Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Blessings on Our New Administration

May President Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris be protected and supported on their journey ahead. And may democracy be saved. 

January 19, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 18, 2021

Vengeful Nostalgia

Guest contributor Prof. Jeffrey Baker from Pepperdine University has written a thoughtful piece by a southerner to southerners.  The piece addresses the harmfulness of hanging on to events of the past and denying the changes that have and continue to happen.   

"The Lost Cause imbues the defeat as an existential catastrophe that exerts mastery over every other aspect of life and defines all future days with a bitter poison that spirals toward nihilism. The Lost Cause spears a life like a rusty meat-hook that drags down any hope, optimism, or progress. The Lost Cause wants only to restore something irretrievable. It does not want to build anything new, only to slog forever through vengeful nostalgia. The Lost Cause is an addiction to past battles, the worst kind of hubris that cannot contemplate a universe without total vindication."

I encourage our followers to read the entire article here.  Prof. Baker combines great writing with a detailed appreciation of history, and like any southerner worth their salt, he is a good storyteller.

January 18, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 17, 2021

"We Are Already Comparatists"

Along with the rest of the legal world, we were saddened to learn of the death of Shirley Abrahamson, retired Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, who passed away in late December.  Justice Abrahamson was a trailblazer in many respects, not least because of her status as the first female justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, as well as its first female Chief Justice.

However, we also remember her for her commonsense understanding of the role that international and comparative law could play in deliberations at the state court level.  State court judges -- who regularly survey unfamiliar state jurisdictions other than their own -- are already comparatists, she noted in a widely quoted address delivered at Hofstra Law School in 1996. In the address, she went through the exercise of examining how a Wisconsin case on informed consent might benefit from comparative examination.  She continued:

"Why shouldn't our experiences as American comparatists embolden more American lawyers and judges to explore the law of non-American jurisdictions in the same spirit? Why shouldn't we take advantage of the comparatist instincts learned in our law schools and practiced in our courts by venturing farther afield? Indeed, we can cross the divide separating us from other jurisdictions around the world. And if we do so with the modest intent to borrow ideas on classifying, discussing, and solving a particular problem, we should not be deterred by unfamiliarity with foreign legal systems. We may fail to understand a particular system of law or even misinterpret some foreign decisions. Nevertheless, we may also find unexpected answers or new challenges to domestic legal issues."

Justice Abrahamson concluded:

"[L]ike it or not, the world is now our courtroom. The question confronting our courts as we approach the year 2000 is whether we are willing to do what it takes to be world-class players."

In recognizing the benefits of comparative law on the state level, Justice Abrahamson -- the daughter of Polish immigrants to the U.S. -- joined other prominent state court jurists with international perspectives, such as the late Oregon Justice Hans Linde (born in Germany) and Massachusetts Chief Justice Margaret Marshall (born in South Africa).

Like other jurists, Justice Abrahamson never suggested that foreign law was in any way binding, but simply that it could be a rich source of ideas. She put that intuition into practice more than once. For example, in addressing a petition from Wisconsin Legal Aid in 2011 to establish a civil right to counsel in the state, she noted:

"The importance of an attorney to real justice is recognized in numerous statutes (including 12 in Wisconsin) and decisions in the United
States and in other countries. The European Court of Human Rights and many other countries grant a right to counsel, in one form or another, in
civil cases. At least forty-four countries do so."

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ultimately denied the petition while approving creation of a pilot program, but advocates have continued to press the issue through subsequent petitions, legislative efforts and litigation, including through appeals to comparative law. The media has picked up the issue, noting (comparatively) the successful impact of New York's civil counsel program in preserving housing for low income people.

As Chief Justice Abrahamson recognized, comparative law, whether foreign or domestic, can be both a source of ideas and a powerful motivator. We mourn her passing.


January 17, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Under The Law - Part Two

by Associate Professor Jeremiah Ho

In summer 2017, I wrote on this blog site that “our national narrative is being shifted away from cultural pluralism and democracy toward nationalism, subordination, and authoritarianism.” In particular, I noted how the narrative-shifting occurs:

The plot-line for narrative shifting is usually three-fold:  First, those perpetuating the narrative change find a base or a critical mass of followers on a particular issue to whom they begin to foster a sense of frustration and alienation by striking up anger and hatred for that issue.  (Think for instance: illegal immigration as an existing hot button topic with already incendiary reactions prior to the 2016 elections.)   Then as anger and frustration is reignited, those perpetuating the narrative shifting start to exaggerate the dangers of that issue.  (Think: fake news articles, false statistics of illegal immigration, and stereotypical sentiments echoed nationally that illegals are criminals and rapists.)  And then once sentiments have been ramped up to a frenzy, the narrative shifting breaks into the offering of a drastic solution to appease that base.  (“Let’s build a wall and make Mexico pay for it.”) 

This was not a strategy I made up; others in the media had pointed this out.  In 2016 and 2017, Donald Trump employed this strategy to deepen the existing hatred and xenophobia, and to justify his border wall project.  In 2020, Donald Trump repeated this strategy first with the coronavirus as a hoax and then with the U.S. Presidential Elections.  First, he reached out to his base before and after the election.  He primed them with falsehoods such as possible voter fraud with mail-in ballots and he got his base ready for anger if there was a November defeat at the ballot box.  Second, once he lost the election, he continued to gaslight their anger with false information (and lawsuits!) about fraud with the election process—stoking the “Stop the Steal” rhetoric while the nation was undergoing a severe spike in coronavirus cases.  Finally, at the end of the electoral process last week, once emotions had been stoked to a massive, burnished fury, he offered a drastic solution:  “Now it is up to Congress to confront this egregious assault on our democracy. And after this, we’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you. . . . We are going to the Capitol, and we are going to try and give—the Democrats are hopeless, they are never voting for anything, not even one vote, but we are going to try—give our Republicans, the weak ones, because the strong ones don’t need any of our help, we’re try—going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.”

Trump emboldened them as free citizens who felt they could rise above the law.  We all know what happened next.  I can’t get out my mind the image of the red fire extinguisher hurled at Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who later died from resultant injuries.  I can’t unsee that video of the defiant mob trying to enter the Senate chambers while another Capitol Police Officer, Eugene Goodman, bravely lured them away in a ruse that he was playing at the expense of his own personal safety.  And it’s hard not to see Zip Tie Man in full black tactical gear, climbing over railings in the Senate galley, in what seems like a pre-determined attempt to impose harm on congressional members. 

In the aftermath of the insurrection (I can’t believe I’m f*cking writing this word!), Trump needs to be held accountable to truth—whether that’s impeachment, through the 14th amendment, prosecution, or something else.  Words matter.  Actions have consequences.  Even a grade-schooler can give you this lesson. 

Then, in this aftermath, our dedication to truthfulness and civility must be reaffirmed—the truth about climate change and inequality, the truth about the failings of our antidiscrimination laws in contrast to the lived experiences of discrimination and hierarchy, the truth about being free citizens that has to be under the law and not above it, the truth about who we really are and how we ought to aspire to be. 

What I wrote further about truth in that blog from 2017 haunts me now because in this crazy, exhausting 12-months, I’ve forgotten it: 

From Black Lives Matter to sexual identity and orientation discrimination, from health care to economic inequality, from immigration bans to gender pay discrepancies—as long as those issues are being debated, there will be those who will dislocate “abstract notions of human rights” in each and every one of those issues in order to spin the rhetoric to a viewpoint that serves their hegemony and marginalize not just democracy—but people.  For every intriguing and complex articulation of a new or continuing thought regarding human dignity that can appear in each one of these aforementioned issues, there is another nuanced strategy on the theme of the Other that can detract from the truth about human rights.      

More than ever before, we have an obligation in the academy—especially in law schools and universities—to teach students the truth that our freedoms are not absolute and that they extend directly from law.  That relationship is at the core of a democratic polity committed to a contemporary liberal project that is supposed to benefit all of us.  Recently after last week’s events, articles have appeared in major outlets, including one from Brian Rosenberg in The Chronicle of Higher Education, that have criticized higher education’s indirect complicity or responsibility in not stressing enough to our students to be able to think critically and value truthfulness.  I concur that part of the rebuilding from the Trump presidency is for us, university and law school professors, to point out the exaggeration in the narrative change to our own students—to repeatedly uncover the truth through our capacity to teach and to engage in extramural utterances in our research.  In part, as mentors and thinkers, we have a role to challenge the exaggeration and veer away from disinformation.  I think back to my grade-school teacher and her utterance “under the law, of course,” as a guiding point.  I urge others to do similarly.  We have to build back better.        

January 13, 2021 in Jeremiah Ho | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Under The Law

Editors' Note:  The following is Part One of Prof. Ho's reflections on recent events.

by Associate Professor Jeremiah Ho

Because I had spent my early childhood years outside the U.S. in a country that was, at the time, ruled by martial law, I experienced quite a few instances of cognitive dissonance when I started elementary school in Southern California in the early 1980s and learned about the American ways of life.  In one instance on my very first day in my American elementary school, I specifically recall being told to stand up with all the other children in the classroom, to face the American flag hanging in the classroom corner, and then to place my right hand on my chest.  My classmates seemed to know exactly what to do, and not wanting to stand out, I mimicked them.  What I couldn’t get away with was pretending to recite the Pledge of Allegiance that came next.  English was not yet a familiar language.  I mouthed it, watching and listening to what came forth from the other children’s lips.       

It wasn’t hard to discern that this was some sort of ritualistic act of patriotism.  After all, only a month before, I was leading morning salutes to the Taiwanese flag at the beginning of the school day in Taipei.  The dissonance came from feeling like I was giving something up—indeed acknowledging a brand, new allegiance.  Those early years were filled with those kinds of moments of translation and equivalence.  By the following month, the morning pledge of allegiance with my new American classmates became second nature.  About a year later, I could tell you mostly what the pledge meant—in English, no less. 

Another example of cognitive dissonance was when one of my grade-school teachers taught us that American citizens were free citizens living in a free country.  At first, that seemed strange and almost weirdly liberating because the country I had left was filled with so many governmental restrictions and rules that even as young children we knew we wouldn’t call ourselves “free.”  It didn’t feel oppressive—I had a pretty happy childhood in the Taiwan of the late 1970s and early 1980s.  But you knew there were many rules and even more “swift-justice” consequences for breaking them.  The portraits of authoritarian leaders hung in many public spaces.  You intuited your place.          

When hearing that America was a free country and that its people were free, I thought it was too good to be true.  But then there were things about America so far that had seemed to bolster this unbridled level of freedom—school seemed a lot less rigorous, the teachers weren’t allowed to spank you if you misbehaved or missed problems on a test, and children dressed up in costume on a holiday called Halloween where you asked for candy and got it.  Perhaps this was a free country!  Perhaps this was the reason why the name “America” when translated into Chinese meant “Beautiful Country”!  But just as I was in a rising moment of grade-school-level political exhilaration, I heard my teacher also say, “We’re a free country and the people are free citizens under the law, of course.”

I don’t know how my other classmates thought or felt at the moment.  But that was a let-down. 

What Donald Trump did in the last decade building up to this past week was to help his supporters forget that phrase “under the law.”  Time and time again, he’s emphasized “freedom” divorced from the rule of law and has himself demonstrated his disrespect for the law—and by extension our democratic norms.  His allegiance is to himself and his brand.  What’s so artful is that he did it in a way that stuck with his supporters at a pitch that parallels fevered religiosity.  But his version of “freedom” was a lie, repeated through disinformation and conspiracy theories enough times that the lie became the bedrock of the white supremacy that brought on the lawlessness we saw at the Capitol last week. 


January 12, 2021 in Jeremiah Ho | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 11, 2021

Why Trump and His Army Must Be Prosecuted

Consequences matter.  President Trump has had no consequences for his despicable behavior over the past five years.  When he bragged that he sexually assaulted women, he had no consequences.    When Donald Trump mocked a disabled woman he had no consequences.  When he endangered Hillary Clinton by encouraging his followers to "lock her up" no media came to her defense by commenting on the inappropriateness of inciting violence against her despite the lack of evidence.  

The birther movement was a trial balloon for Trump.   He needed to see how many people he could convince that Barack Obama was not born in the United States in order to know the level of manipulation needed to control a large segment of voters.  No medial pointed out how these lies were the act of a dangerous man.  Instead, every outrageous comment from Trump became media entertainment.  No one said that these outrages were the acts of a dangerous man.

If Trump is not prosecuted there would have been no consequences for his dangerous acts, which now assumed the level of sedition. There is little justification for anyone saying they didn't know that Trump's acts would reach this level of danger. The time of denial and no consequences must end.  The failure to impose consequences for actions leads to an escalation in the unwanted behavior.  Ask any parent,   But Donald Trump is not a child.  He is a dangerous man.  

We are in for a rough time ahead. There is more violence to come.  These seditionists and brutes must experience consequences.  They are well-organized haters.  As time-consuming and risky as enforcement will be, it must happen.  Appeasement does not work. 



January 11, 2021 in Margaret Drew | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Presidential Consciousness of Guilt

On Friday morning, a Scottish friend informed me that President Trump had sought permission to fly to one of his golf holdings in Scotland on January 19th.  Locals reported that for several days prior to the request they spotted a US plane flying over one of the properties, a process engaged before a presidential visit.  As one Scottish publication wrote: 

"Mr. Trump owns two golf courses in Scotland, and on Tuesday Nicola Sturgeon said the country’s travel ban will apply to Mr. Trump amid speculation he was planning an overseas golf trip during Joe Biden’s inauguration.  On Thursday, Scotland’s First Minister said that the scenes in Washington – where the US President’s supporters attempted to prevent the formal approval of incoming President Joe Biden's election win – were 'shocking', but not 'surprising'.  The permission to enter was denied under COVID restrictions, but there is also a provision in Scottish law that entry may be denied to anyone deemed a risk to the security of the country.  No question that Trump would be banned under the latter if COVID was not rampant.  

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, said: “In some senses, Donald Trump’s presidency has been moving towards this moment almost from the moment it started, but that doesn’t make it any less shocking. "   Few in the current administration and congress are willing to acknowledge what Ms. Sturgeon did, that the chaos was predictable from Mr. Trump's behavior from his behavior since Mr. Trump began his presidential race.  

This request to leave the country remained largely unreported in the US until the last 24 hours.  Granted the media had much to report on since Wednesday.  What any prosecutor would read into this request to leave the country is a desire to leave US jurisdiction in order to avoid service of process or even arrest.  It may be that the President's motivation was to put as much distance between himself and  Mr. Biden's inauguration.  But if we are to use the measurements as we do when Black defendants look to leave a jurisdiction, then prosecutors must assume that the attempt to leave reflects consciousness of guilt and take appropriate measures such as revoking Mr. Trump's passport at 12:01 PM, January 20th.


January 10, 2021 in Margaret Drew | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Symposium: Call for Posts on Recent Events

Dear Law Professors,

Between now and the inauguration, and perhaps beyond depending upon response. the editors call for posts responding to the insurgence at the Capital.  The particular topics can be wide-ranging but we hope you will share with us your reflections on how that and subsequent events have shaped your thoughts, your work, your students, and other aspects of your life. 

These posts will have historical significance as future lawyers, law students, and legal historians review the reactions of legal professionals to the events of this week.

Post can be anywhere from 250-800 words.   If longer, we may divide the post into two.  Please submit any postings to mdrew1@umassd.edu or m.davis@northeastern.edu

Margaret and Martha


January 9, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Judge Blocks Trump Sanctions on ICC Advocates and Supporters

The Trump administration has referred to the International Criminal Court as a kangaroo one.  The administration, including Secretary of State Pompeo, claim that the International Criminal Court has impeded US sovereignty.  "Trump had authorized economic and travel sanctions against employees of the Hague-based ICC and anyone supporting its work, including a probe into whether US forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2014."  Among those considered as supporting the ICC are four professors.  

On Monday, Judge Failla of the US District Court in Manhattan entered an injunction staying implementation of sanctions.  "The court is mindful of the government's interest in defending its foreign policy prerogatives and maximizing the efficacy of its policy tools. Nevertheless, national-security concerns must not become a talisman used to ward off inconvenient claims."   By entering the temporary injunction, the Court signaled that the administrations civil and criminal sanctions against the four professors is unlikely to stand. 

Another correction to be made by the Biden administration.  The clean up is endless.


January 7, 2021 in Margaret Drew | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

New Report: From the Global to the Local

Thank you to Carrie Bettinger-Lopez for bringing this writing to our attention.   The following paper discusses access to justice policies employed during the Obama Administration then dismantled under the Trump Administration.  We look forward to the resuscitation of the commitment to justice under the Biden Administration.  

"This policy paper is authored by Maha Jweied, who served in the U.S. government between 2006-2018, most recently as the Acting Director of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Access to Justice. Maha is currently a fellow at CIC-NYU and advisor to the Pathfinders for Justice.

This paper sets out how the former U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Access to Justice leveraged international activity and mechanisms, including the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, to advance its domestic priorities. The strategy resulted in notable accomplishments and even protected a number of them after the office was closed in 2018. The brief also recommends that the incoming Biden-Harris Administration reestablish the Office for Access to Justice, revitalize the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable charged with implementing Goal 16 for the United States, link U.S. domestic priorities to all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and prioritize the United States’ role as a leader in the global movement for equal justice for all."

Better days are coming.

The full article may be accessed here.  

January 5, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 4, 2021

Georgia on your mind?

The election "controversies" continue, not only in Georgia which will be holding two Senate run-off elections on Tuesday, Jan. 5, but also in the halls of Congress and the White House, where election conspiracy theories have taken a firm hold despite all of the evidence that President-elect Biden won the election.  Luckily, the Carter Center, with decades of experience monitoring elections in developing nations and fragile democracies around the world (the US now seems to be sliding into that category), is based in Georgia and has a bird's eye view of what is going on in that state.  The Carter Center has been holding a series of short (10 minute) election bites providing context and perspective to the ongoing machinations.  Tune in today, January 4,  1:00 p.m.,for the latest update.  Prior Carter Center videos on the US election, discussing conflict resolution, the electoral college, and election integrity, are available here.

January 4, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

"An Affront to Justice" Say UN Experts of Trump's Blackwater Pardons

The UN Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries spoke out today on President Trump's pardons of private security contractors convicted by U.S. courts of War Crimes in Iraq.  “These pardons violate US obligations under international law and more broadly undermine humanitarian law and human rights at a global level”, said Jelena Aparac, the group's chair.  The Working Group called on all States parties to the Geneva Conventions to condemn the pardons.  One hundred ninety-six countries have signed the Conventions, the largest number of any international treaty.  Finalized in 1949 following the horrors of World War II, the rules were intended to limit the savagery of war. The Working Group today cautioned that allowing private contractors to act with impunity would send a signal to all that the laws of war can be selectively violated -- even to the point of murdering civilians -- without consequences. 

December 30, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Some Good Education News

The latest stimulus bill includes a provision restoring Pell Grant eligibility to those who are incarcerated.   The Obama administration began a pilot program awarding Pell grants to 12,000 incarcerated individuals.  The educational program was a success and its restoration for availability for all prisoners had bipartisan support.  Even Betsey DeVos supported the bill.  Education is a critical way for those who are incarcerated to obtain jobs upon their transition back into civil  society.   Access to Pell grants is important but is only one of the necessary steps to improving the lives of both the incarcerated and the formerly incarcerated.  

Recently PBS aired a series of reports on the difficulties faced by formerly incarcerated people.  Often those returning to civil society face substantial barriers to improving their lives.  The barriers placed by our bureaucracies who impose unreasonable costs and other demands on the formerly incarcerated.  These restrictions prevent these formerly incarcerated humans from achieving financial success and independence.  These are only some of the obstacles and indignities formerly incarcerated people encounter.  To read the stories of those interviewed for the PBS series, click here.

December 29, 2020 in Incarcerated, Margaret Drew | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Pew Research: Most Germans Don't See the U.S. as a Good Partner for Human Rights

Last month, the Pew Research Center published fascinating new data suggesting that the road to re-establishing U.S. relations with its traditional European partners may be a long one.  According to the poll, American perceptions of partnership potential with Germany on a range of issues have remained relatively steady over time.  In fact, nearly three-quarters of Americans say that relations with Germany are good, with 19 percent deeming the relations very good. 

The Germans surveyed hold a very different view.  Among Germans, 79% say that the relationship with the U.S. is bad, a 15 percentage point increase since 2019 .  On specific issues, the perceptions are equally skewed.  For example, only 12% of Germans say that the U.S. is a partner on protecting the environment, compared with 76% of Americans who say the same about Germany.  Pertinent to this blog's readers, clear majorities in Germany do not see the U.S. as a partner on protecting democracy and human rights.

These findings are based on a Pew Research Center survey of 1,007 adults conducted in the U.S. from Sept. 22-28, 2020, a Körber-Stiftung survey of 1,005 adults conducted in Germany from Sept. 10-17 and another survey in Germany of 1,058 adults from Nov. 6-10, 2020. 

December 27, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 25, 2020

'Tis A New and Different Season

Image1We wish our readers the best of the season.  While we miss our traditional gatherings we look forward with hope.  Daylight is growing longer, a vaccine is here, and a new administration is coming! Wishing you and yours restful and comforting holidays.



December 25, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Inter-American Commission Grants Precautionary Measures Against U.S. in Death penalty case

While federal executions have rapidly escalated in the waning days of the Trump presidency, state level executions continue apace.  Christa Pike, the only woman on death row in Tennessee, has been held in solitary confinement for 23 years -- not because of penological policies, but because she is the only woman on death row and is not allowed to mingle with either men on death row or other female inmates not awaiting execution.  She was convicted of a heinous murder committed when she was 18 years old. 

On December 11, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights adopted a resolution granting Pike's request for precautionary measures, filed on her behalf by students and faculty at Cornell Law School and members of the federal defender service.  The United States appeared to defend the execution and the process leading up to it, arguing, among other things, that the IACHR's rulings would not be binding on the US but would simply be taken under advisement.

After examining the submissions, the IACHR requested that the United States of America: a) adopt the necessary measures to protect the life and personal integrity of Christa Pike; b) refrain from carrying out the death penalty on Christa Pike; c) ensure that Christa Pike’s detention conditions are consistent with international standards, giving special consideration to her personal conditions; and, d) agree on the measures to be adopted with the beneficiary and her representatives.  

Christa Pike's execution date has not yet been set, but on December 2, after Pike's petition was filed in the IACHR, the Tennessee Supreme Court granted an extension of time for Pike's response to the state's motion to set an execution date.  Pike's response is now due March 8, 2021. 



December 20, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

SCOTUS: Preserving Gay Rights

This week the Supreme Court denied cert for a case that sought to chip away at the rights gained for LGBTQ+ people in Obergefell v Hodges.  Box v Henderson sought to deny two lesbian mothers from each being named on their child's birth certificate.  Many feared that this case would be used to begin the whittling away of LGBTQ+ rights now that the court has a 6-3 conservative majority. 

The case arose under Indiana law where the state court of appeals ordered that both mothers have the right to named on the birth certificate just as different sex parents do when a child is conceived through non-traditional means.  This right is part of the "constellation of benefits" referenced in Obergefell.  The denial of cert was a surprise to many, but most of all to those who are still unwilling to accept Oberefell as law and expected to try at change with the conservative court.

Arkansas had unsuccessfully challenged the same sex parents' right to both be named on the birth certificate not long after Obergefell.  In Paven v. Smith the Supreme Court affirmed the parents' right to both be named on the birth certificate.


December 15, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Federal Tort Claim Brings Settlement in Military Sexual Assault Case

The Department of Justice announced that it had paid $1.4 million to a former student of the Merchant Marine Academy who filed suit after being sexually assaulted.  The former student was a member for the men's soccer team was hazed, restrained and sexually assaulted.  According to Politico, "The settlement marks the first time a victim of sexual assault at one of the nation’s five federal service academies has successfully recovered damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act, under which the federal government recognizes liability for the negligence of its employees, according to the victim’s attorneys". 

In 2016 a different article reported that the Merchant Marine Academy has the highest rate of sexual harassments and sexual assault of all the military academies.  A government sponsored survey revealed that" 63 percent of women and 11 percent of men experienced unwanted advances or other sexual harassment. And 17 percent of women and 2 percent of men endured some kind of sexual assault, defined as unwanted contact, from groping to rape." In the same year only one sexual assault was reported through official channels.  The survey rates were for Merchant Maritime.  Those rates were from the 2014-2016 academic year and were the numbers exceeded the combined rates for all the other military academies.

One spokesman for the Academy said he believed the school was turning a corner.   Another assertion without evidence.


December 13, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 10, 2020

On Human Rights Day: The Human Right to Water, Especially during a Pandemic

Today, Northeastern Law School's Program on the Human Rights  and the Global Economy (PHRGE) released a new report, "Disconnected: How Household Water Shutoffs during the COVID Pandemic Violate the Human Right to Water."  A copy of the report is available here

This report is the latest in PHRGE's series of in-depth reports on household water, sanitation, and human rights in the United States.  The other publications, ranging from a user-friendly guide to using FOIL laws to get information on water access to an analysis of grassroots activism aroung water issues, are available here.

Are the efforts around the country working?  Are folks in your communities, including water policymakers, beginning to recognize that water and sanitation are human rights and taking action accordingly?

December 10, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

May DACA Dreams Come True

Dreamers have been specific pawns in the Administration's anti-immigrant efforts.  The status of DACA youth has been a pawn since immigration "negotiations" began early in the Trump presidency.  When Congress refused to cede to Trump's demands, then the administration took action to strip the Dreamers of protections afforded them by the prior administration.  The Dreamers are US residents who came to the United States as children.  To deport this population means sending these young people to a country of which they have no memory of the country where they were born, and in many cases do not speak the language.   

Finally, on December 4, 2020, Brooklyn Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis, ordered the government to immediately accept applications from Dreamers for work permits.  This restores Obama Era protections. Let's hope that the Biden administration fast-tracks Dreamers' citizenship 

December 8, 2020 in Immigrants, Immigration, Margaret Drew | Permalink | Comments (0)