ACSBlog

  • February 21, 2014
    Guest Post
    by Sara Murphy, 1L Section Representative, ACS Harvard Law School Student Chapter

    On January 31, the Honorable David S. Tatel and the Honorable Brett M. Kavanaugh of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit joined Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow for a discussion about life on the D.C. Circuit. The event, co-sponsored by the ACS Harvard Law School Student Chapter and the school’s chapter of the  Federalist Society, drew a large crowd of both law students and members of the public.
     
    The D.C. Circuit essentially presides over the federal government; it has jurisdiction over all the federal agencies, and has original jurisdiction in some matters. Judge Tatel remarked that the court excels at issuing objective and non-ideological opinions – or comes as close to it as a court can get. He attributed this, in part, to small size of the court, which allows the judges to get to know each other well. The culture in the D.C. Circuit encourages judges to keep an open mind, and to have respect for each other and for panel decisions. Judge Kavanaugh agreed that the relationship between the judges was collegial, and noted that even when the judges disagree they do so with a tone of respect.
     
    According to Judge Tatel, the greatest challenge in being a judge is overcoming the immediate instinct judges develop about the case based on who they are and where they came from. How do you move beyond those instincts in trying to resolve the case within a framework of objective legal standards? He noted that the challenge is the greatest when the applicable standards drive the court to a decision that conflicts with the judge’s original instinct. This might end up leading the judge to decide a case that is different than how he might recommend resolving it as a member of Congress. Judge Tatel also commented that these sorts of decisions were the most satisfying.
     
  • February 20, 2014
    Guest Post
    by John H. Blume, Professor of Law, Cornell University Law School
     
    On March 3, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear argument in Hall v. Florida. The narrow but important question the Court must decide is whether persons who have been clinically diagnosed with mental retardation (now commonly referred to as intellectual disability) can nevertheless be put to death if they cannot satisfy the rigid IQ test score cutoff of 70 established by the Florida Supreme Court—a cutoff clearly inconsistent with the commonly agreed upon definition of mental retardation embraced by the Court in its 2002 decision in Atkins v. Virginia which all but a handful of outlier states use.     
     
    In Atkins, the Court recognized that a “national consensus” had developed against executing persons with mental retardation and concluded that the practice is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Prior to Atkins, Florida courts had determined that “Freddie Lee Hall has been mentally retarded his entire life.” One would think this is a simple case. It should be. Yet, Hall is at risk of being executed. How could this be? 
     
    The Atkins Court relied upon the clinical definitions developed by the two premier professional organizations in the field: the American Association on Mental Retardation (AAMR), now the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD); and, the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Both definitions have three prongs: significantly subaverage intellectual functioning; adaptive functioning deficits; and onset during the developmental period. Only the first prong is at issue in Hall, and without getting too “deep in the weeds,” significantly subaverage intellectual functioning is understood as an IQ of approximately 70. The question is—at bottom—a simple one: is Florida free—post-Atkins—to adopt a definition of intellectual functioning for capital cases, which is fundamentally inconsistent with the professional consensus regarding the use of IQ tests?
     
  • February 20, 2014
    Guest Post
    by Geoffrey R. Stone, Edward H. Levi Distinguished Professor of Law and an ACS Faculty Advisor at the University of Chicago Law School; former Chair, ACS Board of Directors
     
    * This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.
     
    A few days ago on the campus of the University of Mississippi, someone (reportedly two males) draped a Confederate flag on a statue honoring James Meredith and hung a noose around its neck. Meredith was the African-American student who courageously desegregated the University of Mississippi in 1962, weathering a storm of ugly protest, riots and threats of violence. This act was, by any measure, deeply disrespectful and hateful.
     
    University of Mississippi Chancellor Dan Jones responded by stating of those who did this: "Their ideas have no place here, and our response will be an even greater commitment to promoting the values that are engraved on the statue—Courage, Knowledge, Opportunity, and Perseverance."
     
    This poses an interesting question. How should the University of Mississippi respond? What does it mean to say that these "ideas have no place here"? Assuming the individuals who did this were students, should the university expel or otherwise discipline them? Are there "ideas" that "have no place" on a university campus?
     
  • February 20, 2014

    by ACS Staff

    As same-sex marriage ascends through the judiciary, GOP lawmakers are working ardently to slow its progress. In an effort to “defend their religious liberties,” Republican legislatures across six states have introduced bills that would discriminate against gay couples. Dylan Scott of TPM’s Editor’s Blog has the story.
     
    The European Union’s stance against the death penalty is influencing the role of capital punishment in America. Matt Ford of The Atlantic explains how the EU’s embargo on the lethal-injection drug sodium thiopental is “changing how America
    executes the men and women it sentences to death.”
     
    Writing for The New York Times, Linda Greenhouse celebrates the life of the late Yale Law School professor Robert Dahl and his “pathbreaking study of the Supreme Court” as a legal and political institution.
     
    At The Life of the Law, Christine Clarke explains why the Equal Pay Act must be amended.
     
    John Halpin and Karl Agne of the Center for American Progress and Half in Ten produce a revealing study of Millennial efforts to combat poverty in America.
     
    Jean Fairfax is in the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s “Black History Month Spotlight.”
  • February 19, 2014
     
    In an interview with NPR’s Robert Siegel and Audie Cornish, Daniel Webster—Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research—discusses the grave consequences that followed Missouri’s 2007 repeal of a law requiring background checks for gun buyers.
     
    President Obama continues to face criticism concerning the diversity of his judicial nominees. MSNBC’s Adam Serwer reports on growing liberal concern surrounding the president’s judicial nominees in Georgia.
     
    Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic reflects on the Jordan Davis murder, eloquently identifying racism in America as “not merely a belief system but a heritage.”
     
    A group of legal organizations are using television advertising to push the issue of court transparency at the Supreme Court. Josh Gerstein of Politico has the story.
     
    At CAC’s Text & History Blog, Tom Donnelly shares “six reasons to keep an eye on the Greenhouse Gas Cases.”
     
    Matt Bodie at Prawfs Blawg argues in favor of incentivizing cheaper law school course material.