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


Rand Paul Takes Action Against the N.S.A.

What does the Fourth Amendment mean in 2014? The question of constitutional surveillance is important, and increasingly so, with the proliferation of technology in everyday life and the escalation of threats to our security. Privacy remains a core constitutional protection, one which must not be balked at in the name of security.

As you may remember, in December, Judge William H. Pauley denied the ACLU’s effort to halt the NSA’s mass collection of American’s phone records.

This week, a similar lawsuit is being brought to the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia:

“The constitution is not a negotiable piece of parchment to be ignored or abused at the President’s whim,” stated United States Senator, and rising star of the Tea Party faction, Rand Paul, in a YouTube video released Tuesday. 

This video was released just prior to Rand filing a class action lawsuit against President Obama, James R. Clapper (Director of National Intelligence), Keith Alexander, (Director of the NSA), and James B. Comey (Director of the FBI). “Today we ask the question for every phone user in America: can a single warrant allow the government to collect all your records, all the time?” Mr. Paul said in a statement. “I don’t think so.”

Debtor’s Prison

For me, the term “debtors’ prison” brings up a distant memory of Disney’s Robin Hood, when King John taxes the entire town of Nottingham into debtors prison. Even though the constitution prohibits courts from jailing those who can’t afford to pay their fines, debtor’s prison is not just a figment of cartoon recollection from the past. People all over the United States are jailed for failing to pay legal debts. The ACLU of Ohio released a report last week titled Outskirts of Hope. Outskirts of Hope documents how contemporary debtors’ prisons work in Ohio and profiles some of the real people who have been impacted by this system. In addition, the Supreme Court of Ohio released a new “bench card” – instructions for Ohio judges to help them avoid debtors’ prison practices in their courtrooms.


Portland’s Median Strip Ordinance Ruled Unconstitutional

The ACLU of Maine challenged a city ordinance that prohibits anyone from standing on a median strip for any reason but planting political campaign signs, including all other forms of protected free-speech activity. On Wednesday, the United States District Court for the District of Maine declared the ordinance unconstitutional.

“Today’s decision is an important victory for freedom of speech, and for all people who use public spaces to communicate with their fellow citizens,” said Zachary Heiden, legal director for the ACLU of Maine, in a statement. “The First Amendment protects all of us, no matter what views we hold or how much money we make.”

Read more about the case here.