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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. 

October 30, 2018

President Trump’s announcement that he intends, through issuance of an Executive Order, to terminate birthright citizenship, which confers citizenship to children of noncitizens who are born in the U.S., is in direct conflict with the plain terms of the United States Constitution, namely the Fourteenth Amendment, which states: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United Statesand of the State wherein they reside.”

October 23, 2018

Denouncing Government Efforts to Imprison the Mind, Rutherford Institute Asks Supreme Court to Protect Prisoners’ Access to Legal News

October 18, 2018

Relenting in the face of legal arguments by The Rutherford Institute and others that burdensome overregulation violates a person’s right to due process, the State of Missouri has repealed a senseless occupational licensing law that required individuals to secure a costly license in order to braid hair.

October 17, 2018

Virginia police have agreed to settle a civil rights lawsuit that arose after a request to have police carry out a “welfare check” on a 58-year-old man resulted in a two-hour, SWAT team-style raid on the man’s truck, a wrongful arrest, and a 72-hour mental health hold. The lawsuit, brought by The Rutherford Institute on behalf of Benjamin Burruss, alleged that a heavily armed police tactical team confronted Burruss, surrounded his truck, deployed a “stinger” device behind the rear tires, launched a flash grenade, smashed the side window in order to drag him from the truck, handcuffed and searched him, and transported him to a local hospital for a psychiatric evaluation and mental health hold.

October 16, 2018

In public comments submitted to the National Park Service (NPS), The Rutherford Institute has denounced a proposal that would severely limit demonstrations in Washington, D.C., on the National Mall and in front of the White House, which have been the site of many historic protests, as well as require demonstrators to pay fees and acquire permits in order to exercise their lawful First Amendment rights.

October 10, 2018

The Rutherford Institute is challenging bogus “contempt of cop” charges (ranging from resisting arrest and interference to disorderly conduct, obstruction, and failure to obey a police order) that empower police to penalize and arrest individuals for engaging in lawful First Amendment activities (filming police, asking a question of police, refusing to speak with police).