When I was sworn in to practice before the Supreme Court in 2007, I sat near the front of the gallery. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the five-foot-tall justice, was barely visible over the bench behind which she sat. On two occasions, Ginsburg visited the law school where I taught for many years. She graciously created the Thomas Jefferson School of Law Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lecture Series at our annual Women and the Law Conference, which featured leading feminist scholars.
In all three instances, I was struck by the stark contrast between her diminutive stature and her commanding presence. Now, in death, Ginsburg commands the national discourse. How, when and who will fill her vacant seat promises to have a powerful, even determinative, effect on the election and the future of the Supreme Court itself.
For nearly four years, we have been laser focused on November 3, 2020, the day that Donald Trump could be voted out of office. In all likelihood, however, the election will not be decided that evening as it has in the past (with the notable exception of the 2000 election). That is because in order to protect themselves against COVID-19, a record number of people will forego the polls and mail their ballots, which take longer to count. There are several scenarios of what could transpire between November 3 and January 20. All of them are frightening.
Once again, Trump has deployed federal agents on U.S. soil over the objection of local authorities, in an apparent attempt to sow chaos and then claim he must be reelected to restore law and order. On August 26, Trump tweeted he would send “federal law enforcement and the National Guard to Kenosha, WI to restore LAW and ORDER” in the wake of protests against the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man shot in the back seven times by a police officer in the presence of Blake’s children. Blake, who remains in critical condition, was left paralyzed. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers declined the White House’s offer of federal assistance. Although Evers had deployed the National Guard the day before, Trump said, “Governor should call in the National Guard in Wisconsin.”
A lawsuit that promises to be one of many was filed on Monday in U.S. District Court in New York to stop Donald Trump’s sabotage of the mail leading up to the presidential election.
Mondaire Jones et al. v. U.S. Postal Service, Postmaster General, and Donald Trump was brought by Democratic candidates for national and state congressional seats, as well as voters who cast mail ballots to protect themselves against the COVID-19 pandemic. Several state attorneys general are expected to file litigation this week.
“The postmaster general and the members of USPS [United States Postal Service] board of governors can be sued for injunctive relief, or even for damages,” Berkeley Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky told Truthout. In addition, he said, “The USPS can be sued for an injunction.”
As the Massachusetts legislature debates whether to water down its qualified immunity defense, a federal judge in Mississippi filed a stunning 72-page opinion blasting the doctrine. Qualified immunity has entered the national discourse with the massive uprisings in the wake of the public lynching of George Floyd. It allows police and other government officials to escape liability for their law breaking.
In Jamison v. McClendon, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves recently concluded that Officer Nick McClendon violated Clarence Jamison’s Fourth Amendment rights when he subjected Jamison to a nearly two-hour ordeal that included badgering, pressuring, lying and intrusively searching his car. But the judge’s hands were tied by the qualified immunity doctrine so he was forced to deny Jamison’s legal claim. Reeves, an African American man, traced the development of the law and the institutional racism and police brutality that continue to plague our society. “Black people in this country are acutely aware of the danger traffic stops pose to Black lives,” the judge wrote.
Taking a page from Hitler’s Brownshirts, Donald Trump is sending his secret paramilitary forces into U.S. cities to terrorize the population. Ostensibly designed to “restore order” in the wake of massive uprisings against white supremacy and police brutality, this move appears to have a more cynical purpose lurking behind it: Trump’s desire to tar Democrat-led cities with a false narrative to boost his sagging poll numbers. But protesters are taking to the courts to rein in an out-of-control executive.
China and Iran have drafted a “sweeping economic and security partnership,” according to The New York Times. China will get a regular, heavily discounted supply of Iranian oil for the next 25 years, as well as an expanded role in Iranian banking, ports, railways, telecommunications and myriad other projects. Iran and China will also increase their military cooperation.
This “strategic partnership” is the result of Donald Trump’s punishing sanctions against Iran. Although it has not yet been formally approved by Iran’s Parliament, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, favors the partnership.
A war crimes complaint has been filed against Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump adviser Jared Kushner in the International Criminal Court (ICC). It is now up to the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor to decide whether the complaint should be pursued. If the prosecutor launches a preliminary examination and finds reason to believe they committed war crimes, the court could then authorize a full investigation.
The complaint, filed by Middlesex University law professor William Schabas on June 30 on behalf of four Palestinians who live in the West Bank, states “there is credible evidence” that Trump, Netanyahu and Kushner “are complicit in acts that may amount to war crimes relating to the transfer of populations into occupied territory and the annexation of the sovereign territory of the State of Palestine.” Under article 15 of the ICC’s Rome Statute, any individual, group or organization can bring a complaint to the Office of the Prosecutor.
Schabas’s complaint comes on the heels of unusual moves last month from the Trump administration, which declared a “national emergency” in June in an effort to shield U.S. and Israeli officials from ICC accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Protesters demonstrating against white supremacy and police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s public lynching have been met with illegal repression by law enforcement. Police have utilized toxic chemical and sonic weapons, dangerous projectiles, intrusive surveillance, physical violence and “kettling” to trap demonstrators after dispersal orders are given.
In a study conducted by the University of Chicago Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic, researchers found not one police department in the 20 largest U.S. cities in compliance with minimum human rights standards governing use of lethal force. They called the use of force by police “state-sanctioned violence.”
Victims of police abuse are filing litigation, and at least one judge has put a halt to some of the most egregious misconduct.
Susan Sorella is in her last year at Suffolk Law School in Boston. When she began clerking for criminal defense lawyer Bobby Coughlin, Susan had no idea she would become a central figure in a murder case that pitted the mob against corrupt FBI agents. Or that she would be compelled to take the lead and risk her life when her troubled boss was poised to plead his likely innocent client guilty. Mike Avery’s new hardboiled crime novel, The Cooperating Witness, combines the noir tradition – the fine line between right and wrong – with a biting critique of the criminal justice system. The former criminal defense attorney, civil rights lawyer and Suffolk law professor knows his way around the courtroom and has written non-fiction books. But Avery’s foray into fiction writing is a refreshing surprise.
That’s not a chip on my shoulder.
That’s your foot on my neck.
On May 25, a Minneapolis police officer tortured George Floyd to death in what his brother, Philonise Floyd, called “a modern-day lynching in broad daylight.” Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in all 50 states and Washington D.C.; the anti-racist uprisings continue.
Why do a majority of people in this country now support the Movement for Black Lives? Why have calls to defund and abolish the police entered the mainstream discourse? Why are people risking the deadly coronavirus to join the protests? And why are we seeing what may be the broadest popular movement in the history of the United States?
More than 400 years after the first Africans were kidnapped, forcibly brought to this country and enslaved, White supremacy continues to infect our society. Police murder Black people with impunity. Black people are incarcerated at an unprecedented rate. And White fragility keeps us in denial about our White skin privilege.