Rights’ Relief from Courts – Sometimes

The federal judiciary is much more than just the US Supreme Court.  There is also the Federal District Courts as well as the nine appellate courts. Thousands of cases are heard at these two lower levels of federal courts every year whereas only about 100 cases are heard by the US Supreme Court.  In some cases, as noted in Nel’s New Day blog, democracy and concern for the welfare of people still reign. Here is a sampling of these cases.

cropped-statue-of-liberty.jpg

Rights’ Relief from Courts – Sometimes

via https://nelsnewday.wordpress.com/2018/05/28/rights-relief-from-courts-sometimes/

Democracy from people often comes from court decisions. After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) suspended democratic action by blocking any discussion for President Obama’s nominee for a Supreme Court Justice, SCOTUS moved away from people’s rights with Neil Gorsuch’s nomination by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Fortunately, the Supreme Court makes fewer than 100 decisions per year while courts across the nation can rule on constitutional rights in thousands of cases.

Recently, five Supreme Court justices removed rights from workers when five justices determined that employees must settle disputes through individual arbitration behind closed doors rather than through class action in open court. The decision worsens an earlier ruling allowing corporations to avoid class-action lawsuits from consumers. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg read part of her dissent from the bench:

“The court today holds enforceable these arm-twisted, take-it-or-leave-it contracts — including the provisions requiring employees to litigate wage and hours claims only one-by-one. Federal labor law does not countenance such isolation of employees. Trying to arbitrate such claims individually would be too expensive to be worth it, and “the risks of employer retaliation would likely dissuade most workers from seeking redress alone.”

Federal labor law permits employees to work together in improving their conditions and fight low wages, harassment, and discrimination, but the court states that companies can use arbitration clauses, forced on employees if they want the job, to ban joining together in legal actions. Employees must now fight individually against violations of minimum-wage laws, refusal to pay overtime, and requirements to work off the clock. Few private attorneys will take cases for so little money.

The day after this Supreme Court ruling, the National Labor Relations Board delivered an opposing position, that employees have the right to organize, bargain collectively and “engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” According to the Board’s interpretation of Section 8, an employment agreement requiring employees to resolve disputes by arbitration or on an individual basis is an unfair labor practice. The question now will be what opinions supersede others.

In a Supreme Court’s decision that states can legally bet on college and professional sports, Justice Samuel Alito said that each state has the right to act on its own if Congress does not regulate sports gambling. Next year, the Supreme Court will hear a case on when federal law trumps state law.

After churches in Morris County (New Jersey) received almost $5 million for repairs, the state Supreme Court ruled that the state constitution forbids using public money for religious purposes. A year ago, the Supreme Court allowed taxpayer monies to be used for repair of a church’s playground in Missouri, but the ruling did not address houses of worship. The case may go to the Supreme Court.

A federal court in California ruled Friday against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in deciding that the agency violated privacy laws by using the Social Security Administration to analyze loan forgiveness for students defrauded by Corinthian Colleges. The court ordered debt collection from defrauded students to stop after DeVos stated that only part of federal loans would be forgiven. DeVos is supporting other for-profit colleges. She appointed the dean of DeVry to head a team to investigate these schools, including DeVry. She has also frozen protections for students and reduced loan forgiveness relief for students defrauded by these schools.

Gavin Grimm, a transgender student, fought for years to use the bathroom in high school, and a federal judge ruled the school officials of Gloucester County (VA) violated his constitutional rights for stopping him from using the bathroom matching his gender identity after the 4th Circuit Court sent the case back to the lower court.

Judge Orlando Garcia, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, ruled that the state must comply with the federal National Voter Registration Act (“NVRA”) (or “motor voter” law) and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Construction on the final 18 miles of the Bayou Bridge pipeline in St. James (LA), located in an area called Cancer Alley, has been halted after a judge ruled that state regulators violated guidelines in issuing a coastal use permit. Town residents would have no way to evacuate after an explosion or other pipeline failure emergency, a fact not considered in the state’s permit. The company building the pipeline faces a legal challenge for its U.S. Army Corp of Engineers permit through the Atchafalaya Basin, a National Heritage Area and massive river swamp. The 5th Circuit Court began to hear this case the beginning of May, but pipeline builders are already cutting down old growth cypress trees.

DDT cannot block people from his Twitter account, according to a federal judge who wrote:

“The President presents the @realDonaldTrump account as being a presidential account as opposed to a personal account and, more importantly, uses the account to take actions that can be taken only by the President as President.”

DDT can mute people’s accounts so that he doesn’t have to look at their comments.

Another DDT sign came down when a New York State judge ruled that the name “Trump Place” can be removed from a high-rise condo. The bad news is that the condo cannot change its name, and the sign will stay until two-thirds majority of the condo association agrees to remove the signs. DDT’s name has already been removed from three Manhattan buildings and hotels in New York, Toronto, and Panama.

A New York appeals court refused to allow DDT to stay a defamation case by Summer Zervos regarding her claim that DDT sexually assaulted her. At this time, DDT can be deposed in the case, and lawyers can proceed with pretrial discovery, including demands for documents. In addition, Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said he’s vetting two more women on their claims that DDT gave them large hush-money payments. Zervos will subpoena documents from the Trump Organization about DDT’s alleged mistreatment of women, recordings from the archives of the president’s former reality show, and surveillance footage from the hotel in which Zervos says she was attacked.

The third federal judge has ruled against DDT over cuts to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program. The judge wrote that ending grants two years early was “arbitrary” and “capricious.” The 73 organizations receiving grants will have to follow DHS’ new requirements to focus on abstinence programs for continued funding while the eight suing organizations will not.

White supremacist Jacob Scott Goodwin has been found guilty of malicious wounding, nine months after he battered a young black man in a Charlottesville (VA) garage before his victim, 20-year-old DeAndre Harris was attacked by other white supremacists who broke his arm and injured his spine. Other attackers are awaiting trial. At the same event, another white supremacist deliberately drove into a crowd, killed Heather Heyer, and injured more than another dozen people. Two days after Goodwin’s guilt was established, white supremacist Alex Michael Ramos was found guilty of “malicious wounding” in the same attack. Both men face 20 years in prison. Two other men face trials for the assault.

Muslim-American Yonas Fikre is suing the government for putting him on its no-fly list to blackmail him into being an FBI informant to provide information about his place of worship, Portland’s largest Sunni mosque. His lawyer, Brandon Mayfield, has asked a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court to continue the suit that had been dismissed after the government removed Fikre’s name from the list stopping him from returning to his home in the U.S. Judges were irritated by the DOJ sudden offer to stop the appeal by promising that Fikre won’t be put back on the list for the same reasons as in 2010. They asked why the DOJ does not think that Fikre deserves declaratory relief after his marriage was destroyed and his business was disrupted. Mayfield has been awarded a $2 million settlement after the FBI wrongly arrested him as a suspect in the 2004 Madrid train bombings and subjected him to the same unconstitutional actions as the government did to Fikre.

Ben Carson, HUD Secretary, is the next cabinet member to be sued. A rule requiring communities to examine and address barriers to racial integration established in 2015 mandated assessment of local segregation patterns, barriers to fair housing, and planning to correct the problems. Carson called desegregation efforts “failed socialist experiments” and suspended the rule. The lawsuit asserts that Carson did not provide for public notice or comment opportunity. Carson said that the process was too burdensome. In addition, the lawsuit claims that HUD violated its duty to guarantee that federal funds promote fair housing—for example, giving millions in HUD grants to white suburbs in Westchester County that refuses affordable housing.

The next branch to be covered is the legislature.

Nel's New Day

Democracy from people often comes from court decisions. After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) suspended democratic action by blocking any discussion for President Obama’s nominee for a Supreme Court Justice, SCOTUS moved away from people’s rights with Neil Gorsuch’s nomination by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Fortunately, the Supreme Court makes fewer than 100 decisions per year while courts across the nation can rule on constitutional rights in thousands of cases.

Recently, five Supreme Court justices removed rights from workers when five justices determined that employees must settle disputes through individual arbitration behind closed doors rather than through class action in open court. The decision worsens an earlier ruling allowing corporations to avoid class-action lawsuits from consumers. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg read part of her dissent from the bench:

“The court today holds enforceable these arm-twisted, take-it-or-leave-it contracts — including the provisions requiring employees to litigate wage and hours claims…

View original post 1,334 more words

Transgender Students Can Use Facilities that Match their Gender Identity Within the 3rd Circuit

This decision covers those living in Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the Virgin Islands.  The case, known as Joel Doe et al v Boyertown Area School District et al, is another school bathroom case. Boyertown is a school district in Berks County in southeastern Pennsylvania.  The following blog was written by the Women’s Law Project, a Pennsylvania-based public-interest law center focused on the rights of women and girls.  They wrote one of the amici briefs in this successful gender-identity rights case.

[On May 24, 2018], the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed a lower court’s ruling that upheld a Pennsylvania school district’s policy that permits transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity.

Court observers had the opportunity to witness a rare spectacle. Rather than take weeks or months to issue an opinion after arguments, the three-judge panel convened for a less than 30 minutes before ruling in favor of Boyertown Area School District’s policy and by extension, the rights of transgender students.

The plaintiffs, four cisgender students who claimed they were harassed by the mere presence of a transgender person in the locker room or restroom, were represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom. The School District defended the suit, and the Pennsylvania Youth Congress Foundation, a coalition of LGBTQ youth leaders and youth organizations, intervened in the lawsuit. They were represented by the ACLU and ACLU of Pennsylvania.

Attorneys at the Women’s Law Project and co-counsel at Drinker Biddle & Reath, LLP filed an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief in support of the Boyertown policy that argues that the presence of transgender students in facilities corresponding to their gender identity does not violate Title IX. Rather, Title IX protects the rights of transgender students to use those facilities.

Twelve organizations signed on to the brief, including the American Association of University Women, California Women’s Law Center, Champion Women, Equal Rights Advocates, Gender Justice, Legal Aid at Work, Legal Voice, National Women’s Law Center, New Voices for Reproductive Justice, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, Southwest Women’s Law Center, and Women’s Law Center of Maryland.

“This ruling is a huge victory for the rights of transgender students,” says WLP staff attorney Amal Bass, who co-authored the amicus brief with staff attorney Christine Castro and managing attorney Terry L. Fromson. “The momentum is undeniable, and the Third Circuit panel sent an important message today by issuing its decision unanimously and immediately.”

You can read or download our brief here.

For all of the documents, see here.

Background

Boyertown School District instituted a policy to allow students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that reflect their gender identity, rather than the sex identified on their birth certificates.

Four anonymous students represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal advocacy group often focused on restricting the rights of LGBTQ people, challenged the policy, arguing that the presence of transgender student constituted sexual harassment under Title IX and violated the Constitution.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal civil rights law designed to eliminate sex discrimination in schools and education programs.

Our Argument

Our brief highlights the fact that the courts have previously ruled that a person’s reproductive anatomy is not, in all instances, an accurate signifier of a person’s sex. For transgender people, a person’s gender identity is the most accurate determinant of their sex. Thus, Title IX does not provide a legal basis for Appellant-students to deny transgender students equal access to an education.

To the contrary, Title IX requires the school district continue the current policy of enabling transgender students to use facilities matching their gender identity because the alternative—a policy that segregates students only by biology-based, assigned sex—would discriminate against transgender students by denying them use of facilities in accordance with their gender identity.

Indeed, when plaintiff’s counsel advised the judges that he was merely asking for a “return to the status quo,” meaning, a reversal of the recently enacted policy, Circuit Judge Theodore McKee responded by bringing up landmark segregation case Brown v. Board of Education, pointing out that changes are made when there is a problem with the status quo.

“The Momentum is Undeniable”

This victory comes on the heels of another big win for transgender rights in the United States. On Tuesday May 22, a federal court ruled against a Virginia school district, holding that federal law protects a transgender student who sought to use the boys’ bathroom at his school. A federal appeals court based in Chicago issued a similar ruling in a different challenge in May 2017.

The Women’s Law Project is a public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.

Sign up for WLP’s Action Alerts here. Follow us on twitter and like us on Facebook

We are a non-profit organization. Please consider supporting equal rights for women and girls by making a one-time donation or scheduling a monthly contribution.

via Victory: Third Circuit Court of Appeals Affirms Rights of Transgender Students — WLP Blog

Bathroom Police Head to South Carolina

Nel's New Day

Imagine wanting to be picked for vice-president and finding yourself faced with a discriminatory hate law and businesses oppose? That’s Nikki Haley’s problem in South Carolina as the legislature heads to pass a “bathroom police” law.  A legislator introduced the bill on the pretense of “safety” despite the fact that no problems have existed in any of the places where transgender people can legally use the facilities of their gender identities instead of their birth genitals.

Has no one tried to figure out how to enforce the law? Will every public bathroom be forced to be staffed with a security guard who demands birth certificates and visual inspections of genitals before everyone is allowed to go into the restrooms? Would any violation cause a fine? Or jail time? Or both? Imagine the headlines: bathroom sting catches local resident in sting—perp gets six months for peeing.

Haley has good reason to…

View original post 856 more words

Why We Need Federal Law on LGBT Marriage!

This is a very good summary of the confusion and legal hassles resulting from the Supreme Court decision in partially overturning DOMA – the federal version of the Defense of Marriage Act. We need to have a federal Loving v. Virginia type decision so that all lesbian and gay couples can marry where ever they live and have that marriage recognized.

Nel's New Day

Since the Supreme Court overturned a part of DOMA, the federal government decided to give all federal benefits to married same-sex couples who live in one of the 13 states and the several other jurisdictions, including Washington, D.C. and six Indian reservations, that have legalized marriage equality. Same-sex couples who live in other areas but who married in one of these states or other areas can get some of the federal benefits, but not all of them. Social Security denies spousal benefits for legally married gay couples who live in one of the 36 states that don’t recognize gay marriage. Legally married same-sex spouses of activity military service members can get the same benefits as opposite-sex spouses, but veterans could not until the Veterans Administration changed its mind, following a federal court ruling.

Confused yet? Let’s talk about the federally-funded National Guard. Gov. Mary Fallin announced that Oklahoma has become the…

View original post 1,051 more words