Volkswagen workers at a Chattanooga, Tennessee plant announced their decision last Friday not to join the United Automobile Workers. Steve Greenhouse of The New York
Times reports on the possibility of a German-style works council in
Chattanooga and what it could mean for Volkswagen and the UAW.
At the CPRBlog, Thomas McGarity and Matt Shudtz examine the legal concessions made by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in a policy proposal that protects workers from silica dust exposure.
Writing for The Daily Beast, Jamelle Bouie discusses the Michael Dunn murder trial and the racial consequences of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.
Mark Sherman of The Associated Press notes how President Obama’s judicial appointees are shaping the discussion on same-sex marriage in Virginia.
Writing for The Root, Henry Louis Gates Jr. explains why the race of a mythical princess continues to play a role in the study of black history.
Before the movement for marriage equality began to gather steam Virginia, like a slew of other states, banned same sex-marriage either with laws or constitutional amendments or in the case of North Carolina, both.
For instance in 2006 through a referendum Virginians voted to amend their Constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage. Actually that amendment was rather sweeping, not only defining marriage as exclusively a union between a man and woman, but also prohibiting civil unions and all other contracts to “which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage.”
But some of those states’ constitutional amendments and laws, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 opinion in U.S. v. Windsor, are looking increasingly vulnerable.
The Virginia ban was challenged last year on the grounds of violating the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the 14th Amendment by two couples. Tim Bostic and Tony London have been together for 24 years. Carol Schall and Mary Townley have been together for 30 years. Even though Schall and Townley were legally wed in California, Virginia’s constitutional ban meant it would not recognize those same-sex marriages. The couples’ challenge to the constitutional amendment was considered in the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia earlier this month.
Judge Arenda Wright Allen on Thursday found Virginia’s ban to subvert the U.S. Constitution’s Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses. In her ruling, Wright Allen wrote, “Gay and lesbian individuals share the same capacity as heterosexual individuals to form, preserve and celebrate loving, intimate and lasting relationships. Such relationships are created through the exercise of sacred, personal choices – choices, like the choices made by every other citizen, that must be free from unwarranted government interference.”
Litigation reform is bandied about in an inevitable way. The narrative supporting such reform says that corporations are coerced into settling frivolous claims because the cost of litigating in federal court is so high. Further, the story goes, corporations do not want to be in the United States because the litigation risks are too much. This narrative of excessive cost and abuse is used to justify various litigation reforms, ranging from tort reform to attorney sanctions. The most recent entrant into the reform fray comes from the Committee on Rules of Practice & Procedure of the Judicial Conference of the United States. This rulemaking body has proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. These amendments would make it easier for parties to resist producing documents, provide greater protection to parties who fail to preserve key information, and limit the number of ways parties can request information from one another. By limiting access to information in this way, these proposed amendments to the discovery rules promise to lower litigation costs.
The problem with this narrative and the attendant reforms is that they are inaccurate. First, discovery costs are generally not too high in comparison to the stakes parties have in litigation. Second, the argument that the proposed restrictions on discovery are justified undervalues the benefit of civil litigation.
Attorney General Eric Holder this week offered welcome support for ending the practice of felony disenfranchisement. Arguing that “permanent exclusion from the civic community does not advance any objective of our criminal justice system,” Attorney General Holder called for “clear and consistent reforms to restore the voting rights of all who have served their terms in prison or jail, completed their parole or probation, and paid their fines.”
While the degree of felony disenfranchisement varies by state, eleven states permanently disenfranchise at least some formerly incarcerated persons unless the state’s government approves the restoration of voting rights on an individual basis. Three of those states – Iowa, Florida and Kentucky – permanently disenfranchise all formerly incarcerated persons with felony convictions absent individual rights restoration. An additional 24 deny the right to vote to those who have been released from prison but remain on parole, and 20 of these states disenfranchise those on probation as well.
As a result, approximately 5.8 million Americans are prohibited from voting as a result of felony disenfranchisement laws. These laws have a disproportionate impact on African-Americans, with nearly one in 13 African-American adults barred from voting, including one in eight African-American men nationwide and one in five African-Americans in Florida, Kentucky and Virginia.
On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing for three judicial nominees. They were:
Robin Rosenbaum, Eleventh Circuit,
Bruce Hendricks, District of South Carolina, and
Mark Mastroianni, to be United States District Judge for the District of Massachusetts.
On Wednesday, Sen. Pryor (D-Ark.) requested that Majority Leader Reid (D-Nev.) ask unanimous consent to consider the nomination of James Moody to the Eastern District of Arkansas. Sen. Pryor stressed the importance of moving Moody’s nomination because of uncertainty regarding Judge Moody’s current Pulaski County Circuit judgeship election.
Sen. Reid asked the Senate for unanimous consent to consider Moody’s nomination, along with the nomination of Jeffrey Meyer to the District of Connecticut, James Donato to the Northern District of California and Beth Freeman to the Northern District of California. Sen. Cornyn (R-Tex.) objected, and Sen. Reid filed cloture on all four nominees. The first cloture vote will occur at 5:30pm on Monday, Feb. 24 when the Senate returns from recess.