Sunday, January 31, 2021

Turning Off the Tap -- the Human Right to Water Gains New Support

The ongoing pandemic once again brings into sharp focus the precarious state of water access and affordability in the U.S.  According to a recent report from California, unpaid water bills there top $1 billion, dwarfing delayed rental payments in the state.  While data for other states is difficult to find, North Carolina reported in July 2020 that arrears in the state amounted to an estimated $81 million.  Congress has taken note of the issue, and in December added $638 million to a COVID relief bill to address water debt.  Unfortunately, the amount is far short of what is required to retire the water debt of California alone, much less the entire country. 

The human rights and civil rights issues that this situation raises require affirmative government responses, not after-the-fact corrections.  Last week, the Massachusetts State Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued the first-in-the-nation State Advisory Committee report on water affordability and access.  Titled Turning off the Tap: Massachusetts' Looming Water Affordability Crisis, the report urges Massachusetts to adopt the principle that water is a human right, and to take affirmative steps to get ahead of the affordability crisis before it spirals out of control.  The Committee's recommendations for Massachusetts are:

1. Local water authorities should be required to collect demographic and tenure data on households experiencing water shut-offs or liens.
2. Landlords should be required to pass on to tenants at least a percentage of savings occasioned by any water rate discounts.
3. Low income tenants should be eligible for direct subsidies to offset the costs of basic household water reflected in rent payments.
4. Tenants should be empowered to temporarily enjoin water shut-offs resulting from a landlord’s delinquency.
5. Water authorities should establish arrearage management programs for consumers similar to programs established by all regulated gas and electric utilities.
6. Local water authorities should collect data on payment plans offered to water consumers, to ensure that favorable plans are not offered on a discriminatory basis. Vulnerable water consumers should be afforded the same termination protections extended by the Commonwealth to vulnerable customers of regulated gas and electricity utilities.
7. The Commonwealth should encourage and directly subsidize cost-lowering water conservation efforts, like the installation of water efficient toilets, leak repairs, and general infrastructure repair.
8. The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities should oversee water rates and increases in water rates as it oversees regulated gas and electricity rates



January 31, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Social Media Bans Can Be Shaped by International Human Rights Law

Image1Twitter’s decision to ban former President Trump from its platform lacked consistency and transparency, causing a stir among both his supporters and opponents, but international human rights law norms can provide the social media giant with useful standards.

The U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment does not restrain Twitter’s behavior because it applies only to government actors, yet at the international level, the United Nations has moved towards regulating the activities of transnational corporations.

This framework can provide valuable insights into developing sound user policies relating to free speech.

A Governance Gap Exists

Reactions to Twitter’s decision were mixed, with opponents of Trump’s feeling it came too late, and others wondering why Trump was banned while other objectionable world leaders continue to tweet at will. Many are concerned that a few billionaires in Silicon Valley have the power to decide whose speech should be amplified and whose should not.

Twitter and other social media companies claim that they banned Trump because he violated their rules. But those rules are something they create and change at their discretion. Moreover, Twitter has the sole power to decide whether a tweet violates a rule or not, and the public is not told who determines whether a tweet violates its policy. There is no appeal mechanism, and we don’t know who wrote the rules and what standards were used to guide them. If the procedure Twitter follows was used by a court, we would call it a kangaroo court.

It has been proposed that government regulation can address a lack of accountability at social media companies. Indeed, social media companies wield significant power and perhaps should be treated like a public utility. But there are problems with government regulation, the most important of which is that regulating social media requires coordination among a fractured legislature.

Respect for Human Rights Is Expected

Existing international human rights standards can be used to fill this governance gap, as there is increasing global agreement that multinational corporations must respect human rights. The U.N. Guiding Principles, created in 2011 after a lengthy process that included businesses, world governments, and non-profit organizations, states that “[b]usiness enterprises should respect human rights.”

Twitter’s policies should show a respect for international human rights. Although there are challenges and disagreements on how to interpret them, there are numerous U.N. human rights documents and treaties that can be used to guide its policy.

How could this work when it comes to free speech? Let’s take the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the foundational human rights document. Article 19 states that “[e]veryone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression .. .” This requires Twitter to protect Trump’s speech regardless of whether it is racist or incites violence.

However, Article 29(2) of the declaration states that “[i]n the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations … for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.”

This suggests that Twitter can refer to Article 29(2) to prohibit Trump’s speech on the basis that it harms others or challenges the public order.

Look to Multi-Stakeholder Committees

This still leaves open the question about who decides when a Tweet violates the requirements of international human rights. Social media companies should form a committee to determine when a user has violated its policy or international human rights law. It should be composed of a wide array of stakeholders, including a representative from a non-profit organization, the company, and legal scholars or other experts.

Currently, Twitter has a “global enforcement team” consisting of Twitter employees that enforce their user policy.” Facebook, on the other hand, has created an independent oversight board to hear appeals from users who have been banned. They are currently deciding whether or not to reverse Facebook’s decision to ban Trump.

There is precedent for such multi-stakeholder committees within corporations. The Indian law, Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, requires corporations in India to create a committee where employees can report incidents of sexual harassment. This committee must include at least one woman from a human rights organization. Having members from outside the company makes the process more fair, consistent, and transparent, as it would for Twitter and other social media companies. Twitter does have a Trust and Safety Council with non-profit organizations as members, but the council does not appear to have any decision-making authority.

Although Twitter is engaging in activities that seem to impact peoples’ rights to speak and be heard, it’s insulation from the First Amendment does not allow it freedom to ignore international human rights standards. Global consensus requires businesses to respect human rights in their operations, and as such, Twitter and social media companies should design user policies based on human rights norms.


Editors' Note: This post was first published in Bloomberg News 

January 28, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Puerto Rico Declares a State of Emergency Due to Gender Based Violence

After years of demonstrations against gender-based violence.  The state of emergency, which will be in effect until June 22, 2022, responds to demands from those who protested increasing and unchallenged gender violence.  The demand for a state of emergency was voiced by demonstrators following a rash of killing many women including transgender women and other trans people.  One human rights activist said that transgender people were being hunted.  "At least 60 direct and indirect femicides were reported in Puerto Rico in 2020, according to the local group Gender Equality Observatory. "

The Governor of Puerto Rico said  "Gender violence is a social evil, based on ignorance and attitudes that cannot have space or tolerance in the Puerto Rico that we aspire to. For too long vulnerable victims have suffered the consequences of systematic machismo, inequity, discrimination, lack of education, lack of guidance and above all lack of action."

On a day when President Biden withdrew the ban on military service for transgender people, we are reminded that gender violence is on the rise everywhere.  The machismo culture that Governor Pierluisi recognized as the root of gender violence has yet to challenged publicly in the mainland U.S. This machismo culture was on display on January 6th but results in the terrorization primarily of women, LGBTQ+ people, and children.  

May the courage of Governor Pierluisi inspire others in the country to declare their own states of emergency to end gender violence.



January 26, 2021 in Domestic Violence, Gender Violence, Margaret Drew | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 25, 2021

A Human Rights Agenda for the Biden Administration

Human rights agendas for the Biden Administration abound, and it's apparent to all that the work to rebuild the United States' international credibility will require sustained commitment.   Columbia Law Professor Sarah Cleveland -- former member of the UN Human Rights Council as well as a former legal advisor in the US State Department -- is a particularly learned source for advice on how to get this work done.  Her new essay, A Human Rights Agenda for the Biden Administration, is available here from AJIL UnBound. 

January 25, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

An Astounding Inauguration: Amanda Gorman

Poet Amanda Gorman captured the fears, the hopes, the burdens, and blessings of our country.  A portion of her poem is below but you may read the entire poem here.
When day comes we ask ourselves,
where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry,
a sea we must wade
We've braved the belly of the beast
We've learned that quiet isn't always peace
And the norms and notions
of what just is
Isn't always just-ice
And yet the dawn is ours
before we knew it
Somehow we do it
Somehow we've weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn't broken
but simply unfinished
We the successors of a country and a time
Where a skinny Black girl
descended from slaves and raised by a single mother
can dream of becoming president
only to find herself reciting for one
And yes we are far from polished
far from pristine
but that doesn't mean we are
striving to form a union that is perfect
We are striving to forge a union with purpose
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and
conditions of man
And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us
but what stands before us
We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,
we must first put our differences aside
We lay down our arms
so we can reach out our arms
to one another
We seek harm to none and harmony for all
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:
That even as we grieved, we grew
That even as we hurt, we hoped
That even as we tired, we tried
That we'll forever be tied together, victorious
Not because we will never again know defeat
but because we will never again sow division
Scripture tells us to envision
that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree
And no one shall make them afraid
If we're to live up to our own time
Then victory won't lie in the blade
But in all the bridges we've made
That is the promise to glade
The hill we climb
If only we dare
It's because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it's the past we step into
and how we repair it
We've seen a force that would shatter our nation
rather than share it
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy
And this effort very nearly succeeded
But while democracy can be periodically delayed
it can never be permanently defeated
In this truth
in this faith we trust

January 20, 2021 in Margaret Drew | Permalink | Comments (0)

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 (1)

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 [email protected] or [email protected]

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)