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Supreme Court Rejects Limits on Total Political Contributions

By Allen Thompson, Esq.

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the limitations on the total amount of money an individual can contribute to the entire political process. McCutcheon v. FEC, 572 U.S.      (2014), concerned the aggregate contributions an individual can make to all political candidates within a specified amount of time. The case did not address the limits to contributions to particular candidates. Writing for the Court, Justice Roberts broke the case down along the typical First Amendment analysis: (1) is contributing money to the political process protected conduct, i.e. a First Amendment issue; (2) does the Government have a compelling interest in limiting that conduct; and (3) if the Government has a compelling interest, did it narrowly tailor its limitation to address its interest?

The Court found that an individual does have a First Amendment right to contribute money to the political process. Noting that while

[m]oney in politics may at times seem repugnant to some . . . so too does much of what the First Amendment vigorously protects. If the First Amendment protects flag burning, funeral protests, and Nazi parades [all examples from prior Supreme Court cases] . . . surely it protects political campaign speech despite popular opposition.

Slip op., at 2.

Prior to the Court’s decision, once the aggregate limit was reached, the donor was prohibited from further contributions. In other words, the aggregate limits restricted the frequency with which a person may exercise his First Amendment rights to expression and association. The Court rightly held that the

Government may no more restrict how many candidates or causes a donor may support than it may tell a newspaper how many candidates it may endorse.

Slip op., at 15.

The Court then analyzed the Government’s compelling interest, finding that preventing corruption in the political process was a compelling interest, at least so far as “corruption” was defined as quid pro quo contributions.

Campaign finance restrictions that pursue [other ends] . . . impermissibly inject the Government ‘into the debate over who should govern.’ And those who govern should be the last people to help decide who should govern,

wrote J. Roberts. Slip op., at 3.

The Court also found that the aggregate limits were not narrowly tailored. In other words, the aggregate limits were not closely enough related to preventing corruption to justify the infringement on First Amendment rights. In essence, the Court found that the aggregate limit ultimately restricts how many candidates the donor may contribute to and does nothing to prevent corruption. Justice Roberts wrote that

under the dissent’s view, it is perfectly fine to contribute $5,200 to nine candidates but somehow corrupt to give the same amount to a tenth.

Slip op., at 19. While the Court spent considerable time discussing the Government’s argument that an individual could circumvent the contribution limits to individual candidates by donating through other vehicles, it ultimately ruled that the current statutory restrictions on the total amounts an individual may contribute to any one candidate, committee, or PAC adequately protected against quid pro quo corruption.

In perhaps the most unsettling portion of the Opinion, Justice Roberts addressed the dissenting opinion and firmly rejected it. Roberts rightly dismissed the dissent’s troubling assertion that the “public’s interest” in “collective speech” could trump the free speech rights of the individual. Justice Roberts pointed out that the collective is the majority and that the majority can easily suppress minority speech by passing laws such as the one at issue here. Hence, the purpose of the Amendment in the first place (no pun intended). In refuting that view, J. Roberts wrote:

The First Amendment does not protect the government, even when the government purports to act through legislation reflecting ‘collective speech.’

Slip op., at 17.

While the Opinion is sure to upset many people, given the reaction to Citizens United four years ago, the ruling is firmly rooted in the core of the First Amendment’s protections. While acknowledging the corruption in politics and the worthwhile goal of preventing that corruption, the Court was able to see through the façade of the corruption argument and focus solely on the First Amendment issues at play: namely, that politicians cannot, after election, enact legislation to restrict others’ access to the political process. Politics is fraught with corruption – restricting citizens’ access to the arena will not increase it.

 

Prince Law Offices is dedicated to preserving the First Amendment rights of all individuals, as well as every one of our constitutionally protected rights. If you believe the government – be it local, state, or federal – has infringed upon your rights, call us at 888-313-0416.

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The Constitutional Right Against Self Incrimination Applies Even to the PA Game Commission

By Tom Beveridge

Jack Coble of Perry County believes in his constitutional rights.   In fact, he spent thousands of dollars to fight a citation he received from a Pennsylvania Game Commission officer – and he won!

On November 7, 2012, a Deputy Wildlife Conservation Officer Steven Shaffer entered Mr. Coble’s farm to investigate a tip about “jacklighting” deer on his property.   Jacklighting is an illegal method of spotlighting and shooting deer at night.   Mr. Coble was home recuperating from serious hand injury when he was questioned by the deputy.   He denied any knowledge of such activities, but left his home to drive around his 120 acre farm followed by the deputy.   When they arrived at the barn, the deputy and Mr. Coble came upon his daughter and another man with the carcass of a deer.

As reported by the Associated Press, Deputy Shaffer testified that Mr. Coble became “irate” at this point and ordered him off of his land.   Apparently, the deputy did not leave as requested, but testified that, when things “calmed down, he [Mr. Coble] admitted to being present when the deer was shot.”   Thereafter, Deputy Shaffer apparently cited Mr. Coble with a summary charge of the fourth degree (the fine totaling $150) under section 2126(a)(6) of Title 34 of the Game and Wildlife Code.   This section states that it is unlawful for any person acting under the provisions for “destruction for agricultural protection” – an assumption apparently made by the deputy – to “refuse to answer, without evasion, upon request of any representative of the [PA Game] commission, any pertinent question pertaining to the killing or wounding of any game or wildlife killed or wounded, or the disposition of the entire carcass or any part thereof.”  Deputy Shaffer believed Mr. Coble was “being evasive” and, therefore, cited him under this section.

Mr. Coble hired Donald Zagurskie, Esquire, to defend him against this charge.   Attorney Zagurskie successfully argued that it is a violation of Mr. Coble’s Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination to cite him for not answering or evasively answering questions of the deputy.   In fact, this section of the Game Code effectively forced Mr. Coble to answer the deputy’s questions or be punished at the discretion of the officer.

In what this attorney calls a very commendable act, the Perry County Prosecutor handling the matter agreed with Attorney Zagurskie’s argument stating that it certainly had merit and did not contest Mr. Coble’s appeal.   Although the Prosecutor, believed to be Daniel Stern, Esquire, notified the Game Commission and Attorney General’s office of his decision not to contest the appeal, neither office initiated any actions to intervene in the matter or pursue the matter further.

So, what does this mean for Pennsylvania sportsmen?  While this section of the Game Code is very narrowly applied, it means that you should not be intimidated by Fish or Game Wardens who tell you that you must answer their questions or face a penalty.   It means that you have a Constitutional right against self incrimination and a right to consult an attorney.   I strongly suggest that anyone who is questioned by any such officers be very respectful to their authority, but never be intimidated or forced to answer questions.  Simply advise the officer that you wish to consult with your attorney before answering any further questions – regardless of the circumstances!   You should feel free to contact our office at any time – day or night – and use our emergency number to obtain legal advice, and, if necessary, legal representation to protect your rights.  Call us anytime, toll free, at 888-313-0416.  Not only are we devoted to protecting your Second Amendment rights, but ALL of YOUR Constitutional Rights!

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Case to Watch: Drake v. Jerejian

By Allen Thompson, Esq.

UPDATE: The docket now reflects that Respondents have timely filed their response.

The Supreme Court of the United States has decided not to hear several important firearms rights cases this year, setting aside such issues as: whether a concealed carry permit-holder residing at a house creates an exigent circumstance in which police do not have to announce their presence, and whether a 10-round magazine, deemed protected by the Second Amendment, can be prohibited as a safety measure.  However, one case is still standing and the Supreme Court is still receiving briefs on the merits.

 Drake v. Jerejian, Docket No. 13-827 (which started out life as Drake v. Filko), challenges New Jersey’s impossibly restrictive carry permit requirements.  In order to gain a carry permit in New Jersey, one must first demonstrate “justifiable need.”  To many people’s surprise, one can only show “justifiable need” in one of two ways: a specific threat against the person, or a significant enough history to demonstrate that need.  In addition, one must show that carrying a firearm is the only way to prevent harm from the attack.  Once local law enforcement signs off on the permit, an applicant still needs approval from the New Jersey Superior Court.  And, as Mr. Drake found out, even if the local law enforcement authorities grant the permit, the New Jersey State Police is still likely to appeal.

John Drake, Gregory Gallaher, Lenny Salerno, and Finley Fenton, along with the Second Amendment Foundation and the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, filed suit challenging the essential ban on carrying in New Jersey.  John Drake, who operates a business restocking and servicing ATM machines, necessarily carries large amounts of cash on him and desired to carry a firearm for protection.  After initially being approved by the local law enforcement agency, the New Jersey State Police appealed and the Superior Court reversed the LEO’s approval.  The current lawsuit was then filed and the denial was eventually upheld by the Third Circuit.  Petitioners then appealed to the Supreme Court, where the case currently sits, awaiting its fate.

To date, numerous heavy hitters have entered the arena as amici, or third-parties with some interest in the outcome of the case.  The NRA, the Claremont Institute’s Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, and the Cato Institute have all filed briefs in support of the challenge to New Jersey’s law.  Nineteen states* also filed to support the challenge, as well as the Judicial Education Project.  A single brief was filed on behalf of the following: Gun Owners Foundation, Gun Owners of America, U.S. Justice Foundation, Lincoln Institute for Research and Education, Abraham Lincoln Foundation, Institute on the Constitution, Conservative Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the Policy Analysis Center.  Members of Congress submitted a brief, as well, urging clarification on firearms laws.

Respondents (those defending New Jersey’s law) had until March 14 to file a response.  Although nothing has been posted on the docket as of yet, it is quite possible that, because March 14 was a Friday and Monday saw inclement weather in Washington, D.C., the docket simply does not reflect the submission yet.  We will keep you posted as this case progresses.

*The following states joined Wyoming in filing the amicus brief in support of the Petitioners: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia.

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California Gun-Owners Seek Relief at U.S. Supreme Court

By Allen Thompson, Esq.

UPDATE: Justice Kennedy has denied the requested injunction, according to SCOTUSblog.

UPDATE: The City of Sunnyvale responded before the 3 pm deadline, arguing that the residents had not met their burden required to enjoin enforcement during the pendency of the appeal.  Read the Response here.

Several residents of Sunnyvale, California, have filed a request with the Supreme Court of the United States, asking Justice Anthony Kennedy to stay the Order of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denying them injunctive relief.  The residents had challenged Sunnyvale’s ordinance prohibiting the possession of so-called “high-capacity” magazines capable of holding more than ten rounds.

While the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California stated in its introduction that

magazines having a capacity to accept more than ten rounds . . . are hardly central to self-defense . . . [and] . . . [t]he right to possess magazines having a capacity to accept more than ten rounds lies on the periphery of the Second Amendment . . .,

it later held that these magazine were protected by the Second Amendment.  Fyock v. City of Sunnyvale, C-13-5807-RMW,  slip op. at 2, 9 (N.D.Ca. 2013).  After its analysis of whether the magazines were protected, it concluded that

[i]n sum, Sunnyvale’s ban on possession of magazines having a capacity to accept more than ten rounds implicates the Second Amendment’s protections . . . . Thus, the court finds that the Sunnyvale ordinance prohibits average, law-abiding citizens from possessing protected arms that are not dangerous and unusual.  As such, Sunnyvale’s ban burdens conduct protected by the Second Amendment.

Fyock, at 10.  (Emphasis added).  However, the court then determined that the law was not particularly burdensome, since it determined that banning a particular type of magazine was not the same as the sort of ordinance at issue in Heller, which completely banned handguns.  The court did not address Heller’s statement that banning a particular type of protected firearm was not permissible so long as other types of protected firearms were available.  See, Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 629 (2008) (“It is no answer to say, as petitioners do, that it is permissible to ban the possession of handguns so long as the possession of other firearms (i.e., long guns) is allowed”).

After the District Court refused to issue the preliminary injunction, the residents appealed to the Ninth Circuit for an emergency injunction, which was denied.  They then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to grant an injunction during the pendency of the appeal.

The truly concerning part of the District Court’s ruling is its fundamentally flawed analysis.  Once the court determined that these specific magazines were protected by the Second Amendment, the fact that all magazines were not banned by the ordinance should have become irrelevant.  It is notable that the court did not say that larger capacity magazines were not protected by the Second Amendment and then proceed to uphold a total ban on them – rather, it upheld a total ban on the exercise of what it admitted was a Constitutionally protected right, since the ordinance allowed ownership of some magazines.  As the Supreme Court noted in Heller, however, the availability of other Constitutional rights is irrelevant to whether a particular right is being burdened.

This is equivalent to saying that some political speech may be completely banned, so long as speech, in general, is not banned.  While the Supreme Court has upheld regulations and certain limitations on speech, such as time, place, and manner restrictions, and has held that certain locations have greater protections than others (public forums, for example), it has never held that protected speech may be completely banned throughout a municipality.

On a final, procedural note, the residents are not asking the Supreme Court to hear the case on its merits.  They are merely asking the Court to (1) grant an injunction against the enforcement of the ordinance until the District Court makes a full decision on the merits (the District Court only denied the preliminary injunction) or (2) stay the decision until the issues can be briefed further for the Court.  According to SCOTUSblog, Justice Kennedy has asked for a response from Sunnyvale, due Wed., March 12, by 3 pm.

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E Pluribus Unum, So Come On In!

The Supreme Court of the United States yesterday issued its opinion in Fernandez v. California.  The case dealt with the ability of police to search the premises of a person when he or she is not home, but someone else who shares the premises is.  By way of background, the Court’s precedent does not require both tenants to be present for valid consent to be given for a search.  However, in 2006, the Court found that where both tenants are actually present, both must consent to the search.

 The facts of the Fernandez case put it in between the rule and the exception.  Fernandez was suspected of recently committing a violent crime.  Police were pointed in the direction of the apartment in question and they knocked on the door.  A bloodied Roxanne Rojas answered, the police asked to search the premises for Fernandez, Fernandez emerged and told the police that he objected to their search.  Believing Fernandez to have recently harmed Rojas, the police arrested him.  They returned an hour later and asked Rojas for consent to search, which she apparently did.  Evidence was recovered and used to convict Fernandez, over his legal objections.

The Supreme Court held that, since Fernandez was not home at the time of the search, his consent was not needed.  The Court rejected his arguments that (1) he did object while he was present, and that the objection should have stood for at least the next hour; and (2) the only reason Fernandez was away was because the police removed him.

The Court dismissed the first argument for two reasons.  First, the Court looked to “widely shared social expectations.”  The Court found that a “friend or visitor” would likely not enter a house where one occupant was shouting “stay out” at the door, while that same visitor would likely enter where “it is known that the objector will not return during the course of the visit.”  Since Fernandez was decidedly unable to return to the premises, Rojas’ “friends and visitors” at the LAPD were free to enter over what Fernandez considered to be a standing objection.

Second, the Court found that applying a “reasonableness” standard to the length of time for which an objection stood – when it came to co-tenant consent searches -would be problematic (from the government’s perspective).  It did not address why the “reasonableness” standard is not problematic in other contexts, specifically when determining whether a warrantless search is “reasonable” . . . .

Dismissing his argument that the sole reason he wasn’t there to object was that the police removed him, the Court then held that because there was probable cause to arrest Fernandez (which he did not dispute), his removal from the premises was not done merely to remove his objection and authorize a search of the apartment.  Therefore, in light of Fernandez’s legal absence, Supreme Court precedent only required the consent of Rojas to search the apartment.

I am uncomfortable with the line of cases holding that the correct legal analysis analogizes the government to “friends and visitors.”  There is a different expectation of privacy between an individual and his friends, visitors, and co-tenants, and between the individual and his government.  What someone is comfortable allowing his wife, kids, relatives, friends, and visitors to see and access around his home may be (and probably is) quite different from what he is comfortable showing the world, much less his government.

This is precisely why the Fourth Amendment protects the individuals’ right to be “secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”  The Founders were not overly concerned with whether social norms precluded “friend and visitors” from viewing potentially embarrassing or private information by entering houses over the objections of one tenant – they were concerned with unreasonable government intrusion into the homes and premises of individuals.

Second, I am not convinced that an individual’s constitutional right to the security of his person, house, and effects is diminished once he leaves the premises.  A warrant is generally required to enter the premises of one who lives alone when the resident is not present.  A warrant would generally be required if both tenants objected to the search.  And a warrant would be required if none of the occupants were present.

What has fundamentally changed when only one of many tenants consents, aside from improving the “practicability” of searching the premises without a warrant?  How is one’s right to security of his papers and effects protected?  How has the expectation of privacy diminished?  Justification of multi-occupant consent searches are not quite what the Founders had in mind when they used the phrase: e pluribus unum.  As a national motto, it’s great – as a justification for abrogation of a constitutional right, perhaps not.

If you would care to read the full 6-3 opinion of the Court, as well as the dissent by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, you can find the official slip opinion here. 

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Who’s listening to your children

On February 4, 2014, the Governor signed into law changes to the Crimes Code (Title 18) regarding wire tapping and electronic surveillance and how it can affect your children riding the school bus.  I have copy a link to the Bill below.  The most important change seems to address the intercepting of conversations for “disciplinary” or “security” purposes.  What is not clear is whether these conversations must only be about school related matters, or if the recording can be used for other purposes, e.g. domestic relations, criminal conduct by a non-party, etc.  Obviously, this will be playing out in the Courts in the future.  The Bill’s sponsor gave this statement in 2012 regarding the necessity for it’s change and passage:

MEMORANDUM

Posted: December 7, 2012 10:15 AM
From: Senator Richard Alloway
To: All Senate members
Subject: Audio Taping on School Busses
 

In the near future, I plan to reintroduce SB1117 of 2011. This legislation would allow for audio taping on school busses. Currently videotaping can be done on school busses but audio taping is not allowed as some feel that it is a violation of the Wiretap Act.  
 
For two decades, school districts have used video monitoring of school buses for student security and discipline purposes.  This has been a valuable tool in resolving discipline action and has helped reduce violent acts on school buses because the students know that there is a camera on the bus.
 
As technologies advanced in the video surveillance systems used in school buses audio capabilities were also incorporated.  School districts also found that this enhanced capability enabled them to have a more accurate account of the situation and also helped in reducing verbal bullying. 
 
Allowing school buses an exemption from the Pennsylvania Wiretapping laws will be a measure towards a safer school bus environment.  In this day and age where bullying is very prevalent in and out of school, having all the resources available to control behavior and resolve issues will help ensure a safe ride for all students.  When schools and contractors have the use of audio in conjunction with the video discipline issues are resolved faster and with more certainty. 

SB117 of 2011 was co-sponsored by: Alloway, Solobay, Washington, Rafferty, Leach, Brewster, Argall, Baker, Dinniman, and Erickson.

http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=HTM&sessYr=2013&sessInd=0&billBody=S&billTyp=B&billNbr=57&pn=1660

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Pa. bars can apply to offer small games of chance

The below article from the Associated Press goes into a little bit more of the gaming additions that were passed last year (a copy of the Bill can be found here http://www.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/LI/US/HTM/2012/0/0002..HTM ).   It would seem that the money the state thought they were going to be collecting by allowing private bars and volunteer clubs to collect from offering these games hasn’t been filling the bank accounts as much as expected.  So, it appears that any bar will be allowed to offer “games of chance” ranging from Punchboards, daily drawings, weekly drawings, raffles and pull-tabs, as long as they pass the requirements to obtain a license from the state.

PRIMOS — Pennsylvania bars can now start applying for state licenses to offer pull-tab games, daily drawings and other forms of gambling approved by the Legislature last year, and at least one prominent owner predicts that small games of chance will eventually be found in most of the state’s drinking establishments.  The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board started accepting applications about a week ago.  “The paperwork is going to be a nightmare — at least until people get used to it — but I think in six to eight months 75 to 80 percent of (liquor) licensees are going to go for it,” Tom Berry, owner of Tommy’s Tavern in the Philadelphia suburb of Collingdale and a former president of the Pennsylvania Tavern Association, told the Delaware County Daily Times.  “Hopefully it will lead to an expansion of gaming in taverns,” he said.  The bill allowing thousands of bars to offer small games of chance — the state’s largest expansion of gambling since table games were permitted inside Pennsylvania casinos — only narrowly cleared the House before sailing through the Senate and getting Gov. Tom Corbett’s signature in November.  Some lawmakers who voted against the law worry it will draw business away from veterans clubs that also serve liquor and are allowed to raise money through the games. Until this year, the games could only be offered by veterans posts, fire halls and other fraternal organizations.  State officials believe that a 60 percent tax to be levied on the games could generate more than $150 million annually.  Bar owners had been pushing the expansion for years, and more than 1,700 people attended state-sponsored seminars to learn about tavern gambling and licensure, according to the liquor board. Some tavern owners say the application process should be simplified.  “I’m more ‘glass is half full’ in my outlook on this, and I’m hopeful it will provide much needed revenue for an ailing industry as well as more money to charities and the state,” said Brendan Goggin, co-owner and general manager of the Oakmont National Pub in Haverford.  But “to own a liquor license already requires a standard background check and now we need an FBI background check to sell a few tickets? That’s tough for some people to swallow,” he said. “I’m hoping the state (agencies) will work with us to help make the process a little less daunting.”  It also costs money: There’s a $2,000 non-refundable application fee, to be split between the liquor board and the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. On approval, the applicant must pay another $2,000 for the license. The annual renewal fee is another $1,000.  “Am I going to be happy to put out $4,000 before I generate the first dollar of revenue? No,” Berry said. “But it’s not like the state is going to say, ‘Here you go guys. Good luck with legalized gaming and call us when you want more.”

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A law needed to protect those that should be protected – our pets

I recently read the following article, and was amazed that Pennsylvania did not have a law on the books to directly protect the abuse our animals might be subjected to with this weather.  Currently there are only a hand full of bills before the legislature, and none deal with the weather.  See -

Animals, seized, care, actions for costs HB82 ( Act 50, ’13)
Cruelty to animals, offense, grading (Amend 18 Pa.C.S.) HB15
Cruelty to animals, tethering of dogs (Amend 18 Pa.C.S.) HB41
Kennels, requirements, application and license fee, kennel class (Amend 1982 P.L.784, No.225) HB486
Kennels, requirements, display of information by pet shop kennels (Amend 1982 P.L.784, No.225) HB1759
Veterinarians; “Veterinarian-client-patient relationship”, “client information sheet”, defining (Amend 1974 P.L.995, No.326) SB949
 
Amy Worden, Inquirer Staff Writer

POSTED: SATURDAY, JANUARY 4, 2014, 8:39 AM

With the arrival of the recent cold snap, the web is full of tips on how to take care of your pet in cold weather: Keep dogs and cats inside, be sure your thin-coated dog has a jacket on for walks, wipe off ice and snow when they come in, wash paws if they come in contact with ice melting crystals.

But the cruel reality of Pennsylvania law is this: it’s perfectly legal to leave your dog chained to a stake with a crude box for shelter through the coldest, snowiest nights.

Here’s the language in the state animal cruelty code: A person commits cruelty if the animal does not have access to clean and sanitary shelter which will protect the animal against inclement weather and preserve the animal’s body heat and keep it dry.

The problem with the language is how broad and subjective it is. Before she moved to Virginia, Tamira Thayne, founder of the anti-chaining group Dogs Deserve Better, went many rounds with law enforcement in Pennsylvania in too many cases to count involving dogs tied outside with a box that is too large, uninsulated or even lacks four sides.

Most of the time the owners would win, even filing trespassing charges against Thayne as their dogs stood shivering in the cold with little bedding and frozen food and water bowls (also illegal but hard to enforce). The image above is one such case from 2010.

On my own travels my heart goes out for the pit bull mix on the chain near my house where the local cruelty officer has paid many a visit. The owner responds by stuffing some old straw in the plastic airline crate when ordered and that’s all the end of the story. The dog’s owners had an elderly hound dog that I drove past for many years. Who knows how long it was on a chain before it expired or was shot. It was only a matter of weeks before they had a new dog at the end of the chain.

The sad reality of dog breeding kennels is that only commercial kennels are subject to strict temperature requirements during periods of extreme heat and cold. Small kennel owners need only provide some semblance of housing and some semblance of bedding. Dogs in Lancaster County puppy mills and elsewhere are still consigned today to rabbit hutches with only a wood box for shelter.

The Pennsylvania State Animal Response Team (PASART)  issued a helpful list of tips for keeping your dog or cat comfortable (they also urged farmers to keep livestock inside and reminded them to be sure water troughs are not frozen).

-Never leave puppies, smaller dogs, older dogs or cats outdoors when the temperature falls below 40 degrees.

-If your dog or cat stays outside much of the time in the winter, be certain that they have a proper shelter raised several inches off the ground with a flap over the entry. Keep a fresh blanket, cedar shavings or straw to keep the pet warm. The shelter should be large enough that your pet can sit and stand, but small enough so the pet’s body heat will be retained in the house.

-Use a plastic water bowl to ensure your pet’s tongue does not get stuck to cold metal, and change the water often to keep it from freezing.

-Be sure to keep older or arthritic pets inside. Escort older dogs outside for toileting and use a leash if the yard has ice or snow. Older dogs can easily fall and seriously injure themselves.

-Be alert for signs of frostbite and injury. Dogs’ ears, paws and tails are especially susceptible, and if you suspect frostbite, contact your veterinarian. If your dog plays on ice or hard, frozen dirt, check his paws for cuts and always wipe his feet after a walk in the snow to remove ice pellets and salt deposits.

-Use only pet-safe ice melt.

-Always be alert for signs of hypothermia such as shivering, lethargy, low heart rate and unresponsiveness.

-Never leave your dog inside a parked car. During the winter it can act as an icebox and trap cold air inside.

The feral cat advocacy group Alley Cat Allies has a helpful list of tips -and guides for building insulated cat houses – for keep feral cat colonies comfortable in the winter.

Also, they urge people to rap on their car hoods if cats are around to make sure they did not take shelter by your warm engine.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/pets/PA-law-allows-pets-to-remain-outside-in-frigid-weather.html#c4QDh4d6uROZ61Ia.99

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With the Super Bowl a few days away, PA says get your bets in

A few of my clients have asked if the pools that they do at their “local water holes” or “blocks” are legal in Pennsylvania.  The answer might surprise you.  As of last November (2013), Pennsylvania allows for such better so long as specific situations are followed.  See the story below:

Posted: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 2:45 pm | Updated: 4:01 pm, Wed Jan 29, 2014. Associated Press | HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania law that took effect this week is causing a pre-Super Bowl dispute between a state senator and the state police over whether charitable and volunteer clubs can legally operate small betting pools on the NFL title game.  Sen. Lisa Boscola is challenging the call by state police that the betting pools remain illegal under federal law. Boscola argues the legislation signed into law in November was fashioned to get around a sports betting prohibition in the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.  State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan says pools are not a major enforcement priority, but troopers will issue citations when they run across them.  The law says licensed volunteer clubs can run sports betting pools for up to 100 people if all proceeds go toward prizes

See also:

State Police Bet Against PA Gambling Law - By MARK NOOTBAAR

A small battle is brewing over the legality of sports betting in Pennsylvania, and it’s pitting the state police commissioner against a state senator with social clubs left in the middle scratching their heads.

Last year the state Legislature passed a law that allows social clubs like VFWs and American Legions to run pools associated with events like the Super Bowl, but it carries the clause that the pools must comply with federal law. A 1992 federal law stipulates that betting on the outcome of sporting events is illegal in every state except Delaware, Montana, Oregon and Nevada.

“You could not have squares with the total score … but you could have a pool on how long is the national anthem going to take, but it can’t involve the game,” said Pennsylvania State Police Commander Frank Noonan.

State Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Northhampton) thinks otherwise. She has told the department that the law is specifically designed to avoid conflict with federal law. A law passed last year in New Jersey that allows sports betting in casinos is currently the subject of litigation.

Noonan said the issue is getting a little blown out of proportion.

“If you were driving 60 in a 55 (miles per hour speed zone), I might not give you a ticket but if you ask me can I drive 60 in a 55 I would say ‘no,’ and that is where we are right now,” Noonan said.

State police have not increased enforcement of gambling laws as the department interprets them, but officers are not looking the other way when they head into the clubs to review liquor laws and other codes.

“Right now our lawyers are telling us this is illegal, and we believe the case law supports us,” said Noonan, who admits any citations written this week could wind up being appealed.

To further confuse club managers, Boscolla said she has talked to several district attorneys who say they will not prosecute any cases against volunteer club operators “who lawfully conduct Super Bowl pools.”

 

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White House Issues New Executive Actions on Federal Background Checks

The White House quietly announced two new executive actions earlier this month. These actions appear to be ones designed to expand the number of Federally prohibited persons by simply adding them into the NICS system without any further judicial review and/or guarantee of due process.

The first measure (and it should be noted that this is a summary released by the White House and not the actual text) will apparently allow a looser definition of what constitutes being “adjudicated mentally defective or committed to a mental institution.” This is troubling as requirements for being committed vary from state to state, and some may not (including Pennsylvania) properly meet the Due Process requirement (and thus should not be submitted to NICS) needed for someone to become a prohibited person. Once an individual is entered into the NICS system, it is extremely difficult to get an incorrect determination removed:

Some states have noted that the terminology used by federal law to prohibit people from purchasing a firearm for certain mental health reasons is ambiguous.  Today, DOJ is issuing a proposed rule to make several clarifications.  For example, DOJ is proposing to clarify that the statutory term “committed to a mental institution” includes involuntary inpatient as well as outpatient commitments. In addition to providing general guidance on federal law, these clarifications will help states determine what information should be made accessible to the federal background check system, which will, in turn, strengthen the system’s reliability and effectiveness.

The second measure aims to weaken HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) protections, by removing restrictions on patient privacy and allowing “entities” (which is not defined at this time) the ability to freely report patients without fear of sanction. The Obama Administration claims that this will not in any way weaken privacy rights of patients, which rings hollow considering that the White House needs to issue an Executive Action to remove HIPPA protections:

Some states have also said that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s (HIPAA) privacy provisions may be preventing them from making relevant information available to the background check system regarding individuals prohibited from purchasing a firearm for mental health reasons.  In April 2013, HHS began to identify the scope and extent of the problem, and based on public comments is now issuing a proposed rule to eliminate this barrier by giving certain HIPAA covered entities an express permission to submit to the background check system the limited information necessary to help keep guns out of potentially dangerous hands. The proposed rule will not change the fact that seeking help for mental health problems or getting treatment does not make someone legally prohibited from having a firearm. Furthermore, nothing in the proposed rule would require reporting on general mental health visits or other routine mental health care, or would exempt providers solely performing these treatment services from existing privacy rules.

We will continue to follow and bring updates on these attempts to shortcut due process and accountability as more information becomes available.

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