ACSBlog

  • 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.
     
  • January 31, 2014
    Guest Post
    by Andrew Guthrie Ferguson, Associate Professor of Law at the David A. Clarke School of Law at the University of the District of Columbia and author of Why Jury Duty Matters: A Citizen’s Guide to Constitutional Action (NYU Press, 2013)
     
    In his State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama stated, “Citizenship demands a sense of common cause; participation in the hard work of self-government; an obligation to serve to our communities.” So why does the official test to become a citizen fail to address these participatory values? Why in the battle over legal paths to immigration do we not rethink what we demand from new citizens?
     
    “Where is the Statue of Liberty?” So reads one of the 100 questions every new citizen might have to answer to pass the national citizenship test. The national citizenship test, created in 1986 and updated in 2008, involves 100 questions focused on American civics, history and geography. Actual questions include: “What are two Cabinet-level positions?” “The Federalist Papers supported passage of the U.S. Constitution. Name one of the writers.” “Who was President during the Great Depression and World War II”? “Name two national holidays.” The questions and answers are provided to study from, and applicants need only answer six out of ten randomly selected questions correctly to pass the test. But, the question remains: is this really the test we want to create productive and contributing citizens in American society?
     
    First, a bit of history: For much of early America, there was no citizenship test required to gain citizen status. In 1790, three years after the creation of the U.S. Constitution, Congress passed the first naturalization act that allowed free white people “of good character” to apply for citizenship after living in the United States for two years and swearing to uphold the Constitution. Subsequent acts extended the residency requirement to five and then briefly to fourteen years. In 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment extended birthright citizenship to “All persons born or naturalized in the United States” covering African Americans and others born on United States soil.
     
  • January 28, 2014
    BookTalk
    Defining the Struggle
    National Organizing for Racial Justice, 1880-1915
    By: 
    Susan D. Carle
    by Susan D. Carle, Professor of Law, American University Washington College of Law
     
    As the nation heads towards the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the time is ripe for revisiting the origins of the social movement that gave this important legislation its birth. We commonly think of the federal civil rights legislation of the 1960s, including both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as a product of a social movement that began just a few decades before. In fact, however, both the ideas for new national civil rights legislation to enforce the U.S. Constitution’s dictates of citizenship equality, and the activism that propelled those ideas into law, have far older origins.
     
    Defining the Struggle: National Organizing for Racial Justice, 1880-1915, uncovers the almost forgotten “prehistory” of national organizing to promote racial citizenship equality. The book traces this history’s basis in the activism of lawyers and other civil rights leaders of the late 19th and first years of the 20th century. Through organizations rarely remembered today, such as the National Afro American League, the National Afro American Council, the Niagara Movement and others, early national leaders and activists began to experiment with a panoply of law-related strategies for advancing the equality principles embedded in the nation’s constitutional texts. These activists deeply believed in these fundamental equality principles, but they just as deeply distrusted the bureaucrats charged with enforcing law. Put otherwise, they were not naive “legal liberals” who believed the courts would enforce racial equality principles simply because they were petitioned to do. Early civil rights lawyers understood that the struggle would be a political one, and they were pessimistic about the advances that could be made without gaining more political power. At the same time, they believed that the courts were one forum in which the battle for racial equality should be fought, if only by exposing the nation’s hypocrisy on racial equality to the world. Even recognizing the great odds against them, this early generation of legal activists was willing to take on the challenge of using principles of  constitutional law to challenge the unjust application of law.