August 2011

  • August 4, 2011
    Guest Post

    By Matthew L.M. Fletcher, Professor of Law at Michigan State University College of Law and the Director of the Indigenous Law and Policy Center. He authored Addressing the Epidemic of Domestic Violence in Indian Country by Restoring Tribal Sovereignty, an ACS Issue Brief, published in March 2009.

    The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has, for the first time, proposed a dramatic expansion of American Indian tribal criminal jurisdiction in its recommendations to Congress on the reauthorization of the Violence against Women Act. After decades of declining to support expanded tribal criminal jurisdiction, this proposal is a major watershed in the fight against Indian country crime. DOJ finally supports the reaffirmation of at least limited authority to prosecute such crime by the first responders in Indian country – Indian tribes.

    In its narrative proposal (available here), DOJ acknowledges the epidemic of violence against American Indian women occurring daily in the United States, and especially in Indian country. Recent studies by university researchers and Amnesty International, among others, conclude that American Indian women suffer possibly the highest rates of violent crime – most notably, sexual assaults – of any demographic in the United States.

    The proposal is a limited one, given the political climate, but symbolically important. It recognizes inherent tribal jurisdiction to enforce civil protection orders against all persons, Indian and non-Indian, an open question in current law. It also recognizes limited tribal criminal jurisdiction authority over non-Indians who commit domestic violence-related crimes. Sexual assaults are not included in the proposal. Despite these limitations, DOJ’s recommendations – coming on the heels of 2010’s Tribal Law and Order Act, which was the first significant expansion of tribal sentencing authority since 1986 – may pave the way toward greater ability of Indian tribes to respond to violent crime against Indian women in the future.

  • August 4, 2011

    by Jeremy Leaming

    President Obama’s efforts to place judges on the federal bench, as noted frequently on this blog, have faced unprecedented obstruction in the Senate. Earlier this week when senators left town for an August recess, after spending practically all their time on the debt-ceiling debacle, they only confirmed four of the 24 judicial nominees who were ready for a Senate vote.

    One bright spot in the judicial nominations process, NPR notes, is the administration’s efforts to diversify a federal bench that is still largely dominated by white men. At least it’s a bright spot for progressives. (Right-wing blogger and former attorney in President George W. Bush’s Department of Justice Ed Whelan got plenty of airtime on NPR to belittle the administration’s efforts to enrich the federal courts.)

    ACS Executive Director Caroline Fredrickson, who has lauded the administration’s drive to diversify a monolithic bench, told NPR that too many of the diverse nominees are facing an uphill battle in the Senate.

    “For women and minorities,” Fredrickson said, “it’s just been a bigger hill to climb before they actually get a vote. And so for whatever the reasons, the facts speak for themselves.”

    The NPR piece notes, “Some of the longest waiting nominees, Louis Butler of Wisconsin, Charles Bernard Day of Maryland and Edward Dumont of Washington happen to be black or openly gay.”

    Earlier this summer, not long after the Senate filibustered Goodwin Liu’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Fredrickson pointed out that Liu, a UC Berkeley law school professor, and former ACS Board Chair, “would have enriched our federal bench.”

    “Of the 160 active judges on the federal court of appeals,” Fredrickson said, “there is not one active Asian Pacific American judge on the Ninth Circuit.” (Liu was recently nominated to the California Supreme Court.)   

    Robert Raben, president and founder of The Raben Group, and also a member of the ACS Board, praised the administration for, “Promises made, promises kept.” He said the president and “his team” are committed to diversifying the federal courts, “and they get an A-plus on that.”

    Audio of the NPR story is available here. For more information on the rising number of vacancies on the federal bench, and status of judicial nominees, see

  • August 4, 2011

    by Jonathan Arogeti

    Efforts by members of the Obama administration are restitching the fabric of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, largely frayed under the George W. Bush administration, according to a new article in the ABA Human Rights magazine by William Yeomans. And Yeomans should know the history of the Division. He served in multiple capacities there, from trial lawyer to acting assistant attorney general between 1981 and 2005, and until he left the Department of Justice in that year, had spent his entire career in the Department.

    The “bipartisan consensus in support of enforcement of core civil rights protections” enjoyed by the Division since its inception ensured equal voting rights, defeated employment discrimination, and integrated public schools. That consensus “proved inadequate during the Presidency of George W. Bush, as enforcement activity diminished sharply and partisan considerations affected law enforcement and personnel decision,” Yeomans writes.

    Yeomans maintains that while enjoying the benefits of a Republican Congress, the Bush administration filed zero cases pertaining to voter discrimination of African-Americans. With the prospect of a Democratic Congress following the landslide 2006 midterm election, the administration finally exercised this particular section of the Voting Rights Act. Instead of protecting this country’s minorities, however, the Division alleged African-American discrimination against white voters.

  • August 3, 2011

    ACS is among the winners of GreatNonprofits’ 2011 Social Justice Campaign. The campaign, which started in July, was launched to “identify top-rated nonprofits working on Social Justice and Human Rights Initiatives around the world.” Groups garnering enough positive reviews would be included in the organization’s “Top-Rated Social Justice Nonprofits List.” ACS came in second, making the Top-Rated list.

    GreatNonprofits, founded in 2007, has become a leading go-to source of reviews and ratings for U.S. nonprofit groups. The service provides quick access to reviews and feedback about nonprofit organizations. ACS is grateful to all who took the time to write reviews, making this a highly successful endeavor. Your reviews can be read here

  • August 3, 2011
    Guest Post

    By Adam Winkler, a professor at UCLA School of Law.

    On Tuesday, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney announced his legal policy team, which will advise him on constitutional questions, judges, and a host of regulatory issues. Romney's legal team is remarkable mainly for one of its three co-chairs: Robert Bork.

    The choice of Bork (pictured) is a smart way for Romney to signal his conservative bona fides to Republican primary voters. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, is widely perceived as too moderate for the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party. It's those voters, however, who are favored by the party primary system, which discourages moderation and pushes candidates of both parties to the extremes. And Romney has a major problem with the Tea Party: health care.

    The biggest legal issue in the Tea Party today is the health care reform law, in particular the requirement that individuals purchase health insurance. Although Romney repeats his opposition to the law over and over, when he was governor he supported a state health care overhaul that included an individual mandate. Romney the businessman knew that the mandate was good policy. Romney the candidate knows that the mandate is bad politics in the Republican primaries.