Hero and Civil Rights Leader Jack Greenberg, Dies at 91

Jack Greenberg HeadshotJack Greenberg is one of the most famous personality in civil rights struggle. He led the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. for 23 years. According to his wife he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease and being treated for it for many years. He joined the LDF in 1984 and since then he has been fighting for civil rights. He was a 24 years old Columbia Law school graduate at that time.  Sherrilyn Ifill is the current president of the LDF and she really admired the contribution of Greenberg in the domain of civil rights. She even said that he modified the face of modern civil rights law and powerfully enforce the concepts of justice and equal opportunities for everyone.

Greenberg was the only white legal counselor for LDF. From 1949 to 1961 Greenberg argued multiple cases on behalf of LDF. Greenberg was part of the team who fought Jim Crow. He was also a member of the team who fought Brown case in Supreme Court of US. He stayed 23 years there and fought multiple cases in Supreme Court. He also helped in filing multiple cases of employment discrimination.

Greenberg’s tenure ended at LDF on 1984. After that, he opted for a lectureship at Columbia University. From 1989 to 1993 Greenberg served as Dean of Columbia University. He was promoted to the post of Senior Director LDF and he stayed at that position until fall 2013. He also served as visiting faculty in many Universities like University of Tokyo (1993-1994), St Louis University Law School in 1994, Lewis and Clark Law School 1994 & 1996, Princeton University 1995, University of Munich 1998, Tokyo University 1996, the University of Nuremberg-Erlangen in 1999-2000, and at Hebrew University in 2005 Greenberg was born in 1924 in a Jewish family. He grew up in Brooklyn. During World War 2 he served in the navy for some time and after that, he did bachelors and masters in law from Columbia University.  He was given Presidential Citizen Medal by President Bill Clinton in 2001.

Greenberg was not just a lawyer he had several eclectic interests. He wrote different books on civil rights and law. Other than that he also wrote some books on cooking which includes Dean Cuisine with Harvard Law School Dean James Vorenberg. He was also an editor of Franz Kafka: The Office Writings. Greenberg also received multiple awards for his services in the field of civil rights. He got the Thurgood Marshall Award of American Bar Association for his work in the domain of law and civil rights. He worked really hard to make sure that equal opportunities are given to everyone and all people get their civil rights. He also received an honorary Doctor of Law degree from Notre Dame University in 2005 and an honorary degree in 2004 from Howard University. Greenberg was selected as a fellow of American Academy of Arts and Science in 1998.

In honor of Greenberg, a memorial service will be held on December 5th in Paul’s Chapel.

“Equal Justice Under Law” not Really Equal

EqualJusticeUnderLaw

 

In the U.S. Constitution, the phrase “Equal Justice Under Law” is promise the the law will uphold justice equally for all in our courts. The National Center for Access to Justice created the Justice Index. From the website: “Justice depends on having a fair chance to be heard, regardless of who you are, where you live, or how much money you have. At minimum, a person should be able to learn about her rights and then give effective voice to them in a neutral and nondiscriminatory, formal or informal, process that determines the facts, applies the rule of law, and enforces the result. That is Access to Justice”

But, according to the Justice Index’s numbers, we are failing our country in law and other legal areas. The way the numbers break down, there is less than one lawyer who can provide free legal aid in civil cases for every 10,000 Americans who need representation but live under the poverty line and cannot afford it.

“[These are] life and death kinds of matters, when you consider that people are being evicted from their homes, facing the loss of their homes in foreclosure or loss of their children in family court,” said David Udell, the director of the National Center for Access to Justice at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law which created the Justice Index.

You are probably aware, either from personal experience or television and movies, of the idea of having a court-appointed lawyer, or the right to counsel. However, most are not aware that this only applies to criminal cases, not civil ones. Civil law includes rent disputes, debt collections, domestic violence, child support, credit and employment issues, evictions, custody cases, and even civil rights cases. There are roughly the same amount of criminal and civil cases adjudicated every year in the United States, and while there are some organizations out there built to help provide aid, there is no burden on the legal system to bear the weight of these civil law needs.

But in addition to a dearth of lawyers, there is also a severe lack of education. The perceived high cost of filing fees prevent thousands of Americans from pursuing justice, but only 12 states have laws that require court employees to inform the public that they can waive those fees. The other states have no obligations. When you consider that almost every state (48 in total) have raised the fees of both criminal and civil courts in the last five years, this lack of available knowledge makes things more unsettling. And in some cases the lack of ability to pay court fees can keep a citizen seeking justice in an incarceration limbo.

This goes even further than lack of ability to pay. For those citizens for whom English is a second language, there are more obstacles than ever. There is no clear avenue for individuals to understand the civil law system. Almost half of all states have no interpreter requirements for staff. Many courts with no interpreter regulations make non-English speakers pay for the services of an interpreter. This is leaving people facing foreclosure or fighting domestic abuse completely without state resources of what their options might be, and the proper steps to take in pursuing a civil case.

The Justice Index breaks down into four categories: Attorney Access: Number of Attorneys for People in Poverty, Self-Representation Access: Support for People Without Lawyers, Language Access: Support for People With Limited English Proficiency,  Disability Access: Support for People With Disabilities. (an obscene 45 states do not provide court employees dedicated to helping those with mental disabilities.)

From the website Pacific Standard: “funding for the Legal Services Corporation, the federal agency that supports and monitors civil legal aid in the U.S., is meager. According to a 2013 report from the Center for Law and Social Policy, LSC funding “today purchases less than half of what it did in 1980, the time when LSC funding provided what was called ‘minimum access’ or an amount that could support two lawyers for each 10,000 poor people in a geographic area.” This is the result of both inflation and budget reductions that severely hindered the agency in 1982, 1992, and 2012. Between 2010 and 2012 alone, the LSC lost 10.3 percent of its legal aid staff. 

While state sources supposedly made up the difference, austerity measures born from the 2008 Great Recession — when coupled with an uptick in civil actions stemming from foreclosures, consumer credit disputes, layoff disputes, and other recession-related conflicts — have left courts without adequate funding. As a result, legal aid attorneys are drowning in cases.”

 

Is Uber A Conspiracy? Inside The Uber Antitrust Lawsuit In New York

uberUber is one of the most common ways to get around, often being seen as a more convenient alternative to cabs. Even New York, with its iconic yellow taxi cabs, has a flourishing Uber market. But not everyone is happy with Uber’s popularity. There have been a few lawsuits throughout the country surrounding Uber. In California, people questioned whether Uber’s drivers were employees or independent contractors. Now, the federal court in Manhattan is hearing an antitrust case which delves into what exactly Uber is.

The plaintiff is Spencer Meyer, an Uber customer from Connecticut who believes Uber is a conspiracy rather than the convenient service it claims to be. He believes this conspiracy was created by Uber’s drivers, including Travis Kalanick, Uber’s chief executive and also the defendant in the case. The complaint alleges that instead of competing against one another, drivers sought to create a hike in prices that they would collectively benefit from at their riders’ expense. The lawsuit claims that the “surge pricing” algorithm, which sets trip prices based on availability or demand of drivers, plays a key role in this conspiracy.

Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, the lawyers representing Mr. Kalanick, argue that the alleged scheme is “wildly implausible”. They state that Uber is not a conspiracy but a revolutionary app that changed the way people get around. They say that Uber changed the way people get a cab to the same degree that Google changed the way people look for information. According to the company, the pricing model that Uber uses is a key feature of a single enterprise. They say that the drivers are people who independently make the decision to become “driver partners” for Uber and to abide by its pricing algorithm, rather than conspirators that are part of a price-hiking scheme. Kalanick’s lawyers compare this process to a manufacturer’s efforts to control prices that distributors charge.

Unfortunately for Mr. Kalanick, his motion to dismiss the suit was denied. U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff of Manhattan ruled that the lawyers suing had “adequately pleaded a horizontal antitrust conspiracy”. Judge Rakoff felt that the conspiracy was plausible enough to pass this hurdle, and did not write off other aspects of the plaintiff’s case, such as the claim that Uber excludes traditional taxis as well as livery car services. An attorney for Mr. Kalanick fought against these claims by stating that this is a narrow view of the market that does not accurately reflect the real world. He then mentioned a study which shows that when Uber’s surge pricing is in effect, Uber riders make the switch to taxis and public transport.

Judge Rakoff also did not dismiss the claim by the plaintiff’s lawyer that “Uber’s dominant position and considerable name recognition has also made it difficult for potential competitor to enter the marketplace.”

Mr. Kalanick’s lawyers disputed this claim as well. The lawyers stated that Uber has largely increased the options for transportation, lowered the prices, and improved the overall driving service experience for millions of Americans. The lawyers also believe that antitrust law has appreciated the benefits of technological innovation for years.

This lawsuit brings up an interesting conversation about a service that has become extremely popular. Many people are partial to Uber, while others wonder if it is monopolizing the driving service industry, or tricking people out of their money.

Civil Forfeiture Has Its Days Numbered

Civil forfeiture laws enable law enforcement agencies, like state and local police forces, to seize any property that is suspected of being involved with criminal or illegal activities. In order to do this, the authorities do not need to prove the owner of said property guilty of anything. In many cases, police has seized money from people for carrying what they considered “too much” of it, saying that it could be money from the sale of drugs. However, the owner of the money does not need to get arrested or charged with anything.

The burden in cases of civil forfeiture has always been on the property owner to prove that property’s “innocence” through the court system. However, before that even happens, authorities can then liquidate that property and, in many states, keep the profit and use it at their discretion. Many see civil judicial forfeiture as the single most important threat to property rights across the United States. But with attention recently focused on this issue, states like Montana and New Mexico have begun enacting laws to reform civil forfeiture laws.

As of July 1st, both Montana and New Mexico will see two major reforms go into force. In Montana, the government and its enforcement agencies are various levels, are now required to first obtain a criminal conviction before they can seize and liquidate a person’s property. This also goes as far as turning the burden of proof unto the state and not the person who had their property seized because it was used by someone else to commit a crime. Prior to this, if your neighbor was suspected of using your car to commit a crime, the state had the power to seize it and sell it without accusing you, the owner, of participating in the criminal act. Profit from the sale could then be pocketed by the agency involved.

New Mexico, on the other hand, went a lot further than Montana in its blow to civil forfeiture as we know it – it abolished it. Law enforcement agencies can only seize property after a criminal conviction has been obtained and instead of pocketing the profit, the money will be deposited into a general fund.

The Institute for Justice, which has been leading the fight for reform of civil forfeiture laws, hopes that these landmark reforms in Montana and New Mexico will continue to pave the way for more reforms across the country and, ultimately, at the federal level. Civil forfeiture creates a financial incentive for law enforcement agencies to continue to seize property. In many cases, money seized by local authorities have been used to pay for entertainment and other nonessential things. Many supporters of civil forfeiture law reform believe that the money could also be put to better use, such as going toward education funds across the states. The following Institute for Justice video provides an excellent overview of what civil forfeiture is and why reform is needed:

Obama Administration: Big Change to Immigrant Detention Policy

The Obama Administration has announced that it will commence taking action on a new policy to address the crisis found within several immigrant detention centers across the United States. The new policy will allow for immigrant mothers and children held at these federal detention centers to be released on bond, after which they must appear in court to hear out their requests for asylum within the U.S.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Jeh Johnson, stated that the conclusion had been reached and that the Administration believes that substantial changes need to be made for the sake of families with children. Criticism over living conditions at these detention centers had been mounting for some time. Sec. Johnson also stated that continued detention for families after they have established eligibility for asylum, or any other relief under U.S. laws, would be inefficient and not the best way to make use of these resources.

Critics of this change in policy are citing the potential for increased security risks or flight risks, but the Department of Homeland Security has dealt with such criticism by pointing to the bond amounts and how they are set to discourage any such actions. DHS will attempt to ensure that they can interview families that are eligible to be released as soon as they can, so that they do not have to spend any more time in these facilities. The detention program is criticised for its subpar living conditions, especially for families with children, causing many families to suffer from depression and trauma following months of uncertainty. There have also been accusations of abuses occurring in many of the centers.

This new policy will make it easier for families currently detained or fearing detention to find a faster path toward asylum or avoid detainment altogether. There are tens of thousands of women and children held in centers across the country.

The Laws for Federal Minimum Wage in the United States

Abogado Aly Civil Law Minimum WageIn a recent article by United States Department of Labor, wage and hour division is discussed. In this article, many questions about minimum wage law are answered. A common question that many US citizens ask is, “how much is federal minimum wage?” The Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) says that the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. This has been in effect since July 24, 2009. In many states, citizens are entitled to both the state and federal minimum wage laws- meaning the employee is entitled to the higher minimum wage. That being said, there are also numerous exceptions apply under certain circumstances such as to workers with disabilities, full-time students, youth under the age of 20 and tipped employees.

Employees that fall under the “tipped employees” category often wonder how their minimum wage differs from other employees who are not tipped. An employer can not pay an employee less than $2.13 an hour in direct wages if that amount plus the tips received equals at the least the federal minimum wage amount. On the other hand, if an employee’s tips combined with the direct wages received do not equal the federal minimum wage by the hour, then the employer has to make up the difference.

For people under the age of 20, there is also a different minimum wage for them. In the first consecutive 90 days working for the employer- the minimum wage is $4.25. After those 90 days are over, the employee is allowed to receive $7.25 per hours for minimum wage. In addition, there are also exceptions for full-time students. This applies to students who work in retail or service stores, agriculture, or college and universities. The employer that highers the full-time students can receive a certificate from the Department of Labor that allows the student to be paid not less than 85% of the minimum wage. In addition, the certificate also limits the number of hours the student works during the school year to no more than 8 hours a day and 20 hours a week. The certificate also requires the employee to follow all child labor laws and once the student graduates, they are allowed to receive $7.25 per hour.

To make sure everyone receives the correct amount of minimum wage they are allotted, the FLSA states that minimum wage applies to employees of enterprises that have an annual gross of at least $500,000. For additional information about minimum wage laws- people can visit the Wage-Hour website here.