January 2010

  • January 29, 2010
    Guest Post

    By Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment, and Kavitha Sivashanker, Fellow, National Women's Law Center

    A year ago today, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 (pictured left). The law overturned the disastrous Supreme Court decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
    The Act explicitly provides that "an unlawful employment practice occurs ... when a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice is adopted, when an individual becomes subject to a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice, or when an individual is affected by application of a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice, including each time wages, benefits, or other compensation is paid" as a result of such a practice.

    In the past year, courts around the country have implemented the Act as Congress intended for straightforward pay discrimination cases. In cases involving pay discrimination based on sex, race, disability, and age, these courts have recognized that the statute of limitations is renewed with each paycheck marred by discrimination.

    But not every plaintiff has had their pay discrimination case restored by the Act, and there are a few thorny implementation issues that have emerged which courts will continue to flesh out. So where do we currently stand with the Ledbetter Act? One year later, our assessment is that while the Ledbetter Act was a true, hard-won victory for women and families, it is only the first step towards addressing pay disparities for women.

  • January 29, 2010
    President Obama has stirred some loud complaints for critiquing the Supreme Court's controversial opinion in Citizens United v. FEC during his State of the Union address. Justice Samuel Alito, who joined the majority in Citizens United, expressed frustration during the president's criticism, reportedly mouthing the words "not true."

    But Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns and Money notes a couple of examples of politicians, including a president, taking quick and sharp shots at Supreme Court decisions. Lemieux cites:

    • "The 10th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade is a good time for us to pause and reflect. Our nationwide policy of abortion-on-demand through all nine months of pregnancy [sic] was neither voted for by our people nor enacted by our legislators - not a single state had such unrestricted abortion [sic] before the Supreme Court decreed it to be national policy in 1973. But the consequences of this judicial decision are now obvious: since 1973, more than 15 million unborn children have had their lives snuffed out by legalized abortions. That is over ten times the number of Americans lost in all our nation's wars...Make no mistake, abortion-on-demand is not a right granted by the Constitution." --Saint Ronald Reagan, 1983
    • "After a day of consideration, the McCain Campaign has decided to come out hard against yesterday's 5 to 4 decision to grant more rights to court review for enemy combatants held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. "The United States Supreme Court yesterday rendered a decision which I think is one of the worst decisions in the history of this country," McCain said. He went on to quote from Justice Roberts dissent in the case, rail against "unaccountable judges," and say that the courts are about to be clogged with cases from detainees."

    [image via goldenstate.files

  • January 29, 2010
    Guest Post

    By Elizabeth Lynch, an attorney with China Law & Policy. This post was cross-posted at The Huffington Post.

    In 1966, because of the fear of foreign influence in U.S. elections, Congress passed the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Eventually incorporated in the 1974 Federal Election Campaign Act, the law prohibits foreign governments, foreign political parties, foreign corporations and individuals with foreign citizenship from contributing, donating or spending funds, either directly or indirectly, in any U.S. election.

    While this law has been important to the functioning of our democracy, the Supreme Court, in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee, has moved perilously close to abolishing it and opening the U.S. political process to foreign money, influence and--given the structure of some multinational corporations--direct pressure from foreign governments.

    This change stems from the majority opinion's unprecedented elevation of corporations to equal status with individual citizens in the sphere of political speech. For convenience's sake, the law does periodically describe corporations as "legal persons" and "citizens" of the state in which they are incorporated. But in Citizens United, the majority has taken this legal short-hand literally. In the majority's opinion, courts are no longer permitted to take into consideration elements such as limited liability, perpetual life and preferential tax treatment that distinguish a corporation from an individual citizen when analyzing a corporation's rights, nor are courts are allowed to treat corporations differently from actual persons (as they have been doing since the country's founding.) After Citizens United, the law can no longer look behind the curtain of the corporate form: Citizens United commands that the law pertaining to political speech treat corporations exactly as individual citizens. Simply put, distinctions between corporations and human beings are no longer permissible and limitations on corporations' political speech are unconstitutional.

    In treating corporations the same as individuals, Citizens United leaves the door wide open for foreign influence in our politics. In the case of Chinese corporations, this also means foreign government involvement. Most multinational Chinese corporations, like Haier, China Telcom, and China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCE), have U.S. subsidiaries. These are companies incorporated in the United States: Haier's U.S. subsidiary, Haier American Holding Corporation, China Telecom's subsidiary, China Telecom Americas, and CSCE's subsidiary, China Construction America, are all incorporated in Delaware.

  • January 29, 2010

    The jury deliberated for only 37 minutes before delivering their verdict: Scott Roeder is guilty of first degree murder for the slaying of former health care-provider Dr. George Tiller.

    "The verdict came on the sixth day of Roeder's trial in a high-profile case that brought both national abortion-rights leaders and anti-abortion militants to Wichita to watch it unfold," according to the Kansas City Star. Trial-watchers were taken on a twisting road as a county judge initially determined that Roeder could present the defense that he was saving fetuses. This defense would have permitted the jury to assess a lesser, voluntary manslaughter charge. Yesterday, however, the judge reversed position, refusing to instruct the jury to consider manslaughter, leaving in tact the charge of first degree murder for slaying Tiller while he was serving as an usher at his church. The judge also permitted the jury to consider charges of aggravated assault for pointing the murder weapon at other church ushers.

    After minimal consideration, the jury announced that they found Roeder guilty on all counts. Roeder's sentencing is scheduled for Tuesday, March 9, 2010. The prosecutions is seeking a sentence of 50 years without parole.

  • January 28, 2010
    President Obama's nominee to head the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) remains mired in the Senate, with today's decision by the Judiciary Committee to continue holding up the process. In a Jan. 28 editorial, the Los Angeles Times declared, "Obama's choice to head the Office of Legal Counsel is more than qualified, and the GOP obstruction to her confirmation needs to end." The newspaper's editorial page had previously urged the Senate to confirm Dawn Johnsen, an Indiana University law school professor and former member of the ACS Board of Directors.

    Today's editorial decries lawmakers' obstruction of the nomination, saying it relates to Johnsen's criticism of the OLC during the Bush administration, in particular its production of legal memos promoting the use of torture of detainees and her work for groups supportive of reproductive rights.