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August 12, 2020

Federal Judge Sets Out to Bring Down Law Shielding Police From Legal Liability

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.

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July 26, 2020

Black Lives Matter Chicago Sues to Prevent Occupation by Trump’s Paramilitaries

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.

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July 14, 2020

Trump’s Harsh Sanctions Lead to Iran-China Partnership

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.

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July 9, 2020

Trump Is Trying to Hide US and Israeli War Crimes by Attacking the International Criminal Court

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.

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July 5, 2020

Protesters Attacked by Police Are Suing to Vindicate Their Constitutional Rights

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.

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June 30, 2020

The Fine Line Between the Criminals and the Cops: A Review of Mike Avery’s “The Cooperating Witness”

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.

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June 19, 2020

Massive Uprisings Confront White Supremacy

That’s not a chip on my shoulder.
That’s your foot on my neck.
-Malcolm X

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.

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June 13, 2020

Trump’s Illegal Use of Military Against Anti-Racist Uprisings Portends Battles Ahead

The backlash against Donald Trump’s illegal show of military force against anti-racist protesters compelled him to withdraw the troops — for now. But we must continue raising the illegality of this use of the military and pushing for barriers to guard against future such deployments. The threat of a resurgence of this violation still looms because as the protests continue, Trump might change his mind. And if he loses the election, all bets are off.

Government officials, legislators, lawyers and civil society should strenuously oppose the recall of federal troops because it would be deadly as well as illegal. “Armed forces taking on protesters may cause them to go away, but make no mistake: People would die. And even one more death is too many,” Kelsey Baker, a former Marine who deployed to Kuwait and Iraq, wrote for Newsweek.

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June 1, 2020

The Supreme Court Is About to Make Seismic Rulings on Reproductive Rights

The rights of women to terminate their pregnancies and to receive free contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are on the chopping block. Those challenges to reproductive freedom are consistent with Trump’s agenda of pandering to the religious right while erasing Barack Obama’s achievements. The Supreme Court will rule on these cases during the month of June.

Burdening the Right to Abortion

Although the Court does not yet have a case that contests the constitutionality of Roe v. Wadeit has the opportunity to chip away at the right to abortion as opponents continue to erect obstacles to reproductive health care. Their strategy is to bring about death of abortion by a thousand cuts.

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May 14, 2020

Don’t Expect to See Trump’s Tax Returns Before the Election

Donald Trump claims that while he is president, his pre-presidency financial records can’t be subpoenaed and he can’t even be investigated for criminal conduct. The Supreme Court will decide by the end of June whether Trump is indeed beyond the reach of the law.

On May 12, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments about whether Trump can block subpoenas for his tax and other financial records that predate his presidency. Although prior presidents made their tax returns public, Trump has steadfastly refused to reveal his. In 2016, he promised to release them when the purported “audit” is complete. But they remain under wraps.

In April 2019, three committees of the House of Representatives and the New York district attorney issued subpoenas to banks and financial institutions to obtain Trump’s records. Trump sued to prevent the disclosures. Even though all four lower courts that considered the issue ruled that the records must be produced, Trump continues to stonewall, claiming in essence he is above the law.

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