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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Police brutality verdict sets new record in Portland

Portland got slapped with $562,000 in damages to be paid to the man to whom several of the city's police officers did this (it's a beating, so viewer discretion and what not):


Despite the video, Internal Affairs already declared that the officers' severe beating of the 40-year-old who had been stopped on suspicion of drunk driving did not violate any duty owed, nor did they deserve any discipline. In light of this recent award, however, it is willing to reconsider the situation. As The Oregonian's Aimee Green reports, "[P]olice spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson said Internal Affairs will look at evidence presented during the trial. If any is found to be new and significant, Internal Affairs could re-open its investigation[.]" 


Whether IA takes this review seriously is yet to be determined.

A federal judge recently approved reforms that require the city to conduct full investigations into the incidents of use-of-force by police officers in which litigation ensued. The reforms were passed after the city shelled out millions of dollars in settlements and jury rewards to plaintiffs claiming excessive force by police, a history Green nicely documents in her excellent report.

Insurance will cover some of the costs of these incidents, but taxpayers nevertheless will remain on the hook for substantial sums of money. 

A few related posts:

October 9, 2014 in Excessive Force | Permalink | Comments (0)

City council meeting cancelled because of attendee's 'F*ck The Police' hat

The man who wore the hat went by the name of "Bijan," and he was politely asked to remove it. But the eponymous villain wouldn't, of course.


The mayor's disgust was apparently so complete that he ordered everyone out of the council chambers. But citizens of Santa Ana would not leave him even in his desparate state. According to one local report:  

About 20 people defiantly remained, ready to be arrested if need be. In turn, about 30 police officers swarmed into the chambers, zip-tie handcuffs at the ready. The two sides had a stand-off for more than an hour; ultimately no arrests were made and everyone, including Bijan, left without incident after Pulido officially canceled the meeting. No word yet on when it will be re-held.


The city council was set to take up a discussion on decorum this evening stemming from tensions over a meeting last month. Back then, service awards for SanTana officers James Berwanger and John Rodriguez were given. That's what motivated CopWatch Santa Ana to hold protest signs in the audience reading "Berwanger is a bad cop" and "25 years of Terror."


Santa Ana Police Officers Association President John Franks complained to City Manager David Cavazos that the CopWatch folks took it too far that night, an opinion that Juarez doesn't disagree with--but with cause.


"The police not only have been harassing the community at large but also focusing their attention on certain members of CopWatch Santa Ana," he claims. Juarez says Rodriguez tossed him and another activist in the city jail for a night on loitering and impeding the free flow of traffic charges he claimed are trumped up in retaliation for their on-scene monitoring of Rodriguez last Wednesday. "We were ready to give public comment which is our freedom of speech right."

I guess it's unsurprising that people with the immediate power to restrict speech seem to value it less than those whose speech can readily be restricted - I guess that's the nature of things. But this seems pretty thin-skinned. Worse, it's unconstitutional. The mayor clearly discriminated against the expression of views - namely, F*ucking the Police - based on their content, in clear violation of the First Amendment's protection of speech. If another attendee had worn a hat reading 'Make Love to Police' to the meeting, the response certainly would've been quite different.

(h/t LAist)

October 9, 2014 in First Amendment, Freedom of Speech | Permalink | Comments (1)

"We basically took a shotgun to a problem that needed a .22"

...former President Bill Clinton said yesterday during a speech celebrating (unsarcastically) the 20-year anniversary of his administration's COPS program. Clinton explained that the common approach to criminal justice reform at the time was mistaken. “We took a shotgun to it and just sent everybody to jail for too long,” he said. Clinton now figures that criminal justice reforms will play prominently in the 2016 presidential election. 

October 9, 2014 in Theories of Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0)

"They was like, 'Put your hands on the door[.]' I was like, 'For what? This is my house.' I was like, 'Why are y'all in here?' "

...explains a black teenage in North Carolina who was pepper-sprayed by police responding to a call about a possible home invasion. As it turned out, the teen had entered his own home; he's a black teenager living with a white foster family who had just moved to a new neighborhood. This local article explains:

Fuquay-Varina police said when a neighbor saw DeShawn walk in; they called 911 to report a break-in. Soon, three officers were inside the house, all to DeShawn's surprise.


DeShawn said he became angry when officers pointed out the pictures of the Tyler's three younger children on the mantle, assuming he didn't belong there. An argument ensued and DeShawn said one of the officers pepper-sprayed him in the face.

By the time Stacy [Tyler] came home, EMS were treating DeShawn in the driveway. She cleared up the confusion with the officers, but not with the rest of her family.

(h/t The Root)

October 9, 2014 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Cutting to the Bone: The Radical Challenge of Anna Doyle Wheeler and William Thompson"

The title of this post comes from this recent article by Professor Jim Jose, the abstract of which states:

In 1825 a significant feminist book was published under the title Appeal of One Half the Human Race, Women: Against the Pretensions of the Other Half, Men, to Retain Them in Political, and Thence in Civil and Domestic, Slavery; in Reply to a Paragraph of Mr. Mill's Celebrated “Article on Government. It was a direct political response to claims made by liberal philosopher James Mill that women did not need to be enfranchised. The argument of this paper is that the Appeal’s response to Mill represents one of the most challenging political statements of early nineteenth century political thought. First, it definitively refuted Mill’s argument and threw down the gauntlet to the fundamental liberal utilitarian premises upon which Mill’s argument rested. Second, it produced one of the most radical statements ever published in favour of women’s full social and political freedom, even more so than Mary Wollstonecraft’s influential treatise published 30 years earlier. In its structure and the manner of presentation of its arguments the Appeal challenged the masculinist standards of authorship even as it appeared to conform to them. And third, the Appeal provided James Mill’s son, John Stuart Mill, with the arguments upon which the younger Mill’s reputation as a nineteenth-century feminist now rests. Consequently, the Appeal represents an original formulation of feminist political theory that is more than a hyphenated offspring of the masculinist tradition of political thought in which it arose. It is feminist political theory without apology.

October 9, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"Putting Intent in Its Place: A New Direction for Title VII"

The title of this post comes from this recent essay by Professor Noah Zatz, the abstract of which states:

This very short essay charts a path forward for Title VII by looking through the lens of the ADAs’ analysis of nonaccommodation as discrimination. The basic idea is that employment discrimination law protects individuals from suffering harm at work because of their race, sex, etc., but only when there are sufficient reasons to hold their employer responsible. That occurs not only when an employer acts with discriminatory intent, but also when an employs denies a reasonable accommodation needed because of disability or adheres to a practice with a disparate impact. This common structure can be seen in the ways that Title VII claims nominally framed as disparate treatment or disparate impact converge with nonaccommodation analysis, notwithstanding its lack of formal recognition under Title VII. The general strategy is to displace discriminatory intent by appreciating its relevance while denying its centrality, and not simply to expand the contours of disparate treatment as implicit bias and other accounts of subtle discrimination seek to do."

October 8, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Woman locks officer in basement during warrantless search, wins civil rights suit against police

As I recently noted, Baltimore PD has had its problems. And its image isn't improving. This local article explains the BPD's latest embarrassment:

In July 2009, [87-year-old Venus] Green's grandson, Tallie, was shot and wounded. Tallie said he was shot at a convenience store, but police insisted it happened inside Green's house and that the shooter was either Tallie or Green.


"Police kept questioning him. They wouldn't let the ambulance attendant treat him," Green said. "So, I got up and said, 'Sir, would you please let the attendants treat him? He's in pain,'" Green said.


Green said the officer said to her, "Oh, you did it, come on, let's go inside. I'll prove where that blood is. You did it."


Police wanted to go the basement, where Tallie lived, but Green refused on the basis that the police did not have a warrant.


"I said, 'No, you don't have a warrant. You don't go down in my house like that. He wasn't shot in here.'" Green said the officer replied, "I'm going to find that gun. I'm going to prove that you did it."


A struggle ensued between a male officer and Green [in which she suffered a separated shoulder].


"He dragged me, threw me across the chair, put handcuffs on me and just started calling me the 'b' name. He ridiculed me," Green said.


An officer went into the basement and Green locked him inside.

The city recently settled with Green because it doubted it could prevail in a case before a jury.

October 8, 2014 in Excessive Force, Fourth Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0)

About that increase in voter registration in Ferguson, MO since the killing of Michael Brown...

As it turns out, not so much. MSNBC's Zachary Roth reports:

Local election officials said last week that 3,287 people had registered to vote in Ferguson since the Aug. 9 police shooting of Michael Brown—a massive spike in a city with a population of 21,000.


But Tuesday, the board backtracked, saying that in fact only 128 people had registered. 




Heard Days told msnbc that the 3,287 figure in fact showed how many already-registered voters had had a change made to their registration information—for instance, because they moved within the county. Board officials wrongly thought the number referred to newly registered voters.

Amends my previous post: Killing of Michael Brown "could spark long-lasting political change."

October 8, 2014 in Right to Vote | Permalink | Comments (0)

Justice Kennedy grants Idaho's request to block same-sex marriages...

Inmates's families paying gangs, guards to protect family members housed in one Mississippi prison

Brookings webcast on race and civil rights today @ 2 p.m. EST -- in 8 minutes!

Buzzfeed's national news editor Adam Serwer, my old friend/co-intern during our early D.C. days, will be there with something interesting to say. Also featuring Color of Change executive director Rashad Robinson, Professors Sheryll Cashin and Vesla Weaver. Brookings senior fellow Fredrick Harris will moderate.


This year marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act, landmark federal legislation that prohibited discrimination based on race, religion, gender, or national origin. Fifty years later, the Civil Rights Act is widely regarded as some of the most significant set of laws enacted in American history.


Today, Governance Studies at Brookings hosts a forum to commemorate the passage of the Civil Rights Act and discuss its legacy and meaning for today. Using this legislation as a jumping off point, discussion also centers on today’s environment with respect to contemporary race relations, inequality, discrimination, governance, polarization, and politics. Questions will focus on how the Civil Rights Act informs our understanding of these issues, and what policy challenges may still persist.

Watch it here!

October 8, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Man Openly Carrying Gun Robbed of Gun by Another Man with Gun"

Sure was.

October 8, 2014 in Gun Policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Daily Show's Samantha Bee searches far and wide for non-existent statistics on shooting deaths by police

October 8, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

“Some don’t even believe that there is racial profiling. Come on, now. This is America.”

...said a 54-year-old African American woman from Ferguson, MO, according to WaPo's Robert Samuels, author this fascinating story story on the racial tensions between the city's white and black residents. Samuels writes:

The situation has forced many white Ferguson residents in this majority-black city — from small-business owners to the mayor and police chief — to question their beliefs about the community’s racial dynamics.


They have discovered that blacks and whites here profoundly disagree about the existence of racism and the fairness of the justice system. And now, whites who once believed their town was an exception in a country struggling with racial divisions have to confront the possibility it is not.


Neither side seems comfortable listening to the other’s perspective... 

October 8, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

NYC Civilian Review Board finds "misinterpretation" of no chokehold rule subverts officer accountability

NYC's Civilian Complaint Review Board has issued a 140-page report in which it accounts for the lack of accountability for police officers who have used chokeholds, a practice banned more than 20 years ago. The NYTimes's J. David Goodman reports, "The report, 'A Mutated Rule,' provides a statistical view of chokehold complaints by New Yorkers from 2009 to June 2014 and describes trends in how and when they occur." He writes:

In a new report analyzing more than 1,100 chokehold complaints, the [Civilian Complaint Review Board] offers a reason [officers often aren't punished for using chokeholds]: In the department’s disciplinary proceedings room, and in the board’s own investigations, the very definition of a chokehold had narrowed significantly.


As a result, a banned practice appeared to spread, the report found, and a disciplinary process meant to head off wrongdoing “failed to hold officers accountable” as complaints over the use of force increasingly included allegations of chokeholds.




Most allegations of chokeholds stemmed from encounters on the street in the busiest police precincts and were more likely in the late evening and early morning hours, and on Fridays and Saturdays, when there is more crime and more police activity. Chokehold complaints closely tracked with arrests, the report found.


While the department teaches permitted holds to its officers, such lessons can give way to a survival instinct in the heat of grappling with a suspect, said Joseph A. Pollini, a retired lieutenant commander who made or oversaw more than 1,000 arrests. “It’s like any other fight, like you had when you’re a kid, you don’t have a lot of time to focus,” he said.


Chokeholds represent a small fraction of the roughly 7,000 complaints the board receives each year. Between 2009 and June 2014, 10 were substantiated by the board’s investigators, while more than a third, the report found, were deemed “unfounded.”


One reason for the small number of substantiated complaints, the report found, was misinterpretation, by the board’s own investigators, of the Police Department’s chokehold rule, which bans all pressure on the neck and throat that “may” impede breathing. Instead, many board investigators redefined a chokehold as pressure on the neck that actually impairs a person’s ability to breathe. The report found that the board’s investigators miscategorized at least 156 allegations of chokeholds simply as “use of force.”

October 8, 2014 in Excessive Force | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Two More Ways Not to Think About Privacy and the Fourth Amendment"

The title of this post comes from this essay by Professor David Alan Sklansky, the abstract of which states:

This brief essay challenges two increasingly common ideas about privacy and the Fourth Amendment. The first is that any protections needed against government infringements of privacy in the Information Age are best developed outside of the courts and outside of constitutional law. The second is that the various puzzles encountered when thinking about privacy and the Fourth Amendment can be solved or circumvented through some kind of invocation of the past: either a focus on the text of the Fourth Amendment, or the study of its history, or an effort to preserve the amount privacy that used to exist, either when the Fourth Amendment was adopted or at some later point.

October 8, 2014 in Fourth Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

"Negotiated Order: The Fourth Amendment, Telephone Surveillance, and Social Interactions, 1878-1968"

The title of this post comes from this paper by Professor Colin Agur, the abstract of which states:

In the US, the words ‘telephone surveillance’ bring to mind contemporary security concerns about smart phone tracking, the NSA warrantless wiretapping scandal, and the telecommunications provisions of the Patriot Act. Yet telephone surveillance is as old as telephony itself, dating back to the nearly simultaneous commercialization of the telephone and phonograph in 1878. First put to use by users, so they would have a written record of business meetings held over the phone, recorders were later put to use by police for surreptitious recording of criminal suspects’ conversations. This article examines telephone surveillance by American law enforcement agencies from the inception of telephone service to the passage of the Federal Wiretap Law in 1968, focusing on the challenges an advancing, proliferating, and shrinking technology posed for Fourth Amendment law. To highlight the technological, institutional and cultural interactions that have shaped Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, the article deploys Jack Balkin’s theory of cultural software and Anslem Strauss’s concept of a negotiated order, and brings together major cases, federal legislation, and evidence of government surveillance. The article shows how telephone surveillance brought the Fourth Amendment into prominence and inspired many of its most contentious debates; the article argues that during the first 90 years of telephone usage in America, laws on search and seizure developed not from constitutional consistency or logic, but as the result of a complex negotiation process involving new media and human agency.

October 7, 2014 in Fourth Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 6, 2014

"An Empirical Evaluation of the Connecticut Death Penalty System Since 1973: Are There Unlawful Racial, Gender, and Geographic Disparities?"

The title of this post comes from this article by Professor John Donohue III, the abstract of which states:

This article analyzes the 205 death-eligible murders leading to homicide convictions in Connecticut from 1973-2007 to determine if discriminatory and arbitrary factors influenced capital outcomes. A regression analysis controlling for an array of legitimate factors relevant to the crime, defendant, and victim provides overwhelming evidence that minority defendants who kill white victims are capitally charged at substantially higher rates than minority defendants who kill minorities, that geography influences both capital charging and sentencing decisions (with the location of a crime in Waterbury being the single most potent influence on which death-eligible cases will lead to a sentence of death), and that the Connecticut death penalty system has not limited its application to the worst of the worst death-eligible defendants. The work of an expert hired by the State of Connecticut provided emphatic, independent confirmation of these three findings, and found that women who commit death-eligible crimes are less likely than men to be sentenced to death. 

There is also strong and statistically significant evidence that minority defendants who kill whites are more likely to end up with capital sentences than comparable cases with white defendants. Regression estimates of the effect of both race and geography on death sentencing reveal the disparities can be glaring. Considering the most common type of death-eligible murder - a multiple victim homicide - a white on white murder of average egregiousness outside Waterbury has a .57 percent chance of being sentenced to death, while a minority committing the identical crime on white victims in Waterbury would face a 91.2 percent likelihood. In other words, the minority defendant in Waterbury would be 160 times more likely to get a sustained death sentence than the comparable white defendant in the rest of the state.

Among the nine Connecticut defendants to receive sustained death sentences over the study period, only Michael Ross comports with the dictates that “within the category of capital crimes, the death penalty must be reserved for ‘the worst of the worst.’” For the eight defendants on death row (after the 2005 execution of Ross), the median number of equally or more egregious death-eligible cases that did not receive death sentences is between 35 and 46 (depending on the egregiousness measure). In light of the prospective abolition of the Connecticut death penalty in April 2012, which eliminated the deterrence rationale for the death penalty, Atkins v. Virginia teaches that unless the Connecticut death penalty regime “measurably contributes to [the goal of retribution], it is nothing more than the purposeless and needless imposition of pain and suffering, and hence an unconstitutional punishment.” Apart from Ross, the evidence suggests that the eight others residing on death row were not measurably more culpable than the many who were not capitally sentenced.

Moreover, Connecticut imposed sustained death sentences at a rate of 4.4 percent (9 of 205). This rate of death sentencing is among the lowest in the nation and more than two-thirds lower than the 15 percent pre-Furman Georgia rate that was deemed constitutionally problematic in that “freakishly rare” sentences of death are likely to be arbitrary.

October 6, 2014 in Theories of Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0)

"The Problem of Voter Fraud"

The title of this post comes from this recent paper by Professor Michael Gilbert, the abstract of which states:

Voter ID laws have provoked a fierce controversy in politics and public law. Supporters claim that such laws deter fraudulent votes and protect the integrity of American elections. Opponents, on the other hand, argue that such laws, like poll taxes and literacy tests before them, intentionally depress turnout by lawful voters. A vast literature, including legal scholarship and opinions of the Supreme Court, accept these two narratives. But these narratives are wrong, or at least incomplete. Voter ID laws can have many effects, including surprising ones like this: they can exacerbate fraud. To illustrate, suppose that without a voter ID law candidates A and B would receive 13 and 10 lawful votes, respectively, and B would receive two fraudulent votes. Candidate A wins non-fraudulently, 13 to 12. Now suppose that with a voter ID law, candidates A and B would get nine and nine lawful votes, respectively (less than before because of depressed turnout), and B would get one fraudulent vote (less than before because of fraud deterrence). Candidate B wins fraudulently, 10-9. The conditions necessary for ID laws to have this effect are simple and may be common. The paper captures this risk with a formula, the Election Integrity Ratio, which judges and scholars could use to determine when ID laws protect elections — and when they cause the very problem they purport to solve. The paper has implications for constitutional law and public policy. It also has broad reach. Any law that deters fraudulent votes, depresses lawful votes, or does both — citizenship and residency requirements, for example, which are used throughout the United States and around the world — are subject to the analysis herein.

October 6, 2014 in Election Law, Right to Vote, Voter ID | Permalink | Comments (0)

Professor argues Eighth Amendment is the proper vehicle for ending mass incarceration

Jessica Pishko's review in the LA Review of Books of Professor John Simon's intriguing new book Mass Incarceration on Trial.

October 6, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Any policeman who genuinely believes you need to travel from Michigan to California to purchase drugs needs to be introduced to the concept of the University of Wisconsin-Madison..."

...said John Oliver last week on Last Week Tonight during his monologue on the troubling practice of civil forfeiture, which is not "a Gwyneth Paltrow euphemism for divorce." 


October 6, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Jerry Brown does bad

Last week, California Gov. Jerry Brown veteod a bill aimed at reducing the number of wrongful convictions. WaPo's Radley Balko:

Seven years ago, then-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed three bills that would have imposed some simple, inexpensive criminal justice reforms in California. The bills were the product of a statewide commission of current and former prosecutors, judges, defense attorneys, and law enforcement officials assembled to study how to prevent wrongful convictions. They would have required police interrogations to be recorded. Prosecutors would have been obligated to find corroborating evidence before calling as witnesses jailhouse informants who had been given time off their sentences in exchange for testimony. The bills also would have created a commission to study the reliability of eyewitness testimony.


The bills passed both houses of the California legislature. But Schwarzenegger vetoed them...


California has since elected an allegedly more progressive governor in Jerry Brown. This year, the state legislature again passed a bill aimed at reining in wrongful convictions, this time by allowing judges to inform juries when prosecutors have been caught intentionally withholding exculpatory evidence, which is already a breach of ethics and arguably illegal. It was modest reform that even some state prosecutors supported. Yet Gov. Brown vetoed it.

October 6, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Jerry Brown does good

Last week, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation strengthing the state's existing revenge porn laws. SacBee's David Siders:

Existing law makes it a misdemeanor to post private, graphic pictures or footage of someone online with the intention of humiliating them.


Senate Bill 1255, by Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, expands the prohibition to include sexually explicit images that are meant to be private, regardless who created the image.


Cannella’s office called the bill the “Revenge Porn 2.0 Act.”

October 6, 2014 in Revenge Porn | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Before Powell v. Alabama: Lessons from History for the Future of the Right to Counsel"

The title of this post comes from this recent paper by Sara Mayeux, the abstract of which states:

The doctrinal literature on ineffective assistance of counsel typically begins with the 1932 Supreme Court case ofPowell v. Alabama. This symposium contribution goes back farther, locating the IAC doctrine’s origins in a series of state cases from the 1880s through the 1920s. At common law, the traditional agency rule held that counsel incompetence was never grounds for a new trial. Between the 1880s and the 1920s, state appellate judges chipped away at that rule, developing a more flexible doctrine that allowed appellate courts to reverse criminal convictions in cases where, because of egregious attorney ineptitude, there was reason to think the verdict might have been different with a competent lawyer. In 1932, the Supreme Court drew upon this line of state cases when it ratified the emerging doctrine in Powell. The persistence of similar complaints of unfair trials across very different time periods, and despite much ostensible doctrinal change, suggests that the inequities of the American criminal justice system are structurally embedded in the adversary process more than they are a function of the specifics of the current iteration of right-to-counsel doctrine. As such, this history lends support to arguments for criminal justice reform that emphasize the need for systemic legislative and policy change rather than merely doctrinal tinkering.

October 6, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

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

“You invoked every spirit and power you could think of. You threw away and burned all your clothes, and then three months later, you’re right back where you started.”

...said prominent transgender rights figure Lily McBeth of her internal struggle with her gender identity.

McBeth died on September 24. She was 80 years old. The NYTimes's Douglas Martin writes this fascintating profile of her.

October 5, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

California Catholic Conference claims forced compliance with state's contraception mandate violates civil rights of Catholic institutions

Oklahoma prison officials announce new procedures for killing people

Oklahoma officials are hoping changes to the protocol for executions will prevent the state's next killing from repeating that of Clayton Lockett, which was cancelled after he "writhed in pain, clenched his teeth and appeared to struggle against the restraints" only for him to die just more than half an hour later of a heart attack. CNS's David Lee:

Under the new protocols, the IV team is given one hour to attempt an IV insertion. If they are unsuccessful, the warden must contact the governor to advise of the problem and "potentially request a postponement of the execution."


A team member and a prison unit section chief must both confirm the viability of the IV sites, as well. The team may try to tap a femoral vein as an alternative site under the new protocols.


During Lockett's execution, the team had to tap a vein in his groin because they were unable to tap veins elsewhere. Warden Anita Trammell ordered Lockett's groin and the IV line insertion area covered with a sheet to maintain Lockett's dignity and keep his genital area covered.


Prison officials' claims of not being able to find veins on Lockett elsewhere and that the veins had been "blown out" were disputed by a preliminary autopsy in June, which noted that he had "excellent integrity and peripheral and deep veins" for the purpose of an IV insertion.


Dr. Joseph Cohen, an independent forensic pathologist, was unable to find "any significant underlying natural disease" nor a "cardiac condition" that played a role in Lockett's death by heart attack.


The new protocols also greatly reduce the number of media witnesses in executions, from 12 to 5. Preference will be given to media from where the crime was committed and to The Associated Press.

October 5, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

Prominent spiteful curmudgeon Sheriff Arpaio again told to fix county's substandard jails

Maricopia County's (Ariz.) jails have been under federal oversight since 2008 because they're terrible. County sheriff Joe Arpaio seems to think the feds have no business telling him how poorly he can treat prisoners inside his county's jails - that just wouldn't be right. But a federal judge disagreed and ordered the county to get their jails in order. As Eric Balaban of the ACLU National Prison Project writes at the Blog of Rights:

[O]ver five years ago, federal judge Neil Wake placed the jail under federal oversight and ordered the county and Sheriff Joe to fix their dangerously substandard system. But that order fell on deaf ears, as men, women, and children at Sheriff Joe’s jail have continued to suffer and die. A female detainee who reported a history of cardiac problems and who said she was suffering chest pain was not examined by a physician despite her complaints. Instead of receiving legally mandated care, she died hours later. Two other prisoners died of complications from inadequate treatment for alcohol withdrawal. 




Last year, the county tried to get out from under the federal oversight Judge Wake ordered in 2008, claiming that it had done what is necessary to care for detainees’ mental and physical health... [T]his week Judge Wake issued a scathing 66-page decision finding that the jails continue to provide detainees with inadequate medical and mental health care. He ordered the jail to remain under federal oversight until it can meet constitutional standards.

October 5, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

NYPD is investigating renowned civil rights attorney accused of raping a National Action Network official following Rev. Al Sharpton's 60th birthday party

Sanford Rubenstein had been representing the family of Eric Garner, who an NYPD officer had chocked to death earlier this summer. Now that Rubenstein's been accused of the third-degree rape of a high ranking official in Sharpton's group who had passed out in his hotel room after a party, which medical staff reported to the police when she arrived at the hospital the next day complaining of continuous bleeding, his attention likely will be diverted elsewhere. 

October 5, 2014 in Current Affairs, Excessive Force | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 4, 2014

"Inmate death in private transport van in Miami-Dade raises questions"

The Miami Herald has this excellent article by David Ovalle about lingering questions in the death of an inmate suffering from a variety of mental health and medical conditions. Ovalle writes: 

[Karen] Isaacs earlier this month was found slumped over dead inside the van — operated by Tennessee-based Prisoner Transportation Services of America through a contract with the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office — during a stop at a West Miami-Dade Taco Bell restaurant.


Her case offers a window into the little-publicized world of private inmate-transport companies. And it has now spurred a law enforcement investigation into whether the transport officers provided her with proper care and attention during the grueling two-day road trip.


According to sources with knowledge of the investigation, Isaacs is believed to have acted strangely throughout the trip — apparently suffering hallucinations — while drinking little water and refusing a meal during a stop in Orlando.


And when the two transport officers finally saw that she was unresponsive in the Taco Bell parking lot, they first called their superiors in Tennessee. Only after unsuccessfully trying to revive her did the officers dial 911, sources said.


The cause of death remains unknown. An autopsy of Isaacs has so far proved inconclusive while the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s Office awaits the results of more tests.

October 4, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners, Theories of Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Firefighter claims she was "unfairly disciplined" for sick days during pregnancy

The Connecticut woman says the treatment she received by the city during her pregnacy violated her civil rights, according to this local article:

Scates alleges the city unfairly disciplined her last year for taking pregnancy-related sick days and then forced her to take an unpaid maternity leave despite providing unlimited paid sick leave for non-pregnancy related physical disabilities.


Scates alleges she was still capable of working when she was placed on leave.

October 4, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Brutality Cases Call For Federal Probe Into Baltimore Police Department"

Baltimore's city council and mayor hope the DOJ will review a slue of police brutality claims that continue to cost the city millions of dollars. As Baltimore's local CBS affiliate reports:

Commissioner [Anthony] Batts’ request for a full review by the Department of Justice comes after multiple videos of police brutality surfaced –including one from June, showing an officer brutally beating a man at a bus stop.




The [Baltimore] Sun’s investigations also revealed more than 100 people have won settlements that along with legal fees cost city taxpayers $11.5 million over the years.


“We know there are a few of us who are not in alignment with the philosophy I have set forth for this police agency,” Batts said.


Mayor Rawlings-Bblake says it’s clear the changes are necessary and that a full review by the federal governments into their policies and procedures will help put the past behind them and benefit the entire city.

The Baltimore Sun's full report on the prevalence of claims of police brutatily there can be found here.

October 4, 2014 in Excessive Force | Permalink | Comments (0)

"What if the fiancee sues the police officer for interfering with the investigation of the crime of which she was a victim?"

"Report: Justice Department May Shutdown Zimmerman Civil Rights Investigation . . . quietly"

Professor Jonathan Turley:

When the Obama Administration sent in a team to investigate civil rights violations in the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, some of us expressed doubt over the basis for such a charge as well as the timing of the federal move into the case. Indeed, I washighly skeptical of how the case was charged and prosecuted. Now the Washington Post is reporting that, after two years of investigation, Justice officials do not believe that they have sufficient evidence to bring federal charges.

WaPo: "George Zimmerman not expected to face civil rights charges in Trayvon Martin's death"

October 4, 2014 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 3, 2014

Retiree disturbed by police who mistook okra for pot

This story out of Georgia is another example of the war on drugs sucking. From Opposing Views:

Dwayne Perry was reportedly woken up on Wednesday morning by the sound of a police helicopter above his home. Officers were waiting for Perry at his door to search his home for drugs after the helicopter spotted what they believed to be marijuana plants growing in his backyard.


“I was scared actually, at first, because I didn't know what was happening,” said Perry. “They were strapped to the gills.”


The helicopter, as it turns out, was part of the Governor’s Task Force for drug suppression, and its purpose was to search areas for domestic cannabis plants. What the helicopter thought was marijuana, however, turned out to be okra.

October 3, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Killing of Michael Brown "could spark long-lasting political change."

The voter registration drive in Ferguson is picking up and paying off. More than 3,000 Ferguson residents have registered to vote. Ferguson's total population only amounts to about 21,000 people, the majority of which are black and tend to vote less, resulting in an awfully white city council. But the killing of Michael Brown could change this. As MSNBC's Zachary Roth observes:  

Two out of three Ferguson residents are black, but five of the city’s six city council members, as well as its mayor, are white—a disparity that has received widespread attention since the unrest began.




Data suggests turnout among Ferguson’s black residents is far lower than among whites. There are several reasons for that: Blacks tend to be newer arrivals in Ferguson, and more transient, than whites. And Ferguson’s elections are held in April, which almost always correlates with lower black turnout. 


Less than two weeks after Brown’s death, Antonio French, a local alderman, set up an office in Ferguson to serve as a headquarters for a voter registration and mobilization effort. Other activists have placed registration tables at the site of Brown’s death, and outside the convenience store on Florissant Avenue where he is said to have stolen cigars not long before being killed.


Not everyone is happy about the drive for increased participation. Matt Wills, the executive director of the Missouri Republican Party, said setting up a registration booth at the site of Brown’s death was “fanning the political flames.”

Related posts:

October 3, 2014 in Election Law, Excessive Force, Right to Vote | Permalink | Comments (0)

Cartoon: "Supreme Court Limits Voting Access In Ohio Case"

Jeff Danziger at The National Memo:


October 3, 2014 in Election Law, Right to Vote | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Federal Court Allows Civil Rights Case Against Baltimore Cop Who Inspired a Character on The Wire"

"Occupying the Constitutional Right to Housing"

The title of this post comes from this recent paper by Professor Lisa Alexander, the abstract of which states:

The United States (U.S.) does not recognize a formal legal right to housing. Yet, the right to housing is alive in America. Using qualitative interviews and case studies, this article is the first to argue that recent housing rights movements in the U.S., such as the Occupy movements, instantiate a constitutional right to housing in America through private ordering and local law reform, rather than through constitutional adjudication or federal and state legislation. These social movements manifest the right to housing in America when they mobilize through online social networks; occupy and retain vacant and real estate-owned homes; defend home owners and renters from evictions and foreclosures; encourage municipalities to use eminent domain for principal reduction and property acquisition; and create micro-homes for the homeless. Their legal successes reformulate local property law, increase Americans' acceptance of legal arrangements that reflect the right to housing, and advance well-accepted constitutional norms. This article contributes to the popular constitutionalism debate by arguing that social movements can create constitutional meaning through private and local law reform, as well as through constitutional amendments, constitutional adjudication and federal and state legislation. This article also contributes to law and social movement scholarship by outlining how the Internet and social media help these movements avoid the pitfalls of legal mobilization and develop more flexible, informal and democratic organizing structures. Finally, these case studies demonstrate new ways social movements can shape American constitutional law and property law in the Internet Age.

October 3, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Colorado school district tries to eliminate civil disobedience from history curriculum

Feds say L.A. county jails still provide inadequate mental health services

The Los Angeles Times's Cindy Chang:

The county jails have been monitored by federal officials for the last 12 years under an agreement requiring improvements in treatment of the mentally ill. On June 4, the Department of Justice announced it would seek court oversight of the jails, citing a dramatic increase in inmate suicides.


In the Sept. 25 letter, federal officials said they hoped to have a draft of a consent decree ready this week. The county's written response to the Justice Department's June 4 letter was not enough to avert federal oversight, given "the severity of the issues" and the failure of the 2002 agreement to sufficiently improve jail conditions, they wrote.


A consent decree would be overseen by a federal judge and probably cost the county millions of dollars to implement.




The June 4 letter described "dimly lit, vermin-infested, noisy, unsanitary, cramped and crowded" living conditions that exacerbated inmates' mental distress. After suicides more than doubled, from four in 2012 to 10 the following year, jail officials did little to address the situation, the letter said, calling many of the suicides preventable.

October 3, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Protesters shot with pepper spray and rubber bullets say Ferguson police violated their civil rights

The police used "wanton and excessive force" against protesters who took to the streets following the the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson, say several protesters added to the civil rights complaint against the city of Ferguson and several members of its police force. As Reuters' Cary Gillam reports:

The amended complaint, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, seeks approximately $60 million and claims police used "wanton and excessive force" as they dealt with protests after the Aug. 9 killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown.




One of the new claimants, Ferguson resident Antawn Harris, said he was recording police as they beat another man when police turned to him and shot him in the face with a rubber bullet. Harris had to be treated at a hospital, the suit claims.


Plaintiff Nathan Burns claims he was sprayed with mace while handcuffed on the ground, and had his head slammed into the pavement.


Other plaintiffs also said they were shot him with rubber bullets, beaten and sprayed with pepper spray with no provocation.

October 2, 2014 in Civil Rights Litigation, Excessive Force | Permalink | Comments (0)

Anti-Islam group claims NYC's rejection of bus signs violates its civil rights

The American Freedom Defense Initiative sued NYC's MTA because it determined that the group's "Hamas Killing Jews" ad couldn't be placed on the city's buses. "When our clients run ads exposing this Jew hatred, all of a sudden the transit authorities are worried about the 'tone' of the conversation or conjure up some threat of violence," said the group's attorney.

October 2, 2014 in Civil Rights Litigation, First Amendment, Freedom of Speech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

"How Serious Is the Supreme Court About Religious Freedom?"

Yesterday in The Atlantic Professor Dawinder Sidhu examined Holt v. Hobbs, a First Amendment religious freedom case scheduled for oral argument before SCOTUS early next week. Principally, Sidhu questions whether SCOTUS will extend the same broad protection for religious belief it employed earlier this year in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby to the claims of a less sympathetic group – federal prisoners. He sets it up this way:

Religious freedom in the United States has ebbed and flowed between two competing concepts: the principled view that religion is a matter of individual conscience that cannot be invaded by the government, and the practical concern once expressed by Justice Antonin Scalia that accommodating all religious practices in our diverse society would be “courting anarchy.” In June, the Supreme Court ruled in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that closely held corporations, whose owners objected to contraception on account of sincere Christian beliefs, could not be forced by the Affordable Care Act to include certain contraceptives in their employee insurance plans. In supporting the religious rights of business owners over a national health-care policy predicated on broad participation, the Roberts Court seemed to stake its place on the more protective end of the religious-freedom spectrum.


But the idea that Hobby Lobby creates robust protections will be credible only if the justices are willing to recognize the religious freedom of marginalized religious minorities—not just the Judeo-Christian tradition. The next religious-freedom case to come before the Court, Holt v. Hobbs, will test whether the Roberts Court’s stance on religious freedom includes a minority faith, Islam, practiced by a disfavored member of our society: a prisoner. At stake are both the state of religious freedom in the country and the Court’s reputation.


Holt involves Gregory Holt, an inmate in Arkansas also known as Abdul Maalik Muhammad. A dispute arose between Holt and the state’s Department of Correction when he sought to grow a one-half-inch beard in observance of his faith. According to the department’s grooming policies, inmates may only grow a “neatly trimmed mustache.” In 2011, Holt filed a lawsuit against the director of the department, Ray Hobbs, and other state employees, saying that the prison had violated his religious rights. After decisions by federal trial and appeals courts in favor of the department, Holt filed a hand-written petition to the Supreme Court, which agreed to review the case. The justices are scheduled to hear arguments in Holt on October 7.

October 1, 2014 in First Amendment, Freedom of Religion, Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Foreword: The Death Penalty in Decline: From Colonial America to the Present"

The title of this post comes from this recent article by Professor John Bessler, the abstract of which states:

This Article traces the history of capital punishment in America. It describes the death penalty's curtailment in colonial Pennsylvania by William Penn, and the substantial influence of the Italian philosopher Cesare Beccaria -- the first Enlightenment thinker to advocate the abolition of executions -- on the Founding Fathers' views. The Article also describes the transition away from "sanguinary" laws and punishments toward the "penitentiary system" and highlights the U.S. penal system's abandonment of non-lethal corporal punishments.

October 1, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners, Theories of Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Real Estate Agents as Agents of Social Change: Redlining, Reverse Redlining, and Greenlining"

The title of this post comes from this paper by Professor Mary Szto, the abstract of which states:

This article examines the role of US real estate agents in redlining, reverse redlining, and greenlining practices. Redlining was the practice of the Federal government, private banks, and other institutions to deny credit to neighborhoods based on race. Reverse redlining is marketing inferior credit and other products to those same neighborhoods. Greenlining is incenting investment in previously redlined neighborhoods. This article argues that although many real estate agents used practices that unjustly excluded access to neighborhoods, all can be faithful agents of inclusion to global, flourishing communities. That is, while real estate agents took leading roles in redlining and reverse redlining in the past, they can now lead in greenlining efforts. Moreover, those who want to effect greater access to global flourishing communities should consider becoming real estate agents.

October 1, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

EEOC sues Papa John's franchise for alleged violations of ADA/CRA

The Salt Lake Tribune's Tom Harvey reports the circumstances that led the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to allege the franchise violated both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Civil Rights Act:

Scott Bonn, who has Down Syndrome, began working at the Farmington restaurant in September of 2011 folding boxes, a task he was able to do with a job coach who was independently employed and insured to assist him, according to the lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court for Utah.


Bonn successfully did the job until a partner in the business visited the store, observed Bonn working with the job coach and then moved to have him fired.


The firing violates federal laws that require employers to provide "reasonable accommodations" such as a job coach to persons with disabilities and that the firing violated those laws, the lawsuit alleges.

October 1, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Texas's prisoner barbecue just one of many routine Eighth Amendment violations taking place behind prison walls

Yesterday I noted several prisoners in Texas allege that extreme temperatures inside the state's prisons violate their Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Because of their confinement, the prisoners can't readily alleviate the symptoms of long term exposure to the heat without help -- they have limited access to water, few fans, and usually can't open the windows in their cells.  The temperatures are especially threatening to the aging prison population, and inmates taking certain medications are also vulnerable. Several of the state's prisoners have died, and now a hearing by an arm of the Organization of American States is scheduled to review these prisons' conditions. 

In an op-ed in today's Los Angeles Times, renowned attorney Martin Garbus argues that the Eighth Amendment is routinely violated in prisons throughout the country. That is, Texas is not alone. Garbus writes:

As a litigator and constitutional lawyer, I have heard appalling stories from the nation's prisons and jails. One prisoner described to me how he was handcuffed to the bottom of his bunk in his underwear day after day for months. Another described how his cell was located directly beneath broken toilet pipes, which meant the cell smelled horribly of urine and excrement. I've heard how cells are unbearably hot or cold and how four prisoners are confined to spaces intended for two, with only one set of bunk beds. I've heard about showers that produce only scalding or icy water and about how, when cell toilets overflow, staff are in no hurry to fix them or to clean up.


The health risks in prisons are also unacceptable. MRSA, a bacterial infection whose strains are often resistant to antibiotics, now runs through maximum security prisons. I contracted it myself after visiting such a prison in June and was hospitalized for three days. Sexual assaults and sexual activity are well known to occur in prisons, but prisoners rarely have access to protection, such as condoms, that can help prevent sexually transmitted diseases.


And then there is solitary confinement. It is hard to tell exactly how many prisoners are in solitary each year in the United States. Today, 44 states allow it, but many states do not report how many inmates are held in solitary. A 2005 report from the Vera Institute of Justice estimated the number at 81,622.

October 1, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners, Theories of Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"Racial Classification and Ascriptive Injury"

The title of this post comes from this intriguing new paper by Professor Paul Gowder, the abstract of which states:

This paper describes a new model of the relationship between racial ascriptions on an individual level, private racial bias, social disadvantage, and state action, called the cognitive hierarchical model. As the name suggests, it deploys psychological, sociological, and historical evidence to argue that racial hierarchy in the wider culture leaks into our individual cognitions, and vice versa. Status evaluations turn out to be built deep into our racial perceptions. 

The state, for its part, exercises a continuing influence on that culture and the cognitions it generates; this gives rise to new grounds for constitutional challenge to state complicity in racial hierarchy. To be ascribed a stigmatized racial identity is to be subject to continuing harm, which this paper calls ascriptive injury. This paper ultimately argues that the state, by participating in the continual creation and reinscription of stigmatized racial identities, causes such ascriptive injuries, and argues for a constitutional remedy.

September 30, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)