Other courts

  • April 16, 2014
     
    On Tuesday, the New York Police Department 
    announced that it would shut down a special unit that spied on Muslim groups. Known as the “Demographics Unit,” the squad allegedly “mapped communities inside and outside the city, logging where customers in traditional Islamic clothes ate meals and documenting their lunch-counter conversations.” Matt Apuzzo and Joseph Goldstein at The New York Times report on the controversy surrounding the NYPD. 
     
    India’s Supreme Court recently recognized transgender rights. In National Legal Services v. Union of India, the court recognized the pain and struggle felt by the transgender community while stressing the historical importance of the group within India’s diverse culture. Faculty Advisor for the City University of New York School of Law ACS Student Chapter Ruthann Robson writes at Constitutional Law Prof Blog that the court’s decision “not only requires the government to recognize a ‘third gender’… but also directs the government to take positive steps in education, health provisions, and ‘seriously address’ various problems.”
     
    Last week, Utah defended its ban on same-sex marriage before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Kitchen v. Herbert. During the hearings, state officials were “surprisingly straightforward in explaining that its marriage law is based directly upon its citizens’ religious values.” At Hamilton and Griffin on Rights Leslie C. Griffin, Co-Faculty Advisor for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law ACS Student Chapter, argues against religious-based law and why, when it comes to the same-sex marriage debate, “Utah has it backwards.”
     
    Juan Haines at The Life of the Law  describes District Attorney of Santa Clara County Jeff Rosen’s visit to a San Quentin jail where he spoke with inmates about “crime, punishment, rehabilitation, and reentry.” 

     

  • February 14, 2014

    by James Colligan

    Before the movement for marriage equality began to gather steam Virginia, like a slew of other states, banned same sex-marriage either with laws or constitutional amendments or in the case of North Carolina, both.

    For instance in 2006 through a referendum Virginians voted to amend their Constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage. Actually that amendment was rather sweeping, not only defining marriage as exclusively a union between a man and woman, but also prohibiting civil unions and all other contracts to “which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage.”

    But some of those states’ constitutional amendments and laws, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 opinion in U.S. v. Windsor, are looking increasingly vulnerable.

    The Virginia ban was challenged last year on the grounds of violating the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the 14th Amendment by two couples. Tim Bostic and Tony London have been together for 24 years. Carol Schall and Mary Townley have been together for 30 years. Even though Schall and Townley were legally wed in California, Virginia’s constitutional ban meant it would not recognize those same-sex marriages. The couples’ challenge to the constitutional amendment was considered in the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia earlier this month.  

    Judge Arenda Wright Allen on Thursday found Virginia’s ban to subvert the U.S. Constitution’s Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses. In her ruling, Wright Allen wrote, “Gay and lesbian individuals share the same capacity as heterosexual individuals to form, preserve and celebrate loving, intimate and lasting relationships. Such relationships are created through the exercise of sacred, personal choices – choices, like the choices made by every other citizen, that must be free from unwarranted government interference.”

  • October 22, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    After more than four years of obstructing President Obama’s judicial nominations and causing the vacancies on the federal bench to hover at or above 80, right-wing organizations are ratcheting up their efforts to re-write history. The Heritage Foundation, proclaims that no obstruction has occurred and that Obama is remaking the federal bench, but asks us to ignore what unfolded during his first term. The lesser-known Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) is out with a slideshow of 13 graphics that aims to support an effort of Republican senators to shrink the size of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where vacancies have languished for years on end.

    Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has long sought to chop seats from the D.C. Circuit, widely considered one of the most powerful federal appeals courts in the land, claiming it has a flimsy workload. Grassley and his fellow Republicans successfully kept Obama from filling one of the D.C. Circuit’s longstanding vacancies until the start of his second term. There are still three vacancies on the 11-member court.

    When Obama announced three nominations to those vacancies earlier this year, Grassley introduced a bill aimed at cutting – you guessed it – three seats from the D.C. Circuit, arguing the Circuit’s current judges had light caseloads and there was no need for more judges. But as the Constitutional Accountability Center (CAC) and others have noted, Grassley’s claims about the D.C. Circuit ignore reality. The D.C. Circuit hears far more complex and constitutionally weighty matters than the other federal appeals court circuits. 

    The JCN is headed by Carrie Severino, an attorney devoted like the Tea Party to destroying health care reform and mild regulations (Dodd-Frank) of the financial industry. The group's “infographic” containing 13 slides purports to show that the D.C. Circuit “is the most underworked court in the country.” It is, as People For The American Way’s blog notes, a slideshow “recycling old, discredited arguments ….”

    Earlier this year when Grassley launched his latest attempt to slash judgeships from the D.C. Circuit, he claimed, “No matter how you slice it, the D.C. Circuit ranks last or almost last in nearly every category that measures workload.” That statement caught the attention of The Washington Post’s “The Fact Checker,” which concluded it was deserving of “Two Pinocchios,” meaning it contained “significant omissions and/or exaggerations.”

  • October 16, 2013

    by Rebekah DeHaven

    As the government shutdown stretches into its second week, Library of Congress events remain cancelled and the National Zoo Panda Cam dark. More importantly Congress’s work on judicial nominations, already gridlocked, has been affected too. The Senate did manage to confirm a few judges. The Senate Judiciary Committee, however, postponed an October 3 hearing to vote on the nomination of U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and for 5 other District Court nominees, and an October 9 hearing for the nomination of Matthew Leitman to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

    Federal courts are on the brink of exhausting their reserves. Courts across the country are considering which employees to deem “essential” and asking employees to work without knowing when they will be paid. Although a deal appears imminent, the public is finally getting a clear picture of what the landscape would look like if courts shut down, and what preparing to run out of resources has meant for our judicial system.

    But this is not entirely unfamiliar territory. Our courts have been hobbled because of insufficient funding and staffing, for a very long time. At the Fourth Circuit Judicial Conference in June, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts warned, “we have sustained cuts that mean people have to be furloughed or worse and that has a more direct impact on the services that we can provide.” Similarly, Chief U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken said that the “cuts are an assault on the whole system.”

  • October 10, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Internet links die, that’s the way technology works. Ask the U.S. Supreme Court where according to a recent study by a Harvard professor, 49 percent of links in Supreme Court opinions no longer work

    National Review Online’s Ed Whelan has kindly pointed out some busted links on the ACS website.  Actually he does so with hyperbole, probably born out of paranoia. He says ACS in “Stalinist airbrushing” fashion is trying to advance the careers of people he claims we’d like to see confirmed to “judicial office.”

    Broken links, however, do not make a conspiracy. Whelan’s legwork has helped us restore links and we’ll make progress quickly on providing access to all our archived video. In 2010 we revamped the ACS website and not all links survived the transition. Again that’s technology and we don’t have an army of people at ACS to restore every link in every blog post or every landing page on the site. With time and capacity many links, especially to video, will be restored. In a small, but growing nonprofit we must prioritize. 

    Whelan accuses ACS of removing video of an event that Nina Pillard, a professor at Georgetown law school and a nominee for a seat on the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, participated in during fall 2010. The event focused on class action lawsuits and arbitration. Thanks for pointing out the busted link, Ed. It has been restored, you can watch it here

    He was also disappointed that he could not access video from the 2006 ACS national convention containing comments from Stanford law school professor and ACS Board member Pamela S. Karlan. That video link has also been fixed. The video quality is awful. I’m not sure what vendor ACS used at that time, but video quality of Convention programming is much better now. But the audio works just fine.

    California Supreme Court Justice Goodwin Liu, a former ACS Board chair, has spoken at many ACS events. Whelan linked to some transcripts of various Liu speeches, one from 2004, which he says helped defeat his nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Alas, the links to those transcripts have not been restored. But we’re working on it. When and if the links are fixed, I’ll update this blog post.