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.
Although these confirmations were successful, they demonstrate continued obstructionism and delay tactics. Before the Senate rules change, three of the four cloture votes would have resulted in successful filibusters because they did not reach 60 votes. Yet, within minutes of each cloture vote, Senators voted overwhelmingly to confirm these same nominees whose cloture they had just opposed. Forcing cloture votes on nominees that Senators will ultimately support is a waste of precious time, and slows the pace at which nominees waiting for votes can be considered.
On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee reported three judicial nominees out of Committee onto the Senate floor. They were:
Robin Rosenbaum to the Eleventh Circuit (Georgia), voice vote;
Bruce Hendricks to the District of South Carolina, 16-2; and
Mark Mastroianni to the District of Massachusetts, voice vote.
Later on Thursday, Sen. Reid filed cloture on five judicial nominees, the first of which will be voted on at 5:30 p.m. on Monday. The nominees were:
Carolyn B. McHugh to the Tenth Circuit (Utah);
Matthew Frederick Leitman to the Eastern District of Michigan;
Judith Ellen Levy to the Eastern District of Michigan;
Laurie J. Michelson to the Eastern District of Michigan; and
Linda Vivienne Parker to the Eastern District of Michigan.
There are now a total of 89 current vacancies and 23 future vacancies (including three vacancies that will become current if a sitting district court judge is elevated to a circuit court). There are 56 pending nominees, four of whom are nominated to future vacancies. There are 34 judicial emergencies. Thirty-three nominees remain pending on the Senate floor.
The Senate has blocked President Obama’s nomination of Debo Adegbile to be Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division. Adegbile, who was a prominent lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, has faced criticism for overseeing an appeals process for a convicted murderer while at the LDF.NPR’s Carrie Johnson comments on why the president’s nominee is facing criticism for “one controversial episode in his long career.”
The D.C. Council passed a bill Tuesday that would decriminalize private possession and smoking of marijuana. As anticipation grows surrounding Mayor Vincent Gray’s signing of the bill, Aaron C. Davis of The Washington Post describes how the law is developing into a civil rights issue.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has cancelled plans for three new charter schools. Al Baker and Javier C. Hernández of The New York Times discuss the mayor’s unyielding support for public education in the face of a growing “charter school empire.”
Ryan Goodman at Just Security reports on the Obama administration’s lethal operation against a U.S. citizen in Pakistan for “production and distribution of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).”
A study conducted by Rachel West and Michael Reich at the Center for American Progress reveals that “a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage [would] reduce SNAP enrollment.”
At The Root, Jenée Desmond-Harris notes how the 2015 White House budget report highlights civil rights, the reduction of racial disparities and access to higher education.
Religious freedom is crucial to the American experience. Indeed, a longing for the right to worship according to the dictates of conscience is one of the reasons our nation exists.
Religious freedom encompasses many concepts. Fundamentally, it means the power to choose where and how you will worship—or if you’ll worship at all. It also means that the government has no right to compel anyone to take part in religious exercises or force its citizens to directly subsidize houses of worship. It means that decisions about faith are private and belong firmly anchored in what Supreme Court Justice Tom Clark once eloquently referred to as the “inviolable citadel of the heart.”
That’s what religious freedom is. Here is what it is not: a tool to control others or to diminish their rights. Yet, increasingly, this is how some Americans are defining religious liberty. Because religious freedom is central to our democracy, it’s important that we get this right.
I wrote Taking Liberties: Why Religious Freedom Doesn’t Give You the Right to Tell Other People What to Do because I was concerned that a noble principle designed to protect individual freedom was being warped into an instrument of mass oppression. This must not happen.