President’s weekly report — December 31, 2015

December 31, 2015 | By ROB RIVETT

School choice supported in Montana

PLF sued the Montana Department of Revenue to fight a rule that forbids children who want to attend religious school from getting scholarship assistance.

In May 2015, Montana became the 43rd state to adopt a school choice law. The law creates a tax incentive for individuals and businesses to donate money to a scholarship fund to help kids afford private school. But the Montana Department of Revenue cooked up a rule that cripples the program and imperils constitutional liberties. The rule bans religious schools from participating in the program. Most of Montana’s private schools are religious, so the ban has whisked away most of the choices from Montana’s first school choice experiment before students can even apply for aid. We allege that this rule is not mandated by the new law, violates the First Amendment by discriminating against religious institutions, and violates the Equal Protection Clause. For more detail, see our blog here.

Free speech on teh interweb

PLF filed this friend-of-the-court brief in the DC Circuit in Pursuing America’s Greatness v. Federal Election Commission. This case involves FEC’s attempt to ban Facebook fan pages with names like Run Bernie Run or I like Mike Huckabee. According to the FEC, a political committee like a Super PAC cannot use the name of the candidate it supports in a website domain name or the title of a social media page. Our brief explains that the naming prohibition goes too far and violates the First Amendment and basic reason. Indeed, the FEC’s prohibition suggests either that the FEC has too much time on its hands (since “idle hands make for the devil’s playground”) or doesn’t understand how teh newfangled interweb works. For more, see our web post here.

Reply brief filed in PLF’s Obamacare challenge

We filed this reply to the government’s opposition to our petition or cert to the Supreme Court in Sissel v. Department of Health & Human Services, our challenge to Obamacare based on the fact that the taxes in Obamacare did not originate in the House. The Constitution’s Origination Clause is explicit that all bills to raise revenue should begin in the House, the body closest to the people. But with Obamacare, Harry Reid took an existing House bill on veterans benefits, stripped out every single word, and inserted Obamacare in its place. We’re arguing that such “gut and amend” tactics cannot be allowed to avoid a clear Constitutional mandate. For more background see our most recent blog post on the case here and see Scotusblog’s take here.

Guarding against coach-felons in youth sports is not discriminatory

We filed this amicus brief in Hardie v. NCAA. The NCAA sponsors high school basketball tournaments and prohibits anyone who has been convicted of a felony from coaching in them. Dominic Hardie, a black high school basketball coach with felony conviction for drug possession on his record, has sued the NCAA for racial discrimination, arguing that the rule has a “disproportionate impact” on minority coaches.  PLF, the Center of Equal Opportunity, and Competitive Enterprise Institute filed this Ninth Circuit amicus brief in support of the NCAA — and against disparate impact — earlier today. We argue that disparate impact liability is problematic because it encourages what the Equal Protection Clause forbids: discrimination on the basis of race. For more, see our blog post here.

Loss in Oregon condemnation case 

We suffered a loss here in an Oregon inverse condemnation case, Oregon v. Alderwoods. The case dealt with the right of access and whether compensation is due when access is restricted. Our brief focused on preserving the right itself. Thankfully, the opinion adopted much of our argument that a right if access is inherent in property ownership although it did not find a taking in this particular case because of the availability of alternative access routes. For more, see the blog post we filed upon the filing of our brief.