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The Liberty Threat: Attack on Religious Freedom in America
The struggle for religious liberty has been present since the time of the Roman Empire. By looking at how the Ancient Christian world relates to the failures of our own Supreme Court, it is…

By: Family Research Council

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The Liberty Threat: Attack on Religious Freedom in America – Video

Philadelphia, PA (PRWEB) October 22, 2014

The Third Circuit in U.S. v. Katzin, 2014 U.S. Dist. WL 4851779 (3d Cir. Oct. 1, 2014), reversed its prior decision of the split three-judge panel and ruled that “…when the agents acted, they did so upon an objectively reasonable good-faith belief in the legality of their conduct, and that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule therefore applies.”

In the Katzin case, suspecting the defendants of committing various burglaries, police, without a warrant, installed a GPS onto their van, leading to their apprehension. Almost two years later, the Supreme Court in U.S. v. Jones, 463 U.S. 354 (2012) ruled that this exact conduct needed a warrant. A three judge panel of the Third Circuit then held that the Fourth Amendment requires a warrant to install a GPS device on a suspects car. U.S. v. Katzin,732 F. 3d 187 (3d Cir. 2013). Prior to Jones, the Supreme Court had ruled that installing surveillance devices was not necessarily a Fourth Amendment violation. See U.S. v. Karo, 468 U.S. 705 (1984) and U.S. v. Knotts, 460 U.S. 276 (1983). The question before the en banc panel, therefore, was whether the police in Katzin were reasonably relying on these precedents to justify the legality of attaching the GPS device. The en banc panel in Katzin relied upon the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Davis v. U.S., 131 S.Ct. 2419 (2011), which held that the good faith exception applies when the police were reasonably relying on binding precedent. Prior to Jones, the Supreme Court had ruled that installing surveillance devices was not necessarily a Fourth Amendment violation.

Ms. Lefeber explains that the Katzin decision effectively eviscerates any Fourth Amendment protection because it creates a good-faith exception to the suppression of ill-gotten evidence.

Judge D. Brooks Smith, similarly, wrote in his dissent:

“The majority’s good-faith analysis is flawed because it finds that, where the law is unsettled, law enforcement may engage in constitutionally reckless conduct and still reap the benefits of the good-faith exception. Fourth Amendment jurisprudence dictates a different outcome. When the law is unsettled, law enforcement should not travel the road of speculation, but rather they should demonstrate respect for the constitutional mandateobtain a warrant. Anything less would require suppression.” Katzin, Ibid.

About Hope Lefeber:

In practice since 1979, Lefeber is an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney in Philadelphia. As a former Enforcement Attorney for the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, Lefeber uses the knowledge she gained while working for the government to best defend her clients facing serious state and federal charges related to drug offenses and white collar crime, including business and corporate fraud, mail and wire fraud, money laundering, financial and securities fraud, and tax fraud. A member of the invitation-only National Trial Lawyers Top 100, Lefeber has been recognized by Thomson Reuters as a 2014 Super Lawyer. She has represented high-profile clients, published numerous articles, lectured on federal criminal law issues, taught Continuing Legal Education classes to other Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys and has been quoted by various media outlets, from TV news to print publications.

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Third Circuit Allows Evidence from Warrantless GPS Device

The Supreme Court is weighing in on another Fourth Amendment privacy case, this one concerning a Los Angeles ordinance requiring hotels to surrender guest registries to the police upon request without a warrant.

Thejustices agreed(PDF) Monday to hear Los Angeles’ appeal of a lower court that ruled7-4 that the lawmeant to combat prostitution, gambling, and even terrorismwas unconstitutional. The law(PDF) requires hotels to provide the informationincluding guests’ credit card number, home address, driver’s license information, and vehicle license numberat a moment’s notice. Several dozen cities, from Atlanta to Seattle, have similar ordinances.

“The Supreme Court will consider both the scope of privacy protections for hotel guests and also whether the Fourth Amendment prohibits laws that allow unlawful searches,” EPIC wrote. “The second issue has far-reaching consequences because many recent laws authorize the police searches without judicial review. Thus far, courts have only considered “as applied” challenges on a case-by-case basis.”

The appeal is the third high-profile Fourth Amendment case the justices have taken in three years.

In 2012, the justices ruled that authorities generally need search warrants when they affix GPS devices to a vehicle. And earlier this year, the Supreme Court said that the authorities need warrants to peek into the mobile phones of suspects they arrest.

In the latest case,Los Angeles motel owners sued, claiming that the law was a violation of their rights. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the motel owners in December and said the only documentsthey must disclose include a hotel’s proprietary pricing and occupancy information.

Businesses do not ordinarily disclose, and are not expected to disclose, the kind of commercially sensitive information contained in the records, Judge Paul Watford wrote for the majority. He said a hotel has “the right to exclude others from prying into the contents of its records.”

In dissent, Judge Richard Clifton wrote that neither the hotel nor the guest has an expectation of privacy.”A guest’s information is even less personal to the hotel than it is to the guest,” Clifton said.

In arguing to the justices that they should review the majority’s conclusion, Los Angeles city officials wrote(PDF), “These laws expressly help police investigate crimes such as prostitution and gambling, capture dangerous fugitives and even authorize federal law enforcement to examine these registers, an authorization which can be vital in the immediate aftermath of a homeland terrorist attack.”

Thehigh court did not set a hearing date.

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Supreme Court to decide if cops can access hotel registries without warrants

Oct 202014

Gun Sense
It's time for gun control reform. Carrying guns into public restaurants and bars only lays ground work for potential trouble. The Supreme Court has ruled that the Second Amendment does not…

By: gmagic911X

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Gun Sense – Video

New Delhi, Oct 17 (IANS) The central government Friday told the Supreme Court that it could not disclose the names, received from foreign governments, of people who have allegedly stashed away their ill-gotten money to tax havens, as it was bound by the confidentiality clause under the double taxation avoidance agreement.

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Can't reveal names of account holders in tax havens, government to SC

New Delhi, Oct 17 (IANS) The Narendra Modi government's submission in the Supreme Court Friday that it cannot disclose names, received from foreign governments, of people who have allegedly stashed away their ill-gotten money in tax havens abroad triggered a war of words between the Congress and BJP.

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Political duel after government says can't name tax haven account holders

Speech: The First Amendment in the Spotlight
Elevator Repair Service created its show Arguendo from a Supreme Court transcript of oral arguments from a First Amendment case. Leading experts in First Amendment law and the Supreme Court…

By: Arts Ideas

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Speech: The First Amendment in the Spotlight – Video

Many voices on the left complained vociferously each time in the past few years that the Supreme Court rolled back unconstitutional campaign finance restrictions. Yet the loosening of the rules on campaign donations and campaign spending are showing positive signs in both the political arena and in an economic one: the advertising sector.

In terms of politics, it should be self-evident that more speech is better than less. The first amendment really only had two points as the Founding Fathers saw it: protect the press so they could expose any government wrongdoing and ensure freedom of speech for political arguments. Nude dancing was not on their minds.

Read the history of the revolutionary period and the early presidential campaigns and you will realize that the campaigns were wild, often dirty, free-wheeling affairs. Todays negative campaigners have nothing on their forefathers of two centuries ago.

New Orleans house with a collection of signs for all the mayoral candidates, with the comment More candidates than voters? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yet, beginning with a perhaps natural reaction to Watergate, a few incumbent politicians who wanted to protect their own reelections by making it harder for non-incumbents to raise money pushed through a series of restrictions on campaign financing, effectively reducing freedom of speech. We should all be glad that we are moving back in the direction of freedom of political speech. And no one has more to be glad about than the political operatives who design and buy advertising time and the corporations who sell the media slots to them.

According to Ashley Parker in The New York Times, spending on political advertising for the 2014 elections is up 70 percent over the last midterm elections in 2010. That will add up to about $2 billion in advertising buys just on House and Senate races with gubernatorial and local races added to that. Media consultants and campaign advisors who help design their candidates media strategy and place the advertising buys commonly earn high salaries and commissions equal to as much as 7 percent of the advertising spending.

That means that media consultants could stand to make $50 million off the increased spending just in the Congressional races. Freedom of speech appears to be excellent for media consultants. The Supreme Courts ruling in Citizens United might have been one of the best stimulus actions of the entire Obama presidency.

For media companies that are selling the advertising space, the increased political advertising is a bit of a mixed bag. Political candidates must be offered time or space for their ads at the lowest rates the outlet has charged to any other advertisers for equivalent spots. That means that more political ads could mean lower revenues for the media companies.

However, there is good news for the media companies as well. In this election cycle, an increased share of the political ads is being bought by outside groups. Outside groups do not benefit from the same preferential pricing, so media companies can charge them higher rates. Thus, the Supreme Court rulings like Citizens United that have made it easier for such groups to operate is a boon to those selling space for political ads.

Political speech is a good thing. When all sides and parties are free to express their opinions and make their case in favor of their causes and candidates, we get better, more informed elections and hopefully better election results.

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Campaign Spending Freedom Is Great For Speech and The Advertising-Media Sector

Don't tell

Free Speech Comments Off
Oct 132014

Twitter’s chirping about corporate free speech carries an overtone of risk. After its UK super-injunction tiff, the microblogging service is fighting for the right to disclose secret US demands for data. The two cases show firms have power to resist being muzzled – or forced to speak. That helps check judicial and government overreach, but it could also undermine useful regulation.

The company earned its free-speech stripes three years ago making British privacy guardians look ridiculous. A court order banning reporting on a famous footballer’s alleged affair – including the existence of the order, dubbed a super-injunction – was rendered useless when some 75,000 tweets broke the edict. Attempts to hold Twitter responsible proved futile.

The populariser of hashtags burnished its First Amendment credentials on Tuesday by suing Uncle Sam for insisting that Twitter and others couldn’t say publicly whether they had been forced to turn over customer records. The government claims such gag orders protect national security but Twitter is arguing, with justification, that the US Constitution sets a higher bar for measures that restrict free speech. One judge has already struck down similar orders.

Twitter’s stands are notable for holding authorities on both sides of the Atlantic to account. But they are also reminders of a less welcome legal trend. Especially in the US, some companies are increasingly using free speech arguments to beat back regulation – with a big assist from American courts.

In 2010, for example, the Supreme Court extended new protections to companies in relation first to the expression of political positions and then to commercial speech. And in May 2013, a federal appeals court cited free speech in excusing employers from posting government-mandated information about workers’ rights.

Another US appeals court in April struck down Securities and Exchange Commission rules requiring companies to disclose their use of certain minerals sourced in Africa. The judges said the regulations violated free speech by forcing firms, in effect, to denounce their own products.

National security matters more than corporate disclosure. But in both instances, the public interest lies in transparency. Twitter seems to get it, but not all companies have seen that tweet.

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Don't tell

Golan v Holder Copyright, the Public Domain, and the First Amendment at the Supreme Court clip40


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Golan v Holder Copyright, the Public Domain, and the First Amendment at the Supreme Court clip40 – Video

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Golan v Holder Copyright, the Public Domain, and the First Amendment at the Supreme Court clip39 – Video

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Golan v Holder Copyright, the Public Domain, and the First Amendment at the Supreme Court clip30 – Video

Oct 102014

NATO Press Conference
2014 Danish Army General Knud Bartels, Chairman of NATO's Military Committee and French Air Force General Jean-Paul Palomros, NATO's Supreme Allied Comma…

By: DoD News

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NATO Press Conference – Video

The first argument of the Term yesterday appears to have been somewhat unsatisfying for the Justices. As previewed here, the question on which the Court granted review in Heien v. North Carolina was a simple one: May a police officers reasonable mistake of law provide the reasonable suspicion required for a traffic stop under the Fourth Amendment? The Justices questions appeared to indicate an almost unanimous affirmative answer, although the Chief Justice did note that an answer with too broad a scope might have troubling implications. The Justices expressed some confusion about the proper disposition of the case, however, with Justice Scalia going so far at one point as to almost suggest a DIG (dismiss as improvidently granted). Still, Ill predict a short unanimous opinion answering the Question Presented with yes, leaving to footnotes and concurrences the larger and more difficult intricacies of the case.

A simple question presented, albeit with troubling implications

You will recall that a deputy sheriff stopped Heiens car because one of his brake lights was not working. (Because the officer was actually interested in criminal interdiction, Justice Sotomayor described the encounter as a lawful pretext, and the officer did indeed find drugs in a subsequent consent search. Although Justice Ginsburg twice inquired why the lawful consent didnt eliminate the issue of the stop, the traditional rule has been that the fruits of an invalid stop must be suppressed.)

On appeal, however, a state appellate court ruled that there was in fact no traffic violation as a matter of law (and hence no reasonable suspicion of one), because the North Carolina statute requires only a [singular] stop lamp. Thus, that court ruled, the Fourth Amendment had been violated, and Heiens conviction should be vacated. But on further appeal, while accepting the appellate courts surprising legal interpretation of the law, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that Heiens conviction might stand, because the officers mistake of law had been a reasonable one the state statute was antiquated and the one-brake-light legal ruling was surprising to most. Thus, the court ruled, there was no Fourth Amendment violation, and Heiens case was remanded for further proceedings.

On Heiens further interlocutory certiorari petition, the question thus appeared to be simply presented: can such a reasonable legal error create reasonable suspicion, or should officers be held to know the law just as private citizens would be? That is, if two working brake lights were in fact required, it would be no defense for Heien to argue that he reasonably did not know that. Ignorance of the law is no excuse is the common law maxim, and Heien argued that this should apply equally to officers stopping cars. A contrary ruling would, as Heiens experienced Supreme Court advocate Jeff Fisher argued, vastly expand police officer discretion, allowing them to stop cars and people whenever a reasonable ambiguity of legal authority could be argued. This is the broad implication about which Chief Justice Roberts and some other Justices expressed concern yesterday.

Of course, the Court could simply rule that a reasonable mistake of law satisfies the Fourth Amendment, and then just narrowly define what will count as reasonable. Justice Kennedy repeatedly turned to this question what is standard to determine a reasonable legal mistake? and Justice Breyer and others also seemed to focus on it. It was interesting to this reader that no one suggested that when there is legal ambiguity, a reasonable officer might be required to conduct a reasonable investigation to obtain a clear legal ruling about the scope of the law, before relying on it to stop and search. Fisher did suggest, however, that the Court ought to require a definitive ruling from a court or legislature before allowing officers to act. Meanwhile, North Carolina Deputy Attorney General Robert Montgomery suggested a generous standard (although no Justice appeared to endorse it): the officer simply gets to decide which he thought was the better rule. But as Fisher responded, allowing officers to exploit statutory ambiguities in order to conduct intrusive stops and searches would undercut public confidence in law enforcement.

The twist in the case

Aside from defining what is reasonable, one might think, simple question, simple answer, right? Not so fast. About thirty seconds into yesterdays argument, Justice Kennedy asked the first question, raising a point which then preoccupied the Court for much of the hour. Suppose North Carolina did have a good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule. What would you be arguing today? It turns out that, at the time of Heiens arrest, the North Carolina Supreme Court had ruled that as a matter of state constitutional law, suppression of evidence is required when the Fourth Amendment is violated regardless of officers good faith. (North Carolinas legislature has since amended the law.) That ruling is of course opposite to the U.S. Supreme Courts 1984 ruling in United States v. Leon that there is a good faith exception to the exclusionary rule. It was briefly asked yesterday, but not seriously examined, whether a state may declare its own state-law remedy for federal constitutional violations. Federalism should respect that choice, argued Fisher.

Thus Fisher plainly wants to argue on remand that Heiens conviction should remain vacated because reasonable good faith does not apply. However, Fishers immediate response to Justice Kennedy was that the Court [does]nt have to reach that question, since North Carolina has not argued it. When Deputy Attorney General Robert Montgomery stood up to argue in response, he confirmed that point; the state has not argued for a good faith exception to be applied in Heiens case. This position seemed to clearly confuse at least some of the Justices (as it continues to confuse me). The North Carolina Supreme Courts ruling suggests that Heiens narcotics conviction should be reinstated on remand. Heien plainly wants that ruling vacated. But as repeatedly stressed by Justice Scalia, the Court doesnt review opinions, [it] reviews judgments. So unless the remedy is exclusion, Justice Scalia asserted, theres no basis for us to set aside the judgment of the North Carolina Supreme Court. Or, in other words, if the federal rule is that there should not be suppression in any case due to good faith, why should the Court answer a preliminary question (whether there was a Fourth Amendment violation) that doesnt matter? As Justice Kennedy asked with some frustration, Can North Carolina more or less set us up this way?

Fisher responded that in fact it is not uncommon for the Court to announce a federal constitutional rule, and then remand to the state courts for further proceedings not inconsistent with its ruling. Indeed, that is what the North Carolina Supreme Court did, once it ruled that a reasonable mistake of law did not constitute a Fourth Amendment violation: just remand for further proceedings. Justice Scalia ultimately expressed reluctant acceptance on this point: If it hasnt been argued, I guess we can do that. I guess. . . . Im sorry to waste so much of our time.

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Argument analysis: A simple answer to a deceptively simple Fourth Amendment question?

Oct 092014

Twitter's First Amendment challenge to government surveillance rules could hinge on the Supreme Court's "Citizens United" ruling.

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Twitter's 1st Amendment fight

Is it a violation of the Constitution for a police officer to act on a misunderstanding of the law? Thats what the Supreme Court asked in its first case of the new term.

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Broken lights and the Fourth Amendment

Golan v Holder Copyright, the Public Domain, and the First Amendment at the Supreme Court clip32


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Religious Liberty, 1st Amendment Rights Unlawful Searches: A look ahead for the 2014 Supreme Court
Will the Supreme Court grant religious rights to prison inmates? Does the first amendment freedom of speech protect you from posting violent language on Facebook? Are police subject to the…

By: AnneElise Goetz

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Religious Liberty, 1st Amendment Rights & Unlawful Searches: A look ahead for the 2014 Supreme Court – Video

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