• September 4, 2015

    by Nanya Springer

    On The Huffington Post BlogJudith E. Schaeffer of the Constitutional Accountability Center weighs in on the controversy in Rowan County, Kentucky, arguing that obtaining a marriage license should be hassle-free for everyone.

    In a press release, Demos announced that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Thursday reinstated a case challenging Nevada’s failure to provide voter registration services to its low-income citizens. The decision comes after the case was thrown out by the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.

    Sam Ross-Brown and Amanda Teuscher report in The American Prospect that the Department of Labor’s new rules allowing workers at higher income levels to qualify for overtime pay will not only result in an effective raise for millions of people, but will also give workers more control over their work hours and personal lives.

    The Center for Reproductive Rights announced in a press release yesterday that it has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review of a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. In June, the Fifth Circuit upheld onerous restrictions on abortion clinic access in Texas which, if allowed to stand, would close more than 75 percent of clinics in the state.

  • July 8, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    David A. Graham writes for The Atlantic about a new study that reveals that most states do not have any black elected prosecutors, a fact that likely contributes to racial gaps in justice.

    At Salon, Matthew Rozsa explains the truth behind the most significant myths about the death penalty.

    Michelle Chen considers at The Nation how the new overtime rules will benefit the large number of “overworked and underpaid” in America’s workforce.

    At Slate, Andrew Kahn examines the different meanings of “dignity” used by Justice Thomas and Justice Kennedy in the marriage equality case.

    Emily Badger reports for The Washington Post on the White House’s new rules aimed at repairing the Fair Housing Act.

  • June 21, 2012
    Guest Post

    By Alan B. Morrison, Lerner Family Associate Dean for Public Interest & Public Service, George Washington University Law School. The writer did an unpaid moot court for plaintiffs’ counsel in the case discussed in this essay.

    In Christopher v. SmithKline Beecham (No. 11-204, decided June 18, 2012), the Supreme Court had to decide whether individual plaintiffs who were detailers for drug companies were exempt from the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which do not apply to workers employed “in the capacity of outside salesmen.” The relevant facts were undisputed and also appear to be unique to this industry. There is an interesting administrative law issue relating to whether the interpretation of the Department of Labor, which enforces the FLSA, should be given deference, but what caught my eye was the battle between the literalists and the pragmatists and how it came out in this case.

    The job of a drug detailer is to persuade doctors to prescribe the prescription drugs sold by their company to their patients in appropriate situations. By law, those drugs can only be purchased from a licensed pharmacy, with a doctor’s prescription, and the actual sales of the drugs are made by the manufacturer (the employer of the detailer) to the pharmacy, but never to a doctor or a patient directly. Detailers are paid good salaries, plus a modest bonus that is loosely determined by the sales of the drugs in their territory. The individual plaintiffs earned in excess of $70,000 per year and the industry average is above $90,000.  They regularly work between 10-20 hours a week above the 40 hours, after which they would be entitled to overtime. Their work is almost always out of the office, and no one supervises them on a daily basis.

    The issue the Court had to decide was whether these plaintiffs (and nearly 90,000 others in the industry who work in virtually identical arrangements) are exempt from the overtime law because they are outside salesmen. At stake was potentially millions of dollars in unpaid overtime for whatever period was not barred by the statute of limitations. The companies could probably restructure their pay systems in the future to minimize the impact, by reducing salaries or bonuses to offset any anticipated overtime, but they would prefer not to have to do that.