• 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.  

  • June 14, 2016
    Guest Post

    by Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr., Clinical Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the Criminal Justice Institute, Harvard Law School. Mr. Sullivan served as the first Executive Counsel to the Orleans Indigent Defender Program when it was organized in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

    In 2011, David Brown was on trial in Louisiana. At stake were his liberty and his life. Fortunately for Mr. Brown, he was on trial in a country whose legal system includes important rights for every defendant and a presumption of innocence. If the state, in its years-long investigation into the crime he was charged with, had uncovered any evidence favorable to Mr. Brown or likely to be material to the outcome of his trial and sentencing, he had a constitutional right to that evidence.

    This is a key mechanism of our criminal system intended to create just results.

    And, in fact, the state did have something important to Mr. Brown’s defense. In a case with five co-defendants, prosecutors had evidence of a statement from another co-defendant indicating that Mr. Brown was not one of the two men involved in taking a life.

    Unfortunately, in addition to the constitutional rights of defendants, there was another legal force at play: an insidious tradition of Louisiana’s prosecutors failing to give the accused all the information they are obligated to share. Mr. Brown didn’t get the information. His judge and jury didn’t hear it. He was sentenced to die.

    Soon, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether to address Mr. Brown’s case, Brown v. Louisiana. Several legal ethics scholars, myself included, have submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Petitioner Brown. As we wrote in our brief, if the Court doesn’t act, the bad ruling in Brown could usher in a new, darker age of disregarding the rights of defendants to discovery materials that are essential for fair trials. For this reason, and also to hold prosecutors accountable for meeting all their constitutional obligations, the Court should take the case.

  • June 2, 2016
    Guest Post

    by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). Sen. Whitehouse is a member of the Judiciary Committee as well as the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Budget Committee, Environment and Public Works Committee, and Special Committee on Aging.

    The recent op-ed by two Republican members of the House of Representatives argues that their efforts to impeach the IRS Commissioner are on the level. Maybe.

    But when you look at how the Republican Party is paid for, Republicans have a very good reason for trying to keep their boot firmly on the neck of the IRS. Keeping an already timid bureaucracy even more intimidated has a significant strategic benefit.

    There is a dirty secret to the "dark money" organizations that plague our elections: They're not supposed to be in our elections. And if the IRS were doing its job, they wouldn't be.

    If we were rid of dark money, it would make the American people happier, as we are fully creeped out by the seemingly unlimited influence-buying in politics. But big special interests which make a killing off their political "investments" would not be happy at all. They might have to act out in the daylight where we can watch them; and they much prefer the dark to do their dirty work of killing climate change and campaign finance legislation, preventing Medicare from negotiating drug prices, and unleashing Wall Street from regulation.

    They also prefer the Republican Party, so protecting dark money gets the full attention of Party leaders in Congress. For them, political dark money has become as important as an air hose to a deep sea diver.