Life in the Digital Age: Is There Such a Thing as a Reasonable Expectation of Privacy?

Posted on Categories Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law & Process, Public1 Comment on Life in the Digital Age: Is There Such a Thing as a Reasonable Expectation of Privacy?

A few weeks ago, I presented a webinar about the Fourth Amendment in the digital age. In preparation, I tried to find out as much as I can about the different ways law enforcement uses technology in investigations and if and when those uses constitute a search under the Fourth Amendment. What I discovered, boiled down to its most basic, is that if law enforcement can do it in a low-tech way, they can do it high tech. So, for example, if an officer standing on the sidewalk could see into your backyard, then a camera placed on a pole with the same viewpoint would work just as well.

The leading case right now is United States v. Jones, the U.S. Supreme Court’s GPS case from last summer, authored by Justice Scalia. Originally, whether something constituted a search for purposes of the Fourth Amendment had been closely tied to common-law trespass and a person’s connection to property. Over the years, the property-based approach was somewhat pushed aside and the focus was on protecting people, not places. The concept “reasonable expectation of privacy” was born and had been the focus of Fourth Amendment jurisprudence. Then came Jones. Jones circles back to property and the concept of trespass. Under Jones, trespass plus an effort to obtain information is a search, warranting the protections of the Fourth Amendment. Continue reading “Life in the Digital Age: Is There Such a Thing as a Reasonable Expectation of Privacy?”

Same-Sex Marriage as Divorce

Posted on Categories Civil Rights, Public, U.S. Supreme Court3 Comments on Same-Sex Marriage as Divorce

supreme courtBack in 2010, I wrote an article (published in January 2011) asking the question of, essentially, what if the states became stuck on the question of whether same-sex couples could get married? What if they divided, half of them banning same-sex marriages as an affront to the dignity of marriage, and half of them insisting upon the right of their citizens to marry someone of the same sex? Would the states be locked into a patchwork quilt of marriage and non-marriage, with married couple’s rights fading in and out of existence as they crossed the country, or was there some way out of the dilemma?

Our system was born federalist in 1789 but has been getting progressively more nationalist ever since. Most issues that divide the country can be resolved in some way at the national level, either by Congress passing a law under its increasingly expansive Commerce or Spending Clause powers, or by the Supreme Court wielding the Bill of Rights and the Due Process or Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. But that does not cover the universe of potentially divisive issues. Particularly destabilizing are social statuses designated by state law but not one of the “suspect classifications” of the Equal Protection Clause. For example, same-sex marriage.

In my article, I considered a way to resolve the inevitable disputes that would arise if the system became stuck: half the states recognizing same-sex marriage, half not, and the Supreme Court unwilling to extend Equal Protection doctrine to cover sexual orientation. But towards the end, I noted another possible outcome: the dispute over same-sex marriage could follow the path divorce did in the early twentieth century. Continue reading “Same-Sex Marriage as Divorce”

Constitutional Adjudication and Social Division – A Judicial Perspective

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I am pleased to be leading a very vibrant seminar this semester, during which we contemplate the judicial process as evident in constitutional/human rights decisions from jurisdictions as far-flung as Germany, Jamaica and India. Covering a range of substantive topics, from torture to religious freedom to socio-economic rights, our discussions and analysis can be distilled down to two underlying questions: what do judges say they are doing, and what are judges actually doing? A plethora of historical/social/contextual factors feed into the judicial process, and determine the scope and nature of the project of constitutional adjudication.

The upcoming SCOTUS decisions on the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (denying federal benefits to same-sex couples that are legally married in their states) and California’s Proposition 8 (a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage), in addition to their potentially profound personal significance to persons on all sides of the marriage debate, will no doubt provide rich fodder for human rights jurists.

So it is timely, I believe, to bring attention to the story of South Africa’s constitutional adjudication of this sensitive issue, and to consider the role the South African Constitutional Court sees itself playing when it deals with the complexities of constitutional rights. Continue reading “Constitutional Adjudication and Social Division – A Judicial Perspective”

Time to Finally Pass the Equal Rights Amendment?

Posted on Categories Civil Rights, Congress & Congressional Power, Constitutional Law, Feminism, Human Rights, Legal History, Public1 Comment on Time to Finally Pass the Equal Rights Amendment?

Equal-Rights-Amendment-imageIn 1776, as the founders were meeting to form the new government for the nation that would become the United States of America, Abigail Adams wrote to her husband John Adams and asked him “to remember the ladies” while drafting the governing documents.  She continued,

[B]e more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors [have been].  Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of husbands. . . . [I]f particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.

Quoted in Susan Gluck Mezey, Elusive Equality:  Women’s Rights, Public Policy, and the Law 5 (2011) (internal citations omitted).

John Adams responded, “I cannot but laugh . . . .” Id. To Mr. Adams, this was the first he’d heard of women’s possible discontent with the status quo.  “[Y]our letter was the first intimation that another tribe, more numerous and powerful than all the rest were grown discontented.” Id. For whatever “power” that Mr. Adams suggested that women had, it clearly wasn’t enough, for the new Declaration of Independence and Constitution failed to give any express (or even implied) rights to women.

Mrs. Adams responded to her husband, “I cannot say that I think you are very generous to the ladies; for whilst you are proclaiming peace and good-will to men, emancipating all nations, you insist on retaining an absolute power over wives.” Id. Continue reading “Time to Finally Pass the Equal Rights Amendment?”

Ban on Women in Combat: A Response

Posted on Categories Civil Rights, Congress & Congressional Power, Constitutional Law, Federal Law & Legal System, Feminism, Public1 Comment on Ban on Women in Combat: A Response

I recently had the opportunity to read Professor Mazzie’s post on the lifting of the ban on women serving in combat.  As a military officer with over 20 years of service to include a recent overseas deployment to a combat zone, I thought that I would offer my personal observations and opinions related to this matter.

First, while I personally have not served on the “front lines,” I generally agree with the lifting of the ban.  Since September 11, 2001, women have served alongside men in Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other places around the world.  The majority of women have served with great distinction and all of them who have served have made great sacrifices (let us also not forget about the sacrifices that their families have made).  As Professor Mazzie notes, since September 11, 2001, 152 women have made the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good of this country. 

As a person who enlisted as a Private in 1992, I have seen how the military has grown, matured, and become more professional over the years, especially since the rapid deployment of service members over the last 11 years.  Professor Mazzie entitles her post “Ban on Women in Combat Lifted: Is the Military Ready?”  For the reasons cited above, I do believe that the military is ready.  If the military is not ready at this point in time, after 11 plus years of overseas operations in which women have played a key role in the success of these operations, I personally do not believe that the military will ever be ready.  To put it simply, I believe that the timing is right and the lifting of the ban is the right thing to do. 

All that being said, I do believe that some of the arguments made by opponents of the lifting of the ban have some validity.  Continue reading “Ban on Women in Combat: A Response”

Ban on Women in Combat Lifted: Is the Military Ready?

Posted on Categories Civil Rights, Congress & Congressional Power, Federal Law & Legal System, Feminism, Public1 Comment on Ban on Women in Combat Lifted: Is the Military Ready?

This week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that the military’s ban on women in combat will be lifted.  According to the Department of Defense, 14.6% of the nation’s military is made up of women; according to The N.Y. Times and Huffington Post, more than 280,000 of them were deployed during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  While those women were banned from combat, they often saw combat action nonetheless, as they were attached to battalions in positions that sometimes came under fire.  Of the more than 6,600 troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, 152 of them have been women

There may still be some combat positions that women will not be allowed to fill; however, the presumption seems to be that all combat positions are open to women unless a particular branch of the military requests an exception and presumably has the burden to prove why women should not be so allowed.  Previous opposition to women in combat often revolved around concerns about women’s strength and whether their presence might hurt unit cohesion.  Clearly, not all women will be physically capable of certain assignments. But then again, neither are all men.  At least now, those women who are capable and who want to fill those assignments will have the opportunity to do so.  The argument about unit cohesion is also one that had long been made against allowing gays—and African Americans before them—to serve in the military.  That argument, too, has been debunked, and since 2012, LBGT soldiers can serve openly.    

Allowing women in combat opens up hundreds of thousands of new jobs for women and allows women the opportunity to climb the ranks in the military.  Without combat leadership experience, military advancement, regardless of the soldier’s gender, is limited.  In the past, this limitation disproportionately stifled women’s military careers.  No longer. As The New York Times reported, General Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated in a letter that the lifting of the ban ensures “that women as well as men ‘are given the opportunity to succeed.’”

Despite the public support for allowing women in combat, there are those who oppose the idea, with one retired army general calling it “a vast social experiment in which hundreds of thousands of men and women will be the guinea pigs.” The decision, he maintains, is ideologically based and not militarily based. Continue reading “Ban on Women in Combat Lifted: Is the Military Ready?”

The Emancipation Proclamation—Sesquicentennial Reflections

Posted on Categories Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Legacies of Lincoln, Legal History, President & Executive Branch, PublicLeave a comment» on The Emancipation Proclamation—Sesquicentennial Reflections

January 1, 2013, marks the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s final Emancipation Proclamation, which declared the freedom of slaves in rebellious states. The decree was controversial in Lincoln’s time and seems often to be misunderstood in ours. The objective of this blog post, accordingly, is to survey the context, chronology, and consequences of the Proclamation as we observe the sesquicentennial of its issuance.

The Context—Summer 1861 through Fall 1862

Through the latter half of 1861 and well into 1862, it was not at all self-evident that the Union would win the Civil War. Particularly in the east, the most symbolic military theater, the Confederate Army secured numerous victories or military stalemates, the latter of which were essentially as advantageous for it as the former. Despite having superior financial and industrial resources, the Union Army’s deficit of aggressive battlefield leadership, lack of well-trained or seasoned troops, and comparative unfamiliarity with the terrain repeatedly hampered Union military actions.

Lincoln was painfully cognizant of these problems, especially the operational timidity of his top brass, purportedly remarking at one point that if General George B. McClellan was not going to use the Army of the Potomac, Lincoln “would like to borrow it, provided he could see how it could be made to do something.” President Lincoln also knew that popular support for the war, as casualties mounted and the prospect of national conscription loomed, could not long endure without visible Union success in the east. At the same time, the President was aware that the Confederacy was seeking the recognition and material support of European nations such as England and France, and that every Confederate victory appeared to make this objective more attainable.

It was this array of circumstances, among others, that prompted President Lincoln to take the manifestly drastic step of issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. Only against this political and military backdrop, in fact, can the Proclamation and its timing be fully comprehended. In order to explain why this is so, it is necessary to walk through the events leading up to the Proclamation and then to examine the substance and scope of the Proclamation itself. Continue reading “The Emancipation Proclamation—Sesquicentennial Reflections”

Before There Were “Red” and “Blue” States, There Were “Free” States and “Slave” States

Posted on Categories Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Legal History, Public1 Comment on Before There Were “Red” and “Blue” States, There Were “Free” States and “Slave” States

In recent years, commentators have talked incessantly about the United States being divided between “red” states and “blue” states.  However, as Professor Idleman’s recent post on Alabama’s 1819 admission to the Union noted, an even more fundamental distinction in pre-Civil War America was the divide between “slave” states and “free” states.  Ultimately, the fear on the part of the white population of the slave states that the free states were no longer committed to the preservation of their “peculiar institution” led to the dismemberment of the Union and a bloody four-year war to reassemble it. Continue reading “Before There Were “Red” and “Blue” States, There Were “Free” States and “Slave” States”

The Boden Lecture: The Reconstruction Era Birth of Our Concept of Citizenship

Posted on Categories Civil Rights, Constitutional Interpretation, Legal History, Public, Race & Law, Speakers at MarquetteLeave a comment» on The Boden Lecture: The Reconstruction Era Birth of Our Concept of Citizenship

The Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, the Civil Rights Act of 1866 – as great as the first two were, it was the third that put in place the concepts of American citizenship and the civil rights of all Americans that are part of the bedrock of American life, prominent historian Eric Foner said in a lecture at Eckstein Hall.

Delivering Marquette Law School’s 2012 Robert F. Boden Lecture last week, Foner focused on the origins in American law of birthright citizenship, the principle that (with immaterial exceptions) anyone born in the United States is a citizen and has basic rights that go with citizenship.

Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University, said many people assume that the principle of “equality under the law” dates back to the origins of the United States – or, as he put it humorously, that the nation was born perfect and has gotten better ever since.

In reality, he said, the nation was definitely not premised on equality under the law in its early stages. For one thing, the Constitution itself did not give citizenship to even free black people, much less to slaves. And, Foner said, citizenship issues were controlled by individual states, rather than the federal government. Every state in the nation had laws that treated black people worse than white people, he noted.

The great changes that declared all men (women’s issues came later) born in America to have basic rights, such as the right to own property and take disputes to court, came with the Civil Rights Act of 1866, put into law by Congress over President Andrew Johnson’s veto, and the subsequent adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

The rights extended by those federal enactments and others in the Reconstruction Era were violated with impunity for many decades. But the rights they embraced eventually took hold and came alive in the Civil Rights Era of the mid-twentieth century, Foner said.

Foner said the history of America is a tale of ups and downs, of rights granted and lost. The right to citizenship extended to anyone born in the United States has become controversial in recent years as immigration issues have heated up, he observed. It is a right that arose from the “titanic struggle” of the era of the Civil War and its aftermath, and it was one of the nation’s ways of addressing the legacy of slavery and the pervasive denial of rights to black people. Given how birthright citizenship has served the country, Foner said, “we should think long and hard before changing it.”

A version of Foner’s Boden Lecture will appear in 2013, in the next Marquette Lawyer.

2012 Annual George and Margaret Barrock Lecture on Criminal Law: The Accidental Crime Commission: Its Legacies and Lessons

Posted on Categories Civil Rights, Criminal Law & Process, Legal History, Public, Speakers at MarquetteLeave a comment» on 2012 Annual George and Margaret Barrock Lecture on Criminal Law: The Accidental Crime Commission: Its Legacies and Lessons

On October 4, 2012 Professor Franklin E. Zimring delivered the Annual George and Margaret Barrock Lecture on Criminal Law to a large audience of interested public, law students, faculty, and members of the legal profession. Professor Zimring is the William G. Simon Professor of Law and Wolfen Distinguished Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law.

His subject was the origins and legacies of the so-called Wickersham Commission of 1929-1931. Since the Commission’s work is largely forgotten today, Professor Zimring assumed the burden of explaining how “this hopeless venture ended up being viewed as a precedent setting and positive contribution to the ways in which the national government learns about crime and criminal justice.” In this he succeeded, his remarks serving as a timely, thoughtful introduction to the Law School’s day-long conference on the Wickersham Commission that was held on October 5, 2012. (More on the conference in my next blog.)

Continue reading “2012 Annual George and Margaret Barrock Lecture on Criminal Law: The Accidental Crime Commission: Its Legacies and Lessons”

R.I.P. Eugene D. Genovese

Posted on Categories Civil Rights, Legal History, Public, Race & Law3 Comments on R.I.P. Eugene D. Genovese

The death of distinguished historian Eugene D. Genovese on September 26 led me to reflect on both his scholarly accomplishments and his intellectual and political thought.  No book inspired me more as a graduate student than Genovese’s Roll, Jordan, Roll (1975), but Genovese’s sharp turn to the right in his later years was troubling indeed. Continue reading “R.I.P. Eugene D. Genovese”

Reviewing John Nichols’ Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street

Posted on Categories Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, First Amendment, Labor & Employment Law, Legal History, Public2 Comments on Reviewing John Nichols’ Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street

What is it that is swelling the ranks of the dissatisfied?  Is it a growing conviction in state after state, that we are fast being dominated by forces that thwart the will of the people and menace representative government?

Robert M. LaFollette, July 4, 1897, Mineral Point, Wis.

With that quote, John Nichols begins the first chapter of his unapologetically biased book Uprising:  How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street (2012). Nichols, The Nation’s Washington correspondent and an associate editor of Madison’s Capital Times newspaper, recounts the protests in Madison and around the state in early 2011 and analyzes their importance in renewing a spirit of protest that spread from Madison to, ultimately, Manhattan.

Just as Nichols is not an unbiased author, I am not an unbiased reader. What Nichols writes about brings back vivid memories of weekends around the capitol square, in sun as well as in snow and cold, as part of the massive, diverse, palpably energetic crowds that marched around the square in February and March 2011.  Uprising is not a chronological account of the protests; rather, Nichols organizes thematically, beginning with the beginning:  the cold mid-February day, one day after Governor Scott Walker announced his 144-page budget repair bill that contained provisions that went far beyond repairing the budget to stripping collective bargaining rights of public employees.  On that day, Nichols says, fifty members of UW Madison’s Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA) gathered in front of UW Madison’s Memorial Union and protested (4).  Two days later, Nichols tells us, more than 1,000 TAA members marched to the capitol. They were joined each day thereafter by hundreds and then thousands of others from all walks of life – union and non-union members, public and private employees alike – and they continued marching.

How and why what fifty or so students started became an incredible historical event is chronicled in Nichols’ subsequent chapters.  Continue reading “Reviewing John Nichols’ Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street”