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Archive for the ‘Government Law’ Category

Stay at Home Orders Under Attack – What are the Limits and Rights of State Governments?

Posted on: April 22nd, 2020

By: Marc Finkel

Faced with the uncertainty of navigating through a global pandemic, governors throughout the United States have issued a series of executive orders aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus.  Many of these executive orders have placed restrictions on our daily lives from the closure of schools to the closure of restaurants, movie theaters, and barbershops.  Since the beginning of March, as the number of positive cases of the novel coronavirus began to increase in different parts of the United States, the frequency of additionally restrictive executive orders aimed at “flattening the curve” of the novel coronavirus has increased as well.  Due to the varying degrees of restrictions that have been placed on some of our freedoms, there has been a recent uptick in court challenges to several of these executive orders. 

A recent illustration of this has started playing out in the State of Kansas, where Governor Laura Kelly issued Executive Orders 20-18 and 20-25 that modified prior executive orders placing certain restrictions on public activities and mass gatherings to include a prohibition against in-person religious gatherings of more than 10 people.  On April 11, 2020, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld Governor Kelly’s limitations on such in-person religious gatherings on state law grounds.  However, recently, United States District Court Judge for the District of Kansas, Hon. John W. Broomes, granted a temporary injunction on behalf of the First Baptist Church and Calvary Baptist Church that enjoins Executive Orders 20-18 and 20-25 from being further implemented on U.S. Constitutional grounds. 

In First Baptist Church, et al. v. Governor Laura Kelly, No. 20-1102-JWB, (April 18, 2020), Judge Broomes determined that the Plaintiffs met the standard for the issuance of a temporary restraining order by finding that Executive Orders 20-18 and 20-25 were not facially neutral in the restrictions it placed upon in-person religious assemblies.  The Court primarily based its decision on the fact that religious assembly was previously considered an essential public activity under the first wave of executive orders issued by Governor Kelly to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic in the State of Kansas, and that Executive Orders 20-18 and 20-25 were issued specifically to place restrictions on the right of in-person religious assembly.  The Court also found that the restrictions on the right of in-person religious assembly were likely not narrowly tailored, because the safety concerns that serve the basis of Executive Orders 20-18 and 20-25 are not dissimilar to safety concerns with respect to other secular mass gathering activities deemed essential under prior executive orders issued by Governor Kelly (e.g., mass gatherings at airports).  The Court noted, however, that those other secular mass gatherings are subjected to less restrictive conditions under Executive Orders 20-18 and 20-25.  Furthermore, as this is a matter that concerns a limitation on a person’s First Amendment rights, even if only for a minimal period of time, the Court found that the Plaintiffs risk irreparable injury for the purpose of obtaining a temporary restraining order.

Hearing on a permanent injunction as to Executive Orders 20-18 and 20-25 is scheduled for April 23, 2020.  The Court recognized the novel coronavirus presents an “unprecedented health crisis” that places on Governor Kelly an “immense and sobering responsibility” to protect the lives of Kansans.  Therefore, the Court in granting the temporary restraining order, expressly stated that it would “not issue any restraint, temporary or otherwise, if the evidence showed such action would substantially interfere with that responsibility.”  Accordingly, it is unclear whether the Plaintiffs will ultimately obtain a permanent injunction as to the implementation of Executive Orders 20-18 and 20-25.  In fact, a reading of the Court’s decision granting the temporary restraining order suggests that a more facially neutral limitation on the right to in-person religious assembly may pass constitutional muster.  This is a critical matter worth following, as the Court’s decision on whether to issue a permanent injunction will likely serve as a roadmap for deciding constitutional challenges to similar executive orders throughout the United States.

Additional Information:

The FMG Coronavirus Task Team will be conducting a series of webinars on Coronavirus issues on a regular basis. Topics include returning to the workplace, business interruption coverage and more. Click here to view upcoming webinars.

FMG has formed a Coronavirus Task Force to provide up-to-the-minute information, strategic advice, and practical solutions for our clients.  Our group is an interdisciplinary team of attorneys who can address the multitude of legal issues arising out of the coronavirus pandemic, including issues related to Healthcare, Product Liability, Tort Liability, Data Privacy, and Cyber and Local Governments.  For more information about the Task Force, click here.

You can also contact your FMG relationship partner or email the team with any questions at [email protected].

**DISCLAIMER:  The attorneys at Freeman Mathis & Gary, LLP (“FMG”) have been working hard to produce educational content to address issues arising from the concern over COVID-19.  The webinars and our written material have produced many questions. Some we have been able to answer, but many we cannot without a specific legal engagement.  We can only give legal advice to clients.  Please be aware that your attendance at one of our webinars or receipt of our written material does not establish an attorney-client relationship between you and FMG.  An attorney-client relationship will not exist unless and until an FMG partner expressly and explicitly states IN WRITING that FMG will undertake an attorney-client relationship with you, after ascertaining that the firm does not have any legal conflicts of interest.  As a result, you should not transmit any personal or confidential information to FMG unless we have entered into a formal written agreement with you.  We will continue to produce education content for the public, but we must point out that none of our webinars, articles, blog posts, or other similar material constitutes legal advice, does not create an attorney client relationship and you cannot rely on it as such.  We hope you will continue to take advantage of the conferences and materials that may pertain to your work or interests.**

Narrow Victory for Law Enforcement and Commonsense in Kansas v. Glover

Posted on: April 9th, 2020

By: Peter Dooley

The scope of reasonable judgments that police officers can make during traffic-stops under the Fourth Amendment was recently widened, at least narrowly, by the U.S. Supreme Court on April 6th in their 8-1 decision in Kansas v. Glover.  The stop in question involved a deputy with the Douglas County Kansas Sheriff’s Office observing an individual operating a 1995 Chevy pick-up.  Upon running the license plate information, the deputy discovered that the registered owner of that truck had a revoked license and that the model of the truck listed on the registration was the exact model he observed. 

While the stop was conducted and the deputy’s suspicion was confirmed afterwards, it also unearthed serious concerns related to Fourth Amendment searches and seizures and the required reasonable and articulable suspicion that the person stopped has, is, or is about to commit a crime.  These concerns led the Kansas Supreme Court to publish an Opinion deciding that the stop was “only a hunch” and lacked the “factual basis” required for reasonable suspicion under the Fourth Amendment.  Justice Thomas summarizes the Court’s response and reasoning for reversing the decision best when he states that the deputy’s search was valid because, from the facts at hand, “Deputy Mehrer drew the commonsense inference that Glover was likely the driver of the vehicle, which provided more than reasonable suspicion to initiate the stop.” 

The majority were not persuaded by Sotomayor’s dissenting opinion that the inference was unreasonable as it was not grounded in “law enforcement training and experience.”  The majority explained that case precedent clearly states that police officers may use similar commonsense inferences and judgments in reasonable suspicion determinations; these decisions need not require specialized training or experience as justification but, instead, can be “a reasonable inference made by ordinary people on a daily basis.”  The argument that this destroys the requirement for specific and articulable facts failed similarly as the Opinion explains that it was not merely a hunch or probability determination here, but that the stop was actually made in reliance upon the facts regarding the license plate database information and officer observations.  Justice Thomas writes, “combining database information and commonsense judgments in this context is fully consonant with this Court’s Fourth Amendment precedents.” 

Potentially due to concerns in the Kagan Concurrence, the narrowness of the holding is highlighted throughout, and the Court explains how the presence of additional facts can easily dispel reasonable suspicion.  Commonsense inferences made before a stop must be based on database information that provides a logical and strong inference of lawlessness.  Additionally, officers cannot ignore the fact that the driver they observe does not match the age, gender, or other known descriptions of the individual or vehicle.  However, as no such information existed prior to the stop in Glover and the database information was sufficiently conclusive, the officer’s inference was reasonable, and his actions were justified. 

When looking to the real-world application of this decision, one takeaway is the Court’s continued preference for reliance on judicial sense and commonsense determinations as opposed to those requiring statistics or training as justification.  More specifically law enforcement officers may now use commonsense inferences in Fourth Amendment traffic-stops such as determining that the owner is likely the person seen driving the car and similar determinations with the assistance of databases.  This decision is not groundbreaking but is an important victory on the side of general likelihoods and commonsense reasonable suspicion determinations in the constant tug-of-war between effective law enforcement practices and Fourth Amendment protections. 

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Peter Dooley at [email protected]

Federal Judge Refuses to Enjoin Kentucky Governor from Restricting Interstate Travel

Posted on: April 6th, 2020

By: Barry Miller

A federal judge has refused to halt enforcement of an order that directed Kentuckians not to travel outside the state for two weeks because of COVID-19.

Governor Andy Beshear issued the order on March 30. It makes exceptions for those traveling to meet work requirements, buy necessary supplies, seek health care, or provide care for the elderly or disabled.

Plaintiff Allison Alessandro sued the governor in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky on April 2. She filed her motion for a temporary restraining order with her complaint.

That motion argued that the right of interstate travel is “virtually unqualified,” and because this constitutional right was being impaired, irreparable injury is presumed. Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove said Alessandro still must show that any harm to her is immediate. He said he desire to visit friends and family in Ohio failed to satisfy that requirement.

Ms. Alessandro resides in Campbell County, Kentucky, which is on the Ohio border.

Judge Van Tatenhove also questioned whether Alessandro had shown irreparable harm. Because Ohio has also restricted travel it was not clear that enjoining Beshear’s travel order would give her a remedy.

The order also discussed a balance of harms, saying that enjoining the order might substantially harm other citizens, particularly those more vulnerable to COVID-19. Typically, if a law is unconstitutional, there is no harm to others by enjoining it, Judge Van Tatenhove wrote. The judge stated his review was preliminary. “In-depth consideration of the constitutional issues at play will require additional briefing from the parties,” he wrote, noting that the Commonwealth had not yet briefed those issues. He scheduled a telephonic conference with the parties for Monday.

Additional Information:

The FMG Coronavirus Task Team will be conducting a series of webinars on Coronavirus issues on a regular basis. Topics include employment issues, the real-world impact of business restrictions, education claims and more. Click here to register.

FMG has formed a Coronavirus Task Force to provide up-to-the-minute information, strategic advice, and practical solutions for our clients.  Our group is an interdisciplinary team of attorneys who can address the multitude of legal issues arising out of the coronavirus pandemic, including issues related to Healthcare, Product Liability, Tort Liability, Data Privacy, and Cyber and Local Governments.  For more information about the Task Force, click here.

You can also contact your FMG relationship partner or email the team with any questions at [email protected].

**DISCLAIMER:  The attorneys at Freeman Mathis & Gary, LLP (“FMG”) have been working hard to produce educational content to address issues arising from the concern over COVID-19.  The webinars and our written material have produced many questions. Some we have been able to answer, but many we cannot without a specific legal engagement.  We can only give legal advice to clients.  Please be aware that your attendance at one of our webinars or receipt of our written material does not establish an attorney-client relationship between you and FMG.  An attorney-client relationship will not exist unless and until an FMG partner expressly and explicitly states IN WRITING that FMG will undertake an attorney-client relationship with you, after ascertaining that the firm does not have any legal conflicts of interest.  As a result, you should not transmit any personal or confidential information to FMG unless we have entered into a formal written agreement with you.  We will continue to produce education content for the public, but we must point out that none of our webinars, articles, blog posts, or other similar material constitutes legal advice, does not create an attorney client relationship and you cannot rely on it as such.  We hope you will continue to take advantage of the conferences and materials that may pertain to your work or interests.**

COVID-19: Protecting Those Who Protect Us

Posted on: April 2nd, 2020

By: Parisa Saleki

The Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 (Public Law 105–19) came into effect over two decades ago with a simple goal: promote volunteerism by limiting, and sometimes eliminating, a volunteer’s risk of tort liability. The recently enacted Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) further builds on the goal of encouraging volunteerism.

Specifically, the CARES Act limits liability of health care professional volunteers during the COVID-19 emergency response with respect to the diagnosis, prevention, or treatment of COVID-19 or the assessment or care of a person’s health-related to COVID-19. Section 4216 of the CARES Act states that a volunteer health care professional “shall not be liable under Federal or State law for any harm caused by an act or omission of the professional in the provision of health care services during the public health emergency.”

The CARES Act does not, however, eliminate liability altogether. Volunteers should be cautious of several exceptions to the new rule. For example, the limitation will not apply if a person sustained harm as a result of a volunteer’s willful act or gross negligence, reckless misconduct, or a conscious flagrant indifference to the rights or safety of the harmed individual. Further, liability will not be limited if a health care professional volunteer rendered services and caused a person harm while under the influence of alcohol or an intoxicating drug.

So, who exactly do these new rules apply to? The CARES Act defines the term “volunteer” as a health care professional who, with respect to the health care services rendered, does not receive compensation or any other thing of value in lieu of compensation, which includes a payment under any insurance policy or health plan, or under any Federal or State health benefits program.

For legal professionals handling claims under this section of the CARES Act, it is important to note that the section is not retroactive. The limitation of liability only applies to claims for harm in which the act or omission that caused harm occurred on or after the date the CARES Act was enacted. Lastly, the effect of this section comes to a halt once the COVID-19 public health emergency is declared over.

Additional Information:

The FMG Coronavirus Task Team will be conducting a series of webinars on Coronavirus issues on a regular basis. Topics include COVID-19’s impact on the construction industry, employment issues arising from the virus, the real-world impact of business restrictions, and education claims. Click here to register.

FMG has formed a Coronavirus Task Force to provide up-to-the-minute information, strategic advice, and practical solutions for our clients.  Our group is an interdisciplinary team of attorneys who can address the multitude of legal issues arising out of the coronavirus pandemic, including issues related to Healthcare, Product Liability, Tort Liability, Data Privacy, and Cyber and Local Governments.  For more information about the Task Force, click here.

You can also contact your FMG relationship partner or email the team with any questions at [email protected].

**DISCLAIMER:  The attorneys at Freeman Mathis & Gary, LLP (“FMG”) have been working hard to produce educational content to address issues arising from the concern over COVID-19.  The webinars and our written material have produced many questions. Some we have been able to answer, but many we cannot without a specific legal engagement.  We can only give legal advice to clients.  Please be aware that your attendance at one of our webinars or receipt of our written material does not establish an attorney-client relationship between you and FMG.  An attorney-client relationship will not exist unless and until an FMG partner expressly and explicitly states IN WRITING that FMG will undertake an attorney-client relationship with you, after ascertaining that the firm does not have any legal conflicts of interest.  As a result, you should not transmit any personal or confidential information to FMG unless we have entered into a formal written agreement with you.  We will continue to produce education content for the public, but we must point out that none of our webinars, articles, blog posts, or other similar material constitutes legal advice, does not create an attorney client relationship and you cannot rely on it as such.  We hope you will continue to take advantage of the conferences and materials that may pertain to your work or interests.**

The CARES Act and What It Means for State and Local Governments

Posted on: March 31st, 2020

By: Jacob Daly

Much of the focus on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act has been on the relief it provides for individuals and both large and small businesses, as well as the funding it provides for public health initiatives.  Rightfully so.  But the relief it provides for state and local governments should not be overlooked.  Of the $2 trillion appropriated by the law, about $424 billion is allocated for state, local, and tribal governments.  The law also provides additional funding for joint federal-state programs such as Medicaid and unemployment compensation.

The largest single appropriation in the CARES Act for state, local, and tribal governments is $150 billion for the creation of a Coronavirus Relief Fund.  (Note that local governments are eligible to participate in this fund only if they have a population of more than 500,000.)  Of this amount, $3 billion is allocated for Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa, and $8 billion is allocated for tribal governments.  The remaining $139 billion is to be allocated proportionally among the states, with each state receiving at least $1.25 billion.  Eligible local governments may not receive more than 45% of the amount allocated to the state in which they are located.  A chart prepared by Federal Funds Information for States showing the estimated allocation of the entire Coronavirus Relief Fund among the states, District of Columbia, Territories, and Tribes can be accessed here.

To be eligible for these funds, the chief executive of the government must certify to the Secretary of Treasury that it will comply with the following three conditions:

  1. the funds may be used only for necessary expenditures relating to COVID-19;
  2. the funds may not be used for expenditures that are already accounted for in the government’s most recently approved budget as of March 27, 2020; and
  3. the funds must be used for costs incurred between March 1, 2020, and December 30, 2020.

The Inspector General of the Department of the Treasury has oversight responsibility for funds provided to state, local, and tribal governments, and if it is determined that these funds were used improperly, the offending government must reimburse the federal government.

Other funding for which for state, local, and tribal governments may be eligible includes the following:

  • $454 billion for loans to businesses, states, and cities
  • $30.75 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund for states, school districts, and institutions of higher education for costs relating to COVID-19
  • $45 billion for a Disaster Relief Fund
  • $1.4 billion for deployments of the National Guard
  • $4.3 billion, through the CDC, to support efforts of federal, state, and local public health agencies
  • $25 billion for transit systems
  • $400 million in election security grants for the 2020 federal election cycle
  • $100 million for Emergency Management Performance Grants for emergency management activities
  • $45 million in grants to states for child welfare services
  • $850 million in grants through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program to states for continuation of criminal justice programs
  • $5 billion for the Community Development Block Grant program to enable state and local governments to expand community health facilities, child care centers, food banks, and senior services

The CARES Act was phase 3 of the federal government’s legislative response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Some members of Congress are already talking about phase 4, and when that happens, FMG will provide timely information about what it means for you.

Additional Information:

The FMG Coronavirus Task Team will be conducting a series of webinars on Coronavirus issues on a regular basis. Topics include the CCPA, the CARES Act, Education Claims, Law Enforcement and the viruses’ impact on the Construction Industry. Click here to register.

FMG has formed a Coronavirus Task Force to provide up-to-the-minute information, strategic advice, and practical solutions for our clients.  Our group is an interdisciplinary team of attorneys who can address the multitude of legal issues arising out of the coronavirus pandemic, including issues related to Healthcare, Product Liability, Tort Liability, Data Privacy, and Cyber and Local Governments.  For more information about the Task Force, click here.

You can also contact your FMG relationship partner or email the team with any questions at [email protected].

**DISCLAIMER:  The attorneys at Freeman Mathis & Gary, LLP (“FMG”) have been working hard to produce educational content to address issues arising from the concern over COVID-19.  The webinars and our written material have produced many questions. Some we have been able to answer, but many we cannot without a specific legal engagement.  We can only give legal advice to clients.  Please be aware that your attendance at one of our webinars or receipt of our written material does not establish an attorney-client relationship between you and FMG.  An attorney-client relationship will not exist unless and until an FMG partner expressly and explicitly states IN WRITING that FMG will undertake an attorney-client relationship with you, after ascertaining that the firm does not have any legal conflicts of interest.  As a result, you should not transmit any personal or confidential information to FMG unless we have entered into a formal written agreement with you.  We will continue to produce education content for the public, but we must point out that none of our webinars, articles, blog posts, or other similar material constitutes legal advice, does not create an attorney client relationship and you cannot rely on it as such.  We hope you will continue to take advantage of the conferences and materials that may pertain to your work or interests.**