Politics » Legal http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics The latest Politics news and blog posts from ABC News contributors and bloggers including Jake Tapper, George Stephanopoulos and more. Thu, 18 Sep 2014 05:37:33 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.2.1 Supreme Court Blocks Virginia Gay Marriage, For Now http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/08/supreme-court-blocks-virginia-gay-marriage-for-now/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/08/supreme-court-blocks-virginia-gay-marriage-for-now/#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2014 20:01:45 +0000 Ariane de Vogue http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=892777 AP Supreme Court bc 140615 16x9 608 Supreme Court Blocks Virginia Gay Marriage, For Now

(Alex Brandon/AP Photo)

The Supreme Court today blocked same sex marriages from going forward in Virginia, putting on hold a lower court ruling from last month that struck down the state’s strict ban on gay marriage.

The action by the high court means that gay marriages, that were set to begin Thursday,will not go forward while supporters of the state ban appeal the issue to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court acted on an application filed by Michele B. McQuigg, a state clerk who had petitioned for a stay pending appeal.

In a one page order, with no noted dissents, the Supreme Court granted the request.

Here is the text of the order:

ORDER IN PENDING CASE 14A196 MCQUIGG, MICHELE V. BOSTIC, TIMOTHY B., ET AL. The application for stay presented to The Chief Justice and by him referred to the Court is granted, and the issuance of the mandate of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in case No. 14-1167, is stayed pending the timely filing and disposition of a petition for a writ of certiorari. Should the petition for a writ of certiorari be denied, this stay shall terminate automatically. In the event the petition for a writ of certiorari is granted, the stay shall terminate upon the sending down of the judgment of this Court.

While Mark R. Herring, Virginia’s Attorney General, has argued that the state ban is unconstitutional, he urged the Supreme Court to grant the stay. In court briefs Herring said it was “painful to keep Virginia’s same-sex couples and their children waiting,” but that the “balance of hardships” favored a stay.

Herring expressed concern that if gay marriages were allowed to go forward and then the Supreme Court were to ultimately uphold Virginia’s ban, hundreds or thousands of marriages would be “rendered doubtful.”

“Not only might their marriages have to be unwound,” Herring argued, “but all of the legal relationships and transactions of third parties who pass through their orbit would have to be untangled.”

The court granted a similar request regarding Utah’s ban in January.

So far this year, two federal appeals courts have struck state bans on gay marriage.


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Federal Judge Tells Supreme Court to ‘STFU’ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/07/federal-judge-tells-supreme-court-to-stfu/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/07/federal-judge-tells-supreme-court-to-stfu/#comments Mon, 07 Jul 2014 21:00:49 +0000 Scott Wilson http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=889243 AP Supreme Court bc 140615 16x9 608 Federal Judge Tells Supreme Court to STFU

(Alex Brandon/AP Photo)

U.S. federal Judge Richard Kopf declared Monday he thinks it’s time for the Supreme Court to “STFU.”

Kopf made his pronouncement in a rather colorful blog post regarding the Supreme Court’s recent decision Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. Kopf was appointed as a federal district judge president George H.W. Bush in 1992.

“Next term is the time for the Supreme Court to go quiescent–this term and several past terms has proven that the Court is now causing more harm (division) to our democracy than good by deciding hot button cases that the Court has the power to avoid,” Kopf wrote. “As the kids say, it is time for the Court to stfu.”

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And for individuals not aware of the acronym’s meaning, the judge included a link to Urban Dictionary’s definition of the term.

In his post, Kopf criticized the Supreme Court’s recent decision that closely-held private corporations with sincere religious beliefs are not bound to the mandate, included in President Obama’s signature health law, that employers must provide contraception coverage for female employees.

“To the average person, the result looks stupid and smells worse,” Kopf wrote.

“To most people, the decision looks stupid ’cause corporations are not persons, all the legal mumbo jumbo notwithstanding,” the judge continued. “The decision looks misogynist because the majority were all men. It looks partisan because all were appointed by a Republican. The decision looks religiously motivated because each member of the majority belongs to the Catholic Church, and that religious organization is opposed to contraception.”

He reiterated the importance of public perception in judicial decisions. “All of us know from experience that appearances matter to the public’s acceptance of the law.” Kopf encouraged the Supreme Court to refrain from decisions in “highly controversial cases” in the future–especially when the court is able to “avoid the dispute.”

ABC News confirmed with the Kopf’s Nebraska office that he is indeed the author of the blog “Hercules and the Umpire.” In a section of his blog titled “The Who, The Why, and The Title of this Blog,” Kopf explains “I am now on senior status, and with that change in status (plus advancing age) my reticence to blog has lessened. I think I have something worth writing about.”

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‘Don’t Go Off in a Corner and Cry,’ Ruth Bader Ginsburg Urges Women http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/06/go-off-in-a-corner-and-cry-ruth-bader-ginsburg-urges-women/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/06/go-off-in-a-corner-and-cry-ruth-bader-ginsburg-urges-women/#comments Fri, 27 Jun 2014 20:50:08 +0000 Jake Lefferman http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=888372

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had some good advice for young women today: “Don’t take no for an answer. If it didn’t work today, tomorrow is another day.”  

And in true Supreme Court fashion, she looked to historical precedent.

“When things don’t work out right, I have in my chambers some things on the wall that remind me what my attitude should be. And they all involve a woman named Belva Lockwood.”

Don’t know who Belva Lockwood is? Don’t worry — neither did almost the entire room at The National Legal Aid & Defender Association luncheon to award Justice Ginsburg a lifetime achievement award for her work as an advocate for gender-based justice and equality.

Lockwood was the first woman who became a member of the Supreme Court bar – the first woman to practice law before the nation’s highest court. When she first applied in 1876 her application was denied for the simple reason that until that point that bar had been reserved for men, although there was nothing in the law to back it up, explained Ginsburg.

So what did Lockwood do?

“She didn’t go off in a corner and cry,” said Ginsburg. She lobbied Congress “relentlessly” for three years and in 1879 Congress passed a law that mandated that women with the proper qualifications be admitted the Supreme Court bar. Lockwood went on to argue in front of the land’s highest court the same year – one of the first wins in the gender equality battle that continues 135 years later.

Justice Ginsburg, who in 1971 argued Reed v. Reed, which extended the Equal Protections Clause to women, in front of the Supreme Court, is heralded as a dominant force in the movement for gender equality. But ever humble, she says she was just in the right place at the right time.

“There was nothing that the feminists in the 70′s were saying that hadn’t been said 200 years earlier by people like Abigail Adams. The difference was that in the 70′s society was ready to listen,” said Ginsburg.

Today, Justice Ginsburg was awarded the Justice John Paul Stevens Lifetime Achievement Award by Stevens himself in Washington, D.C. She listed Justice Stevens’ accomplishments before accepting the award, explaining how much an honor in his name means to her.

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Bizarre Love Triangle Poison Case Overturned By Supreme Court http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/06/bizarre-love-triangle-poisin-case-overturned-by-supreme-court/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/06/bizarre-love-triangle-poisin-case-overturned-by-supreme-court/#comments Mon, 02 Jun 2014 18:54:41 +0000 Ariane de Vogue http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=885425 The Supreme Court ruled in favor today of a woman who had been prosecuted for allegedly poisoning her husband’s lover under a federal law aimed at deterring chemical weapons.

When Carol Anne Bond learned her husband was the father of her best friend’s baby in 2006, she took matters into her own hands, according to prosecutors. Using her background as a microbiologist, she allegedly attempted to poison her friend, Myrlinda Haynes. Bond used a combination of chemicals that she stole from her boss and bought on the Internet.

Throughout the ordeal, Haynes’ worst injury was a thumb burn.

Bond, however, was prosecuted under the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act, a federal law that was passed to comply with a Chemical Weapons Convention treaty. The law forbids any person knowingly to “develop, produce, otherwise acquire” any chemical weapon.

Today a unanimous Supreme Court threw out the conviction.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the law “does not cover the unremarkable local offense” at issue in the Bond case.

Roberts said that state laws would have been sufficient to prosecute Bond and that the “the global need to prevent chemical warfare does not require the federal government to reach into the kitchen cupboard, or to treat a local assault with a chemical irritant as the deployment of a chemical weapon. There is no reason to suppose that Congress–in implementing the Convention on Chemical Weapons–thought otherwise.”

Roberts began his opinion with the background of the law that was passed to fulfill the United States’ obligation under the Convention on Chemical Weapons.

He described the 1919 John Singer Sargent painting that captures the “horrors of chemical warfare ” and said “the nearly life-sized work depicts two lines of soldiers, blinded by mustard gas, clinging single file to orderlies guiding them to an improvised aid station.”

Roberts wrote the painting reflects the devastation that Sargent witnessed in the aftermath of the Second Battle of Arras during World War I and reiterated that the battle, like others , “led to an overwhelming consensus in the international community that toxic chemicals should never again be used as weapons against human beings.”

But Roberts said the question in the Bond case is whether the law that implements the treaty also reaches a “purely local” crime. He described Bond’s crime as “an amateur attempt by a jilted wife to injure her husband’s lover, which ended up causing only a minor thumb burn readily treated by rinsing with water.

“There is no reason to think the sovereign nations that ratified the Convention were interested in anything like Bond’s common law assault,” Roberts wrote.

Roberts criticized the government’s reading of the law saying that the chemicals used in the Bond case were not the sort that an ordinary person would associate with instruments of chemical warfare.

“We are reluctant to ignore the ordinary meaning of ‘chemical weapon’ when doing so would transform a statute passed to implement the international Convention on Chemical Weapons into one that also makes it a federal offense to poison goldfish,” he said.

Roberts closed the opinion by saying “there are no life-sized paintings of Bond’s rival washing her thumb. And there are no apparent interests of the United States Congress or the community of nations in seeing Bond end up in federal prison, rather than dealt with (like virtually all other criminals in Pennsylvania) by the state.”

Bond pleaded guilty in 2007 to two counts of using a chemical weapon and received a six year prison sentence. She was released from a federal prison in West Virginia in August 2012, and remains under court-ordered supervision, the Associated Press reported.

The chief justice was joined by Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito filed opinions concurring in the judgment.

The three justices agreed that Bond’s conviction should be overturned, but said the case should have been decided on constitutional grounds.

Scalia criticized Roberts for failing to decide a long-simmering dispute on the limit of Congress’ power to implement treaties.

Georgetown Law professor Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz, who filed a brief in support of Bond, agrees with Scalia. “Scalia would have overruled court precedent and held that a treaty cannot increase the legislative power of Congress, and so Congress lacked the power to pass this provision of the law.”

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Appeals Court Hears Challenge to Virginia’s Gay Marriage Ban http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/05/appeals-court-hears-challenge-to-virginias-gay-marriage-ban/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/05/appeals-court-hears-challenge-to-virginias-gay-marriage-ban/#comments Tue, 13 May 2014 19:39:53 +0000 Ariane de Vogue http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=883254 For over an hour today in a courtroom filled with almost as many lawyers and journalists as spectators, a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in a challenge to Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Virginia’s marriage laws are some of the strictest in the nation, banning not only same-sex marriage, but refusing to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages or civil unions.

Judge Roger L. Gregory appeared to be the most vocal critic of the ban. “A fundamental right to marry, is that an individual right?” he asked a lawyer supporting the ban.

He suggested the “essence” of the right is an individual’s choice of a partner.

He added, “How can Virginia define it to a point so that its fundamental essence is unrecognizable?”

Gregory was concerned for the welfare of children of same-sex couples who are denied the benefits of marriage. “Why would Virginia rip that from a child?” he asked.

Judge Paul V. Niemeyer, on the other hand, said that while marriages have been historically defined as between a man and a woman, same-sex marriages are “different relationships.” He said the marriage relationship as understood by the Supreme Court is limited to a man and a woman. “We now have a new relationship,” he said in referring to same-sex couples.

The third Judge, Henry F. Floyd, asked far fewer questions than his two bench mates.

“We saw the judges and lawyers struggling with the definition of marriage,” says Kevin. C. Walsh a law professor at the University of Richmond School of Law. “Everyone agreed that there is a fundamental right to marriage, the disagreement was about how to define that fundamental right.” Walsh served as a law clerk to Judge Niemeyer in 2002.

The case was brought by Virginians Timothy B. Bostic and Tony C. London who have been in a committed relationship since 1989, and Carol Schall and Mary Townley who were legally married in California in 2008 and are raising a 16-year-old daughter. Virginia does not recognize their marriage. They were represented by powerhouse lawyers Theodore Olson and David Boies.

Olson said the marriage laws “single out for discrimination a class of Virginians” and excludes them from marriage while also prohibiting domestic partnership.

Olson said the ban “does grave damage and violates Equal Protection and Due Process.” Olson got in a heated exchange with Judge Niemeyer, and at one point said that under the law his clients are considered “second class citizens.”

James D. Esseks, the director of the ACLU Lesbian and Gay Bisexual Transgender and AIDS project, argued on behalf of a different set of plaintiffs–two lesbian couples who have brought a class action suit challenging the ban. Last year, Esseks was part of the legal team that successfully won the Windsor case at the Supreme Court striking down a part of a federal law that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. Since the Windsor decision not one federal court has upheld a state ban on gay marriage.


Judge Niemeyer made reference to the Windsor opinion but said, “I confess it’s a difficult opinion to read and get exactly what is being held.”

In court today, Virginia’s Solicitor General declined to defend the ban. In January 2014, newly sworn-in Attorney General Mark Herring told the court that while he would continue to enforce Virginia’s ban, he would not defend it in court because he believes that it violates the Constitution.

The task of defending the ban fell in part to a lawyer who represents a clerk of the circuit court in Prince Williams County. David Austin R. Nimocks of the Alliance Defending Freedom referenced the fact that while Virginia bans same-sex marriage, other states, such as New York allow it. “The Constitution does not require that Virginia do what New York did,” Nimocks said.

In court papers he argued, “Marriage is inextricably linked to the fact that man-woman couples, and only such couples, are capable of naturally creating new life together, therefore furthering, or threatening, society’s interests in responsibly creating and rearing the next generation.”

He said that while some seek to “redefine marriage from a gendered to a genderless institution” many others “sincerely believe that redefining marriage as a genderless institution would obscure its animating purpose and thereby undermine its social utility.”

A district court judge struck down the ban last February, saying that it unconstitutionally denied “Virginia’s gay and lesbian citizens the fundamental freedom to choose to marry.”

Many believe that the issue of same-sex marriage could return to the Supreme Court as early as next term. At the beginning of arguments today Judge Neimeyer told the lawyers it was “pretty evident you are here in Richmond as a way station” before heading to Washington D.C.

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Broadened Clemency Rules Could Affect Thousands of Inmates http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/04/broadened-clemency-rules-could-affect-thousands-of-inmates/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/04/broadened-clemency-rules-could-affect-thousands-of-inmates/#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 18:41:55 +0000 Matthew Larotonda http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=880671 AP justice clemency james cole sk 140423 16x9 608 Broadened Clemency Rules Could Affect Thousands of Inmates

                       (Photo Credit: Susan Walsh/AP Photo) 

WASHINGTON – Prison inmates serving sentences for nonviolent crimes have been offered broader guidelines for seeking clemency, the Department of Justice announced today.

The new rules, only eligible to prisoners who have already served 10 years behind bars, will focus on people who would be handed a lesser punishment if they were charged with the same crime today. It’s unclear how many of the nation’s 216,000 federal inmates will be affected.

The decision is part of a broader effort by the Obama administration to reduce the U.S. prison population by turning back the use of harsh sentences for drug crimes. The administration has also sought to reverse a legacy of racial disparity in convictions. For example, the use of crack cocaine has historically resulted in longer sentences than for using its powdered form, with the former drug more likely found on black suspects and the latter on white suspects.

Only inmates charged with a federal crime are affected by the initiative, leaving out any serving under state law. And if an inmate is found eligible, his or her case would then go before President Obama for consideration. Either way, the odds are long for any prisoner. Obama only reduced or lessened the sentences of eight criminals last year, all of them on long drug sentences.

RELATED: Obama Says Pot No More Dangerous Than Alcohol

Deputy Attorney General James Cole said that although the majority of clemency petitions will likely be from drug offenders, the new rules are not limited to narcotic convictions.

“Either they will have committed drug crimes, and that’s a big category that we’re looking at, or they may have been denominated career criminals because they had priors that were minor drug cases that have been called felonies,” Cole told reporters today.

“But we want to make sure that we’re not foreclosing the possibility that there are other types of sentences, that there is, that are worthy of this kind of clemency where there was an unfairness that took place because of the operation of law.”

Prisoners will need to meet six specific criteria to be eligible. In addition to having served 10 years for a nonviolent crime, they can have no strong ties to large-scale organized crime, history of violence or “significant criminal history.” Inmates must also have demonstrated good behavior and “likely would have received a substantially lower sentence” if charged in the present day.

“It’s important to remember that commutations are not pardons, they are not exonerations, they are not expressions of forgiveness,” Cole stated. “Rather, as [Obama] said, they are quote, ‘an important step toward restoring fundamental ideals of justice and fairness.’”

It is not immediately clear how many of the nation’s 216,000 federal inmates will be affected by the initiative, but the deputy attorney general loosely estimated 12 or 13 percent of the population serves low-level offenses.

Inmates who believe they are eligible will be given an electronic survey to be screened by lawyers from the Bureau of Prisons, and then a pro bono attorney to assist in preparing their petition.

Meanwhile, a working group of organizations, including the American Bar Association, American Civil Liberties Union and National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, have banded together to form the nonprofit “Clemency Project 2014″ to offer legal services to the convicts.

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Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Affirmative Action ‘Opened Doors in My Life’ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/04/justice-sonia-sotomayor-affirmative-action-opened-doors-in-my-life/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/04/justice-sonia-sotomayor-affirmative-action-opened-doors-in-my-life/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 18:48:55 +0000 Ariane de Vogue http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=880570 GTY justice sotomayor ml 140422 16x9 608 Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Affirmative Action Opened Doors in My Life

Credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

In a heartfelt dissent to today’s Supreme Court ruling upholding Michigan’s voter-approved ban on race=-based admission programs in its public colleges, Justice Sonia Sotomayor speaks from experience about the complex impact of such affirmative action programs on her own life.

Sotomayor, who is joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, dedicates 58 pages to the dissent and highlights one central theme: Race matters. It’s the first time she has ever read a dissent from the bench, though she just recently told the Yale Law Journal that such readings are “like entertainment for the press” and “I really wish it didn’t happen at all.” But, she added, “it’s become a signal of how fiercely someone believes that the Court is wrong, and I understand some of that value.”

In her dissent, she notes that voters in Michigan could have used other means to eliminate the use of race-sensitive admissions policies. “They could have persuaded existing board members to change their minds through individual or grassroots lobbying efforts, or through general public awareness campaigns,” she says. “Or they could have mobilized efforts to vote uncooperative board members out of office, replacing them with members who would share their desire to abolish race-sensitive admissions policies.”

But instead she invokes the “political process doctrine” and says: “A majority of the Michigan electorate changed the basic rules of the political process” and “uniquely disadvantaged racial minorities.”


Here’s her reasoning, which tracks with the lower court that struck down the ban: “A citizen who is a University of Michigan alumnus, for instance, can advocate for an admissions policy that considers an applicant’s legacy status by meeting individually with members of the Board of Regents to convince them of her views, by joining with other legacy parents to lobby the board, or by voting for and supporting Board candidates who share her position.”

She says those options are available to citizens who want the board to adopt policies that might consider athleticism, geography and area of study. But she goes on: “The one and only policy a Michigan citizen may not seek through this long-established process is a race-sensitive admissions policy that considered race in an individualized manner when it is clear that race-neutral alternatives are not adequate to achieve diversity.”

She says the voter initiative “restructures the political process” in Michigan to place unique burdens on racial minorities.

Sotomayor writes, “While our Constitution does not guarantee minority groups victory in the political process, it does guarantee them meaningful and equal access to that process.”

“It guarantees that the majority may not win by stacking the political process against minority groups permanently, forcing the minority alone to surmount unique obstacles in pursuit of its goals–here, educational diversity.”

And then she gets into the issue of race. “My colleagues,” she says, “are of the view that we should leave race out of the picture entirely and let the voters sort it out.”

She takes a dig at Chief Justice John Roberts who wrote once, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discrimination on the basis of race.” Sotomayor says: “It is a sentiment out of touch with reality.”

Sotomayor says, “Race matters. Race matters in part because of the long history of racial minorities’ being denied access to the political process.”
“Race matters to a young man’s view of society when he spends his teenage years watching others tense up as he passes, no matter what neighborhood he grew up. Race matters to a young woman’s sense of self when she states her hometown, and then is pressed, ‘No, where are you really from?’”

Sotomayor says, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination.”

After citing what she perceives as the negative impact of Michigan’s ban on diversity, Sotomayor says she “cannot ignore the unfortunate outcome of today’s decision.”

“The Constitution does not protect racial minorities from political defeat. But neither does it give the majority free rein to erect selective barriers against racial minorities.”

At oral arguments Sotomayor was the most vocal opponent of the ban. In fact, at one point, she asked a lawyer for Michigan a line of questions regarding its impact. When she was finished Chief Justice John Roberts pointedly said to the lawyer, “You have been asked several questions that refer to the ending or termination of affirmative action. That’s not what is at issue here, is it?”

In her recent memoir, My Beloved World, Sotomayor writes about the impact of affirmative action in her life. She details her time at Princeton: “The Daily Princetonian routinely published letters to the editor lamenting the presence on campus of “affirmative action students,” each one of whom had presumably displaced a far more deserving affluent white male and could rightly be expected to crash into the gutter built of her own unrealistic aspirations. There were vultures circling, ready to dive when we stumbled. The pressure to succeed was relentless, even if self-imposed out of fear and insecurity.”

Later she tells a story about an experience at a recruiting dinner hosted by a well-respected Washington firm. One partner told her the “problem” with affirmative action is that “you have to wait to see if people are qualified or not. Do you think you would have been admitted to Yale Law School if you were not Puerto Rican?”

“It probably didn’t hurt,” a stunned Sotomayor said, “but I imagine that graduating summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Princeton had something to do with it too.”

Sotomayor, 59, writes that “much has changed” in the thinking about affirmative action “since those early days when it opened doors in my life. But one thing has not changed: to doubt the worth of minority students’ achievement when they succeed is really only to present another face of the prejudice that would deny them a chance even to try.”

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Holder Targets Retailers in Data Thefts http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/02/holder-targets-retailers-in-data-thefts/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/02/holder-targets-retailers-in-data-thefts/#comments Mon, 24 Feb 2014 22:24:44 +0000 ABC News http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=874440 By ILANA KATZ

WASHINGTON – The nation’s top cop says retailers like Target, which waited several days before telling customers about its massive data breach last year, need to “quickly” notify customers when their databases have been hacked and he’s calling on Congress to make them do it.

Attorney General Eric Holder says he wants Congress to establish a national standard for reporting cyber-attacks. His plea comes as Target and Neiman Marcus still deal with the fallout created when their data systems were recently compromised.

In the weeks before Christmas last year, Target suffered a massive data breach that compromised the personal data of as many as 70 million people. Another 40 million had their credit and debit card information compromised. But Target didn’t notify the public about the breach until four days after learning about it on Dec. 15, 2013.

Cyber security has been a main platform for Holder and his Department of Justice over the past few months, with Holder noting that the department has been taking further steps to bring cyber criminals to justice.

“As we’ve seen – especially in recent years – these crimes are becoming all too common,” Holder said in a video released today. “And they have the potential to impact millions of Americans every year. … [A]lthough Justice Department officials are working closely with the FBI and prosecutors across the country to bring cyber criminals to justice, it’s time for leaders in Washington to provide the tools we need to do even more.”

According to Holder, a national standard would help law enforcement investigate these cyber-crimes and strengthen his department’s ability to ensure individuals’ privacy. Retailers whose databases have been compromised will also be held accountable if they fail to keep their customers’ sensitive information secure, Holder said.

After the holiday-season attack on Target, the nation’s second-largest discount retailer announced a $5 million investment in a new cyber-security coalition. The company also said it will accelerate implementation of its chip-enabled smart card technology, which will help protect consumers from fraud.

Target did not immediately respond to calls for comment by ABC News today.

Neiman Marcus announced last month that its data systems had been hacked, expressing concerns early on that that as many as 1.1 million customers had been affected. However, an internal investigation by the luxury department store concluded that far fewer accounts were impacted, with the most recent estimate saying fewer than 350,000 customers’ data may have been compromised.




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Rand Paul Sues Obama and NSA Over Phone Surveillance http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/02/rand-paul-sues-obama-and-nsa-over-phone-surveillance/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/02/rand-paul-sues-obama-and-nsa-over-phone-surveillance/#comments Wed, 12 Feb 2014 19:56:50 +0000 Matthew Larotonda http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=873448

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. Rand Paul and an allied Tea Party group filed a class action lawsuit against the Obama administration today over the National Security Agency‘s bulk collection of phone records

Although today’s legal action is not the first brought against the agency since a series of leaks by its former contractor Edward Snowden brought the practice to light, Paul’s suit is the only one filed as a class-action.

“We fought the American Revolution because we were unhappy about British soldiers writing generalized warrants,” Paul, R-Ky., said at a press conference outside the Washington’s U.S. District Court today. “We wrote the Fourth Amendment to be specific to the person, to the place, and to the items. There’s a huge and growing swell of protest in this country of people who are outraged that their records will be taken without suspicion, without a judge’s warrant, and without individualization.”

Paul, a libertarian with presidential ambitions, said it was possibly the “largest class action lawsuit ever filed on behalf of the Bill of Rights.” His political action group, RandPAC, collected 360,000 signatures from supporters before filing the case, but Paul said it could conceivably include every American with a phone line or mobile device.

Signing the online petition also prompts supporters to donate to the committee.

RELATED: Obama Calls for End of NSA Phone Records Storage

Matt Kibbe, whose Tea Party organization FreedomWorks partnered with Paul, said the filing was one of the “most important” actions the group had undertaken.

“This is about a government that’s crossed a line,” he said. “We want to put that genii back in the bottle because the Bill of Rights is a sacred document to everybody who is an American citizen.”

Paul and FreedomWorks will be represented Ken Cuccinelli, the former Virginia attorney general who recently lost a bid in that state’s gubernatorial election. Cuccinelli, who frequently represents conservative interests in the courts, said he expected the case to eventually go to the Supreme Court – a process that could take several years.  The plaintiffs are seeking the court to order the complete halt to the collection of phone metadata by the NSA.

RELATED: A Little (Angry) Bird Told the NSA What You’re Up To

Despite the high profile nature of the filing its future is unclear. Judges may need to agree that collection of the data has damaged Americans, a gray area that has been difficult to prove in similar cases. And last year separate judges ruled opposite each other in cases over the surveillance programs: One upholding the practice as legal and the other as likely unconstitutional. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has overwhelmingly upheld the collection, although their practice of generally ruling in secret has been central to the controversy.

The filing names President Obama, NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper as defendants in the case, among other officials. In a written response the White House said it still believed the metadata collection program – which does not actively eavesdrop on calls – was not in violation of the Constitution.

“As we’ve said previously we believe the program as it exists is lawful,” National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden wrote. “Indeed, it has been found to be lawful by multiple courts. And it receives oversight from all three branches of government, including the Congress.”

Last month Obama announced he planned to overhaul the collection of the data, tasking the intelligence community with finding an alternative to the NSA’s storage of the records by March 28 when the program is up for reauthorization. The president also said the agency would only “pursue phone calls that are two steps removed from a number associated with a terrorist organization instead of three,” effective immediately, among other changes.


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NSA Surveillance Challenge Lands in Federal Court http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/11/nsa-surveillance-challenge-lands-in-federal-court/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/11/nsa-surveillance-challenge-lands-in-federal-court/#comments Fri, 22 Nov 2013 11:00:40 +0000 Ariane de Vogue http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=865995 First there was the furor caused by the Edward Snowden classified secrets disclosures, then the lawsuits, and now the court hearings.

For the second time in a week, government lawyers will appear in federal court on Friday to defend the NSA program that gathers up bulk telephone records-called “telephony metadata”– as a measure to fight terrorism.

The government conducts what it calls “targeted electronic searches” on the data based on telephone numbers or other identifiers associated with terrorist organizations.

Civil liberties groups like the ACLU say the mass call-tracking program is “perhaps the largest surveillance operation ever carried out by a democratic government against its own citizens.” The group has filed suit against the NSA  and the hearing will occur Friday morning in New York.

This is “happening because of Edward Snowden,” said Ben Wizner, Director at the ACLU. “This is what he wanted.”

For the first time since Snowden’s disclosures, the legality of the NSA program will be argued. This debate, said Wizner, should have happened 7 years ago.

Before getting to the merits of the case, however, the ACLU has a substantial jurisdictional issue to overcome as the government argues the ACLU lacks the “standing” (or legal right) to be in court in the first place.

Lawyers for the government say that the challengers’ objections to the “telephony metadata program” are entirely speculative.

In court papers they stress that the program operates pursuant to orders from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) –a court created by Congress empowered to grant government applications for surveillance orders in foreign intelligence investigations. On top of the FISC’s procedures, the government argues there is “stringent supervision and oversight” by all three branches of government to prevent the records from being used for other purposes than foreign intelligence.

The government claims it is not collecting the content of any telephone call, nor is it listening to or recording any call. It collects metadata and then only if the NSA has a “reasonable, articulable suspicion” is that metadata searched.

It says that the NSA only targets a “tiny fraction” of the information it has and that if the program had existed prior to 9/11 the government might have been able to stop one of the hijackers, Khalid al-Mihdhar. At the time, the NSA had intercepted call using overseas intelligence capabilities, but it thought al-Midhar was overseas. In fact, he was in San Diego.

Not surprisingly, the ACLU paints an entirely different picture of the program that collects the telephone records of millions of Americans.

Jameel Jaffer, one of the lead ACLU lawyers, tells the same court that the NSA is monitoring when someone makes a call, what time the call was placed and how long the conversation lasted. He says the program provides the government with a “rich profile” of every citizen and might possibly intrude on calls an individual might think he is shielding: calls to an abortion clinic, a support group for alcoholics, the psychiatrist, the suicide hotline.

Jaffer argues in court papers that the ACLU believes their own conversations with clients are compromised and that the ongoing surveillance not only exceeds the authority set out in the Patriot Act, but violates the First and Fourth Amendment. Jaffer says his group has the legal right to be in court in part because they are clients of Verizon, which turned over records to the NSA.

Last Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia heard similar arguments in a different challenge from a conservative public interest group called Freedom Watch.

Leon’s focus was not the merits of the case, but whether his court had the authority to rule in the first place and whether the challengers had the legal right to be in court.

Leon did not rule from the bench, but instead asked for supplemental briefing from the parties. He suggested that no matter how he rules, he is aware the case would be appealed to a higher court, maybe even the Supreme Court. “I’m not sure how I’m going to come out,” Leon said, “but I know it’s going upstairs.”

Also on Monday, the Supreme Court declined an unusual request from the Electronic Privacy and Information Center asking the Supreme Court to hear a challenge to the NSA surveillance even before the issue could play out in the lower courts. Without comment, the Supreme Court refused the request.


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