This Week in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties: March 5

Welcome to This Week in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.


This week saw First Amendment challenges, ongoing labor disputes, and a number of state-level bills aimed at curtailing civil rights and civil liberties, but it’s not all bad news: various courts of appeal advocated for those who are trapped in the carceral system as a result of mandatory minimums, and the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund has taken on 1,000 cases to date.


First Amendment

N.R.A. Logo? No. #MeToo Shirt? Maybe. Justices Weigh Political Apparel at Polls: A Minnesota law banning the wearing of political paraphernalia at polling places made its way to the Supreme Court, where Justices Kennedy and Roberts seemed inclined to join several of the liberal justices in finding efforts to “maintain[] the decorum and dignity of polling places” a reasonably reason to restrict free speech. (New York Times)


Georgia Violated Delta’s First Amendment Rights: Kent Greenfield argues that, by “rescinding a proposed jet-fuel tax cut” in response to Delta’s decision to end their benefits program for NRA members, the Georgia legislature violated the company’s free speech rights. (Slate)


Justices Weigh Threats to Free Speech Against Constraints on Local Policing: The Supreme Court heard oral argument in Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, examining the use of the “probable-cause bar” by police officers and the contention that “the presence of probable cause necessarily defeats a claim of retaliatory arrest for First-Amendment-protected expression.” (SCOTUS Blog)



Microsoft Ireland Argument Analysis: Data, Territoriality, and the Best Way Forward: The Supreme Court heard oral argument in Microsoft Ireland, which could determine the government’s ability to access data held outside of the United States; however, if Congress passes the CLOUD Act before the Court rules, the case could be moot. (Harvard Law Review Blog)


Prison System

Entire First Circuit Urges Supreme Court to Revisit Harmelin’s Limits on Eighth Amendment Challenges to Extreme Adult Prison Sentences: The First Circuit, sitting en banc, affirmed the defendant’s 160-year sentence, saying that they were bound by mandatory minimums; Judge David Barron wrote a concurrence that “is a must-read for Eighth Amendment fans.” (Sentencing Law & Policy)


NAACP Legal Defense Fund Joins Groups Calling for Harris County Judge to Resign After Controversial Comments: Following a Texas judge’s comments that “young black men…[are] not getting good advice from their parents” so they take advice from “[r]ag-tag organizations like Black Lives Matter, which tell you, ‘resist police,’ which the worst thing in the world you could tell a young black man…,” numerous organizations are calling for his resignation. (Houston Chronicle)


Labor and the Workforce

Where Are The Facts?: In oral argument for Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31, examining the constitutionality of public sector agency fair share fees, there was a notable absence of answers to “factual questions” as a result of “the absence of a record developed below.” (Take Care)


Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund Takes on 1,000 Cases: In just over twelve months, the campaign aimed at combatting workplace sexual harassment has raised $21 million and received over 1,600 “requests for legal support.” (CNN)


West Virginia Teacher Strike Enters its Seventh Day: Schools in West Virginia remained closed through the end of the week as the Teachers’ Union waited for the State Legislature to pass the 5% pay raise promised by Governor James Justice. (New York Times)


Consumer Debt

What Happens When You Can’t Afford To Go Bankrupt: “[D]ebtors with attorneys fare far better than those who go it alone,” yet many cannot afford to pay the attorneys who could save them, writes Paul Kiel. (Washington Post)



DeVos Rewrites Rules for School Civil Rights Probes: The Department of Education has issued a number of new policies that will be taking place beginning March 5th, including “rescind[ing] protections for transgender students” and “changing rules for campuses handling allegations of sexual assault.” (Politico)


There’s a Reason the Department of Education is Ignoring Trans Kids: Harper Benjamin Keenan provides perspective as a teacher on the Department of Education’s decision to “ignore the complaints of transgender children.” (Slate)


Education Opportunities in Prison are Key to Reducing Crime: 41% of the incarcerated population does not have a high school degree; both the individuals and society have “a lot to gain from [providing] educational opportunities while in prison.” (Center for American Progress)



Official: Teens in Migrant Shelters Have No Abortion Rights: The March testimony of Scott Lloyd—the head of the Office of Refugee Resettlement—has been released, in which he expressed his belief that unaccompanied immigrant minors living in government shelters have no constitutional right to an abortion. (New York Times)


How Trump Changed the Rules to Arrest More Non-Criminal Immigrants: Since the beginning of the Trump administration, there has been a 171% increase in non-criminal arrests of immigrants, many of whom have “lived in the country for decades, checked in regularly with immigration officials and posed no danger to their community.” (CNN)


Immigration Push Fades, Eclipsed by Congress New Focus on Guns: As public attention with respect to immigration and DREAMers fades, the prospect of bipartisan action goes with it.  (Chicago Tribune)


State Legislation

U.S. Civil Rights Groups Decry ‘Anti-Muslim’ Bill in Idaho: HB-419, similar to bills in other states, passed through the Idaho House; it has been understood to target Muslims through its aim of “ban[ning] the implementation of ‘foreign law’ in the state.” (Al Jazeera)


Criminal Justice Reform Bill Would Stop Jail Revolving Door: The Mississippi House is considering HB-387, which would build on earlier legislation that has proven to be a success in decreasing both crime and the population of incarcerated individuals. (Clarion Ledger)


GOP Senators Pass Campus Free Speech Bill: Senate Study Bill 3120 is now up for consideration in the Iowa House; it “would prevent public universities in Iowa from denying benefits and privileges to student groups because of their beliefs or expressions of beliefs.” (The Gazette)

Written by

Molly is a first year student at Harvard Law School. She is originally from Saint Paul, Minnesota, and is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin. Her focus is on the intersection of racial justice, education, and the law. Find her on Twitter @molly_coleman.

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