• July 17, 2014

    by Ellery Weil

    The New York Times reports on a federal judge’s ruling that California’s death penalty system is arbitrary to the point that it is unconstitutional.

    Salon examines the government’s justification of reading private e-mails to combat drug trafficking, and whether this is an overreach of surveillance powers.

    Norm Ornstein, in a piece for the Atlantic, looks at an “obscure set of four lawsuits filed by ideologically conservative activists and their lawyers,” which could further threaten the Affordable Care Act.

    The ACLU reports on the potential for privacy violations now that location apps, such as Waze, are sharing their data with the government.

    From SCOTUSblog, a look at Utah’s challenge of same-sex marriages performed during a brief window of legal opportunity in the state last winter.

  • July 16, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Estelle H. Rogers, Legislative Director, Project Vote

    *Noting the 50th anniversaries of Freedom Summer and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, ACSblog is hosting a symposium including posts and interviews from some of the nation’s leading scholars and civil rights activists.

    I turned 16 in the early summer of 1964. I was anxious to drive, and I did. But what I really wanted to do was go to Mississippi. An older friend who was already in college—I had only finished my junior year of high school—planted the idea in my head. My parents quickly put the kibosh on it. It was Freedom Summer, and I would not be there.

    My parents’ disapproval was not ideological. I was raised by progressive, Jewish intellectuals who had a keen sense of justice. But they also feared for the safety of their elder child, who was trying to carve out a freedom of her own. The arguments we had in those days were reminiscent of the summer before, when I wanted to go on a bus to the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  There was too much risk of violence, they said. Their fear would prove to be unfounded. Not so in Mississippi in the summer of 1964.

    The recent anniversaries of the civil rights movement have left me awash in memories, some of adolescent disappointment and impatience to make my own decisions, some more poignant. When the four little girls died in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in September 1963, civil rights leaders in Baltimore called for a silent march through the streets of the city. I wanted to go—feeling vindicated that I had tried so hard the month before to go to Washington to express my beliefs about racial equality—and asked my parents. My father, a state court judge at the time, said he’d go with me. On my first civil rights demonstration, I was accompanied by my father.

  • July 16, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Anita Sinha, Practitioner in Residence, Immigrant Justice Clinic, American University, Washington College of Law

    *This piece is cross-posted in The Huffington Post

    Children have been all over the news, and for the wrong reasons. Three missing Israeli teens were found dead in the occupied West Bank, sparking the reprisal killing of a Palestinian boy who was burned alive. Reports of tens of thousands of unaccompanied children arriving into the U.S. from Central America have dominated the media as politicians and the public grapple with how we as a nation should respond.

    I did not make the connection between the two sets of tragedies until I read a short piece entitled "The New Way of War: Killing the Kids." The notion that children are increasingly not only collateral casualties but also targets of war was amongst the findings in the annual report, "Children and Armed Conflict," recently released by the United Nation. Examples provided in the U.N. report include the kidnapping of schoolchildren in Nigeria, children being used as human shields in Syria, and the killing and maiming of youth in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    The Central American countries from where most of the recent unaccompanied minors entering the U.S. began their arduous journeys -- El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala -- are not in the U.N. report. But there is ample evidence to support that many of them are in a similar situation of targeted violence. First, mainstream mediaand human rights organizations report that children from these countries are on the front lines of gang violence. Gangs are in schools and on the streets, targeting boys for recruitment and girls for "sexualized killings." A Washington Post article quoted a young boy interviewed by the Women's Refugee Commission: "In El Salvador, there is a wrong -- it is being young... It is better to be old."

  • July 16, 2014

    by Nicholas Alexiou

    At Vox, Libby Nelson looks at Tuesday’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Fisher v. University of Texas in which the court again ruled in favor of the university, even after the case had been remanded by the Supreme Court last year.

    Erwin Chermerinsky discussed five ways to reform the Supreme Court, including merit based selections and term limits, at Moyers & company.

    At The New York Times, Steven Greenhouse discusses a push by both federal and state officials to provide a bit more certainty for part-time workers.

    Adrian Shirk takes to The Atlantic to look at the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Pell v. Procunier, which upheld a California limitation on which inmates the press could interview, leading to a lack of media access in our nation’s prisons across the country.


  • July 15, 2014

    by Paul Guequierre

    With voting rights under attack across the country, the Obama administration plans to join lawsuits in Ohio and Wisconsin.  Last year the Supreme Court dealt a blow to voting rights in much of the South with the decision in Shelby County v. Holder. Joining the lawsuits in Ohio and Wisconsin marks the first time the Justice Department has intervened against statewide voting laws outside the areas that the Supreme Court freed from federal oversight.

    In Ohio, the Republican legislature passed laws that cut six days from the early voting period and ended same-day registration, among other restrictions. Secretary of State Jon Husted then announced that there would be no early voting on Sundays or on weekday evenings.  A federal judge restored early voting on the last three days before the election, but left in place the cut of three days from the early voting period and same-day registration. These cuts were clearly meant to disenfranchise minority voters and voters who don’t typically vote Republican.

    A brief filed recently by the law’s challengers uses detailed voting records to establish that blacks are far likelier than whites to take advantage of early voting. In 2012, 20 percent of blacks did so, compared to just 6 percent of whites.

    In Wisconsin, a strict voter ID law which was passed by a Republican dominated legislature and quickly signed into law by Republican Governor Scott Walker, was struck down by a federal judge, who ruled that it discriminated against black voters. The state has appealed the ruling.