Blog of Rights

This Week in Civil Liberties (08/09/2013)

By Rekha Arulanantham, ACLU at 4:21pm

In which state did a judge grant 29-year-old Jenny Hatch control over her life by denying her parents' guardianship?

What law authorizes the National Security Agency's mass surveillance programs?

How many prisoners suffering from serious mental illness does the state of Colorado hold in solitary confinement?

What federal court ruled this week that the government must provide automatic bond hearings to immigrants detained six months or longer while fighting their deportation cases in the Los Angeles area?

True or false: the former press secretary for Alabama Gov. Bob Riley stated this week that abortion opponents' true goal is not to make abortion clinics safer, but to close all abortion clinics.

Disability Is No Excuse to Deprive One of Civil Liberties

The guardianship system in this country raises serious concerns. That's why the guardianship trial of Jenny Hatch, a vibrant and active 29-year-old in a battle over who controls her life, struck such a chord. Jenny spoke for many other people with disabilities when she said clearly in her trial: "I don't need guardianship. I don't want it."

Government Reverses Course on Warrantless Wiretapping in Criminal Case, Admits Duty to Notify Defendants

Last week, the government finally took a step toward living up to promises it made in the Supreme Court this past fall. Reversing course in a little-watched criminal case in Florida, the government conceded its obligation to notify defendants when prosecutors intend to use as evidence communications intercepted pursuant to the FISA Amendments Act (FAA), one of the laws authorizing the National Security Agency's mass surveillance programs. But while the development in Florida is important, the government continues to take extraordinary efforts to conceal its use of the law from both Congress and the courts. As a result, the likelihood of any court reviewing the FAA's constitutionality in the context of a criminal proceeding remains slim.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Colorado Continues to Warehouse Mentally Ill Prisoners in Solitary

According to a new report from the ACLU of Colorado, Colorado currently holds 87 prisoners suffering from serious mental illness in solitary confinement. The number of prisoners in solitary confinement with moderate mental illness is much higher. This is despite the fact that a growing majority of the psychiatric community agrees that isolating seriously mentally ill prisoners for any length of time further damages their mental health. Additionally, courts across the country have been unanimous in finding that such isolation is a violation of the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

VICTORY: Federal Court Rules Immigration Detainees Deserve Fair Hearings

This week, we won another victory against one of the most draconian parts of our immigration system: the federal government's practice of putting immigrants in long-term detention without the basic due process of a bond hearing. In Rodriguez v. Robbins, a class action lawsuit brought by the ACLU, a federal district court held that the government must provide automatic bond hearings to immigrants detained six months or longer in the Los Angeles area while fighting their deportation cases.

The Anti-Abortion Agenda Explained (Here's a Hint: It's Not About Women's Safety)

During the current legislative session, more than 300 provisions were introduced across the country to prevent access to abortion, including some of the most severe abortion restrictions we've ever seen. For months, we have been lamenting that these extremist politicians must think we're stupid if they think we won't realize that their legislative maneuvering is part of a coordinated, national plan to outlaw women's health clinics and cut off access to abortion care.

Well at least one former political operative is willing to come out and say the truth – abortion opponents' true goal is not to make abortion clinics safer, but to close all abortion clinics.

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