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Saturday, August 16, 2014

"On Law, Organizations and Social Movements"

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

This review examines the complex interplay among social movements, organizations, and law. Although the sociological literature has recently been attentive to each pair of two of these social arenas"that is, to social movements and organizations, to organizations and law, and to law and social movements"there has been no effort to theorize the relationship among all three of them. We review the literature on each pair of institutions and then suggest ways in which insights about the omitted institution might inform extant work. Finally, we offer a new framework for examining social movements, organizations, and law together. Envisioning the three social arenas as overlapping and mutually constitutive social fields, we suggest that institutional change may occur when exogenous shocks produce contention and settlement in adjacent fields or when endogenous motion occurs as ideas within one field gradually influence practices in adjacent fields.

August 16, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Heavily armed police confront protesters of Michael Brown's shooting death by Ferguson police officer

The violence in Ferguson, MO continued last night after a third day of protests of the shooting death by a police officer of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African American. 

Witness accounts of the shooting differ from those of police. Witnesses of the shooting claim the teenager was shot multiple times by the officer while he held his hands in the air. Another witness claims Brown was shot while on the ground. However, police claim the teenager assaulted the officer and attempted to grab the officer's gun.

Differing accounts notwithstanding, the officer shot at least once from inside the vehicle and then fired multiple rounds once outside. Brown's bullet-ridden body was found 35 feet from the police car

On Sunday, a vigil held in remembrance of the slain teen reportedly led some to riot and loot several local business. Protests commenced the following day. Armed policed eventually confronted the protesters and ordered them to disperse. When the protesters remained, police reportedly used tear gas, flash granades, and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd

The Department of Justice and the FBI have announced investigations into the shooting, while local authorities plan to conduct their own investigations.

Mother Jones has compiled images from Ferguson here, and the LATimes has more here. Below are several photos from various AP sources.






August 14, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"Eliminating Mental Disability as a Legal Criterion in Deprivation of Liberty Cases: The Impact of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability on the Insanity Defense, Civil Commitment, and Competency Law"

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

A number of laws that are associated with deprivations of liberty, including the insanity defense, civil commitment, guardianship of the person and numerous competency doctrines in the criminal context, require proof of mental disability as a predicate. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability commands signatory states to eliminate that predicate. Summarizing principles set out in my book Minding Justice: Laws that Deprive People with Mental Disability of Life and Liberty, I explain how this seemingly radical stance can be implemented. Specifically, this article proposes adoption of an "integrationist defense" in the criminal context, an "undeterrability requirement" when the state seeks preventive detention outside of the criminal process, and a "basic rationality and self-regard test" for incompetency determinations. None of these proposals requires proof of mental disability.

August 12, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

New study finds subsidized housing for former inmates might reduce recidivism

Many taxpayers may not be enthusiastic about their dollars being used to ameliorate the housing problems of former inmates, but recent research suggests that the benefits of doing so could be significant. As Christopher Moraff noted in a recent post at The Crime Report:

[Washington State Univeristy professor Faith] Lutze and a team of researchers recently completed a comprehensive assessment of a Washington State program that aims to reduce recidivism by providing high-risk offenders with 12 months of housing support when they are released from prison.


The study tracked 208 participants in three counties and found statistically significant reductions in new offenses and readmission to prison. It also found lower levels of parole revocations among participants. While housing is the immediate goal of the program, the Re-Entry Housing Pilot Program (RHPP) operates in concert with the Department of Corrections’ Community Justice Centers to provide a range of reentry support services.


Participants live in heavily subsidized apartments, often with roommates, and are required to engage in treatment, secure employment and work toward self-sustainability. Lutze says stable housing not only reduces violations of public order laws related to living and working on the street, but it increases exposure to pro-social networks and provides a sense of safety and well-being conducive to participating in treatment and other services.


That not only improves community safety, she says, but it “reduces the economic and human costs of ex-offenders cycling through our jails and prisons just because they do not have a safe place to live.” While this seems like a common-sense strategy, programs that place housing at the forefront of prisoner reentry are actually relatively scarce in the U.S., and have historically been driven by a handful of pioneering non-profits.


Since the 1990s, the New York-based Fortune Society has graduated hundreds of ex-offenders from its transitional housing facility in West Harlem, known as “The Castle.” The program has been so successful — with recidivism rates as low as one percent — that the group received city support to open a second facility, Castle Gardens, in 2010.


A similar program run by the Delancey Street Foundation in San Francisco, offers housing and support services to drug addicts, many of them ex-offenders, in six cities.


For all their success, access to these programs is limited, and demand regularly exceeds supply.

August 7, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

"Hobby Lobby and the Dubious Enterprise of Religious Exemptions"

The title of this post comes from this upcoming paper by Professor Ira Lupu, the abstract of which states:

The experience of the past fifty years, culminating in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., is grounds for deep skepticism of any sweeping regime of religious exemptions. Part I of this essay locates the problem in the current legal and cultural moment, which includes religious objections to employer-provided contraceptive care for women, and religion-based refusals by wedding vendors and others to facilitate the celebration of same sex marriages. Part II broadens the time frame to analyze the regimes of religious exemption -- federal and state, constitutional and statutory -- in which such disputes play out. Such regimes will tend to be rhetorically strong and experientially weak, with an occasional outburst of religion-protecting vigor. Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, analyzed in Part III, demonstrates yet again that application of vague, general standards for adjudicating religious exemption claims cannot satisfy values associated with the rule of law. The key terms in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act are perpetually contested and subject to infinite, result-oriented manipulability. Part IV concludes with a prediction that Burwell v. Hobby Lobby will suffer the same fate as earlier, apparently strenuous embraces of religious exemptions. Ultimately, it will wither on a malnourished vine.

August 5, 2014 in First Amendment, Freedom of Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 1, 2014

"Where Do We Go From Here: Civil Rights, Equality, and Class"

ACSblog posted today this intriguing commentary by Professor Atiba R. Ellis reminding us that the focus of civil rights activists throughout the 1960s was not limited to legal equality, but also to the institutional poverty that resulted from years of its denial. According to Ellis, this realtiy has important implications today. The title of this post comes from Ellis's piece, in which he writes:  

The “two societies” problem persists today and imperils our progress on civil rights. The War on Drugs and the growth of mass incarceration continue to impact largely urban, poor minority communities directly and disrupt their opportunities to grow beyond the underclass. The debates continue over the appropriate role for government in providing more or less substantial support through welfare, job training, education, and other supports to overcome poverty.  While civil rights advocates argue for the growth of such programs, conservatives argue that these failings are attributable to dysfunctional lifestyles.


Our considerations of civil rights should be rooted in the recognition of the existence of a largely racialized political and economic underclass that suffers the brunt of the long history of racial subordination and poverty, and that cannot necessarily protect itself due to the narrow construction of the remedies surrounding race, and the near lack of remedies around class altogether. It follows that as we look forward to the twenty-first century phase of the long civil rights movement, we should not abandon race-conscious remedies, as the conservative Supreme Court majority and some commentators have suggested. Instead, race-conscious remedies should have an added focus on issues that address the specific intersections where the members of the racial and class underclass tend to be affected most.  Though not the grand next step King envisioned, it would be a step in the right direction.


To take a law of democracy example: the intersection of race and class lies at the heart of the debates concerning the propriety of voter identification laws and expanded voting.  As I have argued in earlier research, these laws affect those voters who may find it difficult to absorb the indirect economic costs of voting since these laws narrow opportunities and heighten the entry requirements for voting.  And as political scientists Matthew Mendez and Christian Grose have shown, racial bias underlies support for these laws.  Similarly, as scholars like Michelle Alexander have demonstrated, the crisis of mass incarceration has heightened the barriers of felon disenfranchisement and ultimately has excluded a large segment of African Americans and Hispanics from the franchise. These examples suggest that electoral vulnerabilities that affect minorities due to their poverty ought to be subjected to more significant judicial and legislative scrutiny. This is but one area where we can innovate concerning the problems that exist at the intersection of race and class.


Innovation of race conscious remedies in this era of civil rights enforcement will further the ultimate end of equality that was the point of the movement. By doing so through protecting the largely minority political and economic underclass, we will ultimately take one more step to promote the dignity and status of every citizen in America -- and come closer to fulfilling the vision of the long civil rights movement.

August 1, 2014 in Civil Rights History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Do recordings of phone conversations between inmates and their attorneys violate the Sixth Amendment?

A current class-action suit is challenging these recordings. Some judges apparently have tried to keep prosecutors from such practices, but as yet those prosecutors don't really care.

August 1, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

Kansas City's ban on openly carrying firearms may not last

The City Council of Kansas City recently voted unanimously to ban the open-carry of firearms in the city. But, as The Kansas City Star's Lynn Horsley reports, the council's effort may have little lasting impact. Indeed, the state legislature soon will vote to nullify Gov. Jay Nixon's (D) veto of a law that would prohibit cities and counties from outlawing such conduct. The article begins:

Kansas City will clamp down on people openly carrying guns — at least for now.


At Mayor Sly James’ urging, the City Council voted 9-0 Thursday to ban the “open carry” of firearms, saying Kansas City doesn’t need any more weapons on the streets.


“This is not an environment where we need to have everyone armed to the teeth,” James told his colleagues.


But the city’s new law, which takes effect in 10 days, may soon be weakened by the state. 


That’s because the Missouri General Assembly has already approved a bill prohibiting cities from banning open carry for gun permit holders. Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the bill, but the legislature holds its veto override session Sept. 10, and the bill’s sponsor is confident.

My favorite part of the article is this comment by Kevin Jamison, president of Western Missouri Shooters Alliance, assuring citizens that they need not be intimidated by their gun-wielding compatriots:

Jamison said it’s not lawful to brandish a gun, and in his firearms safety classes he teaches a long section on manners. “Gun flashing is impolite,” he said, adding that proper firearms etiquette discourages aggressive display of a weapon.

So there you have it - maintaining a holstered gun is akin to keeping up with the pace of play on a golf course. And, of course, critics are principally worried about their polite-packing friends.

August 1, 2014 in Gun Policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Texas's anti-abortion legislation leaves pregnant women with few options

The Texas Observer reports that recent efforts by the Republican-controlled Texas legislature to eviscerate abortion services in the state has achieved just that - by September, few clinics are expected to remain. The Observer's Emily DePrang writes:

Yet the impact of [H.B. 2] can be summarized with one very hard number: six. That’s how many abortion clinics are expected to survive the last of HB 2’s restrictions, which go into effect on Sept. 1. They require all facilities that perform abortions—even if they only distribute a pill to be taken at home—to have an on-site ambulatory surgical center with wide hallways and rooms of a certain size. Most abortion clinics can’t afford to move or make the structural renovations to meet these standards and will close by Sept. 1, if they haven’t already. In 2011, Texas had 44 clinics that performed abortions. Today it has around 20. Come September: six. 


The bill’s three other restrictions went into effect in November 2013. One was a ban on abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation, except to save the life of the mother or in the case of severe fetal anomalies. Such procedures were already rare—they make up less than 1 percent of abortions—but are often sought by especially vulnerable populations such as rape victims who’ve been in denial about their pregnancies. (The ban has no exception for rape.) Another requirement was that women make three separate clinic trips to receive a medical (pill-based) abortion—two for each dose of the medication and one for a follow-up visit. Combined with anti-abortion legislation passed in 2011, which added amandatory ultrasound and 24-hour waiting period, getting a medical abortion now takes four office visits. Medical abortion was also limited to pregnancies of seven weeks or less. Finally, doctors performing abortions were required to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic, even though hospital transfers are extremely rare and hospitals have to admit and treat patients regardless of a doctor’s status. 


Whatever the reasoning given for anti-abortion legislation, it certainly has impact. A recent study found that the restrictions passed in 2011 have reduced abortions in Texas by 13 percent, including a dramatic drop in the use of medical abortions. As HB 2 takes full effect, to the benefit of women’s health and safety or not, legal abortion in Texas is likely to continue its decline. 

July 31, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Florida family awake as police storm their house in search of neighbor

Hit & Run's Robby Soave notes yet another mistaken no-knock entry by police.

July 31, 2014 in Fourth Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

ExamSoft makes stress more stressful for bar exam takers

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Another botched execution adds to death penalty debate

On July 23, Arizona executed Joseph Wood by lethal injection. Although typically lasting between 10 and 20 minutes, Wood didn't die for nearly two hours. Today, The Atlantic's Matt Ford recounts Wood's execution as well as several others that have been botched this year, and offers the following:

Whatever we know about these executions, the known unknowns are greater. Because the states will not share them, we don't know the dosages of the drugs administered. We don't know the drugs' manufacturers or their quality-control procedures. We mostly don't know the credentials of those administering the drugs. More importantly, the defendants don't know any of this, either. Without this information, those sentenced to execution cannot challenge the execution procedures in court nor check for possible medical complications. State execution-secrecy laws, routinely upheld by lower courts but untested before the Supreme Court, prevent this basic level of prophylactic Eighth Amendment protection. If death by torture is not cruel, defendants contend, what is?


Defense attorneys have repeatedly begged the courts to compel corrections officials to at least reveal the source of the drugs that would end their clients' lives. They have repeatedly been refused. This time, Wood and his lawyers tried a First Amendment challenge to execution-secrecy laws, arguing that the public has a right to know how their government puts their fellow citizens to death. This would also give the inmates the facts needed to pursue Eighth Amendment challenges.


But so far, lower courts have deferred to the states' claimed need for secrecy. "The information already released by the state enables informed debate about the lawfulness and propriety of Arizona’s two-drug cocktail," replied federal Judge Jay Bybee of the Ninth Circuit. Wood appealed that decision to the Supreme Court; last night, the justices denied his petition without further comment or dissent. Less than 24 hours later, Wood died choking.


There are two executions scheduled for August 6. Missouri will put Michael Worthington to death and Texas will put Manuel Vasquez to death, both by lethal injection. The Supreme Court will likely get another chance to consider the procedures very soon. 

CRL&P related posts:

July 29, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners, Theories of Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 28, 2014

"Free Speech and Guilty Minds"

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

It is axiomatic that whether speech is protected turns on whether it poses a serious risk of harm — in Holmes’s formulation, a “clear and present danger.” If this is correct, then the state of mind, or intent, of the speaker should be irrelevant. Yet First Amendment law makes speaker’s intent a factor in the protection of many different kinds of speech. This Essay offers an account of why and how speaker’s intent matters for speech protection. It argues that strong intuitions work against imposing strict liability for speech. These intuitions are best explained by an interest in speaker’s intent. An autonomy-based account of free speech provides reasons for this interest. Such an account also suggests what kind of intent is necessary before a given speaker may be subject to regulation. Elucidating speaker’s intent thus explains a mysterious aspect of First Amendment law and uncovers a new argument for autonomy theories of free speech.

July 28, 2014 in First Amendment, Freedom of Speech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"If defendant's health and obesity 'effectively confines him to his home,' then continuation of that restriction will not adversely affect him."

So said U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra in response to a 551-pound pharmacist's plea for an early end to his 30-month house arrest in a pill mill case. 

July 23, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Will low voter turnout this November result in still more restrictive voter ID laws?

The NAACP fears that it will. 

Jotaka Eaddy, the NAACP's voting rights director, told a panel on black turnout and voter suppression that "as a result [of the 2010 midterms] we saw a wave of voter-suppression laws." Eaddy said 22 states passed laws stiffening requirements on the identification needed to vote, a move that disproportionately affects poor and minority voters.


Added the Rev. William Barber, an NAACP board member: "We're in a position to have 2010 all over again unless we do something about it."


Polls have shown that Democrats, including black voters, are far less enthusiastic about the coming midterm elections than Republicans, who could win control of the U.S. Senate. President Obama has said that Democrats have to learn to mobilize voters in non-presidential elections.

July 23, 2014 in Election Law, Voter ID | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

MALDEF challenges SoCal city's at-large elections

In a recently filed lawsuit, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) claimes Bellflower, CA's at-large election system effectively disenfranchises black and Latino residents.

Bellflower is roughly 30-non-traffic-minutes south of Los Angeles.

July 22, 2014 in Election Law | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wings. Beer. Racism.: BW3 faces civil rights suit over alleged racial discrimination

UnknownTwo former Buffalo Wild Wings employees claim the restaurant violated their rights protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Specifically, they allege that the assistant manager at the restaurant at which they worked had created a hostile work environment by repeatedly telling a particularly incomprehensible racist joke (to my mind, its truly not understandable, but its
nevertheless available for your disgust in the complaint). He apparently wasn't punished after the plaintiffs complained about this behavior to BW3's human resources department. To the contrary, he was promoted.

And his promotion allegedly didn't assuage the abuse. He continued to make racist comments and give white employees preferential treatment. According to the complaint, he "allowed a white shift leader to strike and African American female employee with a plate without reprimand," and he even threw a plate of food at an African American cook.

This mistreatment apparently wasn't enough for him. He also wanted "to clean up the front of the house image," apparently meaning he wanted all the black people to move to the back of the house. The local CBS affiliate reports:

[The plaintiff's] claim that what happened to them was a systematic plan to have less interaction between African American employees and customers. FOX19 Investigates staff saw a number of African American workers serving customers at the Forest Park location.


However, FOX19 Investigates found a promotional video on the Buffalo Wild Wings corporate website that tells a different story. The video, aimed at prospective employees, is introduced by the company CEO.


It shows employees working at the chain's "most engaged" restaurant team of the year at a location in Memphis, Tenn. The video shows satisfied customers being served by happy workers, who participate in team huddles and high fives with co-workers and managers. But FOX19 Investigates noticed that in the nearly two-minute video, only non-African American workers were interacting with customers. African American workers are seen briefly only in the back of the restaurant or in the kitchen.

Finally, this BW3 manager also fired one of the plaintiff's even though she exceeded the metric used to determine whether employees fulfill their customer service obligations.

The complaint is here

July 22, 2014 in Civil Rights Act | Permalink | Comments (0)

"'The Dignity and Justice that Is Due to Us by Right of Our Birth': Violence and Rights in the 1971 Attica Riot"

The title of this post comes from this recent paper evaluating the qualms of the participants in the Attica Prison riot.  The abstract states:

The response to the Attica riot has tended to focus on the spectacle of violence — the acts of the rioters and the state’s response to those acts. This paper distinguishes the violent events of the summer of 1971 from the grievances that inmates wished to express and their claims about rights and justice. This paper examines how the range of possibilities for theorizing and responding to prison violence and inhumane conditions that existed in the early 1970s was narrowed to a framework that recognized specific civil rights named by the state, obscuring deeper claims.

July 22, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Transgender Kansans worried state's voter ID law could disenfranchise some, chill others

Of course, Kansas Sec. of State Kris Kobach says transgender citizens need not worry because poll workers can account for changes to physical appearance when determining whether to accept someone's ID - a claim that deserves a punch-line. As The Topeka-Capital Journal's Andy Marso reports:

But that reassurance didn’t match the on-the-ground experience of Stephanie Mott, a Topekan who leads the Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project.


Mott said the first time she voted under the new ID requirements, she was still registered as Steven Mott, and her ID still listed her as Steven Mott, so she gave that name, knowing that all the poll worker was instructed to match was name and appearance.


“The poll worker said ‘Name?’ and I said ‘Mott,’ “ Mott said. “She said ‘First name?’ and I said ‘Steven.’ Then she said ‘You’re not Steven,’ out loud to everybody within earshot. Then I had to explain to her I was transgender. Then I had to explain to her what that was.”

July 21, 2014 in Election Law, Voter ID | Permalink | Comments (1)

DNA testing 'conclusively establish[es]' man's innocence of 1982 rape, murder

Twenty-six years ago, Kevin Martin accepted a plea sending him to prison for 35 years to life for the rape and murder of 19-year-old in D.C. Although Martin claimed no knowledge of the young woman's death, the prosecutor told him that an FBI forensic unit had found his pubic hair on one of the victim's shoes. And the forensic expert's testimony alone would be damning.

New DNA evidence tells another story, however, and today he's an exonerated man. As WaPo reports

U.S. attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. joined defense calls to vacate Martin’s conviction and declare him innocent of the rape and murder of Ursula C. Brown. Machen cited DNA evidence that contradicts a previous finding by forensic experts linking Martin to a hair collected at the scene.


Martin, who had long professed innocence in the killing, left the D.C. courthouse with his name cleared. 

Martin's exoneration came as part of a larger effort by the D.C. Public Defender Service to have FBI hair samplings re-examined after a DOJ report revealed concerns about the methods of analysis employed by an FBI investigator. 

In December 2009, D.C. Superior Court Judge Fred B. Ugast exonerated and ordered the release of another man, Donald E. Gates, then 60, after DNA results cleared him of a rape-murder for which he had spent 28 years in prison.


Gates’s counsel, the D.C. Public Defender Service, also discovered that for 12 years prosecutors failed to disclose that the Justice Department’s inspector general in 1997 had criticized the FBI agent who had linked Gates’s hair to the crime, and that flaws were later found in that evidence.


Ugast ordered Machen’s office to review all cases handled by the agent, Michael P. Malone. In 2012, facing continued demands by PDS, Machen ordered a review of all convictions that relied on FBI hair analysis.

This review has taken awhile - now more than two years running - and has resulted in a "nationwide review of more than 2,100 convictions in the 1980s and 1990s."  

Four other men already have been exonerated since the review commenced in 2009.

July 21, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

John Oliver's delightful exposition of dispiriting criminal justice system

Federal judge holds warrant for individual emails permits law enforcement to seize entire email account

The New York Law Journal reports that a federal judge has found that the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit law enforcement officials from seizing and reviewing an email account after the execution of the initial search. The article states:

"In the case of electronic evidence, which typically consists of enormous amounts of undifferentiated information and documents, courts have recognized that a search for documents or files responsive to a warrant cannot possibly be accomplished during an on-site search," [U.S. District Magistrate for the Southern District of New York Gabrial Gorenstein] said.


So courts have developed a more flexible approach compared to on-site searches and "routinely" allow the seizure of entire hard drives, he said, and that's why the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure were amended in 2009 [Rule 41(e)(2)(A)] to allow a warrant that "authorizes a later review of the media or information." Under the amended rule, the time for executing the warrant "refers to the seizure or on-site copying of the media or information, and not to any later off-site copying or review."


Gorenstein also said in June the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held in United States v. Ganias, 2014 WL 2722618, that "the creation of mirror images for off-site review is constitutionally permissible in most instances, even if wholesale removal of tangible papers would not be."


Gorenstein said he could "perceive no constitutionally significant difference between searches of hard drives and email accounts.

July 21, 2014 in Fourth Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Update: NSA is still creepy

And the White House is complicit in its continued neglect of our civil liberities. Writing last week in WaPo, former State Department employee John Napier Tye explained that neither metadata nor the content of private communications by U.S. citizens is protected from NSA peeping. Indeed, as a result Spying1-e1345335685310of Executive Order 12333, many private communications remain exposed without even minimal Congressional oversight (such that it is, right Sen. Feinstein?). Here's the breakdown:

Bulk data collection that occurs inside the United States contains built-in protections for U.S. persons, defined as U.S. citizens, permanent residents and companies. Such collection must be authorized by statute and is subject to oversight from Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The statutes set a high bar for collecting the content of communications by U.S. persons. For example, Section 215 permits the bulk collection only of U.S. telephone metadata — lists of incoming and outgoing phone numbers — but not audio of the calls.


Executive Order 12333 contains no such protections for U.S. persons if the collection occurs outside U.S. borders. Issued by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 to authorize foreign intelligence investigations, 12333 is not a statute and has never been subject to meaningful oversight from Congress or any court... 


Unlike Section 215, the executive order authorizes collection of the content of communications, not just metadata, even for U.S. persons. Such persons cannot be individually targeted under 12333 without a court order. However, if the contents of a U.S. person’s communications are “incidentally” collected (an NSA term of art) in the course of a lawful overseas foreign intelligence investigation, then Section 2.3(c) of the executive order explicitly authorizes their retention. It does not require that the affected U.S. persons be suspected of wrongdoing and places no limits on the volume of communications by U.S. persons that may be collected and retained.

Perhaps you don't give two hoots about the NSA's activities abroad. You live in 'Merica, and your communications stay here. Well tighten your belt... As Tye explains:

A legal regime in which U.S. citizens’ data receives different levels of privacy and oversight, depending on whether it is collected inside or outside U.S. borders, may have made sense when most communications by U.S. persons stayed inside the United States. But today, U.S. communications increasingly travel across U.S. borders — or are stored beyond them. For example, the Google and Yahoo e-mail systems rely on networks of “mirror” servers located throughout the world. An e-mail from New York to New Jersey is likely to wind up on servers in Brazil, Japan and Britain. The same is true for most purely domestic communications.

So, forget privacy. 

For her part, Sen. Feinstein cares enough about the unchecked surveillance of US citizens to pretend to care. But only time will tell whether or not her concerns bear fruit, for the story-told creates considerable doubt as to her seriousness.

July 21, 2014 in Fourth Amendment | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

President Obama to amend 1965 executive order to prohibit contractors from discriminating against gay workers

WSJ Law Blog's Laura Meckler writes:

[T]he rule will apply to all employees except for ministerial positions, the senior official said.


Already, religious organizations are allowed to make employment decisions for ministerial positions—such as clergy—as they see fit. Mr. Obama’s order won’t change that. This means a religious organization could refuse to hire someone for a clergy position simply because he is gay without jeopardizing his contract.


Additionally, under a modification put in place by President George W. Bush, religious organizations are allowed to consider the religion of a person when making hiring decisions for any position. The Obama order doesn’t change that, either.


So, under the new rules, a Catholic organization could decline to hire someone for a nonreligious post because she wasn’t Catholic, but not because she was a lesbian.

July 19, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

UConn spends $1.28 million to end Title IX suit

The Hartford Courant reported Thursday that UConn settled the civil rights suit filed against it by five women alleging that the university failed to adequately respond to their claims of rape and sexual assault

July 19, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Morbid obesity is a protected class…" advisor to Europe's highest court ruled," according to the Courthouse News Service. Here are the basics:

Karsten Kaltloft claimed he was fired Nov. 22, 2010, after working for the Municipality of Billund in Denmark as a "child-minder" for 15 years because he weighed 352 pounds.


Throughout his employment, Katloft was fat, with a body-mass index of 54, and is therefore considered obese by the World Health Organization.


Arguing that his morbid obesity is a "chronic and durable illness," Katloft pointed out that obesity is considered a disability under American law.


The municipality claimed that it fired him because of a reduction in workload, but Katloft claimed that he was fired because of his weight.


He sued in a Danish District Court, and the Retten I Kolding Court in Denmark asked the Court of Justice last year to clarify whether the antidiscrimination books in the EU cover obesity.


Jaaskinen suggested Thursday that obesity should be included as a protected class.


"I am ... of the opinion that, in cases where the condition of obesity has reached a degree that it, in interaction with attitudinal and environmental barriers, as mentioned in the [United Nations] Convention, plainly hinders full participation in professional life on an equal footing with other employees due to the physical and/or psychological limitations that it entails, then it can be considered to be a disability," he wrote.


It doesn't matter if the person's obesity is because of excessive "energy intake," Jaaskinen added, stating that it is "irrelevant" if a person's obesity is "self-inflicted" because a person eats too many calories but exercises too little, if it's a psychological or medical problem, or if it's a side-effect from certain medications.


"Otherwise, physical disabilities resulting from conscious and negligent risk-taking in traffic or in sports, for example, would be excluded from 'disability'" under the law, he wrote.

July 19, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

"Abuse of Rights: The Continental Drug and the Common Law"

The title of this post comes from this intriguing new paper by Professor Anna Di Robilant, the abstract of which states:

This Article deploys a comparative approach to question a widely shared understanding of the impact and significance of abuse of rights. First, it challenges the idea that abuse of rights is a peculiarly civilian "invention," absent in the common law. Drawing on an influential strand of functionalist comparative law, the Article identifies the "functional equivalents of the doctrine in the variety of malice rules and reasonableness tests deployed by American courts in the late-nineteenth and early- twentieth century in fields as diverse as water law, nuisance, tortious interference with contractual relations, and labor law. The Article investigates the reasons why in the United States, contrary to continental systems where rules limiting a malicious or unreasonable use of one's right coalesced into a unitary category of "abuse of rights," these rules remained largely nonintegrated. Rationalization of these nonintegrated reasonableness tests and malice rules, I argue, was achieved by means of a novel, unitary style of reasoning, hardly fitting the traditional portrait of nineteenth-century "Classical" orthodoxy, rather than by means of conceptual integration. Further, the Article suggests that abuse of rights' potential as a tool for social reform was consistently defused. In the United States, rarely and timidly did courts deploy malice rules to effect progressive distributive outcomes. And even when they did, they invariably resorted to the individualistic language of modern private law.

July 17, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Talk of fed judge's decision declaring CA death penalty unconstitutional

"Any time my attention is taken away from my judicial duties, that's a problem."

These are the words of Pennsylvania District Judge Wayne Maura who cited a man for contempt of court and issued him $50 fine because he wore his pants too low. This apparently is a thing with Maura, who reportedly has a sign on his chamber door that says "Pull your pants up!" Unfortunately for him, the common pleas judge dismissed the charges and the fine.

Adam Dennis...won a dismissal of the state district court case, as well as $50 fine, represented for free by a private practitioner, the Morning Call reports.


Although sympathetic to District Judge Wayne Maura's efforts to maintain decorum in the Allentown courtroom at issue, Lehigh Court of Common Pleas Judge William E. Ford sided with defense attorney Gavin Holihan. He argued that legal requirements of an intentional and substantial disruption of judicial proceedings weren't satisfied by Dennis' in-court attire on May 7. Dennis was in district court that day to attend a hearing involving a relative.

July 17, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Financial Costs for Youth and Their Families in the Alameda County Juvenile Justice System: A Guide for Advocates"

UC Berkeley law students provide this valuable resource:

This manual was prepared by law school clinic students for lay advocates assisting youth and their families in Alameda County's juvenile justice system. In addition to court-ordered restitution (to repay victims for economic loss) and restitution fines (which go to the California State Restitution Fund), youth and their families are assessed fees for things like juvenile hall, probation supervision, drug testing, GPS monitoring and public defenders. The manual describes theses costs and how to mitigate their impact on low-income youth and families already struggling with the burdens of court involvement and poverty.

July 17, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Constitutional Courts and Consolidated Power"

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

Many new democracies exhibit a disturbing lack of electoral competition. All too often, the first party to hold office creates a network of power and patronage that chokes off meaningful political challenge. These strong party democracies, with power often being held by the inheritors of the political mantle of those that led the opposition to prior authoritarian rule, exhibit a tendency toward the three “C’s” of associated with the lack of accountability: clientelism, cronyism, and corruption. Such strong-party regimes and their associated pathologies present relatively new constitutional courts with a distinct set of controversies that necessarily bring the judiciary into conflict with consolidating political power.

This article explores the form that judicial responses to the excesses of political dominance might take. Three courts are selected as exemplars of such responses. In the first instance, the Colombian Constitutional Court repudiated the attempt of President Uribe to amend the constitution to permit a third term in office, despite the lack of reasoning to support the rejection of a largely procedurally proper constitutional amendment. In the second, the South African Constitutional Court has scrupulously avoided any frontal confrontation with the current African National Congress government, instead casting its repeated rejection of government efforts to insulate itself from accountability in narrow procedural rulings or in rulings based on other, non-politically charged sources of law. Finally, there is the Thai Constitutional Court which, while providing the strongest jurisprudential defense of its intervention, appears an active ally of one partisan camp as the country hovers on the brink of civil war. 

Rather than offer any off-the-rack solution for the difficult realm of constitutional courts as democracy falters, this Article examines the relation between the issues presented to such courts and the fundamental absence of electoral challenge and accountability. To the extent these courts navigate this difficult terrain, the Article concludes, the decisive feature will likely be the ability to contribute to the establishment of a competitive electoral system able to constrain single-party dominance.

July 15, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

NSA whistleblower claims NSA's aim is 'total population control'

Via RT:

“At least 80 percent of fiber-optic cables globally go via the USThis is no accident and allows the US to view all communication coming in. At least 80 percent of all audio calls, not just metadata, are recorded and stored in the US. The NSA lies about what it stores.” Former NSA technical director William Binney

The article notes that Mr. Binney cannot prove these allegations because he didn't heist any documents. But, of course, he praises Edward Snowden and cites the documents released by Snowden as evidence that the NSA's surveillance efforts far exceed those previously claimed by the agency. 

July 15, 2014 in Fourth Amendment | Permalink | Comments (1)

“Sometimes inevitability takes awhile...”

...a transgender rights advocate tells Politico's Sarah Wheaton for this extensive piece discussing the availability of insurance coverage for sex reassignment surgery. Quite obviously, the debate centers on the distinction medically necessary and elective surgeries. Wheaton writes:

Insurance companies say they are committed to nondiscrimination and ready to offer plans covering surgery when payers request it or regulators require it. Even when a policy includes coverage, however, issues arise over what’s elective versus essential.


In their coverage descriptions, major insurers like Aetna and UnitedHealthcare will pay for changes to private body parts, like vaginoplasty and testicular prosthesis. Mastectomies for female-to-male patients and breast implants for male-to-female patients are usually covered, too. Procedures such as facial feminization or voice modification surgery are generally excluded as cosmetic.

July 15, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Professor details pitfalls of reliance on recorded interrogations

Recording interrogations of criminal suspects by law enforcement is good thing, but it's not consequence-free. Professor Jennifer L. Mnookin laid out the issues well yesterday in her op-ed in the NYTimes, writing:

Interrogation[I]t eliminates uncertainty about police conduct and lets investigators focus on the interrogation rather than taking detailed notes.


Likewise, criminal prosecutors find that when a defendant confesses or provides incriminating information, the video offers vivid and powerful evidence. At the same time, it aids defendants because the very presence of the camera is likely to reduce the use of coercive or unfair tactics in interrogation, and documents illegitimate behavior if and when it does occur. And a recording provides judges and juries with information about what took place in a more objective form.


Given this chorus of support, what’s not to like?


The short answer is that, according to recent research, interrogation recording may in fact be too vivid and persuasive. Even seemingly neutral recordings still require interpretation. As advertisers and Hollywood directors know well, camera angles, close-ups, lenses and dozens of other techniques shape our perception of what we see without our being aware of it.

She later adds:

We know that false confessions really do occur, even in very serious crimes, and probably more frequently than most people expect. But why? We know something about certain interrogation techniques, as well as defendant vulnerabilities like youth or mental disability, that may create heightened risks for false confessions. But we don’t yet know enough about the psychology of false confessions to be able to accurately “diagnose” the reliability of a given confession just by watching it.


The problem is that many of the red flags that frequently occur in false confessions — like unusually long interrogations, the inclusion of inaccurate details, or the police “feeding” some crime-related information to the suspect — can also occur in the confessions of the guilty. This means there’s no surefire way to tell false confessions and true confessions apart by viewing a recording, except in extreme cases.

July 14, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Say what? You wanna search this phone? Get a warrant, y'all!

The Superior Court of Pennsylvania says the police may not search your cellphone without a warrant. Citing SCOTUS's recent decision in the consolidated cases of Riley v. California and U.S. v. Wurie, the court upheld the lower court's "suppression of photographs containing alleged child pornography that were obtained from defendant Adam Edward Stem’s phone during a warrantless search following his arrest for an unrelated incident." 

As you may recall, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote these cheeky lines for the majority in Riley and Wurie

The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry [private] information in his hands does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the founders fought. Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cellphone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple—get a warrant.

July 14, 2014 in Fourth Amendment | Permalink | Comments (1)

R.I.P.: Nadine Gordimer, 1923 - 2014

My wife and I moved to Los Angeles a little more than a month ago. We drove from Cleveland, carrying what little we could in the rear of our car. The rest, including most of our books, we left at my father-in-law's home.

GordimerI'm going to reclaim our stuff in two weeks time. I'm particularly excited to dig into our box of books for our favorite - 'My Sons's Story' by Nadine Gordimer. It's truly a treasure. In his book review for the NYTimes, Robert Coles writes of this spectacular novel set in South Africa during Apartheid: 

A novelist's brilliant decision works wonders, ever so slowly yet decisively. A boy stumbles into his august father's secret life, is stunned by the casual, relaxed manner in which the father is living that life, is confused at the seeming expectation that he, too, an adolescent belonging to a once tight-knit family, will take in stride such circumstances. His perplexity and frustration give way to a sustained, withering scorn - a sardonic voice that keeps at the reader, reminds us that this is a novel meant to look closely and with nuanced force at moral complexity, moral ambiguity, but most pointedly at moral hypocrisy, which is in no short supply among many of us, no matter our nation, our race, our class and, not least, our educational attainment. One more leader, a larger-than-life figure, is found to have clay feet - by his son, who has occasions aplenty to witness the human consequences of such a disparity between a public and a private person.




The idol must not fall - consequently, a public deception persists, and with it a kind of public blindness. It is left to playwrights and novelists, our Shakespeares and Tolstoys and their descendants today (they who have no claim upon factuality or realpolitik) to render the many and often disparate truths of human experience, the inconsistencies and contradictions, the troubling paradoxes. The heart and soul of this brilliantly suggestive and knowing novel is its courageous exploration of such matters, of the conceits and deceits that inform the lives not only of ordinary people but those whom the rest of us invest with such majesty and awe.

Nadine Gordimer died yesterday. She was 90 years old. She will be missed.

The New Republic has collected this series of interviews for your viewing pleasure.

July 14, 2014 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

More than 1/3 of Americans believe First Amendment grants too much freedom

The First Amendment Center brings us this and other sad findings regarding Americans' (mis)understanding of First Amendment protections

(h/t Josh Blackman)

July 13, 2014 in First Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Risky business: photography edition

A professional photographer was placed in a terrorism investigation database after attempting to photograph Dorchester, MA's gas storage tank, which looks like this:


The artwork is titled 'Rainbow Swash,' and it's reportedly "historic." It has a Wikipedia page, so that must be right.

In any case, there seems to be little justification for subjecting citizens to surveillance for activities as routine as photographing artwork. What's next? Does the government intend to monitor anybody caught photographing the Golden Gate Bridge? The Capitol? 

July 13, 2014 in Fourth Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Charlotte Observer editorial calls on federal judge to enjoin enforcement of North Carolina's new election laws

In the wake of  SCOTUS's decision last summer in Shelby County, the North Carolina legislature rushed to pass a series of changes to the state's election laws. In addition to the controversial voter ID Voting countsprovision, the changes would limit early voting and eliminate same-day voter registration and the availability of out-of-precinct provisional ballots. These changes prompted challenges by civil and voting rights groups as well as the DOJ, who claim the laws disproportionately affect African Americans, the eldely and college students.

Last week, a federal judge heard arguments on whether to enjoin the state from enforcing the changes pending litigation scheduled for July 2015. 

The Charlotte Observer strongly supports such an injunction. Indeed, in yesterday's editorial, it claims "the judge should block [the changes] until the courts resolve the matter next summer." It states:

The judge should suspend implementation of these new laws. They are ill-advised and unnecessary. Some have already caused confusion and wasted taxpayer dollars.


We noted that last week that lawmakers’ decision to end preregistration of teens to vote was nonsensical. It caused so much confusion about when 17 year olds who would turn 18 could register that state elections supervisor Kim Strach decreed the state will begin offering voter registration services to all 17-year-olds regardless of when they turned 18.


Suspension of the voting changes would reinstate teen preregistration, as well as same-day voter registration, out-of-precinct provisional voting, and early voting over 17 days as opposed to the 10 days set in the 2013 law. County boards of election also would still be allowed to keep polls open an extra hour. It would also forestall the preparations elections officials are making for the implementation of a state-approved voter ID. That law doesn’t go into effect until 2016, but poll workers are already asking about IDs which has confused some voters.

July 13, 2014 in Election Law, Right to Vote, Voter ID | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

'Prisoners and Habeas Privileges Under the Fourteenth Amendment'

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

The U.S. Reports contain no answer to a million-dollar question: are state prisoners constitutionally entitled to a federal habeas forum? The Supreme Court has consistently ducked the basic constitutional issue, and academic work on the question idles on familiar themes. 

The strongest existing argument that state prisoners are constitutionally entitled to a federal habeas forum involves a theory of incorporation under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. I provide a new and different account: specifically, that the Fourteenth Amendment’s Privileges and Immunities Clause (“PI Clause”) guarantees a habeas privilege as a feature of national citizenship, and that the corresponding habeas power reaches state custody. 

We now know that the common-law habeas writ did not evolve primarily as a security for individual liberty, but in service of judicial power. In Boumediene v. Bush, the Supreme Court blessed this revised writ history. This Article is the second entry in a series exploring the legal implications of those revisions. In the first article, A Constitutional Theory of Habeas Power, 99 VA. L. REV. 743 (2013), I argued that Article III judicial power secured for federal prisoners the habeas privilege identified in the Suspension Clause. The question that I reserved there — and that I answer here — was whether anything about Reconstruction changed the operation of the habeas guarantee embedded in the original Articles of Constitution. 

The answer, in short, is yes. The Fourteenth Amendment PI Clause — not the Due Process Clause — expanded the constitutionally protected scope of the federal habeas privilege. The PI Clause yokes the habeas privilege to national citizenship, the rights of which neither the federal government nor states may abridge. And if, as I have argued, a federally protected habeas privilege requires a corresponding federal habeas power, then the PI Clause entitles state prisoners to a federal habeas forum. 

The first-order question I answer here — whether the Constitution guarantees a state-prisoner privilege — is logically antecedent to second- and third-order questions about the privilege’s scope. Because the Constitution entitles state prisoners to a federal habeas forum, the legal community ought to hit reset on basic assumptions about Congressional power to restrict the habeas remedy, particularly in postconviction cases.

July 10, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

'Obama should say no to a religion-based exemption on hiring discrimination'

The LATimes released this notable editorial today, which states:

Last month President Obama announced that he was drafting an executive order prohibiting federal contractors — which employ about 20% of the American workforce — from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. But now the president is being beseeched to exempt religious employers from the order. He should decline the invitation.


The planned executive order is a response to the failure of the House to follow the Senate's lead in approving the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, which bars discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender people by public and private employers alike. Obama is following a well-established tradition of presidents who used federal contracting authority to compensate (to a limited extent) for Congress' inaction on civil rights.


But in a letter to the president, several religious leaders — including mega-church pastor Rick Warren, who delivered the invocation at Obama's first inauguration — have warned that an order that didn't contain a religious exemption would threaten "the common good, national unity and religious freedom." That is unholy hyperbole.


It's doubtful that a large number of agreements with religious organizations would be affected by Obama's order, because most federal transactions with such groups take the form of grants. Still, if a religious organization does choose to enter into a contract to provide services for the federal government, it shouldn't be allowed to discriminate in hiring on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, any more than it should be allowed to engage in racial or gender discrimination.


The signers of the letter to Obama suggest that an exemption in the executive order be modeled on language in the Senate's ENDA bill. That provision says ENDA wouldn't apply to religious organizations that are free under the 1964 Civil Rights Act to discriminate in favor of employees of their own faith. But, as we noted in a previous editorial, the provision concedes too much. There is a huge difference between a church preferring to hire members of its own denomination and refusing to hire gay or transgender people.


Nor does the 1st Amendment support an exemption of the kind Warren and the others are seeking. A church that believes homosexual conduct is a sin has a constitutional right to insist that its clergy and religious teachers share that view and live by it. That doesn't give the church a right to refuse to hire a gardener or cafeteria worker because he or she is gay.


That sort of discrimination is unjustified in any circumstance, but it's exponentially more objectionable when it is subsidized by the taxpayers. Obama should say no to the request for a religious exemption.

July 9, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (1)

'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Fourth Amendment: The Plight of Unreasonably Seized Passengers Under the Heightened Factual Nexus Approach to Exclusion'

The title of this post comes from this recent paper by Professor Nadia B. Soree, the abstract of which states:

Over thirty years ago, the Supreme Court, in Rakas v. Illinois, made it abundantly clear that “mere passengers” do not have “standing” to contest the searches of the cars in which they are riding. However, the Court offered a glimmer of hope to passengers in California v. Brendlin, by holding that passengers, like drivers, are seized when the police effectuate a traffic stop. Theoretically, then, unlawfully seized passengers can seek suppression of the evidence found in the stopped vehicles as fruit, not of the search of the vehicle, but of their unlawful detentions. Three circuits, however, have expressly adopted a heightened factual nexus test in determining whether passengers can successfully move to suppress evidence discovered in cars that are initially stopped lawfully, but whose occupants are then unlawfully detained, for example, when the duration of the stop exceeds the stop’s lawful scope. The Sixth, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits utilize a counterfactual hypothetical, typically to reach a finding that because the passenger is unable to demonstrate that the evidence would not have been found but-for her and only her detention, the passenger fails to establish the causal relationship between the constitutional violation and the discovery of evidence necessary to trigger the exclusionary rule. These courts force the passenger defendant to prove the following unlikely scenario: that had she asked the police for permission to leave, the police would have permitted her not only to leave, but to take the car (not belonging to her) as well. This Article surveys the relevant case law in the circuits that have considered and either adopted or rejected this approach and argues that the heightened factual nexus approach is inconsistent with the Court’s holdings in Brendlin and its other decisions defining seizures, particularly with respect to automobile passengers. Further, this Article posits that the heightened factual nexus approach creates a no-win situation for passenger defendants, where the very fact of their unlawful detention, necessary for standing to seek suppression, seems to preclude their success in doing so. Further, this Article argues that the subjective motivations of officers who prolong a seizure beyond its lawful scope should be taken into account when making exclusionary rule determinations, and that the Court’s decision in Whren v. United States, holding that when a traffic stop is predicated on objective probable cause, the subjective motivations of the officer are irrelevant in determining the reasonableness of the stop, does not preclude such scrutiny of officer motives in this context. Finally, the Article seeks to illustrate the danger to FourthAmendment rights and values engendered in the heightened factual nexus approach by examining data on traffic stops and motions to suppress arising from such stops.

July 9, 2014 in Fourth Amendment | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, July 7, 2014

'On Democracy's Doorstep: The Inside Story of How the Supreme Court Brought "One Person, One Vote" to the United States'

The title of this post comes from this recently released book by J. Douglas Smith, which, according to David Garrow's review in WaPo, is an "excellent and definitive book." According to Garrow:

Remembrances of the 1964 Civil Rights Act often celebrate the crucial roles that Republican legislators Everett Dirksen and William McCulloch played in that bill’s passage, but at the same time that Johnson was signing that landmark statute into law, Dirksen and McCulloch were championing a nationwide effort to enact a constitutional amendment to override the Supreme Court’s redistricting rulings. That crusade, which won widespread corporate backing, has been almost entirely forgotten, and Smith’s impressive research recaptures an otherwise unremembered chapter in U.S. history. He rightly notes that “Dirksen appeared not to fully comprehend that the Supreme Court’s reapportionment decisions had empowered Republican voters in the suburbs every bit as much as they had Democrats in the shrinking cities.”


“On Democracy’s Doorstep” recounts a triumphant story of constitutional reform that dramatically advanced the promise of democracy, yet Smith correctly concludes by emphasizing how the marked escalation of partisan gerrymandering in recent decades, and the Supreme Court’s refusal to confront it, has greatly dulled the promise that “one person, one vote” offered in June 1964.

Here's the summary of the book:

As chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Earl Warren is most often remembered for landmark rulings in favor of desegregation and the rights of the accused. But Warren himself identified a lesser known group of cases—Baker v. Carr, Reynolds v. Sims, and their companions—as his most important work. J. Douglas Smith’s On Democracy’s Doorstep masterfully recounts the tumultuous and often overlooked events that established the principle of “one person, one vote” in the United States.


Before the Warren Court acted, American democracy was in poor order. As citizens migrated to urban areas, legislative boundaries remained the same, giving rural lawmakers from sparsely populated districts disproportionate political power—a power they often used on behalf of influential business interests. Smith shows how activists ranging from city boosters in Tennessee to the League of Women Voters worked to end malapportionment, incurring the wrath of chambers of commerce and southern segregationists as they did so. Despite a conspiracy of legislative inaction and a 1946 Supreme Court decision that instructed the judiciary not to enter the “political thicket,” advocates did not lose hope. As Smith shows, they skillfully used the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause to argue for radical judicial intervention. Smith vividly depicts the unfolding drama as Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy pressed for change, Solicitor General Archibald Cox cautiously held back, young clerks pushed the justices toward ever-bolder reform, and the powerful Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen obsessively sought to reverse the judicial revolution that had upended state governments from California to Virginia.


Today, following the Court’s recent controversial decisions on voting rights and campaign finance, the battles described in On Democracy’s Doorstep have increasing relevance. With erudition and verve, Smith illuminates this neglected episode of American political history and confronts its profound consequences.

July 7, 2014 in Right to Vote | Permalink | Comments (1)

'Dispatches From Freedom Summer'

Beginning tomorrow, July 8, 2014, ProPublica will run a series of reflections on the effort to register African Americans to vote in Mississippi during the summer of 1964. According to ProPublica's announcement: 

Fifty years ago this summer, hundreds of black and white volunteers converged on Mississippi in an effort to, as they put it, make Mississippi a part of America. What became known as Freedom Summer spanned 10 bloody weeks, helped transform the South and aided in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that helped ensure black Southerners their constitutional right to vote.


We are assembling a range of reflections on that time in Mississippi, to be called “Dispatches From Freedom Summer” and to be published over the course of the next two months. We plan to hear from the widow of a slain civil rights worker, a reporter whose work led to the prosecution of several former Klan members and a onetime federal judge who as a young lawyer was involved in the often raw racial politics of the time. The pieces — on the impact of Freedom Summer, both then and now — will be published by ProPublica and, we hope, by other news outlets across the country. “Dispatches” will start this Tuesday with a piece by ProPublica’s Nikole Hannah-Jones, who last month visited, for the first time, her father’s birthplace, Greenwood, Miss., a kind of ground zero of Freedom Summer.

July 7, 2014 in Right to Vote | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

'Navigating a Post-Windsor World: The Promise and Limits of Marriage Equality'

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

When the 2013 landmark decision in U.S. v. Windsor invalidated part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), it was hailed as a landmark civil rights victory, but its implementation has been far from seamless. The federal government has not applied a uniform rule for marriage recognition, applying a state-of-domicile rule for some purposes (e.g., Social Security) and a broader state-of-celebration rule for others (e.g., federal tax matters). Moreover, Windsor did not directly address the state-level marriage prohibitions that remain in place in the majority of states. As a result, the United States continues to be a patchwork of marriage laws where some states allow marriage, others ban it, and others have created parallel legal categories that grant some or all of the rights of marriage (e.g., civil union, domestic partnership, reciprocal beneficiary).

The post-Windsor complexity and lack of uniformity has left LGBT individuals to navigate an uncertain and rapidly changing legal landscape. With over thirty marriage cases pending in federal courts across the country, and positive decisions from many conservative federal District Courts, it seems that the U.S. is poised for nation-wide marriage equality within the next several years. Although many members of the media have already declared that the struggle for LGBT rights has been won, this article explains why these reports are not only premature, but miss the mark by conflating marriage equality with the larger LGBT rights movement. It details both the promise of marriage equality and its limitations.

July 5, 2014 in Same-sex marriage | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

'Justice Scalia's Fourth Amendment Text, Context, Clarity, and Occasional Faint-Hearted Originalism'

The title of this post comes from this intriguing paper by Professor Timothy C. MacDonnell, the abstract of which states:

Since joining the United States Supreme Court in 1986, Justice Scalia has been one of the most prominent voices on the Fourth Amendment, having written twenty majority opinions, twelve concurrences and eight dissents on the topic. Justice Scalia’s Fourth Amendment opinions have had a significant effect on the Court’s jurisprudence relative to the Fourth Amendment. Under his pen, the Court has altered its test for determining when the Fourth Amendment should apply; provided a vision for how technology’s encroachment on privacy should be addressed; and articulated the standard for determining whether government officials are entitled to qualified immunity in civil suits involving alleged Fourth Amendment violations. In most of Justice Scalia’s opinions, he has championed the originalist/textualist theory of constitutional interpretation. Based on that theory, he has advocated that the text and context of the Fourth Amendment should govern how the Court interprets most questions of search and seizure law. His Fourth Amendment opinions have also included an emphasis on clear, bright-line rules that can be applied broadly to Fourth Amendment questions. However, there are Fourth Amendment opinions in which Justice Scalia has strayed from these commitments; particularly in the areas of the special needs doctrine and qualified immunity. The article asserts that Justice Scalia’s non-originalist approach in these spheres threatens the cohesiveness of his Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, and could, if not corrected, unbalance the Fourth Amendment in favor of law enforcement interests.

July 3, 2014 in Fourth Amendment | Permalink | Comments (1)

Police order woman to remove 'Unmarked police car' bumper sticker

Professor Jonathan Turley lays out the basics of this disappointing story:

The two cars pulled over Konchinsky and one officer ordered her to stay in her vehicle. An officer then asked if the minivan was her vehicle and demanded her license and registration.” He then reportedly stated “With that bumper sticker, someone could think you’re impersonating a police officer.’” He then allegedly added that she could even be shot by someone who didn’t like police officers. They ordered her to pile off the bumper sticker if she wanted to go. She was late for work and later contacted the ACLU. She is the mother of one adult and one school-age child.

Read Prof. Turley's full post here.

July 3, 2014 in First Amendment, Freedom of Speech | Permalink | Comments (0)

MO governor vetoes "disrespectful" abortion bill

On Wednesday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed a bill that would have established a 72-hour wait period for all women seeking abortions. According to the governor, the bill was "a disrespectful measure that would unnecessarily prolong the suffering of rape and incest victims and jeopardize the health and wellbeing of women."

Missouri law already requires women to wait 24-hours after their initial visit with an abortion provider before the procedure may be performed. Only Utah and South Dakota currently require women to wait 72 hours.

July 3, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 30, 2014

'LBJ's second great battle: Enforcing the Civil Rights Act'

Wednesday, July 2, marks the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The title of this post comes from playwright Robert Schenkkan's op-ed 090119_lbj_middletonin yesterday's LATimes examining the president's subsequent efforts to enforce the hard-won law. He writes:

Jim Crow began to die, in part because LBJ well understood that passing laws was one thing and enforcing them quite another. Just as he had been determined to muscle the bill through Congress, Johnson was determined to see the law carried out by every executive power at his command.


Title II (public accommodations) of the act overturned state and local segregation laws, and the Supreme Court helped by upholding its application to the private sector through the commerce clause.


There had been chilling resistance in some quarters. In Jonesboro, La., that summer, the public library and swimming pool remained off-limits to blacks, and when local youths protested, 40 of them, and some of their parents, were arrested. To drive the point home, the Ku Klux Klan paraded through the black neighborhood in full regalia, carrying guns, led by a sheriff's patrol car.


Both sides began to arm themselves, and a very real race war was only averted by a federal injunction and the personal intervention of administration officials, including Humphrey, who by then was vice president.


Title VII (workplace discrimination) created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Women had been given special protection under the new law, not out of any moral imperative but as a poison-pill amendment introduced by Virginia Rep. Howard W. "Judge" Smith, who hoped that Northern senators sensitive to union concerns would not support a bill that granted women equal rights. He was wrong. And to everyone's surprise, Title VII would profoundly alter the legal and cultural landscape for women as well as blacks.


Title VI (discrimination in government-funded activities) was even more immediately successful. Swift directives from the White House to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare to cease giving federal dollars to segregated hospitals transformed facilities overnight. Where moral suasion had failed, the threat of defunding worked wonders.


President Johnson was determined to see the [Civil Rights Act] carried out by every executive power at his command. 


Similarly, a quick ruling by U.S. Commissioner of Education Francis Keppel announced the withholding of federal funds ($4 billion) from school districts in 17 long-segregated states. In one year, there were more public school desegregation commitments than had been achieved over the previous decade. To ensure this was more than lip-service, the Office of Education developed objective, quantifiable measures to evaluate progress.


In 1965, the Voting Rights Act was the final nail in the coffin of Jim Crow. Six days later, Watts erupted in violence, the first in a series of urban riots as the long-simmering frustration of blacks trapped in city slums sought release. At the same time, the white backlash and subsequent political realignment that LBJ had predicted was already underway.


The South, once solidly Democratic, would become a Republican stronghold. And the civil rights movement would meet its Waterloo not in Southern cities but in Boston and Chicago, where Northerners would discover that the limits of their racial tolerance ended in their own neighborhoods. Politicians who could no longer get away with using the vilest excesses of racial language communicated in coded but comfortable phrases like "law and order" and the "intrusive federal government."


Today, even after the election of a black president, men and women of color still suffer disproportionally against almost every measure of American life. So how should we feel about the 1964 Civil Rights Act? We should feel proud of an achievement that brought us closer to the founding ideals of this country. We should feel humbled by the sacrifice of millions of people over decades of hard and painful work to bring that change about. And we should feel challenged because the work is not yet complete.

June 30, 2014 in Civil Rights Act, Civil Rights History | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, June 29, 2014

'The End of End-of-Life Law'

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

“End-of-life decision-making” in the health care arena is increasingly governed by special rules that insist on legally exact, complex documentation, depend on idealized notions of patient autonomy, and may be driven by political ideology rather than concern for patients. These rules — though often well-intended — can impede rather than honor patients’ wishes, values, interests, and relationships. This article analyzes the effects of these special rules through discussion of patient stories, the empirical literature on advance care planning and patient preferences, and state surrogate decision-making statutes and living will forms. It argues that questions about medical care at the end of life should be approached like other important questions about medical care. Reducing the legal distinctions between these types of decisions can bring good legal/ethical practices in caring for patients generally to caring for them when they are dying and also bring important lessons learned from decades of end-of-life law and ethics to the care of patients at any stage of life and health. The article provides a blueprint for reform through eight general principles that should guide the law relating to all health care decisions, including those we now think of as end-of-life decisions.

June 29, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)