SALT Blog

Seattle University School of Law Hosts Conference on Poverty Law: Academic Activism, Feb. 19-20, 2016

Poverty Law: Academic Activism Seattle University School of Law Feb. 19-20, 2016 Call for Proposals:   We invite proposals for presentations at a Spring 2016 conference, “Poverty Law: Academic Activism” to be held on Feb. 19-20, 2016, hosted by Seattle University School of Law.  The conference will focus on the connection between academics and activism, broadly understood.  Just as “poverty law” is a broad category that includes everything from welfare and education programs to immigration and tax policy, so too, “academic activism” includes a wide range of activities.  This conference will explore how members of the legal community directly engage with activists to effect social, legal, and policy changes; how scholarship can help improve the lives of the poor;... Continue »

Arkansas Muslim Prisoner Wins Case, Adds to Legal Legacy

  By SpearIt Last week, the Supreme Court struck down an Arkansas prison policy that restricted inmates from sporting a half-inch beard.  The prisoner-plaintiff, Gregory Holt, aka Abdul Maalik Muhammad, is particularly interesting since he confounds cultural stereotypes, looking more like someone from Duck Dynasty or the movie Deliverance than anything Muslim; as a white inmate, he is a statistical minority in a place where whites are only a tiny fraction of Muslim followers, making him a double-minority of sorts, and perhaps the perfect plaintiff. This lawsuit pitted Muhammad’s sincere religious beliefs in growing a beard against the claim that beards on inmates breach institutional security.  In unanimously striking the policy, a skeptical court found little merit in the prison’s concerns, and included statements of a magistrate judge who spoke to Muhammad:… Continue »

Restore Pell Grants for Prisoners

By SpearIt   Last month the Department of Education clarified the eligibility rules for Federal Pell Grant funding. Although Congress barred Pell Grants in 1994 for those confined in “Federal or State Penal institutions,” according to the clarification, these are distinct from “juvenile justice facilities” and “local and county jails, penitentiaries, and correctional facilities.” Although, this ruling will effectively increase the number of incarcerated individuals applying for and receiving Pell funding, the vast majority remain ineligible. Prisoners first became eligible for federal funding in 1972, when federal legislation directly allowed for imprisoned individuals to apply for Pell Grants. The push to include prisoners for Pell eligibility was consistent with the grant’s design to assist economically challenged Americans work toward post-secondary study and training. For over two decades, prisoners were treated as a part… Continue »

SALT Testifies at Public Hearing on Uniform Bar Exam

SALT will testify at a public hearing on the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) on January 20, 2015 at CUNY School of Law, making the points outlined in this letter. SALT will testify: 1) that New York attorneys have long critiqued the utility and disparate impact on racial minorities of the New York Bar Exam as it is currently administered; (2) more study is needed to determine whether adoption of the UBE will exacerbate the disparate impact that the bar exam has on particular subgroups of test takers;  3) instead of adopting the UBE, New York officials should encourage the National Council of Bar Examiners to reform the bar exam as it currently exists so that it more accurately tests... Continue »

Did Religious Profiling Allow Paris Terrorists to Proceed Undetected?

By Sahar Aziz Terrorism aims to invoke mass havoc and fear. Recent attacks in Western cities involved bombings of public buildings, transportation, and marathons, or mass shootings of civilians, conducted by amateur lone wolves. For this reason the calculated assassination of France’s best satirists raises serious concerns about the focus of French counterterrorism strategy. As they enlarge the blanket scrutiny of Muslims without individualized suspicion, French law enforcement is more likely to waste resources investigating innocent people. Meanwhile, the guilty have more opportunity to plot undetected. That French officials were unaware of this premeditated murder plot, notwithstanding numerous threats to Charlie Hebdo cartoonists over the years, evinces a breakdown in anti-terrorism enforcement. Specifically, one cannot help but wonder if the conflation of Muslims with terrorism may have distracted law enforcement from focusing on the… Continue »

Prisons, Muslim Memory & the Making of a Terrorist

 By SpearIt The media spotlight on Cherif Kouachi’s life rekindles questions about prisons and radicalization. As an alleged participant of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, Kouachi has seemingly led many lives. In one incarnation, he was a marijuana-smoking rapper. Later, he would turn jihadi and find himself jailed, awaiting conviction for jihadist crimes. Over a decade of research on Islam in prison, I have concentrated on religious conversion and prisoner radicalization – this offers unique insight to Kouachi’s story. One urgent question is whether jail had anything to do with the attack. Paradoxically, the answer is no – and yes. Muslim prisoners overrepresented in French jails For France, Kouachi’s case calls for a close look at its prisons. With a prison population that is, reportedly, 60% Muslim, it is worthwhile to examine what exactly… Continue »

Review of Drones & Targeted Killing, edited by Marjorie Cohn

Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues (2014 Olive Branch Press, 296 pages) Edited by Marjorie Cohn Shining Light Into the Dark World of US Drone Warfare By Charles Sevilla, Los Angeles Daily Journal, Book Review This book is a compilation of fifteen authors’ views on U.S. drone killing policy. Drones are automated, pilotless flying machines capable of seeking out and assassinating individuals or groups anywhere. U.S. drone strikes have been ongoing for over a decade and their use has steadily escalated. Approved at the highest levels of government, they are justified as legal and effective measures to defend the homeland. This book questions both premises. The contributing authors are human rights and political activists, policy wonks, lawyers, legal scholars, a philosopher, a journalist and a sociologist, all… Continue »

Torture Report Confirms Team Bush War Crimes

By Marjorie Cohn Reading the 499-page torture report just released by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence was a disgusting experience. Even after many years of writing books and articles about the Bush torture policy, I was unprepared for the atrocious pattern of crimes our government committed against other human beings in our name. One of the most hideous techniques the CIA plied on detainees was called “rectal rehydration” or “rectal feeding” without medical necessity – a sanitized description of rape by a foreign object. A concoction of pureed “hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts and raisins” was forced into the rectum of one detainee. Another was subjected to “rectal rehydration” to establish the interrogator’s “total control over the detainee.” This constitutes illegal, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a humiliating… Continue »

(Part 1) Torture without torturers: On the rise and fall of the US political definition of torture as it pertains to US domestic criminal accountability for US official torture

By Benjamin G. Davis, Associate Professor of Law, University of Toledo College of Law, Advocates for US Torture Prosecutions This is my most recent first cut at trying to make sense of all that I have read and seen over the past ten years working for criminal prosecution in US domestic courts of senior officials and military leaders for torture.  It is about understanding a path to where we are today and for seeing the path going forward.  It will be in more than one part. I. The putting in place of the Political Definition of Torture A. Principle No. 1: Torture is murder only On December 14, 2014, on Meet the Press former Vice President Dick Cheney gave his definition of torture as what happened to those people burned… Continue »

I Can't Breathe: American Torture as America's 21st Century Lynch Law

By Benjamin G. Davis, Associate Professor of Law, University of Toledo College of Law, Advocates for US Torture Prosecutions “I can’t breathe” is on the t-shirts and in the mouths of demonstrators all over America as they protest the non-indictment of Eric Garner’s killers in New York, the non-indictment of Michael Brown’s killer in Ferguson, the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer in Florida and case after case of unarmed black men and women killed by the police all across America.  On the media, we see a diverse group of Americans in the 24/7 news cycle dissecting every aspect of those cases and trying to make meaning of all that. And I support those efforts to address the profound contradiction experienced by many Americans at  watching a man get killed on videotape by… Continue »