Average Joe SCOTUS: PennEast Pipeline Co. v. New Jersey

Congress passed the Natural Gas Act (NGA) which permits companies to use the federal government’s power of eminent domain, to make people let them put their pipe on their land.

So PennEast wanted to lay down 116 miles worth of pipe that would meander through Pennsylvania and New Jersey. They submitted their paperwork in 2014 with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commision (FERC). In 2018, after all the reviews and shit, they were granted a “certificate of public convenience and necessity” which basically gave them permission to go forth and conquer.

However, the whiny bitches in New Jersey that apparently want their people to freeze to death in winter, opposed the pipeline in their state.

But with permit in hand, PennEast started all their eminent domain suits against 42 properties owned by the state of New Jersey. Needless to say, New Jersey was like, “WTF?”

Going the creative route, New Jersey was like, “11th Amendment, motherfuckers.” You can’t sue a fucking state in federal court unless you’re the federal government yourself…which you ain’t. We have sovereign immunity, or whatever the fuck you call that shit.”

But a district court was like, “PennEast was granted these powers by the federal government, and therefore they are an agency of the federal government for this purpose, therefore they can sue away. So STFU, New Jersey.”

New Jersey wasn’t done though. They took their same shit argument to the 3rd circuit court of appeals and tried again. PennEast wasn’t going down without a fight, though. They were like, “Why the fuck would congress pass the NGA with that provision, if they didn’t explicitly intend to do this very fucking thing you dumb fucks.”

The 3rd circuit was less impressed with PennEast’s argument, and didn’t apparently give a fuck what congress intended—congress doesn’t get to vote away sovereign immunity.

In a 5:4 non-partisan vote, where Gorsuch, Thomas, Kagan, and Barrett dissented, PennEast came out gloriously victorious. That the NGA does indeed give the federal government the right to delegate the authority to condemn all rights-of-way, whether it’s owned by a person, or a state.

The dissenters argued that Congress’ power to take a state’s sovereign immunity away is quite limited, and there’s no reason that private condemnations should be a justifiable reason for this.

Average Joe SCOTUS: Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L.

Today, we have a pretty straight forward 1st amendment issue between some gustapo scumbags at Mahanoy Area High School (MAHS) and a student Brandi Levy.

Back in 1969, SCOTUS ruled in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District to allow schools to regulate the speech of students if that speech might disrupt the course of business of teaching the other students.

WTF does that have to do with Brandi’s issues today? Well, you see Brandi tried out for the varsity cheerleading team, and ended up only making the reserve squad. Being the entitled little piece of shit every kid her age is, she decided it was unfair, so she went on Snap Chat and wrote, “Fuck school fuck softball fuck cheer fuck everything.”

To be clear, I know I colorfully make up things people didn’t actually say on Average Joe SCOTUS, but this is literally what she wrote.

Anyway, based on the 1969 ruling above, the school suspended her ass, since over 250 students saw what she wrote, and it was now the talk of the town.

So the question is pretty simple, can shit students say outside of school on their own time and own social media, be used against them in school? Can a school suspend a student for what they write on their own social media?

Counsel for the school attempted to argue that Brandi berated her teachers and shit with this speech, to which Justice Sotomayor quickly responded, “We can quibble about that.” It’s pretty fucking obvious, since she didn’t tag anyone, or call anyone’s attention to her speech, they were shown it by another party, that she didn’t fucking berate anyone. She vented on social media.

Yeah, I’m biased. I think the school couldn’t be more out of line here, and their arguments are bullshit.

Justice Kavanaugh invoked the great one, Michael Jordan in an impassioned speech/question.

Brett M. Kavanaugh

I want to focus on the facts of this case a bit and my reaction to it.

As you say and I think helpful for you, the context here is a team and a coach, not the school more generally.

But, as a judge and maybe as a coach and a parent too, it seems like maybe a bit of overreaction by the coach. So my reaction when I read this, she’s competitive, she cares, she blew off steam like millions of other kids have when they’re disappointed about being cut from the high school team or not being in the starting lineup or not making all league. And just by way of comparison about — and to show how much it means to people, you know, arguably, the greatest basketball player of all time is inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009 and gives a speech, and what does he talk about? He talks about getting cut as a sophomore from the varsity team.

And he wasn’t joking.

He was critical 30 years later.

It still bothered him. And I think that’s just emblematic of how much it means to kids to make a high school team.

It is so important to their lives, and coaches sweat the cuts, and it guts coaches to have to cut a kid who’s on the bubble, and — and good coaches understand the importance and they understand the emotions. So maybe what bothers me when I read all this is that it didn’t seem like the punishment was tailored to the offense given what I just said about how important it is and you know how much it means to the kids.

I mean, a year’s suspension from the team just seems excessive to me. But how does that fit into the First Amendment doctrine or does it fit in at all in a case like this?

Lisa S. Blatt

Well, it — it — I don’t think it does because the — it’s analytically distinct whether the coach could act at all versus due process considerations about the extent of the punishment and I think the rule — but, I mean — and also, this is the — the remand point, the district lost on this issue and the Third Circuit did not go on this rationale because there was evidence of the — the team cohesion. But I — I think, you know, whether — I understand that Michael Jordan was upset, but, at some point, presumably, he was respectful to his coaches, and there’s a line that coaches always have to — coaches have to know their team and know what — what works.

They have to act in the best interest of all teammates, team — team participants.

Amicus counsel for the United States in favor of the school, when confronted by Justice Thomas about the one year suspension seeming a pretty heavy-handed punishment for some frustrated speech on Snapchat with a few F-bombs, counsel creatively tried to argue, “Hey man, it’s just a ban from cheerleading, not the whole fucking school. What’s the big deal, guy?”

Opposing counsel, when pressed by Justice Gorsuch conceded some ground when he suggested that if the school had written prior policy telling students this wasn’t allowed, and if they did so, they could be disciplined, they’d have been OK with this. His argument is that the student had no reason to think this would result in disciplinary action, and therefore wouldn’t have known she should refrain from doing it or else. A principle pretty similar to the “Constitutionally vague” principle often used to strike down a law by SCOTUS.

In an 8:1 decision where only justice Thomas dissented, SCOTUS ruled in favor of miss Levy. They made it clear that while a school can regulate speech on campus, students don’t just lose their first amendment rights when they’re off campus. While they conceded if off-campus speech disrupted school activities and such, the school could potentially act, miss Levy didn’t do any of that shit. She just vented on social media.

Hear oral arguments and/or read about the case here.


Average JOE SCOTUS: United States v. Palomar-Santiago

This is a pretty straight forward case about Mexican Refugio Palomar-Santiago, who legally came to the US and was granted permanent residence in 1990. A year later, he was apparently so excited to be an American, he got drunk as a skunk, and jumped behind the wheel of a car, drove like shit, and got popped for DUI.

In California at the time, a DUI was considered a violent crime, and as such, was a deportable offense. So the US told Refugio he could fuck right off back to Mexico.

Since then, three years later, the Ninth Circuit decided in a separate case, that calling a DUI a crime of violence is fucking stupid. So they quashed that law, and made it retroactive so that anyone prosecuted under that law, would no longer be deemed a violent criminal. In 2004, SCOTUS also came to the decision in Leocal v. Ashcroft, that this was bullshit.

Refugio was like, “Sweet” and made his drunk ass back to the US, but this time he came in illegally. He was eventually busted, so he was like, “Hey assholes, you decided the reason you kicked me out the first time was bullshit, so I have a right to be here. I should’ve never been kicked out the first fucking time. You’re just lucky I’m not asking you to cover my travel expenses.”

But the government was like, “Listen fuckhead. There are rules in coming back into the US. You don’t just get to violate them because the reason we kicked you out has been rendered invalid. You still gotta go through the proper channels, or you’re here illegally.”

Their opening argument points out that Refugio had options available to him for judicial review and shit, but he didn’t pass go, he just collected $200.

In a unanimous decision, SCOTUS sided with the US, and told Palomar-Santiago to haul his ass back to Mexico. Had he went through the proper channels to get his removal order invalidated, he’d be fine. But he broke the rules coming back, and that shit ain’t allowed.

Hear audio from the case, or read about it here.


Average Joe SCOTUS: HollyFrontier Cheyenne Refining LLC v. Renewable Fuels Association

In it’s desire to combat climate change and shit, congress passed the Energy Policy Act in 2005, which added some new guidelines to the Clean Air Act. The idea was to incentivize companies to move from fossil fuels to renewables and shit.

One of the measures was to push oil and gas refineries to use blends, such as methanols at increasing levels, so it’s more plant based fuel, and less petroleum based fuel.

Within this legislation, they allowed for smaller refineries to have exemptions if complying with their rules, would cause serious problems for them, disproportionate to the impact it might have on larger companies, which can afford to make such changes easier.

So the question the court is being asked, does this law indicate that you have to have a continuous string of hardships, year after year, to keep qualifying for this extension? Or is it that once you jump that hurdle, and are deemed able to comply, are you barred from asking for an extension the following year.

As SCOTUS Blog points out, this hinges on the definition of the word extension. Because the petitioner is saying, they can apply for an extension at any time, but the respondent is saying, “Hey look, how can you extend something that isn’t currently happening?”

During oral arguments, Justice Kagan brought up a compelling argument for the petitioner:

Elena Kagan

Good morning, Mr. Keisler.

In thinking about the ordinary meaning of this word, “extension,” I guess I’m wondering if you would comment on this hypothetical. Suppose that I rented an apartment five years ago and I rented it for a year, and then I decided to give it up, and five years later I’m now really tired of where I’m living now and I want to move back, and I call the landlord and say: I’d like an extension of my lease.

What would the landlord say?

Peter D. Keisler

I think the landlord would scratch her head and think that’s a very strange context in which to be using the word “extension.” I agree with that. And that, I think, is like the government’s examples of the hotel guests or the people parking their cars.

I think those may have a different connotation in part because they involve rights, the physical occupation, and because you go away and you then come back, and we think of that as discontinuous. And that’s why we think the much more apt context here is how Congress has used the word in the context of government benefits and programs that existed, lapsed, and resumed.

In a 6:3 decision, and weirdly sexually divided, where Barrett, Sotomayor, and Kagan dissented, SCOTUS ruled in favor of HollyFrontier. That they can indeed file for extension, even if there was a time when they didn’t need said exception. Since the law didn’t include words like “successive” or “consecutive” it kinda leaves the door open that they don’t need to be year after year. A simple hardship can trigger an exception.

Hear oral arguments or read about the case here.


Average Joe SCOTUS: Guam v. United States

As you may know, during the Spanish-American War, the United States busted Spain’s ass, and took Guam for their troubles. In 1950, they gave Guam power to rule themselves, while still remaining a territory of the United States.

In 1940, the US needed a place to dump military waste, like old ammo and even some hazardous chemical warfare shit like DDT and Agent Orange, using that dump through both the Korean and Vietnam wars.

It wasn’t a great dump, though, and it leaked that shit into the Pacific Ocean, prompting the EPA to declare it a serious priority to address in 1983 after passing the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). CERCLA was designed to deal with hazardous wastes at dump sites.

Five years later, the government said the Navy was the major asshole causing all of this, but because Guam ruled itself, the EPA told Guam to come up with a solution.

But Guam was like, “You assholes admit the Navy caused this, and we don’t rule the fucking Navy, you do. So the Navy should figure this shit out and clean it up. Why the fuck would we be on the hook for this?”

in 2011 a district court appointed some fucktwit who closed Ordot, the dump in question, and estimated it’d be like $160M to clean that mess up.

At one point during questioning of Guam’s counsel Garre, Justice Sotomayor went into full disrespect mode, interrupting counsel before he could answer most of the questions posed to him, and even at the end when he was trying to answer, cutting him off with a rather terse “Counsel, please!” I believe she was out of time, but still, it was incredibly unbecoming.

However, she must’ve had a change of heart, because her along with the other eight justices sided with Guam. They can sue the federal government to clean that shit up. CERCLA clearly has language for liability, and the Navy is clearly liable. Enough said.

Hear oral arguments or read about the case here


Average Joe SCOTUS: FCC v. Prometheus Radio Project

Pretty simple case, here. Because there are limited radio waves, the FCC tries to make rules to ensure competition in the marketplace, restricting how many people can own one market area. Basically, they don’t allow one media giant to own too many TV or radio stations in that area, so that people get news and information from varied sources.

In 2017, the FCC was like, “Fuck it, we don’t care anymore. Do whatever the fuck you want at this point. No one even gives a fuck about radio or newsprint anymore anyway.” They eased all their “cross-ownership” rules accordingly. These rules initially were making sure that people heard opposing view points, but what’s the point now, with all these news hacks all over the internet, digital radio, YouTube, or whatever.

They instead, created an “incubator” program to encourage women and minorities to start up such stations.

The 3rd circuit was like, “Hey, FCC! What the fuck do you think you’re doing? This incubator program is cute and all, but repealing your cross-ownership rules will make it nearly impossible for women and minorities to get in the game, you dumb fucks.” So they killed FCC’s new rules.

Prometheus Radio Group is one of those small ass stations, and they’re pretty sure the FCC’s rules will fuck them squarely in the asshole.

So now we’re at SCOTUS deciding if the FCC or the 3rd circuit got it right. And in a unanimous decision, SCOTUS agreed with the FCC. Basically saying, “you fuckheads were charged with policing the airwaves, and within that context, you can make whatever rules you think serve that interest as long as you explain it well enough, and it isn’t some unreasonable or unconstitutional nonsense. Go forth and multiply.”

Read about the case, and hear oral arguments at Oyez.com. You can also check out SCOTUS Blog’s analysis.

Average JOE SCOTUS: Americans for Prosperity v. Bonta

We all know the People’s Republic of California love to rule with an iron fist, right? Well, federal regulations require charities to disclose a list of their major donors, to help protect those donor’s interests, in case those charities are doing some shady shit.

Well, California, believing themselves to be better than the federal government are requiring companies give them donor names and addresses as well. Here’s the rub.

California has had breeches of these lists, and leaked that info to the public. So for instance, if some dude has a hard on for Jesus, and donates to an anti-abortion group, Californians outs that motherfucker as an “anti women’s rights” person, when they had no desire to have their position publicly outed. While we here at Logical Libertarian are pro-choice, we consider a pro-life stance a fair belief to have, and that belief has nothing to do with women’s rights, it has everything to do with giving basic human rights to a human life that merely hasn’t exited the womb yet.

No one who’s pro choice is out there pushing to take away women’s rights in any other way. This is merely a misleading tactic to get people to join their side.

So charity Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and their peers are arguing this is a violation of their first amendment rights to freely associate, because it might deter them from otherwise donating to their cause.

They hear California’s argument that it’s to help prevent charities fraud, but they’re like, California never even uses that information to do that, all they do is fucking leak it when they don’t like people. Not to mention, the IRS already has that info.

In the words of the defense:

Because the attorney general has failed to take measures to adequately protect the Schedule B forms, some donors will consider the Attorney General’s scheme and reasonably conclude that the risks of disclosure are too great.

The group cited that California employees themselves, posted over 1800 of these forms on a public website, just to out donors they disliked.

California contends, this doesn’t directly prevent anyone from freely associating, so they’re calling bullshit. If people believe in a charity, they can donate to it all they want, we just want to know about it, and we may tell the world about it because we’re assholes.

So throughout the case, the terms strict scrutiny and exacting scrutiny have been bandied about. The petitioner’s want a strict scrutiny ruling. Which seems to mean that if the state wants this info, it has to go about getting it in the least intrusive way possible, and this isn’t it.

However, the state is arguing that an exacting scrutiny standard should be applied, and because this law doesn’t actually have a component to prevent free association, the petitioner’s argument is bullshit. They’re not associating because they’re afraid of being publicly outed, not because the state is preventing it. So it’s not EXACTLY preventing free association.

A handful of whiny twats in congress for the DNC asked Justice Barrett to recuse herself, since Americans for Prosperity donated heavily to help ensure she was confirmed to the supreme court. She was unimpressed with their argument, and did in fact participate. She’s nominated for life, after all, so there’s no power they hold over her, and she has no reason to side against what she thinks is right. This is likely an attempt at Democrats to both get more information for Commie Cali, and to attack Barrett for her Christianity again, as they did when she was confirmed.

We here at Logical Libertarian are also atheist, but we find these attacks on her religion equally disgusting as misrepresenting anti-abortion arguments.

Anyway, back to the case. California’s argument is that they need this info to investigate charities fraud. But the petitioner is like, “That’s some fucking bullshit. They never use this info for that. They never investigate charities fraud proactively, to where they’d need this info on hand. They only fucking investigate when there’s an actual accusation of fraud or some shit, in which case, they send an audit letter, or subpoena the info. So there’s no need to have this shit ahead of time.

Gorsuch, going after California, pushed on the right to privacy issue specifically, asking if the first amendment’s right to peaceably assemble also assumes some level of privacy, to which she responded it did. So then Gorsuch asked her to draw a distinction between California charities disclosed up front, and say some company being forced to send their company Christmas card list, to see if they’re friends with anyone government cares about, or who they’ve dated in the past so they try to compile data on who people end up marrying?

Counsel danced around this, in saying that if the people in question had a fear of reprisal, they could certainly argue that as a reason why not to disclose such info. But notice that this flips the script, and argues that government has a right to demand it, and it can only be thwarted if the people cite a reason why, as opposed to the people have a right not to disclose it, until government proves it has a compelling interest that supersedes their right to privacy. And this is why it’s Communist California, and not a state which gives a fuck about rights in any meaningful way.

Gorsuch however, interrupted her and said, “assume there’s no reprisal whatsoever.”

Here response:

Aimee A. Feinberg

I think that would be very difficult because, in that situation, there would be a significant burden on intimate association.

There would very likely be a significant burden resulting from public dissemination of that kind of information. And, as a result, the government would have to come forward with a commensurately strong justification, and it wouldn’t be clear to me in that context what that interest would be.

Call me crazy, but she ultimately just made the argument for the petitioner’s.

In a 6:3 partisan decision, liberty won out. The conservatives protected the 1st amendment rights of charitable donors against the commie assholes in California. The dissenters argued that this is a pretty creative interpretation of the first amendment, and opens the door to other shaky 1A arguments. But you know what, fuck those assholes. California was out of line, and I don’t mind saying it.

Hear oral arguments or read about the case, here.