The Use and Abuse of the Fourteenth Amendment

John Peeler: Many conservatives are now pushing to amend the Constitution to change the provision of the Fourteenth Amendment that allocates citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States. Unlike many examples of creative interpretation, this proposal would formally amend the amendment. Liberals learned in the 1970s, with the proposed Equal Rights Amendment, how hard it is to amend the Constitution; here is our chance to teach the same lesson to conservatives.

Mitrice Richardson: Blame the Victim

mitrice richardson

Jasmyne Cannick: With accusations as serious has the ones currently lodged at the Sheriff’s Department, if I were Baca, I’d do anything I could to clear my Department’s name, even if it meant subjecting my deputies to a polygraph for the sake of good faith and good will towards the community.

Killing Prop Hate: What Republicans Fear

prop hate

Tom Hall: A conservative Republican judge, appointed by George H.W. Bush has done what the Tea Party activists have been demanding – he restored the Constitution. Judge Vaughn Walker held that the U.S. Constitution, and its provisions requiring equal protection of the laws, required that Proposition Hate be stricken down.

How Empathy Makes Superior Judges – and Justice

elena kagan  barack obama

Joel K. Goldstein: Critics ridiculed President Obama’s statement that judges should be empathetic. But as the Senate prepares to vote on the Supreme Court nomination of Elena Kagan, legal historian Joel Goldstein argues that senators should be looking for that very quality.

Checks and Balances

Ron Wolff: Government is simply the institutionalization over time of the collective will of the people at any given moment, established with at least one essential objective in mind: the prevention of the inevitable chaos that would result in its absence.

Should Citizens Be Human Beings?

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Citizens United Case Disenfranchises Human Beings I was talking to a friend one day about how to teach children to be fair with one another.  He told me that when he was a kid, his mother had a great way of squashing fairness disputes between him and his sister. When an argument arose around someone [...]

Ready or Not. Here They Come! Youth Reentry from Probation

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Diane Lefer: As our Probation Department moves in the direction of reform, the good news is that the department recognizes the need for reentry services for kids coming out of the system–often traumatized, unable to read and write, set free on the mean streets in an abysmal job market while carrying the stigma of lockup.

DNA and ‘The Banality of Evil’

Janecia Peters, 25-year-old "Grim Sleeper" victim

Sikivu Hutchinson: Because Franklin and Turner are black male killers of black women, it is safe to say that there will be no cable-ready film made psychoanalyzing their childhoods, no Lifetime channel melodrama on the lives and last days of their victims trumpeted in flashy national billboard campaigns, and no pathos inspiring media blitz chronicling the anguish that these murders elicited in South L.A. communities.

Jury Deliberates: Oscar Grant’s Family Speaks Out

oscar grant family

Jasmyne Cannick: Oakland and Los Angeles residents are preparing for a verdict in the Johannes Mehserle shooting of Oscar Grant. Family and friends are filled with apprehension and hope. In this exclusive interview, members of Oscar Grant’s family talk frankly about the case, politicians, community activists and life without Oscar as they wait to hear the verdict.

The 4th of July

Clockwise: Frederick Douglass, Malia Obama, Thomas Jefferson, Ron Kovic

In 1852, legendary abolistionist and former slave Frederick Douglass  was asked to give a speech at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  Known for his extraordinary oratory skills, that speech became one of his best known pieces and stands as a reminder that the 4th of July does not hold the [...]

Supreme Court Hearings: What’s at Stake

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama)

David A. Love: I don’t know about you, but after watching the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, I was given the distinct impression that Thurgood Marshall was being subjected to a criminal trial, post-mortem, by Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Ralph Fertig on Free Speech

Ralph D. Fertig

Lydia Howell: This Supreme Court ruling effectively says “military actions are the primary tool of U.S. foreign policy.” Or to be more blunt: U.S. might makes right and there is no alternative to the use of military power.

Tough on Crime Rhetoric Fails at the Polls

Kamala Harris, Joyce Dudley, Steve Cooley, Jill Ravitch, Paul Zellerbach (clockwise from left)

Natasha Minsker: For years, presenting oneself as a hammer battering crime was a requirement. This time around, a hard-line stance alone without a plan for effective and budget-conscious enforcement is the new electoral kiss of death. Californians are weary of budget cuts to valued social services and cautious about wasteful spending on ineffective or lower priority criminal justice policies, like the $1 billion over the next five years that will be poured into death penalty spending.

Oh, Bill O’Reilly — It’s “Our” Country, Too

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Tanya Acker: There are many among that celebrated group of “We the People” who are opposed to the Arizona law but who nonetheless remain deeply troubled by our broken immigration system. I am one of them and, frankly, I do not need to be lectured about the consequences of illegal immigration by Mr. O’Reilly or anyone else.

Blacks Prison and Unemployment

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Sherwood Ross: Slumlords charge exorbitant rents. “Convenience” stores charge higher prices. Military recruiters have their pick of jobless youth desperate for work. And the for-profit, private prisons increase their head count (and income) as the judicial system hands off the young drug peddlers caught in the legal web. As the Kaiser Family Foundation reported, African-Americans fill 40 percent of the nation’s prison cells. Yet they make up just 13 percent of the nation’s population.

Judging the Judges 2010

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Sharon Kyle: Studies have shown that the average voter goes to the polls with little to no information on judicial races.Every election cycle, we are asked to vote for people few of us have heard of for offices that few of us know very much about. Yet these offices carry tremendous power.

The Media & the Murder of Aiyanna Jones

Aiyanna Jones

Sikivu Hutchinson: When a little white girl goes missing, online news, supermarket tabloids and cable network stations bombard us with up-to-the-minute dispatches on the crime, the victim, her shattered family and anguished community. When a little black girl is murdered in cold blood by a big city police department it is up to the community and those who care about social justice to ensure that the case doesn’t fade into the national obscurity that is usually reserved for the lives of people of color.

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