A Little Inspiration 8 Innocent People Get Exonerated in Netflix’s ‘The Innocence Files’
“I think the best thing that a lawyer can do with their license is get an innocent guy out of prison”
More of This How to fix our voting rules before November
MARC ELIAS is a lawyer and the chair of Perkins Coie’s Political Law Group.
In 1979, the NBA introduced the three-point line, creating new superstars who could hit the long-range jumper. The bigger long-term impact of the change, though, was to increase the effectiveness of the tallest players, who benefited from stretched defenses.
What is true of sports is also true of elections—even slight adjustments to the rules can tilt the game for or against certain players, and ultimately influence outcomes, sometimes in unanticipated ways.
According to a new study, in 2016, Donald Trump received a 1.7 percent bump in states where he was listed first on every ballot. In some states where he received that benefit, including Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, he won by less than that amount.
Another recent study showed that increasing the number of days of early in-person voting particularly increased turnout among women and voters in their 20s. According to the authors, if every state in 2016 had provided 23 days of early voting, Hillary Clinton would have won Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin―and the presidency.
The uncertainties caused by COVID-19 have led a number of states to examine and adjust the rules for the November elections. Thus far, most of the planning has focused on how states will handle the predicted demand for voting by mail. There is no question that voting by mail is an important part of the solution. It mitigates the problems of long lines and fosters social distancing. But the specific rules used to implement vote by mail may determine whose vote is counted and whose is not.
Experience and past election results show that in order to prevent vote by mail from inadvertently disenfranchising voters, states must adopt four key safeguards:
(1) Postage must be free or prepaid by the government.
(2) Ballots postmarked on or before Election Day must count.
(3) Signature-matching laws need to be reformed to protect voters
(4) Community organizations must be permitted to help collect and deliver voted, sealed ballots.
Read the story on The Atlantic
Say it Louder Get immigrants out of detention now
Valerie Anne Zukin is the legal director for the California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice. Lisa Knox is the immigrant rights managing attorney at Centro Legal de la Raza.
COVID-19 is presenting unique challenges and threats to our society. California is behind only Texas and Louisiana in terms of the total number of immigrants in detention, with 5,600 people held in five facilities. Thousands cycle through these facilities every few months. For those of us who represent and advocate for immigrants in detention, the challenge we face is truly unprecedented, with thousands of lives at stake, and a narrow window in which we must take action.
Many have sounded the alarm that immigrant detention facilities are potential tinderboxes for COVID-19, and little time is left for action. We have spent more than a decade assisting people in these facilities and know what needs to be done to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. We must do everything in our power to release immigrants from detention. We must also hold detention facility operators accountable for their negligence, and lastly, we must ensure that those in detention have appropriate access to attorneys and the outside world.
Now, more than ever, we must recognize that immigrant detention is unnecessary and wrong. Those who are held in these facilities are awaiting a civil proceeding and do not need to be detained; many are long-term residents of our state, with spouses and children who are U.S. citizens. During this stressful and uncertain time, they should be with their families.
Read the story on SF Chronicle
Stay Vigilant The coronavirus is hitting people of color the hardest
IBRAM X. KENDI is professor and the director of The Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. He is the National Book Award–winning author of Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America and How to Be an Antiracist.
I dread every time my partner leaves our home. I dread every time Sadiqa marches to the front lines of the war against COVID-19—the emergency department. I dread every time she comes home and removes her personal protective equipment.
Sadiqa is worried like a soldier in a total war, seeing so many medical providers going down, seeing so many patients going down. I am worried about her health—and my own, as someone surviving metastatic cancer. I am worried about all medical providers, all Americans who have compromised immune systems, all Americans who are infected, all Americans who are healthy and want to remain that way.
As a student of health disparities, I am especially worried about the well-being of people of color. And people of color appear to be especially worried about their own well-being. Black people, at 46 percent, and Latinos, at 39 percent, are about twice as likely as white people, at 21 percent, to view the coronavirus as a major threat to their health.
Last week, I called for states, counties, and private labs to begin reporting the racial demographics of the people who are being tested for, infected with, hospitalized with, or killed by COVID-19. In the absence of that information, I can’t tell for sure whether black and Latino Americans should be more worried than white Americans. Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Ayanna Pressley recently urged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to lead the effort to collect and publish such data. Local leaders and editorial boards are pushing for the same.
The pressure is on. The pressure will not relent.
Even so, it could be some time before all or even most of the relevant agencies begin releasing racial data. But public-health officials and medical providers like my wife are fighting COVID-19 now. People are sick now. People are on ventilators now. People are dying now. We need more racial data now. We need to assess the data we have right now.
When I examine the trickle of data from states and counties on coronavirus patients, when I scrutinize the racial demographics of hot spots, when I study the survey data, it sure seems to me as if the viral pandemic is hitting people of color the hardest.
Time and again, a state or county releases racial data. Time and again, those numbers reveal a sizable racial disparity. Time and again, black Americans are overrepresented among the infected and dead. America’s newest infection seems to be mating with America’s original infection, reproducing not life, but death.
Read the story on The Atlantic
Less of This The Supreme Court has chosen reckless partisanship
GARRETT EPPS teaches constitutional law and creative writing for law students at the University of Baltimore.
In this grim pandemic spring, as a worried nation has shut down, political leaders such as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and (belatedly) President Donald Trump have signaled that the government is still open. Letter carriers, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientists, health-care workers, and law-enforcement personnel are among the government employees risking their lives to make sure that essential functions do not collapse.
Conspicuously missing from this roll of honor is the Supreme Court of the United States, which, when social distancing and lockdowns spread across the nation, simply closed its doors, largely ceased operations, and disappeared. The Court has, as of last Friday, canceled two months’ worth of oral argument and provided no word on when, or how, it will take up its calendar again. “The Court will consider a range of scheduling options and other alternatives if arguments cannot be held in the Courtroom before the end of the Term,” the official website explains unhelpfully.
Of course, the unseen, unheard justices are—somewhere, somehow—deciding cases. Two previously argued cases were decided on Monday, one concerning the Fourth Amendment rules for police stops of cars, and the other on the burden of proof of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. And then, Monday night, the Court unveiled a 5–4 decision saying that while the justices are staying safe at home, thousands of voters in Wisconsin must either risk infection by defying a stay-at-home order or forfeit their right to vote in important state elections.
The question arose because of the deadly speed of COVID-19, which caught everyone by surprise. When the scope of danger became clear, states across the country postponed local elections and primaries to protect voters and poll workers. In Wisconsin, the Democratic governor called a special session to consider a delay; the Republican legislative majority refused even to convene. They calculated that a lower turnout would be good for them, and walked away from their duty to the voters. Applications for absentee ballots surged—an understandable response to the looming danger at the polls—until the numbers overwhelmed state officials.
As of last week, thousands had not yet received their ballot, and so could not mail it to be received by Election Day, April 7. To vote, they would have to risk infection and journey to the polls. A federal district judge found this to be a burden on the right to vote, and ordered the state to accept ballots that arrived by April 13. A federal appeals court approved the order.
But the Supreme Court, wherever it is, stepped in at the last moment with a decision that no justice signed. Responding to a request by the state Republican Party, the high court reinstated the old deadline.
Read the story on Slate
Perspective How 27 years in prison prepared me for coronavirus
When I need to go to my local supermarket, I suit up with latex gloves I got from Target and my wannabe N95 mask. (Really, I just wear my sleep mask over my nose and mouth.) When I get home, I clean my groceries with disinfecting wipes, put my clothes in the wash, take a shower. Only then do I allow myself to make physical contact with my wife and sons.
It’s not ideal. But I am not as anxious as you may be during the coronavirus crisis, because not so long ago I had to survive with less. I spent 27 years in prison, a sentence that began when I was 17 years old. And if there’s one thing people who spent a long time in prison have acquired, it’s the ability to adapt.
Now I am falling back on my old prison survival habits. While my neighbors are running to the grocery store for the last of the toilet paper, hand sanitizer and canned goods, I am unbothered by the idea of running out—I have made do before. I gladly take the full 20 seconds to wash my hands with the warm water I was deprived of for 27 years. And I’m stocked up on my prison-survival kit: peanut butter and grape jelly.
Self-quarantine is similar to being in what New York prisons call keeplock. Like with solitary confinement, you must spend 23 hours a day alone in your cell. The big difference is that in keeplock you get to keep all of your property with you. This includes personal food purchased from the commissary, all of your underwear and shirts, and, if you have them, your books, radio and television.
My first time in keeplock came when an officer who searched my cell found a large bottle of garlic powder I purchased from the mess-hall black market. This was not a press conference-worthy drug bust, but don’t tell the correctional officer who made it. He treated me like I was El Chapo when all I wanted was to flavor my food. I was keeplocked many other times for situations that ranged from having a bucket on my floor to not complying with a surprise search.
So I’ve seen a version of coronavirus-related panic before. In my early years inside, keeplocks were the catalyst for deep depression. I wanted to go to the yard, gym, mess hall and work. I didn’t want to be alone. I was already away from my family, and freedom at large, which opened up a bag of thoughts about bad choices, remorse and the unfairness of the criminal justice system.
Read the story on The Marshall Project
Monday April 13 at Noon
This week's topics:
Join us for a virtual conversation with friends from all over California. You’ll leave the session knowing the next steps many lawyers and activists are taking and how to rise to the challenges of this time, and feel more strongly connected to others in the social justice legal community.
April 13 at 12:00 Noon. Register here
Thursday April 16 at Noon
Do you have to say your name 2-3 times each time you introduce yourself in a new setting? Do you code switch at work because you know you can’t be your authentic self in certain environments?
This workshop will be led by Karen Fleshman, a social justice lawyer and activist, founder of Racy Conversations, and author of the upcoming book White Women, We Need to Talk: Doing Our Part to End Racism.
April 16 at 12:00 Noon. Register here
With support from California ChangeLawyers℠, UnCommon Law seek to hire a full-time, year-long legal Fellow to support the work of our New Pilot Program. The Fellow will be a part of a team of advocates, counselors and attorneys supporting Pilot program participants in navigating the discretionary parole process, including supporting those participants in developing new self-narratives to heal from past trauma.