A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: constitution

Washington, DC: Everyone’s Favorite Political Football

By Halina Schiffman-Shilo

Every once in a while, I get so worked up about my hometown that I decide to finally, finally write an open letter to the members of Congress telling them how I feel. It would go something like this:

“Dear Congressperson,

Please keep your personal politics and religious beliefs out of my city.

All the best,

Halina”

I never do, though, because unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

A few weeks ago, the Huffington Post reported that Arizona Representative Trent Franks (R) wants to pass a law in Washington, DC, which would prohibit women 20 weeks pregnant or more from obtaining abortions. There is no exception for cases of rape or incest. More recently, Utah Senator Mike Lee (R) introduced a similar bill for Washington, DC in the Senate. Now, abortion politics aside, you may be wondering how a representative from another state could pass a law for the citizens of DC—citizens, I might add, who did not vote for either Representative Franks or Senator Lee.

If you’re not from DC yourself, you’re probably wondering how this can be.  HuffPo didn’t explain so LASIS will.  (more…)

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ACTA: A Treaty by Any Other Name

By Ryan Morrison

Grab your pitchforks and torches, folks, it’s time once again for the internet to get angry! It was barely over a week ago that the web went dark in protest of SOPA and PIPA, evoking a grass roots movement unlike any other. Millions of angry citizens called, e-mailed, or petitioned their representatives to pull support from the two bills, and many did just that. So, alright! We win!

Well, actually, we don’t. Not yet, anyway. We may be an angry mob, but we’re also much less experienced down the rabbit hole of the political wonderland that our representatives call home. Allow me to introduce the AntiCounterfeiting Trade Agreement. Imagine a version of SOPA or PIPA, agreed to on an international level.

Since it was made public by Wikileaks in 2008, there have been strong opponents of ACTA, but far fewer than the multitudes who railed against SOPA or PIPA. The best-known piece to have come out against ACTA is a 2010 letter signed by over 75 legal academics, including New York Law School’s own Professor David Johnson.

In recent weeks, a large number of online protestors came forward, begging the president not to sign ACTA, but turns out he had already signed it last October — (whoops! A little late guys!) —  at a signing ceremony in Tokyo.  Also in attendance and signing on:  heads of state from Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea.

In addition, as I’m writing this article, there are reports that ACTA was just ratified by 22 European nations with the rest expected to follow shortly. This has led to many largescale protests (some Polish Parliament members even showed up in Guy Fawkes masks) throughout the continent.

With ACTA signed into law by President Obama, American protestors, realizing they were a little late to the protest party, claim, in effect, that the party ain’t over yet.  Petitions and articles are cropping up, questioning the constitutionality of President Obama signing ACTA with no intention of letting Congress ratify it.

The issue comes down to this:  Does President Obama need this “treaty” ratified by Congress as protestors claim, or is this an “executive agreement” within his power to sign into law as the administration claims? Plenty of opinions out there. (see here, here, and here).  LASIS sticks to  the facts.   (more…)

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Men Hitting on Women

By Ryan Morrison

Unless you’re a terrible human being, chances are you’re against men hitting women. Sure, you are also probably against anyone hitting anyone, but a more extreme emotion gets triggered when you hear about a husband beating his wife or a celebrity hospitalizing his girlfriend. So then, should we be able to punish a man who hits a woman more severely than same-sex or female-on-male assaults? North Carolina certainly thinks so.

But Professor Eugene Volokh of the UCLA School of Law, who runs the über-popular legal blog The Volokh Conspiracybelieves the Tarheel State assault statute may conflict with the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Equal Protection Clause on gender classification. The state seems to be relying on a North Carolina Court of Appeals case from 1979, State v Gurganus, as its rationale for upholding the sentencing disparity. But the 1979 ruling may be inconsistent with two Supreme Court cases, one in 1976, Craig v. Boren and one in 1996, United States v. Virgina.

Professor Volokh raised an interesting issue — but then left it dangling.  May a state punish men more severely than women? LASIS takes a closer look.   (more…)

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Mike Bloomberg, Esq.? Occupy Wall Street and Tents

By Russell Smith

It is getting cold out there for Occupy Wall Street (OWS). The occupiers planned ahead, ordering ten 16-by-16 foot and ten 11-by-11 foot tents designed to withstand frigid temperatures and stave off hypothermia.

One person already feeling ill: New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Since OWS began, he has had the unenviable task of trying to appear tough on crime while simultaneously sympathetic to free speech. As a billionaire himself, he does not want to poke a stick at the other 99 percent, so he says “there is no easy answer … but the right answer is to allow people to protest.”  Then he finds about the high cost of policing the protest, so he says that the occupiers “are trying to… take away the jobs of people working in the city, take away the tax base that we have. We’re not going to have money to pay our municipal employees or anything else.”

Back in October, Mr. Bloomberg tried to draw a line in the sand. Referring to the small tents which were popping up in Zuccotti Park, Mr. Bloomberg declared that “[t]he Constitution doesn’t protect tents. It protects speech and assembly.”

Mr. Bloomberg’s impressive resume does not include law school, so it is not surprising that he seems to have misinterpreted the First Amendment. The Constitution does “protect tents”, and here’s why.   (more…)

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Legal Debate About the Drone Killing of a U.S. Citizen

Editor’s Note:

Russell Smith has written for LASIS before. He believes (strongly) that we violated the law in assassinating a U.S. citizen without so much as a hearing, thus depriving him of his due process rights.

Lawrence Roarke is new to these pages. In his opinion (a strong one, too), the U.S. acted within its legal rights and did what it had to do to protect all of us.

Each of them analyzes the killing from a legal standpoint. Each makes good points.  Who’s right?

You decide.

Read Mr. Smith’s “The President’s License to Kill

Read Mr. Roarke’s “Government Killing of Anwar al-Awlaki was Constitutional

We’d love to hear from you about these viewpoints, and to start a conversation with other politically and legal minded folks.

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