Published September 15, 2018 by Anne

CAIR Advocates for Inmates’ Religious Freedom

Should one prisoner’s right to worship be the same as that of a prisoner of a different religion? One would hope so. In reality, equal treatment may not always be the case.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has filed suit in federal court on behalf of Islamic inmates in Maryland prisons who say the prisoners have been denied the right to assemble for worship, while inmates of other religions are afforded this right. The original complaint is available here.

The case just got a green light from the federal court, which allowed the case to proceed. See “CAIR Welcomes Federal Court’s Decision to Allow Suit Challenging Maryland Islam-Specific Prison Policy to Move Forward,” CAIR press release, August 16, 2018. The court’s decision is available here.

According to a press release from CAIR, “As a result of this decision, CAIR lawyers will now have the authority to demand documents and information from Prince George’s County about their unequal treatment of Muslim inmates. CAIR will also be able to depose key officials who created and enforced the Islam-specific prison policy challenged by the lawsuit.”

“Inmates are among the most vulnerable populations of Americans at risk of having their rights violated,” said CAIR Director of Maryland Outreach Zainab Chaudry. “This decision is a critical step in the right direction to help ensure that Muslim prisoners are able to observe their faith free from discrimination.”

CAIR also represents inmates in Alaska and Washington in lawsuits defending the rights of Muslim inmates to practice their faith while in prison. See “Judge Orders Washington Prisons to Serve Ramadan Meals,” by Gene Johnson, Associated Press/The Spokesman-Review, June 11, 2018, and “Judge Orders Alaska Prison to Stop Serving Pork Products to Muslim Inmates,” by Maria Perez, Newsweek, May 25, 2018.

In a past case, the Supreme Court of the United Stats held that prisoners may grow beards for religious purposes, regardless of the prison rules about facial hair. See “Ban on Prison Beards Violates Muslim Rights, Supreme Court Says,” by Adam Liptak, New York Times, January 20, 2015. Will the new case be treated differently by the courts? Stay tuned.

Resources:

CAIR offers several educational toolkits and pocket guides advising about rights, community safety, and religious liberty. CAIR also publishes A Correctional Institution’s Guide to Islamic Religious Practices.

The Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati’s Muslim Mothers Against Violence has produced a Bullying Prevention Guide for parents, schools, and community members.

The Tayba Foundation’s mission is “holistic education and support for incarcerated Muslims.” The site includes podcasts, news, information about volunteer opportunities, and other resources.

Zoukis Prisoner Resources has extensive information for federal inmates and their families, from surviving your first day in prison to finding a job upon release.

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Poetic Justice

Published May 26, 2016 by Anne

Is the U.S. Constitution poetry? Maybe, maybe not. However, we do know that the Preamble is best memorized through song. Moreover, even this English major didn’t quite grasp structure until her Con Law class.

We enjoyed, although did not entirely buy, Q&A: Burt Neuborne on “Madison’s Music,” a Bold New Approach to Interpreting the Constitution, National Book Review (May 2016).

See also the ambitious The U.S. Constitution Is a Poem, (that certainly settles the question), Geoffrey Wessel, Overthinking.com (September 17, 2015).

Is it fiction? Kind of, yes. See Constitutional Law as Fiction: Narrative in the Rhetoric of Authority, Lash Larue, Penn State University Press (1995).

Grand Jury Reform

Published January 28, 2016 by Anne

Where have we been? Weeping over the inhumanity of a broken Asus laptop. Its failed body safely entombed in the trunk of our car, we are now emotionally able to continue with our regular blogging schedule. Here goes…

Ohio has created a grand jury task force. See Chief Justice Forms Grand Jury Task Force, Court News Ohio (January 27, 2916). Not sure why the grand jury mavens at the University of Dayton School of Law are not on the roster, but we assume and hope that their expertise will be utilized.

Why a grand jury task force? These things usually grow in the wake of some notorious case. Recall, for example, the bevy of petit jury reformers who got to work after the O.J. case in the 90s. Here, the grand jury is getting a closer look after the Tamir Rice shooting in Cleveland. That grand jury either never took a vote, or did, depending on who’s telling it.

Defunded and Fee-Funded

Published January 12, 2016 by Anne

Connecticut probate courts have been defunded.

That’s right, the legislature will no longer pay for them. Never mind the poor souls who accidentally die in testate, never mind the vulnerable people who are in need of guardianship. Never mind that probate court is supposed to be a public service.

Instead of funding the courts, the legislature raised fees. Thus, the rich (assuming they don’t have enough warning to plan to die elsewhere, and assuming they lack wills) will pay extremely high fees, which supposedly will fund the rest.

This seems to be one decision that will have an adverse effect on both the wealthy and the poor. See Connecticut’s Probate Fee Change Could Drive Out Wealthy, Some Say, Luther Turmelle, New Haven Register (January 4, 2016), and Defunding of Probate Courts Punishes the Poor, Judge Lisa Wexler, Greenwich Time (August 29, 2015). Who’s it good for?

Hail to the Chief Judge

Published January 8, 2016 by Anne

In this day and age, there is a lot we could say about the folks running certain state courts of last resort. Suffice it to say, we will miss the good example set by the pioneering Chief Judge Judith Kaye of New York, who passed away today.

She was smart and innovative, interesting and interested.

Her obituary appears in the New York Times.