ACLU

  • October 16, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    In the National Law Journal’s Legal Times blog, Katelyn Polantz reports on the announcement that ACLU lawyer Vanita Gupta will lead the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. She is the first South Asian-American to lead the division.

    ACS Board of Directors member Linda Greenhouse examines the exciting opening days of the Supreme Court in The New York Times.

    Garrett Epps considers in The Atlantic how the right to abortion set by Roe v. Wade has eroded over the years.

    In Hamilton and Griffin on Rights, Marci A. Hamilton examines how politicians can protect women and “nullify the effect of the pernicious Hobby Lobby decision.”

    Jonathan Cohn writes in The New Republic that the Supreme Court’s decision to put a hold on portions of a Texas abortion law should make pro-choice advocates optimistic.

  • September 9, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Geoffrey R. Stone. He is the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law for the University of Chicago, the former ACS Board Chair and current Co-Chair of the Board of Advisors for the ACS Chicago Lawyer Chapter, and a Co-Faculty Advisor for the University of Chicago Law School ACS Student Chapter

    *This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post. 

    In the context of ongoing deliberations over a proposed amendment to the Constitution to authorize the government to enact laws regulating campaign expenditures and contributions, a sharp, even bitter, rift has emerged between different generations of the ACLU's leadership over the ACLU's understanding of the First Amendment. The rift is not about whether to adopt the proposed constitutional amendment (neither side of the intra-ACLU debate has endorsed it), but about the ACLU's position on the constitutionality of campaign finance reform today.

    The current leadership of the ACLU takes a strong pro-free speech position that, like the position of Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Chief Justice John Roberts, looks askance at most forms of campaign finance regulation that would limit the freedom of individuals to spend as much as they want in the political process to advance their political beliefs.

    The six individuals who led the ACLU from 1962 to 1993 endorse a rather different view. In a letter sent on September 4 to the leadership of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, they embraced a position that, like the position of Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, recognizes that limitations on campaign expenditures and contributions may be necessary to ensure the proper functioning of the democratic process.

  • January 22, 2014
    Guest Post
    by Joshua Block, LGBT Project, American Civil Liberties Union
     
    This post originally appeared on the ACLU's Blog of Rights.
     
    Yesterday, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against Utah to force the state to continue recognizing the marriages of more than 1,000 same-sex couples who were legally married in the weeks after a federal court struck down Utah’s bans on allowing same-sex couples to marry. From the moment the federal court in Kitchen v. Herbert issued its decision on December 20, 2013, to the moment the Supreme Court issued a stay of the ruling on January 6, 2014 while the case is appealed, there was an outpouring of same-sex couples across the state who were finally able to express their love and commitment to each other through marriage and to protect their families through the protections and responsibilities that flow from being legally married.
     
    After the Supreme Court stayed enforcement of the district court’s decision Utah’s governor has issued a directive ordering all state agencies to put the recognition of those marriages “on hold.” By terminating recognition of their marriages, the Governor’s directive effectively divorced over 1,000 couples in the eyes of the state, throwing their lives into disarray.
     
    “We’re back at square one, with no idea what’s going to happen to us if one of us is hospitalized,” says Stacia. Her wife JoNell was treated much better when accompanying her during an emergency room visit after they were married than she was the time medical staff ignored and excluded JoNell during a previous hospitalization three years ago.  “After 13 years together, we just want the security and peace of mind to know we can be there for each other in the hard times.”
     
  • June 11, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    The apologists for the nation’s ever-growing intelligence apparatus continue to ratchet up their rhetoric over the actions of the whistleblower Edward Snowden, but one of the nation's oldest civil liberties group, the ACLU, is not dissuaded, taking more action to try and bring clarity and accountability to a vast and unwieldy spy network.  

    The ACLU lodged a lawsuit against the NSA’s mass surveillance of phone calls, “charging that the program violates Americans’ constitutional rights of free speech, association, and privacy,” as ACLU Legal Fellow Brett Max Kauffman reports.

    The lawsuit, Kauffman notes, follows The Guardian’s disclosure of an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court granting the NSA power to collect phone information from millions of Verizon customers. Later the newspaper reported on a program that the NSA and FBI are using to capture and collect information from users of the Internet, e-mail, video chat, audio and other actions. 

    In its lawsuit against the surveillance of phone calls, the ACLU says, “As an organization that advocates for litigants to defend the civil liberties of society’s most vulnerable, the staff at the ACLU naturally use the phone – a lot – to talk about sensitive and confidential topics with clients, legislators, whistleblowers, and ACLU members. And since the ACLU is a VBNS customer, we were immediately confronted with the harmful impact that such broad surveillance would have on our legal and advocacy work. So we’re acting quickly to get into court to challenge the government’s abuse” of a section of the Patriot Act that makes it easier for the spy agencies to obtain permission to collect more information on Americans.   

    The ACLU’s action is noble work and focuses on what matters: are national security concerns consolidating power in an ever-growing intelligence apparatus at the cost of liberty? The pundits that taking to the airwaves and blogosphere to sanctimoniously blast Snowden are laregely tiresome and irrelevant.

    For example, CNN’s legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin knocks Snowden as a “grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison.” Toobin groused that there’s right ways to go about challenging the powers-that-be and well, if you don’t follow those strictures you’re a criminal, which is similar to what constitutional law expert Geoffrey R. Stone wrote in his piece for The Huffington Post. Unlike Toobin, Stone is a one of the nation’s leading experts on constitutional law, always worth paying attention to.

    Stone focuses on why Snowden’s actions were unlawful – Supreme Court case holds that “not only can government employees constitutionally be required to agree not to disclose classified information, but they can even be required to agree, as a condition of employment, not to publish ‘any information or material relating to … intelligence activities even after they leave the government service without ‘specific prior approval.’ As the Court emphasized an employee’s disclosure of ‘material relating to intelligence activities can be detrimental to vital national interests.’”

  • June 6, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    The Obama administration, obsessed with leaks of secret government actions, is likely seething over reporting by The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill and Spencer Ackerman on the secretive order granting the federal government sweeping power to collect “telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon,” regardless of any suspected connection to terrorist groups or activities.

    The report reveals an order from the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court -- created by the Foreign Intellegince Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) -- granting power to the even more secretive National Security Agency to collect phone data over a three-month period. As The Guardian reporters and others note we have no idea if the FISA Court order is one in a series of orders granting the NSA ability to collect the information.

    Salon’s Alex Pareene notes that the nation’s intelligence agencies have continued to amass power for decades. Both parties and presidents have done nothing to rein in the NSA. “While the fact the NSA has the power to do this has been public for some time, we’ve never seen, until the Guardian obtained one, an actual Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrant. They are very top secret. Someone will probably be prosecuted for leaking this one. That, in fact, is one of the primary issues civil libertarians, like the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have been raising: If the way the administration interprets the law is secret, the law itself is effectively secret. Now we know more. But the recent history of the U.S. and domestic surveillance suggests knowing more won’t lead to doing anything about it.”

    The ACLU and other civil liberty groups and a few Senate Democrats have tried to raise concern over the unwieldy and largely unaccountable intelligence apparatus. In a June 5 press statement, the ACLU’s Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer said, “From a civil liberties perspective, the program could hardly be any more alarming. It’s a program in which some untold number of innocent people have been put under the constant surveillance of government agents. It is beyond Orwellian, and it provides further evidence of the extent to which basic democratic rights are being surrendered in secret to the demands of the unaccountable intelligence agencies.”

    In a piece for Cato at Liberty, Jim Harper looks at the indifference Americans have toward the FISA Court and the power of the nation’s intelligence apparatus. He notes that last summer and then in late December Congress reauthorized, expanded FISA powers for another five years, “continuing the government’s authority to collect data like this under secret court orders.” One of the staunchest supporters of expanding FISA powers was Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).