Welcome to This Week in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
This week, Amy Coney Barrett was selected to replace Justice Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, Breonna Taylor’s killers were not indicted for her death, and President Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transition of power. With voting already underway in several states, litigation continues to change ballots and voting regulations. Fatalities from COVID-19 hit a grim milestone. And RBG breaks another milestone being the first woman and Jewish person to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol.
Amy Coney Barrett is poised to become the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. The conservative jurist and former Notre Dame law professor accepted President Trump’s nomination to replace Justice Ginsburg. Her nomination now heads to the Senate, where Republicans have fallen in line in what will likely be a speedy confirmation. If confirmed, the Supreme Court will tilt in a conservative direction for at least a generation. (Washington Post).
A grand jury decided to not indict a single officer in Breonna Taylor’s killing, choosing instead to charge one officer with wanton endangerment for firing bullets into Taylor’s neighbors’ apartments. The decision has sparked national protests for justice, as well as a demand to release the Attorney General’s report to the grand jury. A federal investigation continues to determine whether Taylor’s killing constituted civil rights violations. (Vox).
The Justice Department threatened to withhold federal funding from New York, Portland, and Seattle. Attorney General Barr accused the three cities of shirking their government responsibilities and allowing “anarchy” to take hold. Critics have called this threat a bluff without legal standing and have pointed to the sanctuary city litigation as proof that the Department and President do not have the power to defund cities. The cities plan to fight out the threat in court. (New York Times).
The President of the United States twice refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power. Speaking from the White House on Wednesday, President Trump, in response to a question by a reporter asking whether he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power, said, “We want to have – get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful, there won’t be a transfer, frankly, there’ll be a continuation.” He repeated similar comments on Thursday. In response, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution authored by Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia that commits to a peaceful transition of power if the President refuses to concede the election. (ABC News).
The Democratic and Republican Parties are engaged in litigation throughout the country, resulting in changes to voting rules even as voters are casting ballots. In Pennsylvania, the State Supreme Court agreed to extend the deadline for when ballots must be received by election officials, but also curbed efforts to collect ballots from voters and affirmed a privacy envelope requirement. Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, a federal judge allowed ballots postmarked by Election Day to be counted provided they arrived by November 9, while preserving a witness requirement. (New York Times).
More than 200,000 people have died in the United States from COVID-19. Meanwhile, the global infection rate has climbed to over 31,000,000 cases and over 965,000 people have died. (Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy).
Meanwhile, “the number of new daily coronavirus infections in the U.S. continued to rise this past week.” This spike is driven “by upward trends in nearly half the states that have pushed total cases in the country past 7 million.” In Wisconsin, the governor declared a new public health emergency, which focused on an uptick of cases among young people on college campuses. (NPR).
Swiss voters will vote on whether to leave the free movement of people agreement with the European Union. While Switzerland is not officially part of the European Union, they do have certain agreements that allows for freedom of movement of EU and Swiss citizens in exchange for access to free trade arrangements. The referendum, which was put forward by a populist, right-wing Swiss party, would jeopardize these agreements. It is not expected to pass. (BBC).
Mexican authorities issued arrests warrants for those who carried out and knew about the abduction of 43 students in southern Mexico. The students, all who were training to become teachers, disappeared six years ago. They were headed to a yearly protest; their bodies were incinerated and found in a nearby river. The arrest warrants indict several members of Mexico’s powerful federal police force, as well as members of the Mexican military. (Al Jazeera).
Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the 1st woman and 1st Jewish person to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol. “Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt, who also eulogized Ginsburg as she lay in repose at the U.S. Supreme Court, said of Ginsburg, ‘As a lawyer she won equality for women and men, not in one swift victory, but brick by brick, case by case. Through meticulous, careful lawyering, she changed the course of American law.’” She will be buried later this week at Arlington National Cemetery alongside her husband, Marty. (NPR).