Trump bruised as polls favour Biden – but experts warn of risk of dirty tricks

It was the death of a salesman. With tie undone and crumpled “Make America great again” cap in hand, Donald Trump cut a forlorn figure shambling across the White House south lawn on his return from his failed comeback rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Some observers likened him to Willy Loman, the tragic protagonist of Arthur Miller’s benchmark drama. The US president, critics say, has spent years selling a bill of goods to the American people. Now they are no longer buying…Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard University, said: “He could announce, perhaps without any basis at all, in mid-October that a new vaccine has been found, and he could pressure the FDA [Food and Drug Administration]to approve it and that could mess with the vote. He could get help of the sort he has already asked for from China and Russia to interfere with the vote.” “He could engage in conspiratorial vote suppression in which a number of people are prevented from voting by a sudden announcement that there is a spike in the coronavirus in certain jurisdictions. The power that he has as president to both manipulate the votes actually cast, and in addition to that, to launch challenges where his manipulation has not been sufficiently successful is enormously broad.” Tribe added: “If we know nothing else about this man, we know that his priorities are entirely personal and narcissistic. We know that he is not worried about the stability or the safety of the country and, given that set of psychological realities, it would take a much more ironclad process than we have to warrant any degree of confidence that we will have a smooth and peaceful transition to a new president next January.”

Major Automakers Choose Not To Back Trump Administration On Fuel Economy Standards Rollback

Four major automakers will remain neutral in a legal standoff over the Trump administration’s plan to substantially weaken federal fuel economy standards developed under the Obama White House, according to early media reports. Ford, Volkswagen, Honda and BMW plan to file a joint motion today in a Washington, DC., appeals court that will give the companies a say on final auto rules should courts reject the Trump administration’s proposed change, but that will not take a position on the proposed change itself, according to reports by Bloomberg and Reuters. In March, the Trump administration rolled out a long-awaited rule change that would require automakers to improve fuel economy standards by only around 1.5% per year. That would be much lower than the roughly 5% per year improvement that a rule issued by the Obama administration in 2009 and updated in 2012 has required…Experts who have followed the legal tug-of-war over whose standards should prevail were not surprised by today’s news that the four automakers had chosen to remain neutral. “I think most people watching these cases expected the companies to either support the challengers [California, the other states, and energy companies]…or to intervene the way they have neutrally to protect their interests. I don’t think anyone was expecting these four companies to side with the Trump administration,” said Caitlin McCoy, a staff attorney at Harvard Law School’s Environmental Law and Energy Program. “That said, I assume that California, the other states and energy companies challenging these rules hoped that these four companies would side with them rather than remaining neutral because it would send a message to the court about the feasibility of complying with more ambitious standards and the willingness of the industry to be subject to higher standards. Perhaps the companies feel that their agreement with California sends that message and so they don’t need to side with the challengers in the case to demonstrate that,” said McCoy.

The phrase ‘criminal justice system’ has to go

An article by David J. Harris: It is becoming increasingly clear that we, as a nation, have arrived at a crossroads.  Between the coronavirus and the private and state-sanctioned lynchings of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd sandwiched around the white lives matter moment of Amy Cooper, we seem to be approaching a reckoning of sorts.  That reckoning will be essential if we are to move forward from this place of pain and anguish. And any such movement will certainly require deep and broad reflection and action.  An essential aspect of our reckoning will be interrogating the language we use to describe the social forces we confront.  For several years I have been advocating that we eliminate the term “criminal justice system” from our lexicon. It is a term fraught with powerful negative associations and one that corrupts the meaning of justice. It is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine a system that begins with “criminal” as a pathway to anything but criminalization. As with breaking any habit, withdrawing from “criminal justice” can be painful. It is, after all, accepted as a term of trade. The phrase is used to capture a whole range of activities from policing to prosecution, from charging to conviction, from trial to sentencing and (mass) incarceration. On the front end it captures police, bail, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges. On the back end, it describes all who function within prisons, parole, probation. This is not an exhaustive list, but it makes the point: however dysfunctional it may be, it certainly has enough components to look like a system.  But, let’s call that system what it is: a law enforcement system.

Federal judge orders Department of Education to cancel loans for 7,200 students

A federal judge has ordered US Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to cancel the student loan debt of more than 7,200 Massachusetts students who attended Everest Institute, part of Corinthian Colleges’ defunct national chain of for-profit schools, capping a prolonged legal battle. In a 73-page decision, US District Judge Leo T. Sorokin ruled that the Department of Education must approve a 2015 application by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey seeking a discharge of the students’ federal loans based on allegations of widespread illegal conduct and deception by Corinthian. The order also applies to Parent Plus loans obtained on the students’ behalf. “Thousands of Massachusetts students cheated by Corinthian have finally had their day in court, and they have won,” Healey said in a statement Friday. “This landmark victory for students will cancel the federal loans for thousands of defrauded borrowers, mostly Black and Latinx students, targeted by a predatory for-profit school and abandoned by Secretary DeVos and the Trump Administration. For five years, our office and the Project on Predatory Student Lending have fought to win students the relief they deserve and today we have won decisively.” …The ruling was issued in a case the Project on Predatory Student Lending Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School had filed on behalf of five students who had attended Everest Institute, which had campuses in Brighton and Chelsea. It went bankrupt in 2015 after running afoul of state and federal regulators. In his ruling, Sorokin granted the plaintiffs’ request for class-action status, expanding his order to include more than 7,200 students who attended the school. “This ruling is a clear and powerful statement of the rights of student borrowers, and a resounding rejection of the Department of Education’s ongoing and across-the-board refusal to recognize these rights and cancel fraudulent student loans,” said Toby Merrill, who directs the Project on Predatory Student Lending.

How Far Bill Barr Has Fallen

An article by Charles Fried and Edward J. Larson: Many observers breathed a sigh of relief when Bill Barr was confirmed as attorney general. Here was a respected professional who had served in the post once before in an honorable administration. Now, just a year and a half later, what a disappointment he has proved. The man cannot be trusted. Think of the intentionally misleading account he gave of the Mueller report, at a time when the public and Congress had only Barr’s word to go by. Or the brief he allowed his Justice Department to file with the Supreme Court in the case about including a citizenship question on the 2020 census, whose rationale the Court later characterized as “contrived” and “pretextual.” Or his false account of the use of armed forces to clear Lafayette Square for the president’s photo op. Or his statement that U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman asked to step down, when Berman had done no such thing. And now we have damning testimony this week about the politicization of the Department of Justice in the prosecution of the Trump ally Roger Stone. The attorney general is entitled to his opinion on the policies underlying these matters, and to argue forcefully for them. But as a lawyer, as a high official, as an officer of the court, he must not misrepresent the facts or the authorities. Americans need not agree with the attorney general’s arguments or conclusions, but they must have absolute confidence that he will not try to deceive them.

In protest of Facebook’s failure to moderate hate, Verizon and Unilever stage a boycott

The consumer goods company Unilever and telecommunications corporation Verizon have both announced that they will boycott advertising on Facebook as a way of addressing the social media giant’s permissive attitude toward hateful content on its platform. Unilever, which manufactures everything from soap and laundry detergent to ice cream and mayonnaise, referred Salon to a statement explaining that the company wishes to address social issues in a responsible way and has developed a “Responsibility Framework” to guide its policies. The statement argued that, because of the “divisiveness and hate speech during this polarized election period in the U.S.,” the company is taking its social responsibilities very seriously and avoiding advertising on prominent social media platforms…Even before he retaliated against Twitter, Trump began threatening the platform. Salon spoke with Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe by email about whether his rhetoric violated Twitter’s First Amendment rights. “The threat by Donald Trump to shut down social media platforms that he finds objectionable is a dangerous overreaction by a thin-skinned president. Any such move would be blatantly unconstitutional under the First Amendment,” Tribe explained. “That doesn’t make the threat harmless, however, because the president has many ways in which he can hurt individual companies, and his threat to do so as a way of silencing dissent is likely to chill freedom of expression and will undermine constitutional democracy in the long run.” Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California–Irvine, echoed Tribe’s view.

The Role of Federal Courts in Coronavirus-Related Immigration Detention Litigation

An article by Aditi Shah ’20From the outset, the coronavirus pandemic posed a unique and immediate threat to incarcerated people—including noncitizens in civil immigration detention. As the pandemic goes on, lawsuits have proliferated across the country challenging the inadequate response of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to the spread of the coronavirus. Since mid-March, when many cities and states began instituting stay-at-home orders, more than 100 lawsuits have been filed in federal courts seeking relief on behalf of noncitizens in ICE custody at heightened risk of serious illness or death due to the virus. The lawsuits have asked for a range of remedies, from ordering ICE to comply with guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reduce the risk of detainees contracting the virus, to seeking temporary release for detainees at greater medical risk. With ICE failing to create safe conditions and refusing to release at-risk detainees, detained noncitizens across the country have turned to federal judges, who have been entrusted with resolving this facet of the national public health crisis. These cases offer insight into a crucial function of the judiciary during the pandemic, balancing traditional competing interests of detainees and the government while incorporating a modified definition of “public interest” in light of the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, the respiratory disease the virus causes.

Police unions blamed for rise in fatal shootings even as crime plummeted

Police unions have emerged as the leading opponent of reform efforts as lawmakers respond to weeks of protests over the police killings of Black people across the country. Despite years of demonstrations against police violence, data shows that law enforcement agencies killed more people last year than they did five years ago. Black people are killed at a far higher rate than white people. The rise comes even as violent crime has plummeted across the country for decades. Despite the falling crime numbers, America’s policing budget has nearly tripled over the last 45 years…Police unions have increasingly come under fire after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Bob Kroll, the president of the Minneapolis Police union, defended the officers charged in Floyd’s murder and described protesters as a “terrorist movement.” Kroll complained that the officers involved in Floyd’s death were “terminated without due process” and that “what is not being told is the violent criminal history of George Floyd,” whose criminal history mostly involved just nonviolent drug and theft charges…As a result, many in the labor movement have pushed to disassociate police unions from other public sector unions. In Seattle, the King County Labor Council, a coalition of 150 unions representing 100,000 workers, expelled the Seattle police union last week.  “The consequence of police abusing [collective bargaining] power is that people end up dead,” Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law and a member of the National Labor Relations Board under President Obama, told Vox. “That is happening at a significant rate and that’s just a completely different context from the rest of the public sector.”