ACSBlog

  • February 28, 2014

    by ACS Staff

    Moazzam Begg, an ex-Guantánamo detainee and prominent critic of the West’s War on Terror, was arrested Tuesday in an “anti-terror raid” in Birmingham, England. Begg, a native-born British citizen, was detained for three years after September 11, 2001 without being charged of a crime. Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain at The Intercept discuss the “dubious terrorism charges” that are “part of the effort to criminalize Muslim political dissent.”
     
    Could allowing people to openly carry their firearms reduce the number of guns in public? Writing for The Huffington Post, Adam Winkler—Faculty Advisor to the UCLA School of Law ACS Student Chapter—explains why gun control advocates should consider this creative option.
     
    The Public Campaign Action Fund is spending $1 million to rally New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislators to pass a bill that would combat big-money politics and "raise up the voices of everyday people in our political process." Andy Kroll at Mother Jones has the story.
     
    A secretly recorded video of recent Supreme Court oral argument has been released by the advocacy group 99Rise.orgBill Mears of CNN reports on the rare footage that is raising concerns at the high court.
     
    Dana Milbank of The Washington Post comments on the GOP’s frivolous lawsuits against the Obama administration and their ideological shift on judicial activism.
     
    At ACLU’s Blog of Rights, Dennis Parker compares commentary on Adkins et al. vs. Morgan Stanley with the eloquent imagery of Jamaal May’s “There Are Birds Here.”
  • February 27, 2014
    Guest Post

    by James C. Nelson, Justice, Montana Supreme Court (Retired)

    Arizona Governor, Jan Brewer said she’d do the right thing, and she did. Good for her; she made the correct decision.

    The right decision for the right reason would have been for her to say outright that Senate Bill 1062 was simply religious bigotry against LGBT people and had no place in Arizona’s civil code. End of story; end of bill.

    Instead, Governor Brewer vetoed the proposed law because of the outcry of big business.  Corporate America – hailed by some in the popular media as a “beacon of progress” – has come to realize that conservative religious zealotry hurts the bottom line. Bigotry and business seemingly don’t make good bedfellows any more – as they may well have when the conservative Christian Right was in its heyday not too many years ago.

    I suggest what is happening here is not that Corporate America has suddenly developed a social and moral conscience. Rather, big business does what it always does where constitutional rights are concerned. If embracing those rights adds luster to the “brand” and dollar signs to the bottom line, then count the big guys in. If the opposite is true -- equal pay and freedom of choice for women -- for example, well that’s likely to be another story. In the end, greed usually trumps God, and that’s what happened here.

    But am I complaining that the LGBT Community won this round in the way it did? No I am not.  A win is a win; and if one’s frenemies are on your side in the battle, we all get to bask in the victory.

    But before America’s newest beacons of progress get complacent on this issue, be aware that other States are still in the process of putting “right to discriminate” laws in play – Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Colorado, Kansas, Maine, Tennessee and Utah.

    All of us who are committed to equality under the law won this battle; but the war is not over.  We’ll take the win; and we’ll take your help Corporate America. 

    Homophobic discrimination is wrong for the right reasons – and for the wrong reasons as well. Pick your weapon; it’s the result that matters.

  • February 27, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Richard W. Painter, the S. Walter Richey Professor of Corporate Law, University of Minnesota Law School

    Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has listened to the concerns of a wide range of pro-business Republicans, Democrats and Independents who want Arizona to be open for business to everybody.

    Senate Bill 1062 would have legalized discrimination on religious grounds by changing the definition of a “person” entitled to assert religious freedom as a defense in a discrimination lawsuit:

    "Person" includes a religious assembly or institution ANY INDIVIDUAL, ASSOCIATION, PARTNERSHIP, CORPORATION, CHURCH, RELIGIOUS ASSEMBLY OR INSTITUTION, ESTATE, TRUST, FOUNDATION OR OTHER LEGAL ENTITY."

    The existing statutory language - crossed out above and replaced in Senate Bill 1062 with the now vetoed language in ALL CAPS - remains the law in Arizona. This existing law allows a Christian Church to tell a fifteen year old Jewish girl that she cannot take communion without, among other things, affirming the divinity of Christ. The existing statute, however, does not give a Christian flower shop owner an excuse to refuse to sell the girl flowers for her bat mitzvah, and later an excuse not to sell her flowers for her wedding.  

    The objective of this bill was to legalize religiously motivated discrimination against gays rather than against Jews or other religious minorities. The language, however, is extremely broad, presumably because singling out discrimination against gays for a statutory discrimination safe harbor would have raised even more constitutional problems than the text of the legislation as it was written.

  • February 27, 2014
     
    In Clapper v. Amnesty International USA, U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, Jr. said that the Department of Justice notified defendants whose information had been “obtained or derived from” the Section 702 surveillance program. However, the DOJ’s claims were found to be untrue. Writing for The Intercept, Dan Novack reports on the implications of this “false assurance” to the high court.
     
    Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a controversial bill that would have allowed businesses to discriminate against gay and lesbian customers after politicians, business owners and even the 2015 Super Bowl host committee protested the controversial bill. Aaron Blake of The Washington Post comments on the governor’s decision.
     
    A federal district court judge in Texas declared the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. The ban, enacted in 2005 by popular referendum, was held to violate the Fourteenth Amendment by U.S. District Judge Orlando L. Garcia. Manny Fernandez of The New York Times has the story.
     
    The Supreme Court could soon rule on McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. David Early and Avram Billig at the Brennan Center for Justice break down the five decisions that have shaped campaign finance law.
     
    Liz Watson at Womenstake explains how the Maryland Fair Employment Preservation Act would ensure that “all workers in Maryland have an effective remedy from supervisor harassment.”
  • February 26, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Diann Rust-Tierney Esq., a member of the Supreme Court Bar, the District of Columbia Bar and a former member of the DC Bar Ethics Committee. She is also the Executive Director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

    More than a decade ago, the Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002) that the eighth amendment categorically forbids people with intellectual disabilities from being sentenced to death and executed. States were charged with the appropriate role of setting procedures to enforce and give effect to this Constitutional protection.

    On March 3, 2014, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case of Hall v. Florida.

    The question presented is narrow:

    Whether Florida’s statutory scheme for identifying defendants with “mental retardation," as interpreted by the Florida Supreme Court, violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against executing people with intellectual disabilities as articulated in Atkins?

    As a note of reference “intellectual disabilities,” adopted since the Court ruled in Atkins, is the preferred clinical term over “mental retardation.”

    At stake is whether Florida is obliged to honor the limits imposed by the eighth amendment and refrain from executing a man who falls within the class of people for whom the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment.  This inquiry goes to the heart of the deal struck in Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153 (1976). In Gregg the Supreme Court held that the death penalty could be administered in a manner consistent with the Constitution.  The Court’s ruling was premised on the reasonable expectation that states will work within the framework created by the Court as the final arbiter of constitutional standards for the practice. This premise cannot hold, however, if states continuously seek to circumvent these standards by erecting barriers to the recognition of constitutional rights.