May 25, 2018

Hearings Begin in Charlottesville Riots Civil Case; A Well-Deserved Pardon for Boxer Jack Johnson; and Starbucks Shuttering Nationwide on Tuesday for Racial Sensitivity Training

Oral arguments began this week in a civil law suit targeting organizers of the “Unite the Right” events in Charlottesville that took the life of counter-protestor Heather Heyer. Defendants include alt-right leader Richard Spencer, who apparently struggled to find legal representation. The complaint alleges the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to incite members of the alt-right to commit various crimes, including intimidation and outright assault and battery. At the hearing, plaintiffs’ attorneys pointed to specific acts, including discussing running over counter-protestors (which is how Heather Heyer was killed and numerous others injured) as well as how to characterize such activities as self-defense. This case therefore posits interesting questions regarding the fine line between the right to protest and the criminal act of inciting violence.

Legendary African-American heavy-weight boxing champ Jack Johnson received a posthumous pardon this week. Jack’s crime? He crossed state lines with a white woman. Back in 1913, this was a crime, punishable under the Mann Act (although that statute usually was reserved for human trafficking). Jack pleaded for a reprieve, including sending a letter to President Woodrow Wilson while Jack was serving his sentence in Leavenworth. Champions of the push for a pardon included documentarian Ken Burns, as well as film actor Sylvester Stallone, who famously portrayed fictional heavy-weight boxer Rocky Balboa in the Rocky trilogy. Stallone has said that Jack was the inspiration for the character Apollo Creed, who was Rocky’s nemesis. Fun Fact: Stallone actually wrote the script for Rocky, which got Stallone his Hollywood big break. Former Attorney General Eric Holder also previously declared there was “no question” that Johnson’s conviction was a historical injustice. Put simply, there seems to be little doubt the only reason why Jack was tried under the Mann Act was that he was a black man having a relationship with a white woman. For a link to a Wikipedia page pertaining to Jack’s life and career, click here

Speaking of combatting racism . . .  Starbucks is shutting down on Tuesday in an effort to raise awareness of the need for racial sensitivity. Starbucks was slammed after a Starbucks’ manager called police to arrest two African-American men who were waiting peacefully for a friend at a Starbucks’ location in Philadelphia. In the wake of public outcry, Starbucks announced that it would close down its stores for specified hours on Tuesday, May 29, so that employees can receive racial bias training. The move – which is estimated to cost Starbucks 12 million dollars - is intended to promote nationwide awareness of this critical social issue. The move already has sparked nationwide conversations and no doubt will receive wide media attention. On a more local note, EQ4ALL urges you to take a moment to contemplate the impact of racism and what you – and we -- can do to make a change.   

May 11, 2018

DACA Vote Coming Soon; Net Neutrality; and Congrats on Finishing Finals!

A group of Republican congressional representatives have defied party leadership by circulating a petition that would require four bills on DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) to be brought to the floor for a vote. (Normally, bills must be approved and put forward by the Speaker of the House.) Those pushing for the vote include Representative Jeff Denham of California, Representative Will Hurd of Texas, and Florida Representatives Mario Diaz-Balert and Carlos Curbelo. On a different front, a new lawsuit filed in Texas is seen as seeking a fast-track to the United States Supreme Court by creating a circuit split over the issue of whether DACA can be rescinded by executive order. Currently, three circuit court judges have issued nation-wide injunctions ensuring that DACA protections stay in place. The new law suit, which was filed by attorney generals of Texas and six other states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, and West Virginia -- seeks the opposite result.

Net neutrality isn’t dead . . . yet. Senator Edward Markey announced that a group of senators have utilized the Congressional Review Act to force a vote on the widely unpopular recently enacted FCC regulations peeling back other regulations that ensured equal access. Markey declared: “This is a fight for the internet.” Early reports suggest the vote might be extremely close. Fifty senators are said to favor reversal, meaning one additional vote is necessary to send the bill to the House of Representatives. A number of companies have issued “red alerts” on their websites urging visitors to voice support to overturn the new FCC regulations, including, among others, Tinder, Tumbler, and TripAdvisor. Congress has limited time to act, so do consider getting involved. #NetNeutrality.

And on a more local note, are you all feeling a bit relieved right now? Congrats to all LLS students for finishing up finals! Schools out for summer? Well, not exactly. Our first-years are toiling away on the annual Write-On Competition for Loyola’s prestigious law review and journals. Hang in there and Good luck!