Articles Tagged with Civil Rights

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May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. In his proclamation, President Obama cited the accomplishments of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders and acknowledged the difficulties that members of this community have faced both historically and in the present.

Let’s take a short trip through our nation’s case law to look at some of these difficulties. Your lessons in school might not have given you a complete picture on American history.

1. Korematsu v. United States

Exclusion Order No. 34

Photo Credit: National Park Service.

Fred Korematsu, an American citizen of Japanese descent, challenged his conviction for remaining in San Leandro, California, in violation of Exclusion Order No. 34, which required all persons of Japanese ancestry to evacuate from a designated geographical area. The Supreme Court stated that “legal restrictions which curtail the civil rights of a single racial group” must be subject to the most rigid scrutiny. “Pressing public necessity may sometimes justify the existence of such restrictions; racial antagonism never can.”

To justify the exclusion order, the Court cited the “definite and close relationship” between the exclusion order and “the prevention of espionage and sabotage.” The Court acknowledged the overinclusive nature of the exclusion order, noting that most of the people impacted by the exclusion order were “no doubt . . . loyal to this country.” However, the Court was not prepared to question the military’s judgment that “it was impossible to bring about an immediate segregation of the disloyal from the loyal” and upheld the exclusion order.

In dissent, Justice Frank Murphy acknowledged the deference that must be accorded to the military in its prosecution of the war. Nevertheless, the order by the military to remove all persons of Japanese ancestry from the Pacific Coast was not reasonably related to its claimed goal of preventing sabotage and espionage because the reasons offered in support of the exclusion order were based not on expert military judgment, but on “misinformation, half-truths and insinuations that for years have been directed against Japanese Americans by people with racial and economic prejudices.”

Even if “some disloyal persons of Japanese descent on the Pacific Coast [] did all in their power to aid their ancestral land,” “to infer that examples of individual disloyalty prove group disloyalty and justify discriminatory action against the entire group is to deny that, under our system of law, individual guilt is the sole basis for deprivation of rights.”

See Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944) Continue reading →

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gaypride_flagThe Missouri Supreme Court, sitting en banc, issued a decision yesterday that, on its face, seems like a defeat for proponents of same-sex marriage in that state. In Glossip v. Missouri Department of Transportation and Highway Patrol Employees’ Retirement System, the state’s highest court upheld a state statute that requires a person be married to a highway patrol employee in order to receive benefits after the employee’s death. Although the Missouri constitution prohibits recognition of same-sex marriages, the plaintiff did not challenge that provision (so the court did not rule on that).

The facts of the case are fairly straightforward. Dennis Engelhard and Kelly Glossip, both men, were in a domestic partnership and “held [themselves] out to [their] families and [their] community as a couple in a committed, marital relationship.” Engelhard was a state highway patrolman and was killed in the line of duty. Glossip applied for survivor benefits, and his application was denied because the relevant state law allows benefits only for a surviving “spouse.” After his application was rejected, Glossip filed this lawsuit challenging the state statute restricting survivor benefits based on marital status, as well as the statute defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Importantly, Glossip did not challenge the state’s constitutional provision prohibiting recognition of same-sex marriages. Continue reading →

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In light of the Supreme Court’s decision last week to hear two cases regarding same sex marriage, we’ve collected some recent articles on the topic written by our Verdict writers. Check back with Verdict to see more on the issue throughout the 2012 – 2013 court term.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for Joanna L. Grossman’s newest column on the topic, as well!

Image credit: Joy Blankenship/Shutterstock.com

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We have some interesting cases from our daily summary writers this week. At the intersection of reality TV and the law comes Edmonds v. Oktibbeha County (5th Cir.). In this case, the Court upheld the denial of a 42 USC 1983 claim of a coerced confession from a minor, after the minor went on the Dr. Phil show and told a national television audience that deputies did not coerce him into confession.

The Maryland Court of Appeals issued an interesting decision in a child custody case that involved a conflict of laws with Japanese family courts. In Toland v. Futagi, the Court upheld the Japanese decision to award custody of the minor to her maternal grandmother, a Japanese national. The child grew up in Japan and spent her whole life there. When her mother died, the grandmother took custody. The Maryland Court found that this decision did not infringe on the due process rights of the American father, and that the lower court properly declined to exercise jurisdiction over the child, who had no connection to the state.
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Election season is upon us, and an interesting opinion came out last week. In Democratic Nat’l Comm. v. Republican Nat’l Comm., the Third Circuit upheld a consent decree between the parties that restricted voter fraud enforcement actions.

According to the facts in the case, the Republican National Committee (RNC) was sued for voter intimidation in 1981:

The RNC allegedly created a voter challenge list by mailing sample ballots to individuals in precincts with a high percentage of racial or ethnic minority registered voters and, then, including individuals whose postcards were returned as undeliverable on a list of voters to challenge at the polls.  The RNC also allegedly enlisted the help of off-duty sheriffs and police officers to intimidate voters by standing at polling places in minority precincts during voting with ‘National Ballot Security Task Force’ armbands.  Some of the officers allegedly wore firearms in a visible manner.

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Yesterday, the UC Davis protestors who were pepper sprayed by campus police in response to a non-violent protest filed suit in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California. The plaintiffs, who were students or recent graduates of the university, had occupied the campus quad to protest university privatization, tuition increases, and earlier police beatings of protestors at Occupy Cal.

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Two months ago, a huge celebration marked the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), the policy that allowed the military to treat gays and lesbians differently than heterosexual members of the armed forces. The repeal represented a big win for the LGBT community.

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At Justia, we like rooting for the underdog. Chalk it up to our young geek days fighting playground bullies, we’re all about challenging old school thinking. That’s why we congratulate Cleveland federal appeals lawyer David Mills for a U.S. Supreme Court victory only a few years after opening his solo practice.

Like others before him, Mills faced an uphill battle prospecting for new clients, but he was determined to make his practice work.
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On Wednesday, U.S District Court Judge Virginia Phillips issued a permanent injunction against enforcement of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) law. The injunction was issued pursuant to a claim brought by the Log Cabin Republicans, an LGBT Republican organization.

The Court’s Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law (per FRCP 52) explained the decision to grant the injunction.

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