• March 8, 2018
    Guest Post

    by Emily Berman, assistant professor, University of Houston Law Center

    Each day, it seems, another personnel-related headline emerges from the West Wing of the White House. As a result, the events of just a few days past often feel like ancient history. But rather than succumb to the 24-hour news cycle, it behooves us to pause and consider more closely White House Chief of Staff General John Kelly’s recent intervention regarding security clearances for White House staff and the circumstances that precipitated it. 

    In addition to making reforms to the clearance process, the memo terminated interim high-level clearances for anyone whose application had been pending since June 2017. While it is not unusual for senior White House staff to have interim clearance at the outset of an administration, hundreds of staffers in November and dozens as late as February still were cleared only on an interim basis. This list included the President’s Senior Advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner—despite which fact he enjoyed regular access to America’s most sensitive secrets, including the President’s daily intelligence briefing.  (Recognizing that Kushner is likely ineligible for a permanent clearance—Kelly ultimately downgraded his interim clearance level.) Given that the clearance process usually takes about 8-10 weeks, providing access to the PDB to staff whose clearance applications are pending after 13 months in office is both unusual and alarming. 

  • March 6, 2018
    Guest Post

    by Cynthia Soohoo, co-director, Human Rights and Gender Justice Clinic at CUNY School of Law and Risa E. Kaufman, Director of U.S. Human Rights, Center for Reproductive Rights

    How far can a state go in restricting a woman’s constitutional rights under the guise of protecting a fetus? The Seventh Circuit will soon have the opportunity to answer this question when it issues its much-anticipated decision in Loertscher v. Anderson. The case challenges a Wisconsin law that allows child protective services to take a pregnant woman into custody to protect her “unborn child,” from “the time of fertilization to the time of birth,” based on concern that the woman’s purported use of alcohol or controlled substances poses a “substantial risk” to the physical health of her “unborn child.”

    Wisconsin’s law is unique in that it places a woman in the custody of child protective services. However, several other states allow or promote use of civil commitment laws to detain pregnant women. Civil statutes that detain pregnant women to prevent future substance use and force them to undergo drug treatment raise serious constitutional issues related to a woman’s right to liberty, privacy, personal autonomy, and non-discrimination.

    As we argue in a new ACS Issue Brief, they also violate core human rights principles.

  • March 5, 2018
    Guest Post

    by James E. Tierney, former Maine Attorney General and lecturer in law at Harvard Law School

    *This piece was originally posted on Buzzfeed

    The unchecked flood of opioids into our country has caused unspeakable damage, and the companies that manufacture them will inevitably be held accountable. When that moment comes, it is vital that we avoid the mistakes made in our attempts to hold Big Tobacco accountable.

    I helped coordinate the tobacco lawsuits of the 1990s, which ended with a giant settlement deal that would cost cigarette makers more than $200 billion and require major changes to the industry. But much of that money was wasted, and countless people have died as a result.

    We can’t let that happen again, and now is the time to start talking about what a Big Tobacco–style national settlement with Big Opioid should look like — and to demand nothing less from our state and federal leaders.

  • February 28, 2018
    Guest Post

    by Daniel S. Goldman, former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York

    On February 16, Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III unsealed a 37-page indictment charging 13 Russian nationals and three entities principally with conspiring against the United States to infiltrate the 2016 election through a sophisticated and complex scheme that included the use of stolen identities of American citizens to surreptitiously influence and infiltrate social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Although each United States intelligence agency has definitively stated, without equivocation, that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election, those agencies were constrained to explain how Russia did so with any detail because of legal restrictions on classified material. Yet for the first, time, this indictment provides extensive detail about how one aspect of this Russian meddling in the 2016 election occurred.

  • February 28, 2018
    Guest Post

    by A.H. Neff

    *This piece was originally posted on Crooks and Liars.

    "There's no limit to what can be accomplished if it doesn't matter who gets the credit."

    Versions of this team-first principle have been attributed to, among others, Benjamin Jowett, Father Strickland, William T. Arnold, Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, Charles Edward Montague, and Edward Everett Hale. 

    It might not be possible to say conclusively who deserves credit for this insight - original-authorship credit, that is - but it is pertinent to Special Counsel Mueller's investigation, especially when his investigation focuses on Trump, his family, and their businesses.