Guest Post

  • January 23, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Erwin Chemerinsky, ACS Board Member and Dean and Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law, University of California, Irvine School of Law

    The legal and constitutional problems posed by Donald Trump’s election are not hypothetical and began the moment he was inaugurated as president. Most immediately, Trump is the owner of Trump International Hotel, D.C. on the site of the Old Post Office. His ownership violates both the terms of his lease and the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. Unfortunately, to this point, he either does not understand or does not care about the serious conflicts of interest posed by his business interests.

    The issues with regard to the D.C. hotel are obviously just the beginning of such problems arising, but they also are typical of the serious legal troubles that Trump faces. In 2012, Trump succeeded in getting the bid to redevelop the Old Post Office and signed a 60-year lease with the General Service Administration. Trump beat out proposals from hotel chains including Hilton, Hyatt and Marriott.

    Unlike many of his holdings which are owned by corporations, Trump himself is the majority owner in this hotel. The Washington Post reports that according to the financial disclosure form he filed with the Federal Election Commission, Trump owns 76.725 percent of the D.C. hotel project. Three of his children, Don Jr., Ivanka and Eric, each have 7.425 percent of the project.

    Trump’s ownership is in clear violation of the lease which contains a provision that says no U.S. official “shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease or to any benefit that may arise therefrom.”  There is a simple reason for this: it prevents a conflict of interest that would exist if government officials are in a lease agreement with the government. As president, Trump oversees the General Services Administration and Trump, as owner of the building, is leasing property from the GSA.

  • January 20, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Jen Trudell, Recovering Finance Attorney, the University of Chicago Law School ‘03

    I am writing this from a hotel room in northern Virginia the night before the inauguration of Donald Trump as our 45th president. Instead of watching the inauguration, I will probably go to the hotel gym. I have never watched an inauguration, and besides, that is not why I came all the way from Chicago. I am here for the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday.

    Early this week a coworker asked me, with genuine curiosity, whether I thought marching would result in any policy changes. “Of course not”, I responded without pause. “Then why bother?” And that was a good question. 200,000 or 2,000,000 people could show up in D.C on Saturday to march and rally, and it will not change anything in Washington. Why bother coming all this way to do something that will be ignored (or, at most, tweeted about; SAD!) by our new president? I have thought about it and here are my two reasons:

  • January 19, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Lauren A. Khouri, Associate Attorney at Correia & Puth, PLLC

    This week, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing on Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. The agency is tasked with promoting student achievement, fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access. This means interpreting and enforcing our students’ civil rights laws.

    Prior to the hearing, there was little public record about DeVos’ record on important issues. DeVos has never been an educator, led a school, school district or state agency. She has not been a public school parent or a public school student. Her lack of experience has led numerous education and civil rights groups to denounce her nomination and speculate on how she would lead the Department based on past financial contributions. For example, DeVos’ foundation has donated to organizations that oppose Title IX protections for survivors of sexual assault, groups that oppose discrimination against LGBTQ students in schools and efforts to restrict access to birth control and abortion, as well as shame young or unwed mothers. All of these donations called into question whether DeVos would protect Title IX rights for survivors, LGBTQ students and students who are pregnant, parenting or have had an abortion.

    At the HELP hearing, DeVos demonstrated little knowledge about the key issues facing the department she’s been tapped to lead, and she refused to commit to enforcing key civil rights laws and protecting public education. Where DeVos had the opportunity to make her commitment to students’ rights clear, saying nothing actually says a lot.

  • January 18, 2017
    Guest Post

    *In October, ACS released "What's The Big Idea? Recommendations for Improving Law and Policy in the Next Administration." With that next administration on the horizon, authors of the report are reviewing their recommendations in the ACSblog symposium: Updating The Big Idea.

    by K. Sabeel Rahman, Assistant Professor of Law, Brooklyn Law School

    As the incoming Trump administration prepares to take office, many Obama era policy initiatives find themselves in the crosshairs of the new administration and the Republican Congress. On the table are a variety of proposals including not only the headline proposed dismantling of the Affordable Care Act, but also measures that could undo the FCC’s net neutrality rules, further privatize the public school system and even voucher-ize parts of Medicare. These proposals represent more than just a pendulum swing away from government regulation to conservative free market principles. Rather, at stake in this debate is a much deeper issue about the nature of public goods and the determinants of economic opportunity and freedom.

    While laissez-faire political thought often portrays the market as a domain of economic freedom and opportunity, unsullied and unskewed by government interference, genuine economic freedom and opportunity require much more than the removal of government interference (even if such a thing were possible). Freedom is not just the absence of restraint; it is the affirmative capacity to pursue life choices and ends that each of us has reason to value. That capacity in turn depends on equal and universal access to foundational goods and services that make such economic opportunity and freedom possible. The underlying infrastructure of economic opportunity thus includes access to things like education, healthcare, labor protections from economic insecurity and the like. In the absence of these goods and services, individuals and communities alike are deeply insecure, vulnerable, unable to enjoy meaningful economic freedom and opportunity

    If the goal is to provide this kind of freedom for each of us to develop the lives and experiences we have reason to value, then the purpose of social policies must be understood in terms of enabling access to those goods, services and opportunities whose presence in turn enables that freedom—and whose absence narrows it. We can think of these as public goods in which our policies must invest. These public goods are not physical infrastructure like roads or bridges; they are a kind of “social infrastructure,” that make possible a wider array of stable, secure life pathways. Since these resources are critical enablers of a wide range of social uses and projects, they must be managed as a commons: open to use by all on principles of equal access and nondiscrimination, simple to identify and access without excessive or confusing barriers, designed to maximize these downstream uses and the spillovers and innovations that might result.

  • January 18, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Alison Siegler, Clinical Professor and Director of the Federal Criminal Justice Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School and Member of ACS Chicago Lawyer Chapter Board of Advisors

    Last week, law school faculty around the country filed a statement with the Senate Judiciary Committee expressing their opposition to Sen. Jeff Sessions’s nomination as attorney general of the United States. The letter was signed by 1,424 law school faculty members from 180 different law schools in all 49 states that have a law school and became part of the official congressional record for the confirmation hearing. At Sessions’s hearing on Jan. 10, Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein referred to the statement as a “pretty comprehensive” list of law professors and noted the geographic breadth of the signatories, before asking Sessions for his response to the statement.

    The faculty letter urges senators to reject the nomination, stating: “All of us believe it is unacceptable for someone with Sen. Sessions’s record to lead the Department of Justice.” The letter speaks of Sessions’s troubling civil rights record and also expresses deep reservations about his record in the areas of criminal justice, immigration, the environment, women’s rights and LGBTQ rights. “Some of us have concerns about his support for building a wall along our country’s southern border. Some of us have concerns about his robust support for regressive drug policies that have fueled mass incarceration. Some of us have concerns about his questioning of the relationship between fossil fuels and climate change. Some of us have concerns about his repeated opposition to legislative efforts to promote the rights of women and members of the LGBTQ community. Some of us share all of these concerns.” This letter echoes many of the same misgivings expressed in the Open Letter from Constitutional Law Scholars to President-Elect Donald Trump and the Open Letter from 1,060 Law Students to President-Elect Donald J. Trump, both released by ACS.