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.
* Editor's Note: The 50th anniversary of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan is this Sunday, March 9.
For me, and for other media attorneys of my generation, it is almost impossible to conceive of a world without New York Times Co. v. Sullivan. Certainly, the “actual malice” standard announced in Justice Brennan’s celebrated opinion, and the interplay between that standard’s twin elements of fault and falsity have, throughout my lifetime, been the defining features of the law of defamation. But the impact of that landmark decision extends far beyond the realm of reputational torts.
Sullivan has shaped our very understanding of the First Amendment—as a reflection of “a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide-open”—and it serves as a touchstone in virtually every case that calls for an interpretation of the constitutional guarantees of free speech and a free press.
For evidence of Sullivan’s enduring and continued role in shaping First Amendment thought and jurisprudence beyond the scope of defamatory speech, one need look no further than the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision in United States v. Alvarez. Alvarez addressed the constitutionality of the Stolen Valor Act of 2005, a federal statute that made it a crime for an individual to falsely claim that she or he had been “awarded any decoration or medal authorized by Congress for the Armed Forces of the United States.”
A six-justice majority concluded, albeit for different reasons, that the statute was unconstitutional under the First Amendment. While Justice Kennedy in his plurality opinion, and Justice Breyer in his concurrence, disagreed as to the proper analysis, they agreed in at least one critical respect, finding that false speech is not outside the scope of the First Amendment—an idea rooted in the reasoning and holding of Sullivan.
The Justice Department has been asked to investigate accusations of CIA surveillance of computers used by Senate staff to prepare a Senate Intelligence Committee report allegedly detailing “how the CIA misled the Bush administration and Congress about the use of interrogation techniques that many experts consider torture.” Jonathan S. Landay, Ali Watkins, and Maris Taylor at McClatchy DC have the story.
State officials are appealing U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II’s ruling that Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages legally performed outside the state. Writing for The Courier-Journal, Tom Loftus and Chris Kenning report on why the Office of the Attorney General is sitting this one out.
The Supreme Court agreed to hear oral argument in a case that challenges the Arkansas Department of Corrections’ no-beard policy for inmates. Ruthann Robson—Faculty Advisor for the CUNY School of Law ACS Student Chapter—reviews Holt v. Hobbs at the Constitutional Law Prof Blog and explores whether the ADC’s policy violates the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court expanded whistleblower protections. In Lawson v. FMR LLC, the justices agreed to extend such protections to businesses working for public companies. Writing for Reuters, Lawrence Hurley breaks down the high court’s decision.
Andrew Cohen at The Atlantic examines United States v. Maloney, a case that features a wrongfully convicted man, an intrepid prosecutor and “a result … that is worthy of respect.”
Alex Rich at Above the Law argues why a new meaning of legal work “may define the work of a generation of lawyers.”
Environmental Justice should not exist. That is to say, Environmental Justice should not have to exist; it should be axiomatic, superfluous and redundant. The law should, without coercion, be equally committed to protecting one’s health, safety, and wellbeing, whether one is a socialite or a factory worker, a lawyer or a farm worker, a politician or an unemployed single mother. That Environmental Justice is an increasingly prevalent topic in the environmental law and policy dialogue is both a sad reflection on how far we still have to go and a hopeful indication that the journey has at least begun. Indeed, Environmental Justice promises to occupy a position of prominence as the next generation of modern U.S. environmental policy takes shape. And it should.
Twenty years ago, the first federal effort to grapple with Environmental Justice took the form of an Executive Order (EO 12898). Signed by President William Jefferson Clinton on February 11, 1994, the EO admonishes federal agencies to “make achieving environmental justice part of [each agency’s] mission by identifying and addressing … disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations.”
There are good reasons why the law should be relatively more attuned to the conditions of the nation’s most vulnerable, most marginalized communities. Members of these communities have the fewest resources to commit to protecting themselves, especially from threats that are often both complex and indistinct. They have less influence on decisions affecting the quality of their environment, and they typically cannot buy their way out of over-exposure by moving to safer, less burdened communities (even assuming the capacity to meaningfully compare potential hazards). Moreover, they are less likely to have access to adequate health care, healthy foods, and information, and are more likely to experience health-compromising stress and anxiety.