Welcome to This Week in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
This week, the Mueller Report was finally delivered to the Attorney General, the Supreme Court took up multiple important civil rights cases, and New Zealand confronts the aftermath of a tragic shooting.
The Mueller Report has been delivered to the Attorney General, who has yet to release it publicly. According to Attorney General Barr’s summary of the report, the Special Counsel did not find that Trump conspired with the Russian government and that it declined to draw a conclusion about whether Trump illegally obstructed justice. The House voted 420-to-0 last week to demand the report get released to the public. (New York Times)
The Supreme Court says the government has broad authority when detaining some immigrants. In a 5-4 decision written by Justice Alito, the Court held that federal authorities can indefinitely detain, without a bond hearing, legal immigrants who have completed their punishment for crimes that make them eligible for deportation. Justice Breyer, writing for the dissent, emphasized “basic American legal values: the Government’s duty not to deprive any ‘person’ of ‘liberty’ without ‘due process of law.’” (Washington Post)
Florida Republicans are attempting to hobble the state’s historic voting rights expansion with a modern-day “poll tax.” During the midterm elections, Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment that restored voting rights to over one million people with felony records. Recently, however, Republicans in the state have introduced bills that would require those with felony records to pay off all remaining fees before regaining their voting rights, severely limiting the number of people who recover their right to vote and functioning as a modern-day poll tax. (Vox)
Michigan will no longer fund adoption agencies that deny LGBT parents. The state of Michigan recently settled a lawsuit with the ACLU, stipulating that it would no longer fund adoption agencies that turn away parents who are LGBT. President Trump had previously praised faith-based adoption agencies and promised that he would help them, without providing any details. (Chicago Tribune)
President Trump issued an executive order on campus free speech. The largely symbolic executive order does not do much more than reiterate that the administration wants schools to follow existing free inquiry laws. Colleges are already required to protect free speech in order to receive federal funds. (Vox)
Clarence Thomas asked a question, and the Supreme Court considered jury discrimination. Justices heard argument last week in Flowers v. Mississippi and seemed “deeply troubled” about the actions of a state prosecutor who has blocked the vast majority of African American potential jurors throughout the six prosecutions of a black man for an alleged quadruple murder. Justice Thomas asked a question for the first time in three years, indicating that he may be siding with the prosecutor. (Washington Post)
Jury acquits white former police officer in fatal shooting of an unarmed black teen. A Pennsylvania jury acquitted Michael Rosfeld, a white rookie police officer, who fatally shot Antwon Rose II, an unarmed black teen, in the back. Rose’s death caused weeks of protest, but the jury deliberated for less than four hours before unanimously acquitting Officer Rosfeld. (NPR)
New Zealand reacts to a tragic mosque shooting. A manifesto written by the man accused of shooting 50 people in Christchurch, New Zealand has been censored by New Zealand’s chief censor. The ban has generated immense debate around free speech. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the nation would be banning assault rifles a mere six days after the attack. (ABC News/CNN)
House to vote on measure opposing Trump transgender troop ban. The Pentagon recently announced that it would begin enforcing a ban on transgender troops beginning on April 12. A House resolution opposes the plan and urges the Pentagon to “maintain an inclusive policy allowing qualified transgender Americans to enlist and serve in the Armed Forces.” (Washington Post)
The Supreme Court agreed to decide if insanity defense and unanimous jury are required nationwide. The Supreme Court recently granted cert to two important criminal justice issues: whether states must require a unanimous jury verdict in criminal cases (Louisiana and Oregon currently do not), and whether a state may abolish the insanity defense (as Kansas has effectively done). (Los Angeles Times)