Issues to Watch

Issues to Watch

The Voting Rights Act Turns 50


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The Voting Rights Act Turns 50

Laura E. Cress

August 2015 marked the golden anniversary of a piece of civil rights legislation that is largely considered the most successful ever adopted by the United States Congress—the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA).  Introduction to Federal Voting Rights Laws, U.S. Dep’t of Justice, http://www.justice.gov/crt/introduction-federal-voting-rights-laws-1 (last visited Oct. 11, 2015) [hereinafter VRA Intro].  Fifty years ago on August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the VRA into law to combat a near century of racial discrimination that continually contaminated the voting process in parts of the country, even after the enactment of the Fifteenth Amendment’s guarantee of the right to vote without discrimination.  Shelby v. Holder, 133 S. Ct. 2612, 2633 (2013) (Ginsburg, J., dissenting).  But in 2013, minority citizens protected by the Act suffered a setback when the Supreme Court invalidated a key provision of the Act in its Shelby v. Holder decision.  Id.  The VRA today has a less profound effect on disenfranchised voters’ rights than the Act Congress enacted 50 years ago, and renewed as recently as 2006.  Shelby, 133 S. Ct. at 2621 (majority opinion); Adam Liptak, Supreme Court Invalidates Key Part of Voting Rights Act, N.Y. Times (Jun. 25, 2013), http://nyti.ms/17zP82p. (more…)

Issues to Watch

Maryland Court of Appeals Holds That Sustained Complaints Against Police Shielded From Public Disclosure


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Access to Governmental Records – Maryland Court of Appeals Holds That Sustained Complaints Against Police Shielded From Public Disclosure – State Police v. Dashiell, 117 A.3d 1 (Md. 2015)

Ben Weathers*

Following a spate of highly publicized killings of unarmed African American men at the hands of police officers over the past year, relationships among law enforcement and minority communities have become increasingly volatile.  Nowhere is this more evident than in largely urban communities like Baltimore, where anger over the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died while in police custody, led to unrest this past April.  Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Baltimore Enlists National Guard and a Curfew to Fight Riots and Looting, N.Y. Times (Apr. 27, 2015), http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/28/us/baltimore-freddie-gray.html.  Six Baltimore City police officers were charged in Gray’s death and are slated to go to trial in October.  Kevin Rector, Officers plead not guilty in Freddie Gray Case as Judge and Trial Date Selected, Balt. Sun (June 22, 2015), http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/freddie-gray/bs-md-ci-freddie-gray-trial-date-20150622-story.html.  However, had the officers not been criminally charged in Gray’s death, it remains unclear whether their alleged misconduct would have ever been brought to public light. (more…)

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FIFA Gets the Mafia Treatment


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FIFA Gets the Mafia Treatment

Christopher Burns*

Members of the Hells Angels, Latin Kings, and the Gambino crime family were all prosecuted in Federal Court under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).  RICO, enacted in 1970, was drafted with the intention to take down various mafia organizations and crime syndicates located domestically by means of incorporating assorted federal crimes ranging from substance abuse to money laundering.  Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1961 (2012).  Additionally, RICO adds new criminal and civil consequences to the predicate offenses incorporated into the statute.  Id. § 1963.  Recently, the Department of Justice (DOJ) applied RICO to prosecute a different kind of crime syndicate – the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, or as most people know it, FIFA.  Grand Jury Indictment, United States v. Webb, et al., 15 CR 0252 (E.D.N.Y. May 20, 2015), http://www.justice.gov/opa/file/450211/download [hereinafter Webb Indictment].  FIFA is the international body governing organized soccer, commonly known outside the United States as football.  The organization has long been accused of harboring corrupt members, whose prerogative consist of filling their deep pockets rather than “develop[ing] football everywhere and for all . . . and to build a better future through the power of the game.”  Fifa, http://www.FIFA.com/about-fifa/who-we-are/explore-fifa.html (last visited Aug. 27, 2015). (more…)

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States Taking Stance Against The Use Of Sexual Orientation Conversion Therapy On Minors


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Growing Trend of States Taking Legal Stance Against the Use of Sexual Orientation Conversion Therapy on Minors

Elizabeth Danquah-Brobby*

On August 20, 2015, in a trend gaining momentum across the United States, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law the Youth Mental Health Protection Act (YMHPA).  H.B. 217, 99th Gen. Assemb., Reg. Sess. (Ill. 2015).  Illinois joins California, Oregon, and New Jersey to become the fourth state to pass into law state mandated protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) youth from the known psychological dangers of the phenomenon known as sexual orientation conversion therapy.  Cal Bus. & Prof. Code § 865.1; H.B. 2307, 78th Leg. Assemb., Reg. Sess. (OR. 2015); N.J. Stat. Ann. § 45:1-54; H.B. 217, 99th Gen. Assemb., Reg. Sess. (Ill. 2015)  The District of Columbia provided similar legal protection in 2014.  D.C. Code § 7-1231.14a. (more…)

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A Rap Song Posted To Social Media By A Student Is Unprotected By The First Amendment


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First Amendment Protection—Out Of School Speech—The United States Court of Appeals For The Fifth Circuit Holds That A Rap Song Posted To Social Media By A Student Is Unprotected. —Bell v. Itawamba County School Board, No. 12-60264, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 14630 (5th Cir. Aug. 20, 2015).

Rachel Melchor*

The First Amendment states that, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.”  U.S. Const. amend. I.  In our increasingly technological world, the Internet presents new challenges for school administrators and how to balance school safety and students’ constitutional rights.  Bell v. Itawamba Cnty. Sch. Bd., No. 12-60264, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 14630, at *19 (5th Cir. Aug. 20, 2015) (citing Wynar v. Douglas Cnty. Sch. Dist., 728 F.3d 1062, 1064 (9th Cir. 2013)).  (more…)