Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Legislature-Passed Civil Unions Bill Not Democratic Enough, Says Hawaii Governor

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Hawaii’s governor, Republican Linda Lingle, has vetoed a civil unions bill that was passed by the state legislature in April. Her reasoning was interesting:

Lingle said voters should decide the fate of civil unions, not politicians.

"The subject of this legislation has touched the hearts and minds of our citizens as no other social issue of our day," she said. "It would be a mistake to allow a decision of this magnitude to be made by one individual or a small group of elected officials."

Wait, isn’t that how representative democracy works?

Perhaps Lingle can chat with Sen. Tom Coburn about their apparent mistrust of democratically elected bodies. Or do they only come out against representative government when it produces legislation they don’t like?

Speech Code of the Month: College of the Holy Cross

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010
FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for July 2010: College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Although it is a private college, Holy Cross claims to value free expression. The Protest and Demonstration Guidelines state that "The College recognizes that the free exchange of ideas and expression may produce conflicts in beliefs and proposals for action. This exchange is an important element in the pursuit of knowledge." The Community Standards provide that "All student members of the College of the Holy Cross community have certain rights. These include: ...The right to express opinion, which includes the right to state agreement or disagreement with the opinions of others and the right to an appropriate forum for the expression of opinion."

In contradiction to these claims, Holy Cross' policies severely restrict student expression. The worst offenderand thus, our July 2010 Speech Code of the Monthis the prohibition on "emotional abuse" in the Student Code of Conduct. That policy prohibits "unintentionally causing emotional injury through careless or reckless behavior." This prohibition is so vague and so subjective that almost any speech or expression could run afoul of it, giving Holy Cross administrators virtually unlimited discretion ...

Federal court puts Neb. flag law on hold

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010
Saying state's flag-mutilation ban is 'almost certainly unconstitutional,' judge grants Westboro Baptist Church member's request to temporarily block its enforcement.

U.S. soldier linked to Iraq attack video charged

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010
Bradley Manning could face 52 years in prison if convicted of leaking classified material, including at least one diplomatic cable.

Minn. city returns controversial artwork to public walkway

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010
Bemidji city manager had removed piece, which is one of 10 beaver statues included in city's annual Sculpture Walk, after receiving complaints that it showed portion of female anatomy.

Fla. appeals court KOs Don King’s defamation claim

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010
By David L. Hudson Jr. Boxing promoter failed to show actual malice on the part of ESPN when it broadcast an unflattering portrayal of him.

Regulation and the 2010 Elections

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

The Washington Post is reporting that Wall Street contributions to Democratic campaign committees are markedly lower than this time in 2006 or 2008.

The drop in support comes from many of the same bankers, hedge fund executives and financial services chief executives who are most upset about the financial regulatory reform bill that House Democrats passed last week with almost no Republican support. ... This fundraising free fall from the New York area has left Democrats with diminished resources to defend their House and Senate majorities in November's midterm elections.

With Democrats seeking to impose reasonable regulations designed to protect the American people, this is no surprise.

The Republican Congress was a dream come true for the rapacious financiers who dragged our economy over a cliff, just as it was for all manners of giant corporations. We're seeing the results of the Republican ideology of allowing the most powerful industries to write their own laws and draft their own regulations. Not even the Supreme Court is immune, as a recent report from our affiliate People For the American Way Foundation demonstrates.

Deregulation has made the most powerful even more powerful, while the rest of us find ourselves more and more ...

University of Virginia Invokes Academic Freedom to Fight ‘Climategate’ Fraud Investigation

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

The University of Virginia filed a brief last week opposing Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli II's demand for a huge amount of documents relating to Cuccinelli's fraud investigation of Michael Mann, an American professor at the center of the "Climategate" controversy. The brief expands on the university's academic freedom argument and other arguments, and it mentions FIRE twice. 

In general, FIRE opposes investigations of professors for fraud when no evidence has been provided. Cuccinelli's initial demands provided no evidence, which would have set an extremely troubling precedent if they had gone unchallenged in that form. FIRE thus pushed Cuccinelli to reveal whether he had any basis for his comprehensive demands for years and years' worth of communications with dozens of other researchers and assistants. Cuccinelli then provided a basis for his demands, and, as we noted last month, it is now up to the court to decide.

In its filing last week, the university expanded upon its own reasons for asking the court to set aside Cuccinelli's demands, arguing in part that the "Climategate" e-mails do not provide sufficient "reason to believe" that Mann committed fraud of the sort Cuccinelli is investigating, and that the sweeping demands for documents are ...

FIRE at Campus Progress National Conference

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010
FIRE's Peter Bonilla, Program Officer for the Individual Rights Defense Program, and Jaclyn Hall, FIRE's new Program Associate for the Campus Freedom Network, will be heading to Washington, D.C., this afternoon. Tomorrow they will host FIRE's table at the 2010 Campus Progress National Conference, where they will have the opportunity to speak to progressive students from across the country about FIRE's mission and work and how they can help defend liberty on campus. As many FIRE supporters know, FIRE attends conferences from all sides of the political spectrum every year in order to spread our nonpartisan message of freedom on campus. If you're attending the Campus Progress Conference, please come by FIRE's booth and say hello to Peter and Jaclyn. 

FIRE, AAUP, and Thomas Jefferson Center File Brief with Fourth Circuit in Support of UNC Professor

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010
On Friday, FIRE joined the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression in filing an amici curiae brief with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on behalf of University of North Carolina-Wilmington professor Mike Adams. The brief argues that the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Southern Division erred in analyzing Adams' First Amendment claim.

UNC-Wilmington denied Adams a promotion to full professor in 2006, and, with the backing of the Alliance Defense Fund, the conservative Christian professor filed suit against the university in March of 2007. In his lawsuit, Adams, an associate professor of criminal justice and columnist, alleged that the denial was due to his political and religious views, and that the university's treatment of his application amounted to both religious discrimination and retaliation for protected speech in violation of his First Amendment rights.

This past March, the district court found against Adams, granting summary judgment to UNC-Wilmington. With respect to his religious discrimination claim, the court held that Adams had failed to meet his evidentiary burden in establishing that he had been subjected to discrimination on the basis ...

Stephen Colbert Speaks With EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Monday evening, EFF's Cindy Cohn squared off against conservative pundit, talk-show host and astronaut Stephen Tiberius Colbert. In a hard-hitting in-depth interview, Stephen and Cindy sparred over the most important issues facing the Internet today, including Hitler jokes, the Second Amendment, and Beer Cat.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Electronic Frontier Foundation - Cindy Cohn
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Colbert Nation, EFF salutes you! You can support EFF's work by clicking here.

Speaking Freely: Government Can Help Online Media by Revamping Underlying Legal Structure

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

       Government can play an appropriate role in helping journalism prosper on the Internet – but it involves providing the underlying legal structure and preventing unfair competition,  rather than offering subsidies or making media companies nonprofit.  That critical distinction is outlined by noted media attorney Bruce W. Sanford in a new Speaking Freely opinion paper released today.   
            “The anxiety over the Internet’s impact on the business model for journalism ignores the underlying legal rules and public policy that structure any business on the Web,” Sanford says.
            Revamping the legal structure in a way that allows journalism to prosper online “is consistent with media autonomy,” he says, and “would serve the Federal Trade Commission’s mission to preserve competition.” 
            Among Sanford’s recommendations: a change in copyright legislation to clarify that the routine copying of an entire website’s content is not fair use; creation of a federal unfair-competition law that protects content creators from “hot news” misappropriation; and a temporary antitrust exemption to permit media companies to collaborate in the public interest.  
            Sanford’s paper, “Revamped Legal Structure Is Key to the Future of Journalism,” is the latest in the Speaking Freely series published jointly by The Thomas Jefferson Center ...

Pa. judge rescinds order directing newspapers to delete archived stories

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010
Move overturns command that Centre Daily Times, Penn State's Daily Collegian expunge three defendants' records; order covering two others is still pending.

Gates tightens rules for interviews with military brass

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010
Defense secretary, fed up with leaks, wants top generals, officials to notify Pentagon press office before talking to reporters.

Public TV station turns over material from unaired show

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010
UNC-TV decides not to fight subpoena from state lawmakers because it is public agency and may not fall under North Carolina's reporter shield law.

Wis. high court deadlocks on justice’s ethics case

Monday, July 5th, 2010
Issuing unprecedented dueling opinions, justices split 3-3 on whether colleague violated judicial code of conduct when he ran potentially misleading and race-baiting campaign ad in 2008.

Nev. high court: Governor’s gun-permit records should be released

Sunday, July 4th, 2010
Justices say lower court judge erred when she refused to release documents concerning improper handling of Jim Gibbons' permit.

Pa. blasphemy law ruled unconstitutional

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010
Federal judge says law requires state employees to use their own religious beliefs to decide whether applications for company names are irreligious.

Ticketmaster’s Terms of Service Cannot Make You a Criminal

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

Newark, New Jersey - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and a coalition of academics and public policy groups are urging a federal judge to dismiss a criminal indictment that could give websites extraordinary power to dictate what behavior becomes a computer crime.

The four defendants in this case are the operators of Wiseguys Tickets, Inc., a ticket-reselling service. In its indictment, the government claims the four purchased tickets from Ticketmaster by automated means, violating Ticketmaster's terms of service and therefore the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). In an amicus brief filed today, EFF argues that this prosecution expands the scope of the CFAA beyond what Congress intended, grounding criminal liability in whatever arbitrary terms of service that websites decide to impose on users.

"Under the government's theory, anyone who disregards -- or doesn't read -- the terms of service on any website could face computer crime charges," said EFF Civil Liberties Director Jennifer Granick. "That gives Ticketmaster and other online services extraordinary power over their users: the power to decide what is criminal behavior and what is not. Price comparison services, social network aggregators, and users who skim a few years off their ages could all be criminals if ...

CFAA Prosecution of Wiseguys Not So Smart

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

In the latest battle to protect users from punishment for violating website terms of use, EFF filed a brief today in U.S. v. Lowson, again arguing that public websites can not decide who is and is not a criminal.

In this federal prosecution in New Jersey, the government charged the operators of Wiseguys Tickets, Inc. with violating Ticketmaster's terms of service, and therefore the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, by using bots to purchase event tickets to resell them.

The government couldn't charge the men with any scalping offense because ticket resale is not a crime. And while the government has suggested that this criminal prosecution is only about protecting consumers' fair access to event tickets, Ticketmaster and other online ticket vendors are hardly models for consumer protection. Ticketmaster itself has a financial interest in in the ticket-reselling business, and stands to benefit substantially from putting competitors out of business. Along with the Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys of New Jersey, the Center for Democracy and Technology and several law professors, we are asking the judge to dismiss the indictment.

Using criminal law to enforce private website operators' terms of use puts immense coercive power behind arbitrary and ...

Don’t Turn COPPA Into Age-Verification Mandate

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

This week EFF joined the Progress & Freedom Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology in comments to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), urging the FTC not to turn the law into an age-verification mandate for the Internet.

Under COPPA, most websites that are "directed to" kids have to get parental consent before anyone under 13 can use them. But if a site is a general audience site -- i.e. not "directed to" kids -- then there's no duty to obtain parental consent from anyone unless/until the site has actual knowledge that the person is under 13. Now, FTC and Congress are considering expanding the statute to cover teenagers, as well. But these changes would have wide-ranging ramifications for free speech, privacy, and anonymity online.

While a site for pre-teens is likely to have content aimed squarely at that age group, many older teens use the same use Internet services that adults do. If a site with a mixed-age user base is liable for letting kids use its services without a parents' permission, then it will likely set up elaborate age-verification for everyone. Of course, the more information a website collects, ...

Fight Against Telco Immunity Continues in Court of Appeals

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

Continuing its efforts to seek judicial review of AT&T's involvement in the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping of millions of Americans, EFF has filed the final brief in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the retroactive immunity provision of the FISA Amendments Act.

The brief explains the chief constitutional problem with the law: Congress improperly gave the Attorney General the ability to selectively repeal laws passed to protect telecommunications customers from surveillance, as well as removing the protection of the Constitution from their communications and communications records. EFF filed the brief in conjunction with the ACLU offices in California and Illinois and it was filed on behalf of the 32 pending lawsuits against various telecommunications companies allegedly involved in the spying. The next step will be for the court to schedule an oral argument, likely sometime in the next year.

While the specific legal arguments in the brief are somewhat technical, the basic observation is not: under our Constitution, it is Congress that must make and repeal the laws, and it cannot outsource that duty to the Attorney General. Yet the immunity law does just that, allowing the Attorney General to selectively repeal the strong privacy protections Congress created ...

5th Circuit won’t let Texas principals off hook in candy-cane case

Friday, July 2nd, 2010
Administrators claimed courts hadn't extended free-speech protection to 'distribution of non-curricular materials' in elementary schools; 'They are wrong,' panel says.

N.C. lawmakers subpoena footage from public TV station

Friday, July 2nd, 2010
State senator says demand for material from not-yet-aired documentary is comparable to records request, but media-law attorney says move could set worrisome precedent.

Press group wants Fed’s bank aid disclosed faster

Friday, July 2nd, 2010
Congress' financial-regulation overhaul would let Federal Reserve keep some transactions secret for up to two years.

A Lopsided Witness List

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

There’s an interesting pattern among the members of the military who are weighing into Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court nomination. On one side, we have members of the military who were at Harvard when Kagan was Dean and have showed up to testify or written letters in support her confirmation. And then there are the conservative activists who the GOP has recruited to testify against the Solicitor General and who, as far as I can tell, have never so much as met her.

All of these people should be commended for their military service. But are they equally qualified to speak about Kagan’s record?

Jon Kyl Attacks Women, Older Workers, Baby Seals

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Today, when questioning the first panel of witnesses for the Elena Kagan confirmation, Senator Jon Kyl decided not to ask questions, but simply to attack those who had agreed to testify.

Instead of, say, listening to the witnesses, or even ignoring them, he accused three witnesses testifying about sex discrimination, age discrimination, and the devastating impact of the Exxon Valdez spill of demanding a Justice who would rule for them. All they wanted, he claimed, was “results oriented judging.”

He didn’t give them a chance to answer the accusation, so maybe we can answer for them.

No, Senator Kyl, all we want is a Justice who will follow the law.

In Ledbetter, the Court read the law in a cramped and unnatural way in order to limit the right of women to sue for discrimination. In Gross, the Court arbitrarily changed the standard used to determine discrimination on the basis of age. And in Exxon v. Baker, the Court invented a limit on punitive damages out of whole cloth—the ruling was so bad that even the Heritage Foundation thought it was judicial activism.

In the Ledbetter, Gross and Exxon cases, the Court went out of its ...

EU Action Alert: Urge Your MEP to Take a Stand for Internet Freedom

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

We need signatures from another 69 MEPs by September 9 for the Written Declaration to be adopted as the official European Parliament position on ACTA. Please continue to contact your MEPs and ask them to sign the Written Declaration at the next Strasbourg plenary session on 6-9 September. Together, we can do this!

Help stop the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) from steamrolling our rights and freedoms. Please contact your Member of Parliament (MEP) today and ask them to sign a Declaration that takes a stand against efforts to curb Internet freedom in ACTA. Parliamentarians must sign in person before July 8, during the Strasbourg plenary session.

Written Declaration 12 asks EU negotiators to ensure that ACTA respects European citizens' fundamental rights to freedom of expression and privacy, and opposes provisions that would encourage Internet intermediaries to engage in surveillance or filtering of all Internet users' communications for potential copyright-infringing material. If 369 members of the European Parliament sign this declaration before July 8, it will become the official opinion of the European Parliament, and send a strong message to the EU ACTA negotiators. Around 253 MEPs have signed, but 116 MEP signatures are still needed — particularly from MEPs in Germany, the U.K., ...

Lilly Ledbetter Recounts Her Fight

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Lilly Ledbetter just appeared in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee to speak about the damage that can be done by a Supreme Court that’s not grounded in the realities of life for average Americans.

When Ledbetter found out that she’d been discriminated against, it would have been easy for her to just walk away—after all, it’s not in any way easy to pursue a discrimination claim—but Ledbetter was used to tough jobs. She stood up and demanded that Goodyear be held accountable for its actions. She fought hard, she pursued her case for many years, and she won.

But when the case made it to the Supreme Court, it decided that Goodyear couldn’t be held accountable for its actions. Because the company hid the discrimination for long enough, they were free to discriminate for as long as they wanted.

In 2007, when the Court denied her compensation for decades of pay discrimination, Ledbetter sat down with us to talk about her fight for fair pay for herself and others like her:

After the Supreme Court stopped her from collecting the pay she had earned, she led the fight to make sure it wouldn’t happen to anybody else—and she’s still ...

Jeff Sessions Comes Out Against Ideas

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

When I got to the office this morning, I turned on C-SPAN, which was rerunning the confirmation hearings all over again. While I was listening, I heard again something that caught my ear yesterday.

Senator Sessions: I think that yesterday you indicated that the court could consider foreign court opinions as they could “learn about how other people might approach” and think about approaching legal issues. And you said, well I guess “I'm in favor of good ideas coming from wherever you can get them.” I think some of the judges on the court have used that phrase, but ideas sound like policy to me. It does not sound like authority to me.

Is Senator Sessions arguing that judges shouldn’t have ideas? That having ideas per se might undermine the authority of the Court?

On one level, it’s a bit frightening, but, on another, it’s Chief Justice Roberts’ “balls-and-strikes” theory of judging extended to its absurd, inevitable conclusion.

The Immigration Misinformation Campaign

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Last week, Arizona governor Jan Brewer further fanned the flames of resentment and suspicion around the immigration debate in her state when she announced her evidence-free view that the majority of people entering the United States illegally do so to transport illegal drugs. Thankfully, President Obama seems to be relying on actual facts in that area. In his speech today outlining the need for comprehensive immigration reform, he gave an honest explanation of the dangers of the current system:

The result is an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. The overwhelming majority of these men and women are simply seeking a better life for themselves and their children. Many settle in low-wage sectors of the economy; they work hard, they save, they stay out of trouble. But because they live in the shadows, they’re vulnerable to unscrupulous businesses who pay them less than the minimum wage or violate worker safety rules -– thereby putting companies who follow those rules, and Americans who rightly demand the minimum wage or overtime, at an unfair [dis]advantage. Crimes go unreported as victims and witnesses fear coming forward. And this makes it harder for the police to catch violent criminals and keep ...

Bucknell University Would Thwart AAUW ‘Wage Gap’ Bake Sales

Thursday, July 1st, 2010
AAUW (formerly known as the American Association of University Women) is a formidable nationwide entity with much to contribute to campus debate:
For more than 128 years, AAUW members have examined and taken positions on the fundamental issues of the day-educational, social, economic, and political. Our commitment to our mission is reflected in all aspects of our work.

AAUW boasts "more than 100,000 members and donors, 1,000 branches, and 500 college/university institution partners." In Pennsylvania alone, AAUW has partnerships with 29 colleges and universitiespublic and private, religious and secular. But AAUW has no official presence at Bucknell University, and I think it would get in a lot of trouble if it did.

One of the ways that AAUW Pennsylvania recommends engaging with the campus is to hold what are known as "wage gap" bake sales:

Hold a bake sale where items cost men a dollar and women 77 cents.

The point of this satirical, political theater obviously is to spread the message that, as they report, "women earn only $.77 of the male's $1.00." The Campus Women's Organization at the University of Pittsburgh reportedly held such a sale last September, "symbolically charging women ...

Defcon 18 Getaway Contest FINAL RESULTS!

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

The competition was stiff and the battle for supremacy in any hacker arena is hard fought, yet one person emerged victorious. Congratulations to First Place winner Shawn Merdinger! Shawn and company raised $2,560 for EFF! He will receive the grand prize including two Defcon 18 Human badges, a room at the Riviera Hotel, two tickets to the Vegas 2.0 Party at the Top of the Riv, two tickets to the iSEC Partners Party, and two Ninja Networks Party badges!

Cheers to Second Place winner Art Conklin who raised $2,100! Art will receive two Defcon 18 Human badges, two tickets to the iSEC Partners Party, and two tickets to the Vegas 2.0 Party!

Beating out the competition and making it to Third Place with $1,040, team Holy Handgrenades will receive one Defcon 18 Human badge, one ticket to the iSEC Partners Party, and one ticket to the Vegas 2.0 Party. These top three winners will also receive an EFF Swag Super Pack!

Buck up, brothers and sisters! Just because you didn't make it to the top three doesn't mean you have to walk away empty-handed - not by a long shot! EFF is awarding a limited edition Defcon 18 "Things to ...

The ‘Subsidy’ Is Not the Issue: The Incorrect Framing of ‘CLS v. Martinez’

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

One of the more common reactions in favor of the Supreme Court's decision in Christian Legal Society v. Martinezthat a public university need not subsidize student groups that limit membership based on views that the university opposeshas intuitive appeal, but is antithetical to First Amendment principles.

Those who agree with the Court's decision, which upheld a public university's requirement that all student groups accept all members, usually trumpet one justification for the ruling: They recognize that private groups may exercise their right of expressive association to exclude certain members, but argue that a public university need not "subsidize" this type of discrimination. This framing of the Court's recent decision is wrongheaded for several reasons, but because of its inherent simplicity, deeming speech on government property to be a subsidy has the potential to undermine speech rights beyond the college campus. 

When the government opens up a forum for speech on its property, as the University of California Hastings College of the Law did by creating the student organization system on its campus, it necessarily provides its facilities and other benefits to speakers. But thinking of these benefits as "subsidies" leads to the incorrect assumption that ...

This Month in FIRE History: College Refuses to Allow Student to Distribute PETA Literature

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

As June came to a close, I took a look back to June of 2005, when FIRE reported a free speech victory after Florida's Seminole Community College (SCC) attempted to forbid student Eliana Campos from distributing literature protesting what she saw as slaughterhouse brutality. An administrator initially refused to honor Campos' constitutional rights because the source of the literature (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA) "instill[ed] a feeling" in her that she did not like. She told Campos that she would only be allowed to "stand and speak freely" about her beliefs in the college's tiny and ill-defined "free speech area."

Only a few hours after FIRE took the case public, SCC agreed to respect Campos' civil liberties and allowed her to distribute the PETA literature. 

FIRE wrote in its letter to SCC at the time: 

It is essential to remember that the special function of a college or university as a whole, in any free society, is to serve as the ultimate "free speech zone."  A college that is serious about providing its students with a true education should be seeking at all times to expand open discourse, to develop intellectual inquiry, and to engage and challenge the way ...

Joining the Club

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Yesterday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar shot down her colleague Tom Coburn’s assertion that the American people are less free now than we were 30 years ago, offering up some powerful illustrations of the progress women have made since 1980. “I think about whether people were more free in 1980,” she said, “it's all in the eyes of the beholder.”

Kagan, who if confirmed would be the fourth female Justice in the history of the Supreme Court, responded, “I think that there's no question that women have greater opportunities now, although they could be made greater still.”

Today, the Pew Research Center released a survey of attitudes toward working women throughout the world. One finding stood out:

Indeed, the United States and Germany reported an especially strong gap between the sexes on whether enough has been done to give women equality. Of those who believe in equal rights, many more American and German men believe their nations have made the right amount of changes for women, while many more women than men in those countries think more action is required.

“When you’re left out of the club, you know it,” said Prof. Jacqui True, an expert in gender relations and senior ...

SPLC’s Frank LoMonte Asks: How Might ‘CLS v. Martinez’ Affect Student Press?

Thursday, July 1st, 2010
The Student Press Law Center's (SPLC's) Adam Goldstein published a scathing, must-read assessment over at The Huffington Post of the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision upholding the University of California Hastings College of the Law's denial of official recognition to the Christian Legal Society (CLS) and affirming the constitutionality of Hastings' all-comers policy for student organizations. Goldstein stated that "the rationale of this opinion could end up doing more violence to student expression rights than any decision in the last 22 years." 

Now, in a separate blog entry, SPLC Executive Director Frank LoMonte more directly examines the threat to SPLC's constituency: the student press. LoMonte envisions this scenario as the result of the decision:

The question left after Monday's decision is: Could a college refuse funding to a conservative or liberal student newspaper on the grounds of a "viewpoint neutral" rule that required all publications to present a representative cross-section of diverse student opinions? That the answer to that question is no longer unmistakably "no" illustrates why Christian Legal Society's reasoning is cause for concern.

What of this? What if, as LoMonte posits, this all-comers policy were applied to student newspapers, particularly those with partisan missions? 

Student publications differ from ...

Judge Orders User-Friendly Notices for Does Targeted By USCG Suits

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Thousands of ISP subscribers targeted in mass copyright infringement suits will have a better shot at defending themselves as a result of a hearing held today in Washington, D.C. EFF appeared at a hearing as a friend of the court, arguing that the suits improperly lump thousands of defendants together, a shortcut that deprives the defendants of fair access to individual justice.

The brainchild of a Washington, D.C., law firm calling itself the "U.S. Copyright Group" (USCG), these "John Doe" lawsuits were filed on behalf of seven filmmakers and implicate well over 14,000 anonymous individuals in alleged unauthorized downloading of independent films, including "Far Cry" and "The Hurt Locker." Time Warner Cable moved to quash subpoenas issued in two of the suits that sought the identities of the Doe defendants, and EFF, the ACLU and Public Citizen filed an amicus brief in support of the motion. EFF was invited to appear at the hearing, and told the judge that USCG did not offer enough evidence of a relationship between the defendants to justify suing them together, and that the evidence that the plaintiffs themselves submitted suggested the court did not have jurisdiction for people who are located across the country. ...

Kagan and the First Amendment: excerpts from hearings

Thursday, July 1st, 2010
Free-speech issues were discussed several times during nominee's portion of confirmation hearings.

N.M. can’t regulate activist groups, 10th Circuit says

Thursday, July 1st, 2010
Three-judge panel upholds lower court ruling that state's threat to prosecute two nonprofits for not registering as political committees was unconstitutional.

N.C. judge: Blog editor must turn over names of commenters

Thursday, July 1st, 2010
Former county commissioner Tommy Hester wants to know who wrote allegedly defamatory comments regarding boarding house on property he owns.

Campaign launches with ‘extraordinary support’

Thursday, July 1st, 2010
By Eugenia Harris Hundreds of newspapers, Web sites, including USA Today and Google, feature ads, news stories, op-eds, blog posts.

“A Judicial Philosophy that Keeps Faith with the Constitution”: Our Endorsement of Kagan

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Here at PFAW, we were all eager to hear what Elena Kagan had to say in this week’s hearings, and have spent the past two days in the Senate hearing room or glued to CSPAN 3  listening to her testimony. We were all extraordinarily impressed, and PFAW this afternoon endorsed Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court. PFAW president Michael Keegan’s statement:

“The departure of Justice Stevens leaves a hole in the Supreme Court that will be difficult to fill. Throughout his career, Justice Stevens stood up for his belief that all people, no matter their situation, deserve a fair hearing in the courts. Judging by her record of service, her writing, and her testimony before the Judiciary Committee, Elena Kagan is the right person to fill that vacancy.

“Solicitor General Kagan gave the American people a sound and thoughtful lesson about the Constitution as a timeless document, brilliantly conceived by its framers to be interpreted over time in light of new situations and new factual contexts. Her testimony gave voice to a view of the Constitution and the role of judges in sharp contrast to Chief Justice Roberts’ misleading analogy to an umpire calling balls and strikes. And she ...

Whose Freedom?

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

After debating 1776, we move on to a conversation about 1980.

In his long complaint about the Commerce Clause, Sen. Coburn declared that Americans had more freedom 30 years ago than we do now.

Sen. Klobuchar then took the floor, and brought up a few interesting points in response.

  • In 1980, there were no women Supreme Court Justices
  • In 1980, there were no women on the Senate Judiciary Committee
  • In 1980, there were was one woman in the United States Senate

“I think about whether people were more free in 1980,” she said, “it's all in the eyes of the beholder.”

Constitutional Fidelity, Except for the Other Stuff

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

First, Sen. Tom Coburn railed against Solicitor General Kagan for her refusal to agree to his skewed and narrow vision of the original intent of the Constitution.

Then he switched tacks to rail against her for not subscribing to a view of the law outside of the Constitution.

Coburn asked Kagan if she believed that there was a fundamental right for humans to own guns, and then broadened his question to ask if she believes there exist “fundamental rights” and “natural rights” outside of the U.S. Constitution.

“I don’t have a view of what our natural rights are outside of the Constitution and the law,” Kagan responded. “I’m not saying I don’t believe in fundamental pre-existing rights, but my job as a Justice would be to enforce the Constitution.”

Coburn was not satisfied. He demands, apparently, that judges interpret the law ONLY with the original words of the Constitution…but ALSO with a belief in an undefined set of “natural rights.”


Dreaming Of What Might Have Been Had Boykin Testifed At Kagan’s Hearing

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Last week we noted that Senate Republicans had put Gen. Jerry Boykin on their list of witnesses to testify against Elena Kagan during her Supreme Court confirmation hearing, seemingly unaware of just how radically right-wing his views were.

Sadly, they quickly wised up and dropped him from the list but, in a serendipitous turn of events, the AFA's Bryan Fischer had Boykin on his radio program today to discuss the entire issue.

In this clip, Fischer calls out Senate Republicans to caving to a bunch of bloggers sitting around in the pajamas and clicking away on their laptops, and Boykin agrees, saying that Sen. Sessions called him to apologize but that doesn't change the fact that there are no good Christian men in Congress who are willing to stand up for the truth.  Boykin then goes on to give a quick synopsis of what he would have said, had his invitation not been rescinded, eventually getting into Sen. Inhofe territory suggesting that the troops will be unwilling to die for their fellow gay soldiers:

Now, that sort of testimony might be relevant to a hearing about Don't Ask, Don't Tell, but that Boykin intended to deliver it during a confirmation ...

FIRE Launches New Video Series With Short Film on Censorship of Gun-Related Speech

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Today FIRE is proud to release a new short film, "Empty Holsters: Gun Speech on America's Campuses," highlighting widespread campus censorship of student speech about guns. The film is the first in a new FIRE series focusing on how colleges and universities across America are preventing students and faculty members from speaking out on the weightiest political issues of the day.

With the recent Supreme Court decision in McDonald v. Chicago, the issue of guns on campus will only be hotter than ever. It is therefore more important than ever that the debate about guns on campus be a substantive one. As FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said today, "On too many college campuses, students have been prevented from and punished for attempting to form groups to advocate for gun rights, protesting campus restrictions on concealed carry, or even simply telling gun-related jokes. But an informed populace is essential to our democracy, and colleges and universities should be welcoming a debate on the role of guns in our society, not stifling it."

In the wake of the 2007 tragedy at Virginia Tech, some students have argued that allowing students and professors with gun licenses to carry those weapons on ...

Senator Hatch Defends Citizens United

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

During his second round of questioning, Senator Hatch again spent a significant amount of time defending the Court’s ruling in Citizens United. I won’t go into a long explanation of why the decision is wrong (as we’ve done several times before) or point out that it’s tremendously unpopular. What should be remarked is that, for the first time in a while, conservatives are routinely being forced to defend the decisions made by conservative Justices (Ledbetter springs to mind as another example.)

When it comes to the debate about the Court and the Constitution, the right-wing is on its heels.

Thurgood Marshall Roundup

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

We were far from the only ones noting the surprising volume of GOP attacks on Justice Thurgood Marshall on Monday. Talking Points Memo counted the number of references to the illustrious Justice on the opening day of Kagan’s hearings:

In an example of how much the GOP focused on Marshall, his name came up 35 times. President Obama's name was mentioned just 14 times today.

Harpers Magazine shared my confusion about what might have motivated Republican Senators to engage in these attacks:

So what made Marshall the image of an “activist judge”? Was it his role in Brown v. Board of Education, the decision that put an end to the lie of “separate but equal” education across the American South, forcing desegregation in public education? Or perhaps it was the fact that he won nearly all of his Supreme Court cases, most of them on behalf of the NAACP, and all of them testing the official refuges of bigotry and racism?

The attacks were led, predictably, by neoconfederate senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the Republican ranking member and the Theodore Bilbo of his generation, who snarled that Kagan’s affection for her former boss “tells us much about the nominee”—a comment ...

Franken on Rent-A-Center and Forced Arbitration

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Senator Al Franken’s questioning included a reference to the recent decision in Rent-A-Center v. Jackson, which was particularly well explained. He applauded Gen. Kagan’s comment from yesterday, where she said that the Court should provide equal access to everyone. However, arbitration means a case doesn’t go to court, and in Rent-A-Center the Roberts Court effectively decided that, in certain cases, the person who decides whether arbitration is appropriate is . . .  the arbiter.

These disputes often pit large corporations against individuals, and arbitration proceedings almost always benefit these companies, by keeping costs down and avoiding costly attorneys’ fees. Not to mention that corporations often keep private arbitrators in business – it’s pretty clear that it’s in an arbitrator’s best interest to rule in favor of a corporation, rather than an individual, to keep that money coming in.
Applause to Sen. Franken for acknowledging, very eloquently, the pro-business bent of the Supreme Court.