Time to rethink harsh drug sentences

A bipartisan panel charged with taming the decades-long proliferation of federal crimes today takes up the question of whether an offense, to qualify as a crime, should involve criminal intent.

The criminalization of behavior involving no criminal intent -- mens rea, in legal parlance -- is part of the reason the number of federal offenses on the books has swelled over the past three decades to a staggering 4,500, including many that are obviously unnecessary, and even absurd.


The best player for changing the patent troll game

With recent legislative proposals in both the House and Senate, a White House study on the impact of patent trolls on innovation, and Federal Circuit Judges calling for judges to use Rule 11 sanctions and Section 285 fee shifting provisions more frequently, there are many players trying to curb frivolous lawsuits brought on by patent trolls.  With so many participants involved, the debate on how best, or who best, to control frivolous patent litigation has become heated.


Supreme Court’s decision harms minorities

With its ruling on the Voting Rights Act, the Supreme Court has taken the country back to a time when racial minorities were unable  to participate equitably in the voting process.  The Court’s unprecedented decision is disgraceful to civil rights leaders and legislators who have fought to preserve equal voting rights in this country.


DOMA is dead, But the fight for equality is far from over

This week, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of equality and progress.  In overturning the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Court gave long overdue recognition of our fundamental human rights. At long last, the federal government will no longer treat same-sex couples as separate and unequal under the law.


Despite court ruling, voter suppression is rampant

In striking down a central provision of the Voting Rights Act, the U.S. Supreme Court hammered a stake into the heart of a law that’s been used to guarantee fair elections in this country since the mid-1960s.

It’s now left up to a dysfunctional and highly partisan Congress to fix the law.  And if I had my way, we’d already be working on it.


Marriage equality with a stroke of a pen

With the stroke of a pen the U.S. Supreme Court has resolved arguably one of the most contentious issues in the immigration debate now unfolding on Capitol Hill—whether to allow American citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents to sponsor their same sex partners for immigration to the U.S.


How the Supreme Court’s decision about prostitution helps combat sex trafficking

The Supreme Court has been making some big decisions lately, including last week's ruling which corrected a decade-long injustice regarding prostitution. The Court stated on Thursday that the US government cannot force organizations to oppose prostitution in order to receive federal funds. What stands out about this decision is that it may mean that more victims of sex trafficking can now receive assistance.  The recent reporting has focused on how the anti-prostitution pledge constrained organizations working on HIV issues, without consideration in how it affected those who work with trafficking victims. La Strada, Ukraine’s leading NGO that combats human trafficking, serves as a very clear example of how this policy was shortsighted. According to the International Organization for Migration, Ukraine is one of the largest source countries in Europe for victims of sex trafficking. La Strada’s staff do the distressing and difficult work that no one else wants to do; meeting victims at the airport, reuniting them with their family, and finding them shelter. Despite this, all of La Strada’s US funding was cut in 2004 due to the Bush-era policy.


Striking down life-threatening prejudice

The struggle against discrimination and injustice scored a major win today with a Supreme Court ruling that the U.S. government may not require anyone to share the government’s prejudice, no matter how ancient or widespread that prejudice.

In a 6-2 decision, the high court struck down the Anti-Prostitution Loyalty Oath (APLO), which since 2003 has required U.S. non-governmental organizations to have “a policy explicitly opposing prostitution” as a condition of receiving U.S. funds for work against HIV/AIDS around the world. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said in his majority opinion that the requirement violated the First Amendment because it forced grant recipients “to pledge allegiance to the government’s policy of eradicating prostitution," whether or not they agreed with that policy.


Asylum seekers need understanding

When people ask me why someone fleeing persecution can’t necessarily manage to file an application for asylum within one year of arriving in the United States, I tell them about my pro bono client, whom I will call “Dina” to protect her privacy.  And I ask them to try, just try, to put themselves in her shoes.


Jailing immigrants indefinitely is an assault on due process

The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons - Fyodor Dostoevsky
Americans would be surprised to learn that thousands of the prisoners in our massive system are immigration detainees, wasting away in jail while awaiting their deportation hearings.
In many cases, immigrants in detention cannot be deported from the U.S because we lack diplomatic relations with their home country (as with Cuba) or because of long delays in travel document processing. With immigration reform a real possibility, one would think that everyone would be on board with decreasing, not maintaining or even increasing, the number of such detainees in federal immigration custody, especially those with no violent criminal record. 
Guess again.  A pending amendment to the immigration reform bill, Amendment 1203, proposed by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), would radically expand our immigration prison system.