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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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Recently U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agents have been undertaking enforcement actions inside courthouses around the country.  In other words, ICE agents have been arresting undocumented immigrants inside or just outside courthouses. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, an independent, bi-partisan agency charged with advising the President and Congress on civil rights matters, released a letter on March 16, 2018, calling on the Deputy Director of ICE to cease these activities. [i]   The commission had previously released a statement on the same issue on April 24, 2017. [ii] In its statement, the commission noted the severe impact these ...
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The fight over “Sanctuary Cities” heats up.  On February 6, 2018, we reported on the ongoing lawsuit, City of Chicago v. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, Attorney General of the United States [i] .  In that case the City of Chicago is suing AG Sessions for withholding Byrne-JAG grants to so-called “Sanctuary Cities”. The Justice Department has now sued the State of California over three laws passed in recent months that they claim make it impossible for the US to deport criminals born outside the USA.  The United States of America v. The State of California, et al. [ii] was filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of California on ...
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The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [i] ruled today (2/26/18) that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects workers from workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. [ii] Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 [iii] states that it is an “unlawful employment practice for an employer to refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise discriminate against any individual … because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin.” Prior to this decision, it had been well established among the various Circuits, that sexual orientation discrimination claims were not cognizable under ...
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Climate Change Blog 10 Washington I’m leading, and ending, this Blog with news from Washington. A notable alarm was sounded in the Worldwide Threat Assessment from the U.S. Intelligence Community. The document, issued by Daniel R. Coats, the director of national intelligence, addressed climate change and other environmental problems, stating that the impacts of the long-term trends toward a warming climate, more air pollution, biodiversity loss, and water scarcity are likely to fuel economic and social discontent and upheaval. We are seeing much of this already. As described below, Cape Town, the second-largest city in South Africa, is so low on water ...
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The court challenges to President Trump’s “travel ban” continue as The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Virginia has joined the Ninth Circuit in holding President Trump’s travel ban invalid. [i]   The ban, which restricts immigration and travel from eight nations, six of them predominantly Muslim, was allowed to go into effect by the Supreme Court while the two cases move through the courts. Two cases are making their way through the courts.  Hawaii v. Trump was brought by the State of Hawaii and challenges the ban on three different theories, 1) whether the President has the authority to impose the ban, 2) whether ...
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New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is the lead attorney on an Amicus Brief filed January 31, 2018 filed by 16 Attorneys General [i] in The City of Chicago v Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, Attorney General of the United States . [ii]   The case, brought in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, seeks to prevent the Attorney General from withholding federal funds from so called “Sanctuary Cities”. Since 1968 the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant [iii] and its predecessors, have provided  state and local governments federal funds for criminal enforcement tailored to local needs. In 2017, the program allocated ...
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In 2010 the US Department of Justice opened the Office for Access to Justice, a department intended to “address the access-to-justice crisis in the criminal and civil justice system” [i] .  The department works with many different agencies across the federal, state and local governments to increase access to counsel and legal assistance for people who are unable to afford lawyers. Among its many jobs, the department works to support the deeply underfunded legal aid system and to eliminate the criminalization of the poor.  Often those who cannot afford legal counsel find themselves in jail.  When a poorer person receives a fine as a penalty for some infraction, ...
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Climate/Recent Storms It will never stop. This is McKibben’s “Eaarth” (see Blog 3). A new planet, unpredictable except that the weather will be harsh and dangerous somewhere, all the time. I wrote about the California drought, and wildfires (Blog 9). Certain things logically follow, like fire after drought. But less clear to most of us is that mud-slides would logically follow as the weakened soil gave way in heavy rains. We’re talking big ticket items here. But scientists are out there measuring how plants, animals, birds, grasses, mosses and microscopic organisms, the base of the food chain, cope, or don’t. We know that the microscopic organisms that support ...
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Have You Checked Out the December 2017 Issue of Electronically In Touch ? The issue can be viewed at  Electronically In Touch .This issue consists of informative articles regarding employment law trends in 2018, the importance of delegation and its impact on a successful practice, and highlights of the Young Lawyers Section's first Advanced Trial Academy from a participant's perspective, amongst other things.    <em>Electronically In Touch</em> is a member driven publication. We welcome submissions from members on any relevant topic, including practice tips, substantive legal articles, case updates, work/life balance, and information regarding ...
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Climate Change Blog (8) Good news! In Blog 7 I reported that with regard to the tax bill both the House and Senate versions promoted fossil fuels and rolled back incentives supporting renewable energy. But the final bill continues some of the tax credits supporting further development of renewables, mostly wind, solar and electric vehicles. These last-minute reconciliation changes reflect the growing political clout of the wind and solar industries, which now provide more than 7% of US electricity and are two of the fastest-growing energy sources. But for now I will flag the fact that at least one issue remains that could negatively affect a key financing tool ...
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Climate Change Blog 7 For the 23rd time world leaders gathered, this time in Bonn, Germany, to try to agree on an approach for meaningful advances in mitigating and adapting to climate change. Official delegations represented 195 countries. Only the US representatives attended on behalf of a country not intending to stay in the Paris accord. And while the other countries proposed emissions reductions and rapid movement toward carbon-free, renewable energy, the US representatives included members of the fossil fuel industry who spoke on behalf of the US promoting continued use of carbon-emitting fossil fuels. The US also advocated the continued use of nuclear ...
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October 29, 2017 was the 5 year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy hitting the NYC area. It is important to recall that this storm crippled the region, killed over 100 people, cost billions in lost real estate, business and infrastructure and billions more have been spent fortifying for the next storm. But many home-owners and businesses have still not recovered and many storm-protection projects have yet to begin.  It is essential that we learn how to recover from such storms. A Rutgers University report found that NYC could experience Sandy-like storm surges every five years by the middle of this century. If Sandy recovery efforts are any indicator, it means ...
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​Please mark your calendars for “Coordination of Global Merger Reviews” – a panel discussion and networking cocktail reception.  The event will take place on Monday, December 11, 2017 from 6-8:30PM at the Penn Club (30 West 44th Street) .  The panel will be moderated by Charlesa Ceres (United Technologies Corporation) and include: Nick Gaglio (Axinn), Jordan Ellison (Slaughter & May) and Mary Marks (Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP).    One CLE Skills Credit will be available for the event. There is no charge for this event thanks to generous sponsorship by Consilio. Please feel free to invite your colleagues.  Kindly RSVP to Kelly Struck ( kstruck@consilio.com ...
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Climate Change – Blog 5 The record-shattering hurricanes that destroyed Caribbean Islands including much of Puerto Rico, as well as Houston and Florida were well publicized, but did you know that Ireland too was pummeled by a hurricane? Winds hitting Fastnet Island were recorded at 119 mph, on the mainland widespread damage, flooding and power outages occurred and at least two deaths have been reported from trees falling on cars. The hurricane, Ophelia, reached Category 3 status and, in keeping with the prior hurricanes, was made possible in large part, by unusually warm ocean temperatures that were 1 – 2°C (1.8 – 3.6°F) above average. As the planet continues ...
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