When people debate the legality of gun control legislation, the focus is usually on the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. What many people may not realize, however, is that state constitutions often contain a similar (but not identical) provision. Thus, article first, § 15 of the Connecticut Constitution provides: “Every citizen has a right to bear arms in defense of himself and the state.”
Jeffrey Toobin has this interesting article in the New Yorker on how the recent Larry Nassar trial makes the case for having cameras in the courtroom. Money quote:
Today, some courtrooms are opening up, especially state and federal appeals courts. The United States Supreme Court remains doggedly, and ludicrously, opposed to cameras, although it eventually releases audio recordings of oral arguments. But the Nassar case reminds us that there is no substitute for seeing justice, or its absence, for ourselves
Last week I had the privilege of participating with distinguished journalist Denis Horgan in a program at the Old State House about the meaning of the First Amendment and why freedom of expression is so important. Many thanks to the Old State House for hosting this program, which you can watch on CT-N. Given the current political environment, I don’t think the program could have been more timely.
The Connecticut Supreme Court issued its much-anticipated decision in Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding v. Rell “(CCJEF v. Rell”), which challenged the constitutional adequacy of Connecticut’s public education system. Chief Justice Chase Rogers, in what may be one of her final decisions before retiring next month, wrote the opinion for a divided court. She stated that Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher clearly violated separation of powers principles when he ruled, based on a novel constitutional standard that he created, that the state’s educational system was unconstitutional:
[W]e agree with the defendants that, having found that the educational resources provided by the state reasonably meet the minimal needs of the state’s students . . . the trial court should have concluded that the state’s educational system satisfies article eighth, § 1 [of the state constitution], and it should not have gone on to apply a constitutional standard of its own devising. By doing so, not only did the trial court fail to defer to the legislature, it also usurped the legislative responsibility to determine how additional funding, beyond the constitutionally required minimum, should be allocated and how to craft educational policies that, in its view, best balance the wide variety of interests at issue. This action was in clear violation of separation of powers principles.
Many legal observers, myself included, anticipated this decision and its separation of powers rationale.
Justices Richard Palmer, Richard Robinson and Appellate Court Judge Michael Sheldon, sitting by designation, issued a separate opinion which concurred in part and dissented in part from the majority decision. They agreed with much of the majority’s analysis, but thought that instead of directing the entry of judgment for the defendants, the case should have been remanded for a new trial.
I hope to write more about the twin decisions after reviewing them more closely.
Please attend!!!!!! Great program, great speakers, great price!
Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced today that he intends to nominate Associate Justice Andrew McDonald to become the next Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court. Current Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers announced last year that she intends to retire next month after eleven years as the state’s top judge.
Two of the country’s leading First Amendment scholars give diametrically opposite answers to this topical and pressing question. Robert Post, former Dean of Yale Law School, answers the question “no” in an enlightening post on Vox, entitled “There is no 1st Amendment right to speak on a college campus.” Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, answers the question “yes” in a responsive post on Vox, titled “Hate speech is protected free speech, even on college campuses.”
Former federal prosecutor Christopher Mattei recently abandoned his interest in running for governor of the Nutmeg State and has declared that he will now seek the Office of the Attorney General. This development follows in the wake of Attorney General George Jepsen’s surprise announcement that he will not seek reelection in 2018.
Short Answer: It depends (my favorite two words as a lawyer).
Fuller Answer: Isolated heckles by an individual are protected speech under the First Amendment. But an intentional and sustained effort to disrupt a lawful public assembly by heckling the speaker is unlawful in many states–and it should be. Eugene Volokh, a leading First Amendment scholar, explains the law in this helpful article.
For folks interested in really thinking hard about whether a wedding cake baker can refuse, on First Amendment grounds, to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, Prof. Andrew Koppleman offers this thoughtful article on the subject. Here’s his opening paragraph:
On December 5, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Masterpiece Cakeshop, the case in which a baker claims that free speech protects his right to refuse to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. Although it is impossible to know how the Court will rule, I can confidently predict that if the baker wins, the justices’ explanation will be incoherent.