With State Abortion Restrictions Looming, Some Officials Promise Not to Enforce Them

A new wave of abortion restrictions is expected in half of the U.S. if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. Some local officials are pledging not to enforce them, potentially creating uneven legal landscapes within conservative states that are home to more liberal urban areas. District attorneys in metropolitan areas including Atlanta, New Orleans, Dallas and San Antonio have said they won’t prosecute abortion providers or others, including those who assist a woman in obtaining the procedure. Current state attorneys general who are up for re-election in Michigan and Wisconsin, as well as Democratic candidates for that office in Georgia and Arizona have likewise pledged not to enforce any laws banning abortion in their states. … In most states, local prosecutors are the primary decision makers on what criminal cases to bring in their jurisdictions, but in many cases state attorneys general can usurp that authority if they receive authorization from the governor, said James Tierney, a former Maine attorney general. Some states and their legislatures could test those boundaries, he said. If Roe is overturned, “we’re going to go through a phase of uncontrolled litigation filed by district attorneys and attorneys general around the country in an unpredictable fashion,” Mr. Tierney said.

Jan. 6 Probe Enters Uncharted Territory With Subpoenas for GOP Lawmakers

The House select committee investigating the events of Jan. 6, 2021, entered a new phase of legal and political uncertainty when it moved earlier this month to subpoena five Republican members of Congress who have declined to cooperate with requests for testimony and information. Outside of Senate and House ethics committees, no congressional body had subpoenaed a fellow lawmaker. That means the subpoenas stand in uncharted constitutional territory that could take months to play out if the dispute goes to court, legal specialists said. The success or failure of the panel’s efforts to compel sitting lawmakers to testify could determine the scope of Congress’s investigative powers in future disputes. … Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig said congressional investigations have always involved “lots of bluster on both sides,” but they typically conclude with testimony within the relative scope of the investigation. “We don’t have great precedent for judicial involvement to enforce cooperation because we never needed it,” he said. Failure to compel Republican lawmakers to testify in the case will erode the legislative branch’s ability to conduct future investigations, Prof. Lessig said. “The body depends on being able to induce with moral suasion the idea of cooperation,” he said.

GOP’s “Women’s Bill of Rights” Riddled With Attacks on Trans People

A group of Republican lawmakers in Congress have submitted a resolution that purports to be a “Women’s Bill of Rights” — but in reality, their document is less about establishing protections of any rights at all for women, and more about curtailing the rights and recognition of transgender people. The resolution purports to establish a number of rights to “reaffirm legal protections afforded to women under Federal law.” Yet, as an analysis from LGBTQ Nation noted, the “Women’s Bill of Rights” only seeks to promote one supposed right — to allow cisgender women to discriminate against transgender women in public spaces — while promoting transphobia. … The resolution’s main proponent, Lesko, argues that the bill is necessary because, according to her, Democrats “are erasing women and the spaces that are uniquely ours.” But Alejandra Caraballo, a trans advocate and instructor at Harvard Law School, has rejected that framing. “[The resolution] erases the existence of trans people from federal law,” Caraballo said in an analysis of the resolution. “It’s solely about transphobia.”

Here’s how to protect yourself from being tracked by your Wi-Fi signal

Cyber-security consultant Caleb Barlow is sitting in his dining room, reading Wi-Fi information off cell phones from a coffee shop across the street. It’s totally legal, and no one would have any idea he’s doing it. “This is very easy to do,” Barlow said from behind his computer. “We can learn a lot about you just by listening to what your phone is broadcasting as you walk by.” With a $100 wireless auditing device and an online database, Barlow demonstrates how it’s possible to track someone’s location based on the unique information coming off their cell phone. … David O’Brien with Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society said this a well-documented issue that people have complained about for a decade. “A big part of the problem is that when wireless protocols were designed years ago, it was by engineers who were not thinking of these types of problems,” O’Brien said. O’Brien said retail companies have used a similar form of Wi-Fi probing to track your movements around stores. O’Brien said the easiest way to protect yourself and stop Wi-Fi tracking is to simply turn off your Wi-Fi antenna when you leave the house. “If you’re the type of person who cares about your privacy in terms of commercial tracking, stores will often use wireless technology signals from your phone to track your movement throughout the store,” O’Brien said. “They want to know how long you’ve lingered in one corner, what products you might have been looking at, whether you bought something or not. They can use this to figure that out.”

Could Donald Trump’s Civil War Post Disqualify Him From Running in 2024?

Donald Trump’s “Civil war” social media repost has some commentators asking whether it could be evidence to disqualify him for running for office again. The former president received widespread condemnation for sharing the post—written by another user—on Truth Social, the platform Trump set up after he was banned from Twitter in the wake of January 6 over fears he would incite further violence. … Laurence Tribe, professor of Constitutional Law Emeritus at Harvard University, also suggested that there is no need to discuss whether the “civil war” post should disqualify Trump from office as he already should be due to his actions in and around January 6. “Those who’re saying this amounts to ‘insurrection’ disqualifying Trump from running for office under Sec 3 of 14th Am are undermining the REAL basis for deeming Trump an insurrectionist: Jan 6 & related ACTS, not 1st A protected SPEECH,” Tribe tweeted.

Buffalo shooting ignites a debate over the role of genetics researchers in white supremacist ideology

The 18-year-old gunman suspected of carrying out a racist attack that killed 10 and injured three people in Buffalo, N.Y., last weekend left no questions about why he drove 200 miles to a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood and opened fire. A 180-page document he allegedly posted online detailed the white supremacist ideologies that motivated his plan to target and murder Black Americans. But for the genetics researchers who discovered their work cited in the screed as justification for the bloodshed, there are only questions — how did this happen? Could we have done more to prevent it? And what needs to change to stop it from happening again? … “A lot of people have responsibilities here, and I don’t think any one cancels out the other,” said I. Glenn Cohen, director of Harvard Law School’s Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics. When it comes to conducting these kinds of genome-wide association studies, or GWAS, that might have significant social implications for distinct racial or ethnic groups, Cohen believes more care is required, on the part of funders, researchers, and data providers. Among the most stringent remedies would be for databases like the U.K. Biobank to require researchers to contact potential participants and secure an additional form of specific consent.

Does American Law Currently Authorize the President to Seize Sovereign Russian Assets?

An essay by Laurence Tribe: Since Russia began its horrific invasion of Ukraine, there has been a concerted global effort to identify lawful ways to freeze, and to seize and use in assisting Ukraine, assets of Vladimir Putin’s oligarchs or of Russia itself. Writing in the New York Times last month, my colleague Jeremy Lewin and I pointed to one solution: presidential use of the authority Congress granted in the International Economic Emergency Powers Act of 1977 (IEEPA) to transfer to Ukraine the tens of billions of dollars in Russian government currency reserves that have already been frozen in American banks and the Federal Reserve. The urgency of pursuing that option has grown as the war has continued to rage and, as we predicted last month, political opposition to funding additional Ukraine aid from American taxpayer coffers has started to rise. So I was heartened to see Secretary of State Antony Blinken signal a few weeks ago that the Biden administration is now considering the option that Lewin and I proposed and to see growing momentum in Europe to adopt similar measures, recognizing that a coordinated NATO-G7 effort could unlock as much as $300 billion in frozen Russian money for the defense and reconstruction of Ukraine. At the same time, the administration is actively moving forward to continue to seize certain assets of private Russian oligarchs—a move endorsed by a bipartisan congressional resolution.

Climate Risk From ‘Zombie’ Rules

The 6-3 conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court is apparently poised to constrain climate action by the Environmental Protection Agency in a decision expected before the end of the SCOTUS term in June. The case, West Virginia v. EPA, involves the Obama Clean Power Plan regulations even though those rules no longer exist, and EPA is replacing them. Harvard Law Professor Richard Lazarus joins Host Steve Curwood to explain how a loss for EPA in this case could limit climate policies across multiple agencies.

Don’t believe those who say ending Roe v Wade will leave society largely intact

An op-ed by Laurence Tribe: Now that the dust has begun to settle after the initial explosive news that the US supreme court is poised to overrule the right to abortion and that Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization represents what a majority of the court initially voted to do, among the most revealing ways to understand the devastation the court appears ready to wreak on America’s long march toward “liberty and justice for all” is to examine the kinds of arguments being made in the opinion’s defense. The argument that such a ruling would simply return a divisive issue to the people had long since been widely dismantled. It certainly wouldn’t be returned to the people most profoundly affected once women were told they may have to remain pregnant despite whatever urgent reasons they might have for seeking a safe and legal abortion. It couldn’t be described as returning the abortion issue to the states, now that the possibility of a nationwide ban that the supreme court might uphold is on the horizon. And to the extent the issue is returned to the states, it would be returned to state legislatures so gerrymandered that they often represent the views of a distinct minority of the people anyway.

What the end of Roe signals about the rise of Christian power

The leaked draft Supreme Court opinion suggests that Roe v. Wade is about to fall. If the court overturns Roe, the impact will go far beyond abortion rights. It will also signal the dramatic expansion of religious authority into far-flung corners of American life, as conservative Christians impose their moral ideas on the general public. Conservatives have long been explicit in their view that the right to abortion had to be countered to maintain the Christian underpinnings of American society. After the court handed down its decision in 1973, for example, Christianity Today lamented that “the American state no longer supports, in any meaningful sense, the laws of God.” American Catholic bishops similarly spoke of the natural law that abortion violated and immediately mobilized to limit the damage. … So as the legal scholar Laurence H. Tribe later explained in the Harvard Law Review, the court took a step back from the issue. Rather than deciding the precise status of an unviable fetus, it asked itself the question, in Tribe’s words, “Who should make judgments of that sort?” The answer was clear, given the court’s prior rulings. The court should not decide, nor should political players at the state or federal level, nor should religious teachers. An individual woman in consultation with her doctor was the only person charged with making those judgments.