Ted Hadzi-Antich’s upcoming oral argument: Don’t lock us out of Tahoe National Forest

On Monday, February 8, 2016, at 1:30 p.m., Pacific, I’ll be presenting at oral argument before the 9th Circuit in support of our challenge to the closure of over 90% of the user-created motorized travel routes in Tahoe National Forest.  The argument will be held in Courtroom 2, on the 3rd floor of the James R. Browning U.S. Courthouse, located at 95 Seventh Street, San Francisco, California 94103.

The United States Forest Service failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it refused to gather site-specific data on the impacts to the human environment of the massive route closures, thereby making it impossible to conduct an analysis of the alternatives.   An alternatives analysis has long been considered by courts as the heart of the NEPA process.  The briefing was completed almost two years ago, but only now are we being given the opportunity to explain to the court face-to-face our concerns that the Forest Service has illegally closed forest access to all but the most able-bodied among us.  Padlocking public land in such a way is not right, and it’s not legal.  More information about the case can be found here.

Free speech prevails in Fourth Circuit do-over

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Photo courtesy Institute for Justice

After nearly four years of litigation, property owners’ First Amendment rights were finally vindicated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Central Radio Company v. City of Norfolk.  The court ruled that the City of Norfolk unconstitutionally prohibited the plaintiffs (who were protesting the government’s taking of their property) from displaying a 375-square-foot banner declaring: “50 years on this street, 78 years in Norfolk, 100 workers threatened by eminent domain!” Continue reading

Shockingly, EPA and allies misunderstand federalism

Last week the Environmental Protection Agency and other groups supporting EPA’s “comprehensive pollution diet” for the Chesapeake Bay watershed filed briefs with the Supreme Court to dissuade the Justices from granting the petition to hear the American Farm Bureau Federation’s legal challenge against EPA’s first-of-its-kind water pollution cleanup plan.  The case is American Farm Bureau Federation v. EPA (15-599).

The Farm Bureau’s suit—which PLF filed a brief to support—argues that EPA’s master plan for the Bay usurps authority far beyond what the Clean Water Act authorizes, giving federal officials power over local land use and water quality decisions that the Clean Water Act explicitly reserves to state decision makers. More details on the case can be found here and here.

Among the other arguments EPA and its allies curiously keep offering up to justify their latest regulatory overreach is the following: the federal TMDL plan was created with the consent and participation of the affected state governments, how can it violate states’ authority?

The answer is easy: under our system of constitutional federalism, state officials’ participation in or consent to federal overreach is, at best, irrelevant. Continue reading

Wrapping up National School Choice Week 2016

Thank you for joining us and helping to spread the word about school choice. National School Choice Week was a huge success. So many wonderful organizations got involved, not to mention the thousands of parents, students, schools, and supporters that spoke out for school choice.

Here at PLF it has been a busy week supporting school choice. I recorded this podcast with fellow PLF school choice attorney Wencong Fa. We interviewed some parents and school officials at Community Christian School for this video. Our Facebook and Twitter accounts have been busy pushing our school choice message. PLF attorneys made appearances on national and local radio stations. And this blog has published many interesting posts discussing PLF’s school choice cases as well as issues that are important to choice advocates.

School Choice Week is always a highlight of the year for me, because it gets so many people talking about why school choice is so important. The only way we are going to realize school choice for all children is by spreading the message and documenting the successes.

For us at PLF, however, school choice is a year-round project. We have a lot of interesting school choice cases ongoing, and we will continue to fight for parents’ right to choose the best education for their child.

A win for school choice in North Carolina

In 2013, North Carolina’s General Assembly held extensive hearings on legislation designed to equalize educational opportunities for low-income students.  The Opportunity Scholarship Program, would provide scholarships from the State to attend any private school, including those operated by religious organizations.

Legislators were shocked and embarrassed by statistics presented at the hearings. Statewide, the passage rate on end-of-grade tests for the 2012-13 school year for all students was a shockingly low 32%.  The passage rate was even worse, however, for economically disadvantaged students (17.4%), African-American students (14.2%), and students with disabilities (6.6%).  The 2012-13 school year was not an aberration. Statistics showed a thirty-percent gap in passage rates between economically advantaged and economically disadvantaged students on end-of-grade tests in 2011-12. Continue reading

The virtue of school choice

For National School Choice Week, it’s important to remember why choicSchoolChoice10e is so valuable today.

Consider the following hypothetical: Suppose you have school-age children, and your local public school is failing. Unfortunately, you cannot afford to pay for the local private school, so you must either send your kids to the failing public school, home school, or move to a different school district. Each of these three choices would bring hardships for your family.

Now, imagine three community leaders offer different solutions. Leader 1 seeks to increase spending on the failing public school system. Leader 2 advocates for vouchers or tax credits. Leader 3 wants to form a new charter school. Continue reading

Is environmental law an ass?

No, according to a decision from the Second Circuit issued this week. In Friends of Animals v. Clay, a radical animal rights group challenged a federal permit to take migratory birds that pose a risk to planes at New York’s La Guardia and JFK airports.

Birds can be a major threat to planes. Collisions can cause engines to explode. Probably the most famous bird-strike event was the crash landing of Flight 1549 in the Hudson River by Capt. “Sully” Sullenberger. That plane was brought down after colliding with a flock of geese shortly after takeoff. In other words, protecting airports from the threat that migratory birds pose to human safety is pretty gosh darn important.

Friends of Animals’ challenge argued that the government’s permit can only authorize the take of specific species of migratory birds. In effect, the group argued, the law doesn’t allow an airport to protect planes from unexpected species of migratory birds. If any show up, the law requires the airport to sit idly by while planes fall from the sky.

Continue reading

School choice should work for all of us, not just some

This week, PLF and many of our friends in the liberty movement are celebrating National School Choice Week, a week dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of parental choice in reforming our system of education.SchoolChoice14

Many credit the early popularization of the school choice movement to the iconic, Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman. In Friedman’s 1955 article “The Role of Government in Education” he articulated the intellectual foundation for school vouchers and the idea that injecting more personal choice and competition into education can correct many of the deficiencies inherent in the stubborn bureaucracy of public school systems.

In a 2005 interview with Reason, Friedman explained, “As to the benefits of universal vouchers, empowering parents would generate a competitive education market, which would lead to a burst of innovation and improvement, as competition has done in so many other areas. There’s nothing that would do so much to avoid the danger of a two-tiered society, of a class-based society.” Continue reading

It’s school choice week on Courting Liberty

PLF attorneys discuss how competition and choice can boost the quality of all schools, public and private, and how PLF is defending promising school-choice programs in courts around the country on this week’s Courting Liberty Podcast.

We invite you to listen weekly and subscribe to PLF’s Courting Liberty podcast. The show features a weekly look at development in our high-profile cases, interviews with PLF attorneys and clients, in-depth analysis with policy experts, our “Ask a Lawyer” segment, and everything else PLF.

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Hope for Washington’s charter schools

National School Choice Week has special meaning this year in Washington, where lawmakers are fighting to save Washington’s charter schools. In 2012, Washington voters passed the state’s first charter school act. The state then approved numerous charter school applications, and the new schools prepared to open their doors in 2015. But just as the school year began, the Supreme Court of Washington struck down the charter school act. Now, however, state legislators have proposed two bills that would redeem the charter schools.

The bills would fix the two main problems that the Court found with the charter school act. The Supreme Court had held that the act violated the state’s constitution by dipping into special “common school” funds reserved for traditional public schools. The Court said that charter schools couldn’t use the reserved funds because, unlike most public schools, they aren’t run by local school boards. The Court then decided that the act dips its hand into the common school fund, even though the act didn’t specify where charter school funding comes from.

The first bill, Senate Bill 6194, would fix the funding issue by guaranteeing that charter school money flows from a fund that doesn’t contain any common school cash. The second bill would draw charter schools into the common school fold by placing them under the control of school boards.

The first solution is best because it preserves the independence of charter schools. If placed under school board control, charter schools would lose much of the flexibility needed to innovate and offer diverse educational choices for families. Senate Bill 6194, which would fix the funding issue while retaining charter school independence, just passed the Senate on the eve of National School Choice Week. Now it will advance to the House. Washington’s kids deserve this second chance at choice.