ACSBlog

  • May 5, 2016
    Guest Post

    by Julie Wilensky, Director of the California Office of the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC) and member, National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA)

    On March 26, the North Carolina General Assembly convened a special legislative session to preempt a local ordinance passed by the city of Charlotte, which had amended its antidiscrimination law to explicitly include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The state legislature introduced and rapidly passed HB 2, North Carolina’s extraordinarily broad “Bathroom Bill,” which Governor Pat McCrory signed into law the same day. The focus of HB 2, and much of the debate and dialogue surrounding it, is about forcing transgender people to use sex-segregated restrooms according to the sex listed on their birth certificate, instead of the restrooms corresponding to their gender identity. HB 2 also prohibits local governments in North Carolina from enacting their own anti-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity and from establishing minimum wages other than for the local government’s own employees.

    Advocates have filed suit challenging aspects of HB 2 as violating the U.S. Constitution as well as Title IX, a claim vindicated by the Fourth Circuit’s April 19 decision in G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board. That decision confirms that Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs receiving federal funding, protects the rights of transgender students to use sex-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity. Quite simply, HB 2 requires North Carolina’s local governments and schools receiving federal funding to discriminate against transgender and gender nonconforming people in violation of federal law.

    HB 2 also takes the extreme step of expressly revoking the right for workers to bring state-law discrimination claims in state court North Carolina Equal Employment Practices Act. For many years, the North Carolina courts have recognized a common law right to file suit for wrongful termination based on the public policy under the Act. Taking this right away is an unprecedented and extreme step. While HB 2 states that North Carolina’s Human Relations Commission will have the authority to “investigate and conciliate charges of discrimination,” state officials have not provided guidance on how this will be implemented, and this is no substitute for a worker being able to file a lawsuit in state court.

  • May 5, 2016

    by Jim Thompson

    A federal judge recently ruled in favor of ACS Nashville Chapter Board of Advisors members Tracey George, Bill Harbison and Dewey Branstetter, and Nashville Chapter President Hunter Branstetter, in their lawsuit challenging an anti-abortion amendment to the Tennessee Constitution. Tracey George comments in the StarTribune.

    Anita Earls, who has spoken about voting rights at various ACS programs, appeared on PBS’s The Open Mind to discuss rampant voter suppression across the U.S.

    A group of environmental organizations sued the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday, arguing that rules regulating the disposal of oil and gas drilling waste are outdated, resulting in disposal practices that pollute drinking water and have caused an uptick in seismic activity, reports Brady Dennis at The Washington Post.

  • May 4, 2016

    by Jim Thompson

    At The Marshall Project, Maurice Chammah considers whether implicit racial biases cause public defenders to devote less time to their black clients.

    Chicago public schools announced Tuesday that it will allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity, reports Justin Madden at Reuters.

    In a new report released by the Congressional Research Service, Andrew Nolan, Kate M. Manuel and Brandon J. Murrill provide an in-depth analysis of Chief Judge Merrick Garland’s jurisprudence. Ruthann Robson provides commentary on the report at Constitutional Law Prof Blog

  • May 3, 2016
    Guest Post

    by Gene R. Nichol, the Boyd Tinsley Distinguished Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Poverty, Work & Opportunity, UNC School of Law

    Two weeks ago, federal district court judge Thomas Schroeder issued a 485- page opinion upholding North Carolina’s  “monster” voter ID law, HB 589. It apparently takes more than a few pages to explain the acceptability of patent voter suppression. A lot of folks in the Tar Heel State were outraged. A lot cheered. None were surprised. The George W. Bush appointee had carried out his assignment with thoroughness, if not enthusiasm.

    Schroeder’s ruling upheld sweeping changes to North Carolina voting practices. Voters now have to present one of six forms of photo identification – pointedly excluding state university IDs – to secure a ballot. The statute also notably curbed early voting, prohibited same day registration, banned out of precinct voting, and ended an early registration program for first time voters. Leaders of the General Assembly had openly expressed their delight with the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act in the Shelby County case. Now, they rejoiced, the full Monty was possible. They wouldn’t fumble this chance.

    The State Board of Elections identified a whopping two instances of “possible” voter impersonation in the previous fourteen year period. We could all understand the urgency. Rick Hasen deemed North Carolina’s new voting law “the worst seen in the United States” in a half-century. Over two hundred thousand Tar Heels were estimated to lack the newly-demanded credential. The newspapers filled with stories of poor, elderly, sick, disabled and disadvantaged citizens struggling to satisfy the dishonest requirement. Schroeder was unmoved. You know, there’s just gonna be some hardship and exclusion when it comes to voting. It’s not as if we’re talking about something important – like a concealed carry permit.

  • May 3, 2016

    by Jim Thompson

    The absence of a ninth justice has significantly lessened the number of cases accepted by the Supreme Court, says Robert Barnes at The Washington Post.

    In Huffington PostMatt Ferner provides commentary on a report released last week by the White House, titled “Economic Perspectives On Incarceration And The Criminal Justice System,”  which discusses the devastating economic impact of mass incarceration. 

    The Virginia Supreme Court ruled last week that the state’s cohabitation law applies to unmarried same-sex couples, reports Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade