ACSBlog

  • April 24, 2014

     
    A new Justice Department initiative could expand clemency eligibility for nonviolent drug offenders. Announced Wednesday by Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, the plan “would canvass the entire federal prison population for the first time to find inmates who committed low-level crimes and could be released early.” Matt Apuzzo at The New York Times examines the implications of the DOJ’s decision. 
     
    Justice Sonia Sotomayor read her impassioned dissent in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action from the bench Tuesday, stating that the plurality were “out of touch with reality [and] one not required by our Constitution.” MSNBC’s Adam Serwer reports on the “simmering tensions over the high court’s approach to race.”
     
    Garret Epps at The Atlantic explains how Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner’s opinion involving a chicken-gutting case, demonstrates “how judges change details they don’t like.”
     
    Joel Mintz at the CPRBlog explains why the Environmental Protection Agency’s Final Enforcement Strategic Plan “contains a modest silver lining in an ominous dark cloud.”
     
    At Womenstake, Beccah Golubock Watson discusses a bipartisan effort by a group of senators to reduce sexual assault on college campuses.
  • April 23, 2014
     
    At The Daily BeastGeoffrey R. Stone, 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, discusses his experience on the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies and why “constant, rigorous, and independent review is essential if we are to strike the proper balance between liberty and security in a changing world.”
     
    The Supreme Court heard oral argument yesterday in a case involving an “Ohio law that criminalizes the spreading of false information about a political candidate during a campaign.”  The challenge comes after an anti-abortion rights group mischaracterized former Rep. Steve Driehaus’ (D-Ohio) stance on abortion during his 2010 reelection campaign. Robert Barnes at The Washington Post has the story.
     
    Yesterday, the Supreme Court upheld Michigan’s ban on Affirmative Action in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the plurality whilewrote an impassioned dissent. Writing for SCOTUSblog, Amy Howe details the case.
     
    Peter Hardin at GavelGrab notes that if New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie chooses not to reappoint Chief Justice Stuart Rabner it could “give rise to the perception that Christie was attempting to intimidate judges working without tenure.”
     
    At The New Yorker’s Daily Comment Hendrik Hertzberg explains New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to join the National Popular Vote (NPV) interstate compact.
  • April 22, 2014
    Today, the Supreme Court “upheld a Michigan voter initiative that banned racial preferences in admissions to the state’s public universities.” In a dissenting opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor stated that “the Constitution does not protect racial minorities from political defeat…but neither does it give the majority free rein to erect selective barriers against racial minorities.” Adam Liptak at The New York Times has the story.
     
    Earlier this morning, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus. The case deals with the issue of whether it can be a crime to falsify information about a candidate in a political campaign.  NPR’s Katie Barlow and Nina Totenberg break down this issue of free speech.
     
    Writing for The American Prospect, Virginia Eubanks explains why “Big Data might have disproportionate impacts on the poor, women, or racial and religious minorities.”
     
    David Gans at Balkinization responds to George Will’s column for The Washington Post , defending progressive’s constitutional interpretation which “does not force us to choose between liberty and democracy.”  
     
    At The Brennan Center for Justice, Walter Shapiro “[demystifies] the power of money in politics.” 
  • April 21, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Mark M. Jaycox, Legislative Analyst, Electronic Frontier Foundation

    The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), which governs when service providers may disclose private online messages like Twitter direct messages, was ahead of its time in 1986. In the nearly three decades since it passed however, it has fallen woefully out of date. The government has used one archaic section to skirt the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement and obtain online messages older than 180 days with a simple subpoena based on much less than probable cause. Courts are leading the charge to ensure ECPA doesn't violate the Fourth Amendment, but Congress must step to the plate and make common sense changes to ECPA by explicitly requiring a warrant before the government can access your private online messages or your mobile phone location data.

    Just because your emails are stored online must not mean they have any less protection than if they were printed out and sitting on your desk. The Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement can not be ignored. The archaic law is an example of a typical statute that isn't "technology neutral." Nowadays people store emails and other private messages they care about most for extended periods of time online.

    The statute is also out of date regarding how law enforcement can obtain location data from your mobile phone. ECPA does not specifically say when geolocation can be obtained by law enforcement, so many law enforcement agencies don't currently obtain a warrant when they want your mobile location in the past or present. It's another example of how flaws in ECPA have been abused by the government to skirt the Fourth Amendment’s protections.

    In both instances, Courts are leading the charge to ensure ECPA is in line with Fourth Amendment requirements. In a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit opinion called U.S. v. Warshak, the Court noted that emails and other private communications are protected by the Fourth Amendment. As a result, many Internet providers and other companies storing online communications require a warrant in all cases, despite any language in ECPA to the contrary. When it comes to issuing a warrant for geolocation, a circuit split exists between the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which ruled that a warrant could be required for location information, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which ruled that an order based on a lower threshold suffices. At the state level, courts in New Jersey and Massachusetts have firmly sided on ensuring law enforcement obtains a warrant, while states like Utah, Indiana and Montana passed laws requiring a warrant for geolocation.

    Congress is only now beginning to catch up with the judiciary. Representatives Kevin Yoder, Tom Graves, and Jared Polis have introduced The Email Privacy Act, which provides a "clean" update to ECPA by requiring law enforcement obtain a warrant before seeking any online private messages. And Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Jason Chaffetz have introduced the GPS Act, which requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant before obtaining geolocation.

  • April 21, 2014

    Alabama’s criminal sentencing laws have faced criticism for their ineffectiveness which “leads to overcrowded, dangerous prisons that breed more crime.” Writing for AL.com retired Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice, Sue Bell Cobb describes what the state legislature must do to “remedy this deplorable situation.”  
     
    At The Huffington PostGeoffrey R. Stone, 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, explains why his former conservative constitutional mentor Philip Kurland “would be appalled by the conduct of the current Court.”
     
    Gerard Magliocca at Concurring Opinions examines the purpose of “describing the first ten amendments as the Bill of Rights.”
     
    The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund has filed a “friend-of-the-court brief in Bostic v. Schaefer” a case which “seeks to overturn Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban.”