DOJ Taps Public Defender Rossi for Access to Justice Post

Attorney General Merrick Garland has chosen Rachel Rossi to lead the Justice Department’s newly revived Office for Access to Justice. The office aims to expand legal services for people who cannot afford attorneys. It was created in the Obama administration and effectively shuttered under former President Donald Trump. … Laurence Tribe, a Harvard Law professor and the first leader of the office during the Obama administration, said he was “delighted” by the pick. He touted Rossi’s “impressive background as a progressive and brilliant state and federal public defender” and other experience.

Opinion: Trump’s alarming GOP primary wins demand a serious response

Republicans are in full-scale panic about Doug Mastriano, the right-wing extremist who won the GOP primary for Pennsylvania governor this week. They fear that his active collaboration in Donald Trump’s coup attempt, along with his crackpot views, might squander a big gubernatorial pickup opportunity in this crucial swing state. … Of course, if Mastriano becomes governor, the GOP-controlled legislature could pass a new law giving itself and/or the governor the sole authority to determine certification, as constitutional law expert Laurence Tribe points out.

FTC asked to probe ‘abuses’ of utility industry

A coalition of environmental and anti-monopoly groups have asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the business practices of electric utilities, claiming that the industry engages in “unfair competitive acts” that have obstructed renewable energy. Filed yesterday, the wide-ranging petition accuses investor-owned utilities of taking advantage of their status as regulated monopolies to uphold “market control” at the expense of consumers and certain climate-friendly policies. The filing asks the FTC to investigate the matter, collect data on electric utilities, and recommend new regulations or laws that the groups say could better protect consumers. … Broadly, the petition raises “systemic issues” within the utility industry that have implications for competition — something the FTC “ought to care about,” said Ari Peskoe, director of the Electricity Law Initiative at Harvard Law School. While some regulatory changes over the past several decades aimed to facilitate competition in the industry, the results have been mixed, Peskoe said.

Russia Uses Surrender in Mariupol to Portray Ukrainians as Terrorists

Russia seized on the mass surrender of Ukrainian troops at a Mariupol steel plant as a propaganda gift on Wednesday, moving to falsely label them as terrorists and create a parallel narrative to Ukraine’s portrayal of Russian soldiers as heinous war criminals. The mass surrender, which ended the longest battle of the three-month-old war, was depicted by the Russians as a glorious turning point in a conflict that Western military analysts and rights groups have described as disastrous for the Kremlin and its forces, which have bombed Ukraine indiscriminately and been accused of other atrocities. … “The Russians may now decide to bring cases against Ukrainian P.O.W.s,” said Alex Whiting, a war crimes prosecutor who is a visiting professor at Harvard Law School. “This shows how the atrocity crimes being committed by Russian forces, and Ukraine’s commitment to prosecute them, are so much the center of attention right now.”

States pursue extreme restrictions in crafting post-Roe abortion law

The day after the stunning leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) signed a ban on abortions in the state for pregnancies past six weeks. He wanted Oklahoma to be “the most pro-life state in the country,” which was in part why the state’s new ban included no exceptions for rape or incest. Within 48 hours of the leak, Republicans in Louisiana advanced a bill that would classify abortion as homicide and allow prosecutors to criminally charge patients, not just abortion providers. Though the bill would ultimately be scrapped, its supporters vowed that they would continue to push for “what’s right.” … The antiabortion movement turned away from punishing abortion patients because the public does not support those measures, said Mary Ziegler, a visiting professor at Harvard Law School who specializes in the history of abortion. According to a recent Monmouth University poll, nearly two-thirds of Americans support keeping abortion legal, either always or with some limitations. An additional 26 percent said it should be illegal with exceptions for rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. Only 8 percent said they thought abortion should always be illegal.

Abortion rights are protected in Massachusetts — or so we thought

An op-ed by Nancy Gertner: We were smug. We thought that the right to choose abortion was protected in Massachusetts no matter what the US Supreme Court did. The Supreme Judicial Court, the state’s highest court, said as much. In the 1981 case Moe v. Secretary of Administration and Finance, the SJC held that the right to choose abortion was protected under the Massachusetts Constitution. We represented the plaintiffs, indigent women who needed abortions because pregnancy posed substantial risks to their health and who relied on public funds for their care. You had a right to abortion, the US Supreme Court said, but the federal government didn’t have to pay for it. In a 6-1 decision, with justices selected by Republican and Democratic governors, the SJC disagreed: The Commonwealth had to fund medically necessary abortions, even if the federal government did not. Why? Because the Massachusetts Constitution protected an individual’s right to choose in no uncertain terms. It included the right to be free from government intrusion into the decision “whether to bear or beget a child,” a decision involving “the most intimate of human activities and relationships.” It defined a right to privacy that covered more than abortion. There was a “private realm of family life which the state cannot enter,” as the SJC described in a 1944 case about a parent’s choice of religious training for their children. It covered “the sanctity of individual free choice and self-determination,” as the court described its 1977 case about a citizen’s right to refuse life-prolonging treatment.

The Supreme Court’s History of Protecting the Powerful

Laurence Tribe, who turned eighty last year, has been one of the most prominent liberal legal scholars of the last half century. A professor to John Roberts, a mentor to Barack Obama, and an advocate who has appeared dozens of times before the Supreme Court, Tribe has also published numerous books about the Constitution and the Court’s history. More recently, Tribe—despite the reverence with which he initially wrote about the Court—has been highly critical of what he sees as its increasing rightward tilt and politicization by Republican-nominated Justices. Tribe has also established himself as a prolific commenter on current affairs, both on television and Twitter (where he has more than a million followers), specifically by making caustic attacks on former President Donald Trump, whom he has accused of committing multiple crimes. I recently spoke by phone with Tribe, currently the Carl M. Loeb University Professor, Emeritus, at Harvard, several days after the leak of Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion that argued for overturning Roe v. Wade. During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we also discussed his impressions of Justice Roberts throughout the decades, his changing views of the Court’s role in American life, and how he looks back on his controversial work for the coal industry.

How industrial standards help explain Russia’s economic motives for invading Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin tries to justify his invasion of Ukraine with a lot of lies — Nazis in Ukraine, nuclear weapons in Ukraine and the idea that Ukraine has always been a part of Russia. But lurking in the background and left unsaid are reasons why Russia’s invasion could also be a matter of rubles and kopeks. Ukraine represents a market of 44 million consumers, as well as a fair amount of manufacturing capacity. But the country has been moving its economy away from Russia’s — and turning toward Europe — since the first Russian invasion eight years ago. And one way Ukraine has been moving away from Russia has to do with industrial standards. …  “It’s also one way to sort of keep countries locked into its economic orbit,” said Mark Wu, a professor at Harvard Law School. Several former Soviet states use Russia’s industrial standards, which creates a captive market for Russian goods. Plus, Wu said Russia can dangle its standards in front of less-developed economies that want a market for their products. “[This is] to say, ‘Integrate this way towards us. You’re better off doing so. You’re going to be more competitive doing so. And we offer a sizable market where you can compete,’” Wu said.

‘Trust isn’t built by just one policy.’ Abortion care rights in the workplace are complicated

It’s about to be a lot harder to get an abortion in the United States. For many, it’s already hard. The result is that employers, including large companies, are being called upon to fill the abortion care gap. The likelihood of a Roe v. Wade reversal was the push some needed to extend benefits, with Microsoft and Tesla announcing abortion-related travel reimbursements in recent weeks. But the privacy and legal risks facing people in need of abortions loom large. If people have reason to fear texting friends for abortion resources, will they really want to confide in their company? … “Once you criminalize the activity, it opens up so much more leeway for law enforcement and prosecutors to launch investigations,” said Alejandra Caraballo, clinical instructor at Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic. “Especially in states like Louisiana and others where they classify abortion as homicide.”