• September 20, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Kim Gardner, Circuit Attorney for the City of St. Louis

    I am disappointed with the court’s finding in the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith. As the Circuit Attorney for the City of St. Louis, I remain committed to holding people accountable for violating the law, regardless of their race, gender, occupation, or station in life. My job is to ensure a fair and transparent process and to vigorously present the evidence in the best manner possible, and my team did exactly that.  

    While officer-involved shooting cases are extremely difficult to prevail in court, I believe we offered sufficient evidence that proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Jason Stockley intended to kill Mr. Smith. However, in this case it was the judge’s duty to evaluate the evidence and deliver his findings. That’s how our system works.

    In light of the verdict, it is time to take a harder look at how officer-involved shootings are addressed in our city. I understand and appreciate the many challenges that face our city’s police officers. It is very noble work. However, we need further examination and clarity in the laws that govern the use of deadly force by police officers.

    I believe we must first change the way these cases are investigated. Police cannot continue to investigate themselves.

    I am calling for an independent investigative body that works under the supervision of the Circuit Attorney that is solely dedicated to investigating the 25 officer-involved shooting cases that are under review by my office so the community has confidence that they are being handled fairly and objectively.

    We are in trying times. I understand that some people are frustrated and angry. I am frustrated as well. There are things we can do.

    We have the opportunity to show the world that, in the City of St. Louis, we can show our frustration in a strong yet peaceful manner. We can share what’s on our minds without destroying the very city we all want to make a better place. Destruction of our community is not the answer. Rather, we need to build alliance to reform the shortcomings of the current approach.

    I am asking the community to use their energy and voice and join me in working with state and local lawmakers to establish better ways to seek justice in officer-involved shooting cases. I am asking for the community’s support in helping me secure the resources needed to quickly and objectively investigate these cases.

  • September 19, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Ann C. Hodges, Professor of Law, University of Richmond

    It is no surprise to observers of labor relations that the Supreme Court is once again considering a petition for certiorari in a case challenging the only reliable source of union funds. Well-funded interest groups have long sought to limit unions’ power by restricting their ability to charge for services they are required by law to provide. The petition currently pending in Janus v. AFSCME rehashes the same arguments rejected by the Supreme Court forty years ago in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education and downplays subsequent legal developments that support reaffirmation of the decision in Abood.

  • September 19, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Dan Froomkin

    One of the most important duties of the Senate has become arguably the most hopeless exercise on Capitol Hill.

    Confirmation hearings for top judicial posts – the primary mechanism by which the Senate exercises its constitutional responsibility to "advise and consent" on the appointment of judges – have become laugh-or-cry charades in which nominees endlessly repeat boilerplate explanations for why they can't answer even the most basic questions about their judicial philosophies.

    And the Senators serve as nothing more than props.

  • September 18, 2017

    by Kate Azevedo, Associate Director of Student Chapters, American Constitution Society

    The government might not want us to speak out and get everyone upset, but they also don’t want people in the streets fighting and rioting, which is so much worse

    After those comments, eighteen sets of eyes from a District of Columbia public middle school eagerly await my response.  My partner teacher, another attorney, gives me a shrug.  I fumble with my packet, but soon realize I would not find a satisfactory answer in my prepared curriculum. Feeling the familiar nervous energy as if cold-called by a law school professor, I decided to jump in…”let’s discuss your five freedoms of the First Amendment protected by the Constitution.”

  • September 18, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Lauren Sudeall Lucas, Associate Professor, Georgia State University College of Law

    In imposing the most severe of sentences—the death penalty—our legal system expects and requires jurors to be fair and impartial.That requires them to refrain from making decisions based on race. What then would we make of a capital juror who questions whether black people “have souls” and suggested that a black defendant wasn’t “in the ‘good’ black folks category” but instead told an attorney in a sworn affidavit that the defendant was a “ni**er”? Allowing that juror to decide whether a black defendant should be sentenced to death would directly contradict the principles on which our legal system is based, and yet that is precisely what happened in the case of Keith Tharpe, who is scheduled for execution in Georgia on September 26.