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March 31, 2017
Opinion in Thomas Porter v. Harold W. Clarke

Finding that the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) could not be trusted to permanently change “dehumanizing” conditions at its “Death Row” prison, a federal appeals court has reinstated a lawsuit by prisoners who claim their confinement in oppressive isolation constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. In asking the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a lower court’s dismissal of the lawsuit, attorneys for The Rutherford Institute, working in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that tactical policy changes adopted by VDOC in order to sidestep court-mandated legal obligations (the practice of “tactical mooting”) would leave prisoners at greater risk of having harsh conditions re-imposed upon them.

March 29, 2017
Constitutional Q&A: The Legality of Stop and ID Procedures

Responding to the government’s increasing aggression in demanding to interrogate and search American citizens and noncitizens alike who are suspected of no criminal conduct and are doing nothing more than exercising their constitutional right to travel in public, The Rutherford Institute has issued constitutional guidelines on the extent to which may police stop individuals and demand that they identify themselves. In issuing the guidelines, Rutherford Institute attorneys point out that police “stop and ID” tactics, which in some instances include attempts to search cellphones and obtain access to social media accounts, violate the inherent right of people to move from place to place without government harassment and without fear of being monitored. 

March 24, 2017
Ruling in Amy Young, et al. v. Gary S. Borders, et al.

According to a federal appeals court, police will not be held 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.

March 16, 2017
Opinions in State of Kansas v. Cameron Howard

Declaring that motorists who recline their car seats are guilty of suspicious behavior, the Kansas Supreme Court has given police the green light to carry out warrantless searches of cars in which the seats are in a reclined position and plastic baggies are visible.

March 10, 2017
Justice Thomas' Opinion in Lisa Olivia Leonard v. Texas

In refusing to hear a challenge to Texas’ asset forfeiture law, the U.S. Supreme Court is allowing Texas police to keep $201,000 in cash primarily on the basis that the seized cash—the proceeds of a home sale—was being transported on a highway associated with illegal drug trade, despite any proof of illegal activity by the owner. Asset forfeiture laws, which have come under intense scrutiny and criticism in recent years, allow the police to seize property “suspected” of being connected to criminal activity without having to prove the owner of the property is guilty of a criminal offense. Lisa Leonard, the owner of the $201,000, had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to compel Texas to return her money, given that she was innocent of any crime. In a written opinion that denounced the profit incentives that drive asset forfeiture schemes, Justice Clarence Thomas concluded, “This system—where police can seize property with limited judicial oversight and retain it for their own use—has led to egregious and well-chronicled abuses.”

February 27, 2017
County of Los Angeles v. Mendez: The Rutherford Institute's amicus brief

The Rutherford Institute is urging the United States Supreme Court to hold 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. Los Angeles County police officers claim the use of excessive 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.

February 23, 2017
Constitutional Q&A: American Community Survey

The Rutherford Institute has issued constitutional guidelines for individuals alarmed by the government’s use of the ACS to extract private information about their home life and personal habits.

February 14, 2017
Dantzler v. Hindman and Westbrook: Response to the motion for summary judgment

The Rutherford Institute is pushing back against an effort by police to dismiss a Fourth Amendment lawsuit challenging a warrantless raid, search, use of force against and arrest of a Texas homeowner based on unreliable information from an anonymous source. Rutherford Institute attorneys filed the lawsuit in December 2015 against law enforcement officers with the Gillespie County (Tex.) Sheriff’s Office who, after being denied entry to Huntly and Susan Dantzler’s private home without a warrant, arrested Huntly Dantzler, placed him in handcuffs, threw him to the ground, and then carried out a warrantless search of his rural home. The search was based on inaccurate information report from an anonymous and unreliable source.

January 25, 2017
Thomas Porter v. Harold W. Clarke: amicus brief

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments today challenging “dehumanizing” conditions in Virginia prisons. In asking the federal appeals court to reinstate a lawsuit on behalf of Virginia death-row inmates who were held in “dehumanizing” conditions of isolation, The Rutherford Institute and the American Civil Liberties Union joined forces in support of the prisoners, arguing 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.

January 18, 2017
Lee v. Tam: Transcripts from Oral Arguments

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in Lee v. Tam, which challenges the government’s practice of rejecting trademark applications for names that might be offensive to certain persons or groups.

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 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).

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 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
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.

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.

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