Access to Justice

  • September 7, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Brad Smith, President and Chief Legal Officer, Microsoft

    This piece was originally posted on Microsoft On The Issues

    We are deeply disappointed by the administration’s decision today to rescind protection under the program for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). As we said last week, we believe this is a big step back for our entire country.

    The question for individuals, employers and the country is what we do now.

  • September 5, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar and founding director of the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Penn State Law - University Park and Lorella Praeli, Director of Immigration Policy and Campaigns and former Dreamer, American Civil Liberties Union

    *This piece draws from an ACS briefing call on DACA from August 24, 2017

    During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump promised to deport Dreamers, a reference to people who came to the United States as children.

    The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), announced by the Obama Administration in June 2012, allows qualifying young people who were brought to the United States as children to request that any removal action against them be deferred in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and 10 other state attorneys general have written to Attorney General Jeff Sessions indicating their intent to challenge DACA in court unless the administration agrees to rescind the program by September 5, 2017. Against this backdrop, the Trump administration announced the decision to terminate DACA.

  • August 31, 2017

    by Caroline Fredrickson, president of the American Constitution Societyeconomic opportunity

    Tropical storm Harvey has stunned us with devastating images of historic flooding. But for those who are living through the storm and its aftermath, life has forever changed. As one ACS staff member in Houston said, the only thing on her mind was going to a shelter and helping others.

    The fact is all ACS members can help the survivors of Hurricane Harvey. The Texas Supreme Court recently issued an emergency order that even attorneys from outside Texas can provide pro bono legal services to state residents. This created a valuable opportunity for ACS’s members to directly assist those who are most in need. In fact, we have been spreading the word and mobilizing our volunteers to get involved.

    Unfortunately, even after hurricane Harvey dissipates, the disaster will continue to unfold for weeks, months and even years as people rebuild their homes and lives. Although lawyers are probably the last people we think of in the midst of a devastating natural disaster, they play a critical role in helping survivors navigate the legal system on a range of issues including housing, benefits and insurance.

    More than 9,000 people are staying in the city’s main shelter, the George R. Brown Convention Center, according to the Red Cross. News clips show that the place has become a common family room with many people lying on piles of cardboard and blankets. These and many other storm images are disheartening, and many of us want to offer our support.

    ACS is grateful that we can play a part in helping survivors recover from the chaos. I urge all of our members around the country to get involved in this worthy effort and others in or outside Texas to lend a hand.
  • June 19, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This piece originally appeared on JOTWELL.

    by SpearIt, Associate Professor of Law, Thurgood Marshall School of Law

    Devon W. Carbado, From Stopping Black People to Killing Black People: The Fourth Amendment Pathways to Police Violence, 105 Cal. L. Rev. 125 (2017), available at SSRN.

    Why is it so easy for police to kill Black people?

    The answer to this question is urgent in light of ongoing police violence across the country. Virulent videos of Blacks subjected to police aggression have spread nationwide by phones, computers, TVs and tablets. These troubling, yet spectacular visuals, have pulled the covers back to allow mainstream America to see the dark and ruthless nature of law enforcement. Unarmed Blacks have senselessly died by strangling, tasing, and shooting in the back at the hands of police. Recently reported was an unarmed man shot despite his being on the ground with hands raised in surrender. Another was reportedly killed despite lawfully carrying a firearm. The ample proof of police wrongdoing raises alarming flags about the status quo, where police killing of Blacks is prevalent and successful prosecution of police is not.

    In this article, Devon Carbado offers a compelling answer. He asserts that Fourth Amendment doctrine paves a path for police to engage civilians, especially Blacks, in ways that escalate into violence and death. Police officers are embodied with various levels of discretion in their enforcement efforts, and can be motivated by social motives, including cultural biases. Carbado shows, with meticulous detail, how Fourth Amendment doctrine leaves racism virtually unchecked in policing practices. Rulings by the Supreme Court on search and seizure make it clear that where police have a pretext to stop a person on the street or in a vehicle, the seizure is lawful so long as the officer has a requisite level of suspicion to make the stop. That there is little constitutionally to curb the police’s use of discretionary power when choosing one person over another puts a sarcastic twist on the meaning of “con” law.

  • June 13, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This piece originally appeared on the Public Justice Blog.

    by Arthur Bryant, Chairman, Public Justice

    Throughout America, government officials and corporate wrongdoers are working to shut down access to the courts and limit or eliminate class actions. Why? Because the courts are often the only place they can be held accountable. And, when they are hurting, cheating or violating the rights of large numbers of people, class actions are often the only thing their victims can use to get justice.

    This year’s four finalists for Public Justice’s nationally-prestigious Trial Lawyer of the Year Award make that clear. In each case, government officials or corporate wrongdoers were breaking the law and hurting the poor and the powerless – prisoners, minorities, low-income consumers or the disabled. In each case, lawsuits were the only way to make them stop. And, in each case, unlike in many past years, a class action was essential for justice to be done.

    The Trial Lawyer of the Year Award is given annually to the lawyers who made the greatest contribution to the public good by trying or settling a case. This year’s finalists, who brought the cases listed below, will be honored—and the winner will be announced—on Monday, July 24, at Public Justice’s Awards Dinner & Gala at the Fairmont Copley Park in Boston. If you want to understand why access to the courts and class actions are so important, just read the case summaries below.

    For additional details on each case, and the complete legal teams behind these impressive, impactful victories, click here.