Environmental protection

  • April 24, 2014

     
    A new Justice Department initiative could expand clemency eligibility for nonviolent drug offenders. Announced Wednesday by Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, the plan “would canvass the entire federal prison population for the first time to find inmates who committed low-level crimes and could be released early.” Matt Apuzzo at The New York Times examines the implications of the DOJ’s decision. 
     
    Justice Sonia Sotomayor read her impassioned dissent in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action from the bench Tuesday, stating that the plurality were “out of touch with reality [and] one not required by our Constitution.” MSNBC’s Adam Serwer reports on the “simmering tensions over the high court’s approach to race.”
     
    Garret Epps at The Atlantic explains how Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner’s opinion involving a chicken-gutting case, demonstrates “how judges change details they don’t like.”
     
    Joel Mintz at the CPRBlog explains why the Environmental Protection Agency’s Final Enforcement Strategic Plan “contains a modest silver lining in an ominous dark cloud.”
     
    At Womenstake, Beccah Golubock Watson discusses a bipartisan effort by a group of senators to reduce sexual assault on college campuses.
  • March 27, 2014
     
    During the 1950s, Victor Green wrote The Green Book, a travel guide listing restaurants and businesses that welcomed the patronage of African-Americans during the Jim Crow era. Writing for The American Prospect, Kent Greenfield—Professor of Law and Law Fund Research Scholar at Boston College Law School and Faculty Advisor for the Boston College Law School ACS Student Chapter—explains why, “after Tuesday’s arguments at the Supreme Court, we may need to dust off the Green Book and indeed initiate new editions for women, LGBT people, Muslims, and Jews.” 
     
    “The U.S. remains the only country in the world that imposes [life without parole] on children.” Steven M. Watt at the ACLU’s Blog of Rights tells the tragic story of Juwan Wichware and argues that “any punishment kids do receive should reflect their unique capacity for rehabilitation.”
     
    Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard oral argument on whether “Secret Service agents can be sued for moving a group of protesters out of earshot of President George W. Bush in 2004.” NPR’s Nina Totenberg breaks down Wood v. Moss.
     
    At TPM’s Editor’s Blog, Nan Aron calls for more diversity from the federal bench and notes “why it is so important that the people who may someday judge us represent a broad cross section of the American people.”
     
    Frank Ackerman at the CPRBlog describes how the Koch-funded Beacon Hill Institute is producing a “steady stream of anti-environmental analyses.”
     
    Katie Hamm and Erika Basurto at the Center for American Progress reveal how “the Strong Start Act would significantly improve access to early education for low-income children.”

     

  • March 20, 2014
    This week, the American Civil Liberties Union advised the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to reject an Arizona law denying bail to immigrants in the country illegally. While those defending the law claim that it is meant to “improve public safety, not punish people for federal immigration violations,” the ACLU maintains that “Latino detainees are [being] unfairly held while other nationalities are allowed to put up bond.” Paul Elias of the The Associated Press has the story.
     
    In Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which required select jurisdictions to submit all changes in voting rules to the Justice Department for review. Writing for MSNBC, Adam Serwer comments on the role Chief Justice John Roberts played in the controversial decision and the implications of “equal sovereignty.” For further analysis on Shelby County, please see ACSblog analysis by Spencer Overton, former ACS Board Member and the President and CEO of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
     
    At CPRBlog, James Goodwin follows the developing legal dispute concerning Duke Energy’s violation of the Clean Water Act. Goodwin explains why “federal prosecutors are now looking into whether North Carolina’s environmental regulators engaged in any criminal activity in their efforts to shield Duke.”
     
    Steven R. Morrison at PrawfsBlawg notes “a rare move in terrorism (and all criminal) cases” concerning former Al-Qaeda spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghayth.
     
    On C-SPAN, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan reflects on her “life and career” in a conversation with Georgetown University Law Center students.

     

  • March 11, 2014
     
    Spencer Overton, former ACS Board Member and current President and CEO of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, visited Selma, Alabama for the 49th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday.” Overton chronicled his experience on Twitter as civil rights leaders urged Congress to remember the legacy of Selma following last year’s controversial Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder. For further analysis of Shelby County, please see Overton’s guest post at ACSblog.
     
    In an interview with NPR’s Carrie Johnson, Attorney General Eric Holder shares his stance on softening prison sentences, the Senate’s vote to block the nomination of Debo Adegbile for Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, and former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
     
    The Supreme Court has declined to hear a Pennsylvania school district’s appeal of a lower-court decision to uphold the right of students to wear breast-cancer-awareness bracelets. Mark Walsh at Education Week reports on the student-speech case.
     
    Walter Shapiro at the Brennan Center for Justice discusses the legal issues surrounding the Federal Election Commission and single-candidate Super PACs.
     
    Ann Havemann at CPRblog explains how budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency will affect enforcement of environmental laws. 
  • March 4, 2014
    Guest Post
    by Patrice L. Simms, Assistant Professor, Howard University School of Law
     
    Environmental Justice should not exist. That is to say, Environmental Justice should not have to exist; it should be axiomatic, superfluous and redundant. The law should, without coercion, be equally committed to protecting one’s health, safety, and wellbeing, whether one is a socialite or a factory worker, a lawyer or a farm worker, a politician or an unemployed single mother. That Environmental Justice is an increasingly prevalent topic in the environmental law and policy dialogue is both a sad reflection on how far we still have to go and a hopeful indication that the journey has at least begun. Indeed, Environmental Justice promises to occupy a position of prominence as the next generation of modern U.S. environmental policy takes shape. And it should.
     
    Twenty years ago, the first federal effort to grapple with Environmental Justice took the form of an Executive Order (EO 12898). Signed by President William Jefferson Clinton on February 11, 1994, the EO admonishes federal agencies to “make achieving environmental justice part of [each agency’s] mission by identifying and addressing … disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations.”
     
    There are good reasons why the law should be relatively more attuned to the conditions of the nation’s most vulnerable, most marginalized communities. Members of these communities have the fewest resources to commit to protecting themselves, especially from threats that are often both complex and indistinct. They have less influence on decisions affecting the quality of their environment, and they typically cannot buy their way out of over-exposure by moving to safer, less burdened communities (even assuming the capacity to meaningfully compare potential hazards). Moreover, they are less likely to have access to adequate health care, healthy foods, and information, and are more likely to experience health-compromising stress and anxiety.