With his Supreme Court nominee, Obama chooses the path of least resistance

Published: The Daily Dot (March 16, 2016)

President Barack Obama announced his appointment to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court on Wednesday. His choice is Merrick Garland, one of the most conservative judges ever chosen by a modern Democratic president.

The Internet doesn’t seem particularly impressed. Perhaps this is because Garland doesn’t have much in the way of a record when it comes to the typical divisive issues facing a Supreme Court nominee, like privacy, abortion, the death penalty, and affirmative action. As a judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit for the past 19 years, Garland mostly dealt with regulatory issues. read more

The next Supreme Court justice and the future of the Internet

Published: The Daily Dot (February 22, 2016)

When it comes to the field of cyber law, it’s rather ironic that the next Supreme Court justice will replace the late Antonin Scalia. After all, the famous constitutional originalist revealed in 2012 that, if he had his druthers, his successor would be University of Chicago law professor Frank Easterbrook, a man who once compared studying Internet law to creating a hypothetical field in “horse law.”

“Lots of cases deal with sales of horses; others deal with people kicked by horses; still more deal with the licensing and racing of horses, or with the care veterinarians give to horses, or with prizes at horse shows,” Easterbrook argued. “Any effort to collect these strands into a course on ‘The Law of the Horse’ is doomed to be shallow and to miss unifying principles.” So too, he claimed, withthe Internet. read more

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s evolution on Internet freedom

Published: The Daily Dot (February 14, 2016)

Say what you will about Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia–and pundits and people on both the left and the right have been doing just that since his passing on Saturday–but when it comes to Internet freedom, he may have been one of the great legal minds of our time.

Let’s start with a 2005 case in which an Internet service provider named Brand X sued the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. The central issue was whether companies that promised high-speed Internet access had the right to use the faster infrastructure available to big content providers. To determine that, the court needed to first determine whether the Federal Communications Commissionhad the right to label cable broadband companies as providing an information service (which would mean they could deny them access) or a telecommunications service (which would mean they could not). Although the court ruled 6-3 in favor of the FCC’s right to do as they pleased, Scalia joined liberal judges Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter in offering a powerful dissent. read more

A prisoner was dragged 107 feet by guards and died 9 days later—where’s his hashtag?

Published: The Daily Dot (September 25, 2015)

Back in October, 59-year-old Wayne County Jail inmate Abdul Akbar suffered multiple bodily injuries—after prison guards tried to restrain him. Reports obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request claim that Akbar became violent after he overslept and missed breakfast, destroying a computer and resisting guards’ orders when they tried to control the situation. Video footage from jail cameras—which has since gone viral—showed Akbar’s unconscious body being dragged 107 feet across the floor to an elevator, clearly violating proper protocol regarding prisoners’ rights. read more

5 Reasons Why the U.S. Election System is On Life Support

Published: Question of the Day (August 11, 2015)

The United States election system may not be fatally flawed, but in many ways it’s on life support.

Here are five reasons why that is the case:

1. We make it harder for people to vote.

For one thing, as Eric Black explained in an article for MinnPost, most democratic nations don’t require citizens to register to vote — it happens automatically. “In general, the governments know the names, ages and addresses of most of its citizens and — except in the United States — provide the appropriate polling place with a list of those qualified to vote,” Black writes. By requiring citizens to register, the American government adds an extra step to voting that increases the likelihood busy eligible citizens won’t bother to turn out on Election Day. In addition, Voter ID laws and the Supreme Court’s overturning of Sections 4(b) and 5 of the Voting Rights Act (which required states with a history of discrimination in voting to obtain federal preclearance before changing their voting laws) has even further reduced voter turnout. In the 2014 midterm elections, the first to be held since the Supreme Court ruling, only 41.9 percent of eligible citizens turned out to vote, the lowest number since the Census started collecting voting activity in 1978. The decline was strongest among racial minorities and individuals with low incomes. read more

The Sandra Bland lawsuit is a reminder that our criminal justice system is broken

Published: Daily Dot (August 6, 2015)

Sandra Bland’s family is looking for answers—following the 28-year-old’s untimely and mysterious death in a Texas jail cell—and they believe a lawsuit is their last best hope. While they believe it’s “possible” Bland took her own life, the family filed a federal suit this week to help provide closure in the case that’s taken social media by storm.

I fight because #SandraBland should be asleep right now because she has to go into her new job

— KayRay (@RE_invent_ED) August 4, 2015 read more

Debunking the 3 biggest myths about the death penalty

Published: Daily Dot (July 6, 2015), Salon (July 8, 2015)

After the Supreme Court issued a 5-to-4 ruling upholding the use of a lethal injection drug for death penalty cases last week, Justice Breyer’s dissent has lit up the Internet. In his opposition, Breyer not only opposes the controversial use of midazolam, a drug that’s been criticized as “cruel and unusual punishment,” but also condemns the death penalty altogether. His argument that the United States must rethink its stance on capital punishment. read more