On June 24, 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down two employer-friendly decisions that will make it more difficult for plaintiffs to prevail in discrimination suits based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. These decisions will significantly and seriously effect an employee’s right to a discrimination-free workplace.
Special thanks to Gowen Group Law Clerk John Langlois for producing this post.
On November 9th, 2012 the United States Supreme Court granted review of the case of Maryland v. King to determine if collecting and analyzing the DNA of people arrested and charged with serious crimes is allowed under the Fourth Amendment. The case will be reviewed next year.
The review is in response to a ruling by the Maryland Court of Appeals. That state court held that collection of DNA samples from arrestees prior to conviction violated the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable, warrantless searches. Maryland first enacted legislation establishing a DNA database in 1994. Collection of DNA samples was originally limited to individuals convicted of violent crimes or attempts at those crimes. In 2008 the law was expanded to allow collection upon arrest rather than after conviction.
In a recent post entitled ‘Why Firing a Bad Cop is Damn Near Impossible‘, Mike Riggs of Reason.com recounts the now infamous pictures of Rhode Island police officer Edward Krawetz kicking a handcuffed women in the head.
Three years later, in March of 2012, Officer Krawetz was convicted of felony battery, but his 10 year sentence was immediately suspended in lieu of anger management classes. Riggs’ article draws attention to the fact that despite the conviction and public scrutiny, Krawetz was not fired from the Lincoln Police Department, mostly thanks to the “law enforcement bill of rights.”
About two weeks ago was the memorial service for one of my former clients, Ms. Shirley Riley. I met Ms. Riley through some pro bono work I was doing for her in March 2009 for the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. At that time I was nearly a year into doing pro bono work for the Clinic; but it was through Ms. Riley’s set of circumstances that I became intimate with the functions of the D.C. Department of Human Services (DHS) and its failings with regard to serving those with disabilities in the DC shelter system. It was also through Ms. Riley’s situation that I became even more intimate with the good pro bono legal work can do for individuals and society-at-large.
Ms. Riley had impairments that required she have an accessible room and a location with no communal setting. She was placed at one of the city’s main shelters, DC General, which provided neither of these accommodations at the time. Taking the typical course of action, I began using the administrative process to have Ms. Riley moved to a better environment. Unfortunately, my efforts were not initially being responded to by DHS. I even had to go so far as to testify before DHS on Ms. Riley’s behalf to bring its shortcomings to the attention of DHS leadership. Ms. Riley was eventually moved from the shelter to an apartment-style residence and provided a more accommodating environment. In the end, litigation was initiated by Ms. Riley and my colleague at the Legal Clinic, Amber Harding.
On Thursday, May 31, 2012 the First Circuit Federal Court of Appeals, sitting in Boston, ruled that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violates the Constitution and should be struck down. [Decision here.]
Section 3 of DOMA states marriage is between a man and a woman, which means that gay married couples are ineligible for federal benefits, such as tax breaks and Social Security survivor benefits afforded to straight couples, those benefits being based on the marriage state.