Thursday, August 31, 2017

Human Rights and Bail Reform - Disrupting the Criminal Courts

Bail in the US court system has resulted in human rights violations for thousands of defendants.  Anyone who watched 60 Minutes this past week would have seen the impact of bail requirements on the hundreds of detainees at the Cook County Jail and the efforts of its warden to remedy a broken system.  Nearly all of the detainees were men of color and at least half of whom were being held on non-violent offenses such as driving without a license, stealing small amounts of goods.  The warehousing of men of color was evident.

Bail has been used as a mechanism to ensure that those too poor to pay bail are further locked into poverty.  US courts have historically required bond (bail) for misdemeanor charges.  Even the lowest of bail, sometimes $100.00, is beyond the financial ability of many defendants.  

Civil and human rights violations result.  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights demands that each individual enjoy the right to work.  Yet for the poorest among us, minor infractions can result in loss of work because of incarceration pending trial.  Poor defendants' further decline into poverty is accelerated due to the resulting unemployment.  Among other human rights violations, is the right to fair trial.  Defendants forced to remain in custody are denied access to counsel.  Even if counsel is appointed, which is not assumed at misdemeanor arraignments, those in custody are dependent upon the unpredictable visits of counsel.  They are  deprived of the ability to collect exculpatory evidence.  

Not least among the violations is the lack of respect and dignity endured by some of our most vulnerable residents.  Mothers accept plea deals so they can be reunited with their children.  Fathers plea so they can return to their families, hoping to be able to continue supporting them through work and parenting.  

Bail reform projects have been increasing across the country.  In Texas, a civil rights lawsuit was filed challenging misdemeanor bail practices as due process violations.  Federal District Court Judge Lee Rosenthal ordered Harris County to stop the practice of permitting defendants in misdemeanor cases to languish in jail pending trial because they cannot afford bail.   Harris County encompasses Houston and should be a warning to other cities. The ruling on the temporary injunction is 193 pages long and details  myriad constitutional violations.  Given the extent f the court's deliberations and examination strongly portends Plaintiff's success on the merits.  In Massachusetts, donations to bail organizations have resulted in hundreds of the incarcerated being released as the organizations post bail on behalf of the poor.

This sort of large-scale disruption has been a long time coming in the criminal justice system.  Out of the chaos will come fiscal benefits to municipalities who no longer will incur the expense of housing indigent misdemeanor defendants.  More locations are voluntarily reforming bail schemes.  Colorado is reviewing its bail system while New Jersey eliminated  most monetary bails.  

At its annual meeting in August, the American Bar Association recommended major bail reforms.

Our bail system is one of our national human rights shames.  Kudos to those creating change.

August 31, 2017 in Criminal Justice, Margaret Drew | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Stand up for the Fulbright Program

Established in 1946, the Fulbright Program brings together citizens and governments of other countries to work with U.S. students and researchers on joint priorities and shared needs.  Especially important in this time of growing international and domestic turmoil, the fundamental principle of international partnership remains at the core of the Fulbright mission.  A remarkable number of world leaders have come to the US through the program, and an equal number of US citizens have had formative experiences abroad. 

The Fulbright Association -- representing the more than 370,000 Fulbright alumni -- will mark its 40th anniversary this year at its annual conference, "Fulbright: Now More Than Ever," from November 4-7 in Washington, D.C. 

Of special note is the Fulbright Advocacy Day, scheduled for November 7.  With Fulbright funding targeted in the President's proposed budget slashing State Department support, "now more than ever" it's important to educate members of Congress about the bipartisan benefits of the program.  Registration is available here.

Attending the conference is not the only way to support the program.  For more information about contacting your members of Congress, telling your Fulbright story, or other ways to provide support, click here.


August 30, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The CERD Committee's Impact

On August 18, the UN's Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination issued a rare notice under its "urgent action and early warning" procedures, calling on the United States government and the nation's high level politicians to "reject and condemn" racist speech in the wake of the Charlottesville violence.  As a party to the CERD treaty, the US is legally bound to comply with the treaty's terms to protect, respect and fulfill its obligations to take all appropriate means to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms.

This was a welcome intervention by the Committee, but UN officials have made many statements decrying hateful populism in the U.S. and departures from human rights, so the latest missive didn't seem likely to have a significant impact.  However, what happened next was surprising.  

The UN Committee's statement was not relegated to the back pages of the news.  Instead, Fox News anchor Chris Wallace picked up on the Committee's condemnation in a Fox News Sunday interview, asking Secretary of State Rex Tillerson whether such reactions from the international community made it harder for the State Department to promote "American values around the world."

Tillerson distanced himself from President Trump's equivocal statements on white supremacy, protesting that "I don't believe that anyone doubts the American people's values," or the values of the American government and their commitment to equality.

Wallace pressed Secretary Tillerson -- "and the president's values?"

 "The president speaks for himself," Secretary Tillerson responded.

In short, the CERD Committee's invocation of its urgent action procedures reinforced universal values of anti-discrimination and equality -- and when asked to choose between those universal norms and the President's dog-whistles, the Secretary of State chose to endorse America's commitment to "equal treatment."   Beyond that important development, the fact that Chris Wallace raised the issue should remind those of us working on domestic human rights implementation that maintaining a vital human rights dialogue and awareness in the U.S. can make a difference.   

August 29, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 28, 2017

SPLC’s 10 Ways to Fight Hate

by Jeremiah Ho

Image1The timing of the Charlottesville incident earlier this month is a curious one for those of us returning to teaching also in the same month. Hate rhetoric against identity politics seems to have persisted during our collective summer break. The intense summer drama within U.S. politics allowed for heated rhetoric for all sorts of topics from global warming to health care—sustaining an extremely fractious tone across our current political theater. Charlottesville and its aftermath are the latest examples bearing that tone, voiced in part by those focused on hate and superiority toward others and their differences. Nationwide, I have heard the trepidation of colleagues—at various law schools and other college disciplines. The possibility that demonstrations by hate groups (whether stoked from within the student populations at their schools or from outside) will disrupt teaching and learning makes many of us cautious about coming back to school this fall. If there has been a perception that the 2016 elections gave permission for people to be uncivil, why wouldn’t that perception extend to the classroom?

My colleague, Professor Drew, recently posted her answer and solution to that rhetorical question in the law school context.  I add to her discussion more generally. A few days ago, I came across the Southern Poverty Law Center’s guidebook on responding to hate groups, Ten Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Resource Guide. It was released shortly after Charlottesville and many of you might have already seen it. For those who have not, I share the link to that guidebook here.

Although the guidebook is brief, I think it effectively outlines constructive activities to counter hate groups and events that propagate bias and hate. My observation is so because the ten things that the book suggests all target the underlying ways that hate arises in addition to confronting hatred itself. They include:

  1. Taking action in the face of hatred.
  2. Joining forces with others.
  3. Supporting the victims of hate.
  4. Speaking up.
  5. Educating ourselves regarding hate groups.
  6. Creating alternative outlets for hate group events.
  7. Pressuring leaders.
  8. Staying engaged.
  9. Teaching acceptance.
  10. Digging deeper within ourselves to disrupt our own biases.

In an earlier post this summer, I alluded to the importance of searching for truth in this moment. We who teach and write in academia must use our academic freedom to push for truth in a time when it seems that the politics of division have never before been so prevalent. Unscrupulous politicians have been elected, in part, by stoking the minds of many folks who have felt left behind by the political process. These political figures have distorted and stereotyped the images of certain other groups of people in order to scapegoat them for this country’s social and economic problems. Ultimately, such distortions, where successful for electing politicians, have also led to sustaining overt bias and hate. Understanding the rhetorical strategies and how they have distracted many from confronting the truth of our national issues allow us as teachers and experts to diffuse hate by showing how irrational much of that hate is and exploring the real sources of our country’s problems. Several of the above suggestions from the Southern Poverty Law Center targets the search for truth over hate.

I have also had a series of posts on civility as a means to maintain a truly meaningful dialogue on controversial issues. Some of the above suggested activities from the Southern Poverty Law Center also make us aware of civility—for instance, tactic number 6, which urges creating alternative outlets and events when hate groups stage their activities publicly. Violence and confrontation takes away the energy and focus from true and meaningful processing of issues and debates. Spending energy and time on an alternative venue is a civil way to perpetrate and explore issues and topics, such as race and gender equality.

A third virtue that the Southern Poverty Law Center encourages in its (not one, but ten) ways to fight hate is one that I have not mentioned before in my prior posts. And that is persistence. We must act persistently against incidents of bias and hate and encourage our students to do so. There is not just one constructive strategy to address hate and bias incidents; there are many. The horrific violence and hateful displays at Charlottesville were meant to break the persistence of values espoused by western liberalism such as freedom, equality, truth, justice, and democracy. In this narrative of American and western democracy, setbacks will happen from time to time, but they cannot stall us permanently from progress for all. Thus, persistence is another important virtue that the guidebook underscores to diffuse hate.

None of us can predict what the next campus incident of hate and bigotry will be after Charlottesville. But certainly, that thought has placed many of us on edge. Hopefully, the guidebook from the Southern Poverty Law Center is a beginning point for brainstorming what we can do for our students, our social institutions, and ourselves if and when something hateful occurs.

August 28, 2017 in Jeremiah Ho | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Other Side of Othering

by Jonathan Todres

Image1In politics and popular culture, we’ve always had villains, devalued enemies, and others who purportedly stand for everything we are not.  They enable us to see ourselves as the heroes of our own stories. This cast of characters has been called many things over the years—scapegoats, savages, evildoers, and worse. Social scientists use the term “otherness” to describe this process, its functions, and its impact.  Othering is front and center in U.S. politics today.  

The Trump Administration, through both words and actions, has advanced a worldview in which selected people are devalued based on their religion, race, sex, sexual orientation, and national origin. Critiques of this othering rightly focus on the harm that accrues from suggesting certain individuals are lesser human beings or even less than human. But there is another side to othering that is similarly dangerous. Othering operates not only to advance the idea of a lesser Other, but also to perpetuate the idea of the virtuous Self (or dominant group).

Trump offers an extreme, though not unique, version of both sides of this phenomenon. His words suggest that anyone is who not a White, Christian, straight man is Other.  And he understands himself as without flaw. 

The problem with this myopic view is not only that it inflicts harm on targeted groups, but it also negates any possibility that we might become something better. After all, if we are the best in the world, why would we need to change?  The answer is perhaps most easily – and least threateningly – revealed by looking at the sports world. The best athletes achieve and sustain greatness by constantly engaging in self-critique, identifying weaknesses, and addressing shortcomings.  So should we, as a society.

Thus far, the dominant response to the horror and tragedy of Charlottesville has failed to do so meaningfully. Many U.S. politicians and commentators have objected to Trump’s comments, responding “this is not who we are.”  Although they were right to repudiate Trump’s remarks, resting on “this is not who we are” actually risks further entrenching otherness constructs; it rejects white supremacists as not us, so we can preserve the idea that we are heroes in this story.  

To be clear, distancing oneself from white supremacists is not the moral equivalent of marching with KKK members and neo Nazis, despite certain statements about blame belonging to “many sides.” But failing to acknowledge the historical and structural elements of U.S. society that led to white supremacists marching on Charlottesville perpetuates the idea that our broader society is without fault.

Racism, sexism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of hatred persist in the United States.  This is not the result of merely a few deviant actors. Until there is broad recognition of this fact and critical engagement of the complex structural and historical issues that give life to bigotry in this country, condemnation of white supremacist rallies or Trump, while necessary, will fail bring about meaningful change.

August 27, 2017 in Jonathan Todres | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Allies Along The Way

By Prof. Justine Dunlap

In the land of “who’da thunk it,” I find myself voluntarily associating with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mitt Romney, and Charles Image1 Krauthammer. I hereby claim them as allies who are willing to stand against racism, anti-Semitism, and general moral vacuousness.

I recently gave a nod to tennis great Andy Murray as an ally in securing the recognition of women’s accomplishments in tennis---successes that should have been hard to ignore but had been overlooked nonetheless. The Murray shout-out was not much of a reach. However, it is important to find allies in the cause of equity anywhere we can, even if it is a stretch.

In this down-the-rabbit-hole time we live in, Schwarzenegger, Romney, and Krauthammer have all spoken out in different fora against Donald Trump’s post-Charlottesville truck with racists and bigots of all stripes. Although the President has been giving offense for a very long time, his recent assertions, first made after the Charlottesville rally and reiterated at his Phoenix campaign speech Tuesday night, have been both more egregious and led to wider condemnation.

Romney, in a Facebook post, declared that Trump’s words “caused racists to rejoice, minorities to weep, and the vast heart of America to mourn."   I mourn with you, Mitt.

Krauthammer made his views known on a Fox news panel on the same day that President Trump engaged with reporters at an infrastructure week event and made painfully plain his real views on the Charlottesville violence. No longer were the teleprompter-read words of his aides able to prevail. Trump’s comments were a “moral disgrace,” Krauthammer declared, not mincing words. Well said, Charles.

Schwarzenegger gets the prize with the longest and most personal appeal against the most recent and offensive presidential sentiments. In recorded remarks, he spoke directly to different audiences, including neo-nazis and President Trump. His comments to Trump showcased a bit of their rivalry over, inter alia, The Apprentice show ratings, as Schwarzenegger “helped” the President see how easy it is to script a speech that does not equivocate in its condemnation of hate. Schwarzenegger’s comments to neo-nazis were especially powerful, as he recounted growing up on post-war Austria. Go, Arnold, go.

Other conservatives have spoken out, too.  Senators Marco Rubio, John McCain, and, recently, Senator Bob Corker--a Trump friend—come to mind. But it is fair to say that many more have remained all too silent; no danger of running out of Profiles in Courage awards this month.

But I get it, conservatives. Commenting on everything would be a fulltime job and, after all, you do want to advance your legislative agenda.  But some things simply demand comment and condemnation. The President’s racially loaded remarks and—to my lights—his even worse indulging of the racists and anti-semites fall firmly in the category.

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends,” said Martin Luther King, Jr.   Schwarzenegger, Romney, and Krauthammer fit into neither category for me, but I am glad they spoke out and did so forcefully. As white supremacists and neo-nazis feel emboldened in the current climate, more and more people across our wide and divided political spectrum must denounce their execrable views.

August 24, 2017 in Discrimination, Justine Dunlap, Race, social justice | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The American Convention on Human Rights: Essential Rights

Earlier this year, a useful new book, The American Convention on Human Rights: Essential Rights, by Thomas M. Antkowiak and Alejandra Gonza, was published by Oxford University Press.

According to the publisher's description, 

"This book offers a thorough, critical, and accessible analysis of the American Convention on Human Rights which is the main human rights treaty of the Americas. The authors closely review the jurisprudence and the binding judgments of the two institutions charged with interpreting the Convention: The Inter-American Court of Human Rights and The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.They focus on the rights most developed by the Court and Commission, namely the rights to equality, life, humane treatment, personal liberty, property, due process and judicial protection, as well as the freedom of expression and reparations. They examine the case law with a victim-centered lens while identifying key jurisprudential developments, discussing critical areas that lack consistency and rigor, and proposing alternative conceptual approaches.

Each chapter contains an Introduction to compare the Convention right's formulation with equivalent rights in other major international and regional treaties; a background section to consider the right's negotiation history; a Scope of Protection section to analyze the right's provisions (paragraph-by-paragraph or topic-by-topic); and lastly, a Limitations section, if applicable, to study any limitations to the right. In addition, the book's Introduction presents an up-to-date overview of the dynamic Inter-American Human Rights System, discussing the System's legal instruments, major institutions, significant impact, key developments, and current challenges."

The introduction to the book is available on SSRN.

August 22, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 21, 2017

Hie Thee to Dayton!

Things are happening in Dayton! Today, on August 21, Dayton hosted a stellar partial solar eclipse. Well, to tell the truth, so did most of the rest of the US.  But in Dayton, to top today's show, from November 8- 10, the University of Dayton Human Rights Center will host its amazing biennial human rights conference, titled The Social Practice of Human Rights: Charting the Frontiers of Research and Advocacy.  Registration information is available here.  Of special interest to US human rights advocates and scholars are several sessions examining local human rights implementation,  plenary sessions on forced migration and modern-day slavery, and keynotes from Marielena Hincapié and Carol Anderson, among others.  Speaker bios are available here

August 21, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Addressing Hate in Law Schools

Law schools are reporting increased incidents of angry students making comments that parallel some of the current, public hate speech.  Schools report race based incidents, a few reporting physical, or near physical, encounters.  

Some professors believe they are dis-empowered to address classroom "discussions" where students not only express biased views, but do so in angry and disrespectful ways.  Professors who view their dilemma solely from a "free speech" perspective limit themselves.  The recent tour of "conservative" speakers claiming their voices are silenced on "liberal" campuses may have contributed to this faculty sense of dis-empowerment.  

But there are other pedagogical considerations.  Law schools train professionals.  Reasoned civil debate is one goal of law school pedagogy. We teach students to view legal claims and facts from a variety of perspectives.  We encourage them to recognize when to separate out the personal from the professional and likewise, when to consider the personal as inevitably intertwining with the legal. Underpinning  our training is not just the ability for lawyers to objectively assess other perspectives,  but the necessity of doing so.  The practical consequences of failure to do so will result in our students being out-strategized  by opposing counsel. More immediately, their inability to consider any merit of opposing arguments will have a negative impact on grading.   In practice, inappropriate tone will cost lawyers business from clients who recognize the connection between professionalism and success.  In law school, voicing opinions unsupported by reliable data or law impacts the professor's assessment of student performance.

So administrators and faculty need to broaden their own perspectives on the deterioration of professionalism within the law school community.  A student's unwillingness to engage in civil debate is a choice.  Disrespectful speech is unprofessional and when done within the context of classes is a grading consideration.  

Freedom of speech is honored.  But freedom of speech does not support disrespectful speech.  Not in the professional school context.  

Part of the reason administrators and professors focus only on freedom of speech is fear of lawsuits by those claiming their speech is unlawfully suppressed.  This is not the time for fear based decision-making.  This is the time to focus on our obligations as teachers to train our students in professionalism and the art of debate.   Legal ethics demand professionalism. 

Prof. Ho has written thoughtfully about pushback on "political correctness"  as deflecting from underlying incivility.  Incivility certainly has evidenced itself within and without the academy.  This pushback is often an excuse for avoiding civil debate.  I view current dialogue from an additional dimension.  Pushback on "political correctness" often veils bias whether delivered in a civil or incivil manner.  So before my students engage in disrespectful speech they will know two things.  To the extent possible, political labels are eliminated from our discussion.  We will focus on ideas and empirical evidence without regard to whether the speaker is Republican or Democratic. We leave the words liberal and conservative unspoken.  Doing so forces attention on ideas and not on the speakers.  

Secondly, students are aware that how they present their ideas is a professionalism issue that will be reflected in grading.  I am confident that I and other professors are capable of distinguishing between passion for a topic and resistance to self-reflection.

Effective leaders do not throw up their hands and relinquish responsibility under the guise that free speech bars any proactive and protective action.  Leadership finds ways to protect the dignity of all members of the community. Where are Human Rights? Eleanor Roosevelt asked.  They are local, she instructed.  They are in places that are not on any map.  They are found in law schools, too.




August 21, 2017 in Margaret Drew, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 20, 2017

You Go, (Feminist) Boy

by Prof. Justine Dunlap

More than a fortnight ago, Scottish tennis player Andy Murray made my day. Mr. Murray, during a presser at Wimbledon, matter-of-factly corrected a reporter who asked a blanket question referencing victories at Wimbledon that completely ignored women’s tennis. In asking the question, the reporter said that a particular male tennis player was the “first American player to reach the semi-finals of a slam”… and Murray interrupted to add “male player.” The startled reporter replied, “Beg your pardon?” “Male player,” Murray restated.

So much about this is marvelous, it’s hard to know where to start. First, Murray offered his correction automatically and almost as an aside—albeit a terribly important one. He was just ensuring that the record was accurate. In so doing, his manner was significant. The rather understated way in which he remedied the reporter’s implicit bias (at best) subtly raised the question of how anyone could forget women’s tennis in the age of the Williams sisters. Second, Murray’s lack of drama in his correction allowed—forced?—the reporter to easily adopt Murray’s amendment….”that’s for sure,” the reporter added. Further, after the interchange began making the rounds on the internet, Andy’s mother added her thoughts in a tweet: “That’s my boy.”

So besides the deliciousness of it all, are there any takeaways other than the inherent value in the immediate correction of an error that discounted women’s contributions to the sport? I think there are at least two.

First, the way in which Murray made the correction was, as noted, nearly nonchalant. In this era of heated and hyperbolic rhetoric, a calm statement of corrective fact was an effective balm. As with an orator who lowers her voice to a whisper, or the generally quiet person who only occasionally chimes in, Murray’s audience—as well as his questioner—had no choice but to take notice of what he said. In short, Murray’s manner helped underscore his content.

Second, allies of all shapes, colors, and genders are important. Murray's correction was all the more welcome because he is male. This is especially so when contrasted with the relatively contemporaneous remark by tennis commentator John McEnroe that Serena Williams would be “like 700” if she played the men’s tennis circuit. Male feminists, that’s a good thing.

August 20, 2017 in Justine Dunlap | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Learning from History

In times like these, history is an important source of perspective, ideas and even role models.  One such role model is Pauli Murray (1910-1985), the African American lawyer whose ideas contributed so much to progressive lawyering and jurisprudence particularly in the area of sex discrimination.

Murray was born in Baltimore into a family that included white slave owners and rapists as well as distinguished black free men and women, but as young person with brown skin in the segregated South, she repeatedly suffered the insults of racial discrimination.  With dogged persistence, she made her way to Hunter College and eventually to Howard Law School, where she began working out the sophisticated equal protection theories that were eventually adopted and used by Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her litigation challenging sex discrimination as an attorney with the ACLU Women's Rights Project.   A 2017 biography of Murray by Rosalind Rosenberg, Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray, provides a personal portrait, describing her intense feelings of gender dysphoria, but also setting out the origins of Murray's original legal thinking. 

Though her civil rights work was largely domestic, Murray spent time teaching in Ghana and was well aware of comparative developments and their power to drive a vision of change.  One telling vignette from the biography describes Murray's work on an important case, Mendez v. Westminster (1947) challenging racial segregation of school children based on their Spanish surnames.  Murray and Russian-Jewish refugee lawyer Alexander Pekelis, representing the American Jewish Congress, filed an amicus brief before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals intended to take direct aim at the still-good precedent Plessy v. Ferguson.  The brief invoked the text of the 14th Amendment, the social science data demonstrating the impacts of segregation, and finally, the United Nations Charter, which promised "fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race."

In Jane Crow, author Rosenberg quotes directly from their brief:  "All discrimination is bad." But none is so "vicious" as that which leads to "the humiliation of innocent, trusting children.  American children full of faith in life.  Their humiliation strikes at the very roots of the American Commonwealth.  Their humiliation threatens the more perfect union which the Constitution seeks to achieve."

The Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of the Mendez plaintiffs on narrow grounds that did not touch the rationale of Plessy.  But the vision of legal equality articulated by Murray, a child of segregation, and Pekelis, a refugee from Nazism and fascism, became law less than  a decade later.

The recent events in Charlottesville and the utter lack of understanding and moral leadership from the Presidency leave many of us in despair.  Perhaps like Murray and Pekelis, we can draw on such experiences to develop a vision of a better America and then take concerted, coordinated action to make it so.

For an in-depth discussion of Pauli Murray's life and contributions, see this panel at the Radcliffe Institute, where Murray's papers are housed.

August 17, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Today, I Speak

by Sarah H. Paoletti, Practice Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School

Compassion, vigilance and diligence.  Those were the three action words I shared with my students when confronted with our collective and individual anxiety about the 2016 election cycle that resulted in Donald Trump assuming the role of President of the United States of America.  We must show compassion to each other, I told them: compassion to our clients, to all of those around us feeling a heightened sense of vulnerability as a result of an election cycle where discrimination and all notions of human decency and rule of law were thrown to the wolves; and compassion to ourselves.  We must be diligent in ensuring the truth and accuracy of all that we do and say, particularly in counseling our immigration clients who live in communities where rumors become reality, and for whom the consequences of even the smallest misstep could mean detention, deportation, separation from children and other loved ones, and possible death.  And we must be vigilant in monitoring and seeking accountability for an Administration that has shown total disregard for the rule of law, democratic processes and justice for all.  Today, I add a fourth word – speak.  We must – I must – speak out against hate, against racism, religious intolerance, xenophobia and all forms of bigotry, and we must – I must – speak out in support of those individuals and communities who have endured the injustices that result.  Today, I belatedly add my voice to the chorus of those who have spoken out and who have been speaking out against hate, and in solidarity with those in our country’s Black and Brown communities, LGBTQ communities, Muslim communities, immigrant communities, and persons with disabilities, who have disproportionately carried the burden of speaking out.

Since the inauguration, and even prior to that, my outrage, dismay and heartache about the events taking place in this country, and their ripple effect around the globe, have been confined primarily to private rants within the safe liberal bubble I occupy.  I have cursed in the privacy of my office and home and within the safety net of friends while I search for more constructive words to communicate my thoughts.  I have joined with other human rights law clinicians across the country in drafting a commitment statement calling for the preservation and promotion of human rights at home and abroad.  But my sparse Facebook postings have remained entirely a-political and are limited almost exclusively to wishing friends far and near happy birthday and happy anniversary, celebrating achievements, sending messages of condolences on the death of a loved one, with the occasional post on behalf of Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, a migrant worker rights organization on whose board I proudly serve.  When Michael Brown was gunned down in Ferguson, I reacted to other people’s posts, but did not post myself.  When Sandra Bland was found dead in police custody, I reacted to other people’s posts, but did not post myself.  As the justice system has consistently failed to deliver justice, and our leaders have failed to lead us, I have reacted to other people’s posts, but have not posted myself.  When Trump declared a ban on the admission of refugees and Muslims, followed up by Ban 2.0, I reacted to other people’s posts, but did not post myself.

After witnessing the tragic and troubling racist and anti-Semitic protests in Charlottesville this past weekend, followed by news that plain-clothes ICE agents are arresting immigrants in the lobby of the federal building on their way to a hearing in immigration court before being given the opportunity for their case to be heard before an immigration judge, I just wanted to snuggle up with my innocent children and pretend the outside world didn’t exist.  Denial and snuggles have gotten me through many moments, many days.  But after Trump’s initial equivocation on racism, anti-Semitism, and home-grown terrorism, followed by odious remarks that equate those standing up against hate, with white supremacists and neo-Nazis who espouse hate, I can no longer numb my dismay with the cycle of denial, followed by private rants in safe and comfortable spaces.  As a group of UN human rights experts stated in a press statement today in which they expressed grave concerns for the rise of racism in the United States, “Acts of hatred and racist hate speech must be unequivocally condemned.”

I try to teach my students that every word matters.  I try to teach my students to engage in critical reflection and learn from their experiences and the experiences of others.  And now I struggle with how to teach my students that law and lawyers can make a difference in advancing human rights in a country in which black men and women are routinely stopped and searched by police based solely on the color of their skin and informed by years of learned racism; a country where black men and women are killed by police because their race is seen as a threat; in a country that forcibly, and sometimes violently, interferes with the rights of asylum seekers and young kids seeking refuge in the United States.  If I truly believe words matter, if I want to learn from my own experiences and the experiences of others, if I want to share compassion – I must speak.  I must disavow racism, while owning my own white privilege. I must disavow misogyny and bigotry, while recognizing my own heterosexual privilege.  I must disavow the criminalization of poverty and scapegoating of communities of color, while leveraging my own upper-middle class privilege for good.  I must speak for justice and meaningful equality.  And I must remain committed to a more compassionate world where recognition of and respect for the dignity of all persons is more than just an aspiration.  Today, I speak.  Tomorrow, I act.  And tonight, I hold my kids just a little bit tighter for a little bit longer and breathe in their innocence and infinite capacity for love.    

August 16, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Destruction Leadership

Mr. Trump is at risk of impeachment, if not indictment.  His advisers, former and current, including family members are at risk. Foreign leaders no longer trust Mr. Trump with confidential information.  In short, we have a narcissist under siege.  As anti-hate rallies are being held across the country, President Trump continues to appeal to the basest levels of human behavior. President Trump would consider the eruption of civil and international war righteous.  

Mr. Trump is neither a clown nor a buffoon.  He is a danger.  His ego is not being fed, other than through weekly cabinet sessions where his minions sprinkle praise upon him.  Lack of ego feeding, combined with resistance to him as a leader, has created conditions that will lead to destruction.  The only question being his or ours.

If Mr. Trump cannot receive what he perceives as a deserved level of adoration, he will do what he can to cause the disruption of civil society.  Disruption, if not destruction, of our society would be appropriate punishment from this narcissist's perspective.

Our governmental leadership parallels pre-war Germany.  Our nation has the opportunity to defeat Trump-fascism. Haters are in the minority.  Organized resistance must happen on the national and local levels and must be strategic and persistent. Subsequent posts will document how resisters are organizing and what tools seem most effective.  We encourage our readers to share their experiences.  

August 16, 2017 in Margaret Drew | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

New Scholarship on Public Opinion and Human Rights

Two new resources are available on public opinion and human rights. 

First, the current issue of the Journal of Human Rights focuses on public opinion polling and human rights.  The articles generally cover the issue from an international perspective, but one of the contributions focuses particularly on the U.S., examining the impact on public opinion of invocations of "genocide" and Holocaust analogies.

Second, a new book by Heping Dong, International Law, Human Rights and Public Opinion, examines States' roles in human rights education.  According to the publishers' blurb, "[t]aking an international law perspective, [this book] primarily deals with two questions: first, whether international law requires States to take an independent stance on human rights issues; second, whether international law encourages States to inform and mobilise public opinion with regard to core human rights standards."




August 15, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Lawsuit Against Psychologists Who Developed CIA Torture Program Continues Forward

By Lauren Carasik

 Two psychologists who helped design the CIA’s post 9/11 torture program will face trial, U.S. District Court Judge Justin L. Quackenbush ruled on Monday, in Spokane, Washington. The American Civil Liberties Union brought the suit, Salim v. Mitchell, against James Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen, on behalf of Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and the estate of Gul Rahman, who died while in custody. According to the ACLU, the man “were subjected to severe physical and psychological abuse including prolonged sleep deprivation and nudity, starvation, beating, water dousing, and extreme forms of sensory deprivation – methodically administered with the aim of psychologically breaking their will.” The CIA paid the two psychologists and their company $81 million. The trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 5.

“This is a historic day for our clients and all who seek accountability for torture,” Dror Ladin of the ACLU, who filed the suit in October 2015 along with the Gibbons law firm, said in a statement. “The court’s ruling means that for the first time, individuals responsible for the brutal and unlawful CIA torture program will face meaningful legal accountability for what they did. Our clients have waited a long time for justice.”

No other lawsuit seeking accountability for the CIA torture program has reached the merits, since the government has successfully argued in previous cases that they could not proceed because of the state secrets privilege. The Justice Department declined to raise the issue to block this lawsuit, in part because the 2014 Senate intelligence committee report disclosed many of the programs details, including the names of the plaintiffs and the interrogation techniques they had been subjected to. The judge ruled that defendants had not established that the Senate report is untrustworthy.

August 14, 2017 in Lauren Carasik | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Message from the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Professor Philip Alston, will be undertaking an official visit to the United States from 4 to 15 December 2017 at the invitation of the US Government. His visit will focus, in accordance with his mandate, on the interlinkages between poverty and the realization of human rights.
The Special Rapporteur is an independent expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council and he will report on his visit to the Council in the first half of 2018. UN independent experts visit countries around the world to report on their human rights situation. In recent years, the Special Rapporteur has undertaken country visits to Chile, Romania, Mauritania, China and Saudi Arabia.
The Special Rapporteur would like to invite all interested parties in the United States, including, but not limited to, NGOs, activists, academics and other individuals and organizations working on issues related to poverty and human rights, to provide input for the preparation of his visit to the United States in December 2017.
Input can be sent to [email protected] until October 4, 2017. Please note that the Special Rapporteur will also receive input at [email protected] or [email protected] for those respondents that prefer using a browser-based encrypted email service.
Respondents are requested to limit their response to a maximum of 3,000 words. All input will be treated confidentially by the Special Rapporteur and his team and for the sole purpose of preparing the country visit.
Respondents are asked to focus their input on the following issues:
(i) What is the definition of poverty and extreme poverty that your organization employs in the context of the United States and to what extent do official definitions at the federal and state level adequately encompass poverty in all its dimensions?
(ii) What are the most severe human rights violations that people living in poverty and extreme poverty in the United States experience? Please exemplify by referring to specific cases and relevant norms of international human rights law.
(iii) Could you specify how poverty and extreme poverty in the United States intersect with civil and political rights (such as for example the right to political participation or the right to equality before the law)? Please exemplify by referring to specific cases and relevant norms of international human rights law.
(iv) Could you specify how poverty and extreme poverty in the United States intersect with economic and social rights (such as the right to education or the right to work)? Please exemplify by referring to specific cases and relevant norms of international human rights law.
(v) How does the fact that the United States has not ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), affect domestic advocacy and litigation on behalf of the poor related to the rights protected in these international treaties?
(vi) In 2015 the Special Rapporteur presented a report to the UN Human Rights Council on economic inequality and human rights, which can be found here. Please point to interlinkages between poverty, inequality and human rights in the United States.
(vii) There is an increasing debate worldwide on the impact of new technologies on societies, including in the area of Artificial Intelligence, robotics, Big Data and algorithmic decision-making. How do these developments affect the human rights of those living in poverty in the United States? The Special Rapporteur is interested in learning how these technologies may affect civil and political rights as well as economic and social rights.
(viii) What are potential areas (States, territories, regions, cities, municipalities) in the United States that the Special Rapporteur should visit given the severity of poverty and intersecting human rights issues in these places?
(ix) Which individuals and organizations should the Special Rapporteur meet with during his country visit to the United States?


August 13, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Why Can't US Laws Be More Rwandan?

The US record on gender equality is dismal.  Rwanda, largely as a consequence of the loss of men in the 1994 genocide, has made significant progress in the legal status of women.  At that time, the population of Rwanda was 70% female.  The Rwandan constitution ensures gender equality in all matters.  In the 2013 elections, 64% of the members of parliament were female.  Women are guaranteed three months paid maternity leave. 

By contrast, the US guarantees no paid maternity leave.  In the recent health care discussions, some men wanted to remove health care coverage for maternity.  86% of Rwandan women participate in the work force compared with 56% of US women.   However, despite Rwandan laws requiring equality for women, true equality has not been achieved.  Women earn 88 cents for every dollar earned by men.  Significantly, Rwandan women experience domestic violence at the high rate of 1 in 3.  Recently progress has been made in enforcing laws against abusive men, but the most significant barrier to stopping violence against women universally is men's culture in opposing gender equality.  In a story reported in WeNews, woman's advocate Peace Ruzage, of Aspire Rwanda, said "“The problem of violence against women in Rwanda, as with many African countries, is rooted in the cultural beliefs and notions of masculinity reinforced through generations.”  True for the US as well.

August 10, 2017 in Gender, Margaret Drew | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Building A Justice System for All

John Pollock of the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel recently informed members that results of a national survey conducted by Lake Research Partners and ASO Communications on access to the civil justice system were available.  The research results were reported by Voices for Civil Justice, and included a finding that most responders believe that access to the civil justice system is a right, not a privilege.  This finding reflects a significant advance for human rights perception within the US.

Highlights of the findings are:

  • 84 percent of voters believe it is important for our democracy to ensure everyone has access to the civil justice system – an enormous level of support, indicating this is a core value on which to build support for civil justice reform and civil legal aid.
  • 82 percent of voters agree that “equal justice under the law is a right, not a privilege.” Again, this level of support signifies a core value and an opportunity.
  • Voters believe low-income individuals – especially those living in rural areas – and people struggling to make ends meet, face the most difficulty in obtaining legal help.
  • Voters strongly favor reform of the civil justice system, with half saying it needs to be rebuilt completely or fundamentally changed.
  • Strong majorities of voters support increasing state funding to build a more accessible civil justice system, and surprisingly that support remains robust even when tied to the notion of raising taxes to do so.
  • Voters overwhelmingly support the most traditional and familiar form of service to ensure access to the civil justice system – namely, having a lawyer. They also strongly support a wide range of services that comprise a holistic approach to ensuring justice for all.

The full report, Building a Civil Justice System that Delivers Justice for All, may be read here.  You may listen to the primary researchers, Celinda Lake and Anat Shenker-Osorio announcing the results here.



August 9, 2017 in Advocacy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Irish Year Book of International Law Seeks Submissions

This information was first posted on IntLaw Grrls

The Irish Yearbook of International Law is now accepting submissions for the next Volume (Volume XIII (2018)). Edited by Professor Siobhán Mullaly (incoming at NUI Galway) and Professor Fiona de Londras (University of Birmingham) — members of IntLawGrrls — and published by Hart Publishing, the Yearbook is internationally peer reviewed and publishes longer and shorter articles on all areas of international law.

The Irish Yearbook of International Law is committed to the publication of articles of general interest in international law as well as articles that have a particular connection to, or relevance for, Ireland. Articles are usually 10,000 to 12,000 words in length, although longer pieces will be considered. The Yearbook also publishes a small number of shorter articles and notes, which should not exceed 6,000 words.

Authors are asked to conform to the Hart Publishing house style. Submissions, comprising a brief 100-word abstract, article and confirmation of exclusive submission, should be sent to both Siobhán Mullally ([email protected]) and Fiona de Londras([email protected]) by October 31 2017. Initial inquiries can be directed to either or both Editors.

If you wish to review a title in the Yearbook’s book review section, please contact the book reviews editor Dr. Dug Cubie, [email protected] (University College Cork.)

August 8, 2017 in Global Human Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Continuing Campaign to Make America White Again

Two opinion pieces were published this week that underscore the foundation of racism upon which the Trump Administration policies are built.  Both pieces follow the "leak" this week of a memo outlining the Department of Justice's plans to pursue dismantling of affirmative actions programs.  Both pieces point out the absurdity of portraying US whites as victims.   Prof. Carol Anderson , is the author of White Rage, the Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide. She reminds us in her NYT opinion, white men benefit from flexible undergraduate admissions programs.  If objective scores and grades were the predominant selection method, white males would be a distinct minority on campus.  Flexible admissions policies that consider gender as a bona fide admissions factor, benefit white males as much as anyone else.  But it is race of which whites most complain.

 In his New Yorker piece, Jelani Cobb focuses on the heart of racist thinking.  Whites view their economic status comparatively.  One African American succeeding financially is an affront to less affluent whites.  The underlying assumption that whites deserve to be successful in every way before any person of color "succeeds", (however that is defined), is the source of white resentment.  Whiteness as the ideal standard is what Trump and many followers look to preserve. 

Mr. Trump may not be a seasoned politician.  He may be unable to deliver on his major campaign promises. But he knows how to stoke his base. Through feeding anger and irrationality, Mr. Trump has begun his re-election campaign. 


August 7, 2017 in Books and articles, Discrimination, Margaret Drew, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)