For various reasons (set out here, here, here, and here), I have been musing recently about what should and should not be in a National Anthem Bill. In the US, legislation provides that, when the national anthem (since 1931, “The Star-Spangled Banner“) is being played, “persons present should … stand at attention with their right hand over the heart” (emphasis added). Although the photograph left shows Barak Obama doing so as President in 2009, there was a minor controversy during the 2008 election when he neglected to do so at a campaign event. More recently, US gymnastics gold medalist Gabby Douglas apologized in the face of criticism when she neglected to do so during the playing of national anthem at an olympics medal ceremony. Neither Obama nor Douglas meant anything by it. Obama said his grandfather taught him to put his hand on his heart only during the pledge of allegiance, and only to sing during the national anthem. And Douglas was just overcome by the emotion of the moment.
But some people do take advantage of the anthem to make a political point. At the 1968 Olympics, US 200-metre medallists Tommie Smith (gold) and John Carlos (bronze) raised their own gloved hands during the national anthem while looking down as a way of opposing US state-sanctioned racism.…
In my first post yesterday, I took certain comments of Kennedy J in the recent US Supreme Court decision in Fisher v University of Texas __ US __ (23 June 2016) as the context for an analysis of the nature of judicial deference to academic judgment. In this post, I want to look at the limits to such deference. Once those limits have been reached, substantive claims are entertained, even if they often fail (see M Davies “Challenges to ‘academic immunity’ – the beginning of a new era?” (2004) 16 Education & the Law 75).
This is true at both public and private law; and, whilst the public law analysis has dominated the cases (S Hedley “Students as Litigants: A Public Law or a Private Law Issue?” (2015) 14 Hibernian Law Journal 1 [hereafter: Hedley]), the line between these two procedures isn’t always clear. On the one hand, in Green v Master and Fellows of St Peter’s College Cambridge (The Times, 10 February 1896; cited in Hedley, 1; jpg) Wills J held that it was “obvious that the relation between an undergraduate and his college was not a contractual one”. Hence, in Jaffer v York University 2010 ONCA 654 (7 October 2010) ,  (blogged here | here) Karakatsanis JA held that judicial review is the proper procedure when seeking to reverse an internal academic decision (approving Gauthier v Saint-Germain 2010 ONCA 309 (CanLII) (3 May 2010)  (Rouleau jca).…
The US Supreme Court, though depleted at present to eight Justices after the death of Antonin Scalia, can still muster majorities in controversial cases.
One of the most controversial issues regularly before the Court (up there with abortion and guns) is affirmative action, especially in college admissions. At the end of last week, in Fisher v University of Texas __ US __ (23 June 2016) the Court held that a race-conscious admissions program in use at the time of petitioner’s application was lawful under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution. In the course of his judgment for the majority, Kennedy J stressed that, in the case of “an academic judgment … some, but not complete, judicial deference is proper”.
In this post and the next, I want to leave aside the (relatively narrow, but – in my view – sensible and precise) holding on the affirmative action issues, and focus instead on the issue judicial deference to academic judgment. In this post, I will consider the nature of such deference. In the next post, I will consider its limits.
In Fisher, Kennedy J held that, once “a university gives ‘a reasoned, principled explanation’ for its decision, deference must be given ‘to the University’s conclusion, based on its experience and expertise, that a diverse student body would serve its educational goals’,” (citing an earlier stage in the Fisher litigation: Fisher v University of Texas at Austin 570 US __ (24 June 2013); the earlier decision was referred to in the sequel as Fisher I, and the sequel under consideration here is being referred to as Fisher II).…
Saigon was the capital of South Vietnam, and its fall to the North Vietnamese 40 years ago this week, on 30 April 1975, effectively ended the Vietnam War. The image, left, is often taken as panic-stricken US citizens on the roof of the US Embassy trying to board the last helicopter out of Saigon. In fact, although there Many images images of the Embassy on that fateful day, the building in this famous photo is an apartment complex at 22 Gia Long Street; the people fleeing are Vietnamese; it was taken on 29 April; and the last helicopter took off at 07:53am the following day. Saigon is now Ho Chi Minh City, the largest city in the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, where the war now seems like a very distant memory, the US has been slower to learn the foreign policy lessons.
Reading about this anniversary this week brought to mind the case of Snepp v US 444 US 507 (1980). Frank Snepp was a member of the CIA in Saigon during the Vietnam War, and was one of the last Americans to leave the city as it fell to the North Vietnamese in 1975.…
Occasionally, Contract Law principles infiltrate into constitutional discourse. Two recent Supreme Court decisions illustrate the point, one from Ireland, the other from the US. Each relates to an issue of major political controversy and constitutional contention; and, in each, contractual reasoning is at the heart of a significant aspect of the judgments.
In the Irish case of Pringle v Government of Ireland  IESC 47 (19 October 2012) (noted here), the Supreme Court upheld the High Court’s decision to refer to the Court of Justice of the European Union various questions of EU law relating to the Treaty establishing the European Stability Mechanism (the ESM Treaty). In considering whether the ESM Treaty abrogated Irish sovereignty (in Articles 5, 6 and 28 of the Constitution) sufficiently to require an amendment to Article 29 of the Constitution to permit its ratification, Clarke J picked up on Hederman J’s dictum in Crotty v An Taoiseach  IR 713,  IESC 4 (9 April 1987):
The State’s organs cannot contract to exercise in a particular procedure their policy-making roles or in any way to fetter powers bestowed unfettered by the Constitution.
As a consequence, he analysed the sovereignty issue in contractual language:
8.3 … in international relations, as in very many other areas of public and private life, freedom to act will often, as a matter of practicality, involve freedom to make commitments which will, to a greater or lesser extent, limit ones freedom of action in the future.
Two very different stories in the media over the last few days have coalesced in my mind over the weekend. The first story is the announcement by the President of seven appointments to the Council of State. The second is the debate in the US about the recusal of Supreme Court Justices from forthcoming challenges to health care legislation.
The Council of State is established by Article 31 of the Constitution, and its primary role is “to aid and counsel the President”. The first meeting was convened by President Douglas Hyde on 8 January 1940, and a large painting of the event (pictured above left) by Simon Coleman hangs in Áras an Uachtaráin, in a reception room now called the Council of State Room. At the end of last week, the recently-elected President Michael D Higgins announced the appointment of Michael Farrell, Deirdre Heenan, Catherine McGuinness, Ruairí McKiernan, Sally Mulready, Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh, and Gerard Quinn to the Council.
Among the specific functions ascribed to the Council by the Constitution, Article 26.1.1 provides that the President may, after consultation with the Council of State, refer a Bill to the Supreme Court to determine whether the Bill is constitutional or not.…
Randall P Bezanson has just pubished another very important book on on Art and Freedom of Speech (University of Illinois Press, 2009), exploring the decisions of the US Supreme Court relating to artistic expression under the First Amendment. From the abstract:
… In considering the transformative meaning of art, the importance of community judgments, and the definition of speech in Court rulings, Bezanson focuses on the fundamental questions underlying the discussion of art as protected free speech: What are the boundaries of art? What are the limits on the government’s role as supporter and “patron” of the arts? And what role, if any, may core social values of decency, respect, and equality play in limiting the production or distribution of art?
Accessibly written and evocatively argued, Art and Freedom of Speech explores these questions and concludes with the argument that, for legal purposes, art should be absolutely free under the First Amendment–in fact, even more free than other forms of speech.