• November 30, 2015

    by Jim Thompson

    In The New York Times, Linda Greenhouse writes that the birth control and abortion cases on the Supreme Court’s docket present “a battle for the secular state in which women can make their choices and design what Justice Ginsburg calls their life course, free of obstacles erected by those who would impose their religious views on others.”

    At The Washington Post, Sandhya Somashekhar explains how violent, deceiving rhetoric from anti-abortion advocates directly contributed to the shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado last Friday.

    The family of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black male fatally shot by a white police officer last year, has presented Ohio prosecutors with two new reports from former high-ranking officials at California law enforcement agencies criticizing the Cleveland officer’s actions as reckless and unreasonable, writes Mitch Smith in The New York Times.

    The Council on American-Islamic Relations has called on the Department of Justice to investigate the Thanksgiving Day shooting of a Muslim taxi driver in Pittsburgh by an Islamophobic passenger, reports Peter Holley in The Washington Post.

  • November 25, 2015
    Guest Post

    by Anita Sinha, Practitioner-in-Residence, Immigrant Justice Clinic, American University Washington College of Law

    Since the horrific Paris attacks that killed 130 people the night of November 13, more than half of all U.S. governors have made declarations limiting or denying Syrian refugee resettlement in their states. Many of us who practice and teach immigration and refugee law, myself included, thought these statements were political grandstanding that would not be put into action – because they could not. Our certitude was based on the U.S. Constitution, federal anti-discrimination laws, and international humanitarian law. Also critical is the fact that immigration regulation and enforcement is a federal, not state, matter – a principle recently affirmed by the Supreme Court in its Arizona v. United States decision. The power to vet and admit refugees specifically is squarely in the hands of the federal government.

    Then one of the governors, Indiana’s Mike Pence, actually barred from his state a family who had just landed in the U.S. before he declared the state’s suspension of Syrian refugee resettlement. That family was eventually taken in by Connecticut. But according to a lawsuit against Governor Pence filed this week by the American Civil Liberties Union, 19 additional Syrian refugees are expected to resettle in Indiana over the next few weeks or months. It may be only a matter of time before one or more of the other 25 states start turning away Syrian families. And so these state-by-state refugee rules may not be simply rhetorical. They are, however, still contrary to what Professor Steve Vladeck calls laws that are “both well settled and well conceived on the relative roles of the state and federal government when it comes to refugee crisis.” And there are compelling reasons to stick to these roles.

  • November 25, 2015
    Guest Post

    by B. Jessie Hill, Judge Ben C. Green Professor of Law, Case Western Reserve University School of Law

    What is at stake for reproductive rights in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, which will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this Term? In a word, everything. Whole Woman’s Health may well be the most significant abortion case in 24 years.

    The Supreme Court established the “undue burden” standard for evaluating the constitutionality of abortion restrictions in 1992 in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The vagueness of that standard, combined with the Court’s apparent willingness to uphold numerous restrictions in that case, opened the door for states to continually pass new and ever more restrictive regulations on abortion in the decades since Casey was decided. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has largely declined to speak further on the meaning or scope of the undue burden standard.

    What’s more, states began to try a new kind of restriction – restrictions adopted in the name of protecting women’s health but really aimed at reducing access to abortion. These differed from the sorts of restrictions at issue in Casey, which were primarily laws aimed at affecting the woman’s decision making process, such as waiting periods, parental consent requirements, and informed-consent requirements. Casey was relatively deferential toward measures intended to ensure the woman’s choice was fully informed, but it did not have occasion to consider the sort of pretextual health regulations at issue in Whole Woman’s Health.

    In Whole Woman’s Health, the Court will decide the constitutionality of a Texas law that imposes onerous requirements on abortion providers—namely, that doctors providing abortions have admitting privileges at a local hospital and that abortion clinics conform to the requirements for “ambulatory surgical centers,” including requirements pertaining to the physical plant, staffing, parking, and the like. These requirements are often impossible for older clinics to meet without spending enormous sums of money. Although other types of ambulatory surgery centers—clinics that provide minor surgery on an outpatient basis—are generally offered waivers or grandfathered from when new regulations are instituted, abortion providers are specifically denied grandfathering and waivers.

  • November 25, 2015

    by Jim Thompson

    On Tuesday, outgoing Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) issued an executive order restoring voting rights for 170,000 nonviolent ex-offenders who have completed their sentences, reports Ari Berman in The Nation.

    In The Atlantic, Gillian B. White states that supply-constricting zoning regulations greatly increase the cost of living in urban areas, deterring many Americans from moving to cities where jobs and resources are plentiful and subsequently exacerbating inequality in the United States.

    At The Guardian, Zach Stafford writes about growing tensions in Chicago following the release of video footage showing the inhumane death of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old black teenager who was shot 16 times by a white police officer in 2014. 

    Victoria Cavaliere reports in Reuters that the NAACP has asked a federal judge to halt the implementation of a photo identification requirement for North Carolina voters, saying  that the law disproportionately burdens “minority voters who might have less access to legal documents needed to obtain driver's licenses or other official identification.”

  • November 24, 2015
    Guest Post

    by J. Chris Sanders, Attorney, Chris Sanders Law PLLC

    Two things I’m not going to say in this brief post. First, I’m not going to explain the Citizens United decision. Ever since the Supreme Court spoke in 2010, there’s been plenty of explanation. More than explanation, there are a number of campaigns to reverse the decision, to pass a constitutional amendment overturning it, and/or to blunt its worst effects. Those campaigns do a complete and admirable job of explaining the decision, its ramifications, and the fix that we’re in. But just to keep us on the same page, here’s my two cents. I keep it short: “the Supreme Court perverted Freedom of Speech into legalized corruption by promoting unlimited campaign cash in our elections.”

    We know what the problem is. The question for this post is what to name the problem, or rather, what not to name the problem. We just have to stop saying, “we hate Citizens United.” Or “end citizens united.” Or “citizens united is bad for democracy.” I’m sorry to step on friends’ toes, but I’m concerned. Standing alone, without backstory about the decision, “we’re against citizens united” is counterintuitive. Unless the hearer knows that “citizens united” means the Supreme Court legalized giant money’s control over our politics, it makes no sense.

    You can almost see the baffled stares and hear the snide rhetorical questions in the media. “Why are progressives against united citizens?” We aren’t- we are the united citizens! Not them- they’re organized and united money, remember? The organization “Citizens United” was just a multi-million-dollar “nonprofit” masquerading as a movement. It’s Orwellian to get people to believe that organized money is really united citizens, but that’s exactly what CU was trying to do.