Courts Tell Georgia: Stop Charging People to Read the Law

In a victory for the people of Georgia, a federal appeals court  ruled  on Friday that the state can no longer charge individuals hundreds of dollars to see the laws that govern them. To get there, the court relied on a central tenet of American democracy: The government works on behalf of the public. Quoting the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit wrote, “The concept of popular sovereignty is deeply rooted in our politics, our law, and our history. The seminal statement of America’s political creed boldly proclaims that ‘[g]overnments ... deriv[e] their just powers from the consent of the governed.’” For decades, Georgia ignored this reality. Rather than make the text of the law freely available, the state pay-walled access to the statutes, court opinions, and annotations that make up its official law. In 2013, a nonprofit called Public.Resource.Org paid for a copy of the state’s official code and posted it online for free. The stat

Response to President Trump Sending Troops to Border

New York City—In response to today’s announcement that President Trump plans to send eight hundred or more troops to the southern border as a caravan of refugees and migrants approaches, Human Rights First’s President and CEO Mike Breen released the following statement:  The approach of a caravan of migrants that includes refugees fleeing persecution and violence is not a crisis. But President Trump is yet again spreading hatred and fear, hoping to score political points by making Americans fear refugees. The president’s decision to deploy the military when civilian border enforcement personnel are able to do the job is a cynical tactic designed to fabricate a sense of emergency as elections approach. The president should not be using the military to further a partisan agenda.   The United States is more than capable of carefully processing a few hundred men, women, and children, and determining who among them have asylum claims that should allow them to live in safety and freedo

Judge Temporarily Blocks Georgia Election Officials from Throwing Out Ballots

ATLANTA — A judge has issued a temporary restraining order blocking election officials in Georgia from throwing out absentee ballots or applications for a supposed signature mismatch without giving the voter an opportunity to contest the determination and confirm their identity. The ruling stems from an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against Secretary of State Brian Kemp and county registrars. At issue is a state law that allows election officials — who have no handwriting-analysis expertise — to reject an absentee ballot if they think there is a signature mismatch in the voter’s paperwork, without giving prior notice to the voter or an opportunity to contest that determination. Sophia Lakin, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, had this reaction to today’s ruling: “This ruling protects the people of Georgia from those who seek to undermine their right to vote. It’s a huge victory, especially with the midterms just days away.” The ruling is at:  http

ACLU Fights for Voter Rights in Georgia

ATLANTA — The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Georgia filed a lawsuit today against Secretary of State Brian Kemp and all county registrars demanding they provide due process for Georgia voters whose absentee ballots or applications are being rejected due to an alleged mismatch of signatures. The case was filed on behalf of the Georgia Muslim Voter Project. At issue is a state law that allows election officials — who have no handwriting-analysis expertise — to reject an absentee ballot if they think there is a signature mismatch in the voter’s paperwork, without giving prior notice to the voter or an opportunity to contest that determination. The ACLU is seeking a temporary restraining order requiring election officials to provide absentee voters the opportunity to confirm their identity or otherwise resolve the alleged discrepancy. The lawsuit notes that a voter’s signature could vary for a “variety of reasons, both intentional and unintentional. Unintentional factors incl

Washington State Attorney General will sue to keep Net Neutrality

SEATTLE — Attorney General Bob Ferguson released the following statement on today's Federal Communications Commission vote to repeal net neutrality. "Yesterday I sent a letter to the FCC asking them to delay their vote gutting net neutrality. Unfortunately, they did not. "Today, I am announcing my intention to file a legal challenge to the FCC’s decision to roll back net neutrality, along with attorneys general across the country. "We are 5-0 against the Trump Administration because they often fail to follow the law when taking executive action. There is a strong legal argument that with this action, the federal government violated the Administrative Procedure Act — again. "We will be filing a petition for review in the coming days. "Allowing internet service providers to discriminate based on content undermines a free and open internet. Today’s action will seriously harm consumers, innovation and small businesses. "I was proud to

Medical Marijuana Victory for ACLU

December 14, 2017 Press Release for ACLU PHOENIX –Maricopa County Attorney William Montgomery has decided not to challenge the most recent ruling upholding Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Act, as the deadline of December 11 to seek review by the United States Supreme Court has passed. In 2016, the Arizona Court of Appeals found in favor of a Sun City medical marijuana dispensary, ruling that federal law prohibiting marijuana does not void Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Act and that the county and state should therefore allow the dispensary to continue operating. The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Arizona represented the White Mountain Health Center on this issue of federal preemption. Emma Andersson, the ACLU’s lead attorney on White Mountain Medical Center v. Maricopa County and staff attorney with the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project, had this response: “From the beginning, Maricopa County Attorney William Montgomery was clear about his int

Net Neutrality Ruling by FCC

December 14, 2017 ACLU Press Release WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission voted today to implement Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to end net neutrality. Net neutrality prevents internet service providers from prioritizing data for businesses and other organizations that they favor or that pay more. The rules keep the internet open, free, and unrestricted, preventing ISPs from becoming gatekeepers that can control and manipulate what people access on the internet. Jay Stanley, American Civil Liberties Union senior policy analyst, said: “Since the end of the dial-up era, the FCC has enforced network neutrality principles and helped create the internet as we know it. Today’s misguided FCC action represents a radical departure that risks erosion of the biggest free speech platform the world has ever known. “Today’s loss means that telecommunications companies will start intruding more on how people use the internet. Internet service providers will become m