Constitutional Law

US Law

Plyler v. Doe: Undocumented Students and Post-Secondary Education

November 13, 2018 Isadora Toledo 0

Summary: Plyler v. Doe lay the groundwork for states to recognize the value of awarding education to every group, regardless of citizenship status. Yet the evolution of education means that over thirty years later, its shortcomings are impossible to ignore. Perhaps even from its conception, American society has recognized the value of education. Over a decade ago, Chief Justice Warren regarded education as “perhaps the most important function of state and local governments” – a “right which must be made available to all on equal terms.” In a country whose history is fraught with battles for liberty, various marginalized groups – from indigenous peoples to Latinx communities – have struggled to claim this right. And for many, specifically undocumented immigrants, the struggle continues. As immigration and naturalization policies increasingly come to conflict with education, questions of who deserves what and why are brought to the forefront. Although the struggle for […]

US Law

Change and Controversy: A Review of Hate Crime Laws in America

November 7, 2018 Thomas Huck 0

Pittsburgh. Kroger. Package bombs. Over the past two weeks, the United States has been recovering from three different attacks. As the perpetrators of each face charges, the question of motivation for these hate-fueled attacks is being brought up across the nation. For the courts, the question of what constitutes a hate crime is an especially important one. Amid efforts to reform hate crime statutes, the Department of Justice released a new hate crimes website to provide resources for law enforcement agencies. Although the Department has “increased training of federal, state, and local law enforcement officers to ensure that hate crimes are identified and prosecuted to the fullest extent possible,” a report from California State University, San Bernardino, indicates that the number of hate crimes across the nation continues to rise. These studies only tell half of the story. A majority of hate crimes that were committed between 2011 and 2015 […]

US Law

The Supreme Court’s Ability to Enforce Rulings

November 1, 2018 Gramal Ralph 0

Summary: The Supreme Court’s move to the right has raised questions of the Court’s ability to enforce its rulings.  To many Americans, the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh marked the Supreme Court’s move to the ideological right. The country is wondering how this will affect rulings on landmark issues such as abortion, religious liberty, the rights of the LGBTQ community, and more. Americans have long looked at the Supreme Court as an authority to protect the people from unconstitutional executive actions, laws, and statutes. It is often seen as the last line of defense to protect civil liberties. However, the Constitution does not establish a basis for the court to enforce its decisions. In early American history, the Court’s role in government was unknown. The Constitution, in Article III: sections one and two, establishes the Supreme Court as the highest court in the land. It was not until 1803, that […]

US Law

Swartz v. Rodriguez: A Question of Qualified Immunity

November 1, 2018 Phil Ma 0

Summary: U.S. government officials sometimes must make discretionary decisions in split-seconds with only limited information. To protect these officials from personal, civil lawsuits, the idea of qualified immunity was born. However, questions are raised when a discretionary decision kills someone who is not a citizen and it occurs outside of US territory. These are the questions that Swartz v. Rodriguez seeks to answer. Background In October 2012, Lonnie Swartz, a U.S. border patrol agent, shot and killed 16-year-old Mexican national Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez. He was shot approximately 10 times through the border fence that separated the United States and Mexico, all entering the body from behind. Agent Swartz was standing within the United States during the shooting and Mr. Rodriguez was wholly in Mexico. Swartz claimed that the deceased, referenced as J.A. in court documents, threw rocks at him; however, the First Amended Complaint submitted to the courts claim […]

US Law

The Right to Refuse Service and Its Implications on Society

October 22, 2018 Jacob Turobiner 0

Summary: A business owner has the right to refuse service as long as he or she does not infringe upon federal or state discrimination laws. Background Across the nation, businesses display and enforce their right to refuse service. Whether a customer is causing a nuisance or is dressed inappropriately, the business could withhold its services without legal repercussions. Many businesses make their right clear by posting signs with phrases like “We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to Anyone.” While this statement does hold true in many cases, it depends on the reasoning behind refusing service. The Constitution, federal laws, and state laws protect certain groups of people from discrimination on the basis of being a member of that group in public accommodations, but not all groups are protected. What Constitutes Illegal Discrimination Since the Civil Rights Act of 1964, businesses cannot discriminate against any person on the basis of […]

US Law

California Bail Reform Leaves Both Sides Unhappy

October 21, 2018 Isabella Caracta 0

Summary: California’s new bail reform bill, Senate Bill 10, goes into effect October 2019, but activist groups pull support for SB10. It is a little-known fact that the American constitution fails to guarantee its citizens the right to bail; however, the Eighth Amendment prohibits excessive bail charges. The Bail Reform Act of 1966 affords people charged with non-capital offenses a statutory right to be released, pending trial, based on personal recognizance or personal bond. This act provided people with a statutory right where a constitutional right is lacking. Contrarily, bail systems vary from state to state and can be highly discriminatory against certain racial and socioeconomic groups (particularly African American and Latino minorities). Judges are afforded great discretion as to when a defendant is detained, whether or not bail will be set, and the price of bail. Because inherent prejudices can arise from the current bail systems, there has been […]

International Law

Indefinite Solitary Confinement Ruled Unconstitutional in British Columbia

April 5, 2018 Hunter Snowden 0

Summary: The Supreme Court of BC has classified indefinite solitary confinement as a form of torture and a breach of Canadian prisoners’ rights. On January 17, 2018, the Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled Canadian prisons’ use of indefinite solitary confinement unconstitutional. The court ruled that the practice of allowing the wardens to place an unjustified expiration date on prisoners’ time in solitary was equivalent to torture and placed them at an increased risk of self-harm and suicide. Justice Peter Leask wrote in his decision that this indefinite administrative segregation violated the rights afforded to prisoners under Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, specifically the right to not be deprived of the security of life and the person protected by this section. While this section does clarify that these rights are subject to seizure in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice, Leask did not believe that […]

International Law

France: Safe State or Police State?

November 15, 2017 Hunter Snowden 0

Summary: France introduces new controversial terrorism bill but faces large resistance from European Union and human rights organizations. On November 1st, French President Emmanuel Macron signed into law a controversial anti-terrorism bill that would make permanent some of the conditions that were enacted under the state of emergency declared by President François Hollande in 2015. The new bill allows police to search property, conduct interrogations, and make arrests, all without a warrant, should the police believe the suspects to be of a threat to national security. Prior to the declaration of the the state of emergency, such acts would have required approval from a judge. Concerns have been raised by humans rights group from within and outside France. The groups are worried that the vague language of the bill — that allows law enforcement to close mosques that they accuse of preaching hate — will be used to discriminate against […]

International Law

Catalonia: Civil War or Legal Secession?

October 25, 2017 Hunter Snowden 0

Summary: Catalonia is looking at the best opportunity for secession it has ever had but the Spanish government has deemed it unconstitutional. On October 1, 2017, Catalans stared down armed national police and tear gas to take their first proper steps towards independence from Spain. Meeting large resistance from the federal government in Madrid, Catalonia held a referendum vote to decide whether or not they would remain part of Spain. Despite 90% of the votes cast being in favor of independence, the Spanish Prime Minister went on national TV later in the day to say that “no official referendum had been held” and that any attempt at a referendum was unconstitutional. Are the people of Catalan actually engaging in an act of state-sponsored resistance? If they are not, is this another piece of the plan of the Spanish government to hold onto a part of their country that constitutes over […]