Blogs

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Climate Change Blog 18 Facts on the Ground: Violent thunderstorms, small tornadoes that blew roofs off homes and winds equivalent to a Category 3 hurricane lashed Italy from Piedmont to Sicily in late October, killing at least nine people with many injured and firefighters and other rescue workers scrambling to respond to emergency calls. In Venice, ferocious winds drove the high tide to more than 61 inches above average sea level, one of the highest levels ever recorded, flooding much of the city. It was the highest flood there in a decade. Pedestrians used raised walkways throughout the city, while others waded through thigh-high water. Tourists swam ...
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The NYSBA Committee on Civil Rights is sponsoring a program entitled  The War on Science is a War on Civil Rights , along with the NYSBA Environmental and Energy Law Section, Committee on Environmental Justice.  Co-sponsored by the Albany Law School Environmental Law Society and the Black Law Students Association and Latino Law Students Association. We are all familiar with the damage being done to the environment, but environmental policy impacts us all in ways other than the obvious. This program will explore the intersection of civil rights and science in the context of environmental policy. The program will explain the concept of environment justice, ...
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Facts on the Ground: Hurricane Michael, a Category 4 storm, left much of the Florida Panhandle in ruins. At least 19 are dead, over one million homes and businesses were without power, 4 hospitals were closed, 300 patients from storm-damaged hospitals in Panama City were evacuated, and 11 nursing facilities were closed in Florida and one in Georgia. It is one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the continental United States leaving a trail of destruction across 200 miles that splintered houses, peeled off roofs and stirred up a terrifying surge of seawater that submerged entire neighborhoods and sent boats careening down city streets. Winds topped ...
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Climate change is a clear and present danger to every person on earth. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you are or how wealthy or protected you think you are. You are vulnerable. Whether the danger is by fire, rain, flood, drought, blizzard, ice storm or loss of power or access to food and water, no person and no place is immune. The danger may be lethal, it may be economic, it may be ruinous or merely disabling. Wealthy persons and nations may be better able to recover, but we are all in harm’s way. Facts on the Ground – Typhoons and Hurricanes: Florence was as deadly and destructive as predicted. The combination of rising and warming seas around ...
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Voting Rights Part 3

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The United States Commission on Civil Rights [i] , an independent, bipartisan, fact-finding federal agency, created by the Voting Rights Act of 1956, has issued a report on the current state of voting rights in the United States. I recently discussed voting rights and the attacks against them by certain states and localities.  The USCCR’s report shows the true picture, and it isn’t pretty. The 402 page report is available on the USCCR’s website. [ii] I previously discussed Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, Attorney General, et al. , 570 U.S. 2 (2013).  That case stripped the federal government of any effective tools to enforce the Voting Rights Act.  ...
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Climate Change Blog 15

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NYC/East Coast Global Weirding is an oft-used and apt depiction of altered weather patterns from what we are used to and what homo sapiens evolved with. Tornados were a rare event in NYC and the East Coast but they are occurring now with some frequency. One hit NYC on Aug 6 in College Point, Queens. A few days earlier, a stronger tornado was near Douglas, in central Massachusetts. And a few days later a whirlwind hit nearby Webster, displacing dozens of people from their damaged homes. Facts on the Ground: Flash floods swept through NY (Broome County, Vestal; Lodi) and NJ (Little Falls, Wayne, Bogota, Brick, and Woodland Park) this month leading to ...
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DACA Decision

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A quick update on DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.  A major court decision was issued today. The policy was put into place in 2012 by President Obama and expanded in 2014.  It provided relief for people who were brought to the United States illegally as children.  They were allowed to register and become eligible for a work permit and defer any action to deport them. In 2017, under President Trump, the Department of Homeland Security rescinded DACA.  This was immediately challenged in court by several states and organizations. Today in NAACP v Trump , United States District Court for the District of Columbia, 17 cv 2325, Justice John D. Bates ...
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Voting Rights Part 2

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Last time I discussed the current legal status of the Voting Rights Act and how its protections are being eroded.  I finished by stating that the statistics that the court relied on have changed. The Court noted that in Mississippi in 1965, black voter registration was 6.4% and the difference between black and white voter registration was 60%.  In 2004 the black registration rate in Mississippi was 76%, almost 4 points higher than white registration and black voter turnout exceed white turnout in 5 of the 6 states originally covered in 1965. [i] The court relied on these figures for their determination that voting rights were now equal and minorities ...
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Voting Rights

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Today I’d like to discuss Voting Rights.  Despite the fact that it is 2018, some states and local governments are still actively restricting the rights of many people, mostly minorities, to vote. The United States Constitution originally left voting procedures and voter qualifications up to the individual states.  Following the Civil War, the 13 th , 14 th and 15 th Amendments were ratified.  The 13 th prohibits slavery, the 14 th guarantees citizenship to anyone born in the United States and equal protection under the laws, and the 15 th prohibits discrimination of voting rights based on race, color or previous condition of servitude.  These amendments ...
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NYC: As hurricane season approaches it is startling to note that the region has chosen to ignore the warnings and lessons of Sandy (2012) by looking at the astonishing development occurring in the city’s floodplains. This collective stubbornness and short-sightedness is not unique to NY. Where short-term profit is to be made, people will pursue it. And the dopes left holding the bag, that’s their problem. Except that it isn’t. The impacts of storms like Sandy are felt far, wide and long and threaten the financial viability of entire regions. As of Jan. 2018, about 12,359 new apartments were under construction or planned in the city’s most vulnerable flood ...
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As we discussed in the last blog post, families have been getting separated at the borders and that leaves children without parents or other adults who can care for them.  It also means that those children are all alone dealing with the immigration proceedings. When a person enters the country illegally they are liable to arrest and deportation, but that requires the decision of an immigration judge.  The person can apply for asylum and then they are entitled to stay in the US while the application is being processed. But what if you are a child, a one year old who not only doesn’t speak English, probably doesn’t speak any language yet?  How about a 5 or ...
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What is going on with children being separated from their parents at the border?  Let’s take a closer look. There are two ways to enter the United States, at a designated border crossing and not at a designated border crossing.  Entering the US anywhere other than at a designated border crossing is illegal.  It is a federal misdemeanor. 8 US Code § 1325 [i] .  An attempt to improperly cross the border by an Alien is punishable by a fine or no more than 6 months imprisonment.  Clearly Congress has decided that this is not a crime worthy of a big punishment. It is not a felony. In order to apply for asylum protection, the person (and their children) must ...
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Climate Change Blog 13

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Climate Change Blog 13 – Environmental Refugees (ERs) - Europe and ERs - 800 Million People in “Hot Sports” - Pollution-related Mortality - Melting Permafrost - Spreading Disease - Climate Change Litigation – Washington – Stephen Hawking Let’s briefly review. I started these Blogs November 2017 with the proposition that human civilization sat atop a pyramid of four supporting blocks: the foundational blocks being Climate Stability, and Political Stability, and atop these larger blocks are Food and Sustenance from the Ocean, and Food and Sustenance from the Land. As I have detailed, we could not be doing a better job at destroying these four blocks if we ...
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The Supreme Court has issued a long awaited decision in the Trump v. Hawaii case, regarding the so called travel ban. [i] A quick history of the travel ban, President Trump issued his first travel ban only seven days after taking office.  That first attempt barred entry for people from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen for 90 days.  It was challenged and found invalid by several federal district courts.  The ban was not renewed after 90 days and the challenges became moot. The second ban restricted immigration and travel from eight nations, six of them predominantly Muslim for 90 days.  It was initially blocked by several district court ...
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So the recent Supreme Court decision in the case against a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same sex couple has been in the news. What does it all mean? A quick background on the case.  In 2012, Colorado baker Jack Phillips owner of MasterPiece Cakeshop, Ltd., refused to make a wedding cake for same sex couple David Mullins and Charlie Craig based on his religious beliefs.  Colorado had a state statute that barred businesses from refusing service based on race, sex, marital status or sexual orientation. [i]   At that time Colorado did not recognized same sex marriages, but Mullins and Craig planned to get married in Massachusetts, ...
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The clearest proof that climate change is occurring is observed at the poles. In the Arctic Ocean, some ice stays frozen year-round, lasting for many years before melting. But this winter, the area experienced a record low for ice older than five years. This, along with a near-record low for sea ice over all, supports predictions that by midcentury summers in the Arctic Ocean will be entirely ice-free. As darker, heat-absorbing water replaces reflective ice, it hastens warming adding to a “positive feedback loop.” Older ice tends to be thicker than newer ice and thus more resilient to warming. But as the old ice disappears the newer ice left behind is more ...
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On April 20, 2018, the New York Times reported on a new policy put in place by the U.S. Department of Education regarding civil rights complaints. [i]   The Office for Civil Rights is charged with enforcing the civil rights laws relating to educational institutions. The new policy allows the department to dismiss claims that are “serial filings” or “burdensome to the office”, without ruling on the merits. [ii] As of the time of the article, more than 500 complaints have been summarily dismissed. The department cannot pick and choose which complaints to investigate.  If they have evidence that a violation of the law has occurred they must open a file. ...
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For the first time a federal Judge has held that transgendered people are a protected class entitled to the same protections from discrimination as other classes such as religion, sex and race. In July of 2017, President Trump announced a ban on transgendered serving in the military.  The State of Washington and other private plaintiffs sued challenging the constitutionality of the ban.   In December of 2017 the Western District of Washington and three other federal judges issued a nationwide preliminary injunction on the implementation of the ban. In March 2018, President Trump announced a plan to implement the ban.  In Karnoski v. Trump , [i] the State ...
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The Budget Environmentalists are mostly pleased and relieved at the budget Trump reluctantly signed. Trump proposed a 31% cut to EPA’s budget but Congress maintained the Agency’s former level of funding.  Trump proposed 70% cuts to energy-efficiency and renewable-energy programs but funding for these programs increased. Trump proposed a mere $64 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which protects threatened open space, but it was funded at $425 million. Republicans proposed numerous environmentally destructive riders but they were deleted from the final budget. These riders included attempts to delay enforcement of clean-air regulations, ...
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An update on the Sanctuary City lawsuit against California by Attorney General Sessions that we reported on earlier this month. [i]   AG Sessions sued the State of California challenging three new laws the State passed as unconstitutional interferences in the Federal Government’s enforcement of immigration laws. Now the Associated Press is reporting that the Orange County Board of Supervisors has voted to condemn the California’s sanctuary laws and join the Justice Department’s lawsuit against the State. [ii]   What form this participation will take is unclear.  Since our last report on this case, nineteen parties have requested permission to file Amicus ...
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