• June 15, 2016
    Guest Post

    by Harry Baumgarten, Partner Legal Fellow, Voting Rights Institute

    *This blog post is part of ACSblog’s “Justice in the Balance” symposium. See our infographic here.

    In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the coverage formula of the Voting Rights Act by a narrow margin of 5-4 in Shelby County v. Holder. The coverage formula designated which states and local jurisdictions with histories of racial discrimination in voting were required to submit changes to their voting laws, practices and procedures to the Department of Justice or the D.C. Court for preclearance prior to going into effect.

    For nearly 50 years, this preclearance provision helped ensure that all eligible voters, regardless of their race, were able to meaningfully participate in the political process. However, following this disastrous decision, states and local jurisdictions acted with impunity by implementing onerous voter ID laws and discriminatory redistricting maps that previously would have been blocked by the Department of Justice. A single additional justice voting in favor of upholding the coverage formula could have prevented these discriminatory laws and stopped 2016 from marking the first presidential election in over 50 years without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act.

    Yet, this is not what happened. Instead, five justices in Shelby County found that the coverage formula was outdated and therefore violated the “equal sovereignty of the states.” However, this essentially legislative determination by the Court flew in the face of more than 15,000 pages of congressional findings based on 20 hearings and testimony from more than 90 witnesses that had led Congress to conclude that the coverage formula was still applicable. In fact, the coverage formula was reauthorized four times—in 1970, 1975, 1982 and 2006—with overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress, confirming the clear congressional findings that it was still necessary.

    Outraged by the Court’s logic, Justice Ginsburg wrote a 37-page dissent in which she correctly proclaimed that “[t]hrowing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.” Indeed, if one justice had switched sides, Justice Ginsburg’s dissent could have represented the majority opinion and the preclearance provision would still be in effect.

  • June 15, 2016
    Guest Post

    by Arthur Bryant, Chairman, Public Justice

    *This post originally appeared on Public Justice's blog

    When corporations or the government value money over lives and safety, injure people, or discriminate against them, the courts are where they can be held accountable. But corporate and government wrongdoers don’t want to be held accountable.

    That’s why, for decades, they’ve been waging a massive propaganda campaign to demonize trial lawyers, litigation, juries, and our system of justice. They’re trying to poison public perception by attaching toxic adjectives to everything that could make them pay. They attack “greedy” trial lawyers, “frivolous” lawsuits, “runaway” juries, and “jackpot” justice— and call our legal system a “lottery”—because they don’t want justice to be done.

    Each year, Public Justice counters this self-serving, corporate PR campaign by making sure people know the truth. We recognize the lawyers who made the greatest contribution to the public good by trying or settling a case as finalists for our nationally-prestigious Trial Lawyer of the Year Award.  This year’s finalists, listed alphabetically by case name below, will be honored—and the winner will be announced—at Public Justice’s 34th Annual Gala & Awards Dinner on Sunday, July 24, at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.  Their cases show what trial lawyers and lawsuits can do — and why they’re really being attacked.

    Andrews v. Lawrence Livermore National Security

    In 2008, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory was taken over by a private company, Lawrence Livermore National Security (LLNS), controlled by the Bechtel Corporation and the University of California. LLNS promised to save the federal government $50 million annually. To do so, it then fired more than 400 of the lab’s most senior workers, including many top scientists and researchers. It gave them one hour to pack up their belongings and return their badges before they were “perp-walked” out of the lab.

    Gary Gwilliam and his team at Gwilliam, Ivary, Chiosso, Cavalli & Brewer and Omar Habbas of Habbas & Associates would not let this stand. They sued on behalf of 130 workers, litigated for more than seven years, and won a $2,728,327 jury verdict for breach of contract and breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing for five test plaintiffs. They then negotiated a $37.25 million settlement for 129 of the 130 plaintiffs—the equivalent of over three years’ salary for each. When the defendants insisted that the settlement be confidential, the plaintiffs’ counsel refused—because the public had a right to know the disastrous effects of the government’s attempt to privatize a national lab.

  • June 15, 2016

    by Jim Thompson

    In The New York TimesMatt Apuzzo and Eric Lichtblau consider proactive measures that could have prevented the recent shooting in Orlando, quoting ACS President Caroline Fredrickson who says, “I think the F.B.I. has an incredibly hard job, because this guy seems like a lone wolf. He was an American citizen born in the United States.”

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Tuesday rejected a challenge to the FCC’s Open Internet Order. In Huffington Post, Candace Clement discusses the importance of this decision. 

    The American Medical Association has announced that it is adopting a policy calling the epidemic of gun violence in America a “public health crisis,” reports Richard Gonzales at NPR

    Justin Miller at The American Prospect celebrates the building momentum behind local minimum wage hikes across the country, highlighting recent victories in California, North Carolina and Washington, D.C. 

  • June 14, 2016
    Corporate Citizen?
    An Argument for the Separation of Corporation and State
    Ciara Torres-Spelliscy

    by Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, Associate Professor of Law at Stetson University College of Law; Brennan Center Fellow.

    Corporations are strange bedfellows to have in a democracy. My new book, Corporate Citizen?, explores how, over the course of American history, corporations have aggressively sought to expand their constitutional rights.  And, American courts, especially the U.S. Supreme Court, have often obliged - enabling the slow, yet steady, expansion of corporate rights since near the founding of the nation. But the current Roberts Supreme Court has taken this enabler role to new heights and earned the nickname the “Corporate Court” because of its solicitude towards corporate litigants. 

    My basic thesis in Corporate Citizen? is that corporations have gained more rights that previously, and appropriately, only applied to human beings, like religious and political speech rights. This could have been palatable if human style responsibilities were also being given to corporations. Instead corporations get to have their cake and eat it too. They are spared concomitant responsibilities, as they are given a First Amendment veto to shoot down reasonable regulations of their economic activity.

    By contrast, when we conceptualize real (human) citizenship, typically there are a cluster of rights and responsibilities that are mixed together. We pay taxes, and we get a Congress to represent us. We serve on juries, and we get a fair trial. We sign up for the selective service (if we are men), and we get the protection of the military. If we are victims of a crime, we can seek justice. If we are guilty of committing a crime, we can expect to be held accountable under the rule of law.

    But with corporations, which are at their essence just a pile of papers, U.S. courts have granted them more and more rights, and then simultaneously, absolved many firms from responsibilities. The book examines the lack of accountability in areas including environmental stewardship, paying taxes and respecting human rights.

  • June 14, 2016

    by Jim Thompson

    At The Hill, Jesse Byrnes discusses Vice President Joe Biden’s speech at the 2016 ACS National Convention. More press coverage of the convention is available here.

    In The New York Times, ACS Board member Adam Winkler urges lawmakers to pass legislation banning people on the terrorist watch list from purchasing firearms.

    According to a study published by the New York University Law Review, “the Senate has never before transferred a president’s appointment power in comparable circumstances to an unknown successor,” says Adam Liptak in The New York Times.

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Tuesday upheld “net neutrality” rules that require Internet providers to treat all web traffic equally, reports The Chicago Tribune.