ACSBlog

  • February 4, 2014
     
    The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first bill signed into law by President Obama in 2009 and has been a vital tool in the battle against wage discrimination ever since. Writing for Roll Call on the anniversary of the bill’s passage, Lilly Ledbetter and the American Civil Liberties Union’s Deborah J. Vagins reflect on the legacy of the Ledbetter Act, the importance of the proposed Paycheck Fairness Act and the necessity of executive order.
     
    Last year, the Senate eliminated its 60-vote supermajority requirement for most judicial and executive appointments after Senate Republicans chose to filibuster an egregious number of President Obama’s nominees. In an article for The Blog of Legal Times, Todd Ruger explains why it is likely that the Senate’s power to filibuster nominations will remain applicable to our nation’s highest court.
     
    Writing for the Center for American Progress, Joshua Field examines the current state of the Voting Rights Act, post-Shelby County. In his report, Field addresses the need to combat voting-related discrimination and the role our federal courts must play going forward.
     
    In an article for The National Law Journal, Tony Mauro examines the ACLU’s First Amendment fight against the Supreme Court’s ban on protesting on the Court’s plaza.
  • February 3, 2014
    Guest Post
    by Richard W. Painter, S. Walter Richey Professor of Corporate Law, University of Minnesota Law School; former Associate Counsel to the President and Chief Ethics Lawyer, White House Counsel's Office (2005-2007); co-author of the ACS Issue Brief, “Extraordinary Circumstances: The Legacy of the Gang of 14 and a Proposal for Judicial Nominations"
     
    Senator Rubio of Florida is now one of the strongest contenders in the GOP for president. He is qualified and likeable and thus far has a clean record on ethics. One or more of Rubio’s Senate colleagues also might have a shot at the nomination. There are other good candidates as well. And Republicans, if they can get their act together, have a very good chance of electing a president in 2016. 
     
    One of the most important things a new president will do is appoint judges, the job that our current president has been trying to do for the past five years. The president will need the advice and consent of the Senate to make these appointments, but courts need judges, and presidents and senators have an obligation to make sure vacancies on courts are filled.
     
    And the place where senators should care most about filling judicial vacancies should be their own home states. The interests of constituents in access to judges and justice should be a priority over playing partisan politics.
     
    And this is why, until recently, it usually was not a problem for the Senate to allow home state senators an informal veto—implemented through the so called “blue slip” process—over confirmation of judges in their own states. Senators might try to block nominees from other states with filibusters and other tactics, but would protect their own constituents by working out a deal with the White House for nomination and confirmation of an acceptable nominee in their state.      
     
  • February 3, 2014
     
    * Editor’s Note: "LegalEyes," a new daily ACSblog feature highlighting important news in law and public policy, begins with this inaugural post. Visit each weekday at noon for fresh updates.
     
    Writing for the Brennan Center for Justice, Andrew Cohen explains how lawmakers in Alabama and Tennessee have introduced legislation to expedite capital cases in their states. With an already damaged prison system, Cohen explains how these new measures could mean the difference between life and death for today’s inmates.
     
    While section 215 of the Patriot Act is widely known for its controversial surveillance tactics, section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) brings to the forefront a whole host of issues regarding the legality of mass surveillance. Section 702 allows for the spying of non-U.S. citizens in an effort to prevent terrorism while collecting security intelligence without a warrant. In the first part of her ongoing discussion at Just Security on reforming Section 702, Jennifer Granick explains why and how the section should be reformed.
     
    It was one issue that had Democrats and Republicans on their feet during the State of the Union address last week: immigration reform. Although House Republicans have answered calls to tackle immigration reform with a newly written plan, their recent efforts have culminated in a controversially opaque blueprint. Alex Altman at TIME Magazine breaks down reactions to the GOP’s ambiguous plan to reconstruct immigration law.
     
    Writing for Balkinization, Jason Mazzone comments on the second murder conviction of Amanda Knox. The infamous case involving Knox and her former boyfriend in the 2007 murder of a British roommate was reestablished after the Italian criminal justice system reinstated its guilty verdict last week. In a revealing comparison between legal systems, Mazzone argues that Knox may be in a far better position today than if the case were originally held in the United States.
  • January 31, 2014
     
    Scores braved polar temperatures earlier this week to gather at the National Press Club for a fascinating American Constitution Society panel event on reproductive health. Entitled “Reproductive Rights and Women's Health: The States, Courts, and Congress” the two part event was headlined by an address from U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) regarding his bill, the Women’s Health Protection Act, which seeks to prohibit state and local governments from erecting barriers that prevent women from exercising their constitutionally protected reproductive rights.
     
    Senator Blumenthal noted that a woman’s right to make health care decisions, including the ability to obtain abortions, without government or public interference is presently facing an unprecedented number of threats and legal challenges. For example there are restrictions currently being enacted by state and local governments have the effect of deterring women from making fundamental reproductive choices. There should be no regulation applied to abortions that is not similarly applied to comparable medical procedures, the Senator noted.
     
    A panel discussion featuring some of the foremost scholars and practitioners in the realm of reproductive rights preceded Senator Blumenthal’s comments and was moderated by Juliet Eilperin, White House Correspondent for the Washington PostRoger Evans, Senior Director of Public Policy Litigation and Law at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, noted that the next major legal battle in this arena will be focused on a rising number of state laws that require abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges.
     
    Last November, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas (and assorted affiliates) filed an emergency application with the Supreme Court to vacate a stay granted by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which temporarily blocked the permanent injunction that federal district court judge Lee Yeakel placed on Texas’ H.B. 2.  The law requires that, among other anti-choice restrictions, doctors preforming abortions must have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic. The Supreme Court rejected that application, but Evans stated that it was “inevitable” that the issue of admitting privileges would eventually make it before the Court.
     
  • January 31, 2014
     
    On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearing for six District Court of Arizona nominees:
    • Steven Paul Logan,
    • John Joseph Tuchi,
    • Diane J. Humetewa,
    • Rosemary Marquez,
    • Douglas L. Rayes, and
    • James Alan Soto.
     
    These nominees had been delayed in committee pending agreement by Sen. Flake (R-Ariz.), who recently returned his blue slips, allowing their nominations to progress. Rosemary Marquez is currently the longest pending nominee, having been originally nominated on June 23, 2011. If confirmed, Diane Humetewa would be the first Native American woman federal judge. All of these nominees would fill judicial emergencies, and desperately needed by the District of Arizona which is operating with six out of 13 judgeships vacant.
     
    On Wednesday, the North Carolina NAACP sent a letter to Senator Burr (R-N.C.) requesting that he return his blue slip for Jennifer May-Parker so that her nomination can proceed. May-Parker was nominated to the Eastern District of North Carolina on June 20, 2013 for a seat vacant since December 31, 2005. This is the second-oldest vacancy in the country. The oldest vacancy is for the Ninth Circuit, which became vacant on December 31, 2004. John B. Owens was nominated for that seat and his nomination is on the Senate floor pending action by the full Senate.
     
    The Congressional Black Caucus is publically urging President Obama to select more African American nominees, especially in Alabama and Georgia, states with large African American populations but few African Americans on the bench.