• June 14, 2018

    by Richard Schragger, Perre Bowen Professor, Joseph C. Carter Research Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law*

    Recently, the Tennessee legislature voted to punish the city of Memphis for removing two Confederate statues by striking a $250,000 state appropriation that was to be used for the city’s bicentennial celebration. The mayor and city council, representing the will of the majority-black city, had previously agreed to sell the two city parks in which the monuments stood to avoid a state law preventing the city itself from removing the statues. The new private owner was under no such restriction. Unhappy with Memphis’s legal end-run around state law, the Republican-dominated legislature expressed its displeasure by cutting off funds.     

    Legislative retaliation against progressive cities is an emerging theme across the United States. Donald Trump has threatened to cut-off federal aid to “sanctuary cities”—those cities that have refused to comply with federal immigration mandates or have resisted cooperating with federal immigration authorities. The Texas legislature has adopted similar legislation that bars local officials from adopting sanctuary policies on pain of criminal and civil penalties and potential removal from office. Other states have simply overridden progressive local laws, preventing cities from mandating local minimum wages, regulating paid sick days, adopting gun regulations, passing LGBT anti-discrimination ordinances, or operating municipal broadband networks. The last half-decade has witnessed an explosion of preemptive state legislation seeking to “rein-in” wayward (often progressive-leaning) cities.

  • June 12, 2018

    by Justin Levitt, Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Law, Loyola Law School, Los Angeles*

    Yesterday, the Supreme Court decided that states can kick voters off the rolls without any reliable evidence that the voters in question might be ineligible. That’s a disappointing result, and the culmination of a series of disappointments along the way. But there is one significant reason for optimism among the gloom: unlike many other Court pronouncements, on voting rights and otherwise, most voters can fight back against the impact of this decision directly.

    First, it’s disappointing that we’re having this discussion at all. The Ohio process at issue in the case assumed that voters who hadn’t voted in two years had probably moved, sent them all a postcard, and if that single piece of mail wasn’t returned and the voter didn’t vote for four more years, the voter was removed from the rolls. 

  • June 12, 2018
    Guest Post

    Reuben Guttman, Founding member, Guttman, Buschner & Brooks PLLC

    It might very well have been about the time that former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates was speaking at the American Constitution Society's annual convention last Thursday night in Washington, DC that food critic and CNN commentator Anthony Bourdain was ending his life in a hotel room across the Atlantic in France.

    The mind works in strange ways; I have been thinking about Bourdain's untimely passing, and perhaps it is just human nature to recall where you were when an event of some consequence occurs. And just maybe, there is some irony here. 

    Yates stood up against a President, refusing to defend a travel ban that would have restricted - if not downright blocked - the immigration of those who are at the core of what this nation is about: an amalgam of diversity and a blending of culture.

    Of course, since Yates stood up to the President and lost her job for doing so, the rest of us – on almost a daily basis – have witnessed the erosion of the rule of law and grappled with how to make all Americans fully understand the depth of our national crisis. 

  • June 11, 2018

    by Richard N. Lorenc, Executive Vice President of the Foundation for Economic Education*

    “Our law punishes people for what they do, not who they are.” Chief Justice John Roberts articulated this core constitutional principle last year in Buck v. Davis, a case that reversed the death sentence of an African-American man because a psychologist told the jury that he was more dangerous because he was black.

    Just as the judiciary has a responsibility to address when racial prejudices poison jury deliberations, it must also act when challenged with the prospect of anti-gay bias in a capital murder trial.

    Next month, the Supreme Court is being asked to accept a case in which Charles Rhines, a gay man in South Dakota convicted of murder in 1993, received the death penalty after deliberations included statements such as “If he’s gay we’d be sending him where he wants to go if we voted for [life in prison].” 

  • June 7, 2018
    Guest Post

    by Alan Neff

    *This piece was originally posted on Crooks & Liars.

    Before the end of June, and possibly within the next week, the Supreme Court will announce its decision in the partisan-gerrymandering case of Whitford v. GillWhitford is Wisconsin’s starkly Republican contribution to the ongoing national battle over the principle that, as Justice Ginsburg has said for the Court, “...voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.”

    (Note: All of the papers in Whitford - from the original complaint to the briefs of the parties and all the intervenors - can be found here, at the site of the Campaign Legal Center, which provides members of the plaintiffs’ legal team.)