ACSBlog

  • February 18, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    On Monday, a U.S. District Court judge temporarily blocked President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration. The White House has indefinitely postponed its immigration reforms in order to comply with the federal judge’s order, report Michael D. Shear and Julia Preston for The New York Times.

    The Editorial Board of The New York Times offers harsh criticism of Federal District Judge Andrew Hanen who temporarily blocked President Obama’s first of several new immigration programs. Both MALDEF and the National Council of La Raza issued statements criticizing the judge’s ruling.

    Zoe Carpenter argues at The Nation that the ruling from Judge Hanen puts millions of immigrants in limbo. Luke Brinker of Salon asserts that the judge’s ruling was a “politically charged move.”

    At The WeekPeter Weber considers when liberals will begin caring more about federal judges. 

    Geoffrey R. Stone, co-faculty advisor for the ACS Student Chapter at the University of Chicago Law School, writes at The Huffington Post on Charlie Hebdo and the First Amendment.

    In The Washington Post, Mark Berman reports that Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has suspended the death penalty in the state.

  • February 17, 2015
    Guest Post

    by Nazgol Ghandnoosh, Ph.D., Research Analyst, The Sentencing Project; author of Race and Punishment: Racial Perceptions of Crime and Support for Punitive Policies and Fewer Prisoners, Less Crime: A Tale of Three States (co-authored with Marc Mauer).

    *This post is part of our two-week symposium on racial inequalities in the criminal justice system.

    Between 2007 and 2009, black men received federal sentences that were 14 percent longer than those for white men with similar arrest offenses, criminal histories and other prior characteristics.  In their Yale Law Journal article, Sonja B. Starr and M. Marit Rehavi show that prosecutors – not judges – have been the “dominant procedural sources of disparity.”  This is because prosecutors were twice as likely to charge black defendants with offenses that carried mandatory minimum sentences than otherwise-similar whites.  Similar patterns emerge at the state level.  Mandatory minimum sentences have therefore not eliminated sentencing disparities by standardizing judicial decisions as some had hoped.  Instead, mandatory minimums have merely transferred power from judges to prosecutors.

    In my recent report with The Sentencing Project, I outline the major sources of racial disparity in criminal justice outcomes and highlight recent initiatives for targeting these inequities.  Racially biased use of discretion – not just among prosecutors, but also police officers, judges and potentially even public defenders – is just one source of racial disparity in sentencing.

    A second cause is ostensibly race-neutral policies and laws that have a disparate racial impact. For example, drug-free school zone laws mandate sentencing enhancements for people caught selling drugs near school zones.  The expansive geographic range of these zones coupled with high urban density has disproportionately affected residents of urban areas, and particularly those in high-poverty areas – who are largely people of color. A study in New Jersey found that 96% of persons subject to these enhancements in that state were African American or Latino. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have some form of drug-free school zone law.

  • February 17, 2015
    Guest Post

    by Rob Weiner, formerly Associate Deputy Attorney General in the United States Department of Justice, is a partner at Arnold & Porter LLP. This post originally appeared at Balkinization.

    A monument on the Civil War battlefield at Gettysburg identifies the “high water mark of the Confederacy,” where General Pickett’s charge temporarily breached the front lines of the Union Army.  A significant issue in that War was the refusal of Southern states to accept the result of the Presidential election.  The Union’s ultimate victory vindicated the principle of majority rule within our constitutional system.

    More than 150 years later, this democratic principle is still under siege—not by force of arms, but by the persistent efforts of the losers in legislative battles who seek to overturn the majority vote in the courts.  Nowhere are those efforts more relentless and dogmatic than in the profusion of lawsuits challenging the Affordable Care Act.

    The challenges, however, hit their own high water mark when the Supreme Court granted review in King v. Burwell.  Since then, the challengers’ claims, which were insubstantial to start with, have evaporated, laying bare both the absence of any coherent legal basis for the claims and the political nature of the litigation.

    The challenges focus on the State insurance Exchanges required under the ACA.  An Exchange is essentially a Travelocity for insurance, where individuals can compare prices, find the best deal, and purchase their insurance.  Section 1311 of the ACA requires all States to establish an Exchange.  If a State does not establish the “required Exchange,” however, Section 1321 of the Act instructs the Secretary of HHS to establish “such Exchange” for the State. 

  • February 17, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    At MSNBC, Irin Carmon discusses her recent interview with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that touched on abortion rights, race, and politics.

    Julia Preston of The New York Times reports that a federal judge has ordered a halt on President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

    At The Washington Post, Linda Hirshman argues that Judge Roy Moore actually helped the fight for same-sex marriage through his vocal opposition.

    At Hamilton & Griffin on Rights, Leslie C. Griffin writes that a new case involving a church arguing it is entitled to worship on public school grounds confuses the line between worship and speech.

    Nina Totenberg of NPR reports on an event with Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg that she moderated.

  • February 16, 2015
    Guest Post

    by Harvey Fiser, Associate Professor of Business Law at Millsaps College

    All eyes are once again focused on our southern states and their leaders for again defying federal court orders.  This time, as last, is about violating the constitutional rights of its citizens.  The latest in the long line of outspoken obstructionists is Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore.  Moore, infamous for once being removed from his position on the Alabama Supreme Court for defying a federal court order to remove a 2.6-ton monument of the Ten Commandments from the rotunda of Alabama’s Supreme Court building, is the lead mouth-piece on the current issue of same-sex marriage. 

    On Monday, February 9, after a denial of a stay request by both the Eleventh Circuit and the United States Supreme Court, United States District Court Judge Granade’s order took effect.  The order declared Alabama’s bans on same-sex marriage violate the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  On that Monday, same-sex couples were allowed the same marriage rights as all other couples in Alabama – until they weren’t. 

    Perhaps forgetting the commandment, “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy (Exodus 20:8),” Justice Moore, on Sunday, February 8, set aside any Sabbath work restrictions and issued an Administrative Order prohibiting all probate judges in Alabama from granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite the federal court order.  Moore supported his order with the technical fact that neither the United States Supreme Court nor the Supreme Court of Alabama had ruled on the Alabama laws – never mentioning the denial of a stay by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit five days prior.  The U.S. Supreme Court did act the next day, and, on Monday, February 9, the path was cleared for same-sex couples to marry in Alabama again.  Surely this satisfied Moore’s Sunday declaration.  Except, it didn’t.