David Cole is the Honorable George J. Mitchell Professor in Law and Public Policy at the Georgetown University Law Center. In January he will become the National Legal Director of the ACLU. (December 2016)
It is the “war” on crime itself that is most to blame. More than any other nation in the world, we turn to the state-sanctioned compulsion of the criminal justice system to “solve” social problems. Our “first responders” are too often the police, bearing handcuffs and guns rather than public assistance or life support.
The Gunning of America: Business and the Making of American Gun Culture
by Pamela Haag
Guns Across America: Reconciling Gun Rules and Rights
by Robert J. Spitzer
The long tradition of gun regulations almost certainly means that the Supreme Court will not construe the Second Amendment to invalidate most gun laws on the books today, but that simply leaves the matter to the political process, where the NRA is plainly winning. If history is any guide, it will succeed in thwarting any new gun control initiative prompted by the Orlando massacre.
Whatever else one might say about the just-concluded 2016 presidential election, one thing is certain: FBI Director James Comey played an outsized and exceptionally inappropriate part. His highly prejudicial announcement on October 28, just eleven days before the election, that he had reopened an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server ensured that the final critical days of the campaign were taken up with innuendos and suppositions set off by his action.
Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America
by Ari Berman
The Great Suppression: Voting Rights, Corporate Cash, and the Conservative Assault on Democracy
by Zachary Roth
The United States has long been a democracy divided by race. We are committed in theory to the principle of “one person, one vote,” but in practice our nation has exploited and tolerated deep, structural racial oppression, from slavery to Jim Crow to today’s racial profiling, residential and educational segregation, and red-lining.
The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program
by Jeremy Scahill and the staff of The Intercept
Obama has now been at war longer than any other American president, and has overseen the use of military force in seven countries—Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia. In the latter four countries, virtually all the force has come in the form of unmanned drones executing suspected terrorists said to be linked to al-Qaeda or its “associated forces.” That an antiwar president has found the drone so tempting ought to be a warning sign.
Will Trump be able to put in place all the worst ideas he tossed out so cavalierly on the campaign trail? Building a wall; banning and deporting Muslims; ending Obamacare; reneging on climate change treaty responsibilities; expanding libel law; criminalizing abortion; jailing his political opponents; supporting aggressive stop-and-frisk policing; reviving mass surveillance and torture? Whether Trump will actually try to implement his proposed plans, and more importantly, whether he will succeed if he does try, lies as much in our hands as in his.
FBI director James Comey prides himself on being independent. But “independence” doesn’t excuse not following the rules. By elevating his own concerns about his personal reputation above the rules, Comey will forever be remembered as the FBI director who abused the power of his office to interfere in an imminent presidential election.
Though it has just concluded a term in which its rulings have advanced the cause of justice, the Supreme Court continues to approach criminal justice cases without confronting the reality of race-based policing, as in the decision issued in the second-to-last week of the term, Utah v. Strife. As a result, the rules it promulgates too often exacerbate rather than curtail discriminatory law enforcement.
Justice Kennedy’s decision to uphold University of Texas’s affirmative action reflects a more grounded view of society as it is, a willingness to adjust the purely formal elements of abstract doctrine to a world in which race continues to matter. The decision also means that a solid majority of the Court’s justices, even without the justice who will eventually fill Scalia’s seat, understand the importance of considering race in admitting students to our nation’s colleges.