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Author: Deborah J. LaFetra

June 10, 2019

The Hill: Public interest litigation is under attack in California

This year marks the 65th anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark 1954 decision in Brown v. the Board of Education, which found racial segregation of schools to be unconstitutional. That famed case, brought by courageous parents in Topeka, Kan., was more than a victory for civil rights: it also illustrates the power of public interest ...

May 28, 2019

Daily Journal: Does California value public interest litigation?

When a school district or a city or a state violates its citizens’ constitutional rights, we applaud when those citizens fight back. But it costs a lot to sue the government. Fortunately, they aren’t alone: Public interest law foundations and attorneys providing pro bono representation exist to help people enforce their rights in court. ...

March 29, 2019

Tell me why?

Everyone has a First Amendment right to remain silent – the government cannot compel speech or association without a person's affirmative consent. In Harris v. Quinn (2014), the Supreme Court held that the Service Employees International Union in Illinois unconstitutionally stole "dues" from Medicaid subsidies paid to more than 30,000 home-based ...

February 22, 2019

Never assume government competence

Last June, the Supreme Court held in Janus v. AFSCME that states could no longer permit public employee unions to garnish non-union employee paychecks to subsidize the union's activities in collective bargaining or anything else, without the employee's affirmative consent. By compelling employees to subsidize speech or associate with an organizatio ...

January 15, 2019

End discrimination against corporate speech

Originally published in The Hill, January 15, 2019. "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." George Orwell's pithy lesson from "Animal Farm" describes the hypocrisy of governments that proclaim the equality of their citizens, while granting special power and privileges to an elite group. It's also an apt description of ...

January 04, 2019

End discrimination against corporate speech

"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." In Animal Farm, George Orwell described the hypocrisy of governments that proclaim the equality of their citizens but reserves to an elite group the ability to exercise power and enjoy special privileges. Our Constitution's First Amendment plainly states that Congress shall make ...

December 12, 2018

The constitutional right to speak for yourself

Public employees are a diverse group. Just as they don't all look alike, neither do they think alike. Under union-backed "exclusive representation" laws, however, they must speak with a single voice: the union's voice. In Massachusetts, four educators employed by the University of Massachusetts are challenging the state law that gives a union the s ...

December 05, 2018

The death knell for integrated bars?

Originally published by the Daily Journal, December 4, 2018. Could last summer’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME (2018 DJDAR 6308), forbidding states from allowing unions to garnish wages of nonmember employees without their affirmative consent, sound the death knell of the integrated bar? That’s exactly what North Dakota lawyer Arnold Fl ...

December 03, 2018

Even lawyers are entitled to First Amendment protection

In Fleck v. Wetch, North Dakota lawyer Arnold Fleck seeks to be free from his forced association with the State Bar Association of North Dakota. After considering his petition for writ of certiorari at eight consecutive conferences, the Supreme Court today granted the petition, vacated the decision below, and remanded for reconsideration in light o ...

October 16, 2018

When speech is a nuisance

Yesterday, the Supreme Court denied certiorari in Conagra v. State of California, a California state court decision holding that that three companies that lawfully sold lead paint are liable for creating a public nuisance and must therefore pay hundreds of millions of dollars into an "abatement" fund to investigate residential lead paint in the sta ...

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