Civil Rights and Liberties

Response to MPD’s Killing of George Floyd

As this week marked by the death of Mr. Floyd draws to a close, many questions have emerged. How should we address a “code of blue silence” that has not held police accountable for the city’s standards of law enforcement conduct? Is the disciplinary process for police working?


JLI’s Statement of Solidarity

Black Lives Matter. The Journal of Law & Inequality extends its deepest sympathies to Mr. George Floyd’s loved ones and condemns the unequal legal system that continues to destroy Black American lives like Mr. Floyd’s. The Journal is deeply concerned that police brutality is disproportionately affecting Black Americans in our city and demands an independent and unbiased investigation into Mr. Floyd’s killing.


Inmate Rights and the Prison/Jail System During COVID-19—Interview with Prof. Susanna Blumenthal

JLI staff members Abbie Hanson and Jen Davison recently interviewed Professor Susanna Blumenthal in a conversation about COVID-19’s effects on inmate rights and the prison/jail system. Professor Blumenthal co-directs the Program in Law and History at the University of Minnesota and she is an expert in criminal law. Professor Blumenthal’s research and writing focuses on the historical relationship between law and the human sciences. In this discussion, the group highlights the challenges of containing a virus in inherently constrained spaces, the damaging results on inmate rights, and how groups are working to ensure that incarcerated individuals receive adequate protection during a pandemic.


Attacks on Reproductive Rights During COVID-19—Interview with Gender Justice’s Megan Peterson

JLI staff members Kristin Trapp, Anna Berglund, and Anwen Parrott recently interviewed Megan Peterson, who serves as the Executive Director of Gender Justice. Gender Justice is a nonprofit legal and policy advocacy organization devoted to addressing the causes and consequences of gender inequality, both locally and nationally. In this conversation, the group discussed how some states are trying to use COVID-19 to restrict access to abortion and reproductive services, the effects of not being able to access essential health care, and how advocates can strive to safeguard reproductive rights during a pandemic.


Eviction/Housing Issues During COVID-19—Interview with Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid’s Joey Dobson

JLI staff members Maddie Sheehy, Adam Johnson, and Peter Schuetz recently interviewed Joey Dobson (Housing Policy Attorney at Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid). The group discussed how the pandemic can exacerbate health and safety issues in housing (mold, infestations, heat, etc.), the eviction moratorium, and how housing attorneys are advocating for their clients now and will be moving forward.


Stretched Thin: Parents Lacking Resources Who Are Accused of Negligent Child Abuse Need Solutions, Not Prisons

The purpose of punishment is not served when the criminal justice system prosecutes poor, and often undereducated, parents for the unintended deaths of their children. Punishment as retribution is excessive for an already grieving parent, and an act cannot be deterred, either specifically to the offender or generally to society, if it was unintended in the first place. Finally, incapacitating parents by way of imprisonment does not ultimately serve the social good because their imprisonment sets up their surviving children for increased risk factors. Punishing a parent who has already received the worst punishment of all—loss of a child—cannot be justified.


The Newclear Family: The Broadening Recognition of Non-Traditional Families and Where to Draw the Line

by Ally Nicol
In the past fifty years, American politics and public opinion have shifted regarding parentage and what constitutes a family.  In the wake of cases such as Holtzman v. Knott, Johnson v. Calvert, K.M. v. E.G., Obergefell v. Hodges, and In re M.C., the rights of same-sex and other “non-traditional” parents have been clarified and expanded.  Biology and marriage have long been the most commonly used means of establishing parental rights, and now those recognitions, particularly in the wake of Obergefell, are widely available to most couples. While this recognition has been long-awaited in the LGBT community, issues remain regarding legal parent status based solely on biology and the legal status of non-traditional families. As the law expands to recognize a more diverse spectrum of parents, new issues will arise regarding when parental status should not be granted, as opposed to how parental rights should be expanded.


The Case for Preserving Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Health Care Protections

by Bailey Metzger
On May 18, 2016, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) published the final rule implementing § 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the Federal Register. The final rule addressed a wide variety of discrimination in the health care context, including discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, and disability. Perhaps the most notable part of the rule finds that discrimination on the basis of gender identity constitutes discrimination on the basis of sex.


Proscribing Prescriptions: A Legal Analysis of State Off-Label Restrictions on Medication Abortion

by Kaiya A. Lyons
Since its decision in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court has consistently upheld the right of a woman to choose to terminate a pregnancy before viability and without undue burden. However, the ability of a woman to exercise that right today is as intimately connected to her economic privilege and geographic location as it was in the days preceding that landmark ruling. Under the guise of protecting women from the “harms inherent in abortion,” major conservative gains in the 2010 midterm elections resulted in hundreds of anti-abortion measures flooding a majority of state legislatures. In the aftermath of that year’s midterm elections, the bulk of state legislatures passed an unprecedented number of harsh new restrictions on when, how, and even whether women may access abortion services. Because these laws are also substantially more obstructive than their predecessors, for low-income women, the economic impact of these restrictive regulations is extremely harmful.


A Solution to Hoffman’s Choice for Unauthorized Workers: Creating New Incentives to Report Unlawful Workplace Discrimination

by Andrew J. Glasnovich
In 2012, the United States was home to 11.7 million people who did not have legal authorization to reside in the country. Of those, approximately 8 million people were active in the work force. Unauthorized workers will likely contribute $2.6 trillion over the next decade to the U.S. economy. Those unauthorized persons are some of the most vulnerable members of society.  Because of their status, some unauthorized workers fear that their choice to report employer misconduct will lead to their deportation or imprisonment. State and federal laws prohibit employers from class-based discrimination against their workers—whether these workers are authorized or unauthorized. Despite those laws, some employer misconduct is notably egregious and includes wage theft, unsafe labor conditions, race and sex discrimination, and sexual assault. However, some unauthorized workers are brave enough to risk deportation and challenge their employers’ unlawful practices.