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SFFA v. Harvard: A New Era for Affirmative Action

October 16, 2018 Phil Ma 0

Background Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) sued Harvard University in November of 2014 alleging discriminatory admission standards. SFFA, representing a coalition of Chinese-, Indian-, Korean-, and Pakistani-American organizations across the U.S., contests Harvard’s claim that their holistic admissions process weights race fairly and argues.1  The coalition claims Harvard’s admissions process violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. SFFA claims that legacy and athlete admissions cannot explain the disparity in admission gaps using statistical analyses of Harvard’s admissions data conducted by Peter Arcidiacono, a labor economist and professor at Duke University. Using the same data, David Card, professor of economics at University of California, Berkeley, reached very different conclusions than Arcidiacono’s. Card’s study has been endorsed by former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. Edward Blum is a supporter of SFFA.2  Blum was responsible for Fisher v. University of Texas and Shelby County v. Holder, the former as a failed […]

US Law

Who is Actually Served and Protected? An Overview of Nuisance Property Ordinances

October 15, 2018 Isadora Toledo 0

Summary: Despite being designed to limit public harm that occurs on properties, nuisance property ordinances perpetuate systemic housing barriers faced by domestic violence victims. Today more than ever, the duty of police to “serve and protect” has come under public scrutiny. The law, however, should not be exempt from the same criticism – especially as it applies to housing. Often overlooked, laws concerning housing and property can be just as potent in criminalizing marginalized groups. This is especially true of nuisance ordinances, the latest development in a series of laws aimed at “hold[ing] property owners liable for criminal activity on the premises.” Also called disorderly house ordinances or crime-free ordinances, nuisance ordinances were originally intended to dissuade tenants from unnecessarily using police resources. Police members also consider nuisance ordinances a way to “maintain the quality of life in a community” and “provide incentives for preventing criminal activity.” From a landlord […]

US Law

NIFLA v. Becerra: Does The C.A. Reproductive FACT Act Violate Crisis Pregnancy Centers’ Free Speech Rights?

October 15, 2018 Alan Zhao 0

Summary: A 2015 California law that requires crisis pregnancy centers to inform eligible women of state programs available to help them triggered opposition from anti-abortion advocates. The court decision ruled in favor of the state government, but not likely to put an end to debates as such. Since Roe v. Wade in 1973, abortion has been a mainstay cultural battleground in the United States. In the decades since, multiple challenges have been made to alter the scope of its judgement. Most relevantly, Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) largely reaffirmed Roe v. Wade. However, Planned Parenthood v. Casey opened the door to certain regulations on abortion providers, including requiring them to provide information to patients regarding the fetus, detrimental effects of abortion, and adoption. Planned Parenthood v. Casey set the stage for states to regulate abortions, even in the first trimester in some cases, as long as said regulations do not […]

US Law

“To Seek Justice, Not Merely to Convict”: Prosecutorial Power and the Case for Restorative Justice

March 26, 2018 Jackson Skeen 0

  How Do Prosecutors Impact Incarceration? There are three significant ways in which prosecutorial power feeds mass incarceration: abuse of discretion, misconduct, and political influence. Prosecutors’ aggressive use of discretion, while legal, has sent more and more people to prison even as crime rates and arrests have dropped off. Prosecutors have increasingly filed felony charges in an effort to be perceived as “tough on crime” and in the name of public safety — but at what cost? The exponential growth of the U.S. prison population has placed a substantial economic burden on taxpayers and, more importantly, it has torn apart the social fabric of communities ravaged by mass incarceration. Moreover, social scientists have determined the incarceration rate is now so high that the excessively punitive approach of prosecutors is likely harming, rather than benefitting, public safety.[1] Prosecutorial misconduct, while less prevalent, is particularly problematic because it epitomizes the imbalance of […]

US Law

The Psychological Effects of Solitary Confinement: An Evolving Legal Interpretation

October 14, 2017 William Tong 0

By William Tong | October 14, 2017 While it is true that prisoners must be punished, justice and humanity necessitate that they be punished within the limits of the Constitution and accepted standards of human decency. But in contemporary American society, many prisoners are punished in the form of solitary confinement, where they have little access to external stimuli such as books or television, maintain no meaningful social interaction with others, and spend over twenty-two hours a day in barren solitude. In such a sterile environment, inmates can develop “serious psychological” issues ranging from “insomnia and confusion to hallucinations and outright insanity.”   Yet when the mental ramifications of solitary confinement are measured against the constitutional limits of punishment embodied in the Eighth Amendment, courts have consistently failed to find a violation. Although the issue of solitary confinement has been examined by many scholars, the existing academic dialogue surrounding the […]

US Law

The Pandora’s Box of the Criminal Justice System

September 25, 2017 Jenny Jiao 0

By Jenny Jiao |  09/25/17 In 2013, Eric Loomis pled guilty to two charges related to a drive-by shooting in La Crosse, Wisconsin, “attempting to flee a traffic officer and operating a motor vehicle without the owner’s consent.” At his sentencing hearing, the judge relied, in part, on Loomis’s score on a risk assessment algorithm called COMPAS, which deemed him at high risk for recidivism (the tendency for a criminal to reoffend). He was unable to contest the assessment’s result because the inputs and weighting of said inputs were kept secret. Since COMPAS was privately developed by Northpointe Inc., the methodology is considered a proprietary trade secret and therefore is inaccessible to all parties in the court system. Loomis was sentenced to six years in prison and five years of extended supervision. Loomis appealed, arguing that because the assessment’s methodology was kept secret, its usage violated his due process rights to […]

US Law

Redefining Contemporary Community Standards in an Evolving Sociopolitical Climate

September 20, 2017 Rachel Sereix 0

In an evolving sociopolitical climate, the law should further define “contemporary community standards” first prescribed in Roth v. United States. This article will employ the United States v. Pacifica Foundation decision for the purposes of scrutinizing the current Federal Communications Commission regulatory practices while still upholding First Amendment protections. Addressing the broadcasting of George Carlin’s “Filthy Words” monologue, Justice John Paul Stevens found that broadcasting speech which is “patently offensive” yet not necessarily obscene may be subject to restrictions and does not fall under First Amendment protections. Unlike obscenity, speech does not have to appeal to a prurient interest in order to be characterized as indecent. However, it is essential to recognize that the media market has evolved considerably since the Pacifica decision in 1978. One could now argue that what constituted indecent moral standards in 1978 are not considered indecent in 2017. In this advisement report, I recommend that […]

US Law

Running Out of Excuses: The All Too Familiar Narrative of Police Shootings

August 5, 2017 Aanan Henderson 1

On June 16, in St. Paul, Minnesota, a decision was handed down in the trial of Jeronimo Yanez, the police officer who fatally shot Philando Castile in the summer of 2016. The facts of the case were hardly in dispute: after pulling Mr. Castile over, Officer Yanez asked to see his driver’s license. To avoid any confusion, Castile then told the officer that he was armed and was carrying a gun in his pants pocket. However, when Castile complied with the officer’s command and reached for his I.D., he was summarily shot seven times in front of his fiancée and four-year-old daughter. The immediate aftermath of this was captured on Facebook Live by Castile’s fiancée, sparking a national outcry in a political climate that was already rife with similar incidents. What was even more stunning about this incident was Mr. Castile’s compliance with what most law enforcement would say is […]

US Law

The Hero Republicans Needed: A Reflection on the Nomination of Justice Neil Gorsuch

May 11, 2017 Aanan Henderson 0

On a particularly chilly Monday morning in March, the Senate Judiciary Committee began confirmation hearings for the Trump administration’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch. The hearings came at a perfect time for the Republican Party. After a failed healthcare bill, a series of blocked executive orders, and a highly contentious standstill on the federal budget, Gorsuch’s confirmation promised to be a win for a party that had so far struggled to make the tangible changes that the president promised during his 2016 campaign. During the confirmation, Senate Democrats did everything in their power to derail Gorsuch’s confirmation. But, as the hearings proceeded, the inevitability of confirmation became increasingly clear. During his hearing, Judge Gorsuch distanced himself from the president’s more controversial policies, insisting that he would not be a puppet of the Trump administration if placed on the Court. Prior to the hearings, Judge Gorsuch publicly criticized the president’s derision […]

US Law

Tweeting Away Trust: Trump’s Wiretapping Allegation and its Implications for the Intelligence Community

April 12, 2017 Isabelle Jensen 0

During an early-morning tweet session on March 4, President Trump shared that he “Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory” and asked, “is it legal for a sitting President to be ‘wire-tapping’ a race for president prior to an election?” The answer to Mr. Trump’s question is a definitive “no.” Without showing a warrant, the President does not have the unilateral authority to order a wiretap unless it is directed against non-Americans or purely overseas communications. If a sitting President were to order a wiretap of an opposing nominees’ headquarters during the height of their Presidential campaign, it could easily provoke the largest political scandal in recent memory. The very fact that President Trump would make such a claim is deeply troubling. The media was quick to question Mr. Trump’s tweet. The president gave no evidence to back up his claims. […]