I'm used to writing about how judges rule in free speech cases, but I believe this is the first time I've had occasion to write about how a judge applies the First Amendment in his own courtroom. The First Amendment gives the press (and the public) the right to publish what government officials say and do. This allows us to hold government officials accountable when they do something that we don't like, and this "self-government" principle is one of the strongest justifications we have for our freedom of speech.
In comparison to 2013, 2014 brought us a reduction in the amount of anti-abortion bills that went before state legislatures. It’s early yet, but it looks like 2015 will see a re-opening of the floodgates for legislation that restricts abortion. Anti-abortion advocates in at least nine states have prefiled bills that would unnecessarily regulate and restrict abortion.
The Portland Press Herald recently ran two pieces discussing data recently released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which shows that Maine has the lowest rate of criminal justice involvement of any state in the country. The first, originally published in the Washington Post, compares Maine to states like Texas, California and Georgia and discusses the general trend towards declining prison populations.
What a year it has been! And we couldn’t have done it without you. For my very first blog post, I bring you a look back at some of our favorite moments of 2014, none of which would have been possible without your support:
For our annual holiday party last week I was tasked with providing music, which I took as a great excuse to assemble a collection of civil rights- and civil liberties-themed songs. Hoping to show how these types of songs have progressed over time, I made a point of picking at least one tune from every decade beginning with the 1930s. It’s fascinating to hear how much has changed in the sound of music over that time, yet sobering once you recognize just how many of the themes from those early songs are still just as relevant today.
In late July of this year, Tamara Loerstcher went to a Eau Claire, Wisconsin hospital seeking medical treatment for her untreated thyroid condition. Loerstcher had suspicions that she was pregnant – she was also using this hospital trip to get confirmation about her pregnancy. She was uninsured; she did not have a primary care physician. Loerstcher, who had used drugs in the recent past, disclosed her drug history to hospital workers. When the hospital workers found out that Loerstcher was 14 weeks pregnant, they had her placed in jail for endangering her fetus.
Last week, the ACLU of Maine participated in marches in Portland and Lewiston calling for racial justice and an end to violence. The marches were part of a nationwide response to multiple instances of excessive police violence against people of color that have gone unpunished.
On this day in 1791, the Commonwealth of Virginia voted to ratify 12 articles for addition to the U.S. Constitution. With 14 states comprising the union at that time, 11 were required to vote in favor of an amendment in order to reach the necessary ¾ threshold. With Virginia’s action that bar was met, and all the amendments became binding constitutional law – except for poor old Articles One and Two.