Video Interview

  • September 14, 2011
    Video Interview

    This video interview is part of an ACSblog Constitution Week Symposium. By Nicole Flatow.


    Attempts to undo the constitutional guarantee that those born in the United States are citizens are “flatly and incontrovertibly unconstitutional and completely at odds with our constitutional history,” Georgia State University law professor Neil Kinkopf tells ACSblog during a video interview.

    Kinkopf traces the history of birthright citizenship in the United States, noting that the common law understanding was that all residents born here were citizens.

    He continues:

    That understanding was upset in the worst decision in the history of the Supreme Court, Dred Scott, when Chief Justice Taney ruled that descendants of Africans cannot be citizens and cannot have rights that a white person is bound to respect.

    It was the rejection of Dred Scott that led to the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment and that led to the first sentence of the Fourteenth Amendment, which expressly puts into the Constitution birthright citizenship. It’s a fundamental commitment of our nation. It constitutes us as a people -- that we are not a country club, that everyone who’s born here is a citizen of the United States, and that our government cannot distinguish among us.

    Watch the video interview below.

  • July 29, 2011
    Video Interview

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Right-wing policy makers have spent more than a year bemoaning, as a serious affront to liberty, the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) provision that requires people to carry, starting in 2014, a minimum amount of health care insurance or pay a penalty. Supporters of the health care law point out, however, that without the minimum coverage provision, the landmark health care reform law would be ineffective, allowing insurance companies to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, thereby undercutting a main impetus of the law, which is to make sure that the vast majority of Americans are able to carry health care insurance.

    Despite the hue and cry from the Right over the ACA’s minimum coverage provision, government mandates on abortion continue to proliferate in the states, especially those states with legislative bodies controlled by right-wing policy makers.

    Yesterday, the North Carolina Senate successfully enacted a law that will require women seeking abortions to wait 24 hours, receive state-mandated “counseling,” and a state-mandated ultrasound before receiving the medical procedure. Both chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly overrode Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto of the measure. Twenty-five states now require government-mandated “counseling” and waiting periods before women can receive abortions.

    Following the Assembly’s action, Gov. Perdue issued a brief statement saying, “The Republican’s social agenda has, with this bill, invaded a woman’s life as never before – by marching straight into her doctor’s office and dictating the medical advice and treatment she receives.”

    The Center for Reproductive Rights President and CEO Nancy Northup ripped the new law as politically motivated and constitutionally suspect.

    “It is extremely disheartening that the North Carolina legislature would go out of its way to enact a law that uses the doctor-patient relationship to advance a political agenda,” Northup said in a press statement. “When women go to the doctor, they don’t expect to be held hostage in an attempt to change their minds. They rightfully expect to be treated as an adult capable of making their own personal decisions. This law is an affront to a woman’s dignity and a violation of her constitutional rights.”

    At the ACS 10th Anniversary National Convention, former Acting Solicitor General Walter Dellinger, a partner at O’Melveny & Meyers, blasted the Right’s rhetorical and legal attacks on the health care law’s minimum coverage provision, saying he’s had enough of the lectures about government encroachment on liberty.

    “We hear the talks about government intrusions into health care – that this represents an extraordinary step about liberty,” Dellinger (pictured) said during a panel discussion on the constitutionality of the ACA. “And I just cannot, any longer, refrain from making the observation that it is really ironic and disturbing to hear that liberty lecture come from people talking about [a] government takeover of medical care, many of whom would legislate the imposition upon women of unnecessary waiting periods, government scripted lectures, compulsory sonogram viewings, and government mandated unsafe medical procedures.”

    Louise Melling, director of the ACLU’s Center for Liberty, in an interview with ACSblog, said this year has been an especially bad one for reproductive rights. (And this interview came before the action in N.C. She talked with ACSblog following a panel at its national convention on reproductive rights.)

    The bills passed are making it more and more difficult for women to find physicians who can perform abortions, and having a stigmatizing effect as well, Melling said.

    “It is also a way of stigmatizing to say ‘women can’t make these decisions,’ we’re not … trusted decision-makers, and we need assistance as we make this decision,” she said.

    And what is awfully “scary,” Melling said was that politicians are not paying a price for supporting the draconian laws.

    “Nobody is really standing up to say this is not ok, these laws are just rolling right through,” she said.

    Watch her entire interview below or download a video podcast of it here. The video is also available at this site.

  • July 28, 2011
    Video Interview

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Beyond the most recent high-profile state legislative victories for marriage equality, there are “huge advancements that have been made in terms of [court] doctrine regarding sexual orientation law,” North Carolina University law school professor Holning S. Lau told ACSblog.

    Lau, a panel participant at the ACS 10th Anniversary National Convention, said that until recently “there was virtually no precedent to be cited for the proposition that sexual orientation discrimination should be subject to heightened scrutiny -- this idea that sexual orientation is a suspect or quasi-suspect status. But over the past few years, we’ve seen a crystallization of jurisprudence to support that point. The high courts of California, Iowa, Connecticut, have all issued opinions saying that sexual orientation is either a quasi-suspect or suspect status."

    He continued, “We saw the same conclusion reached in Perry v. Schwarzenegger [the 2010 federal court opinion invalidating California’s anti-gay marriage law, Proposition 8], in Eric Holder’s memo on DOMA [the federal anti-gay marriage law]. And that’s been huge, because prior to this burgeoning of jurisprudence on this point, a lot of courts concluded in the opposite direction.”

    So while a few state legislatures, most dramatically, the New York legislature, have come through in favor of marriage equality, there is a slowly developing body of jurisprudence that looks promising for the advancement of equality for the LGBT community.

    “We’ve seen the jurisprudence really reach a new point,” Lau said, “and there is good case law, persuasive case law, in many instances … case law that courts can make use of to support the idea that sexual orientation discrimination should be subject to heightened scrutiny.”

    Earlier this month, Professor Scott Lemieux wrote, in a piece for The American Prospect, that the LGBT community must not forgo the courts in seeking full equality. All options must be used in securing equality, he wrote.

    Watch video of Lau’s entire interview below or download it as a video podcast. The video is also available here.

  • July 21, 2011
    Video Interview

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Earlier today the House Education & the Workforce Committee approved a bill aimed at limiting the ability of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to enforce federal law protecting workers’ rights.

    As noted here, the House measure is being pushed by right-wing policymakers bent on punishing the NLRB for its complaint against Boeing Corp., which alleges that the giant aerospace company moved jobs from its Washington State facility to punish workers there for striking, an activity protected by federal law.

    On the state level, governors in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio have enacted laws greatly undermining the ability of public sector workers to engage in activity to protect their rights. Kerry Korpi, director of research and collective bargaining services for AFSCME, talked with ACSblog about the Right’s efforts to advance corporate interests, while hobbling the rights of workers.

    The governors of those states say they are facing out-of-control deficits and therefore public sector workers’ benefits and rights must be slashed. Korpi said that’s a smokescreen for an ideological agenda.

    “There are budget problems in all of these states,” Korpi said. “All the governors you mention are making them worse by cutting taxes further on corporations and the rich, and then using that as justification for cutting middle-class jobs, cutting programs to the elderly and the poor. In Wisconsin, for example, Scott Walker said he had to cut collective bargaining rights to get costs in control … he wanted to increase our members’ contributions to pensions and health insurance. Our union there agreed to both of these things, but we are not going to give up our right to bargain, and he said ‘thanks, but no thanks;’ he has not sat down with us once.

    “So it is not about the budget,” Korpi continued. “It’s about an ideological effort to get rid of folks who oppose them. And it’s not just unions they are going after, it’s young voters, it’s minority voters, it’s an effort to crystallize power in a way that other people can never take it back again.”

    Watch Korpi’s full interview below or by visiting blip.tv here. The interview is also available as a video podcast.

  • July 12, 2011
    Video Interview

    The Supreme Court continues to limit the ability of people to seek justice in the courts, Public Citizen’s Allison Zieve tells ACSblog. Zieve cited as an example, the high court’s April opinion in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, which found in favor of AT&T’s effort to bar consumers from joining in a class action to challenge the wireless company’s charges.

    In an interview following ACS’s 2010 – 2011 Supreme Court Term Review, Zieve, litigation director for Public Citizen, said:

    It seems to me that the court is consistently unsympathetic to class action suits, to broader suits and has a distinct anti-litigation trend in a lot of its cases. The Court doesn’t seem to feel that state law claims, tort claims, consumer protection claims, have a lot of value, and so not only do plaintiffs frequently lose in those cases, they do so through opinions that don’t really show much respect for the civil justice system. So, I think that raises a significant concern about people’s ongoing access to the courts, access to court remedies. There’s a lot of situations in which state law provides the only remedy, and the Supreme Court has been cutting those access to the court system off through a very sympathetic view of arbitration, a broad reading of the federal arbitration act, through preemption, standing requirements that have been made more and more stringent over the years; so there’s a lot of ways the courthouse doors are being closed to just regular people.

    For more analysis and information about corporate interests before the Supreme Court and other federal courts, visit a the ACS Web Page, Corporations and the Courts, with resources that include two ACS Issue Briefs, “Why Does Business (Usually) Win in the Roberts Court?,” “Judicial Hostility to Litigation and How it Impairs Accountability for Corporations and Other Defendants,” and a recent article from the official ACS Journal, the Harvard Law & Policy Review, called “Class Action at the Crossroads: An Answer to Wal-Mart v. Dukes.”

    Watch Zieve’s interview below or download a video podcast of the interview. The interview can also be seen here.