Suppose that the California legislature passes a law that severely restricts carbon dioxide emissions of automobiles in that state. A group of automobile manufacturers files a suit against the state of California to prevent enforcement of the law. The automakers claim that a federal law already sets fuel economy standards nationwide and that these standards are essentially the same as carbon dioxide emission standards. According to the automobile manufacturers, it is unfair to allow California to impose more stringent regulations than those set by the federal law. Using the information presented in the chapter, answer the following questions.
1. Who are the parties (the plaintiffs and the defendant) in this lawsuit?
2. Are the plaintiffs seeking a legal remedy or an equitable remedy? Why?
3. What is the primary source of the law that is at issue here?
4. Read through the appendix that follows this chapter, and then answer the following question: Where would you look to find the relevant California and federal laws?
Business Scenarios and Case Problems
1–1. Binding versus Persuasive Authority. A county court in Illinois is deciding a case involving an issue that has never been addressed before in that state’s courts. The Iowa Supreme Court, however, recently decided a case involving a very similar fact pattern. Is the Illinois court obligated to follow the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision on the issue? If the United States Supreme Court had decided a similar case, would that decision be binding on the Illinois court? Explain. (See Common Law Tradition.)
1–2. The Free Exercise Clause. Thomas worked in the nonmilitary operations of a large firm that produced both military and nonmilitary goods. When the company discontinued the production of nonmilitary goods, Thomas was transferred to the plant producing military equipment. Thomas left his job, claiming that it violated his religious principles to participate in the manufacture of goods to be used in destroying life. In effect, he argued, the transfer to the military equipment plant forced him to quit his job. He was denied unemployment compensation by the state because he had not been effectively “discharged” by the employer but had voluntarily terminated his employment. Did the state’s denial of unemployment benefits to Thomas violate the free exercise clause of the First Amendment? Explain. (See Business and the Bill of Rights.)
1–3. Spotlight on AOL—Common Law. AOL, LLC, mistakenly made public the personal information of 650,000 of its members. The members filed a suit, alleging violations of California law. AOL asked the court to dismiss the suit on the basis of a “forum-selection” clause in its member agreement that designates Virginia courts as the place where member disputes will be tried. Under a decision of the United States Supreme Court, a forum-selection clause is unenforceable “if enforcement would contravene a strong public policy of the forum in which suit is brought.” California has declared in other cases that the AOL clause contravenes a strong public policy. If the court applies the doctrine of stare decisis, will it dismiss the suit? Explain. [Doe 1 v. AOL, LLC, 552 F.3d 1077 (9th Cir. 2009)] (See Common Law Tradition.)
1–4. Business Case Problem with Sample Answer—Establishment Clause. Judge James DeWeese hung a poster in his courtroom showing the Ten Commandments. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a suit, alleging that the poster violated the establishment clause. DeWeese responded that his purpose was not to promote religion but to express his view about “warring” legal philosophies—moral relativism and moral absolutism. “Our legal system is based on moral absolutes from divine law handed down by God through the Ten Commandments.” Does this poster violate the establishment clause? Why or why not? [American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio Foundation, Inc. v. DeWeese, 633 F.3d 424 (6th Cir. 2011)] (See Business and the Bill of Rights.)
1–5. Equal Protection. Abbott Laboratories licensed SmithKline Beecham Corp. to market an Abbott human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) drug in conjunction with one of SmithKline’s drugs. Abbott then increased the price of its drug fourfold, forcing SmithKline to increase its prices and thereby driving business to Abbott’s own combination drug. SmithKline filed a suit in a federal district court against Abbott. During jury selection, Abbott struck the only self-identified gay person among the potential jurors. (The pricing of HIV drugs is of considerable concern in the gay community.) Could the equal protection clause be applied to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in jury selection? Discuss. [SmithKline Beecham Corp. v. Abbott Laboratories, 740 F.3d 471 (9th Cir. 2014)] (See Due Process and Equal Protection.)
1–6. Procedural Due Process. Robert Brown applied for admission to the University of Kansas School of Law. Brown answered “no” to questions on the application asking if he had a criminal history and acknowledged that a false answer constituted “cause for … dismissal.” In fact, Brown had criminal convictions for domestic battery and driving under the influence. He was accepted for admission to the school. When school officials discovered his history, however, he was notified of their intent to dismiss him and given an opportunity to respond in writing. He demanded a hearing. The officials refused to grant Brown a hearing and then expelled him. Did the school’s actions deny Brown due process? Discuss. [Brown v. University of Kansas, 2015 WL 150271 (10th Cir. 2015)] (See Due Process and Equal Protection.)
1–7. Reading Citations. Assume that you want to read the court’s entire opinion in the case of Baker v. Premo, 268 Or.App. 406, 342 P.3d 142 (2015). Read the section entitled “Finding Case Law” in the appendix that follows this chapter, and then explain specifically where you would find the court’s opinion. (See Finding Case Law.)
1–8. A Question of Ethics—Stare Decisis. On July 5, 1884, Dudley, Stephens, and Brooks—“all able-bodied English seamen”—and a teenage English boy were cast adrift in a lifeboat following a storm at sea. They had no water with them in the boat, and all they had for sustenance were two one-pound tins of turnips. On July 24, Dudley proposed that one of the four in the lifeboat be sacrificed to save the others. Stephens agreed with Dudley, but Brooks refused to consent—and the boy was never asked for his opinion. On July 25, Dudley killed the boy, and the three men then fed on the boy’s body and blood. Four days later, the men were rescued by a passing vessel. They were taken to England and tried for the murder of the boy. If the men had not fed on the boy’s body, they would probably have died of starvation within the four-day period. The boy, who was in a much weaker condition, would likely have died before the rest. [Regina v. Dudley and Stephens, 14 Q.B.D. (Queen’s Bench Division, England) 273 (1884)] (See Common Law Tradition.)
The basic question in this case is whether the survivors should be subject to penalties under English criminal law, given the men’s unusual circumstances. You be the judge and decide the issue. Give the reasons for your decision.
Should judges ever have the power to look beyond the written “letter of the law” in making their decisions? Why or why not?