• August 2, 2016

    By Kevin Battersby Witenoff

    In the Huffington Post, Michael Curtis reflects on the recent decision in North Carolina’s 4th Circuit Court and shares his belief that there is still hope that democratic ideas will prevail across the country.

    Citing a new report produced by the United Nations, Thaddeus Talbot uses the ACLU’s Blog to decry that our right to assembly is being eroded.

    Sarah Kliff explains that there is more to the gender wage gap than meets the eye in an article for Vox. She shares often overlooked contributions to the perpetual gap.

    In Slate, Zachary Roth highlights the recent major voting rights victories across the country and challenges us, and our courts, to go even further. 

  • August 1, 2016
    Guest Post

    by Jess Pezley, Staff Attorney, American Association for Justice. This post reflects the views of Ms. Pezley and not those of the AAJ. For more information on California’s End of Life Option Act, please visit

    Earlier this year, on June 9, California’s End of Life Option Act went into effect. Closely modeled after Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, the statute allows mentally competent adult residents, diagnosed with a terminal illness with a six-month or less prognosis, to voluntarily obtain and ingest a prescription to hasten their dying process.   

    For decades, advocacy organizations such as Compassion & Choices, have been fighting for increased end-of-life options, including medical aid-in-dying. In 1994, by voter initiative, Oregon became the first state to allow medical aid-in-dying. The law did not take effect until 1997, after a protracted legal battle to block it ended when voters rejected a legislature-sponsored initiative to repeal the law. Following the victory in Oregon, Washington passed a voter initiative in 2008, the Montana Supreme Court authorized medical aid in dying in 2009 (the only state to do so by judicial decree), and Vermont became the first legislature to authorize an end-of-life options bill in 2013.

    At the United States Supreme Court, progress towards medical aid-in-dying was seen in Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health (acknowledging a constitutional right for individuals to refuse unwanted medical treatment) and Washington v. Glucksberg (acknowledging a constitutional right to palliative care, despite denying to recognize a constitutional right to medical aid-in-dying). Yet after years of advocacy, only a small handful of states had authorized medical aid-in-dying as an end-of-life option.

    Then, in 2014, a 29-year-old woman with terminal brain cancer recorded a video that started a nationwide conversation. Viewed today over 11 million times, Brittany Maynard’s video advocates for the option to access medical aid-in-dying, not only in her home state of California, but across the nation. Her story—how she reluctantly uprooted her life and moved from her home in the San Francisco Bay Area to Oregon to access the state’s Death with Dignity Act—shaped the medical aid-in-dying movement for millions of Americans.

    Brittany Maynard dedicated the final months of her life to increasing awareness of medical aid-in-dying; her message did not go unheard. In 2015, 25 state legislatures and the D.C. city council introduced medical aid-in-dying bills, and on October 5, 2015, Governor Brown signed into law the End of Life Option Act in Brittany’s home state of California.  

  • July 28, 2016
    Guest Post
    by Tom Nolan, Associate Professor of Criminology, Merrimack College; 27-year veteran of the Boston Police Department
    Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby recently announced that her office would drop criminal charges against the three remaining Baltimore city police officers who were implicated in the death of Freddie Gray in April of 2015. Mosby’s office had initially charged six Baltimore officers in Gray’s death; three had been acquitted and the trial of one other officer ended when the jury failed to reach a verdict. I had commended Mosby for her courage and decisiveness in bringing the charges against the officers last May, just as I will commend her courage and decisiveness this week in deciding not to proceed criminally against the three remaining police officers who had faced charges in Gray’s death.
    Mosby was in the unenviable and ultimately untenable position of seeking justice for Freddie Gray and for those residents of communities of color in Baltimore who have borne the brunt of the Baltimore police juggernaut. In choosing to charge the Baltimore police officers criminally, Mosby was also, albeit indirectly, seeking justice for other African American men and women who had died at the hands of the police: in Cleveland; Chicago; Mt. Pleasant and Staten Island, NY; North Charleston, South Carolina; Hayward, California; Waller County, Texas, Washington, DC, and too many other locations in the United States.
    In May of 2015, when the officers were charged in Gray’s death, I expressed reservations regarding the likelihood of the officers being found guilty of any of the more serious charges, including “depraved heart” murder. The challenges facing prosecutors in convicting on-duty police officers criminally in the deaths of individuals in their custody are formidable, and in the cases involving the “Baltimore Six,” insurmountable.
    I asked at the time: “Will Baltimore and Freddie Gray see justice?” And I expressed skepticism that justice would be the result for Baltimore or for Freddie Gray. What has been on prominent display in the fifteen months since Gray’s death and the Baltimore officers being charged criminally is the criminal justice system, a system where justice is too often elusive and too frequently aspirational, particularly when the victims are men and women of color and the defendants are law enforcement officers.
  • July 28, 2016
    Guest Post

    by Anupam Chander, Martin Luther King, Jr. Professor of Law and Director of the California International Law Center at UC Davis. Recipient of a Google Research Award supporting related research           

    In 2013, Microsoft was staring at an order that risked its foreign business. The trust of its foreign users was at stake. A federal magistrate judge in New York had ordered Microsoft to produce emails from someone implicated in a narcotics case that were stored on Microsoft’s computers in Dublin, Ireland. While the identity of the target remains secret to this day, many observers assume that the person is foreign because of Microsoft’s policy to locate the records of a user close to that person’s residence. The court warrant thus meant that even if an Irish person used Microsoft’s computers in Europe, a U.S. court could demand that information when it wanted. The order effectively enlisted U.S. companies as the eyes and ears of U.S. courts worldwide.

    Microsoft appealed, drawing the support of Apple, Amazon and numerous other major technology companies (though not all of them). Even the Irish government, in a relatively rare move, filed a brief in the U.S. case, observing that it had a mutual legal assistance treaty with the United States that provided an official process to enable U.S. courts to obtain information in Ireland. Ireland noted what it saw as “potential infringements by other states of its sovereign rights with respect to its jurisdiction over its territory.” It noted that it would be “pleased to consider, as expeditiously as possible, a request under the treaty…”

    This month, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Microsoft’s favor, holding that Microsoft’s Irish computers lay beyond the reach of the search warrants issued under the Stored Communications Act, a 1986 federal law. Civil liberties advocates, not just U.S. internet companies and the Republic of Ireland, should breathe a sigh of relief.  

    Some have worried that this decision will lead countries to insist on data localization—the requirement that data about the citizens of a country mostly stay within the country. Elsewhere I have criticized data localization as a measure that erodes free expression, enhances authoritarian control, undermines local enterprise, and reduces trade. The critics of the Second Circuit decision are indeed right that the decision makes the siting of a computer server more important.

  • July 27, 2016

    By Kevin Battersby Witenoff

    A Texas police officer on Tuesday alleged that Prairie View police officials redacted much of his testimony regarding the arrest of Sandra Bland, says Michael McLaughlin at Huffington Post.

    The Editorial Board at The New York Times reports that wealthy towns in New Jersey have evaded building more than 100,000 homes meant to assist low- to moderate-income families.

    “The results of this election will go a long way toward deciding the extent to which the courts will protect the voting rights of all Americans or leave the most vulnerable out in the storm” writes Dahlia Lithwick in Slate

    In the Huffington Post, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) warns that the Senate is setting a risky precedent for judicial confirmations by refusing a hearing for Chief Judge Merrick Garland.