Tune in to Fox News Channel Saturday at 9pm to see John Stossel’s special “War on The Little Guy,” which features my lawsuit on behalf of Kentucky entrepreneur Raleigh Bruner. He’s the guy who wants to run a moving company…only to discover that if you want to run a moving company in Kentucky, you first have […]
This morning the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decided the case of Colon Health Centers v. Hazel, a case challenging the constitutionality of Virginia’s “Certificate of Need” or CON law for clinics that want to buy medical equipment to help screen people for cancer. The trial court had thrown that case out before hearing any […]
Today, Pacific Legal Foundation attorneys filed a motion in Kentucky Federal District Court asking Judge Danny Reeves to strike down the Bluegrass States’ anti-competition law for moving companies. Representing entrepreneur Raleigh Bruner and his company, Wildcat Moving, we’ve argued that the state’s licensing law for movers violates the Fourteenth Amendment, which forbids government from arbitrarily depriving […]
(PLF attorney Timothy Sandefur (L) and client Raleigh Bruner (R)
outside the Federal Court building in Lexington, Ky. yesterday)
Thursday afternoon, U.S. District Court Judge Danny Reeves issued an order blocking the state from enforcing its Competitor’s Veto law for moving companies, at least until he has the opportunity to decide whether that law is constitutional. That decision came after Pacific Legal Foundation lawyers filed an emergency motion to block the state from prosecuting our client, Raleigh Bruner, in state court under the very same law he’s challenging in the federal court. In an extremely questionable move, state lawyers filed an identical lawsuit in state court, using Bruner’s federal case as the basis for asking a state judge to shut down his business, and filed a motion for an injunction in the state court on Friday, which have blocked Bruner’s federal lawsuit from going forward. Judge Reeves’s decision makes clear that he will not allow the state to subvert federal civil rights protections in this way.
Under legal precedents established in the 1930s, business owners who want to defend their constitutional right to earn a living against unreasonable government interference face a very difficult task. They must overcome the “rational basis test,” a legal theory that says the judge must presume that the law is constitutional and the business owner is forced to “disprove every rational basis for the law.” That’s very hard to do—it requires you to prove a negative, for one thing, and since the courts will uphold the law even on a legal theory that the legislature didn’t have in mind when it wrote the law, this test even requires you to concoct an indefinite number of speculative justifications for the law and then disprove them all.
Needless to say, business owners rarely win under this unfair “test.” But it is possible. […]
When the government says so.
The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto writes that Pacific Legal Foundation’s challenge to Obamacare is unlikely to succeed. Assuming that Obamacare’s monetary exaction for not buying insurance is a tax, as the Supreme Court called it in its June opinion, still not all taxes are “bills for raising revenue,” which the Constitution requires to be generated by the […]
Today, we filed this petition for certiorari with the United States Supreme Court, asking the justices to review a case that severely restricts Americans’ right to challenge the constitutionality of laws. The case, Hettinga v. United States, began when Arizona dairy owners Hein and Ellen Hettinga sued over a federal law that targeted their business alone, in order to force them to stop charging low prices for milk. They argued that this law violated the Constitution by singling them out for disfavored treatment in a manner that wasn’t “rationally related to a legitimate government interest.”
That phrase is important because that “rational relationship” test is the test judges use to evaluate the constitutionality of laws that restrict the rights of business owners, property owners, and most other people—in fact, this test is applicable to all but a few constitutional cases. (Those that involve “fundamental” rights or “suspect” classifications are treated differently.)
But the Hettingas’ case took a turn when the federal government filed a motion to dismiss, and stated in its brief that the law at issue was “rational.” The government introduced no facts or testimony to support that assertion—it just claimed it. And that, the trial court said, was enough. It ruled that under the “rational relationship” test, a court can throw a case out whenever the government simply claims, prior to any evidence or fact-finding, that a law is rational. The Hettingas appealed, but three judges of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that dismissal, declaring that the trial judge was allowed to “draw factual conclusions at the pleading stage,” and that if “the government provide[s] an explanation that is…only rational on its face,” a court can dismiss case without hearing any evidence.
Now, we’re asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case, to decide whether the “rational relationship” test goes that far. […]
I filed a lawsuit this morning challenging the constitutionality of what may be the nation’s most restrictive “Certificiate of Necessity” law. You can read about the case at PLF Liberty Blog.
I am a great admirer of Akhil Reed Amar’s books The Bill of Rights and America’s Constitution. In fact, all PLF law clerks receive a copy of the latter as part of their assigned reading materials. Amar’s excellence as an expositor of the Constitution lies not just in his familiarity with the source materials of […]