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CIVIL RIGHTS POLICIES, ANALYSIS, AND RESOURCES

The Civil Rights Domain tracks and reports on policies that deal with voter rights, police brutality, free speech, the right to privacy, and other human rights enshrined in our constitution. This domain tracks policies emanating from the White House, the Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and state legislatures. Our Principal Analyst is Rod Maggay who can be reached at rod@usresistnews.org.

Latest Civil Rights Posts

 

State Voter Suppression Tactics Continue Even After The Elections

In the aftermath of the 2018 midterm elections which saw the Democratic Party make significant gains with additional seats in the House of Representatives and the number of state governorships, state legislators in four swing states with current Republican majorities have introduced legislation that would impose additional barriers on citizens’ right to vote. And they have also introduced legislation that would curb the powers of the governor and state election boards from making changes to these new laws if implemented.

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Federal Oversight of Local Police Stifled by New DOJ Policy; Federal Agency Action

On November 7, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued the memorandum “Principles and Procedures for Civil Consent Decrees and Settlement Agreements with State and Local Government Entities” to the Department of Justice (DOJ). He issued the memorandum moments before he resigned as Attorney General. Consent decrees are often used by the department in order to force state and local entities to comply with constitutional and federal laws.

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The “Politics” of Fighting For A Supreme Court Seat

On July 9, 2018, President Donald J. Trump nominated Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to become an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Judge Kavanaugh was nominated to replace Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy who stepped down after thirty years on the Court.

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State Voter Suppression Tactics Continue Even After The Elections

State Voter Suppression Tactics Continue Even After The Elections

Brief #72—Civil Rights

Policy Summary
In the aftermath of the 2018 midterm elections which saw the Democratic Party make significant gains with additional seats in the House of Representatives and the number of state governorships, state legislators in four swing states with current Republican majorities have introduced legislation that would impose additional barriers on citizens’ right to vote. And they have also introduced legislation that would curb the powers of the governor and state election boards from making changes to these new laws if implemented.

In Wisconsin, the state legislature introduced bills that would prevent the incoming Democratic governor from modifying the state voter ID law to permit more people to vote. And they introduced a bill to eliminate an early voting period. In Michigan, Republicans introduced a bill that would overturn Election Day registration. In Ohio, Republicans in the state legislature introduced bills that would add additional requirements to amend the state constitution as well as a requirement that signatures on initiatives and petitions are only valid for 180 days. And in North Carolina, the Republicans in that state legislature are trying to pass a bill that would prohibit the Democratic governor from vetoing a new voter ID law that passed on Election Day. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Analysis: These bills, which came swiftly after Democratic gains on Election Day, clearly show that many Republican politicians are not interested in protecting every eligible voter’s constitutional right to vote. Each proposal has a common theme in that each erects an unnecessary barrier for citizens who want to vote or suggest improvements in providing access to the ballot box.

The proposal in Wisconsin does nothing more but handcuff the new governor from adding additional acceptable forms of ID that people can show when they try to vote. The likely effect is less voters coming to the polls.

The Michigan proposal overturning Election Day registration is in direct contravention of a ballot initiative that was overwhelmingly approved weeks before on Election Day. If voters in Michigan approve of registration of voters on Election Day, why did the state legislature introduce a bill that would overturn that initiative?

Ohio Republicans also tried to defy the will of their voters. A ballot initiative put to the voters approved a constitutional amendment that would make gerrymandering more difficult in Ohio. Yet Republicans in the state legislature responded by changing the rules on constitutional amendments and initiatives – constitutional amendments may now have to meet a higher threshold (60% of voters need to approve now instead of a simple majority) and signatures on initiatives and petitions are only valid for 180 days. This will cause any future initiatives to have a shorter timetable to be approved in Ohio, thus increasing chances of initiatives being defeated before even being placed on ballots for voters to vote on.

And Republicans in North Carolina weren’t to be left out in the rush to try and suppress future voters. Even though federal courts deemed their original voter ID law unconstitutional in 2013, the state put the voter ID law back on the ballot in 2018, which surprisingly got approved by voters. However, North Carolina Republicans are attempting to introduce a bill that would implement the amendment faster than normal so that the Governor cannot veto the amendment. While the result is clearly to suppress voters, the incident in North Carolina is also an issue of the powers of each branch of government and how political parties are manipulating the levers of power to get what they want.

These bills can best be explained with this Twitter post from the MaddowBlog which shows the wide gap in statewide voting and the distribution of state legislative seats. Democrats may have won more than 50% of the popular vote in these states but they are only winning 40% and even less of the total state legislative seats. The bills we have seen seem directed at keeping certain political parties in power at all costs even including ignoring the popular will of the voters. These bills are unnecessary and are blatant power grabs to keep Republican politicians and policies in power despite not even getting a majority of the votes cast statewide. LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources:

  • Common Cause – non – profit group focused on ending gerrymandering in the U.S.
  • Fair Vote – non – profit group infopage on redistricting and harms of gerrymandering.
  • Campaign Legal Center – non – profit group fighting to protect and strengthen the U.S. political process.

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org.

Photo by Arnaud Jaegers

North Carolina Election Highlights Need To Prioritize Election Integrity; State Elections

North Carolina Election Highlights Need To Prioritize Election Integrity; State Elections

Brief #71—Civil Rights

Policy Summary
On November 6, 2018, the United States held its biennial federal elections. As dictated by the U.S. Constitution, every seat in the House of Representatives was up for election as well as the required 1/3 of the total Senate seats which meant thirty – three Senate seats were being contested (as well as an additional two seats due a special election being called for a total of thirty – five Senate seats being contested nationwide).

In North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District the election was between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready. After the votes were tabulated, Mr. Harris had a 905 vote lead over Mr. McCready with more than 280,000 votes cast in the district.  Mr. McCready conceded the election the next day. However, the state Democratic Party in North Carolina soon after filed numerous affidavits with North Carolina’s Board of Elections alleging wrongdoing with regard to the election in North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District and local elections in Bladen County. On November 30, 2018, in a unanimous vote, the Board of Elections announced that they would delay certifying the congressional election and declaring a winner due to “claims of irregularities and fraudulent activities.” They also announced that they voted 7 – 2 to hold a public hearing on December 21, 2018 “to assure that the election is determined without taint of fraud or corruption and without irregularities that may have changed the result.” LEARN MORE

Analysis: While the issue of voter suppression has focused primarily on the issues of gerrymandering, voter ID requirements and discriminatory tactics, other tactics are just as often used and should not be ignored. The 2018 election from North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District and from nearby Bladen and Robeson Counties helps to illustrate how far some people will go to manipulate an election in order to have an outcome that they desire. The incidents are disturbing and have the potential to cast doubt not just on the integrity of North Carolina elections but on elections nationwide and the concept of democracy in the U.S.

In Bladen and Robeson counties, 3,400 absentee ballots were requested by voters but a high percentage were not completed and not mailed back. An analysis by the News & Observer found that many of the unreturned absentee ballots were from minority voters nearly 3 times more than from white voters who requested absentee ballots. This follows on the heels of Mr. Harris’ win in the primary election held in May where he won an astonishing 96 percent of all absentee ballots cast in Bladen County. Also, Bladen County voter Datesha Montgomery stated in a sworn statement that a woman came to her door and told her that she was collecting absentee ballots. Ms. Montgomery voted for two local elections and then was told by the woman to sign the envelope and that the woman told her that she would finish the voting on the absentee ballot for Ms. Montgomery. At least five other people have stated in sworn statements that people came to their doors and offered to fill out absentee ballots for them. These incidents occurred in neighborhoods that were primarily African – American. These are certainly troubling incidents and the Board of Elections made the right decision in delaying certification in the congressional race and in further investigating the allegations of irregularities and fraud. It is not about gerrymandering or voter ID but the incidents in North Carolina are still an assault on democratic principles and should be investigated so something like this will be prevented from happening again. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources:

  • The Voter Participation Center – non – profit group dedicated to registering and mobilizing the American electorate.
  • HeadCount – non – profit group’s infopage on states voting information.
  • Vote.org – online guide with up to date information on voting rights.

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org

Photo by Element5 Digital

Federal Oversight of Local Police Stifled by New DOJ Policy; Federal Agency Action

Federal Oversight of Local Police Stifled by New DOJ Policy; Federal Agency Action

Brief #70—Civil Rights

Summary
On November 7, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued the memorandum “Principles and Procedures for Civil Consent Decrees and Settlement Agreements with State and Local Government Entities” to the Department of Justice (DOJ). He issued the memorandum moments before he resigned as Attorney General. Consent decrees are often used by the department in order to force state and local entities to comply with constitutional and federal laws. The decrees are notable for being used mostly to counter police department misconduct and abuse at the state and local level. The memorandum issued by Mr. Sessions contains numerous policy goals but also imposed three requirements for the continued use of consent decrees. The decrees must now [1] be approved by higher level DOJ political appointees rather than the lawyer managing the case, [2] require additional evidence of misconduct beyond claims of unconstitutional behavior and [3] must have a defined expiration date. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Analysis
The memorandum issued by Mr. Sessions moments before he resigned is consistent with his approach towards federal oversight of state and local entities such as local police departments. Mr. Sessions has been a firm believer that state and local institutions should have more autonomy and not be hamstrung by demands and obligations made by a federal bureaucracy thousands of miles away. Mr. Sessions even remarked that the use of consent decrees to manage state and local law enforcement departments infringes on a state’s “sovereignty.” What is also notable is his prodding to have consent decrees include an expiration date which would mean a consent decree could end on a specified date without regard to if improvements are making progress or not.

But Mr. Sessions emphasis on upholding a state’s sovereignty misses the point. In this article examining the use of consent decrees in a number of cities from PoliceOne, a pro – law enforcement website, many of the cities that have entered into consent decrees with DOJ to improve their police departments have reported meaningful progress and improved police community relations. What is happening in cities like Ferguson, Seattle, Chicago, Cleveland and others are improvements that would not have been implemented had the federal government and DOJ not gotten involved. These agreements have helped to put into place trainings into how to properly approach the use of deadly force and how to handle motor vehicle stops in a less confrontational way. These cities have also been some of the first to use dashboard and body cams on officers to try and increase accountability for an officer’s actions. And in this report from the Washington Post, jurisdictions that have entered into consent decrees have seen a decline in civil rights lawsuits filed against local police departments. While not all consent decrees entered into can be viewed as successful, it is clear that having them does provide some benefits to communities and to the police departments themselves. Mr. Sessions own personal ideology and his desire in preserving a state’s “sovereignty” and the ability to make decisions on their own shouldn’t be the rationale to dispose of a tool that has brought improvement to communities that needed it and did not get from appealing only to their individual states. If states working together with the federal government help to bring about change then the use of consent decrees should continue under the new Attorney General. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources:

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org.

Photo by unsplash-logoMatt Popovich

Two Important Georgia Voting Cases Issue Rulings Days Before 2018 Election

Two Important Georgia Voting Cases Issue Rulings Days Before 2018 Election

Brief #69—Civil Rights

Policy Summary: On October 30, 2018, Judge Leigh Martin May of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia ruled against Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s request to stay an injunction that the judge issued the week prior. Judge May’s injunction prevented Georgia election officials from throwing out absentee ballots. Georgia election officials had been tossing out absentee ballots if the voter’s signature on the ballot did not match exactly the signature of the voter on their initial voter registration document kept by the state. Judge Martin’s ruling will allow the absentee ballots to be counted for this current 2018 election cycle.

On November 2, 2018, in a separate case, Judge Eleanor L. Ross issued a much broader ruling on Georgia’s “exact match” voting policy by ruling that 3,141 voter registrations that had been marked “pending” by the state be allowed to vote in the upcoming elections on November 6, 2018. Some voters, including a high proportion of minority voters, who registered to vote in Georgia had their registrations listed as “pending” if personal information in their registration did not match exactly personal information found in Georgia Department of Driver Services or Social Security databases. Judge Ross’ ruling permits those “pending” voters to vote in the 2018 election cycle. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Analysis: These two court rulings are important rulings that highlight the danger of voter suppression tactics. In the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial race, Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp are in a very tight race with the projected winner still too close to call. Election officials have called their exact match policy an effort to clean up the voter rolls and bring integrity to the process of registering voters. But with as many as 53,000 registrations marked pending and nearly 70% of those from minority voters it was possible that preventing those votes from being counted could easily have had an effect on the 2018 gubernatorial race. The exact match policy currently in force in Georgia also gives those voters who have had their voter registrations marked pending 26 months to correct inconsistencies in their registrations. But that option still did not allow those voters to cast their ballot this Tuesday. Georgia’s preferred course in not counting the ballots and then telling the voter to fix the problem after Election Day has passed would have had the same effect – that eligible voters would not have had their ballot counted in this election cycle. In her ruling Judge Ross stated that voters with pending voter registration applications would suffer “irreparable harm if they lose the right to vote.” And Judge May wrote in her ruling that “the public interest is best served by allowing qualified absentee voters to vote and have their votes counted.” With less than a week to Election Day in 2018, these two rulings will help to ensure in Georgia that all eligible voters who cast a ballot will have it counted and not have it thrown out for minor clerical or political partisan reasons. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources:

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org.

Photo by Parker Johnson

California and U.S. Department of Justice Reach Tentative Agreement in Ongoing Net Neutrality Fight

California and U.S. Department of Justice Reach Tentative Agreement in Ongoing Net Neutrality Fight

Policy Summary
In 2018, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) promulgated the “Restoring Internet Freedom Order.” That order rolled back regulations from 2015 that were originally intended to bar Internet service providers from blocking or slowing down access to content or charging users more for selected content. The order curtailing the 2015 regulations went into effect on June 11, 2018. In addition, the FCC also passed regulations that banned individual states from passing their own net neutrality regulations.

On September 30, 2018, California Governor Edmund “Jerry” Brown, Jr. signed Senate Bill (SB) 822 which would put back into place the 2015 FCC regulations that were curtailed by the Restoring Internet Freedom Order. The California bill would apply to internet service providers located in California and is scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2019. On the very same day that Governor Brown signed the bill into law, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed suit against California to block the law from ever going into effect. On October 26, 2018, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced that an agreement had been reached with DOJ. The Department of Justice agreed to temporarily suspend their lawsuit against the state while California agreed to delay enforcement of the law after January 1st, 2019 until a separate net neutrality lawsuit being heard in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is resolved which could take years. LEARN MORE

Analysis
The ongoing battle over the future of net neutrality regulations, which have always been contentious, made further headlines with the speed with which the battle is being fought. After the Restoring Internet Freedom Order took effect in June thirty states introduced bills to try and preserve net neutrality in their states while six state governors signed executive orders declaring that their individual state will not do business with internet service providers that violate net neutrality. And, DOJ did not even wait a day to oppose California’s SB 822 as they filed suit opposing the bill the very same day Governor Brown signed the bill into law which clearly shows DOJ knew what was coming and was prepared to fight it out.

What the FCC and the Federal Government have failed to recognize is that they are engaging in a fight for a policy that does not have wide support. The mis-named Restoring Internet Freedom Order does nothing of the sort. What the order does is it will give internet service providers such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast the ability to determine which content they want to prioritize and provide to consumers. Lawful content not to their liking can be blocked or slowed down or even subject to an additional fee. The 2015 regulations sought to provide an even playing field by forcing companies to provide all lawful content at the same technical speed and by preventing companies from charging an additional fee for other content that was not their own. The fact that more than half of the states in the U.S. introduced bills preserving the 2015 net neutrality regulations should have alerted these companies that there was not wide support for the Restoring Internet Freedom Order that changed those 2015 regulations.

The FCC also made a tactical mistake by stating in the order that individual states could not pass their own net neutrality regulations. That section of the order was seen as a way for the FCC to thumb their noses at the rest of the country and say that the states could have no say in the future of net neutrality. That only seemed to fire up the net neutrality opponents even more. Had the FCC been more attuned to the pulse of ordinary citizens instead of beholden to the monetary donations of internet service provider companies and not been so arrogant in trying to silence individual states from having a say on the issue, then they would have seen that the new regulations is not something that the American public wants. The FCC would do better to reach out and objectively determine what most ordinary Americans want with their Internet instead of trying to force a policy that only the large telecommunications companies wanted. Instead, the FCC will get bogged down in a long litigation case and become potentially a loser in a fight that they did not have to fight in the first place. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources:

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org

Photo by rawpixel

Voter Suppression Accusations Takes Center Stage In 2018 Georgia Gubernatorial Race

Voter Suppression Accusations Takes Center Stage In 2018 Georgia Gubernatorial Race

Brief #67—Civil Rights

Policy Summary
On October 11, 2018, a federal lawsuit was filed in a federal district court in Georgia to prevent the “exact match” protocol used by the Elections Division of the Georgia Secretary of State Office, which organizes and oversees all election activity in the state. The lawsuit was brought by a coalition of civil rights organizations including the NAACP and a number of Asian – American and Latino groups. The lawsuit was prompted by a report from the Associated Press that approximately 53,000 voting registrations in the state were “pending” because of the “exact match” policy. That policy can deny an eligible voter’s voter registration application if any personal information in the application does not match exactly the voter’s personal information when cross – checked with information in motor vehicle and Social Security databases. An analysis by the Associated Press found that nearly 70% of those pending registrations were from Black voters while 80.15% of the registrations were from Black, Latino and Asian – American voters. The Georgia Secretary of State overseeing the Elections Division is Mr. Brian Kemp who is a white man currently running for Governor of Georgia in the upcoming 2018 election. His opponent is Ms. Stacey Abrams, an African – American woman looking to become the first African – American female governor in United States history. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Analysis: The “exact match” protocol is a controversial voter verification technique but with the upcoming 2018 gubernatorial election in Georgia the flaws of the policy has been magnified even more because of the racial background of the election. The potential to bar nearly 53,000 eligible voters from casting a vote in the upcoming elections is disturbing enough on its face. But when the Associated Press’s analysis of the 53,000 “pending” voter registrations revealed that 80.15% of the applications were from people of color, the discussion took on a racial element and raised questions of voter suppression of minority voters especially considering that minority voters traditionally vote Democratic. (Stacey Abrams is a Democrat while Brian Kemp is a Republican).

The problem with the “exact match” protocol is that any small or minor error can prevent the voter from successfully registering to vote. A missing hyphen, a couple of transposed numbers in an address or phone number or a data entry error by a voting official can bar a registration application. This system is not reliable because of errors that can be made that are not under the control of the voter – data entry errors from the official, errors in a third – party database (DMV or Social Security offices) or name, phone number or address changes (marriage/maiden names, new cell phone, students with numerous addresses in college). It is a system that Georgia had implemented once before they were sued and agreed to make changes in a settlement agreement. However, Georgia went ahead and re-enacted a different version of the same law with the only major change being how many months a voter has to correct their application.

Due to the Georgia governor’s race being between a white male and an African – American female and the “pending” voter registrations affecting mostly people of color, it is hard to ignore the accusations that the Georgia GOP are trying to suppress minority votes and gain an unfair advantage. Those accusations seem to gain more traction with Republican candidate Brian Kemp in charge of the elections as Secretary of State while simultaneously running for governor, which raises a serious conflict of interest issue. There was also the bizarre incident where Georgia Republican Senator David Perdue grabbed a college student’s cell phone when asked a question about voter identification policies which goes on to contribute to the image of the GOP being hostile to efforts to encourage everyone to vote. With the re-enactment of the controversial “exact match” policy, conflict of interest issue with one of the candidates and the racial elements of the election, it is becoming more difficult to see if the GOP has any real interest in tearing down barriers that permits every eligible voter to cast his or her ballot without regard to race or partisan politics. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources:

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org

Photo by Arnaud Jaegers

When Sexual Assault Survivors Demanded To Be Heard The U.S. Senate Deliberately Chose To Ignore

When Sexual Assault Survivors Demanded To Be Heard The U.S. Senate Deliberately Chose To Ignore

Brief #66—Civil Rights

Policy Summary
President Donald J. Trump, on July 9, 2018, nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the United States Supreme Court. Justice Kennedy had announced his intention to retire after thirty years on the court. The Senate Judiciary Committee commenced hearings on September 3, 2018. The hearings later took a dramatic turn when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward to testify that Judge Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when both students were in high school in the early 1980’s. Dr. Ford stated that she was 100% certain her assailant was Judge Kavanaugh. Judge Kavanaugh denied the accusations and stated, “I swear to God” that he did not assault Dr. Ford or anyone else. Prior to the scheduled end of the hearings, Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) asked the White House to ask the FBI to conduct a supplemental investigation into the allegations made by Dr. Ford and other women who came forward with similar stories of sexual assault at the hands of Judge Kavanaugh. (The FBI had already conducted a standard background check of Judge Kavanaugh after he was nominated). President Trump then ordered an additional investigation that would focus only on the sexual assault allegations. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Analysis
When Senator Flake asked the White House to direct the FBI to conduct an investigation into the sexual assault allegations against Judge Kavanaugh there was a sense that Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court was in peril and might ultimately be defeated. However, the parameters and limited scope of the supplemental investigation have instead raised the issue of whether the Senate Judiciary Committee and other members of the Senate were truly interested in discovering the facts of the allegations. When Dr. Ford came forward with her allegations many of her supporters rallied to her side with variations of the phrase “I Believe Her.” This phrase is significant because in the context of a sexual assault allegation, victims were often portrayed as fabricating their story, exaggerating what happened and of being crazy and/or mentally unstable. It was a technique used to minimize or diminish what happened with the result that the perpetrator would get away with doing what they did to the victim. Listening and believing a sexual assault survivor or victim has become a central point in the national discussion on sexual assault today.

But when the supplemental investigation undertaken by the FBI was limited it illustrated that lawmakers at the highest levels of government may have been willing to put aside the concerns of those sexual assault survivors and their supporters for political purposes. If a central concern of these groups is in having victims of sexual assault be heard and believed and not be dismissed so easily, then the decision to limit the supplemental investigation into the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh was an unfortunate decision. The investigation did not interview Dr. Ford or look into her list of witnesses that she claimed could have corroborated her story. The FBI did not interview Julie Swetnick, another accuser who alleged she was assaulted in a sworn affidavit. Nor were other classmates of Judge Kavanaugh in high school and at Yale were allowed to testify to Judge Kavanaugh’s heavy drinking habits and tendency to black out from too much alcohol. This testimony could have gone far in establishing that Judge Kavanaugh may have been untruthful in his Senate committee testimony and could have helped to establish the truth of the allegations of the accusers. Instead, the Senators of the committee blatantly ignored the demands of sexual assault survivors to be heard and allowed an investigation probe in a way that appeared that the result was pre-determined. The investigation lent the impression that the Senators did not want to find anything against Judge Kavanaugh. It was not a thorough investigation but was instead a sham and did a great disservice to sexual assault survivors across America who are still struggling to have their stories heard. If lawmakers at the highest level showed that they did not want to listen to sexual assault survivors for a confirmation hearing, then how can these survivors believe that the government will help them change the culture and start believing women in these types of incidents? LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources:

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org

Photo by rawpixel

The “Politics” of Fighting For A Supreme Court Seat

The “Politics” of Fighting For A Supreme Court Seat

Brief #64—Civil Rights

Policy Summary
On July 9, 2018, President Donald J. Trump nominated Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to become an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Judge Kavanaugh was nominated to replace Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy who stepped down after thirty years on the Court. President Trump’s nominee was then sent to the U.S. Senate which only needs a majority vote to approve the nomination. Prior to the whole chamber voting on the selection, the Senate Judiciary Committee, with twenty-one members, reviews the nomination and decides if the person should be referred to the entire Senate chamber for a vote. The committee began hearings on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination on September 4, 2018 and proceeded with questions for Judge Kavanaugh about notable Supreme Court cases and other areas of constitutional law. On September 27, 2018, the committee held a hearing to discuss allegations by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford that Judge Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while they were high school students. The committee eventually voted along party lines (11 Republicans in favor and 10 Democrats against) to submit the nomination to the full Senate. However, a vote by the entire chamber was delayed due to a request by Senator Jeff Flake from Arizona that a supplemental FBI investigation be undertaken, specifically to the additional allegations from different women that emerged prior to and after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. LEARN MORE

Analysis
The hearing into the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court should have been a routine confirmation until it was rocked by allegations of sexual assault by one of Judge Kavanaugh’s high school acquaintances. What those allegations did was expose the extreme politicization of the selection of judges to the United States judiciary and what the long lasting effects of this could be. Judges are supposed to be impartial and handle the facts and cases as presented to them at trial and to interpret the words and meaning of statutes as presented in the appellate record. Problems begin to arise when judges start to make policy decisions and interpret statutes according to their own political beliefs and personal worldview. The legislative branch in each individual state and Congress at the federal level are charged with policy making and if any changes need to be made to existing law, then in theory, citizens should take their case to their respective legislatures.

However, recent years have seen a frustration with the work of state legislatures and Congress. There is a general feeling that elected representatives are not responsive to the wishes of their constituencies and so taking an issue to court is seen as preferable than “going to your Congressman.” Courts, especially the Supreme Court, are now seen as the last word on hot button issues. Knowing that any issue that reaches the Supreme Court can become the final word at the appellate level on policy issues has only raised the stakes as to which judges will be permitted to sit on the court.

Religious people with objections against LGBT and same – sex marriage have seen the Supreme Court invalidate anti – sodomy laws in 2003 in Lawrence v. Texas and allow same – sex marriage in 2015 in Obergefell v. Hodges. Civil rights activists have touted the work of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 only to see the Supreme Court invalidate one of the major provisions of that statute in 2013 with Shelby County v. Holder, which weakened that voting protection law considerably. And in Citizens United v. FEC in 2010, the Supreme Court overturned established law going back more than fifty years and opened the door to unlimited campaign contributions from corporations.

What judges are being asked to do is take sides on a policy issue when they should instead strive to be impartial. Instead of calling your representative – who may or may not ignore you – to make a policy change, the preferred route now is to go to court and have a judge rule on the merits of a policy that probably should have been heard by the legislature. This is why the selection of judges and Supreme Court justices has become such a bruising fight. Their personal beliefs or worldview could very well have major consequences as to the validity of policy issues as the same sex, civil rights and campaign finance cases mentioned above make clear. It is unclear if these sexual assault allegations will derail Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the highest court in the land but knowing that he may have a say on important issues – the future of abortion or a ruling on whether or not a president can be indicted – has caused Republicans and Democrats to not give an inch and play for keeps and see this fight for a Supreme Court seat all the way to the bitter end. LEARN MORE

  • Engagement Resources:
  • Brennan Center for Justice – resource for info and topics on the federal judiciary.
  • Cato Institute – research institute’s blogpost on the effects of “politicizing the judiciary.”

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org

Photo by Claire Anderson

California’s Landmark Gender Law Is A Boost For Women In Corporate Boardrooms

California’s Landmark Gender Law Is A Boost For Women In Corporate Boardrooms

Brief #41—Civil Rights

Policy Summary
On January 3, 2018, California State Senators Toni Atkins and Hannah – Beth Jackson introduced Senate Bill 826. This bill sought to make additions to California’s Corporations Code regarding the composition of a company’s board of directors.

Beginning in 2019, publicly held corporations whose principal executive offices are located in California must have a minimum of one female person serving on the board of directors.

In 2021, California will implement a tiered system based on the total number of directors on the board. If there are four or fewer total directors on a board, one director must be female. If the number of total directors is five, the board must have a minimum of two female directors. If the total number of directors is six or more, the board must have a minimum of three female directors. On September 30, 2018, Governor Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown signed the bill into law. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Analysis
In his signing statement, Governor Brown acknowledged that the new law may have some “serious legal concern” because of its gender – based classification and how that may be treated under the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. That clause provides that “No State shall…deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws” which has been interpreted to mean all persons are to be treated equally under the law. Under the current legal analysis of gender based classifications, a state is granted a loophole to deviate from providing equal treatment if there is “an important government interest and the means undertaken are substantially related to that government interest.”

Despite the constitutional legal hurdles, the California bill is a landmark bill and the first of its kind in the United States. It is loosely modeled on a number of laws found in countries in Europe. (Germany requires corporate boards to be 30% female while France and Norway require company board of directors to be 40% female). This new law has a good chance of satisfying the legal test mentioned above and not be overturned because of the policy considerations underpinning the new law. When the law was introduced, State Senator Atkins cited recent studies by UC Berkeley, McKinsey and Company and Credit Suisse that showed that companies that had strong representation of women on boards and top-level management positions performed better in terms of innovation, profitability and productivity. The government interest here is in promoting a modern business trend of encouraging more female directors. As the examples in the Europe have shown, more females in positions of power have helped maximize business revenue and processes while encouraging inclusiveness and diversity. Male directors are not being discriminated and completely shut out of positions on corporate boards. This law is simply seeking to encourage companies to look toward qualified females and give them an opportunity after historically being under valued and under utilized in the United States. And as the studies have shown, encouraging women can be profitable and have a positive influence. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources:

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org

Photo by Brooke Lark

Is “Anti – BDS” Legislation Compatible With Free Speech and the First Amendment?

Is “Anti – BDS” Legislation Compatible With Free Speech and the First Amendment?

Brief #61—Civil Rights

Policy Summary
In June 2005 one hundred seventy (170) Palestinian civil society organizations called for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) as a form of non – violent protest against illegal activities of the State of Israel against the Palestinian people. This movement became known as the BDS Movement. In subsequent years, numerous state governments and the federal government of the United States enacted legislation to try and oppose this movement. Twenty – five states have enacted legislation that oppose the BDS movement with a federal bill pending in the U.S. Congress.

In Texas, Obi Dennar, a student at the University of Texas at Austin, worked a two – day debate tournament to make some extra money. After the tournament was over, Mr. Dennar was getting ready to sign papers certifying his work for the tournament so that he would get paid. In his contract was a clause that “stated and verified” that he would not boycott Israel. Mr. Dennar refused to sign the certification and instead forfeited $150 for his time spent working at the debate tournament. LEARN MORE

Analysis
In 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware, Co. In that case, white store owners sued the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for damages they suffered from the loss of business because of boycotts against their stores. The store owners initially won damages but when the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court the court overrruled the lower court decision and held that boycotts were protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and that “boycotts and related activities to bring about political, social and economic change are political speech” and one of the highest and protected values of the First Amendment.

Despite this clear ruling from the highest court in the United States, it appears that the federal government and numerous state governments are simply ignoring the case. The twenty – five states that have enacted anti – BDS legislation are engaging in viewpoint discrimination and are putting up barriers to a healthy and free discussion of an important issue in order to force citizens to adopt a point of view they do not agree with. In the case of Mr. Obi Dennar, the point was illustrated most forcefully by having Mr. Dennar choose to receive payment for work he had already done or stick to his heartfelt beliefs. In another incident, an NYU professor had been invited to the University of Houston to share her research but had her talk cancelled when she refused to sign a certification that she would not boycott Israel. And at the federal level, the assistant secretary of education for civil rights, Mr. Kenneth Marcus, has re-opened an investigation into a complaint from Rutgers University that looks to controversially expand a definition of “anti – Semitism” in order to suppress criticism and protests of the State of Israel on college campuses.

It is becoming painfully clear that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become a new battleground in the war for the values of the First Amendment, Free Speech and honest and open discussion. It would seem that politicians at both the state and federal level would look to uphold and champion free speech but even they are becoming conflicted on the issue. Many politicians publicly campaign on the right to free speech and protest but then turn around and vote for bills that seek to stifle the protests and boycotts of the BDS Movement. Instead of ignoring the Claiborne Hardware case, politicians should permit all the protests and boycotts instead of trying to impose a particular viewpoint. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said it best when he said, “[T]he ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas” and “The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.” The solution is never to silence or punish anyone simply because they have a difference of opinion that the government does not agree with yet it seems that the United States is tilting in this dangerous direction with these anti-BDS bills. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources:

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org.

Photo By Melany Rochester

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