William Messenger is an attorney with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.  He argued on behalf of the petitioners in Harris v. Quinn.

The First Amendment generally forbids the government from forcing citizens to support a private organization’s speech and expressive activities. Yet, roughly forty years ago, the Supreme Court held in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that the government can force public employees to financially support some types of union speech, but not other types. Specifically, Abood held that employees could be forced to subsidize union collective bargaining with the government, but not union political activities intended to influence government policy. Continue reading »

Ann C. Hodges is a Professor of Law at the University of Richmond School of Law.

As every first-year law student learns, the First Amendment is not absolute because the government can restrict speech with adequate justification. When the government acts as employer, the burden of justification is reduced because it has a strong interest in controlling the speech of its employees to provide effective service to the citizens.

The case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association involves a First Amendment challenge to laws affecting employee speech.  The plaintiffs complain that requiring them to pay the cost of the representation that the union is mandated to provide forces them to subsidize speech with which they disagree.  The Supreme Court upheld this practice against the same constitutional challenge in 1977 in Abood v. Detroit Board of EducationFriedrichs requires no different result.  Congress, in the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), and the states that have similar statutes, adopted the existing labor relations systems to balance the rights of employers, employees, unions, and the public.  “Fair share” fees are an integral part of these carefully constructed systems, insuring the effective functioning of the systems to achieve the goal of orderly labor relations.  That interest outweighs the objecting employees’ far weaker interest in not paying for collective representation when they do not agree with bargaining goals of the majority of their fellow employees.  The Court should leave well enough alone. Continue reading »

Tuesday round-up

By on Aug 25, 2015 at 7:18 am

Yesterday the Chief Justice allowed former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell to stay out of prison, at least temporarily.  The Court ordered the federal government to respond by Wednesday afternoon to McDonnell’s application to postpone his imprisonment while he pursues Supreme Court review.  Lyle Denniston covered the Chief Justice’s order for this blog; other coverage comes from Matt Zapotsky of The Washington Post.

Also yesterday, “friend of the court” briefs were filed by states, rabbis, nuns, and a Southern Baptist seminary in the challenge by the Little Sisters of the Poor to the Affordable Care Act’s birth-control mandate.  Coverage comes from Daniel Siegal of Law 360 and Paige Cunningham of the Washington Examiner.

If you have or know of a recent (published in the last two or three days) article, post, or op-ed relating to the Court that you’d like us to consider for inclusion in the round-up, please send it to roundup [at] scotusblog.com.


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UPDATED Wednesday 6:01 p.m.   The Justice Department urged the Supreme Court not to allow the former governor to remain free while he pursues his appeal.  The Court, it argued, is not likely to grant review of the case, or to rule his way even if it did.  The Court recently denied review of a political corruption case raising issues close to those in McDonnell’s case, it added.  FURTHER UPDATE: Thursday 1:06 p.m.  The former governor’s reply brief is here.


Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., on Monday afternoon temporarily blocked the imprisonment of former Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell until the Supreme Court can consider further his plea to remain free while he appeals his corruption conviction.   The Chief Justice’s order is here.

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Deborah J. La Fetra is a Principal Attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation.  Since 1990, she has written dozens of amicus briefs and directly represented dissenters in challenges to state-compelled subsidization of politicking.  She is representing PLF and Linda Chavez on an amicus brief in the Friedrichs case.

In Davenport v. Washington Education Association, the Supreme Court described laws that empower unions to garnish the wages of non-union members as an “extraordinary state entitlement to acquire and spend other people’s money.”  Nonetheless, for nearly forty years, since Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the Court has allowed that wage garnishment on the theory that without such entitlements, unions’ collective bargaining efforts might be undermined by “free riders.”  A series of cases upholding workers’ First Amendment rights to speak and associate as they choose has steadily chipped away at Abood, culminating in this Term’s grant in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association.  The Court should take this opportunity to overrule the flawed Abood decision.  That case was based on faulty premises and an unrealistic view of public-employee unionism, and the rule it announced infringes on individual rights.

Continue reading »

Monday round-up

By on Aug 24, 2015 at 7:32 am

Before the Justices began their summer recess at the end of June, they granted review in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, in which they will consider whether government employees who do not belong to a union can nonetheless be required to pay fees to support union activities related to collective bargaining.  Lyle Denniston outlined the issues in the case in a “Made Simple” post for this blog; the blog will host a symposium on the case this week.  And at the Appellate Practice Blog of the International Municipal Lawyers Association, Lisa Soronen suggests that the “stakes for unionized public employees couldn’t be higher” in the case.  Continue reading »

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Editor’s note: This post examines Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case the Supreme Court has agreed to review during its upcoming Term.  The blog will be hosting a symposium on the case this week.

Labor unions that represent government workers are now facing a series of challenges, not least of which is the blame for pushing up the pension and other costs that state and local governments contend they can no longer afford — as in Detroit’s $18 billion bankruptcy.  They also see a high-profile presidential candidate — Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker — basing much of his campaign on the pride of having beaten down those unions in his home state.  But their biggest worry right now may lie in the Supreme Court, where the Justices are to take up a case against them during the new Term starting in October.

There is a lot of history behind this dispute. The specific case focuses on dues charged by unions representing the public school teachers in California, but it raises much broader questions.  The future of public-sector unionism itself could be at stake.  Let’s sort this out, simply.

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Moones Mellouli, a Tunisian who had been living legally in the United States until he was deported for a minor drug crime, won one appeal to the Supreme Court this past June and on Friday moved into position potentially to win another.  The Justices, in a brief order, put off any further government review of his status under immigration law, saving that question for itself at least until a new appeal is decided.

As the case of Mellouli v. Lynch returned to the Court, it was partly about what the Court meant in its June 1 ruling in his favor, and whether a federal appeals court wrongly failed to follow that decision.  But the case is also about immigration officials’ authority to pursue a possible new avenue to deportation after the Supreme Court scuttled the first try and barred deportation.

Continue reading »

Lawyers for former Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell, arguing that he committed no crime but engaged only in “common political pleasantries” toward a man who supplied him with expensive gifts and favors, has asked the Supreme Court to keep him out of prison until he can appeal his political corruption conviction. He faces the prospect of imprisonment, for a sentence of two years, as early as next Thursday.

The former governor’s case reached the Supreme Court on Thursday, not long after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit turned down his request to remain free while he appeals.   His new plea was filed with Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., who handles emergency matters from the geographic region that is the Fourth Circuit.

Continue reading »



“Appellate advocacy, particularly at the Supreme Court, is really intimate. I mean, you’re just a few feet away from the Chief Justice. You know, if you’re sweating, they see you. And, it’s a conversation. And, you know, if you’re looking down at your legal pad the whole time, you’re not going to have that conversation.”

Neal Katyal is a partner at Hogan Lovells, where he co-directs that firm’s appellate practice – a practice formerly run by now-Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.  Katyal has argued twenty-four cases before the Court, including his first case, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.

Mr Katyal is the Paul and Patricia Saunders Professor of National Security Law at the Georgetown University Law Center, where he has taught constitutional law for fifteen years. He served as Acting Solicitor General in the Obama administration and as the National Security Advisor and a Special Assistant to the Deputy Attorney General during the Clinton administration.

Mr Katyal is a graduate of Yale Law School and Dartmouth College. He clerked for Justice Stephen G. Breyer and Judge Guido Calabresi of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

In this five-part interview, Mr Katyal discusses his background, including how discovering high school debate changed his life, working in national security and picking Hamdan v. Rumsfeld as his first Supreme Court case; the details of oral argument before the Supreme Court; understanding the importance of technical knowledge in understanding law, legal arguments and results; serving as Acting Solicitor General of the United States and how the Solicitor General’s office compares to private practice; and teaching law, clerking for Justice Stephen G. Breyer and Judge Guido Calabresi, and what to think about cameras in the Court.

Part five: Clerking & teaching

“When they are discussing and deciding the most momentous questions of the day,…my personal view is that that Court should be open and viewed by the American public at large.”

Clerking for Justice Stephen G. Breyer and Judge Guido Calabresi, a passion for teaching constitutional law; the challenge of teaching students and being an advocate; and whether cameras belong in the Court.

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