Few things are more gratifying to a lawyer than when another lawyer of great stature agrees with the first lawyer’s legal opinion on some matter of significance. So, needless to say, I was quite pleased yesterday when I read Attorney General George Jepsen’s legal opinion that the state’s constitutional spending cap “has no current legal effect,” i.e., it is unenforceable. I wrote a couple of blog posts last April that reached that same conclusion.
Open government advocates have been pressing hard the past few years for the UConn Foundation, the private, non-profit entity that raises money for our state’s flagship university, to be more transparent. Senator Michael McLachlan (R.-24), has been one of the leaders in the Connecticut General Assembly to make the foundation subject to the state’s Freedom of Information Act. UConn’s powerful alumni and lobbyists, however, have successfully opposed those efforts–so far. Another legislative session will shortly be upon us, and although it is a short session, I anticipate UConn foundation transparency will continue to be an issue.
As a free speech advocate, I have been following closely the recent student protests at Yale and the University of Missouri. A number of thoughtful writers are beginning to share their perspectives on the protests. Today two articles caught my attention and are, IMHO, worth taking time to read:
Conor Friedersdorf, writing at The Atlantic, has this piece on the Yale protests, entitled “The New Intolerance of Student Activism.”
Univ. of Missouri law prof Thom Lambert, writing on his blog, has this piece on the Mizzou controversy.
I’ll add more links to other thoughtful articles as I come across them.
Here are a few more links to thoughtful articles on the Yale controversy:
Mark Oppenheimer’s column at Tabletmag.com
Colin McEnroe’s column in the Hartford Courant
Nicholas Kristof’s column in the New York Times
A comment posted on my initial post about changing the law that allowed convicted felon Joe Ganim to run for office again pointed out that former Republican candidate for Secretary of State Peter Lumaj made a similar proposal in 2013. Responding to that proposal, CT Newsjunkie reports that Secretary of the State Denise Merrill “said she had faith in voters’ ability to choose their candidates. She said prior felons running for office was not one of the state’s pressing election issues. Merrill said Lumaj’s proposal also raised constitutional concerns. ‘It contradicts the principle that once you have served your time and paid your debt to society, you can resume as a citizen,’ Merrill said. ‘I’m not sure it would pass constitutional muster.'”
In reading articles about Ganim’s comeback victory, I’ve seen others raise the same concern about whether denying a convicted felon the right to vote and/or run for state or local office would be constitutional. As I explain below, these concerns are without any basis in law. (Laws that impose limitations on candidates seeking federal office are a different matter and are beyond the scope of this post.) It troubles me that the Secretary of the State would suggest otherwise. Her words carry great weight and authority. She is certainly entitled to express her opinion on whether she thinks such a law would be good public policy. But she should not comment negatively on proposed legislation based on groundless legal concerns.
In recent weeks, lawyers, the legal press in Connecticut, and this blog, have been discussing the possibility that a pending death penalty case in the Connecticut Supreme Court, State v. Peeler, could overrule the court’s recent decision in State v. Santiago. Santiago held that a statute passed in 2012, which expressly repealed the death penalty prospectively, had the unintended effect of rendering capital punishment unconstitutional under the state constitution for the 11 men already on death row. More accurately, the discussion has focused on whether the Supreme Court should use the Peeler case to overrule Santiago.
So, disgraced public servant and convicted felon Joe Ganim is back in office in Bridgeport, Connecticut’s largest city. As I’ve written in the past, Connecticut law (General Statutes § 9-46a) allows convicted felons to run for office if they have completed their sentence and paid all fines and penalties. What I haven’t discussed is whether I think that law is good or should be changed.
Governor Malloy has renewed his call for a constitutional amendment that would create a “lock box” for tax revenues dedicated to transportation infrastructure projects. He wants to ensure that certain sales tax and other revenues are actually used for the purpose for which they were levied.
express no opinion on [have no expertise germane] to whether a transportation lock box makes good sense as a matter of public policy. I do have an opinion, however, on whether a lock box amendment would be judicially enforceable. My opinion is that unless the proposed amendment contains specific language vesting jurisdiction in the state courts to decide cases involving alleged violations of the lock box, the Connecticut Supreme Court will is likely to treat lock box disputes as “political questions” over which the judicial branch has no jurisdiction. The end result will be “feel good,” but legally meaningless, language in the state constitution.
Many trial judges, particularly federal district court judges, have special rules governing the procedure for filing motions in cases on their dockets. If a lawyer is not careful, those special rules can result in the dismissal of an appeal as untimely, as the Second Circuit recently explained in its opinion in Weitzner, et al. v. Cynosure, Inc. (Hat Tip to Orrick appellate lawyer (and my cousin by marriage) Bob Loeb.)
Hillary Clinton appeared in a three-minute skit on Saturday Night Live the other week. Donald Trump is set to host an entire SNL show next month. Are Clinton’s and Trump’s competitors in the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries entitled to equal time on NBC? Yes, although not necessarily on SNL.
As readers know, I like to depart from the usual legal babble of this blog once in a while to turn the spotlight on members of my family. This post shines the light on my younger brother, Nathan, an actor who started singing and dancing in my mother’s womb. Here’s a great video someone recently posted on YouTube of him performing with the Yale Whiffenpoofs on the Today Show in 1994, following a post-graduation European tour. (Note that Matt Lauer still has hair.) Enjoy!