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March 15, 2019

Citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Clinton v. Jones (1997), in which a unanimous Court held that the president is not above the law and may be sued for misconduct committed outside of his official duties, a New York appeals court has rejected President Trump’s request to dismiss or delay a defamation lawsuit brought against him. Clinton v. Jones arose in relation to a sexual harassment lawsuit against then-President Bill Clinton which successfully argued that presidents do not have immunity from federal court lawsuits brought by citizens harmed by the president before he or she takes office. The ruling by the N.Y. Supreme Court’s Appellate Division in Zervos v. Trump found that President Trump is similarly not shielded from a state court lawsuit under a provision of the U.S. Constitution making federal law superior to state law. Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute assisted Paula Jones in advancing the arguments in her lawsuit against Bill Clinton, which alleged that Clinton, while serving as Governor of Arkansas, lured Jones—then a state employee—up to a Little Rock hotel room, dropped his pants, and propositioned her for oral sex. The lawsuit eventually ended with Clinton paying $850,000 to settle the case.

March 11, 2019

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an effort to require police to render emergency aid to individuals they injure in the course of an arrest. In refusing to hear the case of Stevens-Rucker v. Frenz, in which Ohio police shot a military veteran multiple times and then—despite their first aid training—let him bleed to death, the Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling that police satisfy their constitutional obligations to assist a person they injure in the course of an arrest simply by calling for an ambulance to transport the arrestee to a hospital. Attorneys with The Rutherford Institute had asked the Court to hear the case, arguing that if prisoners have a constitutional right to medical care under the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments, then police should be held to a comparable standard in their treatment of arrestees who require urgent medical attention.

March 07, 2019

Weighing in on a First Amendment case that could have significant ramifications for online communications and controversial art forms, The Rutherford Institute has come to the defense of a rap artist who was charged with making terrorist threats after posting a rap song critical of police on Facebook and YouTube. Police had been actively monitoring rapper Jamal Knox’s (a.k.a. “Mayhem Mal”) social media presence when they discovered the song titled “F**k the Police” and charged Knox and his rap partner with multiple counts of terroristic threats and witness intimidation. The Rutherford Institute’s amicus brief in Knox v. Pennsylvania, filed in conjunction with The CATO Institute, asks the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case and reject an attempt by government officials to expand the definition of “true threats,” making controversial and unpopular political or artistic expression subject to prosecution and suppression by the government.

March 04, 2019

Denouncing the police practice of forcefully and warrantlessly taking blood samples from unconscious suspects, The Rutherford Institute is challenging the use of “implied consent” laws as a means of bypassing fundamental Fourth Amendment protections for privacy and bodily integrity. In an amicus brief filed in Mitchell v. State of Wisconsin, Rutherford Institute attorneys are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to prohibit police from taking blood from a suspect as part of a criminal investigation unless they have a warrant or the person provides actual consent. The Institute’s brief comes in response to a ruling by the Wisconsin Supreme Court that police have the power to draw blood from an unconscious drunk driving suspect because his consent was “implied” by state law. The rationale behind “implied consent” laws is that drivers implicitly consent to breath or blood tests when applying for a driver’s license and risk having their licenses suspended by refusing to submit to such tests. Institute attorneys argue that “implied consent” laws do not override the Fourth Amendment’s mandate that police have a warrant in order to search for evidence of a crime.

February 28, 2019

A federal court has given the green light to a “contempt of cop” lawsuit filed by The Rutherford Institute on behalf of a young African-American man who, despite complying with police orders during a traffic stop for a broken taillight, was slammed to the ground face-first and pummeled by police officers. According to the video footage of the incident, Tucker was stopped by police in Dec. 2016 for a broken taillight, only to be thrown to the ground, beaten and punched in the face and body more than 20 times, then 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.

February 20, 2019

In a unanimous ruling that is expected to curb attempts by local and state governments to increase their revenue by seizing private property using excessive, arbitrary asset forfeiture laws, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in Timbs v. State of Indiana that state governments must abide by the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on the imposition of “excessive fines” for criminal offenses. Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute had filed an amicus brief in Timbs, challenging the power of states to engage in abusive “policing for profit” tactics and asking that SCOTUS overturn a ruling by the Indiana Supreme Court, which found that the Eighth Amendment did not prohibit the state from seizing a vehicle worth $42,000 as a penalty for selling four grams of heroin. Lower courts had found the seizure to be “grossly disproportionate” to the offense. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the opinion for the Court.

February 13, 2019

Denouncing excessive, costly government security protocols lacking in common sense and intended to chill First Amendment activity, attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have filed a Fourth Amendment lawsuit against government officials who allowed a disabled war veteran to carry two firearms through a security checkpoint only to arrest him for lawfully purchasing canned iced tea, bug spray, lightbulbs and razor blades, which were banned as part of the city’s pre-emptive measures to discourage civil unrest. A district court judge later dismissed the charges against 64-year-old John Miska, ruling that the ordinance used to justify the veteran’s arrest was overbroad and unreasonable and, therefore, unenforceable. The Rutherford Institute’s lawsuit against the City of Charlottesville comes in response to pre-emptive “state of emergency” lockdown measures adopted in anticipation of the one-year anniversary of the August 12, 2017, racially-charged protests and counter-protests in Charlottesville, Va., over the removal of a Confederate statue from a public park. In accordance with an emergency declaration by Governor Northam, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies locked down portions of the small college town, deployed 700 police officers—many in riot gear—to patrol portions of the downtown area, restricted the free movement of persons on public streets, and imposed a broad ban on innocuous items such as metal food and beverage containers, aerosol sprays, glass bottles, skateboards, masks and hoods at a cost of several million dollars.

February 05, 2019

The Rutherford Institute has come to the aid of a death row inmate who has been told that he must either submit to the presence of a chaplain representing a religion of the government’s choosing or have no clergy at all present during his execution. In an emergency amicus brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, The Rutherford Institute is challenging Alabama’s decision to only allow death row inmate Domineque Hakim Marcelle Ray, a Muslim, to have a Christian chaplain present when he is put to death by lethal injection on Feb. 7, rather than accommodating his request for clergy to be present who share his religious beliefs. Rutherford Institute attorneys argue that the state’s refusal to accommodate Ray’s religious beliefs violates the First Amendment and federal laws protecting religious freedom.

January 24, 2019

The Rutherford Institute is weighing in on a case in which police shot a military veteran multiple times, then let him bleed to death rather than rendering emergency aid. Arguing that police have a constitutional obligation to provide life-saving aid to those injured during the course of an arrest, attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate a lawsuit against two Ohio police officers who, despite being trained in first aid, failed to intervene to save the life of a military veteran as he lay bleeding to death from at least four gunshot wounds. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that police satisfy their constitutional obligations to assist a person they injure in the course of an arrest simply by calling for an ambulance to transport the arrestee to a hospital. In asking the Court to hear the case, Rutherford Institute attorneys argue that if prisoners have a constitutional right to medical care under the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments, then police should be held to a comparable standard in their treatment of arrestees who require urgent medical attention.

January 17, 2019

Denouncing the use of “contempt of cop” charges as a means of justifying the use of excessive force by police, The Rutherford Institute has asked a federal court to reject a request by Louisiana police to dismiss a Fourth Amendment lawsuit filed on behalf of a young African-American man who was slammed to the ground face-first and pummeled by police officers during a traffic stop for a broken taillight. In coming to the defense of Gregory Tucker, Rutherford Institute attorneys argue that the City of Shreveport and four of its police officers violated Tucker’s constitutional rights when they allegedly retaliated against him by using grossly excessive force in connection with what should have been a routine traffic stop. According to the lawsuit and corresponding video footage of the incident, Tucker was stopped by police in Dec. 2016 for a broken taillight, only to be thrown to the ground, beaten and punched in the face and body more than 20 times, then 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.

January 10, 2019

Denouncing the growing hostility to religion that has manifested itself in efforts to eradicate references to God and religion from public places, The Rutherford Institute is asking the United States Supreme Court to reverse a court order requiring the removal of a 40-foot “Peace Cross” memorial from Veterans Memorial Park in Maryland that was erected 90 years ago to honor soldiers who were killed or wounded in World War I.

December 20, 2018

Seeking to protect parents’ rights and empower families who are traveling this holiday season, The Rutherford Institute has issued guidelines on how parents can protect their children from excessive, intrusive, inappropriate and overtly intimate screening procedures and pat-down searches by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents. Earlier this month, the Institute called on the TSA to revamp its screening and pat-down protocols for children citing the case of a Texas family who alleged a TSA agent groped their 13-year-old daughter during an unwarranted pat-down search in August 2018. The Rutherford Institute’s Freedom Resource Brief, “Parents’ Rights to Protect Their Children from TSA Patdowns,” advises parents on how they can defend their constitutional rights when their family members pass through airport security screening. The Institute has also made available a concise “Know Your Rights” primer on the topic.

December 13, 2018

Warning that the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) current methods for screening children can cause severe emotional and psychological harm, The Rutherford Institute has asked the TSA to overhaul its procedures on pat-down searches and other enhanced security measures in order to respect the rights of parents to stand guard over their children and protect them from unwarranted, overtly intimate treatment at the hands of strangers as a matter of course in boarding an airplane.

December 07, 2018

The Rutherford Institute has offered to assist the Elkhorn Public Schools should they encounter any fallout as a result of their decision to overturn Principal Jennifer Sinclair’s attempt to purge Manchester Elementary School of any symbol or mention of Christmas, including singing Christmas carols, using items that have red/green colors, and candy canes (which were perceived as problematic because the shape is a ‘J’ for Jesus). The Institute’s “Constitutional Q&A: The Twelve Rules of Christmas” guidelines aim to clear up the legal misunderstanding over the do’s and don’ts of celebrating Christmas by providing basic guidelines for schools, workplaces and elsewhere.

December 03, 2018

Challenging the government’s abuse of its eminent domain power to take private property for natural gas pipelines that primarily benefit private corporate interests, The Rutherford Institute has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate a lawsuit by Virginia landowners that asks for a fair hearing on their claim that the taking of their land for a pipeline project violates their constitutional rights.

November 28, 2018

The Rutherford Institute is defending a group of Pennsylvania nuns’ right to exercise their religious beliefs in protecting their property against a government-sanctioned campaign to allow a gas pipeline company to drill its way through and desecrate the religious order’s land, which includes a nursing home, convent and a chapel. In an amicus curiae brief, Rutherford Institute attorneys are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to restore a lawsuit brought by Adorers of the Blood of Christ, a Catholic community of women, seeking to stop the pipeline as a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a federal law intended to protect religious beliefs and practices when threatened by government action. 

November 21, 2018

The Rutherford Institute is warning Kansas health department officials that their recent efforts to shut down food distribution sites in public parks and seize and bleach hot, free food being distributed to the homeless, rendering it unfit for consumption, runs afoul of the First Amendment. In a letter to the director of the Kansas City Health Department, The Rutherford Institute denounced the government’s actions as “morally reprehensible, legally indefensible, and in clear violation of the First Amendment,” and cautioned health officials against following the national trend by which urban and suburban communities nationwide have adopted ordinances that criminalize homelessness and crack down on those individuals and organizations whose charitable endeavors aim to ease the suffering of the homeless.

November 16, 2018

Constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, has joined forces with other concerned legal minds to push back against growing threats to the rule of law as a result of governmental power grabs, overreaches and abuses of power, particularly from the Executive Branch, and the politicization of bedrock legal principles. The coalition, operating under the name Checks and Balances, was formed by prominent D.C. attorney George T. Conway III, and includes among its members Orin S. Kerr, Jonathan Adler, Marisa Maleck, Alan Charles Raul and Tom Ridge.

November 06, 2018

The United States Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether a 40-foot “Peace Cross” memorial in Veterans Memorial Park in Maryland erected 90 years ago to honor soldiers who were killed or wounded in World War I must be removed as an unconstitutional religious display. In a lawsuit filed by the American Humanist Association (AHA), the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals had ordered the memorial removed on the grounds that the Peace Cross, modeled after a Latin cross, is a predominately Christian symbol and constitutes an endorsement of that faith.

November 01, 2018

Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have filed a Fourth Amendment lawsuit against Oklahoma police who, despite being faced with an African-American man who complied fully with police orders during an arrest, subjected him to excessive force and brutality that included throwing the man to the ground, tasering him, placing him in a chokehold, and rendering him unconscious so that he had to be hospitalized for three days.