Monthly Archives: January 2015

New Video Podcast: The RightsCast

I’m excited to share a new project I’ve been working on. It’s The RightsCast: a video podcast about civil rights. Every week I talk to a different professor about his or her recent civil-rights-related research. The conversations are edited to about half an hour and the video is posted on my YouTube channel. I’ll release a new episode every Wednesday at 2 PM ET, beginning this Wednesday, January 28, 2015.

The first episode features Scott Dodson (UC Hastings Law) talking about his new book, “The Legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.” The book will be available on February 1 and is available for preorder now. It’s a fantastic book with contributions from Nina Totenberg (NPR), Dahlia Lithwick (Slate), Judge Robert Katzmann (Chief Judge, Second Circuit), Tom Goldstein (SCOTUSblog), and a number of prominent legal academics. Continue reading

Denver Post Op-Ed Opposing New Ag-Gag Bill in Colorado

My University of Denver colleague Justin Marceau and I wrote a column for the Denver Post opposing the new “ag-gag” bill proposed in Colorado. It’s a bill to silence whistleblowers masquerading as a bill to protect animals. Several other members of the constitutional law faculty at Denver also signed on to our piece, including Alan Chen, Laura Rovner, Justin Pidot, Ian Farrell, and Rebecca Aviel.

Colorado Baker Refuses to Make Anti-Gay Cake

I spoke with and 9News Denver about why a baker at Azucar bakery who was asked to make a cake featuring anti-gay commentary is entitled to refuse to make such a cake, and why this matter is distinguishable from the recent Masterpiece Cakeshop dispute in which the Colorado Civil Rights Commission found that the could not refuse to serve a same-sex couple.

I see a number of differences between the two cases. Most importantly, the baker at Azucar didn’t actually refuse to serve anyone. She told the prospective customer that she was happy to make the Bible-shaped cake he requested, and to sell him a frosting kit so that he could decorate the cake with the sentiments he requested, but that she would not do the decorating herself. This makes clear that she was not unwilling to serve him because of his religion. In fact, Azucar has a long history of serving Christian customers and making explicitly Christian-identified cakes, and the owner herself is Christian. But if the owner was forced to decorate the cake with a message in she opposed, it would actually violate her own free speech rights. The U.S. Supreme Court has a long tradition of striking down attempts by the government to compel speech, and this would be a clear example of such compulsion. Continue reading

Thoughts on Marriage Equality in the Denver Post

I talked to Denver Post reporters Kirk Mitchell and Jordan Steffen for this story on the Supreme Court’s grant in the Sixth Circuit marriage equality case. The story has a Colorado angle and also predicts what’s next for LBGT rights.

One comment about this otherwise very good story. I definitely didn’t use the phrase “gay marriage.” I would have said “same-sex marriage” or “marriage equality.” And I never talk about “gay rights” (depending on context, I probably would have said LGBT rights) or “gays” (I might have said “gay and lesbian people,” or “LGBT people,” or people who are LGBT”). As others have explained, it sounds a little archaic to talk about “gay marriage” and “gay rights.”

New Semester, New Classes

The first day of the new semester was on Monday. I’m teaching three classes this semester. The first is Criminal Procedure — the investigative course, focusing on the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. As I tell students on the first day, I fail to see why this class is not called Constitutional Law III. It’s a constitutional law class. Calling in “criminal procedure” implies that those amendments apply only to criminals and people involved in some sort of criminal proceeding, which is obviously false. It sends precisely the wrong message about those amendments. Protection from unreasonable searches and seizures is for everyone, innocent or guilty. (I may write about the naming of the course later, and I may use the title “Conlaw III.”)

I’m also teaching Constitutional Law II. At the University of Denver this includes the First and Fourteenth Amendments, and I also spend a little time on the Second Amendment (less than I otherwise would because Dave Kopel teaches a detailed Second Amendment seminar here). We’re talking about incitement today.

Finally, I’m teaching a brand new class called Constitutional Litigation Practicum. I’m co-teaching the class with Denver civil rights practitioner Qusair Mohamedbhai of Rathod Mohamedbhai. I’ve written a little about the class before, and Qusair and I intend to write about the class throughout the semester. The class uses a unique format and we’re excited about it. The class serves as a “capstone” experience available to students who are involved with the Constitutional Rights and Remedies program at the University of Denver.

The first session of the Practicum is today, and it will be a crash course in sovereign immunity, the ex parte Young fiction, and the origins and uses of 42 U.S.C. 1983. Here’s the tentative syllabus for anyone who may be interested.

Eric K. Yamamoto Emerging Scholar Award

I am so pleased and honored to share that the Conference of Asian Pacific American Law Faculty (CAPALF) recently awarded me the 2014-2015 Eric K. Yamamoto Emerging Scholar Award. Professor Yamamoto (University of Hawaii) is an amazing scholar and activist; you can read more about his many accomplishments here.

New column for Huffington Post: Death Penalty Becomes More Rare and More Problematic

I have a piece for Huffington Post today summarizing 2014 executions and other events related to the death penalty. Read to learn which seven states executed prisoners, find out which two states don’t require a unanimous jury to impose the death sentence, and learn some of the troubling stories about the individuals behind the statistics.