Abortion rights advocates filed a lawsuit Tuesday that seeks to overturn the more restrictive of Arkansas’ two new abortion laws, saying the near-ban of abortions from the 12th week of pregnancy onward is unconstitutional.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the suit on behalf of Dr. Louis Jerry Edwards and Dr. Tom Tvedten, who provide abortions at a Little Rock clinic, say Arkansas’ ban clearly contradicts the standard of viability established by the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision.
“We are asking the court to block an attempt to essentially outlaw all abortions past 12 weeks, so early that a woman might not know the complete health and status of her pregnancy,” Rita Sklar, executive director of Arkansas’ ACLU chapter, said at a news conference.
A legal fight over the government’s use of a secret surveillance tool has provided new insight into how the controversial tool works and the extent to which Verizon Wireless aided federal agents in using it to track a suspect.
Court documents in a case involving accused identity thief Daniel David Rigmaiden describe how the wireless provider reached out remotely to reprogram an air card the suspect was using in order to make it communicate with the government’s surveillance tool so that he could be located.
The government has conceded, however, that it needed a warrant in his case alone — because the stingray reached into his apartment remotely to locate the air card — and that the activities performed by Verizon and the FBI to locate Rigmaiden were all authorized by a court order signed by a magistrate.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, who have filed an amicus brief in support of Rigmaiden’s motion, maintain that the order does not qualify as a warrant and that the government withheld crucial information from the magistrate — such as identifying that the tracking device they planned to use was a stingray and that its use involved intrusive measures — thus preventing the court from properly fulfilling its oversight function.
Sched Page-2013-04-11 09:39:00 am
Two groups that sued to stop the display of a Jesus portrait in a school district’s middle school now want the portrait removed from the wall of a high school where it was moved last month.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom from Religion Foundation filed a federal lawsuit in February charging that the portrait, which was then displayed in the Jackson City Schools middle school, unconstitutionally promotes religion in a public school. They filed an amended complaint Monday, asking the court to also prohibit the portrait from display in the high school for the same reason.
School officials said last month that the portrait was moved at the preference of a Christian-based student club the southern Ohio district views as its owner. School officials said then that taking the portrait down would censor students’ private speech.
School district offices were closed Monday night, and school officials did not immediately return a message seeking comment. The 2,500-student district is in Jackson, a city of about 7,000 residents in mostly rural Appalachian Ohio.
The superintendent of the Jackson City Schools, Phil Howard, said last month that the portrait was moved at the request of the Hi-Y club, which put it up in 1947 in a building that is now the middle school.
The complaint about the portrait has left the district in the midst of an ongoing national debate over what displays of religion are
Two bills introduced Thursday in the House and Senate would compel law enforcement agents to obtain a warrant before affixing a GPS tracker to a vehicle, using a cell site simulator to locate someone through their mobile device or obtaining geolocation data from third-party service providers.
The comprehensive bills would also prohibit private investigators and other private individuals from using a GPS device to surreptitiously track someone’s location without their consent, thus closing a number of holes that were left open in the wake of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision about GPS trackers last year.
The Geolocational Privacy and Surveillance Act (H.R. 1312), introduced in the House by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and in the Senate by lawmakers Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Mark Kirk (R-Illinois), has gained wide support from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who say the bills are very strong and, if passed, would finally bring legislation up to date with the invasive use of new technologies.
“Police routinely get people’s location information with little judicial oversight because Congress has never defined the appropriate checks and balances,” said Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel in the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office in a statement. “Under the GPS Act, all that would change. Police would need to convince a judge that a person is likely engaging in criminal activity before accessing and monitoring someone’s location data. Innocent people shouldn’t have to sacrifice their privacy in order to have a cellphone.”
WASHINGTON—A federal appeals court said Friday that it will no longer accept the “fiction” from the Obama administration’s lawyers that the CIA has no interest or documents that describe drone strikes.
“It is neither logical nor plausible for the CIA to maintain that it would reveal anything not already in the public domain to say the Agency at least has an intelligence interest in such strikes,” said Chief Judge Merrick Garland. “The defendant is, after all, the Central Intelligence Agency.”
The decision gave a partial victory to the American Civil Liberties Union in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that seeks documents on the government’s still-secret policy on drone strikes. The three judges did not say any particular documents must be released, but they rejected the administration’s position that it could simply refuse to “confirm or deny” that it had any such documents.
A federal judge had rejected the ACLU’s suit entirely, but the three-judge appeals court revived the suit. The agency’s non-response does not pass the “straight face” test, Garland concluded.
Citing week-old Supreme Court precedent, the President Barack Obama administration told a federal judge Wednesday that it should quash a federal lawsuit accusing the government of secretly siphoning Americans’ electronic communications to the National Security Agency without warrants.
The San Francisco federal court legal filing was in response to U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White’s written question (.pdf) to the government asking what to make of the high court’s Feb. 26 decision halting a legal challenge to a once-secret warrantless surveillance project that gobbles up Americans’ electronic communications — a program that Congress eventually legalized in 2008 and again in 2012.
In that case, known as Clapper, the justices ruled 5-4 that the American Civil Liberties Union, journalists and human-rights groups that sued to nullify the FISA Amendments Act had no legal standing to sue. The justices ruled (.pdf) the plaintiffs submitted no evidence they were being targeted by that law.
The FISA Amendments Act authorizes the government to electronically eavesdrop on Americans’ phone calls and e-mails without a probable-cause warrant so long as one of the parties to the communication is outside the United States. The communications may be intercepted “to acquire foreign intelligence information.”
A Colorado appeals court ruled 2-1 today that a voucher plan adopted by the Douglas County School District does not violate the Colorado Constitution by diverting taxpayer money to pay students’ tuition at religious and other private schools.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado and the national ACLU criticized the ruling.
“This misguided decision fails to enforce the Colorado Constitution’s strict prohibitions against public funding of religious education,” said Alex J. Luchenitser, associate legal director for Americans United. “It’s clear that this voucher plan will funnel taxpayer money primarily into the coffers of religious schools.”
The organizations challenged the program on behalf of a group of parents, clergy and other taxpayers. A lower court had previously struck down the plan.
“While families have the right to decide where their children should attend school, the state cannot finance religious education at private institutions,” said Heather L. Weaver, staff attorney for the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. “Public education funds should be used to help improve our public schools, not to promote religion in violation of the state constitution.”
AU and the ACLU plan to file an appeal before the Colorado Supreme Court.
“The Colorado Court of Appeals got it wrong today when it found that Douglas County’s scheme to underwrite the religious education of children was constitutional,” says Mark Silverstein, Legal Director for the ACLU of Colorado. “We hope and expect that the Colorado Supreme Court will ultimately decide this case and affirm the district court’s ruling that diverting taxpayer money to pay students’ tuition at primarily religious, private schools is a clear violation of the religious liberty provisions of the Colorado Constitution.”
“The decision fundamentally misinterprets prior Colorado Supreme Court cases interpreting the religion clauses of the Colorado Constitution,” said attorney Matthew J. Douglas of the Denver office of the international law firm Arnold & Porter LLP, who argued the appeal and is serving as cooperating counsel for the ACLU and Americans United. “Ultimately these issues should be decided by the Colorado Supreme Court.”
The so-called “Choice Scholarship Pilot Program” offered tuition vouchers worth $4,575 to 500 students to spend at religious and other private schools. For the purposes of obtaining state per-pupil educational funds, Douglas County still counted these children as “public school students” attending an imaginary school that exists only on paper.
In reality, the voucher money was spent at district-approved “Private School Partners.” As of the filing of the lawsuit, 18 of the 23 approved Private School Partners are religious.
IMHO this is a sad day. Clearly this administration has no more regard for civil protections and limits to surveillance than George Bush on a bad day. For all that has gone better with this administration, this rather large wart on his legacy will remain regardless of the outcome of medical reform or the economy.
A divided Supreme Court halted a legal challenge Tuesday to a once-secret warrantless surveillance project that gobbles up Americans’ electronic communications, a program that Congress eventually legalized in 2008 and again in 2012.
The 5-4 decision (.pdf) by Justice Samuel Alito was a clear victory for the President Barack Obama administration, which like its predecessor, argued that government wiretapping laws cannot be challenged in court. What’s more, the outcome marks the first time the Supreme Court decided any case touching on the eavesdropping program that was secretly employed in the wake of 9/11 by the President George W. Bush administration, and eventually codified into law twice by Congress.
A high court majority concluded that, because the eavesdropping is done secretly, the American Civil Liberties Union, journalists and human-rights groups that sued to nullify the law have no legal standing to sue — because they have no evidence they are being targeted by the FISA Amendments Act. Some of the plaintiffs, which the court labeled “respondents,” are also journalists and among other things claimed the 2008 legislation has chilled their speech and violated their Fourth Amendment privacy rights.
In dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer said standing should have been granted. He said that the spying, “Indeed it is a s likely to take place as are most future events that commonsense inference and ordinary knowledge of human nature tell us will happen.”
Yet another Tea Party member grandstanding on patriotism and the constitution… by introducing bills that violate our Constitution.
It’s also instructional that the party most interested in obstructing judicial appointments is passing so many poorly crafted state bills that are bound to clog our courts for years with incompetent attempts at legislation that are incapable of passing Constitutional muster.
As written, the bill does not exempt atheist students or those of different faiths from the requirement, though Thorpe has pledged to amend the measure. “In that we had a tight deadline for dropping our bills, I was not able to update the language,” he wrote in an e-mail to the Arizona Republic. “Even though I want to encourage all of our students to understand and respect our Constitution and constitutional form of government, I do not want to create a requirement that students or parents may feel uncomfortable with.”
A separate measure introduced by Thorpe’s colleague would also “require all students in first through 12th grades” “to say the pledge of allegiance each day.” Currently, “schools must set aside time for the pledge each day, but students may choose whether to participate.”
Constitutional experts warn that both proposals are unconstitutional. As American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona Public Policy Director Anjali Abraham explained, “You can’t require students to attend school … and then require them to either pledge allegiance to the flag or swear this loyalty oath in order to graduate. It’s a violation of the First Amendment.”
A judge on Friday rejected claims by the Mennonite owners of a Lancaster County furniture maker that new federal health-care mandates violate their free-speech and religion rights by making them pay for employees’ contraceptive services.
In a 34-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg said the owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. did not prove that complying with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act amounted to a “substantial burden” on their religious rights or that they qualified as a “religious employer” for an exemption.
The decision was the latest in a string of conflicting rulings across the country, but the first in the Third U.S. Judicial Circuit, which covers Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Lawyers say the issue could end up before the Supreme Court.
Conestoga, an East Earl-based furniture maker owned and operated by Norman Hahn and his family, had previously excluded contraceptive services such as the morning-after pill from the insurance coverage it offered its 950 employees.
Last month, the Hahns claimed in a lawsuit that the new law would unconstitutionally force them to offer such options, which they called a “sinful and immoral” affront to the Mennonite Christian beliefs on which they run their company. Violating the law, they said, would subject them to crippling fines - $95,000 a day, or $100 for each employee nationwide.
They also argued that the free-speech rights that the Supreme Court recognized for corporations in the 2010 Citizens United case should be extended to corporations’ religious rights.
Citing the potential for significant harm against the company, Goldberg issued a 14-day temporary restraining order late last month, and barred government officials from imposing the fines. Lawyers for both sides appeared before the judge last week.
Attorneys arguing on behalf of the Departments of Treasury and Health and Human Services countered that the claim was baseless because the new regulations apply to insurers and secular corporations, not their owners, and because the act gives workers options but does not force any to use them. The American Civil Liberties Union also filed an amicus brief siding with the government.