Judicial

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Obama's parental initiative may do more harm than good

President Obama sometimes takes the opportunity on Father’s Day to draw attention to the problem of absent fathers.  The president’s recently proposed FY’14 budget includes a new Child Support and Fatherhood Initiative.  The initiative would require states to seek child custody and visitation orders in court for fathers who must pay child support to the state. The initiative’s goals are admirable.  If fathers pay child support more regularly, childhood poverty may be reduced.  If fathers participate more actively in their children’s lives, children may less often suffer poor educational performance, incarceration, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, and other problems more often experienced by children raised by single parents. But the initiative’s proposed solution poses serious problems.

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Punishment to fit the (hate) crime

The simple fact is that bigots do not burn parallelograms on the front lawns of African-American families that had just moved into a previously all-white neighborhood.

The message of the charred remains of a parallelogram might be misunderstood.  Not so the remains of a burned cross.

Hate crimes are, in essence, message crimes.  They warrant special attention, and special punishment, because of the particularly devastating impact they have on communities.

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Patents, problems, Posner

Patent cases used to be about as popular with judges as colonoscopies. No more. The U.S. Supreme Court just announced it was adding another patent case to its docket, a week after handing down its latest big patent decision.  The number of patent cases going to the high court has risen five-fold in the past 30 years while the court’s overall caseload has fallen by half.  The Supreme Court decided five patent law cases in the 1980s, eight in the 1990s, and 25 in the first decade of the 2000s.

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Democrats must overcome GOP’s 'complete obstructionism' on NLRB

The NLRB is facing an unprecedented crisis. Last Thursday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing on the president’s nominees – three Democrats, two Republicans – to the National Labor Relations Board. Yesterday, the committee voted to approve nominees, but Republicans refused to support the nominees as a package and most opposed two of the three Democratic nominees. At any other time in the board’s 78-year history, the Senate would have confirmed the well-qualified nominees without controversy. But not this time. The full Senate will likely not vote on the nominees until July, but it seems certain that Republicans will try to block the package of nominees, even though the office of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recommended the two Republicans.

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President Obama's media shield

Legislative efforts to shield the media from disclosing sources of classified information often follow perceived incidents of prosecutorial overreach. Following the Valerie Plame investigation, media shield legislation received consideration in both houses. The Free Flow of Information Act curtailed investigate authority to compel disclosure of media sources who disclose national security and other law enforcement sensitive information.


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A prosecutor's call: Justice for all

As Congress begins debating immigration reform measures, prosecutors across the country are striving to pursue justice and provide for safer communities. We strive for case outcomes that reflect a balance of punishment, compassion and concern for victims and community, including for offenders who are not citizens of the United States. Individuals who are not citizens oftentimes face immigration penalties that are not conducive to these outcomes.

The current immigration system fails to provide clear guidelines for prosecutors and judges who are attempting to provide a holistic approach to law enforcement. The criminal justice system, when applied to immigrants, often leads to mandatory no-bond detention and deportation sentences.

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