On Friday, February 28, more than 150 law student leaders from across the United States convened at UCLA School of Law in Los Angeles, California for the 2014 ACS Student Convention, which focused on the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. The weekend officially opened with an Introductory Executive Session featuring UCLA Law professor Adam Winkler, followed by a Welcome Reception. The Keynote Dinner featured the UCLA Law’s Dean, Rachel Moran and Theodore M. Shaw, who previously headed the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Shaw addressed the legacy of Brown v. Board of Education and challenged the student attendees to examine the “progress” that has been made over the past sixty years and examine the ways that we have failed to live up to the stated goal of Brown.
Saturday kicked off with breakfast and a panel on “Brown at 60 – The Past, Present, and Future” featuring Cheryl I. Harris, Stephen Menendian, and Thomas A. Saenz with Priscilla Ocen serving as moderator. The panel first discussed the legacy of Brown, from implementation in the 1960s and 1970s to the challenges it faced over time. The panelists examined the current state of Brown and the complexities of K-12 education in the United States. They emphasized the complexities and obstacles facing any “solution.”
The next panel featured Joshua Kim, Jennifer Pizer and, again, Thomas Saenz (standing in for Marielena Hincapié) with Justin Levitt moderating. This panel discussed expanding opportunity and how Brown and the experience of Brown can inform present-day movements for social justice. During this discussion Thomas Saenz said that he always tells his staff that “empower is an intransitive verb, people empower themselves.” He challenged the students, telling them that when you get your Bar card, “you don’t stop being a member of the greater community, you don’t have to surrender your humanity.” Joshua Kim further challenged the way that may “activist lawyers” view themselves. Kim stated that he is “not an organizer” for in many ways it is disrespectful for lawyers to take on that title due to the differences in the roles that lawyers tend to occupy and the real work that true organizers do in the field. Jennifer Pizer stated that litigation is an opportunity to tell a story, and good stories have great power for a social movement.
Spencer Overton, former ACS Board Member and current President and CEO of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, visited Selma, Alabama for the 49th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday.” Overton chronicled his experience on Twitter as civil rights leaders urged Congress to remember the legacy of Selma following last year’s controversial Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder. For further analysis of Shelby County, please see Overton’s guest post at ACSblog.
In an interview with NPR’s Carrie Johnson, Attorney General Eric Holder shares his stance on softening prison sentences, the Senate’s vote to block the nomination of Debo Adegbile for Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, and former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
The Supreme Court has declined to hear a Pennsylvania school district’s appeal of a lower-court decision to uphold the right of students to wear breast-cancer-awareness bracelets. Mark Walsh at Education Week reports on the student-speech case.
Walter Shapiro at the Brennan Center for Justice discusses the legal issues surrounding the Federal Election Commission and single-candidate Super PACs.
Ann Havemann at CPRblog explains how budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency will affect enforcement of environmental laws.
Fifty years ago yesterday, the Supreme Court expanded First Amendment rights in the landmark case of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan. Former ACS Board Chair and current Co-Chair of the Board of Advisors for the ACS Chicago Lawyer Chapter as well as Co-Faculty Advisor for the University of Chicago Law School ACS Student Chapter Geoffrey R. Stone discusses the case that “re-framed the constitutional law of libel” at The Huffington Post. For more anniversary coverage of Sullivan, read Katie Townsend’s guest post at ACSblog.
At the Constitutional Accountability Center’s Text & History Blog, CAC and their co-counsel Ben Cohen of The Promise of Justice Initiative discuss the certiorari petition they filed in Jackson v. Louisiana. The Sixth Amendment case considers “whether an individual may be convicted of a crime even if the jury in his case cannot reach a unanimous verdict.”
AtPrawfsblawg, Sarah Lawsky reviews a study by Loyola-Chicago Law School ‘s Alexander Tsesis which examines last year’s entry-level law school hires.
At Womenstake, Emily Martin, Vice President and General Counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, discusses the importance of the West Virginia Pregnant Workers’ Fairness ers’ Fairness
Following the Senate’s failure to invoke cloture on the nomination of Debo Adegbile to be Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, Andrew Cohen takes to The Atlantic and says that Chief Justice John Roberts should discuss his previous representation of serial killer John Ferguson. The Chief Justice “should explain why every criminal defendant deserves a lawyer…and why lawyers have professional obligations to advocate on behalf of even the most despised members of our society.”
Eighteen years after California voters adopted Proposition 209, which, among other provisions, prohibits affirmative action in public education, University of California officials are struggling to enroll robust levels of diverse students. Erica E. Phillips at the Wall Street Journal has the story.
At Above the Law, Elie Mystal discusses changes to the student loan forgiveness program outlined in the White House’s latest budget proposal.
This was a busy week for nominations. Following Sen. Reid’s (D-Nev.) filing of cloture last week, on Wednesday, the Senate considered the nominations of DeboAdegbile to serve as the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights and four judicial nominees.
Senators voted 48-51 against the motion to reconsider cloture on Adegbile, successfully blocking a cloture vote his nomination. For procedural reasons, Sen. Reid switched his vote to preserve the opportunity to for him to bring the nomination up for consideration in the future, making the final vote 47-52. President Obama called the vote a “travesty.”
The Senate then considered the following judicial nominations. Cloture was invoked on each nominee prior to confirmation.
Pedro A. Delgado Hernandez to the District of Puerto Rico;
Pamela L. Reeves to the Eastern District of Tennessee;
Timothy L. Brooks to the Western District of Arkansas; and
Vince Girdhari Chhabria to the Northern District of California.
Of note, Vince Chhabria is a member of the ACS network and filled a judicial emergency.