• March 12, 2014
    As the Supreme Court prepares to hear Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. on Mar. 25, the companies refusing to provide contraception insurance coverage to their employees prepare to “frame their objections narrowly.” Emily Bazelon at Slate reveals “what the religious right really thinks of birth control.”
    Jeffrey Thompson, a government contractor, pleaded guilty to funneling large amounts of campaign contributions to several political candidates, including Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray. Zoe Tillman at Legal Times reports on the growing controversy surrounding Thompson’s trial and the implications for the 2014 mayoral election. 
    A group of Californians filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court in an effort to “block a city ordinance banning gun ammunition-holders (‘magazines’) that contain more than ten bullets.” Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog breaks down Fyock v. City of Sunnyvale.
    A same-sex couple filed for divorce in Alabama, causing a plethora of legal questions to arise in a state that refuses to recognize gay marriage. Brian Lawson of The Huntsville Times describes how the state’s marriage ban is “[leaving] the couple without an easy way to untie the knot.”
    At The New York Times, Paul Krugman explains why “taking action to reduce the extreme inequality of 21st-century America would probably increase, not reduce, economic growth.”
    Staci Zaretsky at Above the Law comments on the U.S News & World Report 2015 law school rankings.
  • March 11, 2014
    Spencer Overton, former ACS Board Member and current President and CEO of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, visited Selma, Alabama for the 49th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday.” Overton chronicled his experience on Twitter as civil rights leaders urged Congress to remember the legacy of Selma following last year’s controversial Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder. For further analysis of Shelby County, please see Overton’s guest post at ACSblog.
    In an interview with NPR’s Carrie Johnson, Attorney General Eric Holder shares his stance on softening prison sentences, the Senate’s vote to block the nomination of Debo Adegbile for Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, and former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
    The Supreme Court has declined to hear a Pennsylvania school district’s appeal of a lower-court decision to uphold the right of students to wear breast-cancer-awareness bracelets. Mark Walsh at Education Week reports on the student-speech case.
    Walter Shapiro at the Brennan Center for Justice discusses the legal issues surrounding the Federal Election Commission and single-candidate Super PACs.
    Ann Havemann at CPRblog explains how budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency will affect enforcement of environmental laws. 
  • March 6, 2014
    The Senate has blocked President Obama’s nomination of Debo Adegbile to be Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division. Adegbile, who was a prominent lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, has faced criticism for overseeing an appeals process for a convicted murderer while at the LDF. NPR’s Carrie Johnson comments on why the president’s nominee is facing criticism for “one controversial episode in his long career.”
    The D.C. Council passed a bill Tuesday that would decriminalize private possession and smoking of marijuana. As anticipation grows surrounding Mayor Vincent Gray’s signing of the bill, Aaron C. Davis of The Washington Post describes how the law is developing into a civil rights issue.
    New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has cancelled plans for three new charter schools. Al Baker and Javier C. Hernández of The New York Times discuss the mayor’s unyielding support for public education in the face of a growing  “charter school empire.”
    Ryan Goodman at Just Security reports on the Obama administration’s lethal operation against a U.S. citizen in Pakistan for “production and distribution of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).”
    A study conducted by Rachel West and Michael Reich at the Center for American Progress reveals that “a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage [would] reduce SNAP enrollment.”
    At The Root, Jenée Desmond-Harris notes how the 2015 White House budget report highlights civil rights, the reduction of racial disparities and access to higher education. 


  • February 24, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Mary Beth Tinker, Petitioner, Tinker v. Des Moines

    * Editor’s Note: Ms. Tinker is currently traveling the United States to promote youth voices, free speech and a free press as part of the Tinker Tour. For updates, follow the Tour on Twitter and read its February 2014 newsletter. You can support the Tour at startsomegood. The Tour ends on March 7.

    The smiling face of a seventh-grader named Jake is on my laptop screen. Jake is explaining why he wrote “We will never forget you, Newtown... 12/14/12” on the front of his shirt last year after the Newtown Elementary School shooting.  On the back of the shirt, he wrote the name of every person who had been killed there. He explains that he did it because “I felt very emotional. That school was close to mine.” 

    When Jake wore the shirt to school the day after the shooting, the principal asked him to remove it, a possibility that Jake’s parents had prepared him for. He refused, and was sent home. Later, the parents heard that school administrators were worried that students would be upset by the shirt, and that a parent had complained.

    Jake went back to school, but the experience inspired a new interest: students’ rights. Now, he’s doing a documentary for National History Day on “rights and responsibilities” that will feature the Supreme Court case, Tinker v Des Moines, in which I was a plaintiff.

    Jake is asking why I wore an armband to school when I was in eighth grade back in 1965, knowing—like him—that I would get in trouble. He’d also like to know how the case led to the Supreme Court and a landmark victory for students’ rights on February 24, 1969.

  • October 23, 2013
    Guest Post
    by William Kidder, the Assistant Provost at UC Riverside. Mr. Kidder’s post represents his personal views and not necessarily those of the UC administration. Mr. Kidder has a book review of Mismatch forthcoming in the Texas Law Review and a policy brief on the impact of Michigan’s Proposal forthcoming through the UCLA Civil Rights Project. His article on California’s Proposition 209 was published last spring in the Journal of College and University Law.
    In discussing scientific evidence, Justice Breyer articulated a bare minimum standard that judges need to meet in order to protect the public interest and parties to litigation: “Consider the remark made by physicist Wolfgang Pauli. After a colleague asked whether a certain scientific paper was wrong, Pauli replied, ‘That paper isn’t even good enough to be wrong.’ Our objective is to avoid legal decisions that reflect that paper’s so-called science.  The law must seek decisions that fall within the boundaries of scientifically sound knowledge.”  
    Regrettably, in last week’s oral argument in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, there were times where Michigan’s solicitor general John Bursch advanced arguments about higher education that aren’t “even good enough to be wrong” and that, if accepted, would leave the Court in a wilderness outside of the boundaries of sound statistics and social science knowledge. 
    In response to Justice Sotomayor’s question about the impact of California’s affirmative action ban, Bursch claimed, “The statistics in California across the 17 campuses in the University of California system show that today the underrepresented minority percentage is better on 16 out of those 17 campuses.  It’s not at Berkeley; they haven’t gotten there yet; but its better on the rest.” There are only ten UC campuses, not seventeen.  Of these campuses nine UC campuses (and eight with undergraduates) permit a comparison of pre- and post-affirmative action periods.
    In contextualizing Bursch’s claims, it is also helpful to address African Americans, American Indians and Latinos separately. Most directly responsive to Bursch’s dubious claim are total enrollment figures (though that means combining undergraduate, graduate and professional school students). Compared to a baseline of 1996 (before California’s affirmative action took effect), the percentage of African Americans in 2012 is lower on a majority of UC campuses: Berkeley, Davis, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco. The negative impact of prohibiting affirmative action is greatest at the most selective campuses that disproportionately train future leaders.  At UC Berkeley African Americans were 5.1 percent of students in 1996 and only 3.3 percent in 2012, fifteen years after the campus implemented myriad rigorous race-neutral efforts to improve diversity. At UCLA African Americans were 5.8 percent of total enrollment in 1996, and 3.9 percent in 2012.