Hailing the First Amendment: NYC Taxi Authority’s Ad Ban Struck Down as Unconstitutional

NYCTLCTaxicab, livery, black car, and limousine companies in the Big Apple may own the vehicles their employees drive, but they know full well who really controls them: the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC). Passenger transportation is one of the city’s most heavily regulated businesses, but as a federal district court judge recently reminded TLC, those small business still have constitutional rights. Continue reading “Hailing the First Amendment: NYC Taxi Authority’s Ad Ban Struck Down as Unconstitutional”

Update: Court Imposes Injunction on Proposition 65 Listing of Glyphosate

On November 27, 2017, a WLF Legal Pulse post by WLF Senior Litigation Counsel Cory Andrews discussed a lawsuit filed by makers and users of pesticides that include the chemical glyphosate against the California agency that administers Proposition 65. That law requires warnings on products that contain substances “known to the state of California” to cause cancer. On February 26, Eastern District of California Judge William B. Shubb imposed a preliminary injunction preventing the state from listing glyphosate as a carcinogen under Prop 65. The court held that the plaintiffs were likely to prevail on the First Amendment arguments in their suit. National Ass’n of Wheat Growers, et al. v. Zeise.

Under Prop 65, a substance must be listed if it is identified as a potential carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an international non-governmental entity. In 2015, IARC made that determination for glyphosate, triggering the automatic Prop 65 listing. IARC’s classification of glyphosate is contrary to the conclusions of many environmental regulators around the world, including the US EPA. Last November, a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute reinforced those regulators’ conclusions that glyphosate was unlikely to pose a cancer hazard to humans.

To pass muster under the First Amendment, a commercial-speech mandate must require language that is “purely factual and uncontroversial.” The language must thus be factually accurate, and even if literally true, cannot be misleading. Judge Shubb found that the warning required for glyphosate is not factual or uncontroversial because it “conveys the message that glyphosate’s carcinogenicity is an undisputed fact, when almost all other regulators have concluded that there is insufficient evidence that glysophate causes cancer.”

Another California Intrusion on Businesses’ Free Speech Fails in Court

FirstAmendmentFor a state with cities like Berkeley, which birthed the Free Speech Movement 54 years ago, California’s record on respecting the First Amendment is surprisingly spotty. That is especially true for the expressive activities of businesses. The state, as well as its municipalities, often curtail businesses’ speech, or compel them to speak, as a way to demonstrate government is “doing something” to solve complex social or public-health problems.

Occasionally, but not nearly often enough, courts reintroduce California’s censors to the First Amendment, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit did last year in striking down San Francisco’s warning-label mandate for “sugary” drinks. On February 20, a Northern District of California judge handed the state its latest speech-regulation defeat, striking down a law designed to limit information that entertainment database company IMDb.com could publish (IMDb.com Inc. v. Becerra). Continue reading “Another California Intrusion on Businesses’ Free Speech Fails in Court”

New Slate of Commissioners Should Elevate FTC’s Consideration of the First Amendment

FTC_Man_Controlling_TradeThe U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has scheduled a hearing for tomorrow, February 14, 2018, on the nominations of a new Chairman and three new Commissioners to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In recent years, FTC has become the primary national regulator of consumer data privacy and security, a responsibility that accords the Commission a staggering amount of influence over an American economy increasingly fueled by information.

When utilizing that authority over how businesses treat consumer data, the Commission has accorded little or no regard to the First Amendment. Data is speech, a reality that the incoming Chairman and Commissioners must incorporate into consumer-protection enforcement under § 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act. Continue reading “New Slate of Commissioners Should Elevate FTC’s Consideration of the First Amendment”

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”