Civil rights

  • September 18, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Christina Beeler, ACS Student Board member

    President Donald Trump seemingly endorses police brutality of suspects. He said, “like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over? Like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody – don’t hit their head. I said, you can take the hand away, okay?” Although defenders insisted his remarks were made in jest, police departments all over the country rushed to condemn Trump’s remarks.

    Trump’s words brought up an old debate: should the protections of the Constitution extend only to those we deem worthy of empathy or is the Constitution there to protect even those who we may find abhorrent?

  • September 5, 2017
    Guest Post

    Andy Blevins, Legal & Policy Manager, OutServe-SLDN

    Serving in our nation’s military is undeniably one of the most courageous and selfless acts an individual can make. According to former Defense Secretary Ash Carter, nothing but an individual’s “lack of merit” should prevent them from such service. President Obama agreed: merely being transgender should not disqualify somebody from military service, he said.

    Neither Mr. Carter’s nor President Obama’s statements created a newfound desire to serve this nation: transgender people have been serving alongside us, in silence, forever. In fact, it is estimated that more than 15,000 transgender individuals are currently wearing the cloth of our country. They follow more than 134,000 transgender veterans and precede even more who are standing by, ready to offer their own commitment and dedication to our nation.

  • August 16, 2017

    by Caroline Fredrickson

    Over the past few days, Trump succeeded in uniting much of the nation against himself.

    On Saturday at the “Unite the Right” rally, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke told a reporter that the event would allow participants to “fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.” Echoing that sentiment, an armed militia – some wearing the president’s “Make America Great Again” hats – marched in Charlottesville, later leaving one dead and 19 injured.

  • 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.

  • April 12, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This piece is part of the ACSblog symposium: “The Future of the U.S. Constitution

    by Chiraag Bains, Visiting Senior Fellow, Harvard Law School, Criminal Justice Policy Program. Follow Chiraag on Twitter: @chiraagbains

    Constitutional law is driven in part by public and judicial attitudes about the security of our core American values: liberty, equality, democracy and human dignity. Narratives about the extent to which government threatens, or does not threaten, these values can shape how easy or difficult the courts make it to enforce constitutional rights and how narrowly or expansively courts read those rights. This suggests that the Trump Administration — which has singled out certain minority groups and backed away from civil rights enforcement — might push courts to rethink current doctrine and make constitutional protections more robust.

    With respect to civil rights, two of the most consequential narratives in recent years have been (1) that claims of racial discrimination are overblown and we are approaching a post-racial reality; and (2) that misconduct by law enforcement is limited to the acts of a few bad apples.

    The post-racial narrative is familiar by now. Slavery ended 150 years ago. You will not find a “whites only” waiting room or drinking fountain in America. Minorities run Fortune 500 companies, appear in mainstream media, and serve in Congress. And of course, we elected — and reelected — our first black president. 

    This narrative has played a role in the Supreme Court’s contraction of protections against racial discrimination.