ACSBlog

  • June 14, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Ngozi Esomonu, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

    The anti-Muslim travel ban, the 2018 budget proposal, and this month’s religious liberty executive order are just three of the many Trump Administration policies that spell discrimination for America’s most marginalized. Resisting these suppressive policies, are attorneys general from states all over the country from Eric Schneiderman in New York, to Maura Healey in Massachusetts, to Bob Ferguson in Washington State. Their primary tool of resistance is coalition-building with fellow state attorneys general. Once in a coalition, they utilize their joint political powers to pressure federal officials into supporting their position.

    Beyond coalitions, however, state attorneys general use the threat of litigation as a guard against federal discrimination. And when their threats fail to deter, these state officials have not hesitated in pursuing litigation as a final step. With a Republican-dominated Congress and executive branch, attorneys general have emerged as the primary agents of resistance to the Trump administration’s damaging brand of conservatism.

    Take for example, Trump’s anti-Muslim travel ban. As a nation of immigrants, with a significant Muslim population, it was no secret that Executive Order 13769, (which suspended immigration from seven Muslim countries for three months and the Syrian refugee program indefinitely) would trample on individual rights. This, however, did not dissuade the president from issuing his order, and the Republican-led Congress, for the most part, remained silent on the issue. State attorneys general therefore became the leading voice of opposition.

  • June 13, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This piece originally appeared on Take Care.

    by Leah Litman, Assistant Professor of Law, University of California, Irvine School of Law

    On Monday, the State of Maryland and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit against Donald Trump. The suit alleges that the president is in violation of the Emoluments Clauses. (The “Emoluments Clauses” include the Foreign Emoluments Clause, which prevents office holders from accepting emoluments from foreign states or foreign officials without Congress’s consent, and the Domestic Emoluments Clause, which prohibits the president from receiving any emolument other than his salary for being president.)

    Maryland and D.C.’s suit is an intriguing development for many reasons. I will just focus on one here: Maryland and D.C.’s case introduces a new theory of standing into the emoluments litigation and given DOJ’s less than rousing defense of the legality of the president’s financial arrangements in another emoluments lawsuit, Maryland and D.C.’s suit should concern the president and his lawyers. 

    The New Theory of Standing. The emoluments suits filed to date have been brought by private parties—private organizations and private individuals arguing that they have been harmed, in their private capacities, by the president’s violations of the Emoluments Clauses. The private businesses (and individuals) argue that they are losing out on business to the president’s hotels and restaurants because of foreign and state officials’ desire to curry favor with the president by giving money to his hotels and restaurants, in which he continues to hold a financial stake. I have written some about this theory of standing before on this site.

  • June 13, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This piece originally appeared on the Brennan Center for Justice’s Blog.

    by Victoria Bassetti, Brennan Center Contributor

    With five investigations underway into ties between Trump associates and the Russians, it is difficult to know what each committee is doing. The Brennan Center for Justice created a guide to help you understand what each of the Trump probes is looking for and how. 

    Rarely has the phrase “you can’t tell your players without a scorecard” rung more true than in the multiple investigations of ties between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

    There are now five investigations into the relationships between Trump associates and the Russians. Two committees in the Senate are conducting probes, as are two committees in the House, as well as special counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller, whose power is like that of a U.S. Attorney, is likely to say little unless he indicts someone.

    The Congressional committees are a different story. Some or all of them will conduct public hearings, and there likely will be no shortage of committee members willing to opine about their investigation. Yet, the average person probably does not know which committee is doing what, which committee has issued which subpoenas for what reason, and which committee has held which hearings when.

    The Brennan Center for Justice has compiled five tables that lay out what each investigation is looking at, what they have done so far and critically in the case of the Congressional committees, each panel’s rules for issuing subpoenas.

  • June 13, 2017

    by Dan Froomkin

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions has never been clear about what exactly he has recused himself from.

    He has arguably violated it at least once already, by participating in the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

    Expectations are mounting about special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. But if and when Mueller decides to press criminal charges against top Trump officials – not to mention Trump himself -- the pressure to shut him down will become immense.

    How Sessions defines his recusal going forward, therefore, could be hugely consequential should Sessions manage to keep his job and should Mueller manage to do his.

    Senators on the Intelligence Committee will get a chance to question Sessions today, and they could do worse than focusing on that recusal and what he is willing to say it means.

    Specifically, they should get Sessions to say on the record whether or not he is recusing himself from any and all matters that fall under Mueller's remit going forward -- as well as promising not to fire Mueller or any member of his team.

    The attorney general's official recusal statement on March 2 was an oddly-worded exercise in obfuscation. "I have decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States," Sessions said.

  • 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.