Law

A Wild Week for Voting Rights

J ust a month before the election, voting rights have been on a wild ride. The Supreme Court began its term by reinstating voting restrictions in Ohio and North Carolina after federal appeals courts put these laws on hold for unfairly burdening voting rights, particularly for people of color. But last night, the Court took action to stop Wisconsin’s voter ID requirement from going into effect only weeks before Election Day, and a federal court struck down Texas’s voter ID law after a trial on the merits, ruling for voters in both cases. So while voters in North Carolina and Ohio face more burdensome voter restrictions, voters in Wisconsin and Texas will not be disenfranchised by unconstitutional discriminatory photo ID requirements in November . Here’s what happened in each state. In the two states where voter disenfranchisement will continue, same-day voter registration was rolled back. Last week the Court stayed the 6 th Circuit order and allowed Ohio’s cuts to early voting to...

Should the Democrats Abandon Hope of Getting Relief from Voter Suppression In the Courts?

Flickr/Theresa Thompson
Yesterday there were two rulings on voting rights cases, both of which were decided in favor of the liberal side of the argument. But don't get too excited. I hate to be eternal pessimist on this issue, but neither case is likely to turn out the way liberals and Democrats want. In fact, we're almost at the point where — until the current makeup of the Supreme Court changes — liberals should keep themselves from ever thinking the courts are going to stop Republican efforts at voter suppression. I'll get to the consequences of that in a moment, but first let's look at the two cases yesterday. The first was in Texas, where a federal judge struck down the state's voter ID law. In refreshingly blunt language, the judge called the law an "unconstitutional poll tax," and said that the legislators who passed it "were motivated, at the very least in part, because of and not merely in spite of the voter ID law's detrimental effects on the African-American and Hispanic electorate." Which is...

Unpredictable Schedules Inflicted on Workers are Wrecking People's Lives

This nationwide trend goes virtually undetected when we take the economy’s temperature each month.

(iStockPhoto/4774344sean)
(iStockPhoto/4774344sean) Nurses are among the many workers who suffer from unpredictable schedules that often lead to working double shifts. T he unemployment drop in the September jobs report, to 5.9 percent, was welcome news. But as many have noted, wages remain flat and 7.1 million Americans worked part-time but wanted to work full-time. Furthermore, the monthly snapshot, which focuses on limited questions and simplified distinctions, altogether misses a key indicator of the job market’s health. Our recent book, Unequal Time , suggests that for the millions of Americans fortunate enough to be working, scheduling has become chronically unpredictable. Most discussions of employment fail to capture the widespread variability in work hours, or what some employers now like to call “flexibility.” While recent media reports have focused on the unwieldy lives of young people working at Starbucks and clothing stores—working with a day’s notice or splitting shifts—the issue is far more...

How Gay Marriage Could Cause the GOP Major Headaches In 2016

Every GOP candidate is going to have to take a position on the threat posed by this kid. (Flickr/Alan Light)
After yesterday's dramatic ruling from the Supreme Court effectively legalizing same-sex marriage in 11 more states (that now makes 30, plus DC), you would have thought conservatives would be expressing their outrage to anyone who would listen. But their reaction was remarkably muted. "None of the top House GOP leaders (Speaker John Boehner or Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy) issued statements. Ditto the RNC," reported NBC News . "And most strikingly, we didn't hear a peep about the Supreme Court's (non)-decision on the 2014 campaign trail, including in the red-state battlegrounds." The only one who issued a thundering denunciation was Ted Cruz. Even though the GOP's discomfort with this issue has been evident for a while, with the unofficial start of the 2016 presidential campaign just a month away (after the midterm elections are done), the issue of marriage equality is going to become positively excruciating for them. Many people saw the Court's denial of cert in the five cases they...

Is Nationwide Marriage Equality Now Inevitable? Almost, But Not Quite

Flickr/Victoria Pickering
As you've heard by now, the Supreme Court today declined to hear a set of five cases involving state bans on same-sex marriage, from Virginia, Utah, Oklahoma, Indiana, and Wisconsin. In all these cases, the appeals court had overturned the state's ban, and now same-sex marriages are legal not only in those states, but also soon in the six other states covered by the 4th, 7th, and 10th Circuits (Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina). Like many other people, I've already written today that the legal argument over marriage equality is now all but over. The way it presumably will play out from this point forward is that one of the more conservative circuit courts will issue a ruling upholding a state ban on same-sex marriage, and the Supreme Court, presented with this conflict between circuits, will take the case to settle it. And in the wake of today's ruling, it's hard to see how they (and by "they" I mean Anthony Kennedy) would rule that state...

Why Your New iPhone Has Law Enforcement In a Tizzy

Apple’s move won’t lead to terrorist attacks or unsolved kidnappings; it will simply make FBI investigators’ jobs a bit harder.

iStock/07-12-09 © billyfoto
07-12-09 © billyfoto T he debut of a new iPhone is always big news, but this time it’s surrounded by unusual controversy. That’s because the iPhone6 automatically encrypts the phone’s contents. Decrypting requires a code that the user sets and does not share with Apple—which means that, if the FBI orders Apple to turn over data kept on the customer’s phone, the company will produce data that amount to “gibberish” (as the New York Times reported ). The FBI then will have to decrypt the data—a process that could take years—or try to compel the user to reveal the code. FBI director James Comey responded with outrage, claiming that companies like Apple are “marketing something expressly to allow people to hold themselves beyond the law.” Other law enforcement officials have made similar pronouncements. Yet the law doesn’t give the government any right to the contents of your phone. It’s more accurate to say that, in recent years, the advent of widespread third-party data storage has...

When Every Supreme Court Justice Argued They Might Be Pro-Choice

Official Supreme Court photo by Steve Petteway
(AP Photo/Lana Harris) Supreme Court Justice nominee Antonin Scalia puffs on his pipe as he listens to questions from Senate Judiciary Committee members during confirmation hearings in Washington on Tuesday, August 6, 1986. L ast week, a panel of the Court of Appeals for the 5 th Circuit upheld a Texas law designed to make it as difficult as possible to get an abortion in the state, the consequence of which was that 13 clinics were forced to immediately shut their doors (there are only eight remaining, in a state of 26 million people spread out over a quarter-million square miles). The panel's decision, as Ian Millhiser explained , practically begged the Supreme Court to hear this case, something they wouldn't have done if they weren't fairly confident they'd win. And they have reason to be; as everyone knows, the current Court has four liberal justices who are pro-choice, four conservative justices who would almost certainly vote to overturn Roe v. Wade , and Anthony Kennedy, who has...

How the Koch Brothers Helped Bring About the Law That Shut Texas Abortion Clinics

It may be a panel of judges that shut most Texas abortion clinics, but the law the court upheld began with a flood of money to antiabortion forces from the billionaires' network of "free enterprise" groups.

(Whole Woman's Health -AP Photo/ The Monitor, Delcia Lopez, File/Anti-choice protester: AP Photo/Eric Gay)
This article has been updated. (AP Photo/ The Monitor, Delcia Lopez, File) In this March 6, 2014 file photo, over 40 people hold a candle light vigil in front of the Whole Women's HealthClinic in McAllen, Texas. The clinic will close on October 3, 2014, along with 12 others in Texas after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated part of sweeping new Texas abortion restrictions that also shuttered other facilities statewide six months ago. The state has only 8 remaining abortion clinics in operation. I n Texas politics, abortion is front and center once again—and so is the role of so-called “free enterprise” groups in the quest for government control of women’s lives. Yesterday, there were 21 abortion clinics available to the women of Texas, the second-largest state in the nation. Today, thanks to a decision handed down from a three-judge panel on the federal 5 th Circuit Court of Appeals, there are eight. But the story really begins with the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 decision in...

Tragedy, Privation and Hope: Joy Boothe's Inspiring Journey to Moral Monday

Horrifically orphaned and raised with prejudice, she built a house and a new life with her own hands. Now hers are among many building a movement for justice.

©Jenny Warburg
©Jenny Warburg Joy Boothe (in black pants) at a sit-in outside the office North Carolina Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger in June 2014, protesting Republican education cuts. W hen Joy Boothe showed up at last week’s Moral Monday rally in her hometown of Burnsville, North Carolina, she was fighting both sleep- and sun-deprivation. Boothe had just driven in from Asheville, 35 miles away, where her husband was recovering from a double knee replacement. “Despite my fears of leaving my husband’s hospital room for the first time in four days,” she told the small crowd gathered in the town square, “I’ve come to stand with you today. It’s that important. It’s that important. ” Boothe, a vice president of the local NAACP branch, was referring to the ongoing political upheaval in Raleigh, the state capital, four hours east of this small mountain town. There, an emboldened Republican legislative majority had cut unemployment benefits, turned away federal Medicaid funds, slashed education...

City Coffers, Not Police Budgets, Hit Hard By the High Cost of Brutality

If settlements for police misconduct on citizens came out of the funding for police, incidents of abuse would be reduced, experts say.

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
A s the national conversation around racism and police brutality quickly fades—ramped up briefly in the wake of Michael Brown’s death—U.S. taxpayers remain stuck footing the bills for their local law enforcement’s aggressive behavior. This week alone, Baltimore agreed to pay $49,000 to man who sued over a violent arrest in 2010, Philadelphia agreed to pay $490,000 to a man who was abused and broke his neck while riding in a police van in 2011, and St. Paul agreed to pay $95,000 to a man who suffered a skull injury, a fractured eye socket, and a broken nose in 2012. In 2013, Chicago paid out a stunning $84.6 million in police misconduct settlements, judgments, and legal fees . Bridgeport, Connecticut, paid a man $198,000 this past spring after video footage captured police shooting him twice with a stun gun, then stomping all over him as he lay on the ground. And in California, Oakland recently agreed to pay $4.5 million to settle a lawsuit a man filed after being shot in the head,...

Henry McCollum’s Innocence and the Stakes for Death Row Inmates in a Red State

When North Carolina's Republican lawmakers repealed the Racial Justice Act, those on death row who were wrongfully convicted lost a crucial tool for getting a second chance.

©Jenny Warburg
©Jenny Warburg Henry McCollumn rises in a courtroom in Lumberton, North Carolina, to learn of his release from prison after serving 31 years for a crime he didn't commit. O n Tuesday, September 2, in a courtroom packed with his family members, his original lawyer, and even members of the family of the eleven-year old girl from Red Springs, North Carolina, he had been convicted of raping and murdering, death-row inmate Henry McCollum saw his conviction overturned after being in jail for thirty-one years. “Henry, I think, was overwhelmed,” said Vernetta Alston, a staff attorney at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, which helped with McCollum’s case. “I think it's still taking him a while to soak it all in. I think folks were very relieved.” The decision not only granted McCollum his freedom but it also took away an archetype. McCollum was used by conservatives as a rationale for capital punishment, his face used on campaign mailers to paint Democrats as soft on crime. Justice...

Tenants Facing Eviction in Era of Skyrocketing Rents Need Legal Assistance

Without legal assistance, tenants often miss crucial steps and find themselves out of a home.

(AP Photo/Ricardo Figueroa)
(AP Photo/Ricardo Figueroa) Y ears after we’ve supposedly recovered from the housing crisis, millions of Americans are at risk of losing their homes, and housing is still one of the most troubling aspects of America’s growing inequality problem. The evidence is clear: Rents are rising in cities across the country, and the New York Times reported earlier this month that evictions are soaring nationwide. Tenant-landlord standoffs in U.S. cities are also becoming increasingly common—and bitter. But despite this bleak overall picture, some tenants are winning eviction battles and ultimately staying in their homes. How? What’s the difference between those who protect their homes and those who are at risk of falling into homelessness? Most often, outcomes depend on one factor: whether tenants have legal help. Across the country, civil legal aid programs are helping people under threat of evictions understand their rights, navigate the court system, and, most importantly, stay in their homes...

A Book for the People of Ferguson -- And Oppressed People Everywhere

Fred Ross's change-making Axioms for Organizers is updated for the Internet age, and for a new generation battling discrimination and police brutality.

fredrosssr.com
M ost residents of Ferguson, Missouri, have probably never heard of Fred Ross, Sr., but they could use his help now. Ferguson's population is two-thirds African American, but the mayor, almost all members of the city council and school board, and 95 percent of the police department is white, and in last year's municipal election only 7 percent of blacks came to the polls. Ross—perhaps the most influential (but little-known) community organizer in American history—had a successful career mobilizing people to challenge police brutality, fight segregation, and organize voter registration and voter turnout campaigns. Ross taught people how to channel their anger and frustrations into building powerful grassroots organizations that can win concrete victories that change institutions and improve people's lives. He understood that while sporadic protests can draw attentions to long-neglected problems, it requires the hard day-to-day intentional work of organizing to build power and give...

Republicans Make Big Advances Thanks to Citizens United

The increase in corporate money in elections has favored one party over the other.

(Cartoon by DonkeyHotey via Flickr)
This article originally appeared on Facing South , a website published by the Institute for Southern Studies. I t's been more than four years since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission , a ruling that expanded the ability of corporations and unions to influence politics. Now, with two election cycles completed, a series of studies have emerged to assess what impact it's had on our political system. One of the first and most thorough investigations into Citizens United 's effects on elections, published in July by professors at the University of Alberta and Emory University and a researcher at Competition Economics, concludes that the ruling has significantly benefited Republican candidates for state legislatures -- especially in North Carolina and Tennessee. Before the January 2010 Citizens United decision, corporations and labor unions were prohibited from making so-called independent expenditures for federal races --...

What Happens When the Person Taking Care of Your Mom Can’t Earn a Living Wage?

When the Supreme Court ruled that unions could not collect dues from the home-care workers they represent, the justices set workers and their clients on a course that could harm them both.

(AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
(AP Photo/Seth Perlman) Tanya Melin of Chicago, right, Service Employees International Union members, home care consumers, workers, and allies rally in support of home care funding at the Illinois State Capitol Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012 in Springfield, Illinois. O n June 30, the Supreme Court ruled that a key strategy used by unions to raise the earnings and professionalism of home-care workers was illegal. Since the 1990s, the labor movement has worked with states and countries to get laws or executive orders to allow home-care workers to be treated as employees of public authorities rather than as individual contractors. The result has been to allow these workers to form unions and to bargain collectively with government for better wages and working standards. In the Harris v. Quinn case, however, the Court held that workers could still unionize, but that they were not true public employees. Unions thus could not collect dues from workers who choose to remain outside the bargaining...

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