Wednesday, February 19, 2020
Last week US Congresswoman Jackie Speier and Congressman Jim McGovern introduced a resolution that would support the creation of an international court to fight corruption.
According to Human Rights Watch: "The World Economic Forum estimates that 5 percent of the world’s GDP is lost to corruption, and the International Monetary Fund blames it for US$1 trillion in lost tax revenue. And corruption can rob people of their rights. It can lead to failing healthcare and education systems, lack of access to clean water – all problems that force countless people to leave their homes and countries in pursuit of better lives. It can also corrode government itself, as corrupt officials often shield themselves from accountability by hijacking the judiciary and abusively silencing critics."
An idea originally proposed by Judge Mark Wolf, any attempt to fight corruption on a global level is a first step toward addressing a serious and massive human rights problem.
Monday, February 17, 2020
Writing in The Hill, Dree K. Collopy(adjunct professor at American University's Washington College of Law) reminds us of the promises we made to children under the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, adopted by the UN sixty years ago. " Among other rights, children must be given the means for normal development; hungry children must be fed; sick children must be nursed; orphaned children must be sheltered; children must be put in a position to earn a livelihood; children must not be exploited; children must be the first to receive relief in times of distress. Children in need must be helped. "
Collopy notes that thirty years later the UN adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The best interest of the child standard was adopted at that time. The author notes that despite these commitments today we have the highest rates of displaced children, estimated to be over 35 million. Noting the US maltreatment of refugee children the author notes "As families and children have fled to the United States in search of safety, they have been denied universally recognized rights, and the U.S. government is erecting every potential barrier to keep them from accessing protection."
To read the full op-ed click here.
Monday, February 10, 2020
The Federal government is investigating Mississippi prison conditions. Parchman and four other facilities are being investigated for their inhume living conditions. According to NBC News, among the complaints are food containing insects, rodent feces and hair. Lack of running water and showers for weeks as a form of group punishment. Prison staff would promise steak dinners and DVDs if inmates cleaned up the filth and mold before an outside agency came in to inspect. The investigation was prompted after a series of violent deaths as well as protests to shut down Parchman. "Since Dec. 29, at least 15 inmates have died across Mississippi's prisons, with several resulting from gang-related riots, according to officials. At least two of the deaths were suicide-related."
On February 19th, Columbia University School of Law will host a teach-in and fundraiser supporting Mississippi efforts to close the offending prisons and other coalitions looking to reform or abolish prisons. For more information and to register click here.
Sunday, February 9, 2020
The Republican members of the Senate, all but one, displayed their lack of courage in failing to find the President guilty of crimes against the country. The corruption of the process included a bar on calling witnesses or otherwise ensure fairness. This was no surprise. The sham "trial" was noted world-wide. The President remains impeached even if not removed from office.
Despite the predictable senatorial lack of respect for process as well as the partisan vote, the impeachment process was critical for moral and historical reasons. Memorializing for future generations that there were leaders who oppose political corruption as well as the disintegration of what remains of our democracy, was significant. Schiff, Pelosi, and Romney are names that now are recorded as voices of the dissent. When future historians reflect on this era and write about the decline of U.S. culture and political systems, concerned opposition will be noted.
Wednesday, January 22, 2020
Juliana v US is a lawsuit brought by 21 youth claiming violations by the US government of their right to a clean environment. Specifically, the lawsuit claimed violations of the right to a safe climate. The 9th circuit court of appeals dismissed the suit but not without recognizing the severity of the climate crisis. The court acknowledged that young people are the most likely to suffer because of rising temperatures. The opinion was decided 2-1 with the majority stating that the legislature must act to implement environmental protections.
Our Children's Trust supported the Plaintiffs in their lawsuit. In their statement, they noted that the decision was two to one with the dissent noting that "Judge Staton would hold that the youth plaintiffs have the standing to challenge the government’s conduct, have articulated claims under the Constitution, and have presented sufficient evidence to press those claims at trial. "
Counsel for the youth will ask the Court for a review.
The decision fails to acknowledge the human right to a healthy climate and the state's role in creating environmental damage and taking responsibility for the damage.
Monday, January 13, 2020
On Friday the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld an injunction prohibiting implementation of a policy preventing the deployment of Air Force members living with HIV. The case of Roe and Voe v. United States Department of Defense was argued for Plaintiffs by Scott Schoettes of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and others. The decision prevents the discharge of the Plaintiffs and other similarly situated Air Force members.
Quoting the lower court the addressed the vulnerability of those living with HIV and the need to include similarly situated members in the protections ordered by the court:
"Because of the longstanding stigma and discrimination facing those living with HIV, it may be difficult to identify potential plaintiffs in a case of this nature. Granting relief to all similarly situated servicemembers is thus the only way to ensure uniform, fair, rational treatment of individuals who belong to a vulnerable, and often invisible, class."
Importantly, the court addressed the failure of policy to incorporate medical advances.
A ban on deployment may have been justified at a time when HIV treatment was less effective at managing the virus and reducing transmission risks. But any understanding of HIV that could justify this ban is outmoded and at odds with current science. Such obsolete understandings cannot justify this ban, even under a deferential standard of review and even according appropriate deference to the military's professional judgments."
Addressing the current state of science is desperately needed in legal opinions involving HIV. Laws criminalizing HIV are not based upon science but on the fear of contraction common among those unfamiliar with medical advances. Perhaps state courts will follow and find spitting laws, unprotected sex laws and other statutes based on fear, not science. no longer serving any public interest and instead discriminating against a vulnerable population.
Thursday, January 9, 2020
BorderX is a project that incorporates artists from around the world in documenting crisis around the world. Artists are working at the southwest border documenting the plight of immigrants. The BorderX website says:
"The BORDERx Anthology Project has attracted artists from around the world. Argentina, Egypt, South Africa, The United Kingdom and of course the U.S.A. We are artists and writers united who are willing to stand in the face of oppression and to denounce it in words and pictures. We use comix as our medium and we have partnered with many other organizations to put the current policies on record. By diving deep into the details, we seek to bring context and depth beyond the headlines. The collected works will be assembled and published in both digital and paper volumes and are available through our crowdfunding initiative we are raising funds for the South Texas Human Rights Center who provide water stations, search and rescue as well as forensic recovery for migrants who take the treacherous journey to cross the border in search of a better life. We have also partnered with Project Amplify and Asylum Seekers Advocacy Program (ASAP) to bring sworn testimonies from migrants to the page."
Monday, December 23, 2019
In an amazing bi-partisan collaboration, last week Congress passed Ban The Box legislation. Under The Fair Chance To Compete For Jobs Act of 2019, the federal government and private employers contracting with the federal government will be unable to ask about a candidate's conviction history on a job application. These employers will be unable to inquire regarding criminal records until after a conditional offer has been made. Hundreds of thousands of formerly incarcerated people will have a chance of being hired under the new act.
Downside: The law will not take effect until two years from when the law takes effect, presumably the day when the President signs the bill into law.
Wednesday, December 18, 2019
Last month Baltimore City Council passed the Water Affordability and Equity Act. Baltimore residents experienced sharply rising water. The rising cost attributed to the City's infrastructure work geared at ensuring clean water. Both owners and tenants were affected by the high cost of water. Low-income tenants were particularly hard-hit when the terms of their tenancy made them responsible for water costs. Particularly troubling were evictions caused by non-payment of the water bills yet tenants were unable to dispute excessive bills because the bills were in the landlord's name.
The act provides four specific forms o relief for tenants. Tenants will have direct access to past and present water bills; lease must state specifically if tenants are responsible for payment of water or sewer costs; renters will have access to a Water For All Discount Program; a new Water Advocacy and Appeals has been established as a dispute resolution pathway for tenants to resolve water payment disputes and obtain protection from eviction.
The human right to water has been a frequent topic on this blog. Recently Martha Davis wrote a post on the US reluctance to agree that the water is a fundamental human right. Also referenced is the report Closing the Water Gap. The report addresses advocacy efforts in California. For those working on affordable and clean water the California and Baltimore experiences may provide some guidance.
Good news from Kansas City (MO) became the first US city to provide free transportation to its residents. The city council voted to expand free transportation from light-rail only to include buses. As one city counselor stated: “When we’re talking about improving people’s lives who are our most vulnerable citizens, I don’t think there’s any question that we need to find that money, that’s not a ton of money ($8 M) if we want to prioritize transportation, it’s something that we can find.”
This blog has posted before about the human right to transportation. Transportation is the resource that ensures other rights may be exercised, such as education, medical care, and employment. Additionally, free public transportation is a goal of environmental advocates because of the anticipated lessening of vehicle pollution.
Three cheers for Kansas City!
Tuesday, December 17, 2019
By declining to hear the 9th Circuit case of Martin v. Boise, the Supreme Court permitted to stand that circuit's ruling that people who experience homelessness cannot be criminally charged for sleeping in public outdoor spaces without offering the individuals alternative shelter. This case arose in the criminal context where the City of Boise sought to arrest those sleeping in public who were homeless. This case is part of a broader trend across the US to criminalize homelessness and poverty. The case recognizes the lack of choice that leads to homelessness and emphasizes that the governmental unit must provide a reasonable alternative. Arrest addresses a municipality's immediate concern while contributing to worsening the problem as those who then have criminal records will have even a lesser chance of obtaining adequate shelter.
The case both on the Supreme Court and Circuit levels is an advancement in legal recognition of a fundamental human right to shelter. In particular, this decision recognizes the state's obligation to provide adequate shelter to those who do not have adequate housing or other shelter. Perhaps results in Martin v. Boise will prompt cities and states to consider sustainable solutions to homeless such as affordable housing construction, education and skills training.
Tuesday, December 10, 2019
SCOTUS has declined to hear a challenge to a Kentucky law that requires details of ultrasounds be given to women seeking abortions. Among other details, the ultrasound law requires that the "fetal heartbeat" be played for the pregnant woman.
Could there be any clearer message that SCOTUS supports abortion restrictions that are unrelated to health law? The requirement reinforces the distrust of women's decisions and efforts to control those choices. Playing sounds of a "heartbeat" has no relevance to medical safety, leaving the rationale for the requirement to dissuade women from completing abortions. Emotional manipulation should find no cover in the law. But it has.
Tuesday, December 3, 2019
This week celebrated World Aids Day. We celebrate that for many HIV/AIDS is a chronic condition that will not result in death from the condition. And we celebrate the latest development that an Indian company has developed a strawberry flavored medicine that will provide infants with palatable, life-saving medication at the cost of only $1.00 per day.
But very real ongoing human costs of AIDS/HIV exist. Approximately 80,000 babies and toddlers die of AIDS yearly and 160,000 children are born with AIDS each year. 37.9 million people worldwide live with HIV or AIDS. 1.1 million of that number live in the United States.
We are fortunate that mortality rates are low and getting lower in the United States, particularly when compared with Africa. But we need to acknowledge the ongoing struggles of those living with HIV/AIDS. Approximately 37,000 new cases of HIV/AIDS diagnosed in 2018 in the US. The increase in opioid use is a particular source of new infections among younger people. AIDS Alabama has announced a planned project that will provide homeless youth with safe shelter in Birmingham. The residence will provide transitional housing, as well. Safe housing will be a powerful tool against opioid use and the spread of AIDS. Some living with HIV have no security of regular medical interventions. Rural America is experiencing an increase in diagnoses, as well, but it is there that helpful resources are fewest.
Stigma still exists for those living with HIV/AIDS and discrimination reveals itself in employment, housing and other areas that impact daily living. And criminalization of HIV/AIDS continues in many states. So while medical advances have improved the lives of those living with HIV/AIDS, in the US we must be mindful of the stressors that impact the day to lives of those living with HIV/AIDS.
We optimistically head toward the day where the conditions will be eliminated. AIDS United projects 2050 as the year for reaching that goal. Until that day we honor those who live with repercussions from discrimination that attaches to an HIV or AIDS diagnosis.
Sunday, December 1, 2019
From Cornell Visiting Clinical Professor Ian Kysel:
As you may know, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has for a number of years been working (with the support of the International Migrants Bill of Rights Initiative) on developing a set of Principles on the human rights of migrants in the Americas. Indeed, you may have reviewed or submitted comments on the most recent public draft in response to the Commissioner’s Questionnaire of this past February (available here:http://www.oas.org/en/
Thursday, November 28, 2019
2020 LAW AND HUMANITIES JUNIOR SCHOLARS WORKSHOP
Call for Papers
Columbia Law School, Georgetown University Law School, Stanford Law School, UCLA School of Law, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Southern California Center for Law, History, and Culture invite submissions for the nineteenth meeting of the Law and Humanities Junior Scholars Workshop, to be held at UCLA School of Law in Los Angeles, CA, on Sunday, June 7, and Monday, June 8, 2020.
Open to nontenured professors. The deadline for submissions is December 2nd. The contact email is email@example.com
University of Michigan School of Law
The University of Michigan Law School invites junior scholars to attend the 6th Annual Junior Scholars Conference, which will be held on April 17-18, 2020, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The conference provides junior scholars with a platform to present and discuss their work with peers, and to receive detailed feedback from senior members of the Michigan Law faculty. The Conference aims to promote fruitful collaboration between participants and to encourage their integration into a community of legal scholars. The Junior Scholars Conference is intended for academics in both law and related disciplines. Applications from graduate students, SJD/PhD candidates, postdoctoral researchers, lecturers, teaching fellows, and assistant professors (pre-tenure) who have not held an academic position for more than four years, are welcomed.
Applications are due by January 3, 2020.
Further information can be found at the Conference website: https://www.law.umich.edu/events/junior-scholars-conference/Pages/2020conference.aspx
Monday, November 25, 2019
While the next presidential election is just under a year away, registration deadlines that will permit voting in the primaries are coming up quickly. This is a year when choice matters. The presidential campaign will be fierce and the primary process is essential in determining who President Trump's opposition will be.
Those with clinics might consider organizing students to assist with voter registration. Check your state's deadlines. Many states have February deadlines. This is an important year to register racial, ethnic and sexual minorities. Diversity votes are necessary to effect the change many seek.
Marie Claire has a website that informs of primary voter registration deadlines.
Wednesday, November 20, 2019
The Mayor of Portage, Michigan has reaffirmed that the city's committed to honoring human rights for all.
"The city's human rights ordinance will be posted at each local government building in an effort to promote diversity in the county's largest city, according to Mayor John Cannon. Effective Nov. 18, 2019, it will be hung for display so that all residents and guests of our city will know that we are serious about human rights and that we are a welcoming community," he said.
"The city is committed to upholding the human rights of all persons in Portage, including United States citizens and citizens of other nations, and the free exercise and enjoyment of any and all rights and privileges secured by the constitutions of the United States of America and the State of Indiana."
In addition to the government's commitment to upholding human rights, the mayor called upon private citizens and businesses to demonstrate respect for human rights and civil liberties.
Monday, November 11, 2019
By now most know of Rapper TI's disclosure that he attends his daughter's annual gynecology exam so that the doctor can perform a "virginity test" and inform TI of the results. When his daughter turned 18 the doctor informed TI and his daughter that the doctor could not give TI the results without his daughter's consent. TI told his daughter to give consent.
But this post is about the US media's coverage of the story. Every major news outlet led the story with a discussion of the physiology of the hymen, noting that a "virginity" test is a myth. Then follows a discussion of the tissue that constitutes the hymen and the ways in which it may be torn, and how hymens do not typically cover the entire vagina. This was the lead part of the story with Fox News, the New York Times, Boston Globe and others. Are we supposed to focus on TI's error and his lack accurate information on vaginas and hymens?
The appropriate lead story is "Rapper TI abuses his daughter by demanding that she be virginity tested each year and that he receive the results." Or "male supremacist believes he has the right to control women's bodies." Women are property and TI was enforcing his ownership rights. TI gave no thought to his daughter's autonomy and privacy. And apparently, neither does the US media.
Tuesday, October 29, 2019
Tulsa Oklahoma was home to Black Wall Street, an area of Tulsa where black businesses thrived and where their owners lived. As a recent article described "Greenwood Avenue had been lined with hotels, restaurants, furriers, and even an early taxi service using a Ford Model T. Nearly 200 businesses populated the 35-square-block district in all, as did some homes as stately as the ones owned by upper-class whites in the city." Described as the "epicenter of African American entrepreneurship and wealth in the early 20th century."
That was, until May 31 and June 1, 1921. That is when Tulsa whites invaded Black Wall Street, burning it down and killing many residents. Between 100 and 300 are estimated to have died. Approximately 10,000 black people were left homeless, and property damage was $32 million in today's money. Tulsa was the largest massacre in US history. Yet few were or are taught about this horrific part of our history.
Hopefully, that is about to change. Several artists, including Oprah, are working on projects that will tell the story of mass destruction of people and their property. Unknown is whether the story will be tamed down. White people rioting and killing African Americans have not been the subject of a major movie. It remains to be determined how many Americans will promote the movie and be willing to acknowledge the shame of the massacre. More importantly, US schools need to teach this part of our history in the raw and full context in which it occurred. That would be a major breakthrough in acknowledging our past and the horrible acts perpetrated upon African Americans and other minorities.
Monday, October 21, 2019
Each fall Stanford Law School's Levin Center for Public Service and Public Interest Law honors an attorney whose work has a national impact.
This year's awardee is Yasmeen Hassan, who is the Global Executive Director of Equality Now, a human rights organization focused on legal equality for women and girls. Equality Now has offices in New York, London, Nairobi and Beirut and presences in Washington, DC, Tbilisi, Delhi, and Beijing. Ms. Hassan was with the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (2003-2008) where she worked on ensuring gender equality in laws of countries emerging from conflict and on the Secretary General’s study of violence against women. She practiced corporate law at Davis Polk & Wardwell in New York and California (1995-2003), and she clerked on the DC Court of Appeals (1994-1995).
For those interested in nominating someone for next year's award, here are the guidelines. Nominations are due by March 1st of each year.