Patterico's Pontifications


Beldar on Nifong, Fitzgerald, and Libby’s Chances for Remaining Free Pending Appeal

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:04 am

Beldar rips Dorothy Rabinowitz for comparing Nifong to Patrick Fitzgerald. At the same time, he predicts that the appellate court will free Libby pending his appeal, because of the issue relating to the manner of Fitzgerald’s appointment. Both posts are worth reading in their entirety.

A Muslim Holds Forth on Several Controversial Issues

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 5:59 am

The church of blogger and Patterico reader Anwyn was visited by a Muslim representative from Bilal Mosque, as part of a program to build interfaith bridges. The speaker’s message turned out to be doctrinaire rather than inclusive — especially when he was pulled away from vague generalities by Anwyn’s pointed questions. It’s unclear how representative his views are of those held by Muslims as a whole, but her post is worth reading.

No Supreme Court Justice Would Have Held the Principal Liable in the “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” Case

Filed under: Constitutional Law,Court Decisions,General,Law — Patterico @ 12:09 am

I offered no opinion on the “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case in my bare-bones post yesterday, mainly because I hadn’t had the chance to read the opinion before leaving for work. Now that I have read the various opinions, I still have no view as to which one is most compelling. I think that to come to a sound legal conclusion on that topic would require one to be familiar with the underlying precedents, which I have not had time to re-read.

I think it’s important to recognize, though, that all nine Justices believed that the principal should not be held liable for taking the banner from the student. They simply disagree as to why.

All nine Justices agree that the principal’s actions took place in a school-related context. They all agree that the school context justifies a higher degree of governmental intrusion than is permissible in the usual First Amendment case. But they disagree as to the specific reasons that the principal’s actions should not result in liability.

The majority believes that the First Amendment simply is not implicated by speech that, in its view, advocates illegal drug use in a school context.

Justice Thomas believes that the First Amendment does not apply to speech by students in public schools.

Justices Alito and Kennedy concur with the majority but caution that the speech restrictions here are at the outer limit of what they would allow school principals to control.

Justice Breyer would find for the principal on the grounds of qualified immunity. His opinion is a little bizarre. He believes that the principal’s actions were reasonable regardless of the content of the speech on the banner — but points to the fact that the message is “irrelevant or inappropriate” as part of his explanation why he believes that the principal’s actions were reasonable.

The dissent thinks the message on the banner was ambiguous, and that the student just wanted to get on TV — but says:

[C]oncern about a nationwide evaluation of the conduct of the JDHS student body would have justified the principal’s decision to remove an attention-grabbing 14-foot banner, even if it had merely proclaimed “Glaciers Melt!”

Justice Breyer, implicitly chiding Chief Justice Roberts for not seeking common ground in a narrow ruling, thus observes:

Were we to decide this case on the ground of qualified immunity, our decision would be unanimous, for the dissent concedes that Morse should not be held liable in damages for confiscating Frederick ’s banner.

So: think what you like about the various opinions — but recognize that not one of the Justices would have held this principal liable for what she did.

Preview of School Busing Decision

Filed under: Constitutional Law,Court Decisions,General,Law — Patterico @ 12:05 am

In this article, Jan Crawford Greenburg previews the upcoming Supreme Court decision on assigning students to public schools according to their race. Greenburg says that the Court is expected to hand down a decision on Thursday.

The smart money says that it will be 5-4 rejecting the race-based assignment plans, with Chief Justice Roberts writing for the majority. Anything else will come as a shock. The interesting thing will be to see how the majority characterizes the holding of Brown v. Board of Education.

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