Civil Rights Law & Policy Blog

Editor: Andrew M. Ironside

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Lehigh resolves civil rights investigation into university's handling of incidents of discrimination with voluntary agreement

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Justice Department condemns Ferguson leaks as effort to sway opinion"

The LATimes's Matt Pearce:

With a grand jury decision looming on whether a white police officer should face charges in the killing of an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Mo., the investigation has sprung a few leaks.

 

New details from the inquiry into Michael Brown’s Aug. 9 death — all provided by unidentified sources and which seem to support Officer Darren Wilson’s story of what happened that day — have emerged in St. Louis and national news outlets in recent days.

 

The U.S. Department of Justice condemned the leaks Wednesday as “irresponsible and highly troubling” and said, “There seems to be an inappropriate effort to influence public opinion about this case.”

October 23, 2014 in Department of Justice, Excessive Force | Permalink | Comments (0)

California prisons will no longer segregate inmates based on race following violence

...reports the AP:

Instead, officers can lock down every inmate in an affected area, or individual inmates suspected of being involved in the incident or the gangs that were involved.

 

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation also agreed to provide inmates with opportunities for outdoor exercise any time a lockdown lasts longer than 14 days.

 

The agreement with attorneys representing inmates came after the U.S. Justice Department said in a non-binding court filing last year that the old policy violated the 14th Amendment that requires equal protection under the law.

 

Justice officials said that policy was based on generalized fears of racial violence and affected inmates who have no gang ties or history of violence.

 

State officials did not acknowledge any violation of inmates' constitutional rights as part of the agreement.

October 23, 2014 in 14th Amendment, Department of Justice, Prisons and Prisoners, Theories of Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 17, 2014

"Vanita Gupta Is an Excellent Choice for Top Civil Rights Post"

NYTimes's Jesse Wegman calls President Obama's selection of the ACLU's Vanita Gupta to run the DOJ's Civil Rights Division an "inspired" but "risky" decision. Although perhaps an ideal candidate, partisan gridlock in Washington could create significant obstacles to Gupta's confirmation. Wegman writes:

 In less polarized times, the answer should and likely would be an unequivocal yes. What argument could there be against naming a highly-experienced civil-rights lawyer to the top civil-rights post in the country? Ms. Gupta would, if confirmed, also represent a groundbreaking trifecta for the position: the first woman, the first South Asian, and, at 39, the youngest in the department’s history.

 

But nothing is unequivocal these days, particularly in light of the Senate’s spectacular failure to confirm Mr. Obama’s previous nominee, Debo Adegbile.

 

Mr. Adegbile was also very qualified to lead the division, but he was voted down 52-47 last March, after a concerted push by law-enforcement groups furious at what they considered to be thecardinal sin of doing his job. As a lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Mr. Adegbile was involved in appeals on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal, then on death row for the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia police officer.

 

By these low standards, Ms. Gupta’s nomination might seem even riskier. She has spoken bluntly and often on issues that were once considered untouchable on both sides of the aisle. In a 2013 New York Times op-ed, Gupta wrote of the vast racial disparities in America’s “prison-industrial complex” and called for, among other things, the elimination of mandatory-minimum sentences and the decriminalization of marijuana possession.

Nevertheless, as Wegman observes, Gupta has support in some suprising places --  from the likes of Grover Norquist to a former head of the NRA. Wegman thus concludes:

Mr. Obama has named Ms. Gupta acting chief, and has indicated he plans to put her nomination before the Senate. He should hold to that, even if the Democrats lose in November. A vote is always a risk, particularly since the fight to replace Mr. Holder may not be pretty. But as Attorney General Eric Holder prepares to leave after six transformative and tumultuous years, Ms. Gupta is primed to expand on the most important parts of his legacy. She also has the potential to exploit a rare point of bipartisanship in a splintered era. If Mr. Obama can’t fight for someone like her, whom can he fight for?

October 17, 2014 in Department of Justice | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

ACLU's Vanita Gupta to head DOJ's Civil Rights Division

President Obama plans to nominate the ACLU's deputy legal director, Vanita Gupta, to head the DOJ's Civil Rights Division, WaPo's Sari Horwitz reports. Gupta has a strong record of civil rights activism as Unknownwell as support from unlikely sources -- including a former head of the NRA, the executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, and Grover Norquist. Horwitz presents the highlights of Gupta's career:  

Her first case involved leading an effort to win the release of 38 defendants in Tulia, Tex., whose drug convictions and long sentences were discredited by her legal team. All of the defendants were pardoned in 2003 by Gov. Rick Perry, and Gupta helped negotiate a $5 million settlement for the defendants.

 

Gupta won a landmark settlement with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency on behalf of immigrant children detained at Hutto, a privately run prison in Taylor, Tex., which ended “family detention” at the facility. She also has challenged racial disparities in high school graduation rates in Florida and successfully challenged the denial of passports to Mexican Americans born to midwives in southern border states. And she managed a project that ended HIV segregation in U.S. prisons.

 

Since 2008, Gupta has taught civil rights litigation and advocacy clinics at New York University School of Law. She received her JD from New York University School of Law and her BA from Yale University.

The position has remained unoccupied ever since Tom Perez began his term atop the Deptartment of Labor. Earlier this year, the Obama administration failed to get the NAACP Legal Defense Fund's Debo Adegbile confirmed by the Senate. Opponents made hay on Adegbile's involvement in Mumia Abu-Jamal's appeal of his conviction for the 1981 killing of a Philadelphia police officer. In the end, the Senate rejected him, 47-52. 

October 15, 2014 in Department of Justice | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Only "disciplinary action and prosecutions…will ultimately change a culture of brutality" in NYPD

...Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) told The NY Daily News's Sarah Ryley. The congressman and five of his colleagues recently sent a letter to DOJ requesting a civil rights investigation into the NYPD's crime-fighting tactics. They claim evidence shows the NYPD's practices -- e.g. issuing summonses, stop-and-frisk, use-of-force -- discriminate against the city's blacks and Hispanics. Ryley reports:

Jeffries said he and the other members of congress are in the process of gathering evidence to present to the Civil Rights Division, which they hope to do this year.

 

Jeffries said The News' report on summons activity - which found blacks and Hispanics received a disproportionate share of summonses, with a spread of 20 percentage points or greater than their share of the population, in 32 of the city's 75 police precincts - "will be central to the case that I believe exists for racially disparate treatment."

DOJ is still considering the request.

October 12, 2014 in Department of Justice | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

DOJ opens criminal investigation into inmate's death from thirst after spending 35 days in solitary confinement

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

"Sallie Mae ordered to pay $96.6M for violating troops’ rights"

The DOJ is ordering the nation's largest loan servicer to pay restitution and penalties for "systematically violating the legal rights of U.S. service members." The title of this post comes from this Air Force News Service article, which explains:

UnknownA 2012 CFPB report found that service members faced serious hurdles in accessing their student loan benefits, including the provisions of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act that cap the interest rate on pre-existing student loans and other consumer credit products at 6 percent while the service member is on active duty, CFPB officials said. Servicers were not providing them with clear and accurate information about their loan repayment options.

 

The CFPB heard from military borrowers, including those in combat zones, who were denied interest-rate protections because they failed to resubmit unnecessary paperwork. These kinds of obstacles prevent service members from taking advantage of the full range of protections they have earned through their service to this country, officials said.

 

The CFPB has partnered with the Defense Department to create better awareness of the rights and options for service member student loan borrowers. A CFPB guide for service members who have student loans contains clear information on the various ways student loans can be repaid.

 

Officials noted that the CFPB began accepting student loan complaints in March 2012, and added that service members who have an issue with their servicers should submit a complaint to the CFPB.

May 14, 2014 in Department of Justice | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 29, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Nov. 29, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Nov. 27, 2013

Revelations about the extent of the NSA's surveillance program could put international data-sharing agreements at risk; federal judge hears arguments regarding the release of DOJ documents on the legality of NSA's surveillance program; The Atlantic explores the inception of the NSA; and, Microsoft will change encryption to prevent NSA surveillance.

Texas National Guard will allow same-sex couples to apply for benefits immediately; gay teen banned from mall at which he allegedly was attacked; Kentucky couple fined one cent for remaining in county clerks office after closing time to protest same-sex marriage ban; and, judge okays terminally ill woman's request to marry her female partner before Illinois same-sex marriage law becomes effective.

Colorado Democrat resigns after gun-rights advocates successfully petition for her recall; and, Plain Dealer guest columnist argues that Ohio legislature should pass gun-safety laws to prevent children from accessing guns.

Voters claim Lousiana segregated African Americans into one racially-gerrymandering congressional district.

SCOTUS to hear arguments as to constitutionality of ACA's contraceptive rule; and, it will consider the First Amendment rights of Bush protesters alleging official's attempts to disperse them were not supported by valid security interests.

 

November 27, 2013 in Department of Justice, Election Law, First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of Press, Freedom of Speech, Gun Policy, Same-sex marriage | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Julian Assange unlikely to face U.S. charges over publishing classified documents

The title of this post comes from this Washington Post article reporting that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is unlikely to face criminal charges for releasing classified documents. The article begins:

The Justice Department has all but concluded it will not bring charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for publishing classified documents because government lawyers said they could not do so without also prosecuting U.S. news organizations and journalists, according to U.S. officials.

The officials stressed that a formal decision has not been made, and a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks remains impaneled, but they said there is little possibility of bringing a case against Assange, unless he is implicated in criminal activity other than releasing online top-secret military and diplomatic documents.

“The problem the department has always had in investigating Julian Assange is there is no way to prosecute him for publishing information without the same theory being applied to journalists,” said former Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller. “And if you are not going to prosecute journalists for publishing classified information, which the department is not, then there is no way to prosecute Assange.”

Justice officials said they looked hard at Assange but realized that they have what they described as a “New York Times problem.” If the Justice Department indicted Assange, it would also have to prosecute the New York Times and other news organizations and writers who published classified material, including The Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

 

November 26, 2013 in Department of Justice, First Amendment, Freedom of Press | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Nov. 24, 2013

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Nov. 5, 2013

Happy Election Day!

Turnout might be low, but there are some exciting ballot measures to watch around the country.

PA voters might think they need photo ID in order to vote today, but a state judge has stayed the PA voter ID law until the court has a chance to resolve a recent challenge to its constitutionality by the ACLU. The ACLU also has challenged the constitutionality of the WI voter ID law. In TX, a former U.S House Speaker was denied a voter ID card.

DOJ announced yesterday that it will monitor some Nov. 5 elections in MI, NY, and OH to ensure compliance with Voting Rights Act.

Parents of the 13-year-old boy killed by a sheriff's deputy while carrying a plastic gun have filed a civil rights lawsuit against the county.

New study finds that the cost of hospital treatment for firearm-related injuries exceeds $2 billion.

Sharpton demands assurances from Macy's CEO that racial profiling will not be a problem during the holiday season.

 

November 5, 2013 in Civil Rights Litigation, Department of Justice, Election Law, Gun Policy, Right to Vote, Voter ID | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 28, 2013

CRL&P Daily Read: Oct. 28, 2013

Sen. Paul believes abortion and scientific research might lead to eugenics, and a Texas judge finds certain limitations on abortion unconstitutional.

Sen. Reid says Senate will vote on bill to ban workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by Thanksgiving.

DOJ will not prosecute guards from private prison for alleged criminal civil rights violations.

J. Posner: "The point I was making in my book in mentioning the Crawford case was not that the decision was right or wrong[.]"

All new FBI agents ordered to visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial to remind them of past abuses by the FBI and of their commitment to better practices in the present and future.

 

October 28, 2013 in 14th Amendment, Abortion, Civil Rights Litigation, Department of Justice, Election Law, Religion, Right to Vote, Science, Voter ID | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

CRL&P Morning Reads: Oct. 24, 2013

Opponents of Illinois gay-marriage bill rally at the Capitol to urge lawmakers to vote against it. The Chicago Tribune reports that the bill is unlikely to come up for a vote

The Supreme Court will re-examine mental disability standards used to determine eligibility for death penalty.

Gov. Jindal condemns DOJ for denying request of four families to join state as defendants in civil rights case.

Des Moines Register editorial questions interrogations by state troopers during traffic stops.

In Iowa, former state employees allege "culture of discrimination and retaliation" in the workplace.

The Atlantic documents Sen. Wyden's efforts to reform the NSA's surveillance program.

Glenn Greenwald speaks with Newsweek about NSA leaks, governmental abuse of power, and future plans.

Sen.-elect Booker says he looks forward to working with Sen. Paul and others on reforming drug laws.

 

October 24, 2013 in Civil Rights Litigation, Department of Justice, First Amendment, Freedom of Press, Prisons and Prisoners, Same-sex marriage | Permalink | Comments (0)