North Carolina Anti-Voting Law Finished By Court Challenges

Flickr/ David Drexler

By Derrick Robinson for Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law issued the following statement regarding today’s Supreme Court move which leaves in place the 4th Circuit’s decision regarding North Carolina’s comprehensive voter suppression measure: “The Supreme Court’s move today now renders North Carolina’s law null and void, and brings to close a long and protracted battle over a law deemed one of the most egregious voter suppression measures of its kind,” said Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law president and executive director, Kristen Clarke. “We are pleased that the Supreme Court has left in place the 4th Circuit’s decision finding North Carolina’s draconian voter suppression measure unlawful because it discriminated against minority voters with ‘almost surgical precision.’” “The battle over North Carolina’s law reflects the fallout from the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder which gut a core provision of the Voting Rights Act. Had the Section 5 federal review process remained in place, North Carolina’s discriminatory voting law would likely have been blocked at the outset and never would have gone into effect.

Settler State Repression: Standing Rock Battles Continue In The Courts

Indigenous rights activists at a tipi camp set up to protest the Dakota Access pipeline, on the National Mall in Washington, DC, on March 9, 2017. (Photo: Al Drago / The New York Times)

By Dahr Jamail for Truthout – As a means of making bombing, sanctioning or invading other countries palatable to the general population, the US government has consistently used the actions of other governments against their own people as an excuse. Those actions have included the use of chemical weapons, torture, setting dogs against people, beatings, surveillance, forcibly removing people from their land, jailing them unjustly, holding staged trials, and issuing verbal and physical threats, among many others. Yet, these same actions have been carried out by the US government, state governments and private security forces working on behalf of a private pipeline company (with the full backing of the US government) against Native people at Standing Rock. This story is not new. “The settler state arrives as an armed white man intent on staying,” said Nick Estes, who is Kul Wicasa from the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe and is a doctoral candidate in American Studies at the University of New Mexico, in an interview with Truthout.

Citizen Activism And The Courts

AP Photo/Winslow Townson

By David Cole for The American Prospect – David Cole’s Engines of Liberty is a welcome corrective to a conventional way of narrating constitutional law as being the work of federal courts, especially the Supreme Court, whose justices are nerd-celebrities, internet memes, and partisan heroes or villains. Cole argues that constitutional law comes from sources that are more democratic, and more obscure, than judges. It begins in the work of citizen activists, quixotic lawyers, and legal scholars willing to buck mainstream views and take unfamiliar ideas to their logical conclusions. If progressives hope the courts will stand in the way of Donald Trump’s enormities, Cole’s arguments suggest, they had better mobilize now for the constitutional values they hope to see judges protect in a few years. Cole makes his arguments by telling the background stories behind three important legal developments of the last 15 years: the Supreme Court’s embrace of same-sex marriage in 2015, its announcement of a constitutional right to individual gun possession in 2008, and its pushback against George W. Bush’s “War on Terror” in a series of cases concerning the rights of detainees and other targets of that “war.” In each instance, courts behaved surprisingly.

Judge Who Blocked Use Of Execution Drug Blasted For Anti-Death Penalty Protest

JASON REED / REUTERS
It looks like the Supreme Court won’t be reviewing one of the pressing issues involving the death penalty today.

By Kim Bellware for The Huffington Post – He criticized the University of Arkansas’ lack of racial diversity in 2002 and attacked President George W. Bush for the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq War in 2005. The latter may have been part of the reason he lost his re-election bid for the Arkansas Court of Appeals a few years later. In 2011, he won a seat on the state’s 6th Circuit court. “We have never, in my knowledge, been so afraid to admit that people can have personal beliefs yet can follow the law, even when to follow the law means they must place their personal feelings aside,” Griffen told The Associated Press on Saturday. Griffen’s ruling on Friday had put another wrench in the state’s plan to start the series of eight executions on Monday and complete them before its supply of one hard-to-obtain lethal injection drug expired. Two of the eight prisoners had already been granted stays of execution when a federal judge on Saturday halted those of the remaining inmates on grounds that the state’s hasty schedule denied them due process. McKesson Medical-Surgical moved to lift Griffen’s temporary restraining order following the federal court ruling, arguing that the order had become unnecessary.

Judge Scrapped Pennsylvania Families’ $4.24M Water Pollution Verdict In Gas Drilling Lawsuit

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By Sharon Kelly and Steve Horn for Nation of Change – For many residents of Carter Road in Dimock, Pennsylvania, it’s been nearly a decade since their lives were turned upside down by the arrival of Cabot Oil and Gas, a company whose Marcellus Shale hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) wells were plagued by a series of spills and other problems linked to the area’s contamination of drinking water supplies. With a new federal court ruling handed down late last Friday, a judge unwound a unanimous eight-person jury which had ordered Cabot to pay a total of $4.24 million over the contamination of two of those families’ drinking water wells. In a 58 page ruling, Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson discarded the jury’s verdict in Ely v. Cabot and ordered a new trial, extending the legal battle over one of the highest-profile and longest-running fracking-related water contamination cases in the country. In his order, Judge Carlson chastised the plaintiff’s lawyers for “repeatedly inviting the jury to engage in unwarranted speculation” and wrote that, in his personal estimation…

Mumia To Finally Receive Hep C Treatment

Mumia two shots combined

By Staff for the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home. On March 31, 2017, Mumia Abu-Jamal received a cruel mix of bad and good news from a prison doctor. The doctor shared the results of his recent lab test, which showed clear signs of cirrhosis, an irreversible scarring of the liver caused by his untreated Hep C. The doctor also informed Mumia that he would be treated with the Hep C cure within a week. The impending victory was bittersweet. Mumia shared his feelings with those he called that morning. His rare expression of emotion was also captured in an interview that evening in which he stated: “My first reaction was really shock, anger, disbelief. If I had been treated in 2015, if I had been treated in 2012 when they say they first diagnosed it, I wouldn’t be this far advanced.…For a lot of guys and a lot of gals inside the Pennsylvania prisons, I think it is a step forward and a great day, but I assure you I don’t feel that way right now.”

Colorado Appeals Court Ruling Calls For State To Consider Halting Oil And Gas Permits

Denver Business Journal

By Cathy Proctor for Denver Business Journal – The Colorado Court of Appeals said Thursday the state’s oil and gas commission must consider a petition from a group of Boulder teenagers to stop issuing permits for new wells until an independent third party proves that drilling can be done without harming public health or the environment. The three-judge panel, all women, heard the case involving the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) in February. The ruling was split, 2-1. The opinion was written by Judge Terry Fox, with Judge JoAnn Vogt concurring and Judge Laurie Booras dissenting.

FBI Has Already Gathered Millions Of 'Faceprints' for Facial Recognition

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By Derrick Broze for Activist Post. A House Committee questioned Kimberly Del Greco, Deputy Assistant Director at the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division, about why the bureau broke the law by failing to file a privacy impact statement acknowledging the collection of millions of Americans’ faces for the agency’s new biometric identification system. The FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) system is made up of fingerprints, iris scans, faceprints, and other facial recognition data. The NGI organizes Americans’ biometric data into a single file that includes personal and biographic data like name, home address, ID number, immigration status, age, race, etc. The Committee reports that nearly half of all adult Americans’ photographs are in the database. The 2013 U.S. Census Bureau estimated that there are over 242 million adults living in the U.S. If the Committee’s numbers are correct, over 121 million adults are in the FBI’s database. Other revelations include that 18 states have a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the FBI to share photos with the federal government, including from state departments of motor vehicles (DMV).

Ten Resisters Speak Truth To Power In The Courtroom

Pentagon protest with Berrigan cutout

By Max Obuszewski for Popular Resistance. According to Baggarly, “After leaving the courtroom, the assistant prosecutor, who had been nodding in agreement during much of our time speaking, thanked us very much for the education.” Embroski also indicated he would try to return the Dan Berrigan cut-outs and the banner which the police confiscated. Unfortunately, the defendants did not file a Motion to Preserve the Evidence. This would have forced the police to bring the banner and the cut-outs into court. It would have been a sight to see Dan Berrigan back in a courtroom. The eloquence of the defendants’ sentencing statements seemed to have an effect on Judge Davis. I sensed that he was touched by the sincerity of the statements. And for sure, there was a lot of speaking truth to power in a courtroom in Alexandria, VA, on March 2, 2017.

We’ll See You In Court, 2.0: Once A Muslim Ban, Still A Muslim Ban

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By David Cole for Just Security – If a Muslim Ban is cleaned up to exclude Iraq, exempt lawful permanent residents and other current visa holders, is it still a Muslim ban? That’s the question presented by President Donald Trump’s decision to replace his original executive order, enjoined by the courts, with a new one. The administration’s decision to abandon the old order is wise; every judge but one who had reviewed it found it raised grave constitutional concerns. The new order will be less catastrophic in its roll-out than the first, both because it exempts those who already have visas and because it will not go into effect until March 16. But it’s still religious discrimination in the pre-textual guise of national security.

Spain Sets Massive Precedent — Charges Its Central Bankers In Court

From activistpost.com

By Claire Bernish for Activist Post – First, Iceland, and now Spain has taken on the Big Bankers responsible for financial calamity, as the country’s highest national court charged the former head of Spain’s central bank, a market regulator, and five other banking officials over a failed bank leading to the loss of millions of euros for smaller investors. This, of course, markedly departs from the mammoth taxpayer giveaway — commonly referred to as the bailout — approved by the U.S. government ostensibly to “save” the Big Banks and, albeit unstated, allow the enormous institutions to continue bilking customers without the slightest fear of penalty. Errant bankers and financiers, it would seem, typically manage to either evade actually being charged, or escape hefty fines and time behind bars. Spain’s Supreme Court last year ruled “serious inaccuracies” in information about the listing led investors to back Bankia in error, thus the bank has since paid out millions of euros in compensation.

FERC4 Will Conduct Their Own Defense At June Trial

A sign held at an anti-Enbridge protest in Vancouver. (Photo: travis blanston/flickr/cc)

By Fossil Free Rhode Island for IR Future – , D.C.—At the status hearing today in Superior Court of the District of Columbia, three of the FERC4, Peter Nightingale of Kingston RI, Claude Guillemard of Baltimore, MD, Ellen Taylor of Washington, D.C., and Donald Weightman of Philadelphia, PA, committed to representing themselves at their criminal trial, scheduled for June 21, 2017. The FERC4 were arrested with three other activists during a peaceful protest at the headquarters of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in May, 2016. The action was part of the Rubber Stamp Rebellion, a demonstration led by the activist group Beyond Extreme Energy. The FERC4 have been charged with “unlawful entry,” Attorney Mark Goldstone will advise the FERC4 and represent Ellen Taylor, who stated: “We need to show the world that FERC is on trial.”

We Are Willing to Spend Time in Jail Fighting for Environmental Justice

Climate Change only thing bigger is the movement

By Emily Johnston for Alternet. This will not be an easy fight. There will be many tragedies. But for a very short period of time, it’s still within our power to avert devastation. We can demand a decent future, one in which we move with the utmost speed and care to clean energy, and with the utmost compassion to manage the displacement that climate change is already causing. My friends and I are willing to spend time in jail to be part of that fight. We think it’s our responsibility—especially because we’re older white people, and thus much less likely to face police violence, and less likely to have our families or professional lives derailed by a conviction. And in every community we’ve spoken to—perhaps most especially the churches—people tell us they’re willing, too. We only have this one chance. We only have a few years. This is the time to ask, what are the ways that you can fight—for your loved ones, and for all the vulnerable people and creatures of this beautiful world? Will you look away, or will you do all you can to save this world?

Extreme Enforcement Abuse At Standing Rock & Where It’s Going

Civil rights attorney Jeffrey Haas at Standing Rock in fall 2016. (Photo: Eric Deweese)

By Dahr Jamail for Truthout. What are your concerns with the Trump administration as to how much worse this could become, particularly after his recent executive order? Trump has been an investor in the pipeline. He says he’s decreased his investment, which I question. He’s made the construction of pipelines and general fossil fuel development a large part of his program. I think he’ll make Standing Rock a target. Instead of the Army Corps of Engineers having a new EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] done, as it is calling for, he’ll erase that, and tell the pipeline if they drill under the lake they won’t be prosecuted anyway. I fear that law enforcement will feel they have a free hand to use excessive, and possibly lethal, force on the Water Protectors.

Changing Bail Policy For Misdemeanors Isn't Enough

Bail protest in New Orleans, November 2017, Photo by Chris Granger, Nola

By Jarvis DeBerry for The Times-Picayune. If ours is a country where people are presumed innocent until they’re proved guilty, then we shouldn’t demand that criminal suspects dig into their pockets to get out of jail before they are tried. If we are legitimately afraid that some suspects are a threat to the public, then we shouldn’t be comfortable with them getting out before trial no matter how much money they can pay. In March, Loyola law professor Bill Quigley wrote about two Texas church ladies who spent almost a week in jail in New Iberia on the suspicion that they pilfered two hot dogs, milkshakes and an Icee from a convenience store. Even though they drove the 400 miles from Dallas to plead not guilty and present receipts they said proved their innocence, the judge decided that because they were from out of town, he needed to set bail to guarantee their appearance. He expected the women to come up with $1,740 each. They stayed in jail until an attorney in town heard about their plight and paid for their release.