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  • March 13, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    The Senate Judiciary Committee heard two nominees on Wednesday, March 11.  The Committee considered Kara Stoll to be a United States Circuit Judge for the Federal Circuit and Roseann A. Ketchmark to be a United States District Judge for the Western District of Missouri. 

    The Judicial Conference recently released their 2015 recommendations for new judgeships. Among the recommendations, the Conference called for the creation of 5 seats to the 9th Circuit, the addition of 68 new District Court judgeships, and a conversion of 9 temporary judgeships to permanent seats. 

    The change in Senate leadership has also changed opinions on filibuster reform, reports Paul Kane for The Washington Post.

    There are currently 55 vacancies, and 23 are now considered judicial emergencies. There are 16 pending nominees. For more information see judicialnominations.org.

  • March 13, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    John Eligon and Eli Yokley report for The New York Times on the recent shooting of two police officers in Ferguson, Missouri and the tension between the city and protesters.

    Alex S. Vitale discusses at The Nation how President Barack Obama’s proposed police reforms fail to address the most significant causes of police misconduct.

    In the Los Angeles Times, Scott Martelle raises questions about Missouri attempts to execute a brain-damaged man.

    At Salon, Katie McDonough reports that lawmakers in Montana have proposed new abortion restrictions based on anti-choice pseudoscience.

    Brian Beutler argues in The New Republic that The Wall Street Journal’s arguments against the Affordable Care Act are based on a dishonest reading of history.

    Michael Li considers at the blog for the Brennan Center for Justice the legacy of Selma and the representation revolution.

  • March 12, 2015
    Guest Post

    by Peter Jan Honigsberg, professor of law at the University of San Francisco and founder and director of the Witness to Guantanamo project

    Most Americans pay scant attention to Guantanamo.  In fact, many Americans believe it is closed or only houses convicted terrorists.  However, Guantanamo is still open, holding 122 men, 55 of whom have been cleared for release.

    As little as Americans know about Guantanamo, they know even less about the lives of detainees after they have been transferred out of Guantanamo.  The more fortunate detainees are resettled to their home country, where they can reunite with and be supported by their families.

    However, a number of the detainees cannot return home because of the instability of their home country, their home country does not want them, or they may be tortured or executed on their return.  These men must wait for other nations to accept them.  Initially, nations wanted to help President Obama close Guantanamo and agreed to accept prisoners.  However, as confidence in Obama’s initial pledge to close the detention center has waned, fewer nations are willing to reach out and receive former detainees.

    Nevertheless, because of the tenacity of Special Envoy Cliff Sloan – the State Department official tasked with resettling detainees from July 2013 to December 2014 – several countries have accepted detainees in the past 18 months.  In November 2014, Slovakia resettled two detainees.  One was Hussein Al-marfadi, originally from Yemen.

    In February 2015, the Witness to Guantanamo project interviewed Al-marfadi in a town in central Slovakia.  Although physically and psychologically scarred from 14 years of torture and brutal treatment at Guantanamo, he is an engaging, even-tempered and thoughtful man.  He was never charged with a crime and had been cleared for release years ago.

    Al-marfadi is a born storyteller with an amazing aptitude for details.  Unlike many detainees the project has interviewed, Al-marfadi provided a day-by-day description of his experiences, including comprehensive accounts of the torture and unspeakable treatment he suffered.  Interviews with detainees generally last for two hours.  His interview covered six-plus hours over two days.  Al-marfadi told W2G that it was important for him to tell his complete story.  He explained that his story was not only for history but also for the men still in Guantanamo.

  • March 12, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    The Editorial Board of the Los Angeles Times argues that the United States must restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act.

    Lara Bazelon explains in Slate how innocence is often not enough to help the wrongfully convicted get out of prison.

    At The Washington Post, Lindsey Bever reports that Utah has passed a landmark LGBT rights bill.

    Aman Banerji discusses at Salon the troubling lessons on the state of racial discrimination in the United States found in the Department of Justice’s Ferguson report.

    Jonathan Brater writes for the blog for the Brennan Center for Justice about a new Oregon law that could change voter registration.

    Steven Mazie of The Economist argues that the Chief Justice could conceivably “vote in the liberal direction in both King v. Burwell, the Obamacare case, and Obergefell v. Hodges, the same-sex marriage case.”

  • March 12, 2015

    by Nanya Springer

    The Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment reads: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”  This statement may seem simple enough, but U.S. Senator David Vitter is once again pushing legislation to upend the Constitution’s provision of birthright citizenship.

    According to Vitter, the 14th Amendment is misunderstood and contains a loophole that needs to be closed to prevent an influx of “birth tourists.”  Constitutional law experts say the Amendment is straight forward, and Vitter and his cohorts are trying to destroy a constitutional right.

    This is not a new debate.  The faulty arguments behind Vitter’s legislation were addressed and discredited years ago by scholars including Garrett Epps of the University of Baltimore School of Law and Elizabeth Wydra of the Constitutional Accountability Center, who authored an Issue Brief on the subject.  Take a look at the resources below for a thorough explanation of why new attempts to take away birthright citizenship are still wrong.

    Born in the USA?: The Historical and Constitutional Underpinnings of Birthright Citizenship (video)

    Born Under the Constitution: Why Recent Attacks on Birthright Citizenship Are Unfounded, Elizabeth Wydra (Issue Brief)

    Epps on “Da Vinci Code Originalism” and the Citizenship Clause (ACSblog)

    Here We Go Again: At Republican Debate, Pawlenty Denies Constitutional Text and History Establishing Birthright Citizenship, Elizabeth Wydra (ACSblog)