The last week has had several civil rights updates on several different fronts:
The Senate rejected the nomination of Debo P. Adegbile to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Adegbile was the leading voting rights lawyer in the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund for over a decade. The nomination was derailed by Republicans joining with several Democrats in vulnerable districts who expressed concern about his contribution to a 2009 court brief successfully arguing that Mumia Abu Jamal faced a discriminatory jury in his 1981 conviction for murder of a police officer.
Over the past week, talks have stalled over allowing LGBTQ veterans to march in the Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade. This is the latest chapter in a dispute dating back to the early 90’s, leading to a 1995 unanimous Supreme Court ruling that the parade organizers have a First Amendment right to exclude LGBTQ groups from their annual parade in South Boston. The new Mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh and Congressman Stephen F. Lynch, have been attempting to facilitate an agreement between LGBTQ rights groups and the parade organizers, and claim progress is being made despite statements by the organizers that they are no longer engaging in further discussion.
Last week, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case Hall v. Florida, were the Supreme Court is considering whether the Florida scheme imposing an automatic IQ score cutoff for identifying intellectually disabled defendants in capital cases violates Atkins v. Virginia—the 2002 case wherein the Court held imposing the death penalty on intellectually disabled defendants violates the Eighth Amendment. As such, defendant Hall was sentenced to death after scoring a 71 on an IQ test despite having scored a 60 in previous tests. SCOTUSBlog reports that while Justices Scalia and Alito seemed supportive of Florida’s case, Justices Kagan, Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and significantly, Kennedy, seemed inclined to rule for the defendant.