Arizona

  • December 15, 2014

    by Paul Guequierre

    The Supreme Court today declined to hear a case out of Arizona seeking to end the blocking of a state law limiting the availability of medicinal, nonsurgical abortions.  Opponents of the law, which had been blocked by a lower court, say it would all but put an end to medication abortions in the state.  This is not the first time this year the justices sided with abortion rights advocates. In October the Supreme Court allowed more than a dozen abortion clinics in Texas to remain open, blocking a state law that would have shut them down.

    In Arizona, the 2012 law requires abortion providers to comply with a 2000 protocol from the Food and Drug Administration for mifepristone, an abortion-inducing drug that is sometimes called RU-486, reports The New York Times.  The Legislature said the law was meant to “protect women from the dangerous and potentially deadly off-label use of abortion-inducing drugs.” Since 2000, doctors have found the drug, in proper doses, is safe and effective, undermining the anti-choice intent behind the state law.  

  • July 25, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Justin Marceau and Alan K. Chen. Marceau is an associate professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a former public defender in Arizona. Chen is the William M. Beaney Memorial Research Chair and Professor of law at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a former staff attorney at the ACLU’s Chicago office.

    The State of Arizona’s recently botched execution of Joseph Wood is just the latest in a series of horrific events that have introduced the American public to a criminal justice problem that practitioners and legal scholars long have known about – lethal injections are an extremely troubling method for carrying out capital punishment.  Similar to the cases of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma and Dennis McGuire in Ohio, Wood reportedly endured extensive suffering during the hour and 52 minutes it took for the drugs administered by the state’s executioners to end his life.

    The Wood Litigation Seeking Access to Information about the Drugs and Executioners

    In the days preceding Wood’s execution, his attorneys mounted an impressive campaign to overturn a lower court order denying him access to basic information about the qualifications (but not the identity) of the executioners and the source of the drugs to be used. Wood argued that he had a qualified First Amendment right of access to such information. 

    On Monday of this week, things looked promising for Wood and his legal team. An erudite panel of the Ninth Circuit concluded that it was not too much to ask of Arizona to require it to turn over the information Wood sought, or to delay the execution. Behind such litigation is the reality that without such information, of course, it would be impossible to assess whether the execution might violate the Eighth Amendment and create too great a risk of cruel and unusual punishment.  In other words, in order to know whether their client had a colorable substantive claim that the execution would be cruel and unusual, the lawyers first had to gain access to the details of the execution procedures. The procedural claim at issue in the Ninth Circuit, then, was a necessary precursor to being able to litigate the substantive legality of Arizona’s execution system.

    The Ninth Circuit panel voted 2-1 that Wood had raised a serious First Amendment claim and would suffer irreparable harm if an injunction against his execution were not granted. To be clear, all the Ninth Circuit ordered was that Arizona either turn over the information and proceed to execution as planned on Wednesday, or delay the execution until full and fair litigation regarding the right to access this information was conducted. Instead, Arizona successfully petitioned the Supreme Court, which quickly overturned the stay of execution.

    Was this Just a Gimmick to Delay Litigation?

    Some might ask why, with a thirty year track record and tacit Supreme Court approval in 2008, lawyers were inquiring about lethal injection methods.  We hear about delays in executions – we even see California’s death penalty held unconstitutional, in part, because of delay. But the reason for the litigation is clear: lethal injection is not working. 

    With drug shortages for the previous three-drug execution cocktail of choice, states have begun to experiment with the doses and types of drugs, and the qualifications of executioners are not getting any better.  In a very perverse turn on Justice Louis Brandeis’ famous quote that states may “serve as a laboratory, and try novel . . . experiments” that the rest of the country might not, states are innovating in their execution methods.  In the rush to continue with executions, Arizona and other states are using their execution chambers as laboratories for human experimentation.  What combination will create the most aesthetically pleasing execution for public consumption is the question the Departments of Correction seek to answer. 

  • July 24, 2014

    by Ellery Weil

    At The Week, Andrew Cohen discusses Wednesday’s botched execution of Arizona inmate Joseph Wood, a “state-sponsored, judicially sanctioned human experiment that went terribly wrong.” For more on botched executions, ACS held a call this past May featuring Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick and Megan McCracken, Eighth Amendment Resource Counsel with the U.C. Berkeley School of Law's Death Penalty Clinic, to discuss the execution of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett.

    Matt Ford of the Atlantic discusses the mass incarceration crisis, and its broader effects on the nation.

    Dominic Perella speculates on the probability that this week’s decisions in Halbig and King will result in the Affordable Care Act going back before the Supreme Court on msnbc.

    Writing for The Washington Post, Daniel Hertz explains the legacy of Milliken v. Bradley, and how 40 years later, its legacy continues to haunt our school systems.

  • February 27, 2014
    Guest Post

    by James C. Nelson, Justice, Montana Supreme Court (Retired)

    Arizona Governor, Jan Brewer said she’d do the right thing, and she did. Good for her; she made the correct decision.

    The right decision for the right reason would have been for her to say outright that Senate Bill 1062 was simply religious bigotry against LGBT people and had no place in Arizona’s civil code. End of story; end of bill.

    Instead, Governor Brewer vetoed the proposed law because of the outcry of big business.  Corporate America – hailed by some in the popular media as a “beacon of progress” – has come to realize that conservative religious zealotry hurts the bottom line. Bigotry and business seemingly don’t make good bedfellows any more – as they may well have when the conservative Christian Right was in its heyday not too many years ago.

    I suggest what is happening here is not that Corporate America has suddenly developed a social and moral conscience. Rather, big business does what it always does where constitutional rights are concerned. If embracing those rights adds luster to the “brand” and dollar signs to the bottom line, then count the big guys in. If the opposite is true -- equal pay and freedom of choice for women -- for example, well that’s likely to be another story. In the end, greed usually trumps God, and that’s what happened here.

    But am I complaining that the LGBT Community won this round in the way it did? No I am not.  A win is a win; and if one’s frenemies are on your side in the battle, we all get to bask in the victory.

    But before America’s newest beacons of progress get complacent on this issue, be aware that other States are still in the process of putting “right to discriminate” laws in play – Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Colorado, Kansas, Maine, Tennessee and Utah.

    All of us who are committed to equality under the law won this battle; but the war is not over.  We’ll take the win; and we’ll take your help Corporate America. 

    Homophobic discrimination is wrong for the right reasons – and for the wrong reasons as well. Pick your weapon; it’s the result that matters.

  • March 19, 2013
    Guest Post

    by Spencer Overton, a Professor of Law at The George Washington University Law School and a Senior Fellow at Demos.This piece is crossposted at The Huffington Post.

    I attended yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court oral argument in the Arizona voter registration case.  The argument went well generally, but Justice Alito suggested the Justices would create a “crazy” double standard by requiring that Arizona election officials accept the federal registration form. 

    Alito’s concerns are unwarranted.  Arizona chose to create two standards when it chose to add special “proof of citizenship” to register. 

    The National Voter Registration Act requires that all states “accept and use” a single, uniform voter registration form for federal elections (states can also still use their own registration forms). 

    The Federal Form requires that prospective voters check a box and sign an affirmation that they are U.S. citizens under penalty of perjury. 

    Arizona, however, adopted a state law requiring “satisfactory proof” of U.S. citizenship to register, such as a birth certificate, U.S. passport, or state driver’s license that shows citizenship. As a result, Arizona rejected over 31,000 registrations that lacked its “proof of citizenship” -- including Federal Forms -- even though Arizona concedes it has no evidence that any of these individuals were non-citizens.

    My take is that Arizona must accept all Federal Forms that comply with the citizenship affirmation rules set by Congress. The federal Act was designed to expand participation in federal elections by streamlining the registration process with a simple, uniform Federal Form that prevents states from piling on additional hurdles to register.  Indeed, as Justice Sotomayor mentioned, Congress explicitly rejected an amendment that would have allowed states to require “documentary evidence” of U.S. citizenship.