Update: Ninth Circuit Issues First Amendment Ruling on Credit-Card Surcharge Law

9thCirA post last month, Second Circuit Improperly Ducks Important First Amendment Issues, criticized the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit’s decision to certify a question to New York’s highest court in a challenge to a state law restricting merchants’ ability to inform their customers of credit-card surcharges. WLF Chief Counsel Richard Samp argued that the court possesses all the information it needs to decide Expressions Hair Design v. Schneiderman. WLF filed an amicus brief in support of the petitioner in that case.

On January 3, the Ninth Circuit decided the same issue the Second Circuit had ducked involving an analogous law. The court found that a California law that prohibited merchants from imposing a surcharge to cover credit-card fees, but allowed them to provide discounts to cash customers, violated the First Amendment rights of five California businesses. Italian Colors Rest. v. Becerra. Continue reading “Update: Ninth Circuit Issues First Amendment Ruling on Credit-Card Surcharge Law”

Same-Old Drug Advertising Ban Proposal Would Fail for the Same-Old Reasons

first-amendmentAs the country debates the best path forward for the nation’s healthcare system, interest groups continue to advance different ideas to address their pet causes.  One popular cause is the reduction of drug prices.  Though that debate often occurs based on narrow perceptions of the dollar figures at issue, ideas for price reduction are worthy of consideration, especially given the increasing budgetary percentage that government and personal spending healthcare now occupies.  One drug-price-reduction idea advanced toward the end of last year, however, should be vigorously opposed. Continue reading “Same-Old Drug Advertising Ban Proposal Would Fail for the Same-Old Reasons”

Second Circuit Improperly Ducks Important First Amendment Issues

FirstAmendmentThe U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly held that federal courts are under a “virtually unflagging” obligation to hear and decide federal claims over which they possess jurisdiction.  Yet, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has repeatedly refused to decide a First Amendment challenge to a New York statute that restricts merchants’ ability to inform their customers of credit-card surcharges.

Just this past week, the appeals court yet again put off a decision by certifying to the New York Court of Appeals (the state’s highest court) a question on the meaning of the challenged statute.  The federal court’s rationale for its delay does not hold water and betrays a thinly disguised hostility to the First Amendment claims at issue. Continue reading “Second Circuit Improperly Ducks Important First Amendment Issues”

New First Amendment Challenge Takes Aim at California’s Listing of Glyphosate as a Potential Carcinogen Under Prop 65

warningLong the subject of much controversy, California’s Proposition 65 law prohibits businesses from exposing Californians to chemicals “known to the State of California to cause cancer” without first providing a warning. California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) publishes a list of chemicals “known to the State of California to cause cancer.” By statute, that list must include substances designated as potential carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an international non-governmental entity. Continue reading “New First Amendment Challenge Takes Aim at California’s Listing of Glyphosate as a Potential Carcinogen Under Prop 65”

Food-Court Follies: Judge Grates Parmesan-Cheese Multidistrict Litigation

parma cheeseThanks to America’s regrettably litigious nature, the “Reasonable Person” is always busy. This prototypically average, ordinary human being is routinely called upon in legal disputes governed by common-law tort principles and asked: What would you think or do in this situation? One strain of litigation—consumer-fraud class actions—has kept the Reasonable Person especially occupied in recent years.

A recent court case asked the Reasonable Person to put on her “reasonable consumer” hat and determine the meaning of the term “100% Grated Parmesan Cheese” as it appears on containers of shelf-stable, processed shaky cheese.

In February 2016, inspired by overblown media stories, 15 lawsuits were filed in 6 different courts against 7 defendants (Kraft Heinz Co., Albertsons Cos., Target Corp., Wal-Mart Stores, ICCO-Cheese Co., and Publix Super Markets) alleging common-law and statutory violations for those companies’ false or misleading use of that statement. Continue reading “Food-Court Follies: Judge Grates Parmesan-Cheese Multidistrict Litigation”

Pokèmon, Go Get a Permit: Free-Speech Suit Ropes in Reactionary County Ordinance

pokemongo2It’s October 2016, and Milwaukee County, Wisconsin residents are massing on sidewalks, around town landmarks, and in public parks, eyes glued to their smartphones as they chase virtual Pokèmon Go characters.

Meanwhile, in the halls of county government, elected officials mull over the implications of this craze.

Some delight at the game’s ability to bring people together and inspire normally sedentary younger residents to get outside. Others, however, wring their hands over complaints of traffic disruptions and unruly teenagers and scheme over how to quell game-creature hunting, or at least how to make money off of it for the county.

One supervisor, deciding that something needs to be done, devises an ordinance. Rather than target the bad behavior of individuals playing the games, the measure imposes a permitting process and fees on augmented-reality-app developers. After several months of debate, the Board of Supervisors passes Resolution 16-637 by a 13-4 vote on February 2, 2017. Continue reading “Pokèmon, Go Get a Permit: Free-Speech Suit Ropes in Reactionary County Ordinance”

WLF Caps off Legal-Studies Series on Commercial Speech with Prof. Martin Redish Interview

CW Summer 2017On July 28, 2017, Washington Legal Foundation published an interview in which Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law Professor Martin H. Redish answered questions on the evolution of commercial-speech protection. This Conversations Withpaper provides a fitting culmination to the series of WLF publications on commercial speech produced in the last six months.

Over the past 46 years, beginning with a 1971 law review article drafted as a Harvard Law School student, Professor Redish’s scholarship has deeply influenced the US Supreme Court’s development of the so-called commercial-speech doctrine. In the Conversations With paper, he discusses the impetus for that article, as well as the High Court’s growing respect for commercial speech.

The WLF publications were meant to provide policy makers at the state and federal levels with a basic understanding of commercial speech and the First Amendment scrutiny courts apply when reviewing restrictions on such speech. The publications, with links to each, are listed below: