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January 12, 2017
Constitutional Q&A: Rules of Engagement for Interacting with Police

In an age of militarized police often trained to view the citizenry as enemy combatants and equipped with weaponry and gear better suited for the battlefield, the perils of exercising one’s constitutional rights grow more costly with each passing day. So what can you really do when you find yourself stopped by law enforcement officers who have almost absolute discretion to decide who is a threat, what constitutes resistance, and how harshly they can deal with the citizens they were appointed to “serve and protect”? In other words, what are the rules of engagement when it comes to interacting with the police?

December 21, 2016
Constitutional Q&A: Helping the Homeless

For those who are homeless, finding a warm place to shelter during frigid winter temperatures often becomes a matter of survival. Unfortunately, charitable efforts to provide shelter and food to the homeless, especially during the winter, are often thwarted by local governments through the use of zoning laws that restrict or prohibit the provision of services to the needy. The Rutherford Institute has repeatedly defended the right of religious institutions and relief organizations to minister to the homeless and needy.  For churches and other religious institutions encountering difficulties in their attempts to help the poor and homeless, we offer the following guidance.

November 30, 2016
Constitutional Q&A: The Twelve Rules of Christmas

Over the years, The Rutherford Institute has been contacted by parents and teachers alike concerned about schools changing their Christmas concerts to “winter holiday programs” and renaming Christmas “winter festival” or cancelling holiday celebrations altogether to avoid offending those who do not celebrate the various holidays. Hoping to clear up much of the legal misunderstanding over the do’s and don’ts of celebrating Christmas, the following Constitutional Q&A on the “Twelve Rules of Christmas” provides basic guidelines for lawfully celebrating Christmas in schools, workplaces and elsewhere.

November 03, 2016
Constitutional Q&A: Your First Amendment Right to Vote

Free expression at polling places has become a contentious issue in recent years, with controversies over “ballot selfies,”[2] the wearing of political apparel to polling places, and even apparel that does not explicitly reference candidates, ballot issues, or politics. The constitutionality of state laws restricting various polling place activities has been challenged in recent years as violations of the First Amendment’s guarantee to freedom of speech. The Rutherford Institute's Q&A aims to provide clarification on lawful First Amendment activities in polling places.

August 18, 2016
Constitutional Q&A: So You Think You Can Write-In Your Vote? The Options and Limitations of Write-In Voting

With election day fast approaching, voters will be making decisions that will affect each of the branches of government in important and lasting ways. For many voters, the task is made all the more difficult because of dissatisfaction over the candidate choices they have been offered by the major parties. Citizens wishing to express their objections to the candidates named on the ballot may seek to vote “outside the box” by writing in the name of a person not listed on the ballot, the so-called “write-in” vote.

December 27, 2016
Lee v. Tam: The Rutherford Institute’s amicus brief to U.S. Supreme Court

The Rutherford Institute has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down a federal trademark statute that allows the government to reject trademark applications for names that might be offensive to certain persons or groups such as “The Slants,” an Asian-American dance rock band, whose trademark application was denied by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) on the grounds that the trademark might disparage or offend persons of Asian heritage (even though the applicant himself is of Asian heritage).

November 22, 2016
The Rutherford Institute’s amended complaint in Burruss v. Riley

Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have identified eight members of a tactical police squad in an amended complaint to a lawsuit against Virginia police over a “welfare check” on a 58-year-old man that resulted in a two-hour, SWAT team-style raid on the man’s truck and a 72-hour mental health hold.

November 03, 2016
The Rutherford Institute's amicus brief in Fields v. City of Philadelphia and Geraci v. City of Philadelphia

The Rutherford Institute has asked a federal appeals court to safeguard the right of citizens and journalists to record police in public without fear of retaliation. In a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Rutherford Institute attorneys argue that the First Amendment protects the right of citizens to make audio or video recordings of public law enforcement activities.

November 03, 2016
The Rutherford Institute's rebuttal in Payden-Travers v. Talkin

Rebutting the Justice Department’s assertion that the government can dictate where people can engage in religious activity, attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to reject the government’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit challenging the Supreme Court’s prohibition on First Amendment activities on its own front porch.

October 17, 2016
The Rutherford Institute's Brief in Karns v. Shanahan and Parker v. Shanahan

Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have asked a federal appeals court to reinstate a First Amendment lawsuit involving two street preachers who were charged with trespass and obstruction of justice and arrested for allegedly refusing police orders to cease proselytizing at a Princeton train station.

September 28, 2016
The Rutherford Institute's brief in CEI et al v. USDHS

Challenging the Transportations Security Administration’s (TSA) airport screening protocols as ineffective, invasive, unlawful and unhealthy, The Rutherford Institute has asked a federal court to strike down the agency’s use of whole body scanners, which have been likened to virtual strip searches.

September 28, 2016
Demilitarizing America’s Police: A Constitutional Analysis

Warning that the use of military equipment by civilian police often begets unnecessarily aggressive tactics and over-enforcement, a national bipartisan coalition includin...

September 22, 2016
Amicus Brief: Thomas Porter v. Harold W. Clarke

The Rutherford Institute, working in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union, has asked a federal appeals court to reinstate a lawsuit filed on behalf of Virginia death-row inmates held in “dehumanizing” conditions of isolation. In appealing to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the two civil liberties organizations argue that tactical policy changes adopted by the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) in order to sidestep court-mandated legal obligations (the practice of “tactical mooting”) leave prisoners at greater risk of having harsh conditions re-imposed upon them.

September 01, 2016
TRI's Complaint in Payden-Travers v. Talkin; Dept. Of Justice's Motion to Dismiss

Insisting that the government can dictate where people can engage in religious activity, the Department of Justice is asking a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit, Payden-Travers v. Talkin, filed by attorneys for The Rutherford Institute challenging a 2013 regulation which broadly prohibits expressive activity in the plaza fronting the U.S. Supreme Court’s building. The regulation was issued in response to a June 2013 ruling in another lawsuit, Hodge v. Talkin, filed by Rutherford Institute attorneys in which a federal district court declared a 60-year-old statute banning expressive activities on the Supreme Court plaza “unreasonable, substantially overbroad, and irreconcilable with the First Amendment.”

August 26, 2016
Opinions in Hassan El-Nahal v. David Yassky

A federal appeals court has upheld New York City’s program of warrantless and continuous GPS surveillance of taxi drivers, ruling that drivers are not protected by the Fourth Amendment’s bar on unreasonable searches and seizures when on the job. The Rutherford Institute appealed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of taxi drivers who were being forced by government officials to attach GPS tracking devices to their taxis.

August 03, 2016
Motion for Reconsideration in Burruss v. Riley, et al.

Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have asked a federal court not to grant immunity from wrongdoing to Virginia police whose so-called “welfare check” on a 58-year-old man resulted in a two-hour, SWAT team-style raid on the man’s truck and a 72-hour mental health hold.

June 27, 2016
Justice for Childhood Sexual Abuse Victims: House Bill 1947

Having been at the forefront of the evolving national debate over civil liberties, government transparency and accountability, and how to navigate the fine line between legislating justice and abiding by the rule of law, The Rutherford Institute offered the following legal opinion on the constitutional question pending before the Pennsylvania legislature regarding House Bill 1947 as amended: whether the revival of a claim subject to a lapsed civil statute of limitations would be constitutional. If adopted, House Bill 1947 would allow victims of childhood sexual abuse to seek justice and would assist in removing known predators from positions where they continue to have access to unsuspecting children.

June 21, 2016
Supreme Court: Utah v. Strieff

In a 5-3 ruling in Utah v. Strieff, the U.S. Supreme Court has opened the door for police to stop, arrest and search citizens without reasonable suspicion or probable cause.

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