Constitution Daily Update: Mubarak to be freed, Christie signs controversial law

The situation in Egypt will have another potential player as news broke today that former leader Hosni Mubarak could be freed from prison; also, another twist in the saga of Pennsylvania’s Voter ID battle.

800px-2.9.11ChrisChristieTownHallByLuigiNovi22Items To Watch

1. As the situation in Egypt continues to deteriorate, there is news from Hosni Mubarak’s lawyer that the former leader could be released from prison in a matter of days. Fighting between Egypt’s security forces and the supporters of former president Mohammed Morsi  has left more than 800 civilians and dozens of members of the security forces dead since Wednesday.

2. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is expected on Monday to sign a bill banning gay conversion therapy.

Developing Questions …

Here are some updates on new discussions about top-of-mind constitutional issues.

1. The Right to Vote issue in Pennsylvania and gazing into the future

Saying that ““the right to vote in Pennsylvania, as vested in eligible, qualified voters, is a fundamental one,” and that the state trial court “may enjoin those provisions that may result in disenfranchisement and, in effect, mislead eligible, qualified voters,” a state trial judge in Pennsylvania on Friday extended for 20 months a preliminary injunction against a state law requiring that voters present a valid photo ID in order to be allowed to vote.

A different state trial judge first issued a preliminary injunction against the state’s new Voter ID Law last fall, when the law was being challenged on grounds that it would make voting particularly difficult for minorities, people with low incomes, and senior citizens.

The injunction was extended when the case continued, including in a full trial on the merits this summer.

But during those extensions, Judge Bernard L. McGinley wrote on August 16th, “poll workers were to inform qualified electors that they would not be able to vote at the next election unless they had a compliant photo ID. Each time, this statement, although well-intentioned and hoped to be correct when made, turned out to be wrong. That is because, as our highest court reminded us, this Court is not able to predict the future.”

The judge was concerned, above all, about accuracy, saying that “telling a qualified elector that he or she will not have the right to vote in future elections if he or she does not obtain compliant photo ID, when that information has been erroneous at best, deceptive at worst, will not be continued.”

The Pennsylvania case underscores that the legal war about voting has spread far outside the South and that each small battle, like this one, matters when the parties have a fundamental disagreement about voting in the United States.

In this case, the Pennsylvania Republicans who passed the photo ID law say its purpose is to counteract voter fraud in the state; the Democrats and others who oppose the law say there is virtually no valid evidence of fraud as a basis for the law.

The state trial court is expected to resolve that disagreement soon, with an appeal likely to follow.

2. Delaware, Corporations, and the Constitution

On Friday, August 16th, Chancellor Leo Strine Jr. of the Delaware Court of Chancery denied a request by the financier Carl Icahn to keep shareholders of Dell from voting on a $24.9 billion buyout offer from Michael Dell, who founded the company, and from others in mid-September.

The Delaware court has original and exclusive jurisdiction to decide a wide range of legal matters involving trusts, commercial litigation, and other topics, but it is generally seen as the major forum for deciding disputes about the internal affairs of corporations chartered in Delaware, which means most significant corporations in America—including Dell.

The court applies the concept of equity to resolve disputes. It often decides cases about the fiduciary duty of corporate directors, in this case whether Dell’s directors had given Mr. Icahn enough time to make a bid.

With characteristic restraint in applying legal doctrine and a lack of restraint in his choice of words, Chancellor Stine ruled that they had. As Bloomberg reported, “Strine also noted that Icahn promised ‘a nifty cool chief executive officer’ if his slate of candidates prevails at the annual meeting yet ‘he hasn’t said who that CEO is.’”

Strine was appointed to the Chancery Court in 1998 when he was 34 and became its chief in 2011. He is a believer in and protector of the free market who has also expressed ideas often associated with liberal Democrats, like opposition to the death penalty.

Corporations are not mentioned in the Constitution or amendments to it, but in recent years they have become important in constitutional law, because of the free-speech rights the Supreme Court said that have in the 2010 Citizens United case and because, through lawsuits against the Affordable Care Act, many corporations have asserted what is often described as their corporate consciences.


On this day in 1946, William Jefferson Blythe III was born in Arkansas. His father died in a car accident before he was born, and the man who would become the 42nd president took the last name of his stepfather, Roger Clinton.

Closing Notes

1. Interested in following the most entertaining lawmakers on Twitter? Roll Call has a list of its seven-best Tweeters from Capitol Hill.

2. Fox Television Studios will not produce a mini-series about Hillary Clinton that would air on the NBC network. The Republican National Committee said on Friday it will bar NBC and CNN from hosting GOP primary debates in 2016 if the two networks move forward with their Clinton projects.

Editor’s note: The Update is a summary of news and commentary about the Constitution and related issues, as reported around the digital world. Guest contributors and our editorial staff add to the daily update, and we welcome your suggestions (and reports) at [email protected].