Civil rights

  • January 12, 2015
    Guest Post

    by Alan B. Morrison, Lerner Family Associate Dean for Public Interest & Public Service, George Washington University Law

    *This piece originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

    On October 6, 2014, the Supreme Court declined to hear seven cases in which federal courts of appeals had found bans on same-sex marriages to be unconstitutional. One month later, a divided court of appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in an opinion written by Judge Jeffrey Sutton, upheld the bans in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, & Kentucky. All four groups of plaintiffs have asked the Supreme Court to review that decision, and the Court is likely to decide whether to take up those cases at its conference on January 9, 2015. There are a number of legal issues in the case, but the keys to the ruling below are the two reasons Judge Sutton gave to support the ban, which this essay argues are indefensible under whatever degree of scrutiny the Court applies.

    The majority opinion of Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton upholding bans in four states on same-sex marriage has an aura of reasonableness to it, but when it comes to offering real reasons to justify the bans, it cannot withstand analysis. According to Sutton, there are two reasons why the bans are constitutional: (1) they encourage procreation in marriage by opposite-sex couples, and (2) they uphold traditional marriage, while allowing for future change.

    There are three undisputed facts that demonstrate conclusively that those reasons cannot sustain the bans: (1) most of the benefits of marriage for opposite-sex couples are unrelated to encouraging procreation; (2) the laws also preclude civil unions or any other arrangement that confers any of the benefits of marriage on same-sex couples; and (3) the Ohio ban was applied to deny the surviving member of a marriage performed out of state the right to include on the death certificate of his husband the indisputable fact that he was "married."

  • December 15, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    In The New York Times, Mark Bittman wonders whether inequality and injustice in the United States is bad enough yet to lead to change.

    On MSNBC's "Weekends with Alex WittEkow Yankah from Cardozo School of Law discusses if the nationwide protests in the wake of the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner have formed into a movement.

    Steven Mazie considers whether Supreme Court justices are too privileged to understand the concerns of average Americans at Big Think.

    NPR’s All Things Considered” looks at a family’s fight to introduce a new law on how investigations occur when police shoot civilians.

    Michael Li writes for the blog of the Brennan Center for Justice on the major questions raised by the racial gerrymandering case before the Supreme Court.

    In The Washington Post, Terry Lenzer asserts that the Justice Department has retreated from civil rights protection.

  • December 5, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    The Editorial Board of The New York Times argues that the death of Eric Garner was not simply the result of a chokehold, but also due to bad policy and poor training.

    The laws that protect pregnant workers are very unclear, asserts Rebecca Leber in The New Republic.

    At Salon, Luke Brinker discusses a new study by the Labor Department that reveals that millions of workers are illegally paid less than minimum wage.

    Carrie Johnson and Melissa Block of NPR look at the recent Justice Department finding that the Cleveland police department has systematically used excessive force.

    Alex S. Vitale examines in The Nation what strategies for police reform will actually have the most impact.

    At FiveThirtyEight, Oliver Roeder considers whether the Supreme Court “is becoming too cloistered.”

  • December 2, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    In The New York Times, Mark Landler reports on President Obama’s announcement of new standards for police gear and body cameras for police officers. ACS hosted a panel on police militarization in November that featured discussion of more significant reforms to police policy that legislators could undertake.

    Noah Feldman writes in Bloomberg View about the Elonis case and asserts that “Anthony Elonis doesn’t deserve sympathy or admiration – but he does deserve for the government to prove that he meant to threaten others before he goes to jail.”

    In The Washington Post, Paul Waldman argues that the Supreme Court should be the biggest issue of the 2016 campaign.

    Caitlin Borgmann writes in the Los Angeles Times that the Supreme Court should take up a case about laws regulating abortion clinics in order to send a message to state legislatures that pass “disingenuous laws designed to shut down clinics.”

    Michael Winerip and Michael Schwirtz report in The New York Times that New York City will expand public health services throughout its criminal justice system.

  • December 1, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law, Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law, University of California, Irvine School of Law.

    The failure to indict Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown fits an all too familiar pattern of police officers not being held accountable. The decision to not indict in Ferguson follows the acquittal a year ago of George Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood watchman, for the killing of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin. Even more recently this year, two Fullerton, California police officers were found not guilty of all charges in the killing of Kelly Thomas, a homeless man who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Medical records show that bones in his face were broken and he choked on his own blood; the compression of his thorax by the police made it impossible for Thomas to breath and deprived his brain of oxygen.

    Nor is this a new phenomena.  Even with a videotape of a savage bearing, a state court jury in 1992 acquitted the four officers who beat Rodney King and a subsequent federal court jury acquitted two of them. The riots in Los Angeles, after the state court acquittals, like the unrest last week in Ferguson, reflected the enormous anger and frustration with the inability to hold police accountable.