ABA Journal

The National Pulse

437 ABA Journal The National Pulse articles.

Are free speech and academic freedom under assault at colleges and universities?

Many see the case of Teresa Buchanan at Louisiana State University as emblematic of the precarious state of academic freedom for college and university professors. Others view the case as an example of the perils of applying a categorical rule to limit professorial speech.

Candy and snack companies sued for packages with empty space instead of extra product

Federal and state slack-fill lawsuits charge that companies cheat shoppers with deceptively large packages.

How a rural murder case could return nearly half the state of Oklahoma to tribal control

Patrick Murphy doesn’t deny participating in the murder and mutilation of George Jacobs in 1999.

But it’s possible that his conviction doesn’t count. As Murphy argued in a habeas appeal to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Denver, he’s a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, as was Jacobs, and the murder took place on land that was part of the tribe’s reservation as defined by an 1866 treaty.

Youth tackle football head injuries

A class action suit against the Pop Warner youth football league on safety concerns stands to be the first lawsuit to go to trial.

Split over hair: Proponents of deregulation seek to untangle laws on hair braiding

Carefully layering one tiny strand of hair over another, Tameka Stigers has spent years honing her talent for African-inspired, natural hair braiding.

The style she currently specializes in, delicate little…

States may scrap marriage licenses as counties resist same-sex ruling

Probate judges in at least seven Alabama counties refuse to issue marriage licenses to any couples, same-sex or heterosexual, so lawmakers may abolish licenses altogether. Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Montana have similar proposals.

Angry parents find little legal recourse when schools put their kids in ‘seclusion rooms’

It’s not a timeout: State laws, school policies and individualized education programs often allow involuntary confinement as a way to calm highly emotional students. Disabled and minority students are disproportionately affected by seclusion policies, which can include isolation and physical restraints.

Proposed Florida law resurrects the debate around the legal duty to help someone in distress

Florida would be in a distinct minority of states if it imposes a duty to rescue people in distress. The rule in the United States is you have no duty to rescue a stranger, and legal scholars are divided on whether that’s a good thing.

Texas county experiments with allowing indigent clients to choose their own lawyers

The Client Choice program in Comal County was organized by the Texas Indigent Defense Commission, a state agency dedicated to improving such defense without driving up costs. A year of data showed that it worked—clients had better outcomes and felt more listened to. The county liked the system enough that it still uses it today.

New York considers changing discovery rules that often leave defense lawyers in the dark

Advocates have dubbed New York’s discovery scheme the blindfold law, arguing that the lack of information requires defense counsel to prepare for trial, or advise clients about plea bargains, without ever seeing the evidence.

Appeals court stymies bid to regulate high cost of prison phone calls

After 14 years of pleas, the Federal Communications Commission in 2015 made a rule capping rates for in-state prison phone calls. But the affected telecommunications companies sued—and in June 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit handed them a victory. The court said the FCC overstepped its statutory authority when it regulated in-state calls, and that the way it set the rates was “hard to fathom.”

Courts are awarding significant damages to families whose dogs are killed by police

Substantial, high-profile awards have been won in cases in which judges found constitutional violations against owners.

Fighting Words: Can anti-profanity laws be squared with the First Amendment?

Anti-profanity laws remain on the books in some states. Such laws are sometimes considered constitutional under the fighting words doctrine—words the Supreme Court defined in Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (1942).

Abuses revealed of watchdog public-records laws

State freedom of information laws are intended to allow citizens to keep tabs on their governments. While they expose wrongdoing, mismanagement, reckless spending and even scandal, they also can be abused.

Bail industry battles reforms that threaten its livelihood

Although reformers say an algorithm called a risk assessment decreases crime rates, reduces jail populations and increases government savings, the bail bond industry sees a permissive tool that is bad for public safety and an existential threat.

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