the struggle over gun rights and regulation in America, in the aftermath of the Newtown school shootings and the ongoing congressional stalemate over federal gun legislation. An investigative report from
"29 students from 16 journalism schools, as well as an experienced staff of editors" for Carnegie-Knight News21. [more inside]
I just freed an innocent man from death row. And I’m still furious. "Some people expect me to feel satisfied, or even happy. The truth is: I am angry. I am angry that we live in a world where two disabled boys can have their lives stolen from them, where cops can lie and intimidate with impunity, where innocent people can be condemned to die and where injustice is so difficult to bring to light. As I lie awake at night, mulling over the maddening details of this case, I wonder: How many more Henry McCollums are still imprisoned, waiting for help that will never come?" [more inside]
A federal judge declared California's death penalty unconstitutional Wednesday, saying delays of 25 years or more in deciding appeals and carrying out occasional executions have created an arbitrary and irrational system that serves no legitimate purpose.
Executions in California have already been on hold since 2006, due to problems with the procedures associated with lethal injection. If the ruling is upheld, California will join 18 other states (plus D.C.) that have abolished capital punishment. (Read the court's opinion here
the High Court of Australia ruled
(Williams v Commonwealth of Australia  HCA 23
) for the second time
that Commonwealth funding of school chaplains was unconstitutional. This is in direct contradiction of the Abbott government's recent budget moves to totally defund
secular counsellors in favour of a $244M school chaplaincy program[me]
. [more inside]
A police officer forcibly escorted Baltimore Sun photo editor Chris Assaf away from the scene of a police-involved shooting on Feb. 21.
He had been taking pictures from outside the police lines, but an officer told him he had to move back further. Assaf protested, stating he was within his First Amendment rights to be where he was standing. Another officer then forced him to move. The Sun is posting all of Assaf’s images from the shooting scene as well as photos taken by Sun photographer Lloyd Fox, who witnessed and documented the incident. Lt. Eric Kowalczk, the chief spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department, said the department has opened an internal investigation into the allegation. He declined to comment more specifically on the incident, “because we have an investigation and we don’t want to prejudice that.”
(contains some mildly graphic pictures in both links)
Happy Valentine's day from Justice Scalia:
(video) how his dissent in DOMA case US v. Windsor
) helped lead to recent rulings against state gay marriage bans.
Allan Levene really — really — wants to serve in Congress.
But he's 64 years old, and says he has no time to build a political resume step by step by getting elected to lesser positions and working his way up. So, he is maximizing the odds by running in four different states simultaneously. He has entered primaries in Hawaii, Michigan, Minnesota and Georgia, which is where he lives. Is this legal? Apparently so, as long as he is a resident, at the time of the November general election, of whichever state he may manage to get elected in. Politifact checked it out
with constitutional experts. NPR interview transcript.
Contempt of Cop Activists range from hard-conservative gun rights types, who carry copies of the Constitution in their pockets, to left-leaning civil liberties advocates. In both cases, they triumphantly upload video trophies of their confrontations to the internet.
Quite a few show "checkpoint refusals" at roadblocks erected by police looking for drunken drivers, or by federal agents hunting illegal aliens. Courts here have held that police have the right to operate such stops. But the courts have also ruled that citizens are free to remain silent, and can refuse to allow searches and ignore orders to submit to "secondary inspections" unless police detain them — which requires the higher hurdle of reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe an offence has been committed. [more inside]
According to researchers who analyzed all 729 constitutions adopted between 1946 and 2006, the U.S. Constitution is rarely used as a model. What's more, "the American example is being rejected to an even greater extent by America's allies than by the global community at large"...
"There are about 30 countries, mostly in Latin America, that have adopted American-style systems. All of them, without exception, have succumbed to...constitutional crisis[es]—your full range of political violence, revolution, coup, and worse. But well short of war, you can end up in a state of "crisis governance," he writes. "President and house may merely indulge a taste for endless backbiting, mutual recrimination, and partisan deadlock. Worse yet, the contending powers may use the constitutional tools at their disposal to make life miserable for each other: The house will harass the executive, and the president will engage in unilateral action whenever he can get away with it." [Juan Linz] wrote that almost a decade and a half ago, long before anyone had heard of Barack Obama, let alone the Tea Party.
's Alex Seitz-Wald makes a case against the U.S. Constitution:
The U.S. Needs a New Constitution—Here's How to Write It
In Conversation: Antonin Scalia "On the eve of a new Supreme Court session, the firebrand justice discusses gay rights and media echo chambers, Seinfeld and the Devil, and how much he cares about his intellectual legacy ("I don’t")." [more inside]
Warning! The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased, entry for the United States of America
Need to argue with your crazy uncle about what the Founders really intended? Or maybe you're wondering what an 18th Century AskMe
might have looked like. The National Archives has launched Founders Online
, a searchable collection of over 100,000 annotated and transcribed documents including letters, speeches, diaries and more from the collected papers of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and family, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison.
In literature, there are two key sorts of annotations: marginalia, or the notes jotted down in the margins by the reader, and additional information formally provided in expanded editions of a text, and you can find a bit of both online. Annotated Books Online
is an on-line interactive archive of early modern annotated books
, where researchers can share digitized documents and collaborate on translations. For insight into a single author's notes, Melville's Marginalia
provides just that. For annotations with additional information, The Thoreau Reader
provides context for Walden
), The Maine Woods
, and other writings. Then there's the mostly
annotated edition Ulysses
, analysis of Joseph Conrad's Nostromo
, and the thoroughly annotated US constitution
(twentieth amendment linked previously
). More marginalia and annotations inside. [more inside]
In a 5-4 ruling on Salinas vs. Texas, the SCOTUS ruled that silence can be used in court. (PDF)
Without being placed in custody or receiving Miranda warnings, Genovevo Salinas voluntarily answered some of a police officer’s questions about a murder, but fell silent when asked whether ballistics testing would match his shotgun to shell casings found at the scene of the crime. During his trial in Texas state court, and over his objection, the prosecution used his failure to answer the question as evidence of guilt. He was convicted, and both the State Court of Appeals andCourt of Criminal Appeals affirmed, rejecting his claim that the prosecution’s use of his silence in its case in chief violated the Fifth Amendment.
Analysis on SCOTUSblog
The Missing Right: A Constitutional Right to Vote
is an essay regarding the proposed constitutional amendment to provide all Americans the affirmative right to vote
and empower Congress to protect this right. The right to vote is the foundation
of any democracy and yet, surprisingly, such a right is not part of the constitution
. U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Keith Ellison (D-MN)
are trying to create that right and limit the power of special interest to chip away at it.
Years after the first hints of "harsh interrogation practices" in the US war on terror, years after Obama's decision to "look forward, not back"
and not investigate or pursue official torture by the CIA and other agencies, the 577-page Report of the Task Force on Detainee Treatment
that was released today is, "[i]n many respects, . . . the examination of the treatment of suspected terrorists that official Washington has been reluctant to conduct." The New York Times' Scott Shane reports
. [more inside]
Beate Sirota Gordon, Long-Unsung Heroine of Japanese Women’s Rights, Dies at 89
: a NYT obituary relates the fascinating story of a young woman who was just the right person in just the right place at just the right time and managed to strike a blow for gender equality. [more inside]
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy sacks the head of the Army.
Hussein Tantawi (head of the Egyptian Army and SCAF) has been dismissed as the Egyptian president asserts his power over the traditionally dominant military. Morsy has also cancelled the SCAF memorandum keeping legislative powers with the military council, and it's widely thought that the fight over that will end up at the constitutional court again. If the cancellation stands, Morsi will also have almost complete control of the constitutional drafting process.
In less than an hour, the Supreme Court will hand down its final judgment in what has become one of the most crucial legal battles of our time: the constitutionality of President Obama's landmark health care reform law.
The product of a strict party line vote following a
of debate, disinformation
, and tense legislative wrangling, the Affordable Care Act
would (among other popular reforms
) require all Americans to buy insurance coverage by 2014, broadening the risk pool
for the benefit of those with pre-existing conditions.
The fate of this "individual mandate," bitterly opposed by Republicans despite its similarity to past plans touted by conservatives
(including presidential contender Mitt Romney
) is the central question facing the justices today
. If the conservative majority takes the dramatic step
of striking down the mandate, the law will be toothless, and in danger of wholesale reversal, rendering millions uninsured
, dealing a crippling blow to the president's re-election hopes, and possibly endangering the federal regulatory state
But despite the pessimism of bettors
, some believe
the Court will demur, wary of damaging
its already-fragile reputation
with another partisan 5-4 decision
. But those who know don't talk, and those who talk don't know
. Watch the SCOTUSblog liveblog
for updates, Q&A, and analysis as the truth finally comes out shortly after 10 a.m. EST.
Presidential appointments that require Senate confirmation can be made without
confirmation by the President when the chamber is in recess: a so-called recess appointment
, wherein the appointee is allowed to serve until the end of the next congressional session. During the Bush II administration, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid began holding pro forma sessions every three days—a local Senator gavels the session in and immediately back out—to ensure that the Senate never went into recess and as a result, Bush stopped confirming recess appointments. When the Obama administration took over, the Republicans began holding the same pro forma sessions to prevent Obama from appointing any positions in recess. This week, Obama made four appointments, including Richard Cordray to the newly created role of director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, despite the fact that the Senate is not in technical recess
. [more inside]
In February of 2011
, eleven students that attended UC Irvine
and UC Riverside
went to a fundraising speech featuring Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren
, at the UC Irvine campus. During Oren's speech, students would stand up, shout an objection to Oren's speech, and then would allow themselves to be escorted by security
, essentially causing a "heckler's veto
." They were arrested, charged, and today found guilty
of disrupting Oren's speech
. [more inside]
The perfect location for the perfect crime.
Due to a loophole in the US Constitution there is an area of Yellowstone Park
where you may be able to get away with a major crime. U Michigan Prof
Brian C Kalt looks into
and gauges your chance at success
. Someone has tried
. [more inside]
Public interests will be harmed absent requiring defendants to make available unencrypted contents in circumstances like these. Failing to compel Ms. Fricosu amounts to a concession to her and potential criminals (be it in child exploitation, national security, terrorism, financial crimes or drug trafficking cases) that encrypting all inculpatory digital evidence will serve to defeat the efforts of law enforcement officers to obtain such evidence through judicially authorized search warrants, and thus make their prosecution impossible.
The "if you were innocent, you'd have nothing to hide" argument rears its head, in a big way. [more inside]
In a 32 page report to Congress [pdf]
President Obama concludes:
...the current U.S. military operations in Libya are consistent
with the War Powers Resolution and do not under that law require
further congressional authorization, because U.S. military
operations are distinct from the kind of “hostilities”
contemplated by the Resolution’s 60 day termination provision.
Now, the New York Times reports
that this legal opinion was reached by rejecting the views of top lawyers at the Pentagon and the Justice Department. It is instructive to compare President Obama's actions
with those of his predecessor, George W. Bush. [more inside]
Do doctors violate the 2nd Amendment
when they ask their patients if they own guns? May the government force doctors to stop asking
that without violating the 1st Amendment?
Fareed Zakaria: Are America's Best Days Behind Us?
- "We have an Electoral College that no one understands and a Senate that doesn't work, with rules and traditions that allow a single Senator to obstruct democracy without even explaining why. We have a crazy-quilt patchwork of towns, municipalities and states with overlapping authority, bureaucracies and resulting waste. We have a political system geared toward ceaseless fundraising and pandering to the interests of the present with no ability to plan, invest or build for the future. And if one mentions any of this, why, one is being unpatriotic, because we have the perfect system of government, handed down to us by demigods who walked the earth in the late 18th century and who serve as models for us today and forever. America's founders would have been profoundly annoyed by this kind of unreflective ancestor worship." [for
Right before the 10th anniversary
of the first same-sex marriage in Canada, Saskatchewan's highest court has ruled
that a proposed law allowing provincial marriage commissioners to refuse to wed same-sex couples is unconstitutional.
gives its thoughts on the decision and the social context surrounding it.
"The [Customs and Border Patrol] specifically wanted laptops and cell phones and were visibly unhappy
when they discovered nothing of the sort." [more inside]
On August 30, 1978 a Polish airliner was hijacked
and redirected to Tempelhof airport in West Berlin. Torn between a policy of supporting defection and a recently-signed anti-hijacking treaty, the West German government ceded jurisdiction over the defendants to the United States government, which was still technically an occupying power and had an interest in the case because of the US Air Force Base at Tempelhof. The result was the one and only decision rendered by the United States Court for Berlin, United States v. Tiede
. [more inside]
The 4th Amendment Underclothes are a way to send a message to the TSA.
Next time you undergo an X-ray body scan, wear these
and let the law enforcers know you won't be scanned without at least reminding them what they violate when they do so.
A Nude Awakening - The TSA and Privacy.
An insightful article about the TSA and fundamental freedoms from the Oklahoma Daily Student newspaper. via
“It’s time to return America to the common sense conservative principles of limited government, free enterprise, and individual responsibility. The Repeal Amendment
would provide a check on the ever-expanding federal government, protect against Congressional overreach, and get the government working for the people again, not the other way around. In order to return America to opportunity, responsibility, and success, we must reverse course and the Repeal Amendment is a step in that direction.” —incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.),
on a proposed amendment allowing a 2/3 vote by the state governments to overturn any federal law or regulation. [more inside]
A 136-person Senate. A 1,000-strong House. A 12-person Supreme Court. A President with a line-item veto whose one term is six years. Mandatory national service. A balanced budget requirement. Some of the 23 measures
that Prof. Larry Sabato proposes be enacted at a Second Constitutional Convention in his 2007 book A More Perfect Constitution
. (And readers' suggestions for the 24th measure
1. Always be calm and cool. 2. You have the right to remain silent. 3. You have the right to refuse searches... 10 Rules for Dealing with Police. [more inside]
Former Second Daughter Liz Cheney
(who, it should be noted, received her JD from The University of Chicago Law School
in 1996) and her Keep America Safe
501(c) posted a video
demanding that the Justice Department publicly release the names of its "Al Quaeda Seven," seven Justice employees who served as counsel for Guantanamo detainees. Reaction has been swift
. [more inside]
"This was national scripture, a piece of our Constitution's history," she said of her find in November. "It was difficult to keep my hands from trembling."
"I was just sick and tired of Texas law that allowed the defendant to destroy the very evidence that we need to protect society."
Starting September 1st, police in Texas will be able to draw blood for alcohol testing from anyone involved in an auto accident without a warrant
. Lauded by law enforcement officials such as Williamson County DA John Bradley (quoted above), and Dallas Police Chief David "we believe in the no-refusal process,"
Kunkle, it has others worried
about what happens if someone refuses the test.
Today, on the last day of this year's term, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its opinion
, the latest in the Court's line of decisions on Title VII
and the role of race in employment decisions. The famous case centers on white firefighters' claims of race discrimination
following the town of New Haven's decision to scuttle a promotion exam
after white test takers performed disproportionately better than black firefighters. [more inside]