Women's rights

  • March 26, 2014

    Yesterday, Tammi Kromenaker, the director of the Red River Women’s Health Clinic, and reproductive endocrinologist Dr. Stephanie Dahl spoke to the University of North Dakota School of Law ACS Student Chapter about fighting the state’s strict abortion bans.  Steve Lee at the Grand Forks Herald has the story.
     
    An Arizona federal court has ordered Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to stop “systematically [profiling] Latinos.” U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow said that Arpaio had been “targeting [Latinos] for arrest during raids at day-laborer gathering spots and detaining them longer than other drivers during traffic stops.” Fernanda Santos of The New York Times comments on the case.  
     
    Researchers believe that The Department of Corrections’ newly expanded lethal-injection combinations in Oklahoma “will significantly amplify the risk of inmates' facing inhumane and possibly unconstitutional pain and suffering.” Samantha Vicent at Tulsa World reports on the troubling issue.
     
    The Colorado Supreme Court has approved a law allowing lawyers to work with marijuana businesses. Writing for The Denver Post, John Ingold discusses the legal implications of the new rule.
     
    Amy Howe at SCOTUSblog provides extensive coverage on yesterday’s oral argument in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius.

     

  • March 26, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Brandon L. Garrett, Roy L. and Rosamond Woodruff Morgan Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law. Since the 2011 publication of Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong, Professor Garrett has written widely on issues of criminal procedure, scientific evidence, corporate crime, and the law. This fall, Harvard University Press will publish his new book, Too Big to Jail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations.

    Yesterday the Supreme Court heard arguments in the long awaited cases of for-profit corporations arguing that Obamacare's contraception mandate endangers their constitutional and statutory religious exercise rights.  Both Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., a national arts and crafts store chain, and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., a small kitchen cabinet maker, argued that they should be exempt from the health insurance regulations due to not just their owners’ beliefs, but their corporate consciences. Rather than focus on whether a company is a "person" that "has" a statutory or constitutional right to free exercise of religion, the Justices could have pushed harder on a constitutional question that comes first: whether the lawsuit even belongs in a federal court.

    During the arguments, Justice Elena Kagan noted: “I'm not sure I understand it as a threshold claim that . . . the claim is not recognizable at all.” And Justice Anthony Kennedy asked: “You say profit corporations just don't have any standing to vindicate the religious rights of their shareholders and owners.” Does Hobby Lobby have standing to sue?  For a federal judge to hear a case, Article III of the Constitution requires there to be a “Case or Controversy.” The Supreme Court has interpreted the requirement to mean that a plaintiff must suffer a "concrete injury" to its own interests – and not those of others – in order to sue. The Court has kicked out cases holding that a "mere interest in a problem" was not concrete enough. The Court has only in unusual cases allowed a third-party to sue on behalf of another, like an employee, owner, or customer. 

    These companies say that they suffer direct harm: the contraception mandate costs them money. That is what the Tenth Circuit in Hobby Lobby briefly noted: the companies “face an imminent loss of money, traceable to the contraceptive-coverage requirement.” But even if that is true (which was the subject of tough questions at the arguments), paying that money does not directly affect any individual’s ability to freely exercise religion. Only the employees and officers can directly exercise their individual religious beliefs. And they are not the ones paying to comply with the regulations. They are separate from the company.

  • March 25, 2014


    This morning, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius. Adam Liptak of The New York Times provides a helpful analysis of the cases while Robert Barnes at The Washington Post breaks down the “vocally devout justices” and the role religion may play in their decision. For more discussion, watch an ACS briefing on the dual challenges known as the “contraception mandate cases.”
     
    Twenty-three years ago, Anita Hill accused then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. In an interview with Hill, Dahlia Lithwick at Slate reviews the new documentary Anita and describes how “Hill’s testimony had a huge impact on sexual harassment law, and in the public discourse.”
     
    Officials in Mississippi are waiting for approval from the state supreme court to execute Michelle Byrom, a mentally ill woman accused of murdering her husband. Andrew Cohen at The Atlantic explains why “the case of Michelle Byrom contains the unholy trinity of constitutional flaws sadly so common in these capital cases.”
     
    The Obama administration is expected to propose “an end to the [National Security Agency’s] mass collection of Americans' phone call data.” The Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman has the story.
     
    Karen Tani at Legal History Blog reviews The Crusade for Equality in the Workplace: The Griggs v. Duke Power Story by the late Robert Belton.

     

  • March 21, 2014

    by Nicholas Alexiou

    The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) should not be read to provide for-profit employers the extraordinary power to block women workers from access to the most effective contraceptive methods, states an amicus brief lodged with the Supreme Court on behalf of the Guttmacher Institute and Professor Sara Rosenbaum, an expert in law and policy surrounding healthcare concerns.

    The friend-of-the-court brief authored by Dawn Johnsen, a distinguished professor at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law (and a member of the ACS Board), and includes former U.S. Solicitor General Walter Dellinger as Counsel of Record explains that the for-profit companies – an arts-and-crafts chain store and a cabinet manufacturer – have “failed to recognize the vastly different effectiveness and cost of different forms of contraception, the substantial degree to which cost determines which contraceptive methods are actually used, the health and social factors that affect a woman’s method of choice, and the resulting consequences for women’s health, family and well-being, and risk of unintended pregnancy and abortion.”

    In the brief, Johnsen and Dellinger note that cost-sharing promoted by the Affordable Care Act is critical to allowing every woman to have access to the most effective forms of contraception available. It is claimed that hormonal intrauterine devices (IUD) are “45 times more effective than oral contraceptives and 90 times more effective than male condoms in preventing pregnancy based on typical use” and that “[a]lmost one-third of American women report that they would change their contraceptive method if cost were not an issue.” However, the cost of IUDs is an overwhelming issue for many Americans as implantation can cost “a month’s salary for a woman working full time at minimum wage.”

    To rule in favor of the corporations in these cases “would deny to female employees and their insured family members vital access to the full range of contraceptive methods, inflicting financial harm and erecting obstacles to needed medical care.”

  • March 18, 2014
    Students from Yale Law School wrote a letter admonishing Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) for voting against the nomination of Debo Adegbile to head the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. Sen. Coons voted against Adegbile because he oversaw an appeals process for a convicted murderer while at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. Ryan J. Reilly at The Huffington Post reports on the letter.
     
    On Monday, Tarek Mehanna’s lawyer asked the Supreme Court to review his client’s seventeen-year imprisonment by a Boston jury for “providing material support to the Al-Qaeda terrorist network.” Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog notes the First Amendment implications of Mehanna’s conviction.
     
    Anticipation is growing as the Supreme Court prepares to hear oral argument for Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. In an article for Slate, Adam Winkler—Faculty Advisor for the UCLA School of Law ACS Student Chapter—explains why corporations should have the rights of “legal personhood that are essential to their operations” and why “Hobby Lobby should lose.”
     
    Kirk Siegler at NPR discusses why “California is shaping up to be the next major battleground over the Second Amendment.”
     
    Celebrating Women’s History Month, Cortelyou Kenney at Womenstake discusses the “gains women have made in terms of their representation on the federal judiciary … under the Obama administration.”