so we all know this

May 18, 2010

Don’t use Jerry Guierinot as your lawyer if you are on trial for capital murder.

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Obama’s Civil Rights Agenda

November 20, 2008

Hey everybody, this is Geoff.  I work at the ACLU’s Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief and I’m a former student of Laura Beth’s.  I have not been writing for the blog lately because law school applications have consumed me.  With all of that thankfully behind me, I am excited to get back to blogging.

I am sure that you know about Change.gov, the website for the office of President-elect Obama.   What you may not know is that this page is already in its second iteration.  Obama’s team wiped the site of its substantive content — i.e. specific policy changes — five days ago and replaced it with a simple statement of change.  Bloggers have done a great job of cataloging the pre-wipe content.  For example, here is what the “Civil Rights” section of Change.gov looked like on November 7th.

Notice the text, “Strengthen Civil Rights Enforcement: Obama and Biden will reverse the politicization that has occurred in the Bush Administration’s Department of Justice. They will put an end to the ideological litmus tests used to fill positions within the Civil Rights Division.”  That language has been removed from the re-launched website, here.  There is also a new, much larger explanation of Obama’s GLBT-related policies.

This change is not very surprising, but it does raise a few questions.  First, why remove the old content entirely before changing it?  The act of taking down all of the issue-pages certainly raised flags here at the ACLU where we were wondering what sort of pushback could have caused Obama to do so.  Now that the page has been restored to a similar state, I am confident that this civil rights agenda will be stable going forward.

Second, what do you think about this language regarding employment discrimination?  “Combat Employment Discrimination: Obama and Biden will work to overturn the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that curtails racial minorities’ and women’s ability to challenge pay discrimination. They will also pass the Fair Pay Act, to ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work, and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.” Laura Beth, what role can the executive branch play in helping to bolster plaintiffs’ standing to bring these types of lawsuits?  I don’t think the Department of Justice will be brining any cases of this sort, but I hope that I’m wrong.

In any event, there mere existence of this website is a positive development for the future of the executive branch.  Could anyone imagine Bush/Cheney launching a similar page in ’04?  Yikes.  I am just glad to see that transparency will rule the day over secrecy in the new administration.


Hillary’s speech

August 27, 2008

Hillary’s speech last night blew me away.  I am sure I could not have written it, but if I had been asked to, I couldn’t have done a better job.  At the beginning of this race, I said I would happily campaign for either of them as hard as possible (my goal in the beginning was to elect ANY Democrat – even one with 2 heads if need be!). 

But, if you read this blog, you know she subsequently made me very angry as she refused to accept her loss when it was clearly inevitable.  I worried that her continued running would divide the party.  Now we have PUMAs (party Unity My ass) — the 35 and up white women who had vowed to vote for her in the (now-not-happening) roll call.

All that said, toward the end of her speech last night, I was crying.  All of the feelings of empathy for someone who worked so hard and missed it by a hair overwhelmed my angry feelings toward her.  (Yes, I worry about the 4th place person in every Olympics match I watch too).  I guess it makes me a bad person because it took her doing what i wanted (trying to unite the party) before I felt much empathy for her.  As she swallowed her bitter pill with good cheer, I wished we had seen that Hillary on the campaign trail!  That was a hell of a speech.  She looked great, she gave a great speech, and she did all she could to repair the damage. 

If you believed in Hillary and are now willing to vote to continue this war, for this crappy economy, for dependence on foreign oil because you are so mad that she was not the nominee then you need to have your head examined.  I think they are Republicans faking it to make a story.  I have no evidence of this and am half kidding, but not totally.

So Hillary — I hope you become a Supreme Court Justice or a cabinet official and maybe run again.  Everyone was worried about the Hillary lovers — Could she convince them to go for Obama?  But there was another job — Could she convince those who were really pissed at her that she is really one of us?  The answer is yes for me.  Yay Hil!


Big Win For Workers’ Rights in Workplace Discrimination Suits

May 27, 2008

Today’s two Supreme Court decisions — Gomez-Perez v. Potter and CBOCS West, Inc. v. Humphriesheld that federal laws barring workplace discrimination protect workers against retaliation if they complain about bias on the job.   This expansive view of civil rights — particularly worker’s rights — is a welcome turn away from last year’s ruling in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company that limited plaintiff’s ability to seek redress in pay-discrimination cases.  The rights upheld today went beyond those explicitly articulated by congressional legislation.  That gives me confidence that the Roberts Court may bring a larger role for the judiciary in enforcing civil rights law.

Laura Beth, how psyched are you about this?

Here is more commentary by the New York Times, SCOTUSBlog and the Christian Science Monitor.


Mildred Loving, RIP

May 6, 2008

Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court case that struck down Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law, was my favorite case in law school, not just for its cool name, but for its implications for a constitutional jurisprudence of personal autonomy. Mildred Loving died on Friday at age 68. Her obituary in the Washington Post is worth reading.


Time warp – facially neutral voting restrictions upheld!

April 28, 2008

Get out your driver’s license, Vicky! You are going to need in in Indiana to vote. The Supreme Court just upheld Indiana’s law requiring valid photo ID for people who show up to vote. I guess I am not surprised that it came out this way, but I am a little surprised that it was 6-3 (instead of 5-4). Stevens, Scalia, Alito, Thomas, Roberts, and Kennedy.

I have only read the syllabus, and of course slip opinions can have errors, but so far my favorite sentence is, “Because Indiana’s cards are free, the inconvenience of going to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, gathering required documents, and posing for a photograph does not qualify as a substantial burden on most voters’ right to vote, or represent a significant increase over the usual burden of voting.” (Yes, I know I lecture on and on about not quoting from the syllabus — it is a blog).

I was at the IL Secretary of State’s office last week and let me me tell you that is a signifcantly increased burden if the default is just showing up to vote.

OK, so jibes at the DMV, BMV, or Secretary of State’s Office or whatever, aside, this is a serious blow to anyone who believes in civil liberties. Is this really the least restrictive means available for protecting against voter fraud? (By the way, that is not the legal standard — least restrictive — it just seems to be a good one which is often employed in other constitutional cases where rights we value a lot are being limited in some way out of a compelling interest. The jurisprudential standard is that the court must (1) consider the magnitude of the first and fourth amendment rights against the precise state interests and (2) considering the extent to which those interests burden the plaintiff).

Let’s just start off by agreeing the voter fraud is bad and could be a problem. At least right now, elections are being won or lost by the slimmest of margins. But that is why the 43,000 residents of IN who are legally entitled to vote but have no such card should not be discouraged from voting! That is 1% of the eleigble voters in IN! And, guess which folks are the least likely to have such ID? Poor, people of color, and elderly folks (not that those are mutually exclusive categories).

As Souter points out, there are very few BMVs compared to polling places. You usually walk a few blocks to vote, but how far away is your BMV? What about inking thumbs like they do in developing nations? Seriously — isn’t that less restrictive? OK, I am back to reading the opinion now.

You can read the opinion here (opens as a PDF).


Where is Linda Greenhouse when you need her?!?!?!

April 21, 2008

I know, retired. But COME ON New York Times, this MUST be the lamest excuse for an article about the Supreme Court EVER.

Does it mention the grounds for these 11 rejected death row appeals? Well, yes, but just one. (Ooooh — on the 4th or 5th reading I realize that these were ALL cruel and unusual 8th amendment claims based on the lethal injection method being too painful).

Does it go into such detail that the average reader stops caring about the individual defendants? Hmmm . . . let’s see:

The Supreme Court on Monday turned away appeals from 11 death row prisoners in seven states, including one who killed his adoptive parents and continued to live in their home as their bodies decomposed, then cleaned up the scene so he could have a party for friends.

Yes. That makes me not care much about the guy.

Does it make me think about state killing (a la Sarat) or the implications for the states financially or morally? Ummm . . . no.

So that would be a zero for content, a minus one for deatials with no context and a minus one for getting us to think about the bigger issues. David, call the NYT right now — they must have an opening because if they keep this yahoo I’ll stop even checking their website.