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This Week in Civil Liberties (3/23/2012)

Rekha Arulanantham,
Litigation Fellow,
ACLU National Prison Project
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March 23, 2012

Some employers are asking job applicants for their passwords to which social networking site?

Which court ruled that a law that protects pregnant workers is unenforceable?

Which country is the only one in the world that sentences children to life without parole?

What government agency continues to defend warrantless wiretapping?

How could a shooter claim self-defense after killing an unarmed teenager in Florida?

Your Facebook Password Should Be None of Your Boss’ Business
This week, the Associated Press reported that some employers are asking applicants for their Facebook usernames and passwords. Responding to the news, ACLU attorney Catherine Crump said: “You’d be appalled if your employer insisted on opening up your postal mail to see if there was anything of interest inside. It’s equally out of bounds for an employer to go on a fishing expedition through a person’s private social media account.”

The (Not-So-Secret) War on Moms: How the Supreme Court Took Protections Away from Pregnant Workers
This week, the Supreme Court ruled, by the all-too-familiar 5-4 margin, that a provision of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) giving workers time off to care for their own serious health conditions — including pregnancy and childbirth — can’t be enforced by state employees in damages lawsuits against their public employers. The decision in Coleman v. Court of Appeals of Maryland effectively stripped many public employees — the majority of whom are women — of the right to job protection when they need to take time off while pregnant.

Podcast: Irredeemable at 14?
The U.S. is the only country in the world that sentences children to life without parole. Matthew Bentley was 14 years old in 1997 when he broke into a house he thought was unoccupied. While rummaging for valuables, he was confronted by the owner. Matthew shot and killed her with a gun he found in the house. At the time of his crime, Matthew couldn’t legally smoke, drive or join the military, but he would receive a mandatory adult sentence — life without the possibility of parole. In a new podcast, you can listen to Matthew tell his own story.

Even After Supreme Court GPS Decision, Feds Still Want Warrantless Cell Phone Tracking
Even after January’s landmark Supreme Court decision cast significant doubt on the government’s ability to electronically track a person’s location without a warrant, the Justice Department continues to defend this practice. Last Friday, the ACLU, along with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Democracy and Technology and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, arguing that the government should be required to obtain a warrant based on probable cause before seizing 60 days’ worth of location information generated by an individual’s cell phone.

Justice for Trayvon
As we learn more about the tragic shooting death of Trayvon Martin, concerns are being raised about the manner, thoroughness and neutrality of the investigation by the police in Sanford, Fla. Justice is supposed to be blind. Investigators should not be. Any real investigation worthy of a professional law enforcement agency must consider the facts. And if racial biases or stereotypes played a part in what happened on Feb. 26, that’s a fact.

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