David Cole is the National Legal Director of the ACLU and the Honorable George J. Mitchell Professor in Law and Public Policy at the Georgetown University Law Center. The paperback edition of his book EnginesofLiberty:HowCitizenMovementsSucceed has just been published. (December 2017)
When David Mullins and Charlie Craig walked into Masterpiece Cakeshop, a bakery in Denver, Colorado, five years ago, they had no inkling that the encounter would take them to the United States Supreme Court. All they wanted was a wedding cake.
Many have asked why the ACLU represented Jason Kessler, the organizer of the white supremacist rally, in challenging Charlottesville’s last-minute effort to revoke his permit. The city proposed to move his rally a mile from its originally approved site—Emancipation Park, the location of the Robert E. Lee monument whose removal Kessler sought to protest—but offered no reason why the protest would be any easier to manage a mile away. As ACLU offices across the country have done for thousands of marchers for almost a century, the ACLU of Virginia gave Kessler legal help to preserve his permit. Should the fatal violence that followed prompt recalibration of the scope of free speech?
Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration—and How to Achieve Real Reform
by John F. Pfaff
Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America
by James Forman Jr.
Few claims about contemporary American society are more widely accepted on the left than that the dramatic growth of our prisons and jails has been driven by the war on drugs. In July 2015, President Barack Obama maintained that “the real reason our prison population is so high” is that …
In a weak democracy, an authoritarian leader like Trump could do widespread and lasting damage. Such leaders often control the legislature, are immune from court oversight, and suppress civil society institutions. But our hallowed traditions of judicial independence, civil liberties, and a robust political culture have—thus far, at least—held Trump in check to an important degree. The courts cannot stand up to President Trump alone, however, and it would be a great mistake to think they could. In the end, the most important guardian of liberty is an engaged citizenry.
The travel ban won’t be the only big case before the Court next term. It’s a heady line up, and the news that Justice Anthony Kennedy will not retire—at a time when, given the Oval Office’s current occupant, the judiciary’s check on the executive branch is more essential than ever—is important.
On May 20, Jeff Sessions completed his first hundred days as attorney general. His record thus far shows a determined effort to dismantle the Justice Department’s protections of civil rights and civil liberties. Reversing course from the Obama Justice Department on virtually every front, he is seeking to return us not just to the pre-Obama era but to the pre-civil-rights era.
On May 9, in a twist that would have seemed far-fetched even on House of Cards, President Trump fired James Comey as director of the FBI on the recommendation of Jeff Sessions, his attorney general. The notion that Trump and Sessions took action against Comey because of his unfairness to Clinton may be the most brazen effort at “fake news” or “alternative facts” yet from a president who has shown no reluctance to lie, even and especially when the truth is plain for everyone to see.