Each Friday, we’ll bring you updates on the latest civil liberties news from Maine and the nation.

California Nixes the Death Penalty

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney ruled that California’s death penalty violates the  U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Natasha Minsker, a director of the ACLU of Northern California, said Wednesday’s ruling marked the first time that a federal judge had found  the state’s current system unconstitutional.

She also said it was "the first time any judge has ruled systemic delay creates an arbitrary system that serves no legitimate purpose and is therefore unconstitutional."

 Read more about Carney’s ruling here.

U.S. to Intervene in Voter Restriction Cases

Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Tuesday that the U.S. Department of Justice plans to join lawsuits against republican-backed voting restrictions in Wisconsin and Ohio. Holder stated: “I will use every power that I have, every ability that I have as Attorney General to defend that right to vote.” 

In February, Ohio Republican lawmakers passed a law eliminating the first week of the state's five-week early voting period when people could register and vote the same day. The ACLU in May filed a federal lawsuit challenging this law’s constitutionality.

Wisconsin’s voter ID law was recently struck down by a federal judge, who ruled that it discriminated against non-white voters. But the state has appealed the ruling, and the litigation is ongoing.

In both cases, it will be significant for the Obama administration to be on record in opposition to the restrictive laws. 

Read more about the Obama administration’s latest stance on voting rights issues here.