Response Brief Submitted in the Enlivant Vaccine Mandate Case

Today we filed our response brief to Enlivant’s motion to dismiss in our wrongful termination lawsuit in McCutcheon v. Enlivant, currently pending in the Southern District of West Virginia. The lawsuit challenges the right of private employers in West Virginia to discharge employees for not taking the EUA vaccine. Here’s the filing.

Seeking to temper the otherwise harsh results that would obtain where a discharge from employment was impelled by the employer’s desire to contravene public policy, an exception to the common law doctrine of at-will employment was established. See Frohnapfel v. ArcelorMittal USA LLC, 235 W.Va. 165, 772 S.E.2d 350 (W. Va. 2015); See also Wright v. Standard Ultramarine and Color Co., 141 W.Va. 368, 382, 90 S.E.2d 459, 468 (1955) (recognizing that at- will employees serve at will and pleasure of their employers and may be discharged at any time, with or without cause). That exception, created in Harless v. First National Bank, 162 W.Va. 116, 246 S.E.2d 270 (1978), provides: 

The rule that an employer has an absolute right to discharge an at will employee must be tempered by the principle that where the employer’s motivation for the discharge is to contravene some substantial public policy principle, then the employer may be liable to the employee for damages occasioned by this discharge.

Id. at 116, 246 S.E.2d at 271, syllabus; Frohnapfel v. ArcelorMittal USA LLC, 235 W.Va. 165, 772 S.E.2d 350 (W. Va. 2015). The Court has identified the areas from which public policy may be gleaned:

‘The sources determinative of public policy are, among others, our federal and state constitutions, our public statutes, our judicial decisions, the applicable principles of the common law, the acknowledged prevailing concepts of the federal and state governments relating to and affecting the safety, health, morals and general welfare of the people for whom government—with us—is factually established.’ 

“To identify the sources of public policy for purposes of determining whether a retaliatory discharge has occurred, we look to established precepts in our constitution, legislative enactments, legislatively approved regulations, and judicial opinions.” Syl. Pt. 2, Birthisel, 188 W.Va. at 372, 424 S.E.2d at 607. “Substantial public policy” has been defined by the Supreme Court as “not just recognizable as such but be so widely regarded as to be evident to employers and employees alike.” Id. at 745, 559 S.E.2d at 718. The Court recognized in Syllabus Point 3 of Birthisel that ““[i]nherent in the term ‘substantial public policy’ is the concept that the policy will provide specific guidance to a reasonable person.” 188 W.Va. at 372, 424 S.E.2d at 607. The Court has looked to whether regulations or licensing statutes contained specific provisions that addressed the allegedly improper conduct by the employer. Frohnapfel v. ArcelorMittal USA LLC, 235 W.Va. 165, 170 (W. Va. 2015). 

Here is their memorandum arguing for dismissal:

Discussion from last night:

Fourth Circuit Issues Anti-AR15 Diatribe in the Walker Case

Congratulations to West Virginia’s first Second Amendment “Sanctuary,” Putnam County, in obtaining a new anti-gun diatribe of a published opinion from the Fourth Circuit. This morning, the Fourth Circuit issued a published opinion in the Walker case. Basically, the Second Amendment doesn’t apply to the AR-15, and it matters not that the WV legislature allows its citizens to possess and use AR-15s, because the judiciary decides what peasants may possess – not the state legislature.

I knew it was going to be bad, since at the oral arguments one of the judges likened the AR-15 to the M-16. And he ended up authoring the opinion. You can listen to the oral arguments here, if you missed them.

Join me live at 7pm for a discussion on the ruling:

Fourth Circuit Holds Mass Aerial Surveillance is Unconstitutional

This past Thursday, on June 24, the Fourth Circuit quietly issued an en banc opinion in “Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle v. Baltimore Police Department, which challenged the Baltimore Police Department’s Aerial Investigation Research (AIR) pilot program on Fourth Amendment grounds. In an opinion written by Chief Judge Roger Gregory, the Court held that the AIR mass aerial surveillance program was an unconstitutional search and seizure (at least at the point the data was accessed).

The AIR program “tracks every movement” of every person outside of a structure in the City of Baltimore, retaining 45 days worth of data which is a “detailed, encyclopedic” record of where everyone came and went within the city during daylight hours. Law enforcement can “travel back in time” to observe a target’s movements, forwards and backwards. The Court likened the data to “attaching an ankle monitor to every person in the city,” and noted that, “whoever the suspect turns out to be, they have effectively been tailed for the prior six weeks.”

The Court held that “because the AIR program opens “an intimate window” into a person’s associations and activities, it violates the reasonable expectation of privacy individuals have in the whole of their movements.” Whereas traditional aerial or static camera surveillance have been upheld as reasonable by the courts, those cases “all involve some discrete operation surveilling individual targets.”

The AIR program records the movements of a city. With analysis, it can reveal where individuals come and go over an extended period. Because the AIR program enables police to deduce from the whole of individuals’ movements, we hold that accessing its data is a search, and its warrantless operation violates the Fourth Amendment.

Opinion at p. 28

The AIR program is like a 21st century general search, enabling the police to collect all movements, both innocent and suspected, without any burden to “articulate an adequate reason to search for specific items related to specific crimes.

Opinion at p. 32

Since this holding came from the Fourth Circuit sitting en banc, the only where to go from here is to the U.S. Supreme Court.

How to talk to police without a lawyer

Should someone talk to the police without a lawyer present?

  1. The criminal justice system overwhelmingly depends on people to unwittingly incriminate themselves for convictions, which they do.
  2. If a criminal suspect invokes the right to counsel, or the right to remain silent, they generally don’t incriminate themselves.
  3. A criminal suspect need only request a lawyer for all interrogation to stop. They DO NOT need to already have a lawyer – just to ask for one. Just a lawyer in general. These are magic words which stops an interrogation.

Custodial interrogation cannot take place with Miranda warnings and a waiver of the rights to remain silent and the right to have a lawyer present before and during questioning.

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

When are Miranda Warnings required to be read? Miranda warnings are required to be given when a suspect is in custody and being interrogated OR when a suspect believes that he is in custody and being interrogated. “Interrogation” includes not only express questioning but also its “functional equivalent,” namely, any conduct “that the police should know [is] reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response.” When is someone in custody? That depends. Were they asked to exit a vehicle during a stop? Were guns drawn? Was force used? Were they placed in handcuffs? Were they told they weren’t free to leave?

A suspect can waive Miranda rights, but cannot waive the reading of Miranda warnings by law enforcement. Miranda warnings may need to be read again by police if too much time has elapsed in between the reading of the warnings and the subsequent interrogation.

When are Miranda Warnings NOT required to be given?

Officers can conduct general on-scene questioning as to facts surrounding a crime or other general fact finding without Miranda warnings. Officers can ask about the guilt of others/third parties without giving Miranda warnings. Miranda warnings don’t apply to voluntary statements made prior to interrogation. Miranda warnings don’t apply to statements of guilt made to persons other than law enforcement. Miranda warnings don’t apply if the person interrogated is not in custody.

Miranda warnings are generally not required at traffic stops. See Pennsylvania v. Bruder , 488 U.S. 9, 109 S. Ct. 205 (1988). In this case, the Supreme Court re-emphasized that ordinary traffic stops do not involve custody for the purposes of Miranda, and therefore, police do not need to inform those stopped for traffic violations of their Miranda rights unless taken into custody. Officers can generally ask any questions they want to suspects who are not in custody. See Arizona v. Johnson, 555 U.S. 323, 333 (2009). “An officer’s inquiries into matters unrelated to the justification for the traffic stop . . . do not convert the encounter into something other than a lawful seizure, so long as those inquiries do not measurably extend the duration of the stop.”

What about silence? Post-arrest silence by a defendant after Miranda warnings have been given is inadmissible against the defendant. Doyle v. Ohio, 426 U.S. 610 (1976). If a defendant gives a statement, however, his silence as to other matters may be admitted. Anderson v. Charles, 447 U.S. 404 (1980); see United States v. Mitchell, 558 F.2d 1332, 1334–35 (8th Cir. 1977). A defendant’s pre-arrest silence may be admitted, Jenkins v. Anderson, 447 U.S. 231 (1980) as well as silence after arrest but prior to warnings. Fletcher v. Weir, 455 U.S. 603 (1982).

When can an officer not interrogate a suspect at all?

An officer may not interrogate if the suspect has requested a lawyer.

An officer may not interrogate if the suspect has in any manner, at any time prior to or during questioning stated that he wishes to remain silent.

What sort of behavior by officers may render a confession invalid in court?

A confession MAY be invalid if obtained as the result of withholding food, drink or bathroom access. A confession may be invalid if obtained following threats, coercing or tricking a suspect into waiving Miranda Rights. A confession may be invalid if the interrogation is too long; or, If physical force is used; or, If promises to help a suspect if he or she confesses; or, If the officer misrepresents the body of evidence collected against the suspect

Lawsuit Filed Against Chicago Company for Mandating the Vaccination of West Virginia Employees

Today we filed suit against Enlivant, a Chicago company who owns and operates an assisted living facility in Greenbrier County, West Virginia operating as Seasons Place Assisted Living. On June 1, 2021 they terminated my client, Stephanie McCutcheon, for refusing to take an unapproved non-mandatory vaccine for COVID-19.

This is the letter Stephanie received from the Human Resources Director in Chicago after complaining about the company’s verbal vaccine mandate. As you can see, knowing it was a violation of federal law to mandate the vaccine, they attempted to frame her termination as a resignation.

Given that it appears to be a form letter, they have apparently done this to other employees. They have assisted living facilities in numerous states.

Our legal theory is a state-law based claim of retaliatory discharge. Basically, as everyone knows, West Virginia is an at-will employment state. However, there was an exception created in Harless v. First National Bank, 162 W.Va. 116, 246 S.E.2d 270 (1978), which provides that:

The rule that an employer has an absolute right to discharge an at will employee must be tempered by the principle that where the employer’s motivation for the discharge is to contravene some substantial public policy principle, then the employer may be liable to the employee for damages occasioned by this discharge.

The State Supreme Court has defined the areas from which “public policy” may derive:

“The sources determinative of public policy are, among others, our federal and state constitutions, our public statutes, our judicial decisions, the applicable principles of the common law, the acknowledged prevailing concepts of the federal and state governments relating to and affecting the safety, health, morals and general welfare of the people for whom government—with us—is factually established.”

See Frohnapfel v. ArcelorMittal USA LLC, 235 W.Va. 165, 772 S.E.2d 350 (W. Va. 2015)

So federal laws and regulations may form the basis of “public policy.” Now whether that public policy is “substantial” depends on whether it’s “widely regarded as to be evident to employers.” No doubt that requirement is met in this case. A quick google search will reveal an enormous amount of discussion and advice regarding the legality of employers mandating the vaccine. But we shall see….

Here’s the lawsuit, in full, which lays out the facts and law pertaining to the COVID-19 vaccines at the current time:

Here are the exhibits, including the EUA letter to Pfizer:

We are asking for an expedited hearing for a preliminary injunction enjoining Enlivant from terminating employees for choosing not to take a non-mandatory, unapproved vaccine, and directing that my client be re-hired, as well as a declaration that a private employer may not terminate or take adverse action against employees for choosing not to take the COVID vaccine. We are also seeking money damages, punitive damages and attorney fees.

Media Reports:

https://wvrecord.com/stories/602196867-employee-sues-assisted-living-facility-after-she-was-fired-for-refusing-to-take-covid-vaccine

The “Outlaw Barber” Arrested for Refusing to Close During the Lockdown Files Civil Rights Lawsuit

Today we filed suit in the case of the “Outlaw Barber,” Winerd “Les” Jenkins, a 73 year old combat veteran and former 27-year Deputy U.S. Marshall, who was arrested for refusing to close his barbershop during the Governor’s lockdown in April of 2020. We filed a Section 1983 civil rights lawsuit in federal court, in the Northern District of West Virginia.

The case was detailed last year in a Federalist article titled, West Virginia Barber’s Arrest Shows Failings Of The Bureaucratic State:

When Winerd “Les” Jenkins first became a barber, Neil Armstrong hadn’t yet set foot on the moon. For over five decades, Jenkins has made a living with his scissors and razor. For the past decade, he’s worked his craft from a storefront in Inwood, West Virginia. At Les’ Place Traditional Barber Shop, you can get a regular men’s haircut for $16 and a shave for $14—but come prepared to pay the old-fashioned way: in cash.

His insistence on “cash only” isn’t the only thing that’s old-school about Jenkins. He lives with his wife of 52 years on a small farm, where the couple raises rescued animals. He believes in paying his bills on time. He doesn’t use the internet, email, or text messaging. And he’s skeptical that his profession can become illegal overnight merely on the governor’s say-so.

He was ultimately arrested by two deputies from the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office, who transported Mr. Jenkins for incarceration and charged him with “obstructing” an officer. The prosecuting attorney’s office of that county then aggressively prosecuted Mr. Jenkins for the better part of a year, until the judge finally dismissed the charge in January of 2021, finding that it would be a violation of Mr. Jenkins’s constitutional rights to prosecute him for violating the governor’s executive order.

We asserted two separate violations of Mr. Jenkins’ Fourth Amendment rights (unreasonable search and seizure and false arrest), as well as a violation of Mr. Jenkins’ First Amendment rights. It’s already been assigned a case number. Read it for yourself:

I’ve already revealed the body cam footage from one of the deputies, which caught much of the interaction on video:

Packing the Courts, and why it’s bad

Joe Biden won’t answer the question about whether he’ll attempt to pack the U.S. Supreme Court, until the day after the election – so he’s claimed. What is “packing the Court,” and why is it such a terrible idea that even Ruth Bader Ginsburg warned against it?

The Constitution did not specify the number of justices to sit on the Supreme Court. That’s up to Congress. For the past 150 years or so, Congress has maintained that number at 9. An odd number is required, so as to avoid the rather-anti-climactic tie vote. With a 9 member Court, a 5-4 decision, or better, wins the case. With the loss of RBG, the American left loses a crucial vote on the Court, which is why they are threatening to increase the number of justices on the Court, so as to counteract her replacement with Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Thus, if Biden wins, and if Congress is able to increase the number, they could create a left-wing majority on the Court by increasing the number of Democrat-nominated justices.

But the problem with any such plan is, that eventually the other side will return to power and retaliate accordingly. What we then end up with has now become a super-legislature, rather than a Supreme Court, as the Founders intended. Even RBG herself was against Democrats’ 2019 threats to pack the Court:

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in an interview Tuesday that she does not favor proposals put forth by some Democratic presidential candidates who have advocated changing the number of Supreme Court justices if the Democrats win the presidency.

Ginsburg, who got herself in trouble criticizing candidate Donald Trump in 2016, this time was critical not of any particular Democratic contender, but of their proposals to offset President Trump’s two conservative appointments to the court.

“Nine seems to be a good number. It’s been that way for a long time,” she said, adding, “I think it was a bad idea when President Franklin Roosevelt tried to pack the court.”

https://www.npr.org/2019/07/24/744633713/justice-ginsburg-i-am-very-much-alive

To pull it off, the Democrats would really need to add 4 new liberal members to the Court, which would create a 7-6 majority. Setting long-term retaliation and consequences to the Court aside, the results would be disastrous to the Second Amendment:

A 7-6 progressive majority on the court would very likely overturn decades of precedent that have protected gun owners from both state and federal attempts to deny them their Second Amendment rights. Millions of American gun owners would be subject to these changes and the laws, which Democrats, some of whom are committed to confiscating guns, would impose.

5 Major Ways America Will Fundamentally Change If Biden Packs The Court, The Federalist, by David Marcus, Oct. 9, 2020.

Free speech would be nonexistent:

The most obvious change to free speech laws that would come with a progressive majority on the Supreme Court would be the overturning of the 2010 5-4 Citizens United decision….. More broadly, speech laws such as those that exist in New York City requiring people to use preferred pronouns even if they do not believe that gender is mutable, would find a much kinder hearing in the new court.

5 Major Ways America Will Fundamentally Change If Biden Packs The Court, The Federalist, by David Marcus, Oct. 9, 2020.

Abortion, obviously:

The progressive reading of Roe v. Wade is almost limitless in its scope and perhaps the only question mark would regard the ability to kill babies even after they are outside of the mother. Beyond that, it is very likely that almost any state restrictions would be shot down.

5 Major Ways America Will Fundamentally Change If Biden Packs The Court, The Federalist, by David Marcus, Oct. 9, 2020.

Religious liberty:

Several religious liberty cases such as Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poorhave been closely decided of late. It is safe to assume these decisions would be reversed. Practicing Christians and members of other faiths would face far greater restriction in living their faith in their public life. Our understanding of how we may practice our religions would undergo a major change, abandoning the American tradition of public faith, and limiting religious expression to the church and the home.

5 Major Ways America Will Fundamentally Change If Biden Packs The Court, The Federalist, by David Marcus, Oct. 9, 2020.

Election laws:

In all likelihood, a new progressive majority would be open to efforts to abolish the electoral college, to allow statehood for the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and to allow voting by people in the country illegally. All of these changes would skew towards the Democrats and could very well result in one-party federal rule of the United States.

5 Major Ways America Will Fundamentally Change If Biden Packs The Court, The Federalist, by David Marcus, Oct. 9, 2020.

So what stopped FDR from packing the Supreme Court back in the 1930s? It happened during the Great Depression, when FDR was pushing his socialist New Deal programs, only to have them struck down by the conservative-majority Supreme Court of the early 1930s. President Roosevelt sought to solve the problem sooner, rather than later, so he introduced the “Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937,” commonly referred to as the “court packing plan.” This would have allowed him to appoint up to 6 additional justices to the Court for every justice older than 70.5 years, or who had already served 10 years or more. In reality, a conservative majority had developed on the Court, and like Biden, he was willing to add justices to create his own new majority, consequences be damned:

From the outset of his presidency, FDR had known that four of the justices—Pierce Butler, James McReynolds, George Sutherland and Willis Van Devanter—would vote to invalidate almost all of the New Deal. They were referred to in the press as “the Four Horsemen,” after the allegorical figures of the Apocalypse associated with death and destruction. In the spring of 1935, a fifth justice, Hoover-appointee Owen Roberts—at 60 the youngest man on the Supreme Court—began casting his swing vote with them to create a conservative majority.

When Franklin Roosevelt Clashed With the Supreme Court—and Lost, By William E. Leuchtenburg, Smithsonian Magazine, May 2005.

FDR indirectly attacked the Court, claiming publicly he was concerned about their age, rather than the ideological point of view of its majority:

 FDR recognized, though, that a direct assault on the court must be avoided; he could not simply assert that he wanted judges who would do his bidding. The most promising approach, it seemed, would be to capitalize on the public’s concern about the ages of the justices. At the time of his reelection, it was the most elderly court in the nation’s history, averaging 71 years. Six of the justices were 70 or older; a scurrilous book on the court, The Nine Old Men, by Drew Pearson and Robert Allen, was rapidly moving up the bestseller lists.

When Franklin Roosevelt Clashed With the Supreme Court—and Lost, By William E. Leuchtenburg, Smithsonian Magazine, May 2005.

A 1937 political cartoon with the caption ‘Do We Want A Ventriloquist Act In The Supreme Court?’ which was a criticism of FDR’s New Deal, depicting President Franklin D. Roosevelt with six new judges likely to be FDR puppets.
Fotosearch/Getty Images

FDR basically lied about his motivations. Rather than admit to the American people that he was playing politics, and attempting to enact his progressive legislation without interference by the conservative court, he feigned concern over the age of the justices:

“A part of the problem of obtaining a sufficient number of judges to dispose of cases is the capacity of the judges themselves,” the president observed. “This brings forward the question of aged or infirm judges—a subject of delicacy and yet one which requires frank discussion.” He acknowledged that “in exceptional cases,” some judges “retain to an advanced age full mental and physical vigor,” but quickly added, “Those not so fortunate are often unable to perceive their own infirmities.” Life tenure, he asserted, “was not intended to create a static judiciary. A constant and systematic addition of younger blood will vitalize the courts.”

When Franklin Roosevelt Clashed With the Supreme Court—and Lost, By William E. Leuchtenburg, Smithsonian Magazine, May 2005.

Similar to what would happen in 2020, the result was all-out war between the branches of government, and between the political parties:

While it was never voted on in Congress, the Supreme Court justices went public in their opposition to it. And a majority of the public never supported the bill, either, says Barbara A. Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center.

“Congress and the people viewed FDR’s ill-considered proposal as an undemocratic power grab,” she says. “The chief justice (Charles Evans Hughes) testified before Congress that the Court was up to date in its work, countering Roosevelt’s stated purpose that the old justices needed help with their caseload.”

“It was never realistic that this plan would pass,” Perry says. “Roosevelt badly miscalculated reverence for the Court and its independence from an overreaching president.”

This Is How FDR Tried to Pack the Supreme Court, by Lesley Kennedy, Jun 28, 2018.

The battle lasted 168 days. It’s difficult to imagine how it would play out in the era of social media and biased news. But even then, it was ugly:

Roosevelt’s message touched off the greatest struggle in our history among the three branches of government. It also triggered the most intense debate about constitutional issues since the earliest weeks of the Republic. For 168 days, the country was mesmerized by the controversy, which dominated newspaper headlines, radio broadcasts and newsreels, and spurred countless rallies in towns from New England to the PacificCoast. Members of Congress were so deluged by mail that they could not read most of it, let alone respond…..

This Is How FDR Tried to Pack the Supreme Court, by Lesley Kennedy, Jun 28, 2018.

At the time, the FDR liberals showed little concern for the Supreme Court as an independent and important branch of government. If other countries could enact these programs, then so should we be able to do so….

If Roosevelt won, opponents warned, he would destroy the independence of the judiciary and create an evil precedent for successors who wished to “pack” the court. If Roosevelt lost, his supporters countered, a few judges appointed for life would be able to ignore the popular will, destroy programs vital to the welfare of the people, and deny to the president and Congress the powers exercised by every other government in the world. Although the country divided evenly on the issue—about as many were for Roosevelt’s plan as against it—the opposition drew far more attention, especially on editorial pages……

This Is How FDR Tried to Pack the Supreme Court, by Lesley Kennedy, Jun 28, 2018.

The Bill was ultimately defeated, but FDR still got what he wanted in the end. The historians’ lesson of the affair, as relayed to us in 2005, is perhaps more credible than any we would receive today, in the era of over-politicization of all fields of academia. So pay attention to the parts in bold:

The nasty fight over court packing turned out better than might have been expected. The defeat of the bill meant that the institutional integrity of the United States Supreme Court had been preserved—its size had not been manipulated for political or ideological ends. On the other hand, Roosevelt claimed that though he had lost the battle, he had won the war. And in an important sense he had: he had staved off the expected invalidation of the Social Security Act and other laws. More significantly, the switch in the court that spring resulted in what historians call “the constitutional revolution of 1937”—the legitimation of a greatly expanded exercise of powers by both the national and state governments that has persisted for decades.

The 168-day contest also has bequeathed some salutary lessons. It instructs presidents to think twice before tampering with the Supreme Court. FDR’s scheme, said the Senate Judiciary Committee, was “a measure which should be so emphatically rejected that its parallel will never again be presented to the free representatives of the free people of America.” And it never has been. At the same time, it teaches the justices that if they unreasonably impede the functioning of the democratic branches, they may precipitate a crisis with unpredictable consequences. In his dissent in the AAA case in 1936, Justice Stone reminded his brethren, “Courts are not the only agency of government that must be assumed to have capacity to govern.” These are lessons— for the president and for the court—as salient today as they were in 1937.

This Is How FDR Tried to Pack the Supreme Court, by Lesley Kennedy, Jun 28, 2018.

As RGB knew, even the mighty FDR was wrong to attempt to destroy the SCOTUS by increasing the number of justices as a means to an end for temporary political goals. However enticing it might appear, it’s going to hurt everyone in the end.