• 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.

  • May 31, 2016
    Guest Post

    by Rosann Mariappuram, vice president of events, University of Texas School of Law ACS Student Chapter, and former staff member, Reproductive Health Access Project

    *This post was first published on the Reproductive Health Access Project blog.

    I arrived in Washington on Tuesday, March 2, the day before the oral arguments for Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. I was planning to meet up with the Reproductive Health Access Project (RHAP) staff to make rally signs and then attend the rally on Wednesday morning. As we touched down in D.C. my fellow law students and I got a flurry of excited texts from a friend who was already at the Supreme Court, telling us that there were only two dozen people in line for public tickets so far – and that normally 30 to 50 people got in. We grabbed our suitcases, hopped on the Metro, jogged up Capitol Hill, and got in line by 5pm. We estimated we might be the 30th to 35th people in line.

    Spending the night on the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court was definitely an adventure. Friends stopped by with supplies and food, and RHAP’s amazing board member Emily Kane-Lee gave us a sleeping bag, umbrellas, and hats. Over the course of the night as we hid from the rain we shared stories of why the case was so important to us with other people in line. I got interviewed by a TV station from Houston and the website Refinery29, which was very exciting (and nerve-wracking)! Before I knew it though the sun was coming up and security guards were letting us into the Court.

  • May 31, 2016

    by Jim Thompson

    At Jost on Justice, Kenneth Jost provides commentary on the Supreme Court’s decision in Foster v. Chatman, celebrating a long overdue victory for racial justice.     

    The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to hear an appeal challenging the constitutionality of the death penalty, reports Lawrence Hurley at Reuters.

    Large pharmaceutical companies may be able to accomplish what the Supreme Court has not – forcing an end to the death penalty, opines Rose Carmen Goldberg at Harvard Law and Policy Review