Tuesday, September 17, 2019
This week sexual assault allegations were made against Patriot's receiver Antonio Brown. The allegations include rape. The usual defenses are raised. The sexual encounters were consensual. The Plaintiff is just looking for money. These stereotypes rely on two myths regarding women. The stereotype of the woman who claims rape due to next day regret and the golddigger. Both stereotypes are dying, thanks in large part to the #MeToo movement. Women are more willing to come forward.
The Patriot's response was to announce that it would conduct its own investigation. “Under no circumstance does this organization condone sexual violence or assault. The league has informed us that they will be investigating. We will have no further comment while that investigation takes place.” Great irony from the organization lead by Robert Kraft. The organization takes comfort that the NFL will investigate and that the Commissioner, Roger Goodall, has the power to impose sanctions. Hardly reassuring.
Separate investigations are used to derail both civil and criminal prosecutions. The results are used to influence public opinion in favor of the NFL player without regard to the complainant's day in court.
Last year, Professor Deborah Epstein resigned from the NFL's commission on domestic violence. In an op-ed published by the Washington Post, she said that she could no longer be part of a body that exists in name only. After conducting a study involving the wives of NFL players, Prof. Epstein made several recommendations. But the commission rarely met and none of the recommendations were implemented. An independent NFL investigation is a misnomer when the investigator's first obligation is to the owners who have made significant financial investments in their players.
Monday, September 16, 2019
Wednesday, September 11, 2019
Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt's book "How Democracies Die" is an interesting read. The authors discuss how countries outside of the United States have permitted or averted demagogues from controlling the state.
Two threads are of particular interest to me. The first is that demagogues have been defeated when members of their own political party draw boundaries around and protest not only inhumane actions, but those that undermine the democratic process. Parliament has drawn the boundaries with Boris Johnson who on his own would continue with Brexit through a hard exit. Parliament is repeatedly telling Mr. Johnson that Brexit should only happen under an agreement. Rarely has the US Congress, and particularly the Republican party drawn boundaries around President Trump's actions, or even publicly criticized the president. Opposition criticism becomes fodder for the would-be demagogues' claims of victimization.
Secondly, in order to defeat a demagogue in an election, parties and voters must agree upon a candidate they will support, even if that candidate is mediocre or against some of the major policies of the uniting parties. In other words, just agree to elect anyone who is not a demagogue nor seeks to become one and voters interrupt the would be demagogue's path to power.
It is unlikely that the Republicans will take an aggressive stance against the erosion of democracy because they have already condoned many variations from the norm of civil democracy - for example, refusing to consider the nomination of Merrick Garland to the US Supreme Court. So we must rely on voter turnout for whoever is the opposition nominee. Voters may have had grievances against the Clintons that either stopped them from voting or turned them toward Mr. Trump. For the next presidential election, the only analysis needs to be which candidate will do the least damage to a democratic state.
Thursday, September 5, 2019
The Section on Women in Legal Education is pleased to announce a Call for Papers from which presenters will be selected to participate in the Section’s main program at the AALS 2020 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. The program, A Century Since Suffrage: How Did We Get Here? Where Will We Go? How Will We Get There?, will explore the legal accomplishments and failures of the women’s movement since 1920. A century ago, women won the right to vote. Since then, women garnered additional rights in virtually every legal area, including in the realms of employment, property, reproduction, education, caretaking, sexual freedom, and protection from violence. Despite significant success, much work remains.
This session will consider the future of the women’s movement through a critical examination of our past as guided by three multi-faceted inquiries:
(1) How did we get here?
Topics can include, for example: Who shaped the movement’s path? What were the movement’s guiding ideologies, practices, and priorities? Where did the movement fail? How did the exclusion of African American and other minority women shape the movement’s trajectory and goals? How did the prioritization of some issues over others impact women’s lives and the reality of sex equality?
(2) Where will we go?
Topics can include, for example, What are or should be our priorities as we move forward? How do we continue our work given the current political climate, assault on women’s rights, and status of our world? How will our understandings of gender shift the goals of the women’s movement? What impact will intersectionality have on the movement?
(3) How will we get there?
Topics can include, for example: Who will shape our actions
and goals as we move forward? Which philosophies will guide us? What are the obstacles in our path? What have we learned from our past and how will that knowledge guide us into the future?
We welcome proposals for presentations on these topics.
Submission Guidelines: Submission guidelines: We welcome proposals for 30-minute presentations on these topics. Proposals for presentations should be sent as an e-mail file attachment in MS Word to Professor Rona Kaufman at email@example.com by Monday, September 23, 2019. She will confirm receipt of all submissions. Proposals for presentations should be 500-1500 words long, and should denote the topic to be addressed, any special technological needs for the session, the presenter’s background, years of teaching, institutional affiliation, and contact information. All abstracts will be reviewed by members of the WILE Program Committee. Selected professors will present their work at the 2020 AALS Annual
Meeting. Full drafts of articles based on conference presentations will be due by July 1, 2020. Final versions of the articles will be due by August 19, 2020. Accepted articles will be published in the Winter 2021 issue of the Duquesne Law Review.
Wednesday, September 4, 2019
As reported on Monday, the Trump Administration had announce in late August that it would suspend the policy of deferred deportation for undocumented immigrants who require life-saving medical treatment in the United States. The same would apply to immigrants whose family members require treatment. As reported, 127 Senators signed a letter criticizing the President's decision in addition to public outrage.
Now the Trump administration has reversed its position, at least in part. The administration announced it would review the medical deferral requests on a case by case basis. The government announced that it had not yet deported anyone who had received an August 7th letter informing applicants of the deferral's suspension. Allegedly the applications received as of August 7th will still be reviewed on their merits. But no information was given as to whether the program will be reinstated for new applicants.
Thursday, August 22, 2019
President Trump's efforts to create enemies where there are none and encourage violence are frightening but not original.
The President told reporters "I think that any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty." The statement followed criticism Israel denying entry into the country of two US congresswomen from entering Israel and the President's role in that ban. There are so many things wrong with the statement. Should dual loyalties be expected of Jewish Americans? Would dual loyalties be tolerated for those from other middle eastern states? The statement assumes that Jewish Americans are monolithic both in national loyalties and political views. But all of this is nearly irrelevant.
The President is taking his plays from tried and true methods. Historically, Jewish people have been targets whenever a demagogue diverts followers and would be followers from his own human rights abuses. The questions of dual loyalties will soon be forgotten. The after effect will be enhanced violence against Jewish people in America. The President has nothing to lose. The President encourages violence and Jewish people have been the targets of horrific violence. Those are the images that President raises. Jews as enemies to be destroyed. Jews as foreigners in their land. Jews as disloyal. This was the rhetoric of Hitler and other demagogues. The rhetoric that gives permission for followers to destroy property and person of Jewish communities. Permission has been granted.
Wednesday, August 21, 2019
Following up on yesterday's post, one of the many concerns with the US prison system, is the use of private prisons. The profit driven systems have added additional burdens for the incarcerated and their incentive is to incarcerate as many as possible. The latter burden falls mostly on minorities. The first thing that the incarcerated lose is their dignity. Private prisons promote that result with their focus on profits, rather than providing decent living and medical conditions for the men and women (and now children at the border) they house.
According to the Sentencing Project "Since 2000, the number of people in private prisons has increased 47%, compared to an overall rise in the prison population of 9%. In six states, the private prison population has more than doubled during this period. The federal prison system experienced a 120% increase in use of private prisons since 2000, reaching 34,159 people in private facilities in 2016. Among the immigrant detention population, 26,249 people – 73% of the detained population – were confined in privately run facilities in 2017. The private immigrant population grew 442% since 2002."
Change is coming.
New York has been one of the leaders in removing private prisons from state systems. In addition to banning private prisons, New York has divested state pension funds from private prison holdings in CoreCivic and GEO Group and prohibits NY State-chartered banks from financing and investing in private prison corporations.
In June. Nevada banned the use of private prisons for core services, including custody and housing. The bill's primary sponsor said "Outlawing for-profit prisons once and for all will better help us achieve a criminal justice system of equity, integrity, and fairness — a system that views prisoners as people instead of profit margins.” Also in June, Nevada enacted a law prohibiting private prisons from housing detained immigrants.
For those living in states that use private prison systems, this might be a good time to contact legislators to encourage a bill that will prohibit their us.
Sunday, August 18, 2019
The US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has decided the case brought against the Trump Administration for human rights violations against the immigrant children being held in detention. The lower court had found the administration in contempt of the 1997 Flores settlement which addressed specifically the treatment of migrant children. The Court of Appeals affirmed that decision. The settlement requires the administration to provide safe and sanitary conditions for the children held in detainment. You may recall that the panel was astounded at the Justice Department's argument that the Flores agreement did not mandate permitting children to sleep or allowing them to wash.
Judge Marsh Bezon authored the opinion, stating: “Assuring that children eat enough edible food, drink clean water, are housed in hygienic facilities with sanitary bathrooms, have soap and toothpaste, and are not sleep-deprived are without doubt essential to the children’s safety.” The lower court had found that the children were not receiving hot, edible or a sufficient number of meals during a given day; lacked clean drinking water, clean bedding, toothbrushes, soap and towels; and endured sleep deprivation as a result of cold temperatures, overcrowding, lack of proper bedding and constant lighting.
Tuesday, August 6, 2019
Save the dates of October 10-12th for the Morehouse Human Rights Film Festival. The film festival will "reintroduce Morehouse as an institution that fosters ongiong discussions about human rights and social and political issues of today. The goals of the festival are to educate and expand awareness of social justice issues nationally and internationally; generate conversation and dialogue around human rights, justice and injustice; and inspire innovative and creative new approaches to social change."
The organizers will announce successful entries on August 10th.
To purchase tickets click here.
Thursday, August 1, 2019
Much is discussed in the law these days about freedom of religion. Not so much is mentioned about freedom from religion.
Even less has been discussed about the spiritual bankruptcy that the United States is experiencing. That discussion parallels the discussion of human rights needs and expectations between the democratic candidates. Candidate Marianne Williamson has not focused on her spiritual beliefs and ideas and rightly focused on the policy shifts she would make as president. But beyond debate responses, Ms. Williamson brings respectful language stemming from her spiritual beliefs that reflect human rights principles of respect and dignity.
Earlier candidate Williamson said, “Politics should be a container for our deepest conversation, But it has become a container for our most shallow conversation.” While Williamson is considered a long shot candidate, her language of inclusiveness and the clarity of her policies has drawn public attention. Perhaps the lesson other candidates should take away is to speak to the public in respectful language, no matter who or what is the topic while promoting policies that include addressing the needs of struggling individuals and a struggling democracy.
Wednesday, July 31, 2019
The "pro-life" administration recently announced that it is reemploying the use of the death penalty in federal cases. As Human Rights Watch reported the announcement is a "slap in the face" to those advocating for true reform in a criminal justice system that has proven over and over again to be discriminatory.
The revival ignores not only racial discrimination but the increasing awareness that significant amounts of prisoners are being exonerated. One consequences of the public coverage of exonerations is that public support for the death penalty is declining,
The decision contributes to the international criticism that the US has lost all moral leadership, particularly in when it comes to human rights.
Monday, July 29, 2019
Every day I am haunted by thoughts of children in cages, dirty, hungry and without anyone to hug them.
Tonight we went to hear David Sedaris. One of Sedaris' former students opened for Sedaris by reading a very funny essay of her own. As a teacher, it was nice to see a former professor promoting a student. We were treated to two hours of non-stop laughing. His diary readings along with his first-time tests of new material were hysterically funny. The audience was receptive and appreciative. Serotonin levels raised, I left with a more carefree outlook.
I mentally contrasted my evening with those who are suffering and recalled someone saying that the best thing we can do for the next generation is to be optimistic. About a year ago, Time published a piece by KJ Dell'Antonia How to Raise Optimistic Kids in Pessimistic Times.
The author wrote: "There are excellent reasons for anyone — nations, businesses, schools — to seek out the optimistic. And it’s even truer for parents who wish to see their children succeed both as kids and as adults. Optimists are more resilient. They make better entrepreneurs, experience better health outcomes, live longer and are more satisfied with their relationships. Optimism enables people to continue to strive in the face of difficulty, while pessimism leaves them depressed and resigned to failure — even expecting it."
So yes- not only is it healthy and good mentoring to laugh, indeed it is imperative. Ways to find relief from grief and other distress is probably the most valuable tool we can give our young. Not to ignore serious fault lines in our world, but to show ways to survive with our humanity intact.
Thursday, July 18, 2019
There is no doubt that President Trump's tweets targeted at Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley were racist. Our president is a racist. We knew that from the moment Mr. Trump insisted that President Obama was not born in the United States.
The recent controversial tweets had two purposes. The first was to distract the country from the President's sidelining the census question on whether the individual is a US citizen. The second was to create just the controversy we have now in order to revive his base's anti-immigrant fervor. This is the beginning of the re-election campaign. And so far it is going well for the President. The media is full of comments from all sides on whether the President is racist. Misogyny and racism were frequent topics during the last election. Rather than focus on issues, the media distracted us by reporting every outrageous act and statement muttered by candidate Trump. The media gave a significant assist to Mr. Trump's election.
Now we have several distractions because the Democrats took the tweet bait. Rather than focusing on the candidates, issues and proposed plans once again we are focused on the President's hatred. And the targeted Congresswomen are now reduced to being "The Squad" further reducing their credibility.
Speaker Pelosi has attempted to steer Congress away from impeachment talk because she knows that focusing on the President's failings, if not crimes, at this point in time will distract the nation from serious consideration of the candidates. The strategy worked in the last election. The Congresswomen are patriots, no doubt. They speak truth to power and they bring a much-needed perspective to the debate. But the response was neither wise nor helpful. The Congressional resolution spoke enough. The individual voices of the new Congresswomen provided nothing but new fodder for a hateful man looking to create the "other" for his base.
Learning not to react is a valuable political tool.
Monday, July 15, 2019
Religious Freedom has had significant victories over the past few years as Supreme Court cases go. But those cases (beginning with Hobby Lobby v. Burwell), have protected religious freedom arguments from a conservative Christian perspective.
Unsuccessful with SCOTUS this term was a religious freedom issue brought by a Muslim prisoner who requested that an imam be present at his execution. Justice Kagan wrote in dissent "'The clearest command of the Establishment Clause is that one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another." But that is not what happened here. In this case, the 11th Circuit had already stayed the execution in order to hear Mr. Ray's religious freedom argument. But in an unusual measure, SCOTUS removed the case from the 11th Circuit and denied the prisoner's request with, as the dissent says, little briefing and no argument "just so the State can meet its preferred execution date".
The trend to watch in the upcoming term is whether non-Christian religious rights are protected. In addition, those cases that have favored religious freedom have ignored the religious freedom rights of those most impacted by the court's decision. Left unaddressed was whether in protecting the religious rights of the proprietors in Hobby Lobby a religious tyranny was created that oppressed workers who hold quite different religious beliefs?
A case involving competing religious beliefs would be welcome in order to clarify whether non-Christians or atheists will have protection from our highest court.
Thursday, July 11, 2019
Ever considered whether members of the US Supreme Court should be subject to term limits? A group of legal scholars has considered the issue and, in a recent letter, they urge that life tenure be abolished. The brief letter does not suggest any particular number of years and is open to consideration of other solutions.
"An essential portion of the letter reads: We choose not to endorse any particular plan here, so long as terms are sufficiently long to maintain judicial independence. But we believe that continuing to concentrate power in the hands of a few individuals, who sit for many decades with almost no oversight and little incentive to compromise, is no longer good public policy, if it ever was. A court seen by most Americans as a political actor, whose very legitimacy is routinely questioned, and whose
appointment process has devolved into farce, is in need of fixing."
The hope that term limits or other "fixes" will remove the court from partisan politics.
Wednesday, July 10, 2019
As we reported earlier, the Commission on Unaliable Rights is gearing up to start work. On July 8th Secretary Pompeo, a Christian Evangelical made an announcement that he appointed Prof. Mary Ann Glennon (Harvard Law) as chair. Prof. Glendon is a former ambassador to the Vatican. The makeup of the other commission members reveals that the Commission's focus is religious dominance over all other rights.
Alarms are sounding. Democrats are promoting a bill that would prohibit State Department funds from being used to support the commission. The American Jewish World Service denounced the commission due to its religious nature. One member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee bemoaned that the administration "has taken a wrecking ball to America's global leadership on promoting fundamental rights across the world."
There is good reason to be worried. Mr. Pompeo published an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal on Sunday which does nothing to soothe human rights advocates. The article makes clear that US dominance in defining what rights anyone is entitled to is the goal. A portion o the "Yet after the Cold War ended, many human-rights advocates turned their energy to new categories of rights. These rights often sound noble and just. But when politicians and bureaucrats create new rights, they blur the distinction between unalienable rights and ad hoc rights granted by governments. Unalienable rights are by nature universal. Not everything good, or everything granted by a government, can be a universal right. Loose talk of 'rights'
unmoors us from the principles of liberal democracy."
To accomplish this weeding out of human rights, Commission members will examine the Universal Declaration of Human Rights among other documents to determine what rights are fundamental and, among other questions, who has the power to grant rights. The likely answer is God, who no doubt will be wispering in the ears of commission members.
Mr. Pompeo goes on to say: "Human-rights advocacy has lost its bearings and become more of an industry than a moral compass. And 'rights talk' has become a constant element of our domestic political discourse, without any serious effort to distinguish what rights mean and where they come from." Conclusions will no doubt be drawn that the only rights that exist are those specifically stated in US drafted documents. The very documents that exclude any form of diversity. Anything else will no doubt undermine fundamental US freedoms.
Monday, July 8, 2019
With mostly bleak news these days, the US Women's Soccer Team gave us something to be proud of when they won the World Cup this past Sunday in France. An amazing group of women athletes have become the new role models for millions of American girls. The team has shown bravery and determination on and off the field. In March, on International Women's Day, members of the team filed suit against US Soccer for gender discrimination.
According to NPR, "The U.S. Women's National Team, or USWNT, has consistently been more successful than the men's team. The U.S. women have won the World Cup three times (now four) and are four-time Olympic champions. The men's team has never won either tournament and failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup."
As one example of the many of unequal pay issues, assuming the men's and women's teams played twenty exhibition games and won them all, the women would earn $99,000 while the men would earn $263,320.00. Gender differences in pay for the team is prevalent in almost every contract term including travel, the number of games required to play, and the type of training fields provided.
The Men's Soccer Team supports the women's lawsuit including an equal allocation of revenue sharing between the men's and women's teams. Thank you, men. A bit late and a lot short. Evidence indicates that the women draw larger audiences and win more games. So perhaps equal allocation is not so much the issue as equal reward incentives.
Thursday, July 4, 2019
Wanting his playgroup friends, particularly that kid from North Korea, to see that he owns the best toys, this July 4th celebration in the District of Columbia displayed a fair amount of military hardware. The display fell short of the full military parade that the President has wanted since he viewed France's parade in 2017. Actually, according to the New Yorker, the President wanted a military display in his inaugural parade. But this will do. There will be fighter jets flying overhead and a show by the Blue Angels and displays of other military hardware.
According to the group Code Pink, they were granted a permit to display a 20' baby Trump balloon complete with diaper and cell phone. But in a corruption of the principles of American freedom, freedom of speech has been undermined to protect the President's inflated (much more than 20') sense of himself and his power. When the National Park Service issued Code Pink's permit, it prohibited the group from inflating the balloon with helium and permitted cold air inflation only. This defeated one of the group's goals, which was to make the balloon visible in the President's line of sight. The National Park Service's guide to planning mall events limits structures to not higher than 45 feet. Yet-Baby Trump character was grounded. And the permit allowed display not on the National Mall but at 17th Street assuring that the President will not pass by the protest.
The public was kept away from the area closest to where the president spoke. The first 5,000 seats were reserved for Republicans, including donors. The event cost of $2.5 million was taken from the National Park Sevice's budget that was intended for park improvement.
Protests organized in other ways. A group of Vets handed out tee shirts honoring John McCain. And mini Trump balloons were sold. But the likelihood that the President saw either is slim.
There was hope that the President would go off script and make his speech political - then he and his event organizers would be responsible for $2.5 million that this event cost.
This was a faux fourth - chipping away at tradition and democracy, little by little. Until protest becomes risky.
Thursday, June 27, 2019
Four women, all volunteers for No More Deaths, who left water and food for migrants in the summer of 2017 faced criminal trial this week. Following a three-day bench trial, the four were found guilty. The women were charged with misdemeanor crimes based upon their entering protected federal land without a permit and leaving food and water there. The Washington Post reported: "Prosecutors said they (the women) violated federal law by entering Cabeza Prieta, a protected 860,000-acre refuge, without a permit and leaving water and food there."
Of course, the motivation for the prosecution was the women's aiding migrants, but the prosecution for impermissible entry into federal land is an easier prosecutorial "win" than prosecuting for providing humanitarian aid. "Aid workers say their humanitarian efforts, motivated by a deep sense of right and wrong, have been criminalized during the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal border crossings. Federal officials say they were simply enforcing the law. " More accurately, just following orders.
Sunday, June 23, 2019
This past week I had the privilege of attending a performance of What The Constitution Means To Me in New York City. This particular performance was special because domestic violence advocates from around the country were in the audience. As was Jessica Lenahan whose US Supreme Court Case is a topic addressed by actor Heidi Schreck in the play. Schreck tells the story of traveling as a 15-year-old to various veteran's organizations giving her speech on the Constitution. That is how she earned money to attend college. The walls are lined with framed headshots of white male veterans wearing their slim double-pointed hats.
The play movingly addresses the Supreme Court's refusal to protect women from violence, and the rollback of women's rights, particularly reproductive rights. These topics are timely for discussion and are eloquently addressed.
The stage set silently reinforces the power that white men have over women. And that was the greatest irritant for me.
I appreciate those who served in the military. Those who were disabled from their military experiences deserve ongoing restorative support without the resistance that many veterans encounter from our government.
But what we do not need is another veteran memorial, another military park or statue. A public memorial honoring the women of all genders who have suffered violence at the hands of intimate partners would be welcome. Memorials to individuals of all genders who experienced sex-based violence, including veterans, are urgently needed. Public recognition of the indignities suffered by women of color and indigenous women would do much to bring awareness to the intersection of race, ethnicity, and sex on the spectrum of discrimination and violence against women. A memorial to all of the women who suffered and the many who died because of war would bring a face to the human suffering war creates. Perhaps we could refocus suffering as well as heroism.
Since only the work performed primarily by males is honored in this country -- police, fire, military for some examples -- that is the culture we honor. The next time that your town wants to erect another statue to male culture, think about protesting. I would argue that public statues and memorials are unnecessary. But I realize in an age where civics are no longer taught, and women are largely ignored in history, education happens around public monuments and this is one place where the re-education of America can begin.