Less of This How Indigenous women are harmed by Texas abortion law
For Native American women living on tribal lands, obtaining an abortion has long been a difficult and daunting process.
For Native women in Texas, that challenge has been magnified after the U.S. Supreme Court refused this week to block the state's ban on most abortions, underscoring the unique health disparities that Indigenous women have long faced and the potential threats to their health, said Charon Asetoyer, executive director of the Native American Women's Health Education Resource Center.
Asetoyer, a Comanche tribe descendant, fears that many Native women, who already suffer from the highest rates of rape and sexual assault, will be unable to find the monetary means to access a safe and legal abortion outside Texas — if that's even an option for them — or be forced to give birth under already strenuous and financially fraught circumstances. Indigenous women in the United States are more than twice as likely than white women to die from conditions caused or exacerbated by pregnancy.
"It's certainly a whole other level of mental anxiety and cruelty that's forced upon us," Asetoyer said. "Our right, our human right, to make this decision is being taken from us."
Read the story on NBC News
Speaking Of… This abortion ban could spawn threats to other constitutional rights
Erwin Chemerinsky is dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law. He is the author, most recently, of “Presumed Guilty: How the Supreme Court Empowered the Police and Subverted Civil Rights.”
The threat posed by the Supreme Court’s refusal to block the Texas abortion law — which bans 85% to 90% of abortions performed in the state — goes far beyond reproductive rights. It opens the door to insidious copycat laws that could be used to attack other constitutional rights.
The Texas law bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, around six weeks of pregnancy. Instead of requiring state prosecutors to enforce this clearly unconstitutional law, it gives private citizens the right to sue anyone who performs, aids or abets an abortion, or intends to do so, for a $10,000 payment from that party.
Because this law relies only on private civil lawsuits, a person targeted by this law (a clinic, a doctor, a person giving advice, a friend driving a woman to a clinic) cannot take the state or state officials to court to strike down the law. The state of Texas cannot be sued in federal or state court because it has sovereign immunity and it maintains that its officials cannot be sued because they are not involved in enforcing the law.
The bizarre twist in this devious law is that a doctor or other persons targeted can only challenge the law’s constitutionality as a defendant in a civil lawsuit. In other words, a courageous doctor or health professional would have to violate the six-week ban, be sued for money damages in Texas state court, and then argue as a defense that the law is unconstitutional. If a state judge rules in the defendant’s favor and strikes down the law, the case could then go up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
There is a huge risk in this strategy for doctors and health professionals. If the Supreme Court overrules Roe vs. Wade — and its ruling Wednesday night suggests that five justices are willing to do so — then the Texas law would be upheld and the doctors would be liable to pay the money judgments. Not surprisingly, most reproductive healthcare facilities in Texas are complying with the unconstitutional law rather than face a wave of costly lawsuits.
This strategy has provided a road map for other states, not just to undermine abortion rights, but to endanger other constitutional rights as well.
Read the story on LA Times
More of This A Black prosecutor called out racism in the DAs office
The headlines read as though they were written by protesters who routinely demonstrated outside the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.
Why I Don’t Trust Prosecutors.
When Police And Prosecutors Are Partners in Crime.
When Innocence Is Inconvenient.
Unsparingly criticizing the nation’s largest prosecutor’s office, the accompanying essays accused the agency of a smorgasbord of malfeasance: racial discrimination, failing to protect employees from sexual harassment and failing to hold police accountable for misconduct.
Blunt and profane, the sentences quaked with anger at an institution the author viewed as fundamentally broken.
Though each post echoed criticisms that protesters lobbed last year at then-Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey, these calls for change came from inside the office.
The author was a prosecutor. His pen name: Spooky Brown Esq.
The man behind the alias, Adewale Oduye, had been a prosecutor since 2008. Oduye said his typing fingers were fueled by the culture of an office that has not charged a Los Angeles police officer in an on-duty shooting in two decades, one where he said colleagues openly mocked Black Lives Matter protesters, even when injured by police.
For years, Oduye had tried to handle the matters internally by writing memos to his bosses, including Lacey, or filing grievances against supervisors he considered racist, according to district attorney’s office documents.
When that didn’t work, he used the only weapon he thought he had left: his voice. In a dozen essays published on Medium under Spooky Brown’s byline, he accused supervisors of refusing to confront law enforcement misconduct or pursuing cases against defendants he believed were obviously innocent.
Oduye’s posts started to garner attention for intimately portraying the inner workings of the district attorney’s office, re-creating disturbing conversations among prosecutors and painting Spooky as a hard-charging attorney seeking justice in the face of colleagues interested only in convictions.
Read the story on LA Times
More of This Activists across the country are working to elect progressive judges
On Feb. 28, 1991, 17-year-old Robert Saleem Holbrook sat before a judge in a Philadelphia courtroom waiting to learn if he would spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Thirteen months earlier, on the night of his 16th birthday, Holbrook had served as a lookout for a drug deal gone wrong that ended in the murder of one of the participants. Despite never laying a hand on the victim, Holbrook was charged with first-degree murder, a capital offense in Pennsylvania. Facing the death sentence, he entered a plea deal for general murder, hoping that the judge overseeing his case would settle on a third-degree murder charge, which carried a penalty of 10-20 years in prison. Instead, claiming that his hands were tied by mandatory sentencing guidelines, the judge found Holbrook guilty of murder in the first degree. Under Pennsylvania law, the conviction carried a punishment of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Thirty years later, Holbrook is, to use the lingo of the criminal justice system, “decarcerated,” thanks to a 2012 decision by the United States Supreme Court that found that life sentences without the possibility of parole for minors violated the Eighth Amendment. Although Holbrook’s days as an inmate are behind him, the lessons he learned while sitting in the courtroom as a 17-year-old criminal defendant are still very much with him. One particular insight has stuck with him: The judges who preside over America’s courtrooms are as much participants in contested political battles as they are executors of blind justice.
“What I saw in the courtroom, and what many other people like me saw — we don’t see justice in courtrooms. We see politics being expressed in the courtroom,” Holbrook said. “The judge in my courtroom — as a juvenile facing the death sentence for being a lookout to a drug-related homicide that I didn’t see, or even have any idea that was going to happen — he was not pursuing justice. In my case, he was pursuing politics. … It was politics that had me sitting in that courtroom facing the death sentence at the age of 16.”
Now the executive director of the Straight Ahead, the political action wing of the Abolitionist Law Center in Philadelphia, Holbrook has decided that if judges cannot be arbiters of pure justice, they can at least be representatives of a new type of politics — one that is more attuned to the injustices of America’s criminal justice system. And Holbrook is not alone. In a handful of cities around the country, criminal justice reformers are organizing to get reform-minded judges elected to local benches, setting in motion a movement to “flip the bench” in favor of more progressive judges.
Read the story on Politico
Fellowship Opportunity: Disaster resilience fellow wanted
NLSLA’s Equal Justice Works Disaster Resilience Fellow will join a national cohort of 14 attorneys who have been deployed at partner organizations to provide direct legal services to disaster survivors.
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Job Opportunity: Community & Housing Lawyers wanted
CLSEPA seeks a full-time community lawyer to work with its housing team and a a full-time attorney to conduct litigation with its housing team.
CLSEPA is a legal services non-profit that combines policy advocacy and impact litigation with direct legal services. We specialize in housing, immigration, and economic advancement.
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Constitution Day with Cal LAW
Featuring our guest speakers, UC Davis School of Law Dean, Kevin Johnson and UC Legal Associate Campus Counsel, Maleah N. Vidal.
September 17. Register >
Grants to address the pending eviction tsunami
To address this housing crisis, the California Access to Justice Commission is excited to announce that The California Endowment has provided funding to strengthen the legal aid community’s capacity to represent and assist low-income BIPOC families and individuals in jeopardy of losing their housing because of back-rent due to COVID-19.
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LEAP Fellowship for diverse students
For anyone who identifies as a diverse student who lives in California, and want to apply to law school in the fall of 2022.
Application opens September 1. Register >