• June 18, 2014
    Uncertain Justice: The Roberts Court and the Constitution
    Laurence Tribe and Joshua Matz

    by Laurence H. Tribe, Carl M. Loeb University Professor, Harvard Law School

    As the end of its 2013 Term fast approaches, the Roberts Court is unleashing major rulings seemingly every day. Addressing topics as varied as recess appointments, cell phone privacy, abortion clinic protest buffers, public sector unions, and securities class actions, these opinions (even those not yet announced) have already triggered heated debate. The clash of values this Term is fierce and unmistakable: religious liberty versus reproductive rights, digital privacy versus security, corruption versus free speech rights

    With critics lining up to praise or castigate the justices, a clear view of the Roberts Court is more important than ever. Only with a broad and even-handed understanding of the Court and its members can we fairly evaluate its decisions. And only by understanding where each justice is coming from, in an open-minded way that can be critical without trapping justices in scorn or stereotype, can we plan for the future.

    That’s why I wrote, with Joshua Matz, a book called Uncertain Justice: The Roberts Court and the Constitution. Reflecting my decades of experience arguing before the Court and studying the Constitution—and Joshua’s learning as a former Harvard Law Review editor and SCOTUSbloggerUncertain Justice offers an overview of nearly every major opinion since John G. Roberts, Jr. was confirmed as Chief Justice in 2005. It also provides rich pictures of each justice and a panoramic view of the most important modern trends in American constitutional law. 

  • June 18, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Kimberly Stietz, Law Clerk, Magistrate Judge Franklin L. Noel, U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota; Program Committee Co-Chair, ACS Minneapolis-St. Paul Lawyer Chapter

    On June 6, the the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota honored Freedom Riders from the state and marked the beginning of the traveling “Freedom Riders” exhibition that will be on display for two weeks in the Minneapolis U.S. Courthouse lobby. The exhibition examines six months in 1961 when more than 400 courageous Americans—old and young, black and white, men and women, Northern and Southern—risked their lives to challenge segregated facilities in the South. “In 1961, seven ordinary Minnesotans—including Robert Baum, Clare O’Connor, Dave Morton and Peter Ackerberg—took an extraordinary bus ride to Jackson, Mississippi, and in the process changed the course of American History forever,” said Magistrate Judge Franklin L. Noel.

    The Freedom Riders had a simple but daring plan: board buses in small, interracial groups and travel through the South to test and challenge segregated facilities. Representative Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) served as the keynote speaker for the event and noted that the actions taken by the Freedom Riders were as innovative in the 1960s as social media campaigns that inspire revolutions like the Arab Spring are today. “We must be creative and break free from traditional methods of activism to realize contemporary civil rights goals related to immigration, voting rights, minimum wage and more,” Ellison said.

    The Freedom Riders endured savage beatings, humiliation, and imprisonment, but ultimately, their brave actions changed American forever. The exhibition combines powerful images and news coverage of the Freedom Rides and examines the movement from diverse perspectives. The exhibition is a companion to the May 2011 PBS Broadcast of the AMERICAN EXPERIENCE film Freedom Riders.

    “The District Court is pleased to host this powerful and inspirational exhibition,” said Chief Judge Michael J. Davis. “People of all walks of life will be able to learn about the bravery of the Freedom Riders to secure the constitutional rights of all citizens. These are people who faced grave danger, who changed the face of America, and we are more than happy and extremely proud to highlight their legacy.”

  • June 17, 2014

    Although law and ideology are the main factors that impact a judge’s ruling, Adam Liptak reports on a new influencing interest: having a daughter. Writing for The New York Times, Liptak discusses why personal experience is informing the law.
    The Supreme Court denied certiorari in Elmbrook School District v. Doe, where the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that it is unconstitutional to hold a graduation ceremony in a church. At Hamilton and Griffin on Rights, Leslie C. Griffin examines Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent.
    Yesterday, the Supreme Court upheld a ban on “straw purchases,” the purchase of a gun by one person for another. Nina Totenberg at NPR explains what the victory means for gun control advocates.
    A growing number of today’s inmates are women. Oliver Roeder at the Brennan Center for Justice reports on this growing phenomenon.
    The Associated Press notes that Texas has the highest number of judicial vacancies in the country. 
  • June 16, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Gabe Rottman, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office. Mr. Rottman will participate in “The Web as the New Battleground over Free Expression,” a panel discussion at the 2014 ACS National Convention.

    The internet, perhaps the greatest information revolution in living memory, presents profound threats to personal privacy. A few weeks ago, the highest court in the European Union issued an extraordinary ruling on the subject. In a mistaken attempt to reach the laudable goal of giving individuals more power over their personal information online, the court gave individuals the power to punch holes in the historical record.  Such a power would seriously threaten free speech.

    The decision was a landmark in an ongoing effort, on both sides of the pond, to create what many call a “right to be forgotten” in privacy law. The right to be forgotten means individuals have a legal right to control personal information held by third parties and posted online. 

    Most agree that there can be some form of that right for material that you post yourself (for instance, you should have the right to demand that Facebook completely delete your page if you want to leave the service). But other types of information shouldn’t be so easy to erase —especially something like a newspaper article reporting truthful information in the public interest. Even if that article is deeply embarrassing to an individual covered or quoted, it shouldn’t be taken down.

    But that’s exactly what happened in the European case. In the late 1990s, a Spanish lawyer had his home put up for auction by the government to pay a debt. When someone Googled his name, two links would come up to notices in La Vanguardia, a Spanish newspaper, which had been placed by a Spanish government agency to promote the auction. In other words, this lawyers’ tax debt was a matter of both public record and public interest.

  • June 16, 2014

    by Paul Guequierre

    LGBT workers garnered another victory today as President Obama indicated he will sign an executive order barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity by companies that contract with the federal government. According to the Human Rights Campaign, the order, which would make it illegal for companies with U.S. government contracts to fire or avoid hiring employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity, just as it now is with race, will impact 20 percent of the U.S. workforce.

    During his campaign President Obama vowed to sign the executive order, but has spent much of the past few years avoiding the issue, pushing instead for Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would make it illegal for all employers to fire or refuse to hire someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. In a historic vote, the United States Senate passed ENDA, but its chances of success in the house are slim with an anti-equality leadership.