Righteous Indignation

Tax Day was earlier this week. Like many Americans, I said some prayers — and a few curses — and hoped that Turbo Tax made sense of my mid-year move from D.C. to Texas, my investment roll-overs, my handful of I-9s and W-2s. I did my damnedest to be “true, correct, and complete,” as the IRS insisted. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld admitted via Twitter that he has “absolutely no idea whether our tax returns and our tax payments are accurate,” though, of course, he didn’t say that he knew that they weren’t accurate.

Campaign for Liberty, Ron Paul’s 501(c)(4) organization, announced this week that it’s actually pretty sure that its tax recent filings are incomplete, even if true and correct. (Two out of three ain’t bad?) According to C4L, the organization refused to divulge the names of its donors when it filed its IRS 990 forms. The IRS fined Campaign for Liberty just shy of $13,000, plus growing interest for each day the fine goes unpaid.

How did Campaign for Liberty respond? Not as you might expect….

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The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (“ENDA”) is proposed legislation that would prohibit most employers from discriminating on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The Senate passed the bill in November, but the proposal is currently languishing in the House.

President Obama supports ENDA. Recently, though, LGBT activists have criticized him for not pushing the proposed legislation harder and for not creating an executive order that would create ENDA-like protections for employees of federal contractors.

Republican lawmakers, though, are the ones who will ultimately rue not enacting ENDA while they have the chance. Here’s why….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The ENDA Title VII As We Know It: Why House Republicans Should Pass The Employment Non-Discrimination Act”

After yesterday’s decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, where the Supreme Court found that aggregate contribution limits violate the First Amendment, campaign finance is back in the spotlight. In October, when the Court heard oral arguments for McCutcheon, I wrote about why I thought Shaun McCutcheon should prevail and why “rumors of democracy’s death are greatly exaggerated.” Others apparently still believe the rumors.

Something else this week delivered grist for the mill, as the country considers how political causes ought to be funded. Mozilla, the nonprofit foundation responsible for the Firefox browser and other open-source ventures, promoted Brendan Eich to CEO last week. California law required the public report of Eich’s 2008 contribution to the campaign to pass Proposition 8, the ballot measure amending the state constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage. Prop 8, of course, eventually gave rise to the Supreme Court’s decision last term in Hollingsworth v. Perry. Eich’s financial support of Prop 8 has now given rise to a slew of woes for Eich and Mozilla.

Half of Mozilla’s board members quit, protesting a CEO with a history of activism against same-sex marriage. Some Firefox app developers decided to boycott Firefox projects until Eich is removed from his position. Twitter has been, well, atwitter with criticism.

Then, earlier this week, the dating site OkCupid rerouted all of its users accessing its site from a Firefox browser to a message that began, “Hello there, Mozilla Firefox user. Pardon this interruption of your OkCupid experience. Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OkCupid.” The message goes on to read, “Equality for gay relationships is personally important to many of us here at OkCupid. But it’s professionally important to the entire company. OkCupid is for creating love. Those who seek to deny love and instead enforce misery, shame, and frustration are our enemies, and we wish them nothing but failure.”

OkCupid’s arrow struck deep. What Eich now faces raises questions about political expression and association, laws requiring disclosure of political contributions, and the consequences of both….

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It’s been a hell of a week for knowing what to wear.

Judge Richard Kopf blogged about “being a dirty old man and how young women lawyers dress,” weighing in on the latest debate about proper attire for women in law.

The story of Sunnie Kahle also emerged. (Gavel bang: Ann Althouse.) Sunnie is an eight-year-old Virginia girl whose grandparents reported to news media that Sunnie had been booted from her school for not being sufficiently girly. The story of a tomboy expelled for bucking hyper-conservative Christian notions of femininity set the internet ablaze with headlines like “Little Girl Taken Out of Christian School After Told She’s Too Much Like a Boy.”

In both of these stories, others are telling females how to look acceptably feminine. Judge Kopf instructs female lawyers not to appear overtly sexual. School officials instruct Sunnie not to appear overtly boyish. In each case, the powers that be seem to dictate the narrow swath between too-feminine and not-feminine-enough. Women and girls must be recognizably female while not spotlighting the sex traits that make them female.

That’s one gloss.

Here’s another. Let’s talk about sex and uniforms . . . .

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Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Conestoga and Hobby Lobby cases, the high-profile challenges to the Obamacare contraception mandate. Many ordinary citizens wish they could tune in to the arguments on TV, or at least catch clips on the Daily Show nightly news. After all, how else can Americans access this valuable information that could change their lives forever? I mean, without an Upworthy piece or a Buzzfeed listicle?

Of course, serious folks make serious arguments championing televised coverage of Supreme Court arguments. UC Irvine School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky wrote an opinion piece this week, arguing that “[t]here is no excuse for keeping cameras out of the Supreme Court.” (Apparently, Chemerinsky wants cameras in and Justice Ginsburg out, for those keeping track of Chemerinsky’s wish list.) Earlier this month, the Coalition for Court Transparency, a group of press organizations and pro-transparency NGOs, sent a letter to Chief Justice Roberts, urging the Court to permit the video recording and broadcast of its courtroom.

So, what are opponents of cameras at One First Street so scared of? Do they worry that Chief Justice Roberts will start mugging for the camera? That Justice Scalia will insist on an added laugh track? That Justice Kagan will embark on a dangerous juice fast to slim down like a Hollywood starlet? (Actually, it looks like she already has.)

Those are not my concerns, but here is why I still think video coverage of U.S. Supreme Court arguments is a terrible idea….

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This week, Emad Abdullah Hassan, a Yemeni man held at Guantanamo Bay since 2002, renewed his legal effort to fight the policy of tube-feeding detainees on hunger strike in protest against their ongoing detention. Last month, the D.C. Circuit held that the federal courts have jurisdiction over cases where Gitmo detainees challenge the terms of their confinement, though the panel declined to enjoin the practice of forced feeding. (You can read the specific claims in Hassan’s case here.)

Nasogastric feeding, the method used with Gitmo hunger-strikers, is where medical staff deliver liquid nutrition directly to a patient’s stomach via a thin plastic tube inserted through the nose.

Critics call the forced feeding torture. Is it?

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Texas state senator and gubernatorial hopeful Wendy Davis has been on the defensive recently, ever since a Dallas Morning News piece documented inconsistencies between the story of personal struggle Davis has been using to promote herself in her campaign and . . . well, the facts.

Wendy Davis has since admitted that her campaign’s story included errors and misleading spin. She said in an interview, “My language should have been tighter. I’m learning about using broader, looser language. I need to be more focused on the detail.” (Just what we all want: the leader of the second most populous state in the union who admits she struggles with attention to details, starting with those of her own life.)

Davis supporters argue that Wendy’s political ambitions and personal life get judged by a double standard because she’s a woman. They claim male politicians don’t face this high scrutiny and that her critics reveal their misogyny by subjecting her to higher standards.

Of course, that’s a canny political pivot: make criticism work to your advantage by redirecting the negativity back to the critics themselves. What about the underlying question, though? Is Wendy Davis subject to a double standard because she’s a woman?

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Senator Marco Rubio (R – Fla.) has often said publicly that he personally still owed more than $100,000 in student loans when he joined the U.S. Senate in 2011. He only paid off his nearly $150,000 in debt after law school with the proceeds of his autobiography in December of 2012. Rubio and fellow senator (and law school graduate) Mike Lee (R – Utah) are young enough to be personally aware of the miasma surrounding higher ed — and especially higher ed funding — in the United States. It makes sense that they would lead the way toward reform. Apparently, they are.

In the past few days, the lawmakers have been popping up in public, touting efforts to reform higher education. Let’s take a look at the reforms they suggest….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Who Better To Reform Higher Ed Laws Than Some Law School Graduates?”

I didn’t know Phillip Seymour Hoffman, the gifted and apparently bedeviled actor who died of a heroin overdose this week. I have, however, known more than one friend who died from the same drug. They were middle class, suburban guys, honors students, active in their churches and communities. They would now be in their mid- and late-thirties, had they lived. But they didn’t live.

Even as a growing number of states begin the process of piecemeal decriminalization of marijuana, hard drugs like heroin remain another matter. Many people from both sides of the political spectrum agree that our marijuana laws ought to be radically reformed. I’ve written before about the economics of legalization. Civil libertarians, both right- and left-leaning, argue that prohibition offends principles of personal autonomy. Pot, though, is relatively safe — no more dangerous by most metrics than alcohol or tobacco, for however much that means. The fact that, as a general rule, people don’t die from smoking weed makes decriminalization an easier sell for legal reformers.

Heroin, on the other hand? The Drug Enforcement Administration reports that 3,038 people died of heroin overdoses in 2010, the last year for which the DEA has published statistics. A federal survey suggests that 335,000 people used heroin in the U.S. in the past month. (Compare this to an estimated 19.1 million pot users in the same time span, with nary an overdose among them.) Even when an overdose doesn’t kill, the addiction often leaves the user with an abysmal quality of life. Heroin addiction is also a perniciously treatment-resistant dependency. Abstinence rates for recovering opiate addicts are about 10 percent after one year.

Opioid replacement therapies like methadone offer one possible avenue for recovery from heroin addiction, but they are fraught with a lot of their own problems. Under federal law, methadone must be administered primarily at heavily regulated clinics often located in seedy neighborhoods. Also, methadone is a maintenance drug — instead of using heroin daily, an addict uses methadone daily for the long term. Furthermore, methadone carries its own alarming rate of overdose.

Ibogaine, a Schedule I drug in the United States, is available in many other countries, including Canada, South Africa, the Netherlands, Mexico, Norway, and the U.K. among others, where it is used to treat addiction. Unlike methadone, ibogaine is not a maintenance therapy: addicts typically experience relief after one or two doses. Its efficacy rate is reportedly extremely high. So, why isn’t this potentially life-saving anti-addiction drug available in the United States?

Who’s to blame for the legal unavailability of ibogaine?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Who’s To Blame For Ibogaine? A Debate Over Whether Big Government Or Big Pharma Is Keeping Heroin Addicts From Getting Well”

Law is not an especially racially diverse profession. More than 93 percent of partners are white, and less than two percent are black, according to 2013 statistics from NALP. A little over four percent of associates are black. A single African American lawyer argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in the entire OT 2012. By contrast, African Americans account for approximately 13 percent of the U.S. population.

Perhaps you think these statistics reflect persistent, pervasive race bias, even hatred. Perhaps you worry, as I do, that many good potential lawyers are excluded from the profession by a combination of obstacles that disproportionately affect the black community. Or perhaps you think many African Americans are just too damned smart to board the sinking ship that you think is the American legal world’s “New Normal.”

For purposes of present discussion, let’s say that, ceteris paribus, increasing the number of black lawyers would be good. How should law school admissions policies promote this goal?

Last Friday, Elie wrote about a Daily Caller article revealing plans at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Bowen School of Law. The plans involved faculty discussion of a new admissions program designed to recruit more black law students. Elie decried the article, lauded the proposed program, and suggested that it was not unconstitutional. Dan Greenberg, quoted in both the DC article and Elie’s, responded.

I agree with Elie that the DC article was lousy — poorly researched, misleadingly written, and blatantly inflammatory. I agree with Dan Greenberg, however, that UALR’s proposal almost certainly would not withstand the strict scrutiny analysis required of race-based admissions programs.

What is so wrong with admissions policies like this one? Even if we agree that encouraging and including more black law school applicants is a good thing, there are fairer, constitutionally permissible ways to achieve that goal without relying on ham-fisted race-based criteria. Ironically, we need look no further than the text of the LEAP proposal itself to see an example….

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