Welcome to This Week in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.


This week, the Supreme Court is poised to consider free speech rights of crisis pregnancy centers, black police officers in Arkansas sued for employment discrimination, unions helped Democrat Conor Lamb to victory in Pennsylvania’s congressional race, and lawmakers responded to nationwide calls for gun control.


First Amendment


It’s Abortion Providers, Not CPCs, Whose Free Speech Rights Are Being Violated. This week, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, a First Amendment challenge to California’s law requiring crisis pregnancy centers to provide access to accurate information. A victory for CPCs may actually strengthen challenges to laws that restrict abortion access. (Amicus Blog, Take Care)


Criminal Legal System


Nebraska Is Illegally Obtaining and Storing Execution Drugs in Defiance of Federal Law. In a complaint filed with the Drug Enforcement Administration, the ACLU of Nebraska accuses the Nebraska Department of Corrections and Nebraska State Penitentiary of flouting licensing and registration regulations by falsely claiming to have the requisite import license and by obtaining prohibited drugs. (ACLU)


Why Oklahoma Plans to Execute People with Nitrogen. The state announced that it will be switching from lethal injection to nitrogen inhalation for future executions. However, very little is known about this method. (The Marshall Project)




DeVos Digs Herself Deeper. In an interview with 60 Minutes, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos appears still to be uninformed about the principles and practices of public education. (The Atlantic)




Trump Is Open to Short-Term DACA Deal, White House Tells GOP Leaders. Instead of providing legal status and eventual path to citizenship for dreamers in exchange for ending the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program and $25 billion in funding for the U.S.-Mexico border wall project, Trump may explore a deal involving a two or three year extension of DACA in exchange for an unspecified amount of wall funding. (Washington Post)


In California, Trump Attacks Jerry Brown and ‘Sanctuary Policies.’ In his trip to California, Trump criticized the state’s policies as a “best friend of the criminal.” This is on the heels of the DOJ’s lawsuit challenging the sanctuary policies. (NYT)




U.S. Appeals Court Voids Obama-Era ‘Fiduciary Rule.’ The 5th Circuit vacated the fiduciary rule, which heightens standards for brokers advising clients on retirement products. The court found that the Department of Labor acted arbitrarily and capriciously and its interpretation of “investment advice fiduciary” should not be given Chevron deference. (Reuters)


Why Conor Lamb (Probably) Won. Unions gave Democrat Lamb an edge in Pennsylvania’s special congressional election last Tuesday. Lamb’s union rights rhetoric, contrasting with his Republican opponent’s support for “right to work” laws, played favorably in a working-class district. (Politico)


The West Virginia Teachers Strike Shows That Winning Big Requires Creating a Crisis. The teachers’ unions shut down every public school in the state and while reporting focused on their health insurance and pay raise victories, they won on all five of their stances. (The Nation)


Black Police Officers Sue Little Rock Citing Discrimination. The four officers sue for employment discrimination, alleging age and racial discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation against complaints. (NYT)




Supreme Court Draws Criticism for Shielding Police against Wrongful-Shooting Claims. A cert petition pending before the Supreme Court for Kisela v. Hughes tests the standards for granting qualified immunity to police officers under 42 U.S.C §1983. Arizona is appealing on the grounds that “qualified immunity exists to protect the public from unwarranted timidity on the part of public officials.” (LA Times)


Second Amendment


As Students March for Gun Control, House Votes to Beef Up School Security. On Wednesday, students across the nation organized walkouts to demand gun control. Congress’ response, passing a school safety bill in the House to increase security personnel without changing gun laws, misses the point. (NYT)


State Legislation


Florida Governor Signs ‘School Safety’ Bill That Could Arm Teachers. In response to the school shooting in February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the bill raises the age to buy firearms to 21, imposes a three-day waiting period for purchases, provides mental health programs in schools, and restricts gun access for people who show sign of mental illness. It also allows trained school workers to carry handguns. (NBC)


Voting Rights


The State of Redistricting Litigation. The Brennan Center for Justice published a roundup of the state of redistricting litigation in the U.S. These cases involve racial and partisan gerrymandering that implicates both the Equal Protection Clause and First Amendment rights. (Brennan Center)