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Monday, July 19, 2010

Do the Homeless Deserve Protection as a Minority Class? In a Recenlty Published Piece, 2009 PJP Fellow Margo Pierce Says Yes

Margo Pierce, Jennings Fellow 2009, recently published a piece addressing an interesting question:, do the homeless deserve constitutional protection as a special class? That is, should we consider the homeless in the same manner that we consider other minority populations, such as African-Americans or homosexuals? Pierce’s work has appeared in several “street papers” – newspapers created to be sold by homeless people, providing them with a source of income – and has been syndicated by the International Network of Street Papers, which connects over 100 street papers worldwide. Pierce relied upon PJP faculty member Sherrilyn Ifill as a major sourc for her article, which is reproduced below. We invite your reactions.

By Margo Pierce

If 27 people had been killed in the United States in one year for being African-American or for being Jewish or for being developmentally disabled, there would be a national uproar. In 2008, 27 people were killed in the United States “for being homeless,” according to the National Coalition for the Homeless. Where is the uproar?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Vexing Issues of Texting and "Sexting" in Public Schools

As a writer and reporter on the subject of educational reform, I am struck by the number of new constitutional issues arising these days in the public schools. My introduction to this came at the PJP conference this past February when I participated in the workshop run by Vic Walczak on a case involving the public schools and the subject of “sexting.” He and I have kept up since then and, let me put it this way, Vic Walczak is a busy man.

In fact, while we were meeting in the National Constitution Center last February, Walczak, who is the ACLU’s legal director for Pennsylvania, had three different cases before the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals just around the corner.

Friday, July 9, 2010

“If you’re going to seek capital punishment, you’re going to have to pay for it...If we’re going to have harsh laws, at least we should fulfill our constitutional obligations."

Norman S. Fletcher, Former Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, upon hearing that his state had told the defendant in a capital case that it could no longer afford to pay for his lawyer and that, instead, he would have to switch to an overworked public defender unfamiliar with the case.

Featured Guest Blogger Sarah Hinchliff Pearson

Allowing the Presses to Roll: How the Second Circuit Expanded First Amendment Protections Despite Resistance from the Estate of J.D. Salinger

As most journalists probably know, Courts interpreting the First Amendment have always strongly resisted any “prior restraints” on speech because they suppress expression before a court can determine that the speech should indeed be denied First Amendment protection. In other words, our system says “we won’t prevent you from speaking, but we may punish you for it after the fact.” The breadth of protection goes rather far. Back in 1971, a federal judge deemed national security concerns to be insufficient to prevent publication of the Pentagon Papers, an internal defense department study of the Vietnam War that had been leaked to the New York Times.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Letter from Toulouse

I am in Toulouse, France, for a few days of vacation and watching from afar as the Supreme Court decisions come rolling out in a flurry as they do every year at this time. It is an interesting place from which to view the unique role that history plays in these two very different cultures.