$2.5 Million Verdict for Car Thief Shot to Death by NYC Cop

A jury in New York held the City liable for $2.5 million in the case of a police officer who shot and killed a car thief who struck the officer with his car.

The Supreme Court, Kings County, jury found that officer John Chell intentionally shot the driver, Ortanzso Bovell, from above and behind after he regained his feet. Bovell, a 25-year-old unemployed man, was killed with a single shot to the heart on Aug. 7, 2008.

Plaintiff attorney Jon L. Norinsberg of Norinsberg Law in New York recovered the verdict on March 17, 2017 after a five-week trial. The case is Lorna Wright-Bovell as Administrator of the Estate of Ortanzso Bovell v. The City of New York and John Chell, Case. No. 25659/09.

According to Norinsberg, Bovell was observed in a stolen vehicle by officer Chell and three other officers. The officers approached the vehicle at a red light with guns drawn. Bovell put the car in drive and struck several cars, trying to flee the scene.

The driver crashed into a metal gate where he was then surrounded by the officers again. He put the car into reverse, striking officer Chell with the driver’s side door and knocking him to the ground. At this point officer Chell claimed his gun went off accidentally.

The bullet struck Bovell in the upper left part of his back, hitting the third rib, and traveling through his lung and into the left ventricle of his heart, killing him.

Chell claimed that firearm discharged as he was being hit by the vehicle, however, the ballistics analysis of the trajectory of the bullet was not consistent with his version of events. Plaintiff’s expert forensic pathologist testified that plaintiff was conscious for between 4-5 minutes after the gunshot before he lost consciousness.

The jury found that Chell fired his weapon intentionally at plaintiff, that a battery had been committed, and awarded $2,500,000 for Bovell’s conscious pain and suffering.

The plaintiff experts were John Baeza of Brooksville, FL, testifying on police practices and procedures, pathologist Lone Thanning, MD, of Huntington, NY, and Bruno R. Valenti of Smithtown, NY, testifying about firearms and ballistics.

 

Arizona Judge Tricked Into Censoring Legitimate News

29-Year-Old Megan Welter, Iraqi war veteran and Arizona Cardinals cheerleader.

29-Year-Old Megan Welter, Iraqi war veteran and Arizona Cardinals cheerleader.

Without Notifying Media Organizations, Judge Ordered Dozens of Articles to Be Removed From the Internet

Former Arizona Cardinals Cheerleader Used Legal Maneuverings to Fool Local Judge Into Ordering Legitimate News Stories to Be Taken Offline; Public Citizen Calls for Order to Be Vacated

A court order requiring dozens of news stories to be removed from the Internet – without news organizations’ or journalists’ knowledge – violated the First Amendment and should be vacated, according to a motion Public Citizen filed late Thursday in the Superior Court for Maricopa County in Arizona.

In 2013, then-Arizona Cardinals cheerleader and Iraq war veteran Megan Welter was arrested after calling the police and falsely reporting herself as a victim of domestic violence by her then-boyfriend.

When police arrived, they were shown cell phone video refuting Welter’s assertion and instead arrested Welter for domestic violence. Due to Welter’s military notoriety and high-profile sports job, her domestic call made for unflattering online headlines nationwide in local, state and national publications.

Largest and most noteworthy news organizations

The stories were written by journalists at some of the largest and most noteworthy news organizations in the country, including the International Business Times, Daily Mail, CBS News, ABC News, Fox News, Pro Football Talk, The Arizona Republic, Business Insider and the New York Post.

In an attempt to erase her negative online history, Welter filed a lawsuit in 2016, nearly three years after many of these articles were published. She alleged the news articles amounted to defamation as well as invasion of her privacy.

She sought damages and injunctive relief to remove from the Internet nearly 100 offending stories carried by various defendants, including people and news outlets.

By failing to name or notify the media organizations of the lawsuit and by getting her former boyfriend’s consent to be a defendant, Welter tricked a local judge into believing that all parties agreed to have the stories taken offline and, failing that, delisted from Google and other search engines. Within six weeks, the judge granted the request. It is unclear how effective the order was.

Representing Avvo, one of the sites subjected to the motion, Public Citizen argues that the entire lawsuit and the means by which it was filed amounted to a procedural farce that violated the First Amendment.

Welter should not have been granted injunctive relief to remove stories containing unflattering portrayals of her life. Public Citizen is concerned about an emerging threat to free speech whereby businesses and people are taking advantage of defendants and judges by pursuing what amounts to restrictive gag orders to shut down legitimate complaints and news stories.

Maria Crimi Speth of Phoenix’s Jaburg Wilk is local counsel in the case.

For more information contact: Paul Levy, plevy@citizen.org, (202) 588-7725
and Don Owens, dowens@citizen.org, (202) 588-7767

A court order requiring dozens of news stories to be removed from the Internet – without news organizations’ or journalists’ knowledge – violated the First Amendment and should be vacated, according to a motion Public Citizen filed late Thursday in the Superior Court for Maricopa County in Arizona.

In 2013, then-Arizona Cardinals cheerleader and Iraq war veteran Megan Welter was arrested after calling the police and falsely reporting herself as a victim of domestic violence by her then-boyfriend. When police arrived, they were shown cell phone video refuting Welter’s assertion and instead arrested Welter for domestic violence. Due to Welter’s military notoriety and high-profile sports job, her domestic call made for unflattering online headlines nationwide in local, state and national publications. The stories were written by journalists at some of the largest and most noteworthy news organizations in the country, including the International Business Times, Daily Mail, CBS News, ABC News, Fox News, Pro Football Talk, The Arizona Republic, Business Insider and the New York Post.

In an attempt to erase her negative online history, Welter filed a lawsuit in 2016, nearly three years after many of these articles were published. She alleged the news articles amounted to defamation as well as invasion of her privacy. She sought damages and injunctive relief to remove from the Internet nearly 100 offending stories carried by various defendants, including individuals and news outlets. By failing to name or notify the media organizations of the lawsuit and by getting her former boyfriend’s consent to be a defendant, Welter tricked a local judge into believing that all parties agreed to have the stories taken offline and, failing that, delisted from Google and other search engines. Within six weeks, the judge granted the request. It is unclear how effective the order was.

Representing Avvo, one of the sites subjected to the motion, Public Citizen argues that the entire lawsuit and the means by which it was filed amounted to a procedural farce that violated the First Amendment. Welter should not have been granted injunctive relief to remove stories containing unflattering portrayals of her life. Public Citizen is concerned about an emerging threat to free speech whereby businesses and individuals are taking advantage of defendants and judges by pursuing what amounts to restrictive gag orders to shut down legitimate complaints and news stories.

Maria Crimi Speth of Phoenix’s Jaburg Wilk is local counsel in the case.

Read the motion here.

Read the motion here.

Democrats in Congress Sue Trump Over Foreign Business Dealings

ConstitutionReprinted from the Blog for Arizona

Nearly 200 Democratic members of Congress filed a federal lawsuit (.pdf) on Wednesday accusing President Trump of violating the Constitution by profiting from business dealings with foreign governments.

The plaintiffs — believed to be the most members of Congress to ever sue a sitting president — contend that Mr. Trump has ignored a constitutional clause that prohibits federal officials from accepting gifts, or emoluments, from foreign powers without congressional approval.

It is the third such lawsuit against Mr. Trump on the issue since he became president, part of a coordinated effort by the president’s critics to force him to reveal his business entanglements and either sell off his holdings or put them in a blind trust.

Like the previous two federal lawsuits, this one, filed in federal court in Washington, accuses Mr. Trump of illegally profiteering from his businesses in a variety of ways, including collecting payments from foreign diplomats who stay in his hotels and accepting trademark approvals from foreign governments for his company’s goods and services.

But it creates a new group of plaintiffs who claim the president’s actions have damaged them: Democratic members of the House and Senate who say they have been wrongly deprived of their constitutional right to rule on whether Mr. Trump can accept such economic benefits from foreign governments, according to Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who led the effort with Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan.

Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution, provides: “No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.”

“The founders ensured that federal officeholders would not decide for themselves whether particular emoluments were likely to compromise their own independence or lead them to put personal interest over national interest,” the lawsuit states.”

“An officeholder, in short, should not be the sole judge of his own integrity.”

Mr. Trump now faces three distinct groups of legal opponents, each alleging they have been harmed in a different way. Earlier this year, private individuals who own hotels or restaurants or book events at hotels that they say compete with Mr. Trump’s joined a lawsuit filed in federal court in New York by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, a nonprofit watchdog group.

* * *

[E]ach new set of plaintiffs makes it harder for the Justice Department to defend the president on the grounds that his opponents have no legal standing to sue him, Mr. Trump’s critics said. “It puts the government in the position of saying that nobody can address this — not hotel competitors, not states, not members of Congress,” said Norman Eisen, the chairman of CREW, which started the legal efforts. “And you cannot get away with that in a rule-of-law system.”

Mr. Blumenthal, a former Connecticut attorney general, said the president’s companies did business in about 20 countries but were shrouded in secrecy, making it impossible for Congress to carry out its constitutional duty of determining whether he was receiving illegal benefits or emoluments. “The truth is we have no clue about the president’s investors,” he said in an interview with reporters Tuesday. “How much is Russian money?”

“What we are seeking first and foremost is disclosure,” he said. “We cannot consent to what we don’t know.”

For the rest of the article visit http://blogforarizona.net/update-draining-the-trump-swamp-democrats-file-emoluments-clause-lawsuit/

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Undermines Business Interests in Push for Mandatory Disclosure of Litigation Funders

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce submitted a letter on June 1, 2017 ,to the Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure to force mandatory disclosure of litigation finance.

In submitting the letter, which renews the 2014 petition to the Committee on the same subject, the Chamber proves once again that its true motives run counter to many of the lofty pro-business, pro-innovation goals that it touts.

Three full years after filing the original petition, the Chamber is unable to assert any new reasons for reconsideration of its request, save for the growth of the litigation finance industry.

“It is ironic that the industry growth which the Chamber identifies as justification for the renewed petition seeking mandatory disclosure of litigation finance actually proves how funding is serving a need: namely, facilitating access to an expensive legal system that otherwise only the most well-moneyed players are able to afford,” said Allison Chock, Bentham IMF’s Chief Investment Officer.

Protecting big business

The contradictions in the Chamber’s positions on litigation finance compared with its stated objectives to promote “fair, efficient and innovative capital markets,” and to fight “for the kind of financial rulemaking that protects consumers and investors, encourages reasonable risk taking, {and} doesn’t constrain innovation and growth,” (see https://www.uschamber.com/financial-regulation) belie its true motives.

“It seems the only interests the Chamber is really trying to protect are those belonging to its big business members, who are eager to retain an advantage they typically enjoy in high-stakes commercial disputes: superior financial resources to litigate,” said Ms. Chock. “Providing a level of financial parity for the parties enables disputes to be decided on their true legal merits,” she continued.

Although the Chamber cites the increase in the use of litigation finance by law firms as a cause for alarm, the reality is that those law firms are, in most cases, using such financing to serve precisely those same underserved and underfunded clients — small-to-mid-size businesses and individuals — who cannot otherwise afford to pay a top-tier law firm on an hourly-fee basis to litigate their claims.

“The fact of the matter is, the larger the potential damages and more complicated the case, the harder it is to win. Commercial litigation finance allows all plaintiffs with strong, meritorious claims access to the tools necessary to hold wrongdoers accountable for their actions in court,” Ms. Chock added. “What we’re seeing in the Chamber’s latest petition is prioritization of big-business interests and an attempt to protect the Chamber’s largest and most profitable members from legal accountability under the guise of protecting the public from ‘third parties interested solely in profit.’”

The Chamber’s proposed rule is also unfairly one-sided. If a plaintiff must disclose the terms, amount, and source of its financial backing for its lawsuit, a truly balanced approach would require defendants to make similar disclosures, including how much they can or intend to spend on the case, their own legal departments’ annual internal and external counsel budgets, their law firms’ projected budgets for the case, hourly billing rates, and the like. “Upon looking more closely at the Chamber’s petition, it becomes clear that a proposed rule change requiring mandatory disclosure of litigation finance should, once again, be rejected by the Committee,” said Ms. Chock.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Under Legal Attack Today

Robert Weissman, Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen

“A CFPB with a director serving at the effective pleasure of the Big Banks and the financial industry will be just another captured regulatory agency in Washington, D.C. We already have enough of those,” says said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen.

Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit hears arguments in a case challenging the constitutionality of the law that established the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), created in the wake of the 2008 financial crash to protect Main Street consumers against Wall Street predators.

The legal question is whether the statute that created the CFPB violates separation-of-powers principles by providing that the CFPB director can be removed by the president only for cause. A divided lower court in October held that the agency’s leadership structure is unconstitutional.

In PHH Corporation v. CFPB, Public Citizen, together with the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the National Consumer Law Center and Tzedek DC, filed an amicus brief. It explains that Congress created the CFPB as an independent agency to make sure that the agency could avoid political pressure and capture by the industries whose practices it was charged with regulating.

Control by Big Banks?

“Underlying the constitutional issue at stake in this case is a simple question of crucial importance to all Americans: Does the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau work for American consumers or for the Big Banks? With an independent director, the CFPB in a few years has conservatively saved Americans $12 billion and forestalled countless abuses,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “A CFPB with a director serving at the effective pleasure of the Big Banks and the financial industry will be just another captured regulatory agency in Washington, D.C. We already have enough of those.”

Congress determined that failures of existing regulatory agencies were largely attributable to their focusing on the interests and needs of the financial industry they regulated, while giving insufficient attention to the interests and needs of consumers.

As of February 2017, the CFPB has returned nearly $12 billion to more than 29 million consumers victimized by unlawful and fraudulent activity.

The opponents’ proposition that Congress may confer authority on an independent agency only if the agency is headed by a multimember commission finds no support in past U.S. Supreme Court decisions, the groups assert. Nor does the notion that multimember commissions might be better protectors of liberty than agencies directed by single officers bear on the separation-of-powers issue.

PHH v CFPB is a case between a special interest and the American people. Opponents have spent millions to gut an agency that has stood up for military families, students and seniors who have been harmed by financial crimes,” stated Rachel Weintraub, legislative director and general counsel at Consumer Federation of America. “The CFPB has returned $12 billion to 29 million consumers. The American people need the CFPB to stand up for them. This case is about pulling the agency down.”

 

US Supreme Court Strikes Down Racial Gerrymandering in North Carolina

North_Carolina_Congressional_Map_2012-2014WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that the redrawing of two congressional districts by the North Carolina legislature after the 2010 census was an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.

“We are pleased that, once again, the Supreme Court has recognized the pernicious and discriminatory effects of unconstitutional racial gerrymandering on African American and other minority communities,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil rights Under Law.  “Moreover, the Court made it clear that it would not allow states to get away with an unlawful racial gerrymandering by claiming that it’s just politics. This is a critical decision as communities prepare for the 2020 redistricting cycle, where states would still be able to purposely create legitimate majority-minority districts, consistent with this opinion.”

Before the redistricting, the two districts did not have a majority of African-American voters, but had consistently elected candidates who were the preference of most African-American voters.  In affirming the ruling of a three-judge District Court, the Supreme Court found that racial considerations predominated in the drawing of the lines of both districts. The justices also found that the State had not met its burden of justifying its line-drawing by showing it was narrowly tailored to a legitimate state interest.

The Lawyers’ Committee, together with its pro bono counsel Munger Tolles & Olson LLP, filed an amicus curiae brief in the matter.

“The Supreme Court rightly found that North Carolina had unlawfully drawn these congressional districts in such a way as to separate citizens into different voting districts on account of race,” said Bradley Phillips, partner for Munger Tolles & Olson LLP.  “That’s wrong and unconstitutional.”

Read the full opinion here: https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/15-1262_db8e.pdf

The Lawyers’ Committee, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The Lawyers’ Committee celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013 as it continued its quest of “Moving America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law, particularly in the areas of fair housing and fair lending, community development, employment, voting, education and environmental justice.

Jeff Sessions — The Incompetent New Sheriff In Town

By Farron Cousins.

This article is reprinted from the Spring 2017 issue of The Trial Lawyer, which can be read online here.

In spite of the recent chorus of people in the United States clamoring for an alternative to status quo politicians, party loyalty still counts for everything among the elite of Washington, D.C., on both sides of the aisle. There is no better example of what loyalty to your own party can get you than the story of Jeff Sessions.

For two decades, our new Attorney General served as a U.S. Senator from the state of Alabama, where he was one of the most consistent and loyal members of the Republican Party. At every given opportunity, Sessions voted against civil rights, against expanding social safety net programs, and he stood firmly against every justice that former President Obama attempted to appoint to the U.S. Supreme Court. During the George W. Bush administration, he served as a loyal lackey for the Republican Party, standing firmly in his support for a ban on same-sex marriage and in favor cutting taxes on the rich and sending our troops to die in a war based on lies.

Sessions’ loyalty prevented him from ever becoming a target within his own party, something that even longstanding Republicans like John McCain and Mitch McConnell haven’t been able to avoid. That should paint a clear enough picture as to why current President Donald Trump tapped the Senator and former Attorney General of Alabama to be the new Attorney General of the United States. Unwavering party loyalty is always rewarded, especially when both major political parties appear to be fracturing from the inside.

But who exactly is America’s new top law enforcement officer, and what can we expect under his rule? The best place to start when trying to predict the future is to look at the past, so let’s start with the most glaringly obvious of Sessions’ faults.

The Racist Skeletons in The Closet

During Sessions’ confirmation hearings, both Senate Democrats and the media were buzzing with stories of Jeff Sessions’ racist history. But for the most part, few outlets ever took the time to really expand upon that singular talking point, opting instead to just throw out the racist label without offering the full context of just how bad a Sessions appointment would be for African Americans in the United States. While he was a U.S. Attorney in Mobile, Alabama, Sessions was discussing a case with some of his colleagues that involved two members of the Ku Klux Klan who brutally murdered a black man and hung his body from a tree. When Sessions learned that members of the Klan had smoked marijuana before the attack, he remarked to his colleagues that he thought the Klan was “okay until I found out they smoked pot.”

It was that very statement that cost him a federal judgeship in the 1980s, when both Democrats and Republicans felt the man, who claimed he was joking when he made that statement, was simply too racist to serve as an unbiased federal judge. The man who testified in that Senate hearing in the 1980s, Thomas Figures, was a black man who worked with Sessions in Mobile. Figures stated that he did not feel at all that Sessions was “joking” when he made that statement about the Klan, and that on countless occasions Sessions would refer to him as “boy” and had once told him to “be careful what you say around white folks.” Figures passed away two years before Sessions’ most recent confirmation hearing.

Meanwhile, other people who worked with Sessions at the same time came forward during that hearing in the 1980s to say that the man was completely unbiased, and without his work the state never would have been able to launch successful prosecutions against Klansmen. But those facts didn’t change the very words that had previously come out of Sessions’ mouth, and his nomination was voted down.

Voter Suppression

Let’s be clear about one thing: Not all racism is overt. Sessions is a man who was born in the state of Alabama during the time of segregation; He was in his formative years when the Civil Rights movement was taking place, and those types of life experiences are certain to have an impact on how one race views another, depending on the type of household they grew up in. While we don’t know if Sessions’ family was pro or anti desegregation, their position on what was happening all around would likely shape how Jeff himself viewed the world. And judging from his actions and words, it is likely that they weren’t welcoming desegregation with open arms. So even if Sessions wasn’t overtly racist, his actions as both a U.S. Attorney and as the 44th Attorney General of Alabama demonstrate a pattern of behavior that was nothing short of hostile towards people of color.

His most egregious act as Alabama’s Attorney General was his ruthless attempt to suppress the votes of African-Americans in the state. This is another issue that helped prevent him from becoming a federal judge in the 1980s. During his time as AG, he brought dozens of cases against African Americans who had been prominent figures in the Civil Rights movement to trial for alleged voter fraud. His office’s investigation originally swept up more than 100 black citizens of Alabama on voter fraud charges, but due to a complete lack of any evidence, those numbers fell down into the 20s in a very short time.

But the few who did end up on trial were taken 160 miles away from the state capital down to Mobile, an area that Sessions knew would give him a mostly white, if not all white, jury (ironically, the jury consisted of seven black jurors and five white ones, so Sessions’ plan backfired beautifully). The courthouse for this trial was surrounded by FBI agents and police officers, all heavily armed and ready to fire shots at anyone outside that became unruly.

Ultimately, the people brought in on charges of voter fraud were acquitted due to an overwhelming lack of evidence. But Sessions didn’t care — he made his point. Those closest to both Sessions and the defendants are very clear when they tell this story — the men were brought to trial by Sessions because they were helping African Americans register to vote, and that’s what Sessions wanted to put an end to in his state. It wasn’t about the alleged fraud (that didn’t exist); it was a message to black activists that they would go through a similar time-consuming, expensive ordeal if they decided to get their communities active. That was Sessions’ plan all along.

Friend of Wall Street

One of the biggest criticisms of President Obama’s Attorney Generals — Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch — was that they were far too lenient (friendly) with Wall Street banking criminals. Holder came from the corporate defense firm of Covington Burling which has made millions representing these banks, while Lynch actually served on the board for the Federal Reserve Bank in New York. This helps explain why the Wall Street bankers who crippled our economy right before Obama took office never saw a day in prison, instead paying paltry fines that were largely written off and paid for by taxpayers. But if those ties to Wall Street gave you shivers then Sessions’ ties to Wall Street bankers will leave you nauseated. During his time as a U.S. Senator, Sessions received a grand total of more than $2.5 million from the finance industry for his campaigns, making them his single largest industry donor. But the direct financing of his political career is only a small piece of the Sessions puzzle, and he has done everything in his power to make sure that the big banks were well taken care of when he had a say in the matter.

In 2007, Sessions was busted trying to push through legislation in the Senate that would have prevented specific banks from having to pay royalties to a tech company that developed technology to convert paper checks into digital transactions. At the time, these banks were paying billions of dollars a year to use the tech firm to use this technology, but Sessions put forth legislation that would have stopped those payments immediately. But what Sessions didn’t tell anyone is that he owned quite a bit of stock in both Citigroup and Compass Bank, two of the banks that would have been allowed to stop paying royalties under Sessions’ legislation.

It is safe to assume that given his history of coddling Wall Street, we will likely endure another four years of Wall Street bankers ripping off consumers with little to no punishment. Even the paltry fines of the Obama years will likely disappear with Sessions at the helm of the Department of Justice.

Potential Perjury

While his positions on the issues are worrisome, those aren’t even the biggest problems facing the newly-appointed Attorney General. The biggest concerns at the moment center around the fact that Sessions likely perjured himself during his confirmation hearing. Amid the growing fervor over Russia’s involvement or non-involvement in the U.S. elections and in the Trump administration itself, Sessions was asked by Democratic Senator Al Franken during his confirmation hearing if he would recuse himself should an investigation into the matter ever manifest.

This is Sessions’ response to that question:

“Senator Franken, I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I didn’t — did not have communications with the Russians. And I’m unable to comment on it.”

It is important to note that Senator Franken did not ask Sessions if he, personally, had ever had any contact with the Russians. Sessions offered up that information completely on his own. And he was under oath, another major point to consider.

As it turns out, that voluntary piece of information during his confirmation hearing is what could ultimately prove to be his undoing, because evidence has emerged that shows that Sessions did, in fact, meet at least twice with a Russian ambassador during the presidential campaign, making his statement flat out false.

There are several important things to understand at this point. The first is that we do not know why Sessions was meeting with the ambassador. Defenders have claimed that since Sessions served on the Armed Services Committee it was only natural for him to meet with the ambassador, as this practice is common. However, other members of the Committee have confirmed that, no, this is not normal behavior. But all of that misses the point. The argument is not over what he talked to the ambassador about, the point is that the man lied under oath. For all we know the two could have been discussing the merits of pet ownership — the content of the conversation is completely irrelevant to the fact that Sessions denied the meeting under oath, and therefore likely committed perjury. The content and context of the meetings don’t matter.

In the wake of the scandal, Sessions did finally come out and say that he would recuse himself from any investigations involving meetings between the Trump campaign and Russia, but that didn’t stop Senate Democrats and even a handful of Republicans from demanding that Sessions either step down as Attorney General, or that an investigation into the potential perjury get underway.

Only time will tell at this point if the Democrats have the courage and stamina to bring perjury charges, or if they will tire and move on to other issues.

Future

All of the factors mentioned paint a fairly depressing picture of the future of American justice under our new Attorney General. Jeff Sessions has a disturbing history of consistently being on the wrong of social issues from gender equality to marriage equality to racial equality. Couple that with his willingness to allow the “rights” of corporations to trump those of the American public and we can already predict that the next four years — or however long this man remains at the top position of the Department of Justice — are going to be ones in which American consumers are continuously stepped on as corporations get everything that they could ever want from both Attorney General Sessions and the Republicans who gave him his new power.

 

Court Rejects Georgia Officials’ Efforts To Block Voting Rights Lawsuit

Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee

Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee.

A federal district court judge in Georgia agreed that a coalition of plaintiffs representing minority communities has the right to claim the method of electing local officials in Gwinnett County, Georgia denies them from participating equally in electing local officials.

In her opinion in Georgia State Conference of the NAACP v. Gwinnett County Board of Registrations and Elections, Judge Amy Totenberg rejected the County’s argument that claims under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act are limited to members of a single minority group. Judge Totenberg noted that the Eleventh Circuit and other courts have held that coalition claims are permissible so long as the racial groups are politically cohesive. The decision was issued on Friday.

“This case is yet another example of how voting discrimination remains rampant across the State of Georgia,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee. “The court’s ruling recognizes that all minority voters have access to protection under the Voting Rights Act if they are denied an equal opportunity to participate in the political process. From our litigation against Georgia’s illegal registration cutoff for federal runoff elections to its recent racial gerrymander of two State House districts – one of which is in Gwinnett County – much work remains to be done to combat voting discrimination and voter suppression in the state.”

Judge Totenberg also ruled that Gwinnett County’s standing-related challenges are moot because the Plaintiffs filed an amended version of the complaint recently in response to a separate court order. The County will have the opportunity to raise its standing argument again in a subsequent pleading.

Gwinnett County is a majority-minority county according to the 2010 Census, yet no minority candidate has ever won election to a county-level office, including the Board of Commissioners and the Board of Education. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, on behalf of a coalition of Plaintiffs representing African-Americans, Latinos, and Asian-Americans, alleges the process of electing officials to local offices prevents minority voters from having an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.

In their complaint, the Plaintiffs allege that two majority-minority Board of Commissioners districts should be drawn to give African-American, Latino and Asian-American voters an opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. The Plaintiffs in this case include the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO), and nine Gwinnett County voters.

“When minority voters coalesce to form a coalition, they should be protected by the Voting Rights Act,” said Jerry Gonzalez, GALEO executive director. “GALEO is glad that the case moves forward to ensure minority voters in Gwinnett County will be protected against vote dilution.”

“This ruling reaffirms the value of our fusion coalition. Like America, our coalition is black, white, and brown; gay and straight; the faithful and those of no particular faith are united in the belief that working together we can make democracy work,” said Francys Johnson, Statesboro attorney and Georgia NAACP President.

“We are pleased that the Court recognized the broad reach of the Voting Rights Act to protect communities of color that stand together from vote dilution,” said Brian Sutherland of Buckley Beal, the Atlanta-based firm that serves as a co-counsel in the case.

The current Board of Education district map assigns about 74.4 percent of the African-American, Latino and Asian-American voters to District 5 and splits the balance of the minority population across the other four districts where African-Americans, Latinos and Asian-Americans do not constitute a majority of the population. The complaint alleges that the Board of Education districts should be re-drawn to include a second majority-minority district so that minority voters have a fair opportunity to elect candidates of their choice to the Board of Education.

The Plaintiffs are represented by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Crowell & Moring LLP, and Buckley Beal, LLP.

In the digital age, it’s time to evolve 1st Amendment thinking

A reconsideration of the values of the First Amendment is required now that a few companies dominate the Internet, according to the Columbia Journalism Review. How the First Amendment must evolve to keep up with the intervention of the Internet was the subject of a May 1 symposium held at Columbia University called Disrupted: Speech and Democracy in the Digital Age. Read more at the Columbia Journalism Review.

Public Citizen Defends the Fiduciary Rule Against Industry Lawsuits

In April, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a new rule – commonly known as the fiduciary rule – to protect workers saving for retirement from conflicted advice from their financial advisers. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Council of Life Insurers and a host of other corporate interests subsequently sued the DOL. One of their claims is that the rule is a content-based restriction on the commercial speech of their members and violates the First Amendment.

public citizenToday, Public Citizen filed an amicus brief (PDF) in support of the DOL in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The brief argues that industry’s First Amendment argument should be rejected because the fiduciary rule does not regulate speech; rather, it regulates the terms of a commercial or professional relationship and duties that attach to it.

The brief also demonstrates that even if the rule were a content-based commercial speech regulation, a long line of U.S. Supreme Court precedent, confirmed by recent decisions, demonstrates that regulation of commercial speech is not subject to strict scrutiny, even if the regulation differentiates between content of different types of speech. The rule should be upheld, Public Citizen argues.

Public Citizen has become increasingly concerned that corporate and commercial interests are promoting stringent applications of commercial-speech doctrine to stifle legitimate economic regulatory measures and protections for consumers. The plaintiffs’ position that strict scrutiny applies to content-based commercial speech regulations, if accepted by the court, would wrongly tilt the First Amendment balance against vital public safeguards.

To speak with an attorney working on the case, please contact Julie Murray, jmurray@citizen.org, (202) 588-7733 or David Rosen, drosen@citizen.org, (202) 588-7742.