How States Are Dealing with Unconstitutional Life Sentences for Juvenile Offenders

By Claire Glass

In its 2012 ruling in Miller v. Alabama, the Supreme Court of the United States found mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles violate the 8th Amendment, unfairly subjecting juveniles to the same sentences as their adult counterparts without giving  judges an opportunity to consider the defendant’s age and individual circumstances as mitigating factors. The landmark decision left unanswered, however, whether it would apply to the 2,500 some incarcerated people around the country already serving these unconstitutional sentences, and if so, what process should be employed for re-sentencing. Read more

Scalia’s Legacy in Land Use Law

By Herbert Rosen

After Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia’s passing, much has been and will continue to be written about his landmark opinions, originalist/textualist methods of interpretation, and his words which inspired some and angered others. However, Scalia should also be recognized for his significant contributions to land use law.
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Cruel and Unusual: The Practice of Shackling Pregnant Incarcerated Women

By Claire Glass

In 2009, New York State banned the longstanding practice of shackling of pregnant incarcerated women during childbirth, but a 2015 report by the Correctional Association (CA), a non-profit with authority to enter and inspect the state’s correctional facilities, reveals that New York State and county institutions routinely break this law. The vast majority of women interviewed reported being shackled at varying stages of pregnancy, some through labor and delivery.

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Bike Wars: How NYC has dealt with litigation in the advent of the Citi Bike

By Vinh Hua

While policies that promote bicycle usage in urban environments are becoming more common, they remain a divisive issue among urban planners and city managers. Support for such policies is evidenced by the creation of bike lanes to the usage of bike-share programs like Citi Bike, while the governmental support or ambivalence to these programs is also the subject of both discussion and litigation.

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Legal Battles in the Bay: Litigation over Gentrification in San Francisco

By Vinh Hua

San Francisco is currently the site of a number of major battles over gentrification, as residents, developers, tech companies, tech professionals, and landlords fight for their interests in both the court of law and public opinion.

San Francisco has become the most expensive city to live in the United States, even beating out Manhattan. The city has skyrocketing rents, as the growth of the tech-sector creates a burgeoning population of well-paid tech-sector employees. These professionals have driven demand for rental units through the roof, with rental prices soon following. A perfect storm of limited housing stock, market pressures, and transportation improvements allowing San Francisco neighborhoods to become more accessible to commuters, has made San Francisco the fastest gentrifying city in the United States. Read more

The Campaign for Safe Injections Facilities in New York City

By Claire Glass

On September 30, activists gathered for a town hall and to launch SIFNYC, a coalition of criminal justice and drug policy advocates campaigning to bring Safe Injection Facilities(SIFs) to New York City. SIFs in Europe, Canada, and Australia already provide clean needles, health services, and a police-free place to use intravenous drugs to users who would otherwise be forced to use in public where rates of overdose and contraction of infectious disease dramatically increase.

Along with immediate safety improvements, SIFs offer access to clinical professionals and recovery services but, importantly, don’t mandate recovery efforts in exchange for use of the sites. SIFs go one step further than needle exchanges, offering both clean needles and a place to use drugs beyond the reach of law enforcement and the public eye, relieving the threat of discovery that leads to unsafe injection. According to Vocal New York’s Policy Director, Matt Curtis, access to clean needles does not solve the problems associated with public use, still leading to hurried use in public restrooms, parks, and subways cars.

“We have an unprecedented homelessness crisis right now and increasing heroin use,” Curtis said. “We’re giving them supplies to inject more safely, connecting them with mental health, but many, many people don’t have a safe hygienic place to go once we give them that syringe. Without also offering a safe place, we’re saying ‘okay go inject in the Dunkin Donuts bathroom.’”

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The Road Not Taken: Why Courts Should Recognize Uber Drivers as Employees and Not Independent Contractors

By Kate Ross

It’s hard to imagine how an Uber ride could ever lead to a roadblock. Prompted by the tap of a few buttons, the Uber app connects users with nearby drivers to send them on their way to virtually any destination within minutes.  It’s no accident that the word “uber” itself suggests a road to endless possibilities. Borrowed from the German term übermensch, meaning “superman,” the company’s trademark invokes the American dream for human progress and upward mobility.  In one commercial, riders and drivers alike zip along the road to schools, new homes, and jobs in time to the slogan, “We’re all going somewhere.” Indeed, this message is geared towards drivers, as well as customers—a quick glance at the website makes the job’s flexible hours and lack of oversight sound like the perfect source of extra cash and stability in today’s unpredictable economy.

But the reality is that Uber drivers are destined to hit a dead end before even touching the gas pedal. That’s because in every state but California, Uber has used loopholes in the legal system to avoid paying minimum wage and to skimp on fundamental workplace protections. Through a clever spin on the language in its contracts, Uber has convinced several courts that drivers are independent contractors who work for themselves, not Uber, and thus lack the rights of regular employees.

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A Brief Overview of the National, State, and Local Responses to the Imminent Water Crisis

By Carlos F. Ugalde

While most Americans continue to believe that dwindling oil reserves and growing energy prices are the nation’s main concerns, there is a far more palpable and imminent crisis at arm’s length. Global warming—the observed ongoing rise in global average temperatures near the Earth’s surface caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere—has markedly decreased precipitation and multiplied evapotranspiration rates across the globe and, particularly, in drier regions. The immediate result has been harsher and longer drought periods, thus reducing the availability of water resources for industry and consumption. Read more

Law Enforcement’s Growing Use of Social Media to Target Gang Activity

By Vinh Hua

Social interaction among teens and youths increasingly occurs in the digital world via the use of social media. Social media has become a central facet of the lives of many youth. As the internet becomes more ubiquitous, more Americans have web access. More young men and women in the inner city and in other poverty-stricken communities now participate in social media. Among these youth are gang members. Searching for the adoration of their peers, many of these young men and women post pictures and status updates that incriminate either themselves or their friends.  As the digital world takes on more prominence, gang culture has made its own imprint on the social media landscape.

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New Consent Decree Seeks to Curtail Violence in NYC Jails. Will It Work?

By Claire Glass


Rikers_Island

On October 21, 2015 Judge Laura Taylor Swain of the Southern District of New York signed into law the consent decree sought in Mark Nunez v. City of New York, a 2011 class action brought on behalf of a class of incarcerated individuals who were victims of unnecessary use of force by correction officers at Rikers Island. Nunez’s complaint  included over twenty pages detailing instances of abuse resulting in facial fractures, off camera beatings of handcuffed individuals, lacerations, head injuries, and lost teeth.

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