• September 22, 2015

    by Jim Thompson

    In the International Business Times, Aaron Morrison writes that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has released a report criticizing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for treating detained undocumented immigrants “like their criminal counterparts.”

    At Daily Kos, Paul Bland previews three upcoming Supreme Court cases that could weaken or eliminate laws protecting workers and consumers.

    A new study from Phillips Black shows that states are abandoning life without parole for juveniles. “Most of the nation’s abandonment of [Juvenile Life Without Parole], both in policy and in practice, demonstrates that sentencing children to die in prison, foreclosing all hope of redemption and rehabilitation, is anathema to who we are as a people,” says John Mills, the study’s lead author.

    Jonathan Selbin at The Hill argues that recent Congressional initiatives aim to make it impossible for consumers to join together in a class action suit unless each of them is harmed in the exact same way. 

    In The National Law Journal, Judith E. Schaeffer discusses the potential implications of Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez for future class action suits.

  • September 21, 2015

    by Jim Thompson

    Jessica Mason Pieklo reports at RH Reality Check that a federal judge ruled Friday against lawmakers in Arkansas attempting to cut the state’s funding for Planned Parenthood.

    In The New Yorker, Jonathan Blitzer writes about the obstacles that face undocumented parents in Texas who seek birth certificates for their American-born children.

    Zachary Roth at MSNBC talks with Ari Berman about voting rights and attempts from the right to roll back decades of progress.

    Tomorrow is National Voter Registration Day, which aims to encourage voter participation and inform eligible voters about where and how they may register to vote. Find out more here.

  • September 18, 2015
    Guest Post

    by Steve Sanders, who teaches and writes about constitutional law, constitutional litigation, and family law at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, Bloomington.

    *This post is part of ACSblog’s 2015 Constitution Day Symposium.

    Advocates for civil rights and civil liberties often look to our Constitution in their quest for legal and social change.  But the processes of legal and social change also shape the contours, sometimes the very meaning, of constitutional guarantees.  Last summer in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court applied the Fourteenth Amendment to transform the nationwide legal status of same-sex marriage.  But it is important to appreciate how same-sex marriage had already changed the Constitution.  

    On matters of individual liberty and equality, the Constitution is not a catalog of enumerated, narrow, and static rights, though most legal conservatives insist that we treat it that way.  Rather, it provides a set of bedrock values, values whose meanings grow and adapt alongside the growth of knowledge and human understanding. 

    As Chief Justice John Marshall wrote in McCulloch v. Maryland, a constitution is “intended to endure for ages to come, and consequently to be adapted to the various crises of human affairs.”  Justice William Brennan, one of the greatest champions of a progressive Constitution, observed,  “Our amended Constitution is the lodestar for our aspirations.  Like every text worth reading, it is not crystalline. The phrasing is broad and the limitations of its provisions are not clearly marked.  Its majestic generalities and ennobling pronouncements are both luminous and obscure.”

    And as Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in a decision invalidating laws that criminalized same-sex sex acts, “Had those who drew and ratified the [Constitution] known the components of liberty in its manifold possibilities, they might have been more specific.  They did not presume to have this insight….  As the Constitution endures, persons in every generation can invoke its principles in their own search for greater freedom.”

    In that 2003 decision, Lawrence v. Texas, the Court considered the last half-century of legal and social change, both in the United States and in other democracies, and found an “emerging awareness that liberty gives substantial protection to adult persons in deciding how to conduct their private lives in matters pertaining to sex.”

  • September 18, 2015
    Guest Post

    by Michael Waterstone, J. Howard Ziemann Fellow and Professor of Law, Loyola Law School Los Angeles 

    *This post is part of ACSblog’s 2015 Constitution Day Symposium.

    Disability should be included in constitutional discussions. For the most part, it has not been. The doctrinal resting place of disability constitutional law is a bad one – under Cleburne, government classifications on the basis of disability are only entitled to rational basis scrutiny. Especially given that there is a statute, the Americans with Disabilities Act, that in many ways goes further than what constitutional law could require, disability cause lawyers have not brought cases under constitutional theories. And, tracking this, the progressive academic discussions of the Constitution’s future and potential do not usually include any discussion of disability.

    I believe the disability rights movement has more to offer constitutional law, and constitutional law has more to offer the disability rights movement. This is the case for at least several reasons.

    First, even assuming that the ADA is a more effective tool to combat the discrimination most people with disabilities face in their daily lives, its vitality is under constitutional attack. Cases like Garrett and Lane challenge Congress’s ability to legislate on behalf of people with disabilities under its Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment powers, and these attacks will continue. With equal protection law, if you are not playing offense, you are not playing adequate defense either.

  • September 18, 2015

    by Jim Thompson

    In The New York Times, Campbell Robertson exposes Louisiana’s unjust method of financing its criminal justice system – through the excessive fining of poor defendants. 

    Andrew Woods at Just Security assesses proposals for reforming the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and outlines his suggestions for alleviating the current tensions surrounding global Internet laws.

    On the Public Justice Blog, Arthur Bryant takes a critical look at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce “survey,” calling it “anti-judicial propaganda.”

    Citing ACS’s Justice at Risk report, Lee Drutman at Vox discusses the sustained, negative influence of private donations to judicial campaigns after judges are elected to office.