Access to Justice

  • November 17, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Chris Edelson, assistant professor of government, American University School of Public Affairs

    For much of American history, legal rules and cultural norms have deemed women unworthy of trust or responsibility.  The law often treated women as children, incapable of carrying out adult duties. Women did not have the right to vote until 1920. It took until 1961 for the Supreme Court to strike down laws automatically excluding women from jury duty.   Until 1979, state laws made it legally impossible for a husband to rape his wife. In the early 19th century, the doctrine of “coverture” provided that a married woman did not have legal status separate from her husband.  In the eyes of the law, married women were not their own person.  Women were barred—by law or by practice—from professions like law, medicine, and politics.

    We like to think those days are long behind us, that women are no longer second-class citizens relegated to a separate, lesser sphere. But it may be difficult, especially for men, to recognize the ways in which significant problems linger.

  • November 13, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Debbie Smith, Associate General Counsel for Immigration Law, Service Employees International Union (SEIU)

    Even as the newest Muslim ban works its way through the courts, President Trump has initiated another assault against immigrants by terminating a program providing humanitarian relief to immigrants fleeing civil war and natural disasters. Despite 30 years of Democratic and Republican administrations’ recognition of the importance of continuing this protection, unless Congress intervenes or the administration changes its mind, it is about to end.

    Last Monday, the Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security ended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 2,500 Nicaraguans and left in limbo the fate of 57,000 Hondurans who have lived and worked legally in the United States for decades. On Thanksgiving Day, DHS will decide the destiny of 50,000 Haitians who fled the earthquake that decimated their island. In January, DHS will consider whether 200,000 Salvadorans living in the U.S., many for over 20 years, can remain. By the end of 2018, the approximately 350,000 hardworking current TPS beneficiaries will be forced into the shadows and subject to expulsion from the U.S.

  • October 31, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Jeff Mandell, partner at Stafford Rosenbaum LLP and Chair of the ACS Madison Lawyer Chapter.

    Tomorrow, the Supreme Court hears argument in Artis v. District of Columbia, a procedural dispute about the interaction of federal jurisdictional statutes and state limitation periods. It is fairly dry stuff, so much so that it drew only two amicus briefs, far below average. But one of those amicus briefs, filed by the State of Wisconsin and joined by 23 others States, attempts to constitutionalize the dispute, with broad implications.

  • October 30, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Sheila Bapat, Program Director, California Bar Foundation

    California Bar Foundation has been excited to partner in the Meet Your DA event series here in California. Led by the ACLU of Northern California, this four-part event series is shining a light on the power of District Attorneys (DAs) and how prosecutors can be vehicles for social change. The final event in this series will take place in Los Angeles this week, on November 1. It has been a privilege to partner with the ACLU along with Smart Justice California and the American Constitution Society for Law & Policy to reach law students throughout the state with this message.

    California Bar Foundation’s mission is to build a better justice system -- for all Californians. We believe that every Californian deserves access to justice, and that lawyers working in this system should be representative of the communities they serve. We fund legal aid fellowship opportunities and scholarships for diverse law students throughout California who are devoted to making social change. We also fund pipeline programs throughout California to empower high school, community college and college youth to consider careers in the law.

  • October 26, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Amy Myrick, Staff Attorney for Judicial Strategy, Center for Reproductive Rights 

    It had to happen: an administration seeking to remake the Constitution into a rubber stamp for rights violations found the place where abortion and immigration converge.  In a federally contracted shelter in Texas, an unaccompanied 17-year-old immigrant who did not want to be pregnant waited over a month while federal officials relentlessly blocked her from receiving an abortion.  Jane Doe was forced to endure what ultimately became a grueling spectacle and multiple court hearings before she could access what has long been a protected constitutional right in the United States.

    The government’s argument in this recent case, Garza v. Hargan, is glaringly unconstitutional. Under a line of cases starting with Roe v. Wade (1973), and ending with Whole Woman’s Heath v. Hellerstedt (2016), it’s settled law that the Constitution protects the right to access abortion, and the government cannot place a “substantial obstacle” in the path of a woman - adult or minor - seeking to exercise that right.  Whether claiming to advance the government’s preference for childbirth or its view of what is in a pregnant minor’s “best interests,” or both, the government has no authority to unilaterally block a woman’s access to abortion.  But in the Garza case, the government did just that.