ACSBlog

  • August 25, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    In 2013, the Supreme Court severely weakened the Voting Rights Act of 1965 with its  decision in Shelby County v. Holder. In a discussion of the post-Shelby era at the 2014 ACS National Convention, Gilda Daniels, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Baltimore School of Law, offered both hope for and a realistic take on the challenges facing those who are working to protect voting rights.

    Daniels has made her career as a voting rights expert with over a decade of experience bringing cases on provisions of the Voting Rights Amendment and other statutes. As a former deputy chief in the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, Voting Section, Daniels recognizes Shelby’s immense impact on voting laws in the United States. More restrictive voting laws have already appeared throughout the country, and the legal means to challenge discrimination in voting are too costly both in terms of time and money to be the solution. “It’s very similar to what happened during Reconstruction,” Daniels remarked. “You pulled the protections, and you got massive voter suppression, and I am afraid that can happen in this generation.”

    Daniels argued that powerful advocates are the key to protecting voting rights. While the Voting Rights Act Amendment is a good start, “it still leaves a gulf between what is needed and what’s being proposed,” according to Daniels. The new landscape of voting offers new opportunities to speak to the importance of this right and challenge discrimination. “We have to be more creative about how we fashion the narrative, how we talk about voting rights, how we put our cases together, where we file our cases so we can start regaining ground we have lost,” Daniels explained. Even reminders that voter registration matters, Daniels argued, can be an important step to tipping the scales in favor of voting rights again.

    Watch the brief interview with Gilda Daniels below or here. For information about the VRAA see this ACS Issue Brief

  • August 25, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    Sean McElwee writes for Salon on the evidence outside of Ferguson that shows the United States is far from a post-racial society.

    In Vox, Julia Belluz and Steven Hoffman discuss how race is a major factor even in healthcare quality in the United States. 

    Jon Healey explains in the Los Angeles Times the means by which the Obama administration is trying to save the contraception mandate. 

    Jamelle Bouie writes for Slate on the different goals of the white and black communities in Ferguson.

    ThinkProgress’s Ian Millhiser explains how Florida will stay gerrymandered despite challenges to the state’s congressional maps.

  • August 22, 2014

    by Jeremy Leaming

    In a class society burdened by festering economic inequality and too many lawmakers bent on cutting funding for civil legal aid, the struggle for an accessible justice system can appear insurmountable.

    But some new research emerging from Voices for Civil Justice and the Public Welfare Foundation, indicates that a growing number in the legal profession do care about a justice system that is inclusive -- not one that caters solely to the well-off.

    The groups commissioned polling work by Lake Research Partners and The Tarrance Group, and among the information they are making public now shows that a “strong majority of lawyers – 59 percent – indicate a previous or current involvement with civil legal aid as donors or volunteers.”

    The research, which will be released in its entirety in September, also reveals that 65 percent of lawyers “express initial support for increasing government funding for civil legal aid.”

    Beyond the debilitating effects of the Great Recession, a rapidly growing number of unaccompanied children arriving, many along the U.S.-Mexico border, are facing deportation with no legal representation – or very little. As Voices for Civil Justice and Public Welfare Foundation note there are groups within the legal community that see the injustice of the situation and are striving to do something about it.

    Reporting on the uptick of unaccompanied migrants, Rick Jervis of USA Today notes that the Obama administration is urging Congress to authorize “$3.7 billion in emergency funding, which includes $45 million for new judges plus funding for legal aid for children ….” Jervis continues, however, that conservative lawmakers “have balked at the proposal. They want to make it easier to send the youths back.”

    But Jonathan Ryan, head of the Texas-based Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, highlights the injustice of denying legal aid to unaccompanied children.

  • August 22, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    Marcia Coyle of The National Law Journal interviews Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, discussing racial problems in the U.S., major rulings, and law schools.

    Bob Herbert writes for Jacobin on the likelihood of another Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown: “The deepest concerns of blacks are seldom acted upon in any sustained, effective way. Most of the time, they are not even taken seriously.”

    In The New York Times, Claire Cain Miller explains how part-time pay hurts working mothers.

    Sarah Jaffe, Mariame Kaba, Randy Albelda and Kathleen Geier write in The Nation on the need to end the demonization of poor mothers.

    Carson Whitelemons of the Brennan Center for Justice explains how voting rights laws in Ferguson block citizens from having a fair say.  

  • August 21, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Atiba R. Ellis, West Virginia University College of Law, (@atibaellis)

    In a previous post, I discussed the triumph of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Its passage sounded the death knell of legalized white supremacy and promised an era of equal opportunity.  With the shooting of Michael Brown and the subsequent civil unrest and siege policing in Ferguson, Mo., we must recognize another reoccurrence reminiscent of fifty years ago -- protest and in response to enduring racial subjugation. 

    The Ferguson situation is about the unjustified death of a Black youth (and the fact that this happens all too often in America). This happened in the context of the reality of structural inequality in America that civil rights policy has failed to address. As I argued in that earlier post, formal equality does not go far enough to remedy the enduring legacies of white supremacy, legacies that keep repeating themselves in police violence, political underrepresentation, and minority economic stagnation. It fosters a de facto second-class society for people of color without the economic wherewithal to navigate the system. 

    This structural reality exists and replicates notwithstanding the good intentions of the law or of people who rely on formal equality as remedy. Daria Roithmayr, Ian Haney Lopez, and Michelle Alexander have provided lucid scholarly explanations of different facets of 21st century racism.  The situation in Ferguson illustrates this reality in a number of ways.

    First, the shooting of Michael Brown offers a view on the reality of the enduring abuse that people of color suffer at the hands of the police. The problems of racial profiling, the use of excessive force by police departments, and the violence suffered by Black men and boys in particular has been well documented.  To take just one source: the ACLU has written numerous accounts about racial profiling in the United States. What their work makes clear is that the police disproportionately target minorities, and particularly minority youth because of their race.  And as a recent post on their blog has made clear, such profiling, and the tragic deaths that accompany it, are all too common in the United States.  And for those minority youth that survive these encounters, they are disproportionately incarcerated. The Sentencing Project has documented not only the 500 percent increase in incarceration rates in U.S. prisons generally over the last century, but the fact that a Black male under 35 has a 1 in 10 chance of being incarcerated.

    Second, as others have noted, Ferguson is two-thirds Black and one-third white, yet its mayor and five of the six members of its city council are white. And the overwhelming majority of its police force is white. And, as The New York Times has reported, this segregated power structure is the product of a long history of racial tension. The patterns of overzealous policing and unrepresentative governance make clear that the authorities in Ferguson are out of touch with the interests of the majority of people in Ferguson. This suggests a failure of competitive politics and a resistance of the government in Ferguson to hear the interests of its people. (Even when activists in Ferguson have sought to register people to vote – presumably to encourage people to use the democratic process rather than self-help violence – this too becomes highly contested.)