Tag Archives: Unconstitutional

The New Jim Crow – Unconstitutional and Illegal Bail Systems

Below is a map of “Economic Opportunity” broken into the MSAs in each state. Economic Opportunity is the measure of how likely it is for someone born in the lowest income and social class to be able to rise. Or to put it another way – the lower the Economic Opportunity, greater the chance that a poor person’s child will also be poor, and their children and their children.

Notice that isolated red spot right around ST. Louis, Mo – and including Ferguson?

Which areas have the highest populations on welfare and disability?

Just for fun, let’s look at the states with or without minimum wage laws…

Tell you Something?

Political Corruption Level in States – (Provided by London School of Economics)

State Incarceration Rates –

Which gets us the The New Jim Crow – Virtual Debtors Prisons and Bail Bond Extortion

How Civil Rights Groups Are Unraveling Illegal Bail Schemes That Fill Jails With Poor People

Like the majority of the nearly 750,000 people stuck in local jails across the United States, Rebecca Snow was not held in the Ascension Parish jail in central Louisiana because she had been convicted of a crime. The 33-year-old mother of three, who was charged with two nonviolent misdemeanors in late August, simply could not afford to post bail.

If Snow had the $289 set for each charge, she could have gone home to her family instead of sitting in jail. Many others arrested in the parish are able to post bail and go home, but Snow didn’t have the extra cash: She relies on public assistance and is indigent, according to a civil rights complaint filed against the parish’s sheriff and top judge.

The US Supreme Court and the Justice Department have both said that incarcerating someone solely because they can’t afford to post cash bail is unconstitutional, but that was the policy in Ascension Parish until just a few weeks ago.

Ascension sheriff deputies would set bail during booking using a court-issued “schedule” that matched the alleged offense with a generic bail amount, and some arrestees waited days before seeing a judge who could hear a motion to reduce it, according to the complaint. No individual factors such as prior record or employment were considered, and even those arrested for minor crimes like traffic violations were not released without posting bail.

In early September, civil rights attorneys filed a class-action lawsuit challenging the bail scheme, with Snow as the lead plaintiff. A settlement was reached within weeks. Now those arrested for misdemeanors in Ascension Parish are released on their own recognizance unless they are charged with assault, drunk driving or a list of other crimes that generally involve putting other people in danger. A judge must promptly set an individualized bail for those who are jailed.

“[The defendants] don’t really have any arguments,” said Alec Karakatsanis, a cofounder of Equal Justice Under Law, which worked with civil rights lawyers from southern Louisiana to challenge Ascension’s bail policy. “It’s a terrible policy in addition to being illegal. It’s expensive and it ruins people’s lives and it devastates them.”

Nationally, jails have twice the admission rate of state and federal prisons, and 62 percent of those locked up have not been convicted of any crime and are legally presumed innocent, according to the Vera Institute of Justice. Three out of four people in jail are being held on nonviolent traffic, drug, property or public order charges. In most jurisdictions, poor people facing minor charges are forced to stay in jail or plead guilty to get out while those who have money on hand often go free.

Using the Constitution to Force Local Reforms

Since January, Karakatsanis and local partners have filed lawsuits challenging secured money bail programs in seven cities across the South, and so far defendants in six cities quickly settled and agreed to end the practice of requiring bail for nonviolent misdemeanors. The first lawsuit, filed against the City of Clanton, Alabama, attracted a statement of interest from the Justice Department declaring that jailing people solely because of their poverty violates the US Constitution’s equal protection clause and is simply “bad public policy.”

Suing individual officials and jurisdictions has proved to be an effective tactic for civil rights advocates who argue that many of the nation’s 3,000 jails have become modern-day debtors’ prisons. Attorneys like Karakatsanis are going from county to county to shut down illegal secured money bail and court fine collection schemesthat fill courthouse coffers and keep private collection companies and bail bondsmen in business while poor defendants, who often cannot afford child care or to miss even a day of work, are caged without being convicted.

“We are going from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and asking them to change, and if they don’t, we certainly sue them,” Karakatsanis told Truthout. He added that his group would be filing more lawsuits across the country.

By definition, bail is not a fine or a form of punishment. The purpose of bail is, in theory, to ensure that arrestees show up to court. If you are jailed and a bail is set, you may wait there for weeks, months or even years for your trial to start – or you can post bail, which will be refunded when you appear before a judge. In some parts of the country, if you don’t have the money, you can hire a bail bonds agent to post bail for a fee, usually at 10 percent of the bail amount. You don’t get that money back even if you are found not guilty. (In the few states that have outlawed for-profit bail bond agents, a secured bond may sometimes be paid at 10 percent of the set amount as well.)

Money bail tips the scales of justice in favor of those who have cash on hand. For arrestees who can’t afford to put money down on their own freedom, jail makes it much more difficult to escape the deep maze of the criminal legal system. The Vera Institute reports that even spending as few as two days in jail can reduce economic viability, promote future criminal behavior, degrade personal health and increase the chance that a defendant is incarcerated if found guilty.

Pretrial incarceration also increases the likelihood that people will take a plea deal, and some people plead guilty to crimes they didn’t commit just to go home and avoid losing their jobs and contact with friends and family. That’s one reason why activists in Massachusetts, New York City and Chicago have organized community bail funds to free low-income people from jail. Since bail money is generally returned once defendants appear in court, these grassroots bail funds can extend the benefits of a recyclable resource to many people who would otherwise be left to defend themselves from a position of incarceration….Read the Rest Here

Still wonder why it is so hard to get that Economic Opportunity in some places?

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Posted by on October 26, 2015 in The New Jim Crow


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Washington Supreme Court Rules Charter Schools Unconstitutional

About time someone figured this one out. Charter Schools should be answerable to the same rules and measuring stick as Public Schools. People my age have little belief that the purpose of the Charters is in any way to improve the education of black children.

Segregation Academies (Also called Charter Schools) were set up throughout the South to avoid integration by white parents. In the case of Prince Edward Schools in Virginia, the Public School System was shut down for 4 years, denying education to black students, while one of these Academies was set up.


State Supreme Court: Charter schools are unconstitutional

After nearly a year of deliberation, the state Supreme Court ruled 6-3 late Friday afternoon that charter schools are unconstitutional, creating chaos for hundreds of families whose children have already started classes.

The ruling — believed to be one of the first of its kind in the country — overturns the law voters narrowly approved in 2012 allowing publicly funded, but privately operated, schools.

Eight new charter schools are opening in Washington this fall, in addition to one that opened in Seattle last year…

In the ruling, Chief Justice Barbara Madsen wrote that charter schools aren’t “common schools” because they’re governed by appointed rather than elected boards.

Therefore, “money that is dedicated to common schools is unconstitutionally diverted to charter schools,” Madsen wrote.

Justice Mary E. Fairhurst agreed with the majority that charter schools aren’t common schools, but argued in a partial dissenting opinion that the state “can constitutionally support charter schools through the general fund.”

She was joined by Justices Steven C. González and Sheryl Gordon McCloud.

The ruling is a victory for the coalition that filed the suit in July 2013, asking a judge to declare the law unconstitutional for “improperly diverting public-school funds to private organizations that are not subject to local voter control.”

The Washington Education Association was joined by the League of Women Voters of Washington, El Centro de la Raza, the Washington Association of School Administrators and several individual plaintiffs.

“The Supreme Court has affirmed what we’ve said all along — charter schools steal money from our existing classrooms, and voters have no say in how these charter schools spend taxpayer funding,” said Kim Mead, president of the Washington Education Association.

“To tell you the truth, I cried. It’s been a long hard fight,” said Melissa Westbrook, an education blogger who chaired the campaign opposing the charter-school law in 2012.

Joshua Halsey, executive director of the state charter-school commission, criticized the court’s timing.

“The court had this case in front of them since last October and waiting until students were attending public charter schools to issue their ruling is unconscionable,” Halsey said. “We are most concerned about the almost 1,000 students and families attending charter schools and making sure they understand what this ruling means regarding their public-school educational options.”

The state Attorney General’s Office said attorneys are reviewing the decision, but had no comment Friday.

David Postman, communications director for Gov. Jay Inslee, said the governor’s office is reviewing the court’s decision and will consult with the Attorney General’s Office.

“But until we have a thorough analysis, we can’t say what that means for schools operating today,” Postman said.

Under the 2012 law, up to 40 new charter schools could have opened in Washington over a five-year period.

In December 2013, King County Superior Court Judge Jean Rietschel struck down the part of the law that would have made charter schools eligible for state construction money, but essentially cleared the way for the state commission and the Spokane school district to authorize new schools. Spokane is the only school district with such authority.

All sides expected the case to reach the Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments last October.

Washington State Charter School Commission Chair Steve Sundquist said that commissioners anticipated a range of possible outcomes affecting funding, but didn’t draw up a plan to deal with a complete reversal.

“We were not expecting a ruling as deeply disappointing as this one,” Sundquist said.

He said the commission’s lawyer in the Attorney General’s Office will be meeting Saturday morning with other attorneys to discuss options.

The attorney for the plaintiffs, Paul Lawrence, doesn’t think there’s much more legal work to do on the issue. But he acknowledged that much has to be sorted out regarding the nine charter schools that are already up and running.

“The bottom line is that the initiative is unconstitutional so the charter schools that were authorized under the charter-school initiative can’t be publicly funded,” Lawrence said. “If there’s any avenue, it’s going to be through some act of the Legislature.”


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Posted by on September 10, 2015 in The New Jim Crow, The Post-Racial Life


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Supreme Court Strikes Down Republican Feel Good Law

In 2005, in response to a guy claiming to have won the Congressional Medal of Honor, who had not – the Rethugs passed a “feel good” law banning all such future false claims. This was a perfect exercise in making a lot of noise for the plastic patriot set, making a law to punish a minuscule population instead of Minorities. Of course – folks who have never read the Constitution don’t know how it works – so as usual, the Retugs overstepped their bounds.

Supreme Court strikes down Stolen Valor Act

The Supreme Court today struck down the Stolen Valor Actthat made it illegal to falsely claim to be the recipient of military honors and decorations, reports.

The court found that the statute violates the First Amendment.

The decision, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, says the law, as written, “seeks to control and suppress all false statements on this one subject in almost limitless times and settings without regard to whether the lie was made for the purpose of material gain.”

Kennedy writes that permitting the government to decree this kind of speech as a criminal offense “would endorse government authority to compile a list of subjects about which false statements are punishable.”

He notes, however, that Congress might be able to rewrite the law “to achieve the government’s objective in less burdensome ways.”


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Judge Strikes Down Welfare Drug Testing in Florida

A Florida Republican law requiring all Welfare recipients to pass drug testing has been put on hold by a Federal Court. The law is unconstitutional, due to the fact that it violates personal protections against the government invading a citizen’s privacy without reasonable evidence of wrongdoing. Statistically, Republican legislators in the state are more likely to use drugs than welfare recipients.

So… In view of the legislators ability to royally screw everything up for everyone…

Why don’t they pass a law that all elected officials in the state are regularly tested?

Federal judge temporarily bars Florida’s welfare drug-test law

A federal judge has temporarily blocked a controversial Florida law requiring all welfare applicants to be drug-tested.

U.S. District Court Judge Mary Scriven issued a temporary injunction Monday evening against enforcement of the law’s “suspicionless drug testing” of adults seeking federal welfare.

The law went into effect July 1, but a single father and the American Civil Liberties Union contend in a lawsuit that the new law is unconstitutional and violates Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

“Perhaps no greater public interest exists than protecting a citizen’s rights under the Constitution,” the judge wrote, quoting a 1997 Hawaii case.

Under the law, the Florida Department of Children and Family Services requires the drug tests of adults applying to the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. The aid recipients are responsible for the cost of the screening, which they recoup in their assistance if they qualify.

Those who fail the required drug testing may designate another individual to receive the benefits on behalf of their children, but they do not receive a refund for cost of the test.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has championed the law, saying it provides “personal accountability.” He added it was “unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction.”

Florida is not the first state to pass such legislation. Michigan passed a similar law that was found to be unconstitutional by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2003 for violating the Fourth Amendment…

The GOP-controlled legislature passed the bill, and Scott signed it into law in May 2011.

“The governor obviously disagrees with the decision and he will evaluate his options regarding when to appeal,” said his deputy press secretary Jackie Schutz.

Since campaigning for governor, Scott has said that the drug-testing of welfare recipients “will help to prevent misuse of Florida tax dollars” and make sure the money goes to the children.

“Research shows higher drug use among individuals receiving government assistance, and drug abuse also forces children into welfare assistance,” Scott said while signing the bill into law.

The ACLU said the state’s own study found that of the 2,000 people who took the state drug test, only a small percentage tested positive.

“It shows that a little bit more than 2% of the welfare applicants tested positive for drugs where it’s about 8½% in the general public,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida.


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ACORNS Jumping In The Courts!

Three news items about ACORN and their fight against the right wing today –

This First one is un-Constitutional, and I don’t think could stand up under Court challenge. ESPECIALLY since the SCOTUS granted “person-hood” to corporations. This one is a violation of the corporate person’s Civil Rights – and might be subject to Criminal, as well as Civil penalties in my view.

ACORN Gives Up Ohio Business License, Won’t Return

The community organizing group ACORN has agreed to give up its Ohio business license and not return under another name, as it has in other states, under a settlement struck with a libertarian center that sued it.

U.S. District Judge Herman Weber, in Cincinnati, signed off on the deal, which settles claims brought by the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law against ACORN’s voter registration practices. Other terms of the deal are confidential.

The center alleged in a lawsuit filed in 2008 that ACORN’s voter registration drives amounted to organized crime because the group turned in a pattern of fraudulent forms.

Center attorney Maurice Thompson said restricting ACORN’s ability to support or enable other groups to ”do what they do” was crucial to the deal, especially in a state he characterized as ”ground zero” to their voter advocacy efforts.

This one is from Breitbart “hisself” – which means it doesn’t have much credibility.

Court Dismisses ACORN Suit vs. ‘Pimp’, ‘Hooker’ and

A state court in Baltimore has dismissed ACORN’s lawsuit against James O’Keefe, Hannah Giles, and LLC after the plaintiffs failed to serve the complaint on the defendants within Maryland’s 120-day limit.

And last, but not least, Constitutional vindication of ACORN. Now, those of you with strong stomachs can read the one from Faux News, with a decided “Fair and Balanced” slant from the Faux Outhouse News Outlet… Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on March 11, 2010 in Faux News, Stupid Republican Tricks


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ACORN Ban Ruled Unconstitutional

Article 5, Section 9 US Constitution - No Bills of Attainer or Ex Post Facto Laws

House Ban on Acorn Grants Is Ruled Unconstitutional

The federal government must continue to provide grant money to the national community organizing group Acorn, a federal court ruled Friday, saying that the House violated the Constitution when it passed a resolution barring the group from receiving federal dollars.

A judge at the United States District Court in Brooklyn issued a preliminary injunction that nullifies the resolution and requires the government to honor existing contracts with the group and review its applications for new grants unless the Obama administration appeals the decision.

The court ruled that the resolution amounted to a “bill of attainder,” a legislative determination of guilt without trial, because it specifically punishes one group.

That provision plays a crucial, but rarely necessary, role in maintaining the balance of powers, said Eric M. Freedman, a professor of constitutional law at Hofstra Law School. “It says that the Congress may not act as judge, jury and executioner. That is precisely what the Congress sought to do in this case, and the district court was entirely right to enjoin it.”

In the opinion, Judge Nina Gershon wrote of Acorn, “They have been singled out by Congress for punishment that directly and immediately affects their ability to continue to obtain federal funding, in the absence of any judicial, or even administrative, process adjudicating guilt.”

The Justice Department said it was still reviewing the ruling Friday night.

Judge Gershon’s opinion made a point of separating the court’s ruling from the controversy surrounding Acorn, which is short for Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.

The House acted after the organization came under fire for a series of embarrassing scandals, most notably the disclosure by conservative activists of videotape showing Acorn counselors giving mortgage advice to people posing as a pimp and a prostitute interested in setting up a brothel. Even before that, Republicans attacked the group, accusing it of voter registration fraud in 2008.

Jules Lobel, a lawyer at the Center for Constitutional Rights, which brought the suit on behalf of Acorn, said the resolution was the first time Congress had ever singled out one group for punishment. “Whenever you challenge a statute of Congress, it’s always a significant political battle,” Mr. Lobel said.

The chief executive of Acorn, Bertha Lewis, issued a statement calling the ruling a victory for the group and “the citizens who work through Acorn to improve their communities and promote responsible lending and homeownership.”

In a lawsuit filed last month, Acorn argued that it was penalized by Congress “without an investigation” and had been forced to cut programs that counsel struggling homeowners and to lay off workers.

What is amazing to me is the Democrats who were stupid enough, and chickenshit enough to be cowed into voting for this ban.

And I’m wondering why a Law which bans corrupt companies – including Federal Contractors who have stolen billions in taxpayer money in Iraq…

Has never been passed.

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Posted by on December 14, 2009 in News


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