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This Week in Civil Liberties (04/20/12)

Rekha Arulanantham,
Litigation Fellow,
ACLU National Prison Project
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April 20, 2012

Which state saved no taxpayer money by implementing a law that requires drug testing of all of applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)?

What company fired an employee for using medical marijuana in accordance with state law?

In what decision did the Supreme Court rule that defendant cannot rely upon statistical evidence of systemic racial bias to prove his death sentence unconstitutional?

Which House bill would give the government powers to snoop through people’s personal information without a warDrant, proper oversight or limits?

The ACLU and Center for Constitutional Rights are seeking information on a U.S. targeted killing strike that killed dozens of civilians in which country?

Just as We Suspected: Florida Saved Nothing by Drug Testing Welfare Applicants
This week the New York Times released the most comprehensive data yet on Florida’s law mandating suspicionless drug testing of all applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The law mandated that all applicants pay for the cost of the drug test themselves, and that they be reimbursed if their test came back negative. The law was in effect for a mere four months before the ACLU of Florida filed a lawsuit and a federal court blocked the law, saying it was unconstitutional.We already knew that the law was a failure; what we didn’t know was just how much of a failure it was.

Medical Marijuana Patient Fired by Wal-Mart Deserves His Day in Court
Some readers may recall the story of Joseph Casias, the model employee who was fired from his job at Wal-Mart for using medical marijuana in accordance with state law. The ACLU was in court this week to argue that an appeals court should reinstate a lawsuit we filed on Casias’ behalf, charging Wal-Mart and the manager of its Battle Creek, Mich., store with wrongfully firing him.

If Germany Had the Death Penalty: a Thought Experiment
April 22 marks the 25th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in McCleskey v. Kemp, in which the Court ruled that a defendant cannot rely upon statistical evidence of systemic racial bias to prove his death sentence unconstitutional, no matter how strong that evidence may be. McCleskey has been roundly condemned as a low point in the quest for equality that begs to be revisited. Here’s a thought experiment: Imagine this scenario, if Germany had the death penalty.

Kicking off “Stop Cyber Spying Week”
The ACLU, along with several other groups, launched a weeklong campaign called “Stop Cyber Spying Week” to draw attention to the massive civil liberties problems in H.R. 3523, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011, better known as CISPA. CISPA is scheduled to be voted on by the House of Representatives next week.

Seeking the Truth About U.S. Targeted Killing Strike That Killed Dozens of Women and Children in Yemen
This week the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking information about a horrific U.S. missile strike, killing at least 41 people in the remote mountain village of al-Majalah in Yemen’s Abyan province. The government was purportedly targeting “militants,” but those killed include at least 21 children and 14 women.