Brian Leiter's Law School Reports

Brian Leiter
University of Chicago Law School

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Friday, July 4, 2014

Intelligent write-up about Hobby Lobby issues...

...by journalist Dan Fisher at Forbes.  I talked to him prior to the perplexing injunction on behalf of Wheaton, but he integrated that effectively.  And Justice Sotomayor gets it exactly right in the bit he quotes:  it really is preposterous on its face that anyone's free exercise of religion is burdened by a bit of paperwork (if only it were so--I might find God!).  (The 7th Circuit disposed of the other argument in the Notre Dame case--Justice Sotomayor noted the relevant bit, as does Mr. Fisher.)


July 4, 2014 in Jurisprudence, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Hiring committees for 2014-15 can announce themselves...

Monday, June 30, 2014

Shorter Hobby Lobby

Owners of a closely held corporation, like non-profit organizations, can be exempted from the requirement of paying for provision of at least four kinds of post-conception contraceptive drugs/devices as required by the Affordable Care Act if they have a sincere religious belief that life begins at conception, since the government can, in any case, just pay for these drugs/devices directly.  Nothing in the decision should be taken to suggest that sincere religious belief in otherwise illegal discrimination, or in the wrongness of blood transfusions or vaccinations, will get similar accomodation.

Even shorter Hobby Lobby:  conscientious objections count when they involve post-conception contraception, otherwise probably not.

Long version here.

UPDATE:  And now some longer thoughts on Hobby Lobby.  I preface this by noting that I think RFRA is a bad law, and Employment Division v. Smith got it basically right, but none of that is at issue.  The Court's holding that closely held corporations are "persons" for purposes of RFRA isn't implausible, especially when, as here, the corporate entities were essentially family businesses, in both cases very Christian families who believe "sincerely" (as we are told repeatedly) that life begins at conception.  (I do believe that people who hold sincere but pernicious false beliefs, such as that life begins at conception, should be encouraged to abandon those beliefs, but that also isn't at issue in this case!)  I also agree with the Court that the costs of non-compliance with the ACA would be very substantial for those challenging the law.  I also agree with the Court that the fact that the government has already established a simple procedure for non-profit organizations with religious objections to contraception to opt out (with the insurers bearing the costs, rather than the employees) is pretty overwhelming evidence that there are "less restrictive" alternatives to meeting what the Court concedes is a compelling governmental interest, namely, providing contraception to covered employees without additional cost to the employee.  The least plausible part of the majority opinion is p. 36's argument that it is not for the Court to assess whether it is reasonable for the Hahns and the Greens (the family-owners of the corporations) to sincerely believe that paying for insurance that an employee might use to access medical services of which they disapprove; but as Justice Ginsburg points out in dissent (pp. 21-22), it is for the Court to assess whether, as a matter of law, there is actually a substantial burden on their religious beliefs.  What if the Hahns and Greens have a sincere religious belief that the ACA burdens their free exercise rights under RFRA?  The Court obviously isn't bound by that.  The Court need not decide whether it is reasonable to believe that life begins at conception or that the "morning after" pill is akin to murder.  But it is most definitely for the Court to decide whether those beliefs are burdened by paying for health insurance that an emplyoee might use to get a "morning after" pill.

Justice Ginsburg has perhaps been going to the opera too often with Justice Scalia, since her dissent begins on a note of rhetorical overkill worthy of Scalia!  The majority decision is not broad; indeed, it is remarkably narrow, which was the point of my "shorter Hobby Lobby," above.  (I was being a tad facetious, though, in saying it will only reach conscientious objections to post-conception contraceptives--though parts of the opinion read that way!)  General Motors won't be challenging any part of RFRA based on this decision; closely held corporations run by Christian Scientists or Jehovah's Witnesses may bring suit, but they are going to lose on the evidence of Justice Alito's opinion.  The biggest burden of today's decision falls on insurers, who will now be paying for the contraceptive coverage of a lot more employees than previously.  And today's decision strongly suggests that the non-profit orgagnizations challenging the opt-out procedures are going to lose if it gets to the Supreme Court.

All that being said, I would have voted against the Hahns and Greens:  I think it would have been better, and equally plausible, to simply hold that corporations are not "persons" for RFRA purposes; and it would have been far more plausible to deny that there was any substantial burden on the religiosu beliefs of the Hahns and Greens by requiring them to pay for health insurance that their employees might use for medical services of which their employers disapprove for religious reasons.

(Jonathan Adler [Case Western] points out that my "shorter Hobby Lobby" elides the fact that the ACA did not require contraception coverage directly, but only that HHS regulations specify covered services, and that it was these regluations that incorporated FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and devices.  Had the ACA specifcally mandated contraceptive coverage, this would have opened the door, Prof. Adler suggests, for the government to argue that RFRA does not apply.)

 CORRECTION:  A health law attorney knowledgeable about these matters writes:

Good post on the Hobby Lobby decision, but one quick correction -- under the federal regs, insurers aren't directly on the hook for providing separate contraceptive coverage.  They get "paid" for that coverage through the exchange funding mechanism -- basically, they get to deduct the coverage costs from their exchange fee (i.e., a percentage payment of the premiums for exchange plans, currently set at 3.5%).  The exchanges are supposed to be self-sufficient by 2015, and it's my understanding that this isn't anticipated to be a problem.  If that's wrong for some unexpected reason, CMS would just tweak the exchange fee.

MORE READING:  Predictably there's a huge outpouring of commentary, most of it misleading (even by law professors).  But two good assessments are those by Joey Fishkin and Sandy Levinson, both law professors at UT Austin (Levinson a former colleague, Fishkin after my time).  Fishkin identifies what this case is really about (despite its very narrow holding) and Levinson comments on the rhetoric of Ginsburg's dissent.


June 30, 2014 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink

Slate business columnist: now's the time to go to law school

Friday, June 27, 2014

An entertaining interview with Judge Posner

Here.  An excerpt:

I've changed my views a lot over the years. I'm much less reactionary than I used to be. I was opposed to homosexual marriage in my book Sex and Reason, published in 1992, which was still the dark ages regarding public opinion of homosexuality. Public opinion changed radically in the years since. My views have changed about a lot of things. I've become much more concerned with long prison sentences; softer on drugs; more concerned with consumer protection, the environment and economic inequality; less trustful of purely economic analysis—the last partly because of the crash of 2008 and the ensuing economic downturn. That shook some of my faith in economic analysis. And developments in psychology have required qualification of the "rational choice" model of economic behavior. So my views have changed a lot. You don't want a judge who takes a position and feels committed to it because he thinks it's terrible to change one's mind.


June 27, 2014 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink

Thursday, June 26, 2014

On Raz's service conception of authority

Anyone working in legal philosophy ought to read this essay.


June 26, 2014 in Jurisprudence | Permalink

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

University of Toronto Faculty of Law Dean Search

Sponsored by University of Toronto Faculty of Law

TorontoThe University of Toronto is conducting an extensive international search for the position of Dean of the Faculty of Law, and invites expressions of interest, nominations and applications for the position. The appointment will be effective January 1, 2015, or as soon thereafter as possible.

Established in 1827 by royal charter, the University of Toronto, with one of the strongest research and teaching standings in North America, is consistently ranked in the top 20 universities in the world and first in Canada. Located in the heart of vibrant, cosmopolitan Toronto, the University has more than 20,000 faculty and staff and some 80,000 students enrolled across three campuses, an annual budget of $2 billion, and research grant and contract support of more than $1.2 billion. Its library is consistently ranked as one of the top three research libraries in North America, with over 21 million holdings. Additional information is available at the University’s website.

The Faculty of Law has an illustrious history as one of the oldest professional faculties at the University of Toronto. Today, it is preeminent among Canadian law schools and one of the best in the world. More than 50 full-time and 60 adjunct and distinguished visiting faculty members from the world’s leading law schools come together with approximately 600 academically gifted and engaged JD and graduate students to form a dynamic intellectual community. The Faculty’s challenging and diverse academic programs are supplemented by its many public interest clinics and programs. The Faculty of Law enjoys close links to its more than 7,000 alumni, who enjoy rewarding careers and positions of leadership in every sector of Canadian society and remain involved in many aspects of life at the law school. A high level of interaction with the rest of the University also yields numerous interdisciplinary programs, combined degree options, and cross appointments for faculty members. Following a successful capital campaign, construction of the new Jackman Law Building commenced in 2013 and will become the Faculty’s new home in 2015. For further information, please see here.

The Dean of the Faculty of Law will be an accomplished and visionary scholar, educator, communicator and leader, with a history of exemplary administration that reflects a commitment to  excellence, equity and diversity; a capacity to build and lead collaborative teams; and a record of effective relationships with a range of internal and external partners. The Dean will also have the necessary skills, qualities and interests to be an effective fundraiser. Responsible to the Vice-President and Provost, the Dean will lead the ongoing academic and administrative operations of the Faculty and form part of the senior leadership of the University of Toronto. The Dean will enhance the Faculty of Law’s endeavours and reputation, and participate in realizing the aspirations of the University of Toronto’s academic plan, Towards 2030.

Recently named one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers for the 7th year in a row, and one of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers for the 6th consecutive year, the University of Toronto is strongly committed to diversity within its community and especially welcomes applications from visible minority group members, women, Aboriginal persons, persons with disabilities, members of sexual minority groups, and others who may contribute to the further diversification of ideas.

The search committee will begin considering potential candidates immediately and will continue until the role is successfully filled. Applications including a curriculum vitae, a letter of introduction and the names of three references (who will not be contacted without the consent of the candidate) should be submitted electronically, in confidence, to:

Laverne Smith & Associates Inc.
1 Yonge Street, Suite 1801
Toronto, ON  M5E 1W7
UTLaw@lavernesmith.com


June 25, 2014 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Student debt is not the problem facing higher ed...

...according to a new report, which will no doubt be ignored by the fact-free crowd in cyberspace!


June 24, 2014 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink

Writing Prize inflation at Yale Law School

No surprise here, courtesy of my colleague Eric Posner.  A Yale resume without several writing prizes should be inherently suspect!


June 24, 2014 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Rankings | Permalink

Monday, June 23, 2014

Religious exemptions as license for evil, part 143

ENDA.


June 23, 2014 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink