• August 26, 2015

    by Jim Thompson

    Stephen Susman, executive director of the Civil Jury Project at NYU School of Law, member of the ACS Board of Advisors, and former member of the ACS Board of Directors, was honored by Texas Lawyer with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to the Texas legal community.

    In The Huffington Post, Geoffrey Stone, former ACS Board chair, current co-chair of the Chicago Lawyer Chapter Advisory Board, and a co-faculty advisor for the University of Chicago Law School Student Chapter, discusses the importance of academic freedom.   

    Sarah N. Lynch at Reuters reports that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit dismissed a Republican challenge to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s “pay-to-play” rule, arguing that they missed a key 60-day deadline to challenge the law when it first went into effect in 2010.

    In The Washington Post, Terrence McCoy explains how unregulated structured settlement agreements allow companies to profit off of the poor and disabled. The practice is commonly aimed at poor, black Baltimoreans who have suffered from lead poisoning and are cognitively disabled, he reports.

  • August 25, 2015
    Guest Post

    by Ira Ellman, Professor at Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, Arizona State University

    Proponents of criminal justice reform never talk about sex offenders. They’re political untouchables subject to debilitating legal restrictions that typically continue for decades after they have served their sentence.  The Supreme Court upheld two such restrictions in a pair of cases decided in 2002 and 2003.  Those decisions were grounded on the factual assumption that sex offenders have a re-offense rate of about 80 percent , a rate so “frightening and high” that it justified their harsh post-release treatment. The Court’s colorful language about the re-offense rate has since been quoted in nearly 100 judicial opinions, and is often relied upon to justify America’s harsh and distinctive laws on sex offenders. It turns out, however, that the “study” the Court cites for this 80 percent re-offense rate does not exist. More importantly, the scientific studies that do exist show that the great majority of people required to register as “sex offenders” under current laws are in fact very unlikely to commit a sex offense. That’s partly because the sex offender label is applied so broadly that it includes many people who never posed a high risk, and partly because in so many states, living offense-free for fifteen or twenty years after release doesn’t get one off the public sex offender registry, even though studies show those who do not re-offend for fifteen years are very unlikely to do so thereafter.

    A few state supreme courts have now reevaluated the constitutional status of such laws. Read a summary of my forthcoming article reviewing these developments, with a link to the fuller version.

  • August 25, 2015

    by Jim Thompson

    Laura Wagner at NPR reports that Ferguson’s new municipal judge Donald McCullin has ordered all arrest warrants issued before December 31, 2014, to be withdrawn.

    In The Root, Ericka Blount Danois discusses a recent study that found over 47 percent of Americans gave their police precinct a grade of D or F, citing Phillip Leaf, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, who attributes this growing mistrust to the numerous incidents of police brutality that have been documented on video in recent years.  

    Campaign Zero has released a comprehensive agenda for ending police violence.

    At Reuters, Jonathan Stempel writes that Geico will pay $6 million in settlement charges after being accused of discriminating against women, low-income individuals, and persons not working in professional or executive jobs.

  • August 24, 2015
    Guest Post

    by Estelle H. Rogers, a recently retired public interest lawyer.

    There is a little known federal program, Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), which entirely forgives the indebtedness of a lawyer who elects to work in public service, rather than at a law firm or in-house at a corporation. Among public interest lawyers, however, it is a very well known program. It’s the only way many of these dedicated young lawyers can follow their hearts instead of their wallets when they embark upon a job search. The PSLF program, nevertheless, is under threat, facing severe cuts or elimination.

    Under PSLF, persons making 120 monthly payments on their student loans while employed full time in qualified public service jobs (ranging from government organizations at any level to nonprofits to AmeriCorps) are eligible to have their remaining balance forgiven at the end of the 10 years. (Under the federal income-driven loan repayment program, low-earning graduates would ordinarily take twice that long to pay off student loans.)

    The president proposed drastic cuts to PSLF in his budget message early this year, and the House Budget Committee recommended elimination of the program altogether. When Congress turns to reauthorization of the Higher Education Act this fall, PSLF is likely to be on the chopping block, though it has not been targeted by any of the bills introduced so far.

  • August 24, 2015

    by Jim Thompson

    In the Washington Monthly, ACS President Caroline Fredrickson examines the expanding ranks of the “contingent workforce,” including the poor treatment of adjunct university professors and the consequences for their students.

    Lydia Wheeler at The Hill reports that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled Friday that the Department of Labor can enforce minimum wage and overtime pay standards for homecare workers.

    In The Seattle Times, Jay Greene writes that the American Civil Liberties Union is soliciting Amazon employees who believe their careers have been unjustly hindered by the company’s family leave policies for potential legal representation.   

    Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade celebrates bipartisan support for a new Illinois law that bans conversion therapy programs for LGBT minors.