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Lawyers’ Committee Executive Director & President Kristen Clarke on Democracy Now!

Kristen Clarke discusses the Senate confirmation hearings that began Tuesday for William Barr, President Trump’s nominee for attorney general to replace Jeff Sessions.

Updates from the Lawyers’ Committee

Blog January 16, 2019

Cyntoia Brown, William Barr, and Juvenile Life Without Parole

Last week, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam granted Cyntoia Brown clemency for a crime committed when she was sixteen years old.   Convicted as an adult for murder and given a life sentence, she faced the prospect of living most or all of the rest of her life in prison.  Brown, like thousands of other people sentenced as children, was victim to the juvenile life without parole sentences advocated by proponents of “tough on crime” measures, like Attorney General nominee William Barr. As Attorney General, Barr wholly embraced the theory of “incapacitation,” or the belief that extended physical restraint of offenders leads to reduced crime.” Barr’s concept of incapacitation centers on two elements; longer sentences and more prisons.  “The choice is clear,” according to Barr, “[m]ore prison space or more crime.” Applying the incapacitation theory to youth offenders, Barr favored “tough” sentences that emphasized discipline, such as boot camps, for first-time, nonviolent […]

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Voting rights groups expect Trump’s attorney general nominee, William Barr, to purge voter rolls and limit protections ahead of 2020 elections

January 15, 2019


Voting rights organizations are raising alarm bells about President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Justice, William Barr, whose confirmation hearing kicked off Tuesday in the Senate. The organizations are saying the former attorney general under George H.W. Bush is likely to purge voter rolls and pursue limited enforcement of the Voting Rights Act if he is confirmed by the Senate, as is widely expected. Few individuals at the top levels of government have earned such unified scorn from civil rights groups as Trump’s former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who reversed the department’s position in two major voting rights cases and avoided bringing any new cases to enforce voting protections. Yet those groups are warning that Barr could accelerate the administration’s efforts, which they see as disenfranchising lawful voters.

Hurdles Remain As The Final Countdown Begins For The 2020 Census

January 10, 2019


The last stretch before the start of the 2020 census is upon us. The once-a-decade, national head count is scheduled to kick off next January. Census workers start in the village of Toksook Bay and other parts of rural Alaska when the ground there is frozen enough for door-to-door visits. Then, beginning in March 2020, the U.S. government’s most expansive peacetime operation rolls out to households in the rest of the country. The data collected will be used for a major reset in political power and federal funding through 2030. Each state’s share of representatives in Congress, as well as votes in the Electoral College, will be determined for the next decade by the new population counts. Those counts are also used to distribute more than $880 billion a year in federal funds for Medicare, schools and other public services, according to the latest estimate by The George Washington Institute of Public Policy.

Washington Gov. Inslee to Pardon Marijuana Convictions

January 7, 2019

The New York Times

SEATTLE — More than six years after the state legalized the adult use of marijuana, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Friday he plans to pardon thousands of people convicted of small-time possession charges — the latest in a series of moves by states and cities to ease the burdens people face from having minor criminal records for using pot. The Democrat, who is mulling a 2020 presidential run, made the announcement at a cannabis industry summit in SeaTac, south of Seattle. Inslee said he was creating an expedited process that would allow about 3,500 people to apply for and receive a pardon without having to hire a lawyer or go to court. “We have people who have this burden on their shoulders from a simple, one-time marijuana possession from maybe 20 years ago, and that’s impeding the ability of people to live their lives,” Inslee said in an interview.

The Trump administration is considering a major rollback of civil rights regulation

January 7, 2019


Two years into the Trump presidency, one of the most effective parts of the administration has been its efforts to reduce the federal government’s role in promoting civil rights regulation. A recent report from the Washington Post suggests that this effort could soon enter a new phase, as the government considers a large-scale rollback of measures protecting marginalized groups from discrimination. On January 3, the Post reported that the administration was considering “a far-reaching rollback of civil rights law that would dilute federal rules.” The report noted that a recent internal memo from the Justice Department encouraged civil rights officials to look at how anti-discrimination guidance, some of which is decades old, could be removed or changed and what the effects would be.

The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure equal justice for all through the rule of law, targeting in particular the inequities confronting African Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities. The Lawyers’ Committee is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to enlist the private bar's leadership and resources in combating racial discrimination and the resulting inequality of opportunity - work that continues to be vital today.

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