SALT LAKE CITY, (AP) — Republican-led states are increasingly using the unusual legal strategy that was used in Texas to ban abortions. This is being used to target pornography and LGBT rights as well as other cultural hot topics.
Although private citizens filing lawsuits is common in some areas like environmental law, others warn that it could be expanded and applied to other areas. This could lead to a boomerang effect if Democrats use it on gun control issues.
Merrick Garland, Attorney General, announced that the Department of Justice would sue Texas over the Texas law. He said it could be a model for other states to follow and respect other constitutional rights and protections. He was concerned about the “damage to our society” if states were allowed implement laws and allow private individuals to infringe upon another’s constitutional rights.
In other states, the concept has already been adopted in cases such as abortion. The courts have opposed conservative-backed laws.
Missouri’s new law allows residents to sue local police for violating federal gun laws. Kansas residents can challenge any restrictions on public gatherings and mask mandates in court. Ohio residents can sue for emergency actions.
It is also used to enforce laws restricting transgender student’s bathroom use in Tennessee and Florida, as well as their participation on Florida’s sports teams.
Jessica Clarke, an anti-discrimination law specialist at Vanderbilt University, stated that these laws are intentionally designed to be ineffective in federal court.
Utah’s anti-porn legislation passed last year, requiring that sites post warnings about minor dangers. The adult entertainment sites called it a free speech violation, but the possible onslaughts of lawsuits convinced major sites that they would comply.
Brady Brammer, a Republican Utah Representative, said that he modelled his bill on Proposition 65. This allows anyone who has been exposed to potentially carcinogenic substances to sue and receive a type of “bounty” if he wins. The practice of civil enforcement is a long-standing feature of environmental law. Private attorneys act as an extension of stretched regulators. Green nonprofits often receive funding from court settlements with businesses.
Brammer stated, “Republicans are arming the tool that Democrats thought was theirs, which is civil enforcement.” They are using the same tactics Democrats use for years, decades, and doing it for conservative causes.
Texas’ abortion law is being copied by lawmakers from several other states. It also has an unusual feature that greatly expands the scope of those who can sue. It does not require individuals to prove that they were directly affected unlike civil law.
The Supreme Court’s decision to not block the law meant that Texas abortion providers were no longer allowed to offer abortions after the threat of being sued.
Others warn that this tactic could be used to hurt Republicans who, for decades, have sought to limit the amount of settlements in medical malpractice cases.
Michelle Simpson Tuegel from Texas, who tried to block the abortion law, stated that if a broad-ranging civil enforcement tactic was applied to gun control it could permit people to sue gun sellers.
She said that Texas’s law is a double-edged weapon for Republicans. It’s dangerous for them to push something like this forward, with other issues that could be turned against them in a similar fashion.