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November 30, 2017
Constitutional Q&A: The Twelve Rules of Christmas

As part of its annual effort to clear up much of the legal misunderstanding over the do’s and don’ts of celebrating Christmas, The Rutherford Institute has issued a Constitutional Q&A on the “Twelve Rules of Christmas.”

October 25, 2017
Constitutional Q&A: Civil Asset Forfeiture

The Rutherford Institute has issued constitutional guidelines on the government’s excessive and controversial use of civil asset forfeiture, also referred to as “policing for profit,” which allows police to arbitrarily seize private property—cars, cash, jewelry, homes, etc.—without having to charge the owners with a crime. Once the assets have been seized, police divvy up the profits with the federal government, establishing what Rutherford Institute attorneys refer to as an “incentive-driven excuse for stealing from the citizenry.” The publication of the Institute’s guidelines coincides with a recent announcement by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the Justice Department plans to expand law enforcement’s use of civil asset forfeiture even in states that have restricted the practice.

December 06, 2017
The Rutherford Institute’s amicus brief in Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31

Arguing that the First Amendment forbids the government from dictating what citizens should say, whom they should support or with whom they should associate, The Rutherford Institute has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn existing law that allows unions to require public-sector employees to subsidize political activities undertaken by the union.

November 22, 2017
The Rutherford Institute’s amicus brief in Collins v. Commonwealth

Warning against the continuing encroachment of law enforcement on the security and privacy of the homes of citizens, The Rutherford Institute has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to prohibit police from entering private residential property and approaching a home, uninvited and without a warrant, in order to search a vehicle parked a few feet from the house.

November 22, 2017
The Rutherford Institute’s amicus brief in Collins v. Commonwealth

Warning against the continuing encroachment of law enforcement on the security and privacy of the homes of citizens, The Rutherford Institute has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to prohibit police from entering private residential property and approaching a home, uninvited and without a warrant, in order to search a vehicle parked a few feet from the house.

November 17, 2017
The Rutherford Institute’s complaint in Tucker v. City of Shreveport

The Rutherford Institute has filed a Fourth Amendment lawsuit on behalf of a young African-American man who, after being stopped by Louisiana police for a broken taillight, was allegedly thrown to the ground, beaten, arrested and hospitalized for severe injuries to his face and arm, all for allegedly “resisting arrest” by driving to a safe, well-lit area before stopping.

September 28, 2017
Position Brief Filed in Thomas Porter v. Harold W. Clarke

The Rutherford Institute, working in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union, has asked a federal district court to uphold a lawsuit filed on behalf of Virginia death-row inmates held in “dehumanizing” conditions of isolation. In weighing in before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, 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 20, 2017
The Rutherford Institute’s amicus curiae brief in Young v. Borders

Warning of the danger to the public from the increasing use of “knock and talk” tactics by police, The Rutherford Institute has asked the United States Supreme Court to rein in aggressive “knock and talk” practices, which have become thinly veiled, warrantless attempts by which citizens are coerced and intimidated into “talking” with heavily armed police who “knock” on their doors in the middle of the night. In asking the Court to review the case of Young v. Borders, Rutherford Institute attorneys denounced a lower court ruling that failed to hold police accountable for banging on the wrong door at 1:30 am, failing to identify themselves as police, and then repeatedly shooting and killing the innocent homeowner who answered the door while holding a gun in self-defense. Although 26-year-old Andrew Scott had committed no crime and never fired a single bullet or lifted his firearm against police, he was gunned down by police who were investigating a speeding incident by engaging in a middle-of-the-night “knock and talk” in Scott’s apartment complex.

September 07, 2017
Motion for Summary Judgment in Dantzler v. Hindman and Westbrook

A federal court has rejected efforts by Texas police to dismiss a Fourth Amendment lawsuit brought by The Rutherford Institute challenging a warrantless raid, search, and arrest of a Texas homeowner based on unreliable information from an anonymous source.

August 31, 2017
The Rutherford Institute’s brief in Vista-Graphics v. Va. Dept. of Transportation

Warning that a dangerous expansion of the “government speech” doctrine by the courts could be used to limit any speech that occurs on government property, The Rutherford Institute has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a lower court ruling that places highway rest areas off limits for First Amendment activities.

August 22, 2017
Constitutional Q&A: The Right to Protest

Among the greatest and most precious of our constitutional rights is the right to free speech, enshrined in the First Amendment and rendered applicable to all states by the Fourteenth Amendment.  Along with the constitutional right to peacefully assemble, freedom of speech allows us to challenge the government through protests and demonstrations. The following Constitutional Q&A is a good starting point.

July 06, 2017
The Rutherford Institute’s brief in Minnesota Majority v. Joe Mansky

Challenging a Minnesota law that bans political speech on any “badge, button, shirt, or hat” worn at election polling stations, attorneys for The Rutherford Institute, Cato Institute, Reason Foundation, and The Individual Rights Foundation are calling on the United States Supreme Court to review the case of Minnesota Majority v. Joe Mansky. Under Minnesota Statute § 211B.11, unelected and unaccountable polling judges are given the power to prevent voters from wearing any “political badges, political buttons, or other political insignia…at or about the police place on primary or election day.” Insisting that the Minnesota law opens the door to abuse of voters’ free speech rights by giving appointed election officials unlimited discretion to determine what political speech should be censored, The Rutherford Institute and its coalition partners are urging the Court to strike down the law as overbroad, unconstitutional, and “a sweeping prohibition of core First Amendment speech.” For example, the polling ban could prohibit popular buttons or stickers that say, “I Voted,” context-less images such as a marijuana leaf, and even iconic photographs of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., or John Lennon that could be classified as “political.”

June 22, 2017
District Court Ruling: Payden-Travers v. Talkin

A federal court has dismissed a lawsuit brought by The Rutherford Institute on behalf of two peace activists whose ability to engage in expressive activity in the Supreme Court plaza has been restricted by a federal law and U.S. Supreme Court regulation that forbid virtually all speech on the plaza in front of the Supreme Court’s building. 

May 31, 2017
County of Los Angeles v. Mendez: The U.S. Supreme Court’s Decision

Continuing a disturbing trend of siding with police in cases of excessive use of force, the United States Supreme Court has reversed lower court rulings that found police liable for recklessly firing 15 times into a backyard shack in which a homeless couple—Angel and Jennifer Mendez—was sheltering. Angel Mendez suffered numerous gunshot wounds, one of which required the amputation of his right leg below the knee, and his wife Jennifer was shot in the back. A unanimous Supreme Court ruled that the Los Angeles County police officers’ use of force against the homeless couple was justified as a defensive action, because Angel’s silhouette was allegedly seen holding a BB gun that he used for shooting rats. The Rutherford Institute filed an amicus brief in the case, arguing that the shooting, which was entirely unjustified and unwarranted, would not have happened had Los Angeles County police officers not first created an untenable, dangerous situation by invading private property without a warrant in pursuit of an alleged parole violator.

May 25, 2017
Opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Wikimedia Foundation et al. v. NSA

Ruling that the existence of the government’s mass internet surveillance program would violate the First and Fourth Amendments, a federal appeals court has given the green light to a lawsuit challenging the government’s domestic and international spying program. 

April 27, 2017
Constitutional Q&A: Knock-and-Talk Police Tactics

Warning against the coercive use of “knock and talks” by police as a means of sidestepping the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against warrantless, unreasonable searches, The Rutherford Institute has issued constitutional guidelines to alert the public to this aggressive, increasingly popular police tactic and what Americans can do to preserve their constitutional rights. In the wake of court rulings that allow police to make surprise, late-night “visits” to homes, purportedly for the purpose of “talking” with residents, the use of “knock and talks” by law enforcement agencies has exploded, with some police departments establishing squads dedicated to conducting “knock and talks.” 

April 21, 2017
The Rutherford Institute's Amicus Brief: Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission of Virginia v. Rudolph Bumgardner, III, and Humes J. Franklin, Jr.

The Rutherford Institute and the American Civil Liberties Union have asked the Virginia Supreme Court to protect the First Amendment rights of judges to educate the public about apolitical matters relating to the administration of justice. In an amicus brief filed with the court, Rutherford Institute and ACLU attorneys argued that Judges Rudolph Bumgardner III and Humes J. Franklin, Jr., did not violate an ethics rule forbidding judges from engaging in certain “political activity” when they spoke publicly about the problems that would result if the Augusta County Courthouse was moved to Verona, Virginia.

April 20, 2017
The Rutherford Institute's Letter to Attorney General Sessions

Denouncing a plan by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to increase the flow of military equipment to police and have the Justice Department cease its oversight of police misconduct, The Rutherford Institute warned that if the federal government persists in its pursuit of policies that ignore systemic problems within local law enforcement agencies at the expense of the safety and constitutional rights of the American people, “we the people” will all suffer. In a letter to the Attorney General, constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead urged Sessions to align the Justice Department’s priorities with that of the Constitution and, in doing so, not only protect the civil rights of citizens against abuse of power by state and local law enforcement but also “help police departments get better” by holding them fully accountable to the rule of law.

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