Archives for category: Justice

Jesse Jackson wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times that Black Americans will not fall for Trump’s absurd claims about the great things he claims to have done for them.

https://chicago.suntimes.com/columnists/2020/10/26/21535175/black-americans-vote-trump-civil-rights-jesse-jackson

He wrote:

If a lie is repeated often enough, the truth may never catch up. Donald Trump understands this better than anyone, as he showers Americans with lies — often the same ones repeated over and over — knowing that more voters will hear him than the fact-checkers. 

One of his favorite howlers is his oft-repeated claim that “I’ve done more for African Americans than anybody, except for the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln.” 

No one should fall for the con.

For example, Trump doesn’t come close to Harry Truman who desegregated the U.S. military, an act of simple justice that took immense courage. He’s done nothing as important as Dwight Eisenhower who dispatched troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, to overcome resistance to school integration. He can’t hold a candle to Lyndon Johnson, who, working with Dr. Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, passed the Civil Rights Bill ending segregation in public facilities, the Voting Rights Act enforcing the right to vote, and the War on Poverty that reduced poverty to levels still not matched.

But comparing Trump to presidents who actually made things better is to fall into his trap, for Trump hasn’t done things for African Americans, he has done things to them. 

He’s embraced the Republican strategy of race-bait politics, only he’s replaced their dog whistles with a bullhorn. He celebrated the neo-Nazis and other extremists marching against civil rights protesters in Charlottesville. He’s scorned African countries and Haiti as “s…-holes,” suggesting the only immigrants he wanted were whites from countries like Norway. 

He sowed racial fears, painting the largely nonviolent Black Lives Matter demonstrators as “thugs,” and the demonstrations as “riots.” He’s tried to rouse support from suburbanites by charging that Biden’s support for affordable housing would “destroy your neighborhood and your American Dream.” He’s labeled cities with large minority populations like New York City as “anarchist jurisdictions” that should be stripped of federal support…

Trump’s Small Business Administration stiffed African Americans in dispensing loans through the Pay Protection Plan. More than 9 of 10 Black-owned small businesses that applied for loans were denied. That led directly to over 40% of Black-owned businesses shutting down in the pandemic. 

Trump measures the economy’s success not by the health of the people, but by the health of the stock market, but while 61% of whites participate in the stock market (although for most the holdings are meager), only one-third of blacks own stocks. Nearly one-half of Black women report that they are unable to pay for necessities like food and housing, even though most work. Over half have less than $200 in savings. Trump doesn’t help. He did nothing to raise the minimum wage and has been actively hostile to unions that help workers bargain a fair wage.

Essential workers are disproportionately African American. Blacks are disproportionately in low-wage jobs, often without employer-based health care. The pandemic has killed Black people at double the rate of Whites. African Americans have suffered the most from Trump’s mismanagement. Blacks have been more likely to be denied health care, and less likely to have paid sick days. 

And Trump has basically been AWOL as the Republican Senate blocked action on a relief plan as unemployment insurance was running out, and states and cities were facing massive cuts in services and jobs — disproportionately held by people of color — in the wake of the pandemic-caused fiscal crisis.

Trump touts the modest criminal justice reforms that he signed off on that will help reduce mass incarceration a bit, but he has actively undermined equal justice under the law. He encouraged police to rough up those that they arrest. He defended vigilantes shooting at those protesting the murder of George Floyd. He terminated the Obama Justice Department’s police department investigations and consent decrees that were reforming police practices. He boasts of arming police forces with military weaponry. He even terminated racial-sensitivity training in the federal government, mostly as a grandstand appeal to his base of angry White men. He’s appointed the most federal Appeals Court judges since Jimmy Carter; not one of them is Black. 

Trump not only has done nothing to revive the Voting Right Act, gutted by the right-wing gang of five on the Supreme Court, he and his party have actively worked to suppress Black voting — passing ID requirements, shutting down polling places, purging voter lists, making registration harder, limiting early voting, undermining vote by mail, gerrymandering districts and more — all designed with laser focus to reduce the Black vote.

In short, Trump has left African Americans in the deepest hole with the shortest rope. Not surprisingly, most won’t fall for Trump’s big con. African Americans — and particularly African-American women — will vote overwhelmingly for Joe Biden. The base for Trump and Republicans will continue to be those not repelled by his racially divisive rhetoric and policies. 

Periodically, however, it is useful to remind people that night is not day, that hate is not love. When Lincoln freed the slaves, they joined the Union armies in large numbers and helped save the Republic. Trump can’t be mentioned in the same breath as Lincoln, and African Americans aren’t about to save him.

Sheldon Whitehouse, Senator from Rhode Island, gave a masterful presentation on the power of dark money at the confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Please take 30 minutes and watch it. If we don’t put a stop to the power of dark money, we will lose our democracy.

Senator Whitehouse names names. He details the “Scheme,” the money trail, the big donors (where they can be identified) who are buying our democracy and choosing Supreme Court Justices.

Their three big legal goals right now: to overturn Roe v. Wade; to overturn the gay marriage decision; to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

The Republicans are rushing through Judge Barrett’s confirmation so that she can be a member of the Supreme Court when Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) is argued on November 10.

Joe Scarborough, the host of “Morning Joe” and a former Republican Congressman, wrote this provocative article for The Washington Post, where he is a columnist.

Deep suspicion surrounded the new president and his plans for the Supreme Court. He had been attacking the high court’s rulings for years and even groused publicly nine months after being sworn in that “the country generally has outgrown our present judicial system.” His future secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, bitterly complained to his predecessor that the new president was certain to “affect the future doctrines of the Court.” 

Abraham Lincoln confirmed his opponents’ worst suspicions when he moved against the Supreme Court by signing the Judiciary Act of 1862, adding a 10th justice to the court. Following his assassination, Republicans in Congress reduced that number to seven in an effort to thwart Lincoln’s Democratic successor. Republicans then added two justices after winning back the White House in 1869.

Thanks in part to these maneuvers, the party of Lincoln would control the highest court in the land for the remainder of the 19th century and for the first 40 years of the next century. By 1937, Franklin D. Roosevelt had had enough, but his effort to expand the court was rebuffed by members of his own party. Still, a president working with Congress to change the Supreme Court’s size has a rich historical tradition that is both constitutionally protected and backed by 231 years of precedent. If Joe Biden were to propose such a change, constitutional originalists would surely be his most aggressive supporters.

As Amy Coney Barrett said in Senate testimony this week, the Constitution has “the meaning that it had at the time people ratified it.” Even before every state ratified America’s founding charter, George Washington signed a bill that placed just six justices on the Supreme Court. The second president, John Adams, reduced that number to five. Thomas Jefferson increased that number to seven. And the man who inspired the term “Jacksonian Democracy” added two more justices in 1837.

Given such a powerful legacy, originalists, Republican politicians and right-wing bloggers would never dare suggest that adjusting the Supreme Court’s size was anything other than constitutional and consistent with the republic’s oldest traditions. To do so would condemn as un-American the Father of our Country, the author of the Declaration of Independence and the first president to live in the White House.

How would Barrett respond to such slander? These men were, after all, present at the creation of our constitutional republic. The founding document “doesn’t change over time,” Barrett exclaimed, “and it isn’t up to me to update or infuse my own policy views into it.” By that standard and the actions of the Founding Fathers, there is no good-faith constitutional argument against the future addition of Supreme Court justices.

Those in the party of Trump will thus be forced to present themselves as the protectors of America’s political norms in opposing such an act. This approach would be laughable. After all, Republicans continue supporting a president who has said Article II gives him “the right to do whatever I want as president”; questioned the legitimacy of federal judges; used the Stalinist smear “enemy of the people” against the free press; refused to condemn white supremacists; told “Second Amendment people” they could stop Hillary Clinton from appointing judges; sided with an ex-KGB agent over America’s intelligence community; attacked military leaders as “losers”; undermined America’s democratic process by proclaiming it to be “rigged”; and refused to guarantee the peaceful transfer of power. Beyond Trump’s multitude of sins against democracy, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would then have to account for his own trashing of Senate traditions before positing himself as the protector of political norms.

The American people will never buy it. By their own actions, these radical Republicans have no standing to protest future changes to the court’s makeup. They have made their own bed. Now it is time for them to sleep in it.

Kevin Tobia, an assistant professor of law at Georgetown Law Center, wrote in Salon that Amy Coney Barrett’s “originalist” interpretation of law is incoherent.

Tobia writes:

Many fear that Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation will erode the established rights of women and LGBTQ+ persons, given Barrett’s private convictions. At last week’s hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barrett responded clearly: “A judge must apply the law as written, not as the judge wishes it were.” Barrett is an originalist and textualist, who prioritizes “what people understood words to mean at the time that the law was enacted.” In pointing outward to the people, originalism conveys an alluring humility. Originalism is not personal; its conclusions reflect the objective fact of “public meaning.” 

But are originalists right about the facts? I ran experiments to test whether originalism’s tools actually reflect public meaning. The results are surprising and troubling. In a forthcoming article in the Harvard Law Review, I found that the tools originalists rely upon support false conclusions about public meaning — and often conflict with each other. Until originalists like Barrett articulate better methods, Americans have no good reason to believe the theory is succeeding, even on its own terms.

In historical interpretation, originalists rely on tools like dictionary definitions: How was the contested term defined? They also rely on patterns of language usage: What was the most common way to use the term? A “big data” version of this approach called legal corpus linguistics has gained popularity.

I tested whether these tools actually reflect public meaning today, with a simple experiment. Consider a well-known example from legal philosophy: What is the meaning of the term “vehicle”? Three different groups participated in an experiment. The first made judgments about vehicles (e.g., “Is an airplane a vehicle: Yes or no?”). The second made judgments equipped with a dictionary definition of “vehicle” and the third with data from legal corpus linguistics (e.g., data about how the word “vehicle” is most commonly used).

Those groups reached radically different conclusions. For example, about 50% of people today say that a canoe is a vehicle. Yet nearly all participants using a dictionary definition reached that judgment (95%), while nearly all the participants using the corpus linguistics data reached the opposite judgment (only 10% agreed). Similar divergences arose across many different examples, and across groups of ordinary Americans, law school students and United States judges...

A broader problem for originalism concerns the concept of “public meaning” itself. If originalists can identify how the public understood our Constitution in 1787, surely they can identify the “public meaning” of very simple terms today. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, also an originalist, invites us in a recent opinion to consider again the meaning of “vehicle.” Clearly a car is a vehicle, but what about a canoe, an airplane or a baby stroller? Kavanaugh provides straightforward answers: “the word ‘vehicle,’ in its ordinary meaning does not encompass baby strollers.”

Does the American public agree? About 75% of Americans agree that baby strollers are not “vehicles.” But 25% disagree. Other cases are even more difficult. People are divided 70-30 concerning whether airplanes are vehicles, divided 60-40 on bicycles and divided 50-50 on canoes. It’s not obvious what originalists should make of these facts. Is “public meaning” the same as “75% meaning” or “50% meaning”?

What does the Constitution say about computers, the Internet, and data privacy? What does it say about equal rights for African Americans, women, and gay people? What does it say about corporations and their “rights”? What does it say about in vitro fertilization (which Barrett has called “manslaughter”)? These “what ifs” can go on and on and on because the white men who wrote the Constitution lived in a very different world from 2020. They wrote a Constitution for their time and laid out general principles for the future, which subsequent Courts have adjusted to meet the issues of changing times.

It seems like the height of hubris to try to think as if he (certainly not she) could imagine what was in the minds of the Founders.

Of one thing we can be sure: The Founders did not imagine women sitting on the Supreme Court or voting in elections or serving on juries. If they wanted equality between men and women, they would have said so. They didn’t. They would be appalled that Amy Coney Barrett is joining two other women–Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan–on the Supreme Court. A true originalist would immediately recognize that the Founders did not envision women on the Court. And Judge Barrett–if she is true to her philosophy–would decline a seat on the Court.

Jan Resseger writes here about the misfit between an “originalist” interpretation of the Constitution and the field of education, which has evolved very far from its condition in the 1770s. It is likely that an originalist, as Judge Amy Coney Barrett claims to be, would have nothing to say about contemporary issues in education, since there were no public schools, no Catholic schools, no organized system of education at all in the time that the Constitution was written.

Resseger writes:

For a couple of weeks now, since the publication of Derek Black’s history of the constitutional basis for American public education, this blog has been reflecting on the meaning of constitutional principles in our nation’s founding documents and the 50 state constitutions for defining the role and meaning of our nation’s system of public schools.  (See herehere, and here.)

But this week, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who defines herself as a constitutional originalist, went through hours of Senate confirmation hearings leading to a Senate vote on her confirmation in the next week or two as President Trump’s latest appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. All week we have been considering what it means for our society today when members of the U.S. Supreme Court define themselves as originalists who are bound to interpret the constitutionality of today’s laws according to the precise wording of the U.S. Constitution of 1787.

The other day when Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, trained in the law and formerly a federal prosecutor, was asked whether she is an originalist, Mayor Lightfood replied: “You ask a gay, black woman if she is an originalist? No, ma’am, I am not. The Constitution didn’t consider me a person… because I’m a woman, because I’m black, because I’m gay.  I am not an originalist. I believe in the Constitution. I believe that it is a document that the founders intended to evolve and what they did was set the framework for how our country was going to be different from any other. But originalists say that, ‘Let’s go back to 1776 and whatever was there in the original language, that’s it.’ That language excluded, now, over 50 percent of the country. So, no I’m not an originalist.”

Like Mayor Lightfoot, many people today worry about originalist legal interpretation.  In Linguistics 101, students learn that language changes and evolves over time as particular words become archaic, fall out of common usage, or evolve to mean something different. Dictionaries are descriptive, not prescriptive. We cannot know precisely what the founders intended, but we can be sure that the words they used in 1787 may connote something much broader or narrower today.

Schoolhouse Burning, Derek Black’s new book is, in essence, the history of how the meaning of the guarantee of public education as a right for every child has changed and become more inclusive in the over two hundred years since our nation’s founding. Some people say that because the Constitution itself does not mention public education, public education is not a fundamental right, but Black disagrees because public education is so carefully planned in the Northwest Ordinance, passed as a sort of companion document in the same year as the Constitution.  As Black traces the history of our understanding of the right to public education, it’s clear that Derek Black is certainly not an originalist.  His book is the story of how our history—the civil war, the development of the constitutional principles of the 50 states, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement—has informed and further defined the meaning of the founding principles: “The foregoing principles—the right to an adequate and equal education, making education the state’s absolute and foremost duty, requiring states to exert the necessary effort (financial or otherwise) to provide quality educational access, placing education above normal politics, and expecting courts to serve as a check—are all in the service of something larger: the original idea that education is the foundation of our constitutional democracy.  Education is the means by which citizens preserve their other rights. Education gives citizens the tools they need to hold their political leaders accountable…  Democracy simply does not work well without educated citizens.” (Schoolhouse Burning, p. 224)  Black reminds us, however: “The founders articulated educational goals not with any certainty that they would spring into reality simply by writing them down, but in the hope that we might one day live into them.” (Schoolhouse Burning, p 71)

Originalist” legal interpretation doesn’t pay much heed to how we have lived into the goals and principles declared all those generations ago. How has the meaning of the constitutional protection of equal education evolved over the history of our country?

Steven Singer tries to understand today’s public schools through the eyes of an “original story,” someone who judges court cases based on the original intent of those who wrote the Constitution.

He writes:

Let’s say you went to a restaurant and ordered a big ol’ meat sandwich only to find nothing but straw between two pieces of bread.

“Waiter!” You say, calling over a server.

“What’s wrong, Sir?”

“There’s no meat in my sandwich.”

“Oh, Sir?” He says smiling, examining your plate. “Here at Scalia’s Bar and Grill we adhere to a strict originalist interpretation of language.”

“What does that have to do with my sandwich?”

“Well, Sir, in Old English ‘meat’ meant any solid food, anything other than drink. As in ‘A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland’ (1775), Samuel Johnson noted, ‘Our guides told us, that the horses could not travel all day without rest or meat.’”

“But that’s not what I ordered!”

“Oh yes it is, Sir. You ordered the meat sandwich. Enjoy your fresh hay and oats.”

In everyday life, you wouldn’t put up with that kind of nonsense.

But for some reason, far right ideologues think it’s exactly the right way to interpret the U.S. Constitution.

The meanings of words change over time.

But ignoring that fact allows disingenuous crackpots to sweep over centuries of judicial precedent in favor of what they pretend to THINK the words meant at the time the law was written.

It’s not even about what the writers of the law SAID it meant. It’s about what today’s justices decide some hypothetical average Joe of the distant past would take certain words to mean.

The most obvious example, according to Pulitzer Prize winning historian Joseph Ellis,is District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), which reversed 200 years of precedent on gun regulations.

Before this ruling, the Second Amendment was interpreted to be referring only to service in the militia. The Militia Act of 1792 required each able-bodied male citizen to obtain a firearm (“a good musket or firelock”) so he can participate in the “well regulated militia” the Amendment describes.

It was about the obligation to serve your country, not the right to own a gun. However, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia – the most infamous proponent of judicial originalism – orchestrated the majority opinion in this case changing all that. By doing a thought experiment about what words might have meant in the 1700s, he papered over two centuries of established law. He was so proud of it that he even described it as “my masterpiece.”

THAT’S judicial originalism.

And now that Scalia fanboy and federal judge for not even three whole years, Amy Coney Barrett, is being rammed through Senate Confirmation Hearings, that preposterous ideology is about to have another proponent on the highest court in the land.

Just imagine if we interpreted everything like people living in the 18th Century!

Please continue reading this excellent post.

I get many requests for donations in my email daily. Some come from the Committee to protect Medicare.

This was written by Dr. Rob Davidson, executive director of the Committee:

For the past three days, I’ve watched Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings in the Senate. As a doctor, it’s beyond bizarre to see a potential Supreme Court Justice say she’ll make decisions about health care based on Originalism — what she thinks people in the 1700s would have intended.

How different was medicine back then? 

The first vaccine wasn’t developed until 1799 (smallpox). Does Judge Barrett support Medicaid covering the routine immunization of kids against deadly diseases? Would she oppose Donald Trump providing a coronavirus vaccine to us, even though the founders would be confused? 

 1846 saw the first demonstration of anesthesia in the world. Should Medicare pay for anesthesia for hip replacements or heart bypasses, even though the constitution doesn’t mention anesthesia? 

 To Judge Barrett, would my evaluations of Medicare patients with chest pain be unconstitutional since EKG’s and X-rays weren’t used until 1895?  

This list goes on and on. Nearly every aspect of modern medicine was non-existent in the late 18th century. An “originalist” approach to the government funding of any type of health care today might deem all of them unconstitutional. 

This is personal for me. Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation is all but certain to doom the Affordable Care Act and rip health care from over 20 million Americans, including over 8,000 people in my poor, red, rural Michigan county of 48,000. Is the ACA just the first step? Is Medicare next on the chopping block?

 If Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed, we need to be able to push twice as hard to reach voters in these final weeks to convey just how high the stakes are for health care. Can you chip in $5, $10, or more today to help us reach voters in swing states and save Medicare in these final 19 days? Click here to chip in now.If you’ve saved your payment information with ActBlue Express, your donation will process automatically:

Express Donate: $5 →Express Donate: $10 →Express Donate: $25 →Express Donate: $50 →Express Donate: $100 →Express Donate: Other → 

Thank you so much for your support,

 Dr. Rob Davidson
Executive Director of Committee to Protect Medicare

You are probably not in the habit of reading court decisions. They tend to be dense and filled with citations that slow down the reader.

But you must read the decision issued on October 13 by Judge William Smith of the U.S. District Court of Rhode Island. It is brilliant, fascinating, informative. It is a lesson in civics for all of us.

Students in Rhode Island sued the state of Rhode Island and its governor Gina Raimondo because they did not receive education in civics, which (they said) deprived them of the knowledge and skills they needed to participate in our democracy.

Judge Smith reluctantly dismissed their appeal because no federal court (except for one in Michigan) had ruled that Americans have a “right” to education. He laments that this is the case, and he explains in crisp detail why democracy is in danger in the absence of civic education. He clearly wanted to rule in favor of the students. They will appeal but are likely to run into more roadblocks.

Judge Smith notes that the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954 ruled that education was fundamental to citizenship, but the Nixon Court in 1973 ruled that education was not a right guaranteed by the Constitution. Judge Smith laments that fact but can’t overrule it.

Here is the announcement of the decision from the Center for Educational Equity at Teachers College. Michael A. Rebell of the Center is lead counsel for the plaintiffs.

Judge William Smith of the U.S. District Court for Rhode Island, issued his long-awaited decision in Cook v. Raimondo on on October 13,2020. This case was filed by a group of Rhode Island public school students and families who seek to establish a right under the U.S. Constitution to an education adequate to prepare them to participate effectively in their constitutional rights to “voting, serving on a jury, understanding economic, social, and political systems sufficiently to make informed choices, and to participate effectively in civic activities.”

Judge Smith granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the case, but did so in a manner that eloquently set forth the critical importance of the issues the plaintiffs raised:

This is what it all comes down to: we may choose to survive as a country by respecting our Constitution, the laws and norms of political and civic behavior, and by educating our children on civics, the rule of law, and what it really means to be an American, and what America means. Or, we may ignore these things at our and their peril. Unfortunately, this Court cannot, for the reasons explained below, deliver or dictate the solution — but, in denying that relief, I hope I can at least call out the need for it.

The judge added:

This case does not represent a wild-eyed effort to expand the reach of substantive due process, but rather a cry for help from a generation of young people who are destined to inherit a country which we — the generation currently in charge — are not stewarding well. What these young people seem to recognize is that American democracy is in peril. Its survival, and their ability to reap the benefit of living in a country with robust freedoms and rights, a strong economy, and a moral center protected by the rule of law is something that citizens must cherish, protect, and constantly work for. We would do well to pay attention to their plea.

Plaintiffs in Cook v. Raimondo argue that the U.S. Constitution entitles all students to an education that prepares them to participate fully in a democracy. It alleges that the state of Rhode Island is failing to provide tens of thousands of students throughout the state with the necessary basic education and civic-participation skills. The plaintiffs are 14 high school, middle school, elementary school, and preschool students (or parents on behalf of their children) attending public schools in a variety of school districts throughout the state. An ultimate decision on behalf of plaintiffs in this case would establish a constitutional right to education for students throughout the United States.

Judge Smith rejected the plaintiffs’ equal protection claim, writing that, although the U.S. Supreme Court “left the door open just a crack” for reconsideration of its 1973 decision in San Antonio Ind’t Sch. Dist. v. Rodriguez that education is not a right the U.S. Constitution,  he interpreted that “crack” to allow the courts to consider only a case that alleges that students are receiving no education  whatsoever or an education that is “totally inadequate.”  He also rejected plaintiffs’ “substantive due process” claim that a right to education for citizenship is “deeply rooted in the nation’s history and traditions” because “[p]recedent clearly dictates that, while education as a civic ideal is no doubt deeply rooted in our country’s history, there is no right to civics education in the Constitution.”

Judge Smith’s opinion squarely recognized the federal court’s authority to review the students’ claim on the merits, namely whether a constitutional right to civics education represented the “quantum of education” that might be necessary for students to be prepared for the “meaningful exercise” of their constitutional rights. While Judge Smith found, to his regret, that he was unable to connect the legal dots to support this claim, his opinion articulates what is at stake for our country and our Constitution, leaving the plaintiffs a road map to present their appeal to the First Circuit. 

Plaintiffs have stated that they will appeal this decision to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Michael A. Rebell, a professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, who is lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said:

Judge Smith has written the most eloquent and forceful justification I’ve ever read for why America may not “survive as a county” if our students don’t obtain a civic education adequate to allow them to meet the challenges jeopardizing our democracy. The final paragraph to his opinion reads:

Plaintiffs should be commended for bringing this case. It highlights a deep flaw in our national education priorities and policies. The Court cannot provide the remedy Plaintiffs seek, but in denying that relief, the Court adds its voice to Plaintiffs’ in calling attention to their plea. Hopefully, others who have the power to address this need will respond appropriately.

Rebell, and the students and families he represents, believe a strong stance by the court will be necessary to ensure the policymakers and school leaders who have the power to address these issues actually do so. Rebell said, “Judge Smith acknowledged that the U.S.  Supreme Court in Rodriguez left the door open “a crack” for reconsideration aspects of that decision; we hope to convince the Court of Appeals that this open door does, in fact, permit the courts to rule on the critical issues raised by our case.”

Judge Smith’s full decision is linked here.

I urge you to read the decision.

James Hohmann of the Washington Post reviews a report that is soon to be released. It is highly critical of Attorney General William Barr.

He writes:

“A forthcoming report from the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law at the University of Pennsylvania, prepared in partnership with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, is sharply critical of Attorney General Bill Barr.

“The authors gave me a first look at their 277-page report, which is scheduled for publication next week, and focuses on nine areas, including the misleading summary Barr initially offered of special counsel Bob Mueller’s conclusions; the Justice Department’s handling of the whistleblower complaint related to President Trump’s infamous call with Ukraine’s president; his intervention in politically sensitive prosecutions, such as the cases of former Trump advisers Roger Stone and Michael Flynn; the deployment of federal agents and troops against protestors, including the order to clear Lafayette Square; the firing or reassignment of U.S. attorneys, especially in the Southern District of New York; his role in trying to block the publication of material unflattering to the president, such as former national security adviser John Bolton’s memoir; the politicization of several offices within the department, in particular the Office of Legal Counsel; and his resistance to congressional oversight, including subpoenas.

“The meatiest, and perhaps most timely, chapter focuses on Barr’s support for investigating the origins of the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Several of the authors have backgrounds in national security and intelligence, and they express fear that the ongoing investigation by U.S. Attorney John Durham of Connecticut, ordered up by Barr, could have chilling effects on collecting and disseminating information about potential foreign interference amid the 2020 election.

“There is a grave danger to the Intelligence Community from politicized DOJ investigations, intimidation and potential prosecutions,” the authors argue. “The use of a criminal investigation is ill-suited to examining the process of foreign intelligence analysis, poses unnecessary risks to intelligence sources and methods, intimidates and alienates foreign intelligence analysts, and chills the analytic process in a way likely to undermine the candor essential to producing the best intelligence information for national policymakers. The cumulative effects are likely to increase the attrition of talented intelligence personnel and neutralize the concept of ‘speaking truth to power’ that is essential to the effective use of intelligence in national policy decisions. All of this weakens prospective U.S. intelligence capabilities to the advantage of Russia and other adversaries in competition with the interests and goals of the United States.”

Barr’s spokespeople at the Justice Department did not respond to three requests for comment. The attorney general has vigorously defended the propriety of all his actions since taking office early last year. He testified last year that he thinks “spying did occur” on the Trump campaign in 2016 and has repeatedly cast doubt on whether there was proper predication for the investigation. He has said that – as the nation’s chief law enforcement official – he has an obligation to pursue wrongdoing, if there was any. He recently delivered a fiery speech that criticized career prosecutors for the zealousness with which they have pursued certain targets of investigations and defended the politicization of the Justice Department on his watch.

 

The three chairs of the 10-member working group that prepared this document over several months are University of Pennsylvania law professor Claire Finkelstein, the faculty director of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law; University of Minnesota law professor Richard Painter, who served as the chief White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush; and Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of CREW, a liberal-leaning watchdog group, and a former federal corruption prosecutor.

The bipartisan working group includes several members with significant national security backgrounds, including Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, who served as general counsel of the National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency; George Croner, who oversaw signals intelligence and FISA compliance in the operations division of the NSA’s general counsel’s office; Stuart Gerson, a former acting attorney general who ran the DOJ’s civil division under George H.W. Bush; Richard Meyer,who taught law at West Point after 22 years in the Army, including as a military intelligence specialist; and Shawn Turner,who wascommunications director for the director of national intelligence. Donald Ayer, who was deputy attorney general under Bush and Barr’s boss at one point, was a consultant for the project.

It is unknown whether Durham will issue any findings about his probe before Election Day, but Barr has not ruled out that he would announce something during the homestretch of the campaign. “The Attorney General appears to be determined to use the Durham investigation as a publicity tool in order to justify President Trump’s conduct in the 2016 campaign and to discredit the investigation of Robert Mueller,” the report says. “All signs point toward a politically orchestrated ‘October surprise.’”

Trump signed an executive order last year giving Barr broad authority to declassify government secrets, and the attorney general has used it. The Justice Department recently released a pair of documents that seemed designed to cast fresh doubt on the judgment of senior law enforcement officials who investigated possible links between Russia and the Trump campaign in 2016, showing that one of the FBI case agents thought prosecutors were out to “get Trump” and that a key source of allegations against the president had been previously investigated as a possible Russian asset.

Last month, a senior prosecutor working with Durham on his investigation resigned, raising concern that Barr was pushing the case toward some kind public announcement to benefit Trump ahead of the election. Durham’s investigators have reportedly asked witnesses about how the FBI handled the case after it came to have doubts about the credibility of Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer whose work the bureau relied on in part to obtain the secret court order to surveil Page.

The working group says it came to “the reluctant conclusion” that Barr is “using the powers” of the Justice Department to help get Trump reelected and cited several interviews that the attorney general has given to Fox News about the Durham investigation. The authors conclude with a list of 10 recommendations that they say would safeguard the rule of law, including ensuring more independence for future special counsels, requiring recusal of presidential appointees from matters involving his personal financial interests, staggered 10-year terms for U.S. attorneys and inspectors general, more autonomy for career prosecutors, additional independence for members of the intelligence community, more vigorous congressional oversight and requiring all Justice Department attorneys to comply with ethics advice from DOJ ethics officials. 

James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence under President Barack Obama, told the group in an interview quoted in the report that the questioning of intelligence analysts as part of a criminal probe into substantive foreign intelligence analysis issues has been “unprecedented.” Clapper said he could think of no other instance of such an inquiry during his 54 years in the intelligence world, and he complained that this will have a “very chilling effect” on analysts inside the agencies. “That just shouldn’t be,” Clapper said. “The intelligence community is supposed to tell the unvarnished truth as best it can, which is a hard enough job to start with.”

Yohuru Williams is Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of St. Thomas in St.Paul, Minnesota. He is a noted scholar of Black history. And he also serves on the board of the Network for Public Education.

Dean Williams writes here about the activism for social justice in Minneapolis-St.Paul, inspired by the words of the late Congressman and civil rights icon, John Lewis.

Earlier this September, in Minneapolis and St. Paul, a brave collection of principals and assistant principals banded together to take on the issue of equity and justice in education.

Lewis’s letter, though directed at Black Lives Matter activists in particular, encourages all of us to find ways to get into “good trouble, necessary trouble,” in order to advance the goals of justice.
The members of the alliance, now 159 strong, have branded themselves the “good trouble” coalition after the mantra of the late Congressman John Lewis, who, before passing away in July, wrote a final letter that sought to inspire a passion for activism around racial injustice.

In his last months of life, Lewis lamented the dangerous and deadly state of affairs in the United States: persistent unjust police violence against African Americans, the failed governmental response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and continued efforts to erode American democratic practice at the highest levels of government.

And Lewis’s letter, though directed at Black Lives Matter activists in particular, encourages all of us to find ways to get into “good trouble, necessary trouble,” in order to advance the goals of justice—especially in tackling the most urgent issues of racial inequality, climate change, mass incarceration, economic disparities, healthcare gaps, and political division.

He also invited young people to consider how they might transform the future through studying history as a means of understanding our enduring struggles to achieve lasting peace and equality.

It is ironic that Cong. Lewis urged young people to study history as a means to “lasting peace and equality,” even as Trump demands a reactionary revision of U.S. history to glorify its “leaders” (no doubt including the Confederates who rallied to preserve white supremacy) and diminish or remove the role of African Americans in that history.