All posts by isaaclara

LEGAL NEWS ROUNDUP

Samantha Shalowitz, CLS’18

US District Judge Daniel Jordan III ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood and blocked a Mississippi law that barred medical providers that perform abortions from receiving state Medicaid funds.  In his ruling, Judge Jordan cited a similar ruling by the Fifth Circuit holding that such laws violate federal law.  In its complaint, Planned Parenthood argued that the law unconstitutionally limited patients’ rights to choose their healthcare providers and prevented low-income patients from receiving care.  The governor of Mississippi, Phil Bryant, issued a statement voicing his support for the law and disagreement with the court’s decision.  (Source: Huffington Post)

A federal appeals court in Washington ruled that the president has the power to fire the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  Though it did not dismantle the agency, the court ruled that the appointment process was unconstitutional, and made the director’s job subject to supervision, direction, and change by the president.  The ruling weakens the CFPB, considered one of President Obama’s signature accomplishments.  The CFPB was established in 2011 as part of the Dodd-Frank Act in response to the financial crisis.  Republicans have repeatedly tried to weaken the agency, and the court appeared to agree with some of their criticism, holding that the practice of having a single “unaccountable, unchecked director” is atypical and “poses a far greater risk of arbitrary decision-making and abuse of power” than does multi-member leadership.  The CFPB is exploring how it may challenge the decision.  (Source: CNN)

US District Judge Sharion Aycock ruled that a Mississippi woman cannot sue the government after being jailed for 96 days after indictment without an arraignment or seeing a lawyer.  The plaintiff, Jessica Lauch, asserted her innocence in jail and asked for an arraignment, but did not request to see a lawyer.  The court held that her right to counsel was not violated, and that she had no right to an initial appearance because she was indicted.  Jauch was arrested after police pulled her over for traffic violations and noticed she had an outstanding arrest warrant.  However, evidence did not support the charges, and, after Jauch’s lawyer contacted the prosecutor, the charges were dropped.  Jauch has filed notice of appeal.  The case is part of a larger effort by civil liberties advocates to reform Mississippi’s criminal justice system, which they say “provides almost no state funding for public defenders.”  (Source: ABA Journal)

LEGAL NEWS ROUNDUP

Gahee Lee, CLS’18

The Massachusetts Superior Court dismissed a motion arguing that charter school attendance was a civil right. In response to plaintiffs’ complaints that they were being deprived of their constitutional rights to “adequate” education when denied admission to charter schools, the court held that even if the plaintiffs were currently attending schools that rated lowly on the state rating system for public schools and were denied admission to charter schools solely because the applications outnumbered the available seats, there existed no constitutional violation. Contrary to the plaintiff’s perspective that a subpar rating could be interpreted as the state’s negligence of some of the schools, the court stated that the grading system was established to “identify the schools most in need… and then provide such schools with the ways and means to improve.” The court also cited judicial deference to the legislature as yet another reason to defer judgment regarding school choices. [Source: Huffington Post]

The Oklahoma Supreme Court unanimously struck down a law imposing restrictions on abortion providers, holding that the requirement that providers take samples of fetal tissue from patients younger than 14 and preserve them for state investigators violated the state constitution’s requirement that each legislative bill only address “one subject.” Designated to “thwart legislators from including provisions that would not normally pass in otherwise popular bills,” the “one subject” rule seeks essentially to prevent a situation where legislators must decide between either wholly passing, or rejecting, a bill. The court rejected the legislators’ explanation that the bill sought to both capture child rapists (by use of the fetal tissue) and protect women’s health. Four of the concurring judges noted that they would have rejected the law as an unconstitutional burden on a woman’ right to have an abortion. [Source: Reuters]

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida extended Florida’s voter registration deadline by at least 24 hours in light of Hurricane Matthew. The Florida Democratic Party has requested a longer extension given the “strong likelihood” that many of the state’s voters have evacuated to seek refuge from the storm. Governor Rick Scott, on the other hand, has refused to allow more time. The District Court’s judge is to determine on Tuesday, October 11th whether to further extend the deadline. [Source: CNN]

LEGAL NEWS ROUNDUP

Chad Klitzman, CLS’18

The Supreme Court has refused the Obama administration’s request for a rehearing of United States v. Texas. A 4-4 decision last term resulted in the upholding of a Texas court’s decision to blockade the implementation of President Obama’s executive actions for undocumented immigrants. In the event of a tie on the Supreme Court, the lower court’s decision is affirmed. The controversial program at issue, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), could assist more than four million undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States since 2010 and who have children who are either American citizens or permanent residents. [Source: CNN / CBS News]

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that indigent criminal defendants may sue for alleged inadequate funding in a Pennsylvania public defender’s office. The criminal indigents maintained that their inadequate representation resulted in impairments to their 6th and 14th Amendment rights to counsel. According to Mary Catherine Roper of the ACLU, this decision will give criminal defendants the requisite standing to sue on the basis of inadequate public defender funding. [Source: ABA Journal]

President Obama commuted 102 sentences this week and has set a record for the greatest number of commutations in one year (590). In total, the President has commuted more than 774 sentences – more than the previous 11 presidents combined. The vast majority of the commutations are for drug crimes. White House Counsel Neil Eggleston explained that “The vast majority of [the grants] were for individuals serving unduly harsh sentences for drug-related crimes under outdated sentencing laws.” [Source: ABA Journal / USA Today]

Summer and Rusty Page are fighting to regain custody of their foster child in the face of the Indian Child Welfare Act, which was crafted in order to protect Native American children from large exercises of power by child welfare agencies. The legislation aimed to curtail the high percentage of Indian families broken up by the removal of their children, often without just cause, but the Pages contend that the law actually results in Indian children receiving disparate treatment – often resulting in placement against their own interests. [Source: ABA Journal]