November 2014

  • November 26, 2014

    by Paul Guequierre

    With Thanksgiving upon us, two judges in the South gave us one more reason to be thankful --advancement for equality. Just yesterday, federal judges in Arkansas and Mississippi ruled the states’ respective marriage bans unconstitutional.

    In Arkansas, the ruling, which is on hold pending appeal, is the second court ruling to find the state’s ban to be unconstitutional. The first ruling came from a state court judge in May in a case that was heard on appeal before the Arkansas Supreme Court this past week.

    Hours after the victory in Arkansas, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves ruled Mississippi’s ban on same-sex couples’ marriages is also unconstitutional, writing, “Gay and lesbian persons are full citizens that share the same rights as other citizens, including the right to marry.”

    Unfortunately he put the decision on hold for two weeks. Judge Reeves explained his decision, “Today’s decision may cause uneasiness and concern about the change it will bring,” U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves wrote. “Mississippi continues to change in ways its people could not anticipate even 10 years ago. Allowing same-sex couples to marry, however, presents no harm to anyone. At the very least, it has the potential to support families and provide stability for children.”

  • November 26, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    Steve Benen of MSNBC reports on the recent marriage equality victories in Arkansas and Mississippi.

    In The AtlanticConnor Friedersdorf argues that the case for reforming police practices is significantly bigger than Ferguson and the Michael Brown shooting.

    At The NationChase Madar explains why it is nearly impossible to indict a cop. 

    Amanda Taub of Vox asserts that the violations of police conduct are less scandalous than the police violence that is actually allowed. 

    Margo Schlanger explains in The New Republic how President Obama's immigration order, though not comprehensive reform, will change enforcement priorities and help an enormous number of people.

  • November 25, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    Krishnadev Calamur of NPR reports on the aftermath of the Ferguson Grand Jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson. Kimberly Kindy of The Washington Post discusses how juries tend to give police the benefit of the doubt in such cases.

    In The New York Times, Adam Liptak considers whether there is a numerical tipping point at which the Court will feel prepared to invalidate state laws and what it could mean for the marriage equality fight.

    In Slate, Mark Joseph Stern writes about how a Supreme Court ruling that allowed religious holiday displays has meant that the government must also support the Satanic Temple and other controversial religious groups.

    E.J. Dionne Jr. of The Washington Post examines President Obama’s immigration announcement and what it says about the plans of the president’s political opponents.

    In The New Yorker, Jill Lepore writes about the theft of Justice Felix Frankfurter’s papers from the Library of Congress and the challenges to investigating the history of the Court.

  • November 24, 2014

    by Nanya Springer.

    Abner Mikva has led the sort of distinguished legal career that is often condensed into a list of prestigious positions and awards.  Undeniably, this list is impressive; Mikva has commanded top positions in every branch of government.  He was a five-term Illinois Congressman, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and White House Counsel for President Bill Clinton.  He has been a law professor at the University of Illinois, the University of Chicago, and Northwestern University.  He has received the Thurgood Marshall Award from the American Bar Association, he was honored as a Legal Legend by the Chicago Lawyer Chapter of ACS, and on November 24, he will receive the nation’s highest civilian award—the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

    However, merely listing Mikva’s accomplishments fails to communicate the true value of his contributions to the American legal and political landscape.  The Presidential Medal of Freedom honors those who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”  To understand how vital Mikva has been to ensuring a robust and healthy democracy, it is necessary to examine the issues he has championed during his long and esteemed career.

    As an Illinois General Assembly legislator near the beginning of his career, Mikva pushed for fair housing laws and for reforms of the state criminal code.  As a judge on the D.C. Circuit, he ardently defended free speech and consumer rights in his opinions, and he rejected the discriminatory Justice Department policy of expelling openly gay service members long before this view was politically popular.  Throughout his career, Mikva consistently promoted issues concerning social justice and the public welfare.

  • November 24, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Brandon L. Garrett, Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law. Since the 2011 publication of Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong, Professor Garrett has written widely on issues of criminal procedure, scientific evidence, corporate crime, and the law. This fall, Harvard University Press published his new book, Too Big to Jail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations.

    “He’s a grown man today, he was just a boy back then,” said Ricky Jackson upon his release from prison last week.  “I don’t hate him.” Jackson spent 39 years behind bars, more than any other person exonerated in the U.S., according to the National Registry of Exonerations. Jackson was speaking of the 12 year-old who had identified him and two others as murderers, and whose testimony in 1975 sent him to Ohio’s death row. Last week, the eyewitness admitted his testimony was “all lies.” There was no other evidence in this case: no forensic evidence, physical evidence, or other witnesses.  The exoneration highlights just how malleable eyewitness testimony can be, and how important it is to get it right. 

    This Fall, the National Academy of Sciences published an important report “Identifying the Culprit: Assessing Eyewitness Identification.” I was a member of the committee that produced the report. The report evaluates decades of research on eyewitness memory and it details scientific procedures that can help to prevent error.