The words of President Lyndon Baines Johnson echoed at the beginning of each program of the Civil Rights Summit in the LBJ Auditorium last week in Austin, Texas. A montage of historic photographs followed onscreen to a soundtrack of songs about change or progress mixed with other recordings of LBJ’s iconic words. I had the privilege of attending the panels on Wednesday and Thursday as well as the address by former President Bill Clinton and the keynote address by President Barack Obama.
I have started to realize that when commemorating the anniversary of certain laws or court decisions like the Civil Rights Act, or last year, with Gideon v. Wainwright, it becomes more than simply a celebration; it is an evaluation of how far we have come and how far we must go, and it is a call to action. As President Clinton said in his speech, saying “thank you” to the politicians and activists who made the signing of the Civil Rights Act possible is not enough.
University of Texas’ President Bill Powers introduced the Summit’s panels by talking about UT’s involvement with civil rights. Powers acknowledged that UT has not always been on the right side of history, and in fact the university played a role in stalling “separate but equal” in Sweatt v. Painter in 1950. Today, the university awaits the a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Fisher v. University of Texas that was vacated and remanded by the Supreme Court last year. “We stand ready to defend diversity.”
The Justice Department has long faced criticism from civil rights activists for its racial profiling procedures. In response, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has proposed revisions to the racial profiling rules which would “expand the definition of prohibited profiling.” However, many argue that the DOJ’s new efforts would “allow the F.B.I. to continue many, if not all, of the tactics opposed by civil rights groups.” Matt Apuzzo at The New York Times has the story.
Earlier this morning, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit heard the “first appellate case in the nation on gay marriage rights since last summer’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling.” Led by attorney Peggy A. Tomsic, the plaintiffs shared with the judges “the ‘human reality’ at the heart of the case” and explained how Utah’s ban on gay marriage "has ‘cemented’ discrimination against same-sex couples.” Brooke Adams at The Salt Lake Tribune reports on the argument.
The Obama administration is “relinquishing oversight” over the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Gautham Nagesh at The Wall Street Journal explains how “Republicans concerned about the Commerce Department’s plan are pushing legislation to block the transition.”
Today, President Obama will speak at the 50th anniversary celebration of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, honoring the memory of President Lyndon Johnson and his contributions to the civil rights movement. Writing for The Hill, Justin Sink comments on the summit being held at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin.
As voters prepare to head to the polls this election season, many are concerned with how last year’s Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder will affect voter turnout. Carrie Johnson at NPR reports on an ACS-sponsored voting rights training in Atlanta that is working to prevent voter disenfranchisement.
When did the Supreme Court’s stance on campaign finance reform begin to change? For Kenneth Jost at Jost on Justice, the court began to “open its door to more money in politics” as soon as Justice Sandra Day O’Connor closed the door on her career in 2005. In his analysis, Jost breaks down McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission and explains why it’s “no mere coincidence that O’Connor’s departure marks the court’s turning point on issues of campaign finance regulation.”
Attorneys have filed a lawsuit to stop Texas’ expansive restrictions on abortion. Irin Carmon at MSNBC reports on the new challenge from abortion rights activists.
Many believe that the Supreme Court’s decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission will further enable corruption through the use of “dark money.” Writing for The Washington Post, Heather K. Gerken, Wade Gibson and Webb Lyons discuss how the virtues of “disclosure and disclaimer provisions” could “direct campaign finance reform toward greater transparency.” In a related op-ed, Zephyr Teachout promotes “public-funding systems” and argues why “our candidates don’t have to be beggars at the feet of oligarchs.”
Yesterday, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to declassify a report examining the Central Intelligence Agency’s interrogation programs during the Bush administration. Burgess Everett and Josh Gerstein at Politico break down the report expected to reveal that “CIA interrogators went well beyond the highly permissive guidelines the Justice Department issued permitting tactics many view as torture.”
Today marks the forty-sixth anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. At The Root, Peniel E. Joseph comments on Dr. King’s “last crusade against the poverty, racism and militarism that he saw as the triple threat to humanity.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor spoke with Der Spiegel about her legal career, women’s role within the court and her personal motto. You can see Justice Sotomayor and civil rights leader Theodore Shaw in conversation at the 2014 ACS National Convention.
At The Life of the Law, Elizabeth Joh shares “what artists are showing us about surveillance and the law.”
In an op-ed for The New York Times, Bruce Ackerman eloquently compares the current state of gay marriage to the struggle of the civil rights movement in order to “emphasize the link between institutionalized humiliation and the constitutional requirements of equal protection.” Indeed, as Ackerman’s analysis points out, “dignity is a constitutional principle.”
At Jost on Justice, Kenneth Jost notes that death row inmates are challenging the lethal injection formula that is being used for executions. In the piece, Jost explains why “it is not too much to ask that courts make sure that lethal injections, as carried out, are the humane executions they are supposed to be.”
Jeffrey Toobin at The New Yorker reports on the successes of the Affordable Care Act thus far, the fecklessness of some of its promoters and the law’s most critical hurdle.
Writing for Just Security, Marty Lederman describes why Hussain v. Obama is “a habeas case to keep an eye on.”