Tag Archives: Federal court

Michigan governor signs wolf-hunting bill into law

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has signed a law that would authorize wolf-hunting if Congress or federal courts revisit the issue.

State lawmakers quickly passed the bill after the Michigan appeals court recently declared a 2014 law unconstitutional.

The law signed this past week defines wolves as a game species and authorizes the state Natural Resources Commission to designate game.

Money in the law related to Asian carp control could shield the measure from a statewide referendum.

Wolf hunting is not allowed in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota because of a 2014 federal court ruling.

A judge threw out an Obama administration decision to remove gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region from the endangered species list.

Michigan’s only hunt was in 2013, when 22 wolves were killed in the Upper Peninsula.

Federal court weighs key decision on LGBT-workplace bias

A rare full-court session of a U.S. appeals court in Chicago heard arguments this week on whether protections under a 1964 Civil Rights Act should be expanded to cover workplace discrimination against LGBT employees, as hopes dim among some gay rights activists that the question will be resolved in their favor following Republican election victories.

Several of the 11 judges at the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals signaled they are ready to enter what would be a historic ruling broadening the scope the 52-year-old landmark law, with the court directing the toughest questions during the hourlong hearing at a lawyer who argued only Congress could extend the protections.

Judge Richard Posner repeatedly interrupted the lawyer representing an Indiana community college that was sued by a lesbian for alleged discrimination and at one point asked: “Who will be hurt if gays and lesbians have a little more job protection?” When attorney John Maley said he couldn’t think of anyone who would be harmed, Posner shot back, “So, what’s the big deal?”

Even if the 7th Circuit becomes the first U.S. appellate court to rule that the law covers sexual-orientation bias, legal experts say the issue is likely to land before the Supreme Court. Chances of a majority of justices agreeing that workplace protections should include LGBT workers will be slimmer if President-elect Donald Trump fills a high court vacancy with a social conservative.

A GOP-majority House and Senate also makes it unlikely the next Congress will amend the statute, said Chicago-based labor lawyer Barry Hartstein.

“You can’t count on Congress or the courts,” said Hartstein, who wants the act to cover LGBT workers.

President Barack Obama’s administration has taken the position that the law already prohibits discrimination of LGBT workers. It has criticized courts for a reluctance to reach the same conclusion.

The 7th Circuit decided in October to rehear the case of teacher Kimberly Hively, who claimed Ivy Tech Community College didn’t hire her full time because she is a lesbian. The full court vacated the July finding by three of its own judges that the civil rights law doesn’t cover sexual-orientation bias. A new ruling is expected within several weeks.

The hearing focused on the meaning of the word ‘sex’ in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the provision that bans workplace bias based on race, religion, national origin or sex. Multiple court rulings back Maley’s contention that Congress meant for the word to refer only to whether a worker was male or female. Given that, he said it would be wrong to stretch the meaning of ‘sex’ in the statute to also include sexual orientation.

The school’s lawyer conceded the law is imprecise, but added: “That makes it an issue for Congress.”

Several judges challenged him for arguing it’s not a federal court’s place to mandate that a law do something lawmakers didn’t originally intend for it to do.

“You seem to think the meaning of the statute was frozen on the day it passed,” Posner said to Maley. “That, of course, is false.” And the judge added: “Are we bound by what people thought in 1964?”

He and other judges pointed to bans on interracial marriage as examples of laws that changed or were expanded by courts as societal norms changed.

In his presentation, the teacher’s lawyer pointed to what he described as the absurdity of one 1980s Supreme Court finding that if workers are discriminated against because they don’t behave around the office by norms of how men or women should behave, then that does violate the Civil Rights Law. But if a man or woman is discriminated against at work for being gay that was found not to violate the Civil Rights Act.

“You can’t discriminate against a woman because she rides a Harley, had Bears tickets or has tattoos,” attorney Gregory Nevins said. “But you can if she’s lesbian.”

 

U.S. court overturns Wisconsin legislative maps

A federal three-judge panel on Nov. 21 ruled that Wisconsin’s legislative maps are unconstitutional.

The ruling came in a case filed by 12 Wisconsin Democrats who sued more than a year ago and an appeal is likely.

A press statement said this is the first time a map has been overturned by a federal court for being gerrymandered for political reasons.

“The ruling in Whitford v. Gill (formerly Whitford v Nichol) is a stunning victory for democracy,” said Sachin Chheda, director of the Fair Election Project, which organized and launched the lawsuit. “The citizens of Wisconsin will now have a chance to elect a government which represents us.”

“This is a victory for democracy — not just for Democrats, but for all Wisconsin citizens,” stated Sen. Dale Schultz, a former Republican Majority Leader of the Wisconsin State Senate who co-chairs the Fair Elections Project. “Everyone benefits from a fair elections process that moderates the worst tendencies of extremists in both parties.

“What happened in Wisconsin in 2011 was an egregious violation of our state’s moral values,” added Sen. Tim Cullen, a former Democratic Majority Leader of the Wisconsin State Senate who served as the other co-chair. “Instead of voters choosing their elected officials, the Republican majority in Wisconsin decided they would entrench themselves in power despite the views of voters. The court has said today that will not stand.”

Originally filed in July 2015, the lawsuit demanded the district maps for the state Legislature be thrown out, calling the line-drawing process “secretive” and “partisan,” and the maps unconstitutional for overly advantaging one party.

The plaintiffs said the lawsuit fulfills a call issued by the U.S. Supreme Court in previous cases for a standard to measure how much partisan gerrymandering is allowable and shows how Wisconsin’s map is “far outside acceptable redistricting norms.”

A trial was conducted before the federal panel in Madison in May.

“I’m very pleased with this decision,” said lead plaintiff Bill Whitford. “It is truly historic. As a lifelong Democrat, the court’s decision recognizes the power of my voice and the voices of all other Democrats across the state. This decision could have a monumental impact in ensuring that voters’ voices are heard across the nation, regardless of party. I want fair elections, where the voters have the power, not a gerrymander for either side created by self-interested politicians. That’s what today’s decision is all about.”

“Today is a historic day and I am thrilled with the result not only for our plaintiffs, but for all Wisconsin voters,” stated lead trial attorney Peter Earle. “This decision will finally give voters in Wisconsin the power they deserve to shape their democracy. Now a fairer system will be created here in Wisconsin so all voters, not just a select few, will be able to have their voices heard.”

Gerry Hebert, director of the Voting Rights and Redistricting Program at the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C., had this to say: “This is truly a monumental victory for the plaintiffs in this case, but more importantly this is an historic moment for our nation and the betterment of democracy,” said . The Campaign Legal Center joined the case in the months leading up to trial.

The court did not rule on a remedy, ordering further rounds of briefing and potentially testimony in the coming weeks.

Reaction to the ruling …

• “The Department of Justice is evaluating the court’s 159-page decision and we plan to appeal,” said Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel. “This 2-1 decision does not affect the results of this month’s election or any prior election and legislative district boundaries remain unchanged until the court rules on any remedy.”

Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said:  “Voters should be able to choose their representatives, not the other way around. Today’s ruling is a victory for democracy and the people of Wisconsin.

“Once again, a court has declared the Republican’s 2011 legislative maps unconstitutional. This is an historic victory for voters and a further admonishment of the extremely slanted maps that trample the democratic will of the people of Wisconsin.

“I want to thank the voters who came forward to bring this challenge and who bravely stood up for not only their own voting rights, but for the rights of all Wisconsinites.”

Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, said: “Today’s ruling is an overwhelming victory for Wisconsin voters.  The citizens of our state have demonstrated their shifting opinions over the years by voting for candidates and majorities of both parties.  These unconstitutional maps drawn in 2011 represent a direct attack on that freedom, and a successful attempt by Republicans to avoid responsiveness and accountability to their own constituents.  Now that it is clear that these actions were unconstitutional, I am hopeful that the courts will move forward in implementing maps that will better represent the geography of our state and the will of its people.”

Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, said: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Under Republican rule for the last six years, we have seen a deliberate and concerted effort to rig Wisconsin’s elections.  They made it harder for students to register to vote, deliberately disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin voters with an unnecessary Voter ID law, eliminated Wisconsin’s non-partisan elections watch-dog and now it is confirmed, they drew Wisconsin’s legislative districts so regardless of the votes cast, Republicans would maintain legislative control.

“Today’s ruling is a win for all voters in Wisconsin.  No matter where you live or what your political beliefs are — every Wisconsinite’s vote should be valued, protected and treated equally and fairly under the law.  I applaud the court’s decision today and it should serve as a strong reminder to my Republican colleagues that justice always prevails and the power truly belongs to the people, not donors, lobbyists or conservative special interests.”

• Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, remarked: “There are only two things that are certain about this case:  it’s unprecedented and it isn’t over. The ruling can and should be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The state of Wisconsin has competitive legislative districts that meet every traditional principle of redistricting. Republicans win elections because we have better candidates and a better message that continues to resonate with the voters.

“The court has essentially created a brand new test that is significantly flawed and is an encroachment by the court into the legislature’s duties. The new standard ignores Wisconsin’s political geography where Democrats are naturally clustered in urban centers like Milwaukee and Madison.  We remain fully confident that the maps were constitutional when adopted, and will remain so when this case is finally concluded.”

Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, said: “Today’s court ruling recognizes the Republican abuse of power as going too far in shutting out our neighbors’ voices in elections.

“Attempts to suppress the public’s voice by politically gerrymandering districts in order to weaken the voting power of targeted groups is a betrayal of our fundamental freedoms and values. The ruling today should serve as strong warning to Wisconsin and as a clear precedent to other states. If we were outsiders taking a real look at the flawed, unfair, and undemocratic voting system that one party rule has thrust upon our state, I am certain the majority of us would be shocked and outraged.

Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said: “We’ve known for years that Republican politicians have abused their power to rig Wisconsin elections in their favor. From disenfranchising voters, limiting polling places, restricting voting hours and drawing unconstitutional legislative districts, Republican politicians have waged an unprecedented attack on our democratic values. Every voter deserves to have their voice heard and I am relieved that our judicial system is helping to hold Republicans accountable for their unconstitutional partisan power grabs.”

Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Martha Laning added: “The Republican 2011 legislative maps – created in secret – have been declared unconstitutional by the courts. This is a historic victory for our democracy and all of the voters in the great state of Wisconsin.

“I look forward to the creation of new district lines that respect Wisconsin’s tradition of fair and open government and ensure that all of the people and communities in our state are represented equally.”

Groups ask court for broader injunction to protect transgender people in North Carolina

LGBT rights groups challenging the North Carolina law that bans transgender people from using restrooms that correspond to their gender identity this week filed their opening brief on appeal, requesting that the preliminary injunction in the case be broadened to protect all transgender people in the state from discrimination.

In August, a district court issued a preliminary injunction preventing the North Carolina university system from enforcing H.B. 2 against the three individual transgender plaintiffs in the lawsuit Carcaño v. McCrory, which is scheduled for trial in May 2017. The advocates also asked the Fourth Circuit to expedite the appeal and schedule oral argument for January.

“Every day that H.B. 2 singles out transgender North Carolinians – whether at school, at work, or just moving through their daily lives – is another day that the transgender community is told that they are second class,” said Chris Brook, ACLU of North Carolina legal director. “Though the district court recognized the serious harm to three of our clients at UNC as a result of H.B. 2, that recognition unfortunately didn’t extend to the harms that law inflicts on other transgender individuals in public buildings across North Carolina. We hope and expect that the Fourth Circuit will expand this ruling to protect all transgender people.”

The appeal filed this week argues that H.B. 2 violates the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause because it specifically targets transgender people, and that discrimination against transgender people is a form of sex discrimination.

While North Carolina has argued that H.B. 2 advances interests in public safety and privacy, Lambda Legal and the ACLU argue that these interests, which can be protected in other ways, do not justify the harms H.B. 2 imposes on transgender people and that to restore the status quo, the court must grant a broader preliminary injunction while the case proceeds to trial.

“H.B. 2 makes transgender North Carolinians pariahs in their own state. Courthouses, airports, libraries, public schools, highway rest stops, police departments, state hospitals and the very halls of government itself are now unsafe for, and unwelcome to, transgender North Carolinians,” said Jon W. Davidson, National Legal Director and Eden/Rushing Chair at Lambda Legal. “Such unequal treatment simply cannot be squared with the Fourteenth Amendment’s promise of equality under the law. The Fourth Circuit should order this broader relief, pending trial.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of North Carolina, Lambda Legal and the law firm of Jenner & Block are challenging the law in federal court on behalf of four LGBT North Carolinians in addition to members of the ACLU of North Carolina.

The lawsuit, Carcaño v. McCrory, was filed days after H.B. 2 was passed by the North Carolina General Assembly and signed by Governor Pat McCrory. In it, the groups argue that H.B. 2 sends a purposeful message that LGBT people are second-class citizens who are undeserving of the privacy, respect and protections afforded to others, and that transgender individuals are expelled from public life since they are not allowed to use the restrooms and changing facilities that match who they are.

Court rejects employer’s argument that wellness programs are insulated from ADA

A federal court has ruled in favor of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in a disability discrimination case over Orion Energy Systems wellness program.

The Wisconsin-based court rejected the employer’s argument that the insurance safe harbor provision in the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act immunizes wellness plans from ADA scrutiny.

In the Orion lawsuit, EEOC v. Orion Energy Systems Inc., the EEOC argued that Orion required Wendy Schobert to submit to medical testing as part of a wellness program or pay 100 percent of the premium for the employer-provided health insurance.

The EEOC contended that this violated the ADA’s prohibition against involuntary medical exams.

Orion contended that its wellness plan was covered by the ADA’s so-called “insurance safe harbor” and thereby was excused from ADA compliance except if it operated as a subterfuge.

Orion also argued that the plan was lawful under the ADA because it was voluntary.

The district court rejected Orion’s safe harbor argument and held that the plan was subject to ADA review.

The court concluded that the EEOC’s recently issued regulations on the ADA’s safe harbor provision were within the commission’s authority.

The court further held that the safe harbor provision did not apply even without regard to the new regulations.

However, the court found that the wellness plan was lawful under the ADA because it concluded that the employee’s decision whether to participate was voluntary under that statute.

The court also held that there were issues of fact regarding whether Schobert was fired because of her opposition to the wellness plan and indicated the case would be set for trial.

Since the defendant’s motion for summary judgment was denied, the next step in the process should be the scheduling of a trial on the retaliation claim.

“Although we disagree with the court’s holding that participation in the wellness plan here was voluntary, we are pleased with the court’s solid reasoning that the safe harbor concept does not apply here,” said John Hendrickson, the regional attorney for EEOC’s Chicago District Office. “It establishes that there is no easy out for employers from ADA scrutiny — they must make sure that their plans comply with that law.”

Judge: Wisconsin residents lacking photo IDs can vote in November

A federal district court judge says Wisconsin residents lacking photo identification can vote in the November general election.

The judge issued an order to that effect on July 19.

The preliminary injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman, based in Milwaukee, allows people who haven’t been able to obtain IDs to vote, provided they sign an affidavit stating why they couldn’t get identification.

However, Adelman says there isn’t enough time before state’s Aug. 9 primary to implement the option to sign an affidavit.

The judge’s order responds to a motion for an injunction filed in June by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Law Center for Homelessness and Poverty.

Sean Young, an attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, responded to the decision in a news release. “Wisconsin’s voter ID law has been a mistake from day one,” Young said. “This ruling is a strong rebuke of the state’s efforts to limit access to the ballot box. It means that a failsafe will be in place in November for voters who have had difficulty obtaining ID.”

The case is Ruthelle Frank et al v. Scott Walker.

On the Web

Read the ruling at the ACLU’s website.

 

Bogus guide, client from Wisconsin guilty of poaching in Canada

Two Wisconsin men were found guilty of illegal guiding and poaching across the border in Canada and it’s partly because of their own Facebook posts that they were caught.

U.S. Attorney Gregory J. Haanstad of the Eastern District of Wisconsin announced the two Milwaukee-area men pleaded guilty in federal court for violating the Lacey Act and lying about it to a federal officer. The violations are related to the unlawful importation of wildlife into the United States that had been killed in Ontario, Canada, in violation of Canadian law.

In late 2013, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry conservation officers looked into complaints relating to the illegal hunting activities of Reid Viertel, of West Allis,  and various associates, including Terry Schmit, of Franklin. The complaints partly were based on public Facebook posts by Viertel and Schmit in which they bragged about their successful hunting trips in Canada.

As a part of their investigation, Canadian officials reached out to a special agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to interview the men. Together, with assistance from wardens with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Law Enforcement, the agent learned this was much more than a hunting trip.

At the time of the interviews, Viertel was suspected of operating an illegal guiding service in Ontario to hunt for wolves, bear and white-tailed deer and was also suspected of poaching on those trips.

Viertel, a medically-retired firefighter, was doing business as Hero Driven Outfitters during this time, a self-described nonprofit whose mission, as noted on the group’s Facebook page was “to take disabled firefighters, law enforcement officers, and military personnel to the woods hunting and fishing.”

Schmit was one of those clients.

As a part of this scheme, Schmit was suspected of killing a black bear illegally during his trip in Ontario and allegedly used a bear license from a mentally disabled Canadian resident to make his black bear look legitimate.

“Wildlife crime knows no borders and I commend our Canadian counterparts, Wisconsin’s conservation wardens and our special agents for a solid investigation,” Edward Grace, deputy assistant director for law enforcement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, stated in a news release.

Along with Canadian law enforcement agents, the Wisconsin-based investigative team determined that Viertel shot and killed a timber wolf in February 2012 without having an Ontario license.

The team also determined that in August 2013, Schmit traveled to Ontario with Viertel, where Schmit had shot and killed a black bear, also without a license. Schmit used a bear license from a Canadian resident to make his bear kill look legitimate. In both instances, Viertel falsified export documents from Ontario for the purpose of illegally importing the animal carcasses into the United States.

“This case illustrates the partnership that takes place among conservation agencies,” stated Todd Schaller, chief warden with the Bureau of Law Enforcement in the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

In June, Schmit pleaded guilty to a single count of violating the Lacey Act, and was sentenced to a $1,000 fine, the forfeiture of the black bear, and a ban on hunting, fishing, and/or trapping in North America until Jan. 1, 2019.

Following this verdict, Viertel pleaded guilty to two offenses and was sentenced to three years of probation, to include at least 25 hours per year of environmental community service, forfeiture of the wolf and black bear, and a ban on hunting, fishing, and/or trapping in North America until Jan. 1, 2021.

Viertel also was ordered to serve the 2016 deer gun season from Nov. 19 through Nov. 27 in the custody of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and to pay the cost of his incarceration.

In the court proceedings, Haanstad said “the prosecution of offenders who intentionally violate wildlife laws helps protect and preserve natural resources both within and outside the United States.”

The prosecution was handled by assistant U.S Attorney Paul L. Kanter.

The court case follows the Canadian proceedings from December 2015, when Viertel and Schmit were convicted and collectively fined a total of $11,000 for a number of infractions.

In addition to these fines, Viertel lost his Canadian hunting privileges for 15 years and Schmit’s lost his for five years.

The Lacey Act

The Lacey Act is a federal law enforced by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service that makes it illegal to knowingly transport or sell wildlife taken in violation of state, federal, tribal and foreign laws or regulations. The act defines the sale of wildlife to include the sale of guiding services for the illegal taking of wildlife. When the act was passed in 1900, it became the first federal law to protect wildlife. It enforces civil and criminal penalties for the illegal trade of animals and plants. Today, it regulates the import of any species protected by international or domestic law and prevents the spread of invasive, or non-native, species

Federal judge hearing challenge to Wisconsin’s anti-voter laws

Wisconsin Republicans were “giddy” about a voter identification requirement enacted in 2011 that they saw as an opportunity to drive down Democratic turnout at the polls, a former chief of staff to a GOP state senator testified this week in a federal trial targeting that law and others.

The lawsuit targets more than a dozen changes to Wisconsin’s election law passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Gov. Scott Walker since 2011. Two liberal advocacy groups and affected voters argue the changes are a violation the federal Voting Rights Act, the First Amendment and the equal protection clause.

Their attorney, Josh Kaul, said in opening statements that evidence will show the changes create a “torturous” process making it harder to vote for college students as well as blacks, Hispanics and other minorities who tend to support Democrats.

“Wisconsin is simply a better place than these laws suggest,” Kaul said. “They’re an embarrassment and a stain on the history of the state. Plain and simple.”

Todd Allbaugh, chief of staff at the time to then-state Sen. Dale Schultz, a Republican from Richland Center, testified about a closed-door meeting of GOP lawmakers discussing the photo ID proposal in 2011. Allbaugh said some were “giddy” and “politically frothing at the mouth” at the idea, while others sat “ashen faced.”

Allbaugh testified that then-state Sen. Glenn Grothman, now representing the 6th Congressional District in eastern Wisconsin, interrupted Schultz when he expressed reservations.

“What I’m concerned about is winning,” Grothman said, according to Allbaugh’s testimony.

Allbaugh said Grothman called him last month after Allbaugh first talked publicly about his comments in that 2011 meeting. Grothman said he didn’t recall making the comments but he didn’t dispute saying it either, Allbaugh said.

Grothman did not immediately return a message on his cellphone for comment.

Attorneys also played footage of a television news interview with Grothman, from last month, where he was asked about Republicans’ chances in the presidential election and said “I think photo ID is going to make a little bit of a difference as well.”

Assistant Attorney General Clay Kawski, who is defending the laws for the state, said increased voter turnout since they went into effect disproves those arguments. And, he said, few voters have experienced problems compared with how many have successfully gotten free IDs, fueling an increase in voter turnout.

More than 47 percent of voting-age adults cast ballots in the April 5 presidential primary, the highest since 1972.

“Wisconsin elections are fair, easy to navigate and open to all,” Kawski said.

U.S. District Judge James Peterson, who is presiding over the trial, expressed skepticism with the state’s argument that the increase in voter turnout proves the laws aren’t suppressing the ability of some to cast ballots. Peterson said he was “not eager” to embrace that argument and expected the claim to be “sharply contested.”

Some of the law changes being challenged include: reducing early voting from 30 days before an election to 12 days; limiting the hours it can take place and restricting early voting to one location per municipality; eliminating straight ticket voting; doing away with requiring special election deputies be assigned at high schools; and prohibiting local governments from requiring landlords to distribute voter-registration forms to new tenants.

Showing an image of a sink on an overhead projector in the courtroom, Kawski said that those challenging the laws were throwing everything but the kitchen sink into their arguments in what he called a “scattershot approach.” He discounted their evidence as being speculative, anecdotal and not proving there are widespread problems with voting access under the laws.

He said that since July 2011 the state has issued 420,000 free ID cards while just 52 people have been denied through the petition process, at a rate of just 0.12 percent. And he said an emergency rule related to issuing those ideas by the state Division of Motor Vehicles signed by Walker last week wasn’t designed to blunt the impact of the lawsuit, but “to help people get ID cards. That’s what’s going on.”

The lawsuit was brought by the liberal group One Wisconsin Institute, Inc., social justice group Citizen Action of Wisconsin Education Fund and 10 voters.

More than 60 witnesses were expected to testify during the trial that’s scheduled to conclude next week. Peterson is expected to issue a ruling later.

Appeals court revives Wisconsin photo ID challenge

The U.S. appeals court in Chicago directed a district court to consider claims from people who encounter high hurdles in obtaining the photo ID needed to vote in Wisconsin.

The appeals court panel, in the April 12 order, wrote, “Plaintiffs contend that high hurdles for some persons eligible to vote entitle those particular persons to relief. Plaintiffs’ approach is potentially sound if even a single person eligible to vote is unable to get acceptable photo ID with reasonable effort. The right to vote is personal and is not defeated by the fact that 99 percent  of other people can secure the necessary credentials easily. Plaintiffs now accept the propriety of requiring photo ID from persons who already have or can get it with reasonable effort, while endeavoring to protect the voting rights of those who encounter high hurdles.”

The ruling from a panel of three judges, all Republican appointments, followed oral arguments in the case challenging the state’s voter photo ID law brought by the American Civil Liberties Union to the he U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

“The court ruled that eligible voters facing difficulty obtaining ID have the right to challenge Wisconsin’s strict voter ID law,” stated Sean Young, an attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.

Young continued, “This ruling gives them the chance to go back to the lower court to make their case. This is a victory for the voters of Wisconsin.”

The panel did not overturn the state’s voter ID law, enacted by a GOP-majority Legislature and signed by Gov. Scott Walker in 2011. Wisconsin’s measure was one of a number advanced by Republican lawmakers across the country and modeled after draft legislation pushed by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council.

Implementation of the law was delayed due to legal challenges at the state and federal levels. Both the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the federal appeals court upheld the law in separate rulings in 2014.

Opponents continued to challenge the law.

The court’s order April 12 allows the challenge to continue at the district court level and could clear the way for some voters to cast ballots without the mandated photo ID.

A senior attorney with the ACLU of Wisconsin, Karyn Rotker, said, “The Appeals Court determined that just because it may be easy for most people to get ID, the state can’t take voting rights away from people who have real difficulties getting ID.”

The next balloting will be in August, when the state holds its legislative primaries. Then the general election is Nov. 8.

 

On the Web

Click here for the ruling.

Find more about the case, Frank v. Walker, here.

Lawsuit challenges new anti-LGBT law in North Carolina

The ACLU, Lambda Legal and Equality North Carolina filed a lawsuit challenging HB 2, the anti-LGBT law hastily enacted in North Carolina.

Meanwhile, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper has said he will not defend  HB2 because it is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina against Gov. Pat McCrory, Cooper and the University of North Carolina, is on behalf of two transgender North Carolinians — Joaquín Carcaño, a UNC-Chapel Hill employee, and Payton McGarry, a UNC-Greensboro student — and Angela Gilmore, a lesbian and North Carolina Central University law professor.

Also named plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Equality North Carolina and the ACLU of North Carolina.

“HB 2 is hurtful and demeaning. I just want to go to work and live my life. This law puts me in the terrible position of either going into the women’s room where I clearly don’t belong or breaking the law,” said Carcaño in a news release issued on March 29. “But this is about more than bathrooms, this is about my job, my community, and my ability to get safely through my day and be productive like everyone else in North Carolina.”

“We’re challenging this extreme and discriminatory measure in order to ensure that everyone who lives in and visits North Carolina is protected under the law,” added Chris Brook, legal director of the ACLU of North Carolina. “This cruel, insulting, and unconstitutional law is an attack on fairness in employment, education, and local governance that encourages discrimination against thousands of LGBT people who call North Carolina home, and particularly targets transgender men and women. HB 2 aims to override local school board policies, local public accommodations laws, and more.”

Tara Borelli, a senior attorney with Lambda, said, “No legislature should be using its power to require cities, counties, or school districts to discriminate against anyone. This law is a targeted and unprecedented attack on the LGBT community, particularly against transgender people, both young people and adults.

She continued, “Clearly HB 2 is unconstitutional as it not only violates the guarantees of equal protection and due process in the U.S. Constitution but it also violates Title IX by requiring discrimination in education. North Carolina legislators cannot strip equality out of the Constitution and the law. ”

The ACLU and the ACLU of North Carolina, and Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit together.

In the complaint, the plaintiffs allege that through HB 2, North Carolina sends a message that LGBT people are second-class citizens undeserving of the privacy, respect and protections afforded others in the state.

The complaint argues HB 2 is unconstitutional because it violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the 14th Amendment because it discriminates on the basis of sex and sexual orientation and is an invasion of privacy for transgender people. The law also violates Title IX by discriminating against students and school employees on the basis of sex.

 

 

Lawsuit on the Web

The lawsuit can be found here.