Coakley, Patrick press for new abortion clinic protections

Governor Deval Patrick and Attorney General Martha Coakley, responding to last week’s Supreme Court decision striking down the state’s buffer zone law, called Wednesday for legislation to crack down on harassment and obstruction outside abortion clinics…But Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard University, said that any effort to narrowly tailor the legislation could go too far and appear to target antiabortion protesters for the content of their speech. Crafting “a package that is limited to the abortion situation just raises the suspicion that these are all indirect ways of suppressing antiabortion speech,” he said.

Troubles at Embark

Embark, whose software helps colleges to process online applications, has owed graduate and professional schools millions of dollars and misled university officials about why it wasn’t quickly paying up, a former executive of the company is alleging amid an ongoing legal dispute…In February 2013, a graduate program within Harvard Law School asked Embark for $120,000 owed to it since November and December 2012. “Despite the promise of wire transfers by Embark (supposedly made on Feb. 1 initially and then again on Feb. 20), and despite our request for actual confirmation of the transfers, we have not received anything, not even evidence that any of the wire transfers were actually made,” Harvard assistant dean Jeanne Tai wrote in a February 2013 email, which appeared in the court filing. Harvard is not a party to the litigation. Reached last month by phone, Tai said everything had since been squared away.

The Supreme Court Was Right to Allow Anti-Abortion Protests

An op-ed by Laurence H. Tribe. Even as a committed supporter of a woman’s — increasingly imperiled — right to choose, I must acknowledge that the Supreme Court got it right on Thursday. In McCullen v. Coakley, the Court unanimously struck down a Massachusetts law setting a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics. While the buffer zone was enacted to ensure the safety of women seeking abortions, it also restricted the peaceful activities of the plaintiff, Eleanor McCullen, and other opponents of abortion, who sought to stand on the sidewalk and urge those women not to make what they see as a tremendous mistake.

Did Obama Fail Black America

An op-ed by Randall Kennedy. On January 20, 2009, when Barack Obama assumed the presidency, the overwhelming majority of African-Americans cheered and prayed for him. His inauguration was a signal moment in black history, reminiscent of the celebrations that accompanied the Emancipation Proclamation, Joe Louis’ victory over Max Schmeling and the March on Washington…For many, the passion has cooled. For some, the thrill is gone.

The Examiners: Mark J. Roe on Municipal Distress

An op-ed by Mark Roe. Detroit’s bankruptcy offers a cautionary tale for responsible municipal officials on how, and how not to, manage their budget. The pressure from pension obligations was a big factor in the Detroit bankruptcy. The simple lesson focuses on how municipalities save up to pay pensions to their retired police, firefighters, and other municipal employees. The city sets aside funds for the future retirement payments and expects earnings from the investments to help pay the pensions.

The Drone Memos Are Out and Say Nothing

An op-ed by Noah Feldman. Finally, after intense negotiation between the Barack Obama administration and senators including drone-strike stalwart Rand Paul, the government released the much discussed memo justifying the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, which was written by David Barron when he was the acting head of the Office of Legal Counsel. And the revelation is … nothing, or near enough to it. The reason isn’t that the memo is benign. It’s that it’s crucially incomplete. The administration redacted the important passages of the memo referring to Awlaki’s due process rights as a U.S. citizen. And it referred to another memo, also by Barron, that dealt with the constitutional issues. That memo is — you guessed it — still secret.

“Specious unanimity” in two blockbuster cases.

An op-ed by Laurence H. Tribe. We know, or at least think we know, how Supreme Court terms are supposed to end: with a string of high-profile, divided decisions. That’s certainly what happened last term. Ten of the court’s final 12 decisions of the term featured dissenting opinions—including 5–4 decisions (along what some describe as “party lines”) about gay marriage, the Voting Rights Act, and employment discrimination. This term, however, something very different is happening. With only two cases remaining to be handed down, a trend has already appeared: This is the term for high-profile unanimous decisions.

The court should protect privacy even when the public doesn’t value it

An op-ed by Laurence H. Tribe. …Wednesday’s decision—remarkable in its unanimity—was only superficially about cellphones. As Chief Justice John Roberts said, the term cellphone is “itself misleading shorthand; many of these devices are in fact minicomputers that also happen to have the capacity to be used as a telephone.” He added, “They could just as easily be called cameras, video players, rolodexes, calendars, tape recorders, libraries, diaries, albums, televisions, maps, or newspapers.”

Supreme Court bans warrantless cellphone searches

The Supreme Court, offering a sweeping endorsement of Americans’ right to digital privacy, unanimously declared Wednesday that police must obtain a warrant before searching a suspect’s cellphone….“This is a very clear ruling about cellphone searches incident to an arrest. I would not extrapolate from it,” said Charles Fried, a Harvard law professor who served as solicitor general under President Reagan. Fried pointed to a separate concurring opinion written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who invites Congress to weigh in and enact legislation that draws “reasonable distinctions based on categories of information.” “Alito generally has been rather skeptical about honoring the concerns of the privacy Taliban,” Fried said.

EPA Gets A Win From Supreme Court On Global Warming Emissions — Mostly

The U.S. Supreme Court gave the Environmental Protection Agency the green light to regulate greenhouse gases that are emitted from new and modified utility plants and factories on Monday…”This was kind of reminiscent of Macbeth’s final soliloquy — a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing,” said Harvard Law professor Richard Lazarus, who specializes in environmental law. “The EPA’s authority and ability to use the Clean Air Act to address climate change is essentially unchanged after today.”