• November 3, 2015
    Guest Post

    by Patrick J. Solar, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and 30-year police veteran, serving as a patrol officer, detective, sergeant, lieutenant and chief of police.

    The ranks of policing are full of dedicated and well-meaning men and women armed with a minimum of a high school diploma and perhaps some college. Given the increasingly complex nature of the policing function it is no longer reasonable to expect the modern police officer to meet the challenges of this job armed only with these minimum qualifications and the academy. The answer is not adding more hours on to the academy as they have done in my home state of Wisconsin. We need police officers to be armed with a level of maturity and wisdom that comes from a liberal arts college degree.  This is not a new idea, it was made perfectly clear as a result of the last Presidential commission report back in 1967. 

    There is no doubt that obtaining a college degree costs both time and money but education is an investment with a high return; wise, quality policing. Educated police officers are much more likely to have the wisdom to know when to use force, as well as how and when to de-escalate. They would be better able to appreciate differences in others, and would deeply understand the social inequalities that lead some people to commit a crime and break the law. Police officer education can bring top-caliber officers into the ranks by encouraging thoughtful discussion and lengthy contemplation about the use of force as well as other pressing issues they confront. Thoughtful contemplation will resonate throughout the careers of educated officers who, as a result, possess the confidence to question and even challenge the status quo. 

    I believe that what we need most are men and women of "good will," armed with education and experience backed-up with a level of emotional maturity that is recognized, promoted and rewarded by enlightened police supervisors and leaders.

  • November 3, 2015

    by Jim Thompson

    In the latest installment of The New York Times’ arbitration series, Michael Corkery and Jessica Silver-Greenberg discuss the growing use of religious arbitration clauses as a means to further privatize the American justice system.

    At Slate, Brandon L. Garrett spotlights how the availability of defense lawyers has caused a sudden decline in death penalty sentences given in Virginia.

    In The Huffington Post, Richard (RJ) Eskow explains how public employee unions fight inequality and strengthen democracy.

    Breanna Edwards at The Root reports on President Obama’s plans for helping formerly-incarcerated individuals integrate back into society, including education grants, assisted housing and job training programs.

  • November 2, 2015
    Guest Post

    by Ross Eisenbrey, Vice President, Economic Policy Institute

    *This piece originally appeared on EPI’s “Working Economics Blog.”

    The New York Times has published two parts of a three-part series about the epidemic of arbitration clauses that have cropped up in millions of transactions between corporations and their customers and employees. The clauses are routinely included in employment contracts, cell-phone contracts, consumer product purchase agreements, cable subscriptions, rental agreements, and a multitude of financial transactions, as a way to prevent injured parties from having their day in court. Giving up the constitutionally protected right to sue in state or federal court is a big deal and is often the result of ignorance and deceit: millions of people have no idea the clauses are there in the fine print of contract provisions written in legalese that few individuals ever read or comprehend. They don’t find out they’ve lost their rights until they need them.

    Individuals give up not just their right to go to court but all protections regarding the venue of any hearing their claim will receive (for example, the agreement might require arbitration in a city a thousand miles away). They might give up certain remedies and the right to appeal even if the arbitrator gets the law completely wrong, and give up the essential right to join with other victims to file a class action, especially important when each claim is small and no single individual could rationally pay to hire a lawyer and bring a lawsuit for such a small sum.

    The myth is that arbitration is preferable because it allows individuals to resolve their grievances easily, quickly, and cheaply. In fact, arbitration can be more expensive for a plaintiff than a civil suit because instead of a small filing fee in court, the plaintiff will have to pay half of the arbitrator’s fee, or sometimes all of it if the arbitration clause includes a “loser pays” provision. Legal fees can be ruinous, and the Times story relates the case of a woman who owes $200,000 in attorney fees after losing a case in which her former employer allegedly destroyed evidence.

    Perhaps the worst aspect of the forced arbitration epidemic is the loss of a neutral trier of fact. Unlike judges who have lifetime appointments to the bench and are protected from financial pressure, arbitrators rely on the companies to use them again and again, creating a financial pressure to please the corporation that will have many arbitration cases in the future rather than the individual plaintiff, who will probably never use an arbitrator again.

  • November 2, 2015

    by Jim Thompson

    In The New York Times, Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Robert Gebeloff expose efforts by a Wall Street-led coalition of credit card companies and retailers to block class action lawsuits in favor of private arbitration.

    In part two of The New York Times arbitration series, Silver-Greenberg and Gebeloff explain how forced arbitration buried in contracts that most individuals never read is creating an “alternate justice system” in America, quoting Myriam Gilles, a law professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, who says that “this amounts to the whole-scale privatization of the justice system.”

    Elsewhere in The New York Times, Larry D. Thompson urges the Supreme Court to meaningfully enforce the ban on racial discrimination in jury selection.

    Christie Thompson at The Marshall Project asks if current judicial elections in Pennsylvania provide the perfect storm necessary for reforming the manner in which the state’s judges are selected.

  • October 30, 2015

    by Jim Thompson

    Ahead of Monday’s oral arguments in Foster v. Chatman, Garrett Epps in The Atlantic examines the standards governing peremptory challenges and asks, when is it constitutional to purge black jurors?

    In Hamilton and Griffin on Rights, ACS Board member Erwin Chemerinsky discusses Spokeo v. Robins and argues that the infringement of statutory rights created by Congress provides sufficient injury for standing.

    Jim Hightower at Salon explains how the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling allowed the rich to buy America’s political system, effectively destroying the First Amendment. 

    In Hamilton and Griffin on Rights, Marci A. Hamilton decries Pennsylvania’s short statute of limitations for child sex abuse ten years after the groundbreaking Grand Jury Report on Child Sex Abuse in the Philadelphia Archdiocese was first released.