Egquist, Olech, and the Class of One. New Article on Erosion of Equal Protection

My article forthcoming in the Loyola Law Review, titled Equal Protection from Eminent Domain. Protecting the Home of Olech’s Class of One heavily relies on the Olech and Engquist line of cases, so this recent article by Professor Shanske posted to SSRN is of some interest (H/T Legal Theory Blog).

This article is about the erosion of the protections offered by the Equal Protection Clause resulting from the Supreme Court’s decision in Engquist v. Oregon Department of Agriculture, 128. S. Ct. 2146 (2008). Lower courts, purportedly following Engquist, have limited the reach of the Equal Protection Clause in several dozen cases in the last year. Until Engquist, it was uncontroversial that any person alleging irrational treatment by a government official could at least challenge the government official to give a reason that would satisfy rational basis review. Since the Supreme Court decided Engquist, lower courts have leapt to find that government officials cannot be found liable under the Equal Protection Clause for any action considered “discretionary.” It would be problematic if this striking curtailment of individual rights was actually required by the Supreme Court’s decision in Engquist, but the Court held no such thing, though the Court offered some expansive dicta that could be so interpreted. This article aims to counter the creep of these dicta among the lower courts and explains in particular why these dicta are not consistent with constitutional values.

I discuss this dicta at length in my article, so I will be sure to incorporate this article prior to publication. For my thoughts on dicta, see here: Much Ado About Dictum; or, How to Evade Precedent Without Really Trying: The Distinction between Holding and Dictum (one of these days I’ll get that article ready for publication).

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Freakanomics: “Just Compensation” Can Lead to More Government Takings. Huh?

Ian Ayres writes at the Freakanomics Blog:

What really interests me about Bankman’s idea is that requiring the government to pay for its takings might lead to more takings. This is very different from the way we usually think about the impact of compensation:

“A central idea behind the Constitution’s Takings Clause is to reduce government’s inclination to take too much. A government that is forced to compensate for the exercise of its eminent domain power is less likely to engage in value-reducing land grabs.”

But requiring compensation might increase the willingness of government to take. As Barry and I wrote:

“The big hope is to end the stranglehold that anti-IRS forces have on compliance efforts. . . . Absent compensation, Congress has vetoed efficient audit programs–setting the audit rates far below their optimal level. Here’s a rare case where forcing the government to pay for something is likely to increase its demand.”

The government, in deciding whether to take, is in some ways on both sides of the market, acting as both a buyer and a seller. The normal intuition that the just compensation requirement will dampen government’s demand to take conceives of the government as a buyer. But in a representative government, the amount of takings will be partly determined by the willingness of representatives to sell at a particular price. When the selling price is zero — as with current tax audits, government as representatives of sellers may choose to sell very little. (This possibility was to my knowledge first seen in Bruce A. Ackerman’s classic Private Property and the Constitution.)

Having just finished reading Super Freakanomics, I take all conclusions from freakanomics with a grain of salt.  If the Constitution did not provide for just compensation for takings, would bureaucrats be less willing to take? I don’t know. For many takings for economic development, the actual just compensation price is trivial compared to the expected benefits the future owner will bring. From that perspective, I’m not sure how much legislators would really even care about the compensation amount. But curious.

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IJ’s Bone Marrow Case: Judical Engagement, Not Activism

Jeff Rowes has a fantastic new Post on Volokh: IJ’s Bone Marrow Case: Judical Engagement, Not Activism.

Judicial engagement provides meaningful rational basis review (call it rational basis with “bite,” if you’d like) without opening the door to activism, amorphous “privacy”-type rights, or any other personal preferences of judges.

The constitutional interest at stake in the bone marrow case is rooted bothin the natural liberty the people retained in ratifying the Constitution and in the longstanding historical practices of Americans.  Until 1984, it had never been illegal to participate in safe, accepted, lifesaving medical treatment just because someone involved received compensation.  No one has to squint at penumbras cast by, or emanations from, the various enumerated rights to identify the right our clients are asserting in the bone marrow case.  Not only is there a substantial historical basis for this very specific constitutional interest (as opposed to nebulous “rights” that could lead to anything), its existence is consistent with the intuitions of most people about what legitimate constitutional interests look like.  As I said yesterday, most of us would surely agree that there would be a constitutional aspect to a law criminalizing safe, effective, lifesaving medical treatment for the aged or the seriously ill as part of an effort by government-run healthcare to cut costs.

IJ’s win in Craigmiles v. Giles, 312 F.3d 220 (6th Cir. 2002) illustrates judicial engagement.  Tennessee violated the right of our clients to earn an honest living (an unenumerated right long recognized by the Supreme Court and protected by the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment) by restricting casket sales to licensed funeral directors.  The state proffered a host of purported health and safety interests this restriction might serve.  But the facts showed that the law didn’t plausibly advance any of those and all the law accomplished was protecting a cartel of funeral directors from competition.  Public power for purely private gain isn’t a legitimate government interest and that law was rightly invalidated.  Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, Inc., 473 U.S. 432 (1985), is similar in that the facts showed that the government’s pretextual prohibition of a permit for a group home for the mentally handicapped did not credibly advance any legitimate government interests the city proffered.

Let’s apply judicial engagement to the bone marrow case.  We should begin with a strong presumption of constitutionality, but that should be tempered by a willingness to look at the facts and measure the government’s justifications against a standard of at least basic plausibility.  What are the legitimate government interests NOTA is trying to advance?  We know a few for sure.  Congress didn’t want living donors getting compensated for invasive organ surgery because doing so puts people at what Congress decided is too much risk.  Congress also didn’t like that organs don’t regenerate.  Finally, Congress didn’t want organ markets.

 

I discuss applications of rational basis with bite in my forthcoming article, titled Equal Protection from Eminent Domain. IJ has been promoting the notion of judicial engagement, as opposed to the pejorative judicial activism. I buy the distinction.

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Primus on the Future of Disparate Impact Post-Ricci, and My Thoughts

Professor Richard Primus posts on SSRN The Future of Disparate Impact (Michigan Law Review, Forthcoming) H/T Legal Theory Blog.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Ricci v. DeStefano (i.e., the New Haven firefighters case) foregrounded the question of whether Title VII’s disparate impact standard conflicts with equal protection. This Article shows that there are three ways to read Ricci, one of which is likely fatal to disparate impact doctrine but the other two of which are not.

The article asks that I not cite without permission, so I shall not cite it. But I highly recommend you read it through. Justice Scalia cited Profssor Primus’s article on Equal Protection in Ricci, so I am looking forward to his analysis.

I join the Court’s opinion in full, but write separately to observe that its resolution of this dispute merely postpones the evil day on which the Court will have to confront the question: Whether, or to what extent, are the disparate-impact provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 consistent with the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection? The question is not an easy one. See generally Primus, Equal Protection and Disparate Impact: Round Three, 117 Harv. L. Rev. 493 (2003).

I discuss the aftermath of Ricci in a forthcoming article in the Loyola Law Review, titled Equal Protection from Eminent Domain. Protecting the Home of Olech’s Class of One

The disparate impact analysis came under intense scrutiny in the recent landmark Civil Rights case, Ricci v. DeStefano Although the Supreme Court punted on the issue of whether the disparate analysis impact violates the Constitution, a lone concurring Justice sounded the clarion call.  Like Jacob’s vision of the ladder, Justice Scalia’s concurrence in Ricci presciently portends the “evil day” in which the Court confronts the question of  “[w]hether, or to what extent, are the disparate-impact provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 consistent with the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.”

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Updated draft of Eminent Domain article uploaded to SSRN

Just uploaded the final draft of my Eminent Domain article to SSRN. The article is titled Equal Protection from Eminent Domain. Protecting the Home of Olech’s Class of One. I will shortly send it off to the Loyola Law Review. So far, I have had an amazing experience working with them, and I have full faith that their staff will make this article as perfect as possible.

Many thanks to Randy Barnett, Dana Berliner, Kathryn Ciano, Steven Eagle, Adam Mossoff, Clark Neily, Yaakov Roth, Ilya Shapiro, and Ilya Somin for their comments and suggestions. I was quite fortunate to have so many scholars in the area offer their expertise.

And, to continue my tradition of dedicating each article to a founding father, this article goes out to the namesake of my J.D., the father of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, and an opponent to a Constitution without a Bill of Rights; George Mason!

I am really excited about the prospects for this article. The equal protection clause, combined with the class of one from Village of Willowbrook v. Olech, can serve as a potent weapon to challenge eminent domain abuse. Hopefully some litigator somewhere will pick up this article and state a claim in court based on my framework.

Posted in Olech, Eminent Domain. Comments Off on Updated draft of Eminent Domain article uploaded to SSRN