July 2011

  • July 21, 2011
    Negotiating Justice
    Progressive Lawyering, Low-Income Clients, and the Quest for Social Change
    Corey Shdaimah

    By Corey Shdaimah, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work, and academic coordinator of the University of Maryland’s MSW/JD dual degree program.

    In the flurry of budget discussions and funding cuts, money to the Legal Services Corporation is again on the chopping block, estimated to result in turning away 235,000 people across the country. This comes when estimates already show that for each eligible client served, another is turned away from LSC-funded programs and at least 80% of civil legal needs go unmet. Legal services for low-income clients are no luxury; they are often necessary to ensure basic survival. Funding cuts such as these always come at a time when such services are most needed. If we can shore up corporations and financial institutions, why can’t we shore up people, communities, and their faith in our legal system? In the U.S., access to justice without lawyers is largely a hollow promise.

  • July 21, 2011

    by Jeremy Leaming

    The Right’s ongoing assault on workers’ rights is not contained to states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio. As noted on ACSblog on numerous occasions, lawmakers in Congress, such as Reps. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) and Tom Price (R-Ga.), and Sen. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), have been working feverishly to undercut the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), primarily because of the independent agency’s complaint that the aerospace company Boeing has violated federal law by moving production of its Dreamliner jet from Washington state to South Carolina. The NLRB’s complaint cites public comments from top Boeing officials that the move was made to avoid any potential strikes by employees in Washington. The NLRB, charged with enforcing the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), says it is illegal to retaliate against workers for engaging in lawful conduct.

    But while that complaint is being heard by an administrative law judge, the Right, beholden to large corporate interests, has waged a campaign to scuttle the NLRB’s efforts to function.

    Now Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) is pushing a bill in the House that would strip the NLRB of its authority to enforce provisions the NLRA intended to protect workers from corporate malfeasance.

    Specifically Rep. Scott’s bill, which is being considered today by the House Education and Workforce Committee, would bar the NLRB from requiring corporations to return work to a particular factory or job site if it were determined that the corporations moved those jobs in retaliation against workers who engage in lawful activity, like striking.

    If the bill were to become law it would, of course, scuttle the case that is currently proceeding against Boeing Corp., and hobble the NLRB’s efforts to protect millions of other workers nationwide from corporations that strive to limit their ability to bargain for fair wages and benefits.

    It’s not surprising that the corporate lobbyists, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are behind the Right’s relentless efforts to trash the NLRB. In a press release from Rep. John Kline, chairman of the Education & Workforce Committee, trumpeting today’s consideration of the NLRB-busting bill, the Chamber urges cutting the agency’s ability to enforce federal labor law in order to protect investment in “U.S. facilities.”

    In a guest post for ACSblog, Professor Ellen Dannin slams the “wild claims” that have been lobbed at the NLRB’s complaint against Boeing. “If you listened to Congress’ version of the events,” Dannin writes, “you would think that the NLRB has become the major threat to the economic life of this country.”

    “Of course,” Dannin continues, “none of this is true. In fact, it is just Plane Nonsense.”

  • July 21, 2011

    by Nicole Flatow

    Following the Senate’s confirmation of J. Paul Oetken as the first openly gay male federal judge, President Barack Obama has announced another nomination that would add diversity to our courts.

    Litigator and former assistant U.S. attorney Michael Walter Fitzgerald has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, becoming Obama’s fourth openly gay nominee. The others are Alison Nathan, a nominee to the Southern District of New York, and Edward Dumont, nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

    These nominations have contributed to the record diversity of Obama’s nominees, Politico reports.

    Despite a backlog in confirming Obama’s judicial nominations, the president has surpassed his predecessors in putting forth diverse candidates to the federal bench. Obama has nominated more female, African American, Hispanic, Asian American, Native American and openly gay candidates as federal judges than Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George H.W. Bush. That includes two female Supreme Court justices, one of whom is the high court’s only Hispanic justice. The numbers are particularly striking for Asian-American nominees. Obama has nominated half of the Asian-American federal judges currently on the bench.

    Of course, many of those nominees haven’t had the success of Oetken in getting through the confirmation process.

  • July 20, 2011

    by Jeremy Leaming

    TMPMuckraker provides video of Sen. Al Franken’s takedown of Tom Minnery of the Religious Right group, Focus on the Family, during today’s Senate Judiciary Committee’s consideration of bill to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA, which bars states from recognizing same-sex marriages, was passed during the Clinton administration, and is facing legal challenges in the federal court system.

    Minnery and Focus on the Family, longtime opponents of marriage equality, argue that gay marriages are a serious affront to Christian fundamentalists’ take on marriage, are bound to destroy the institution of marriage, and, by the way, gay couples can’t raise families. At the hearing today, Minnery mangled a Department of Health and Human Services study that he said proves that children are better “living with their biological and/or adopted mothers and fathers” as opposed to children in other types of families.

    Franken pointed out the study said no such thing, and added, “I don’t really know how we can trust the rest of your testimony if you are reading studies this way.”

    The White House announced yesterday that it was “proud to support the Respect for Marriage Act,” which would repeal DOMA. The repeal bill was introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Jerrod Nadler. 

  • July 20, 2011

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Wisconsin’s newest senator, Ron Johnson, told the Journal Sentinel in early July that in the six months he’s been a member of the U.S. Senate, the chamber has “accomplished virtually nothing.” The same article, however, reveals that Johnson seems to like it that way.

    Indeed as the article notes, Johnson “has taken a staunch conservative line on judicial appointments, blocking consideration of two Obama court nominees, Louis Butler and Victoria Nourse (pictured), and voting against the president’s choices for solicitor general and several judgeships.”

    Johnson’s blockade of Victoria Nourse, nominated to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, is drawing increased attention. During the ACS 2011 National Convention, Seventh Circuit Judge Richard D. Cudahy, who has senior status on Circuit, blasted Republicans for stalling Nourse’s nomination. (Nourse is also Cudahy’s daughter-in-law.)

    Noting she is a “prodigious legal scholar,” at the University of Wisconsin Law School, Cudahy said Nourse “faces no objection of substance, but has become tangled in some sort of ambush of newly discovered senate rules, and even been denied a hearing.”

    Earlier this month more than 50 legal scholars sent a letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy and the Committee’s Ranking Member, Sen. Charles Grassley urging consideration of Nourse’s nomination.

    “Professor Nourse’s excellent credentials are a matter of public record,” the scholars’ letter states. “She is a chaired professor at a distinguished public law school, and has held visiting appointments at the nation’s top private law schools. Before joining the academy, she served her country in both the legislative and executive branches, working for both Republicans and Democrats. She has argued appeals for the Justice Department under Attorneys General Meese and Thornburgh and advised the Senate Judiciary Committee on major legislation, including the 1993 Biden-Hatch crime bill.”

    But Sen. Johnson, as the Journal Sentinel reported, has claimed that Nourse’s nomination and the nomination of Louis Butler Jr. to the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Wisconsin “have expired.” He also said that Nourse “has very little connection to the state,” even though she has been a law professor at the University of Wisconsin since the early 1990s.

    In July 19 editorial, the Journal Sentinel said it was time for Johnson to stop blocking Nourse’s nomination.

    “Johnson’s single-minded opposition to Victoria Nourse seems more of a political game than anything else and one that he should put a quick end to,” the editorial states. 

    The editorial concludes, “Presidents have a right to their appointments unless there is a good reason otherwise. Johnson has not articulated one. He should get out of the way, and Leahy should schedule a hearing.”

    For more information and analysis of the administration’s efforts to fill federal bench vacancies, see JudicialNominations.org.