Podcast: The secret history of how corporations gained civil rights

Legal Talk NetworkOne of the longest, most successful campaigns for civil rights wasn't led by women or African-Americans; it was led by corporations. In this podcast by the ABA Journal's Modern Law Library, Law Professor Adam Winkler talks about what he learned about the civil rights of corporations while researching his book, We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights. Winkler talks to Lee Rawles about how corporations have gained constitutional protections over the years.

Podcast: Women affected by police violence

police lights sirenPolice violence affects women of color as much as men. So why don't we hear more about it? In this podcast from The Washington Post, Jonathan Capehart talks to Andrea J. Ritchie, author of Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color. Ritchie tells Capehart women of color are stopped and frisked by police just as often as men.

Ever wanted to be a writer? Write something for us!

writer authorSome of us may have daydreamed about being a celebrated author someday. Others need to find the proper motivation to write about a subject for which they are passionate. Have you ever wanted to organize your thoughts and opinions, type them up, and see them in a magazine, newsletter or blog? Then we invite you to submit your manuscript to us! We welcome all submissions that are directly or indirectly related to the legal profession. Please e-mail your article to afindley@associationsmgt.com and we'll be happy to consider it for publication.

All submissions become the property of Legal Associations Management. If you need some motivation, read this piece at lifehacker.com on Why You Should Write For Free.

If you want to be a better writer, you have to work at it, which probably goes without saying. Writing about a subject that's important to you not only gives you a way to make a convincing argument in support of it (or against it as the case may be), but it's also a wonderful outlet for your passion. And it looks good on a resume, too. So roll up your sleeves, sit down at your keyboard, and be an author!


Difficult to measure the toll of the opioid epidemic

Just how many lives has America's opioid epidemic claimed? Turns out, it's hard to know exactly. An editor at ProPublica has begun trying to assemble the numbers, but he's not only found data that is out of date, but it sometimes contradicts other numbers. Charles Ornstein of ProPublica writes that his efforts to count the deaths has proved "more difficult than I expected."

Much of the data was out of date, some was hard to find and some data contradicted other data, making conclusions difficult. I put the datasets I could find into a tipsheet, which I shared last week at the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting conference in Chicago.

Read more about Ornstein's project at ProPublica.

ACLU Sues Georgia County Over Discriminatory, Wealth-Based Bail System

JailThe American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Georgia filed a federal class-action lawsuit today against Glynn County, Georgia, for violating the constitutional rights of people arrested for misdemeanors. The lawsuit was brought against the county itself, as well as the county’s sheriff, chief magistrate judge, and court-appointed public defender, and seeks an immediate and permanent change to an unconstitutional cash bail system that discriminates against the people who are financially strapped.

Those who cannot afford to pay money bail amounts determined by the county’s bail schedule are detained indefinitely, while those who face the same charges but can afford to pay the money bail amounts are freed until trial. Low-income people are also denied effective, meaningful representation at bail hearings where an attorney could argue for their release.

“People who cannot afford to pay bail or hire a private attorney face an impossible choice — plead guilty or face loss of their families, jobs, and homes as they wait for their cases to move through the system,” said Andrea Woods, Equal Justice Works Fellowship attorney with the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project. “A person’s wealth should never decide their freedom, but that’s exactly what’s happening in Georgia and across the country. In Glynn County, the contract public defender and prosecutors alike refuse to grant people the presumption of innocence and ignore the government’s due process obligation to ensure that release upon arrest is the norm.”

The lawsuit argues that Glynn County’s system of money bail violates the Constitution because it keeps people in jail if they can’t afford bail while allowing those who can pay to go home to their families, jobs, homes, and communities. With each day in jail, the person’s chances for a fair trial diminish as evidence and witnesses disappear, and many plead guilty even when innocent just to go home.

“The Glynn County court system holds hostage the freedom of individuals arrested for misdemeanors, leaving those who are financially strapped unable to afford the predetermined ransom,” said Sean J. Young, legal director of the ACLU of Georgia.

The suit, filed on behalf of two plaintiffs representing a class in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, accuses officials in the county of operating a two-tiered system of justice based on wealth, in violation of the Right-to-Counsel and Due Process clauses of the 6th and 14th Amendment and Equal Protection Clause to the 14th Amendment.

The lawsuit filed today includes a complaint, a motion for class certification, and a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction.

The bail amounts for the suit’s plaintiffs are each $1,256. Neither of the plaintiffs can afford to hire a criminal defense attorney and are thus eligible for representation from the public defender.

Plaintiff Margery Mock is incarcerated on a $1,256 bond on an alleged criminal trespass charge from trying to visit a relative at a motel. Her possessions are currently in a storage unit, which she was living in at the time of her arrest because she does not have stable housing, and risks losing all of her property due to her wealth-based incarceration.

Glynn County’s system of wealth-based detention is arbitrary, the lawsuit argues. Each offense has an assigned dollar amount. If a person can arrange to pay the full amount to the sheriff in cash or property, or can arrange for payment through a bail bond company or another third party, the sheriff releases that person automatically without evaluating whether the person will flee before trial or endanger the community. Those who cannot pay the pre-determined bail amount must remain in jail, waiting days or weeks for their first hearing.

The lawsuit also targets the deficient misdemeanor public defender system in the county. Glynn County only pays one lawyer to represent everyone accused of a misdemeanor who cannot afford to hire a private attorney. This contract defender does not visit clients who are stuck in jail, file motions on their behalf, or appear at hearings to request lower bail. The contract attorney instead only meets clients when they plead guilty to sign off on sentencing paperwork.

The lawsuit against Glynn County is a continuation of efforts from the ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice to end wealth-based bail detention in Georgia and across the nation.

The ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice — an unprecedented effort to reduce the U.S. jail and prison population by 50 percent and to combat racial disparities in the criminal justice system — has launched a new initiative focused on bolstering the movement to end money bail and eliminate wealth-based pretrial detention through legislative advocacy, voter education, and litigation. The lawsuit in Glynn County is the third related filing by the ACLU in 2018 alone, with many to come across the country in the effort to end our overreliance on the money bail system.

Today’s complaint can be found here:

Podcast: Florida mayor defies state law on assault weapons

gun and bulletsThe mayor and city commission of Coral Gables, Florida have unanimously passed a ban on assault-style weapons in the aftermath of the Parkland school shooting. But their action is in direct defiance of a 2011 state law that bans local governments from regulating guns. NPR reports that Coral Gables officials are also risking a financial penalty for defying the state law. NPR has an interview with the mayor of Coral Gables that's available in this podcast.