue their Teleforum series, joining us to discuss recent events including updates on the Michael Flynn case, the Supreme Court decision on DACA, recent unrest and free speech issues, and more.

— John G. Malcolm, Vice President, Institute for Constitutional Government, Director of the Meese Center for Legal & Judicial Studies and Senior Legal Fellow, The Heritage Foundation
— Prof. John C. Yoo, Emanuel S. Heller Professor of Law, University of California at Berkeley School of Law

On June 29, 2020, the Supreme Court issued its first major abortion decision on the merits since Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement. The consolidated cases, June Medical Services v. Russo and Russo v. June Medical Services, involved the constitutionality of Louisiana’s law requiring physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, and whether abortion providers can be presumed to have third-party standing to challenge health and safety regulations, such as Louisiana’s admitting privileges law, on behalf of their patients. The plurality opinion held that the abortion providers had standing and Louisiana’s law was unconstitutional because it imposed an undue burden. This teleforum will discuss this opinion, as well as Chief Justice Roberts’ concurrence, the four dissents, and the decision’s implications.

— Steven H. Aden, Chief Legal Officer & General Counsel, Americans United for Life