Tag Archives: ACLU

Court rules that Florida doctors can ask patients about guns and gun safety

adalberto-jordan

Circuit Court Judge Adalberto Jordan

Guns, what guns?

From Fox News: A federal appeals court ruled on Thursday that Florida doctors can talk to patients about gun safety, declaring a law aimed at restricting such discussions a violation of the First Amendment’s right to free speech.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the law does not trespass on patients’ Second Amendment rights to own guns and noted a patient who doesn’t want to be questioned about that can easily find another doctor.

“The Second Amendment right to own and possess firearms does not preclude questions about, commentary on, or criticism for the exercise of that right,” wrote Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan (appointed by Obama and born in Cuba) in one of two majority opinions covering 90 pages. “There is no actual conflict between the First Amendment rights of doctors and medical professionals and the Second Amendment rights of patients.”

Circuit Judge William Pryor, who was a finalist in President Donald Trump’s search for a Supreme Court nominee, said in a separate concurring opinion that the First Amendment must protect all points of view.

“The promise of free speech is that even when one holds an unpopular point of view, the state cannot stifle it,” he wrote. “The price Americans pay for this freedom is that the rule remains unchanged regardless of who is in the majority.”

The law was passed in 2011 and signed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott with strong support from the National Rifle Association. It was the only one of its kind in the nation, although similar laws have been considered in other states.

Supporters in the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature insisted it was necessary because doctors were overstepping their bounds and pushing an anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment agenda.

The law was challenged almost immediately by thousands of physicians, medical organizations and other groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union as a violation of free speech in what became known as the “Docs v. Glocks” case. A legal battle has raged in the courts since then, with several conflicting opinions issued.

“We are thrilled that the court has finally put to bed the nonsensical and dangerous idea that a doctor speaking with a patient about gun safety somehow threatens the right to own a gun,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida.

The 11th Circuit noted that Florida lawmakers appeared to base the law on “six anecdotes” about physicians’ discussions of guns in their examination rooms and little other concrete evidence that there is an actual problem. And doctors who violated the law could face professional discipline, a fine or possibly loss of their medical licenses.

“There was no evidence whatsoever before the Florida Legislature that any doctors or medical professionals have taken away patients’ firearms or otherwise infringed on patients’ Second Amendment rights,” Jordan wrote for the court.

The NRA and Florida attorneys had argued that under the law doctors could ask about firearms if the questions were relevant to a patient’s health or safety, or someone else’s safety, and that the law was aimed at eliminating harassment of gun owners. But the 11th Circuit said there was no evidence of harassment or improper disclosure of gun ownership in health records, as law supporters also claimed.

“There is nothing in the record suggesting that patients who are bothered or offended by such questions are psychologically unable to choose another medical provider, just as they are permitted to do if their doctor asks too many questions about private matters like sexual activity, alcohol consumption, or drug use,” the court ruled.

The ruling did determine that some parts of the law could remain on the books, such as provisions allowing patients to decline to answer questions about guns and prohibiting health insurance companies from denying coverage or increasing premiums for people who lawfully own guns.

The case will return to U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke in Miami for a ruling that follows the 11th Circuit’s direction. The case could, however, also be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

DCG

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Hollywood Agency Scraps Oscar Party In Favor of Refugee Rally

jeremy-zimmer

Jeremy Zimmer

Exactly how many refugees has Mr. Zimmer and his wealthy Hollyweird friends/clients let into their gated/guarded estates?

From Hollywood Reporter: United Talent Agency is scrapping its annual Oscar party in favor of hosting a rally at its L.A. office and donating to the American Civil Liberties Union, which has been on the frontlines of fighting the President’s executive order targeting travel from Muslim-majority countries. 

“This is a moment that demands our generosity, awareness and restlessness,” wrote UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer to staff. “Our world is a better place for the free exchange of artists, ideas and creative expression. If our nation ceases to be the place where artists the world over can come to express themselves freely, then we cease, in my opinion, to be America.”

The agency also said it would be donating $250,000 to the ACLU, the group that has seen a temporary victor in legally challenging Trump’s travel ban, as well as the International Rescue Committee, a humanitarian organization.

“When fear and division get the better of a society, artists are among the first to feel the impact—and to denounce the ill winds,” Zimmer added.

Last year, UTA held its Oscar party at chairman Jim Berkus’ residence. A number of major studios and agencies hold galas and parties on the biggest awards night of the year, including CAA, WME-IMG, ICM Partners and The Weinstein Co.

It’s unclear whether UTA’s move will foreshadow any similar moves by other agencies. The same day that UTA announced the move, WME-IMG co-CEO Ari Emanuel sent a staffwide note stating that the agency plans to form a Political Action Committee and vowing to protect company diversity.

Los Angeles, like other major cities, has seen several major, peaceful protests aimed at President Trump since his election, including recent demonstrations at Los Angeles International Airport over the travel band.

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Sheriff offering inmates to help build Trump’s proposed border wall

 

thomas-hodgson

Sheriff Thomas Hodgson

Works for me.

From Fox News: A Massachusetts sheriff wants to help President-elect Donald Trump build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border — by offering up inmates to work on the project.

Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, a long-time proponent of strict immigration enforcement, presented his idea at an inauguration speech on Wednesday marking his fourth six-year term in office.

On Thursday, the sheriff told Boston’s Herald Radio that he has not heard from Trump himself, but his idea is being reviewed by the new administration’s staff. “They have it, I believe it’s going over to their domestic policy advisers,” Hodgson said. “We will have to wait to see if it’s something the president-elect is interested in.”

Advocates of more lenient immigration policies quickly denounced the sheriff’s proposal, according to the Fox affiliate in Boston. The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts is threatening to go all out to block the sheriff’s plans, Fox25Boston.com reports.

Carol Rose, the executive director of the state’s ACLU chapter, said in a statement: “Sheriff Hodgson’s proposal to use the labor of the men and women in his custody to ‘build the wall’ is perverse, inhumane and likely unconstitutional.”

“Not only is Sheriff Hodgson willing to get involved with Trump’s racially discriminatory plan to build a wall along the US-Mexico border, he is proposing to use modern-day slave labor to do it,” Rose said in the statement, according to Fox25Boston.com

From the outset of his campaign, Trump made immigration a focus, vowing to build a wall along the Mexican border, and to make Mexico pay for it. Mexican officials have balked at the idea of funding the wall.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has expressed misgivings over Hodgson’s proposal, according to the Boston Herald. The Herald quoted a statement from the governor’s spokesman saying Baker prefers that inmates provide services “closer to home.”

Hodgson says other sheriffs would like to send inmates to help construct a wall, the Herald reported. “This is what government ought to be doing,” the Herald quoted him as saying. “It ought to be using whatever resources as creatively as we can to save taxpayer money and make sure our taxpayers are safe, which is another responsibility.”

“These inmates, they’re skilled, they want to be able to do these things,” he said. “They get it, they don’t want to be where they are, they made mistakes, but they feel good about themselves when someone does something that’s challenging, that gives them more skills that sets them up to succeed.”

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Pantsuit Nation members revolt after operator cashes in with book deal

hillary-supporters-crying2

From NY Post: Members of an underground pro-Hillary Clinton Facebook group are livid after the operator announced she would be cashing in on the page with a book deal.

News that Pantsuit Nation founder Libby Chamberlain would be putting out a tome next May based on comments from the popular page — which has some 4 million members — prompted a flood of angry comments calling the Brooklin, Maine, woman a sellout.

Pantsuit Nation founder Libby Chamberlain/Photo from Twitter

Pantsuit Nation founder Libby Chamberlain/Photo from Twitter

“Libby you should be ashamed. This is a disgusting betrayal of trust and using others’ stories to make money and gain fame,” wrote a Pantsuit Nation member named Jamie Bryant, who describes herself on Twitter as a “radical feminist bitch.”

The Pantsuit Nation Facebook page was started last October as a place where enthusiastic supporters of the Democratic presidential nominee could gather and talk about their favorite candidate. The page grew by millions in just weeks, and by Election Day, Hillary-loving users posted pictures of themselves in pantsuits going to the polls, hopefully to elect the first female president.

Members were devastated when Clinton lost to GOP nominee Donald Trump and flocked to the page to commiserate.

Clinton herself even seemed to give a shoutout to the page during her concession speech, when she thanked “private Facebook sites” for supporting her campaign.

But when Chamberlain, a part-time school worker with two kids, announced Monday that she was doing the book — which she called “a permanent, beautiful, holdable, snuggle-in-bed-able, dogear-able, shareable, tearstainable book. Your voices. Your stories” — many users felt stabbed in the back.

hillary-supporters-crying

“Libby, this is a betrayal of safe space,” group member Ellen Byrne wrote. “You can’t invite people to share intimate thoughts . . . then summarily, as an individual, change those terms. Something sacred has happened on this page and I don’t believe it belongs.”

Some were particularly upset that in her announcement, Chamberlain bragged the book would be on “nightstands and coffee tables all around the world.”

pantsuit-nation

Member Ada Y. Sheng wrote: “Can I point out the pathetic irony that 4 million people drawn together behind the incredibly strong and smart woman that we hoped would be the leader of the free world is now . . . going to produce a coffee table book. Seriously?”

Others went on Twitter to mock Chamberlain’s book plans. “5 Million members of Pantsuit Nation and the best they can come up with is another edition of Chicken Soup for the Soul,” wrote user Ijeoma Oluo. “NRA=5million members & a stranglehold on American politics. #PantsuitNation=4million & decided to use that to sell book,” tweeted Saadia Muzaffar.

Chamberlain could not be reached for comment yet she did post this on Facebook (after all the backlash):

“I’m going to clarify some of the issues that have been raised in the last day about the book and our non profit status. I won’t be able to address them all right now, but I will continue to share as much information as possible. But after reading so many of your comments, after absorbing as much pain and hurt as I could, this is the overarching message I would like to offer you. If you trust me, if you trust what I have created here and fostered, along with our 100+ volunteers, through thousands of hours of work and care and attention, then I ask you to trust me further. I will not let you down. This is the most important project of my life, with the exception of being a mother and a wife. My goal is to do good. A lot of good. With your help. If you do not trust me, and if you do not trust this group. That’s ok. This space cannot be for everyone. If you’re not sure you can trust me, then I invite you to stick around and let me continue to show you what this is all about. We’re two months in. We have so much left to do.

Participation in the book is voluntary. No post, image, comment, name, or other information shared in the group will be used in the book without explicit, written permission (and a legal release to use the material) from the author and/or photographer. I have not shared anything from within this group with anyone outside the group. I will personally be in touch with every potential contributor to the book to clarify this process, answer any questions, and make sure that permission is being given with a full understanding of how the post and any accompanying information will be used.

Proceeds from the book will support Pantsuit Nation and the causes that are central to the group. I asked the publisher of the book to let me announce it as early as possible (they would have preferred I waited for another month until more information was available), but that means that we literally announced the book on the same day that our non-profits were formed. These projects are two sides of the same coin. The book will support the non-profits and the non-profits will support the book. The non-profits will be fully transparent, and will engage in the work of advocacy, education, and political activism. We will also use the Pantsuit Nation non-profits as a way to raise money for other likeminded nonprofits (like Planned Parenthood, ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, etc.), by matching contributions given by our members for our weekly calls to action, for example, or through direct fundraising. This is all coming down the line. There is huge potential here to mobilize our passion and energy to do good in the world. The Pantsuit Nation book is one piece of the puzzle that gives us a path forward. I believe it’s a particularly beautiful solution as it both manifests one of the central ideas of our group – that powerful stories inspire meaningful action – as well as provides an initial source of income. Rather than ask each of you to donate money, we’re collaborating on a book that reflects the best of what Pantsuit Nation offers – stories, truths, meaning, light. If you’d like to support this cause, that’s wonderful. If you don’t, you are still most welcome here. We’ll keep this group going as long as possible and no one will be turned away because they are not interested in the book. There will be so many ways to contribute that don’t involve purchasing anything or donating money. We can all play a part, and simply by being here, by listening to each other, by sharing your stories, you are doing something. Let’s keep pushing this forward.”

GIF-Giraffe-eating-Popcorn

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Planned Parenthood-backed bill faces ACLU, media backlash in California

The truth shall not be exposed...

The truth shall not be exposed…

From Fox News: California lawmakers have OK’d a Planned Parenthood-backed bill that creates new penalties for distributing secret recordings of discussions with health providers – but civil rights and media advocates say the measure goes too far. 

The bill, which passed Friday and now goes to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, targets activists such as the Center for Medical Progress — which last year released secretly recorded videos purportedly showing activists discussing the purchase of aborted fetal body parts with Planned Parenthood representatives.

Truth hurts...

Truth hurts…

The videos, while criticized for selective editing, sparked significant outrage among Republicans who called for the organization to be defunded.

Recording and distributing a “confidential communication” without consent already is a crime under California law. However, the new bill adds an additional layer of penalties — including additional fines and up to a year in prison — specifically for recording a conversation with a health care provider.

Planned Parenthood supported the bill and said that in light of the videos, it had seen a nine-fold increase in violence against its facilities. “With the Internet and the tremendous wildfire nature in which news can be spread now through social media, we need to have a crime against distribution by those in particular who did the illegal recording,” Beth Parker, chief legal counsel for Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, told the Los Angeles Times.

The bill passed on a party-line vote. However, some voices often allied with Democrats were unhappy with the bill.

“We know of no legitimate governmental reason for singling-out disclosure of all health care provider communications for special criminal sanctions, making the bill vulnerable not only on First Amendment grounds but also on equal protection grounds,” the American Civil Liberties Union argued in opposition to the bill in June.

The Sacramento Bee reported that the measure initially stalled in the state Senate due to opposition from media advocates that it could prevent lawyers and journalists from doing their jobs. However, it passed after language was added that restricted who could be prosecuted under the law — which proponents said would prevent it being used against news organizations reporting on such videos.

“It is narrowly tailored to address the growing threat to health care providers,” Democratic state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson told the Bee. (Jackson has been honored by the Planned Parenthood Action FUND for her courageous efforts to support reproductive rights.)

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It did not appear, though, that those changes specifically addressed the ACLU’s complaints. The ACLU did not immediately respond to a request for comment from FoxNews.com on Tuesday.

Even after the amendments, The Los Angeles Times’ editorial board on Aug. 31 called the move to give health care providers special protection “mystifying” and accused the lawmakers behind the bill of pandering to special interests.

“But make no mistake, this measure would heap more criminal and civil penalties on making a secret recording — an act that’s already prohibited by state law, even when done in the public interest — simply to satisfy an interest group popular among Sacramento Democrats,” the board said.

The editorial board warned that the bill could disincentivize potential whistle-blowers from recording abuses such as a patient who sees a doctor handing out opioid prescriptions too liberally. “The potential for unanticipated and unwelcome consequences is huge,” the board said.

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Obama shortens terms for 214 prisoners; 67 had life sentence

I’ll agree that some drug sentences are way too harsh. Yet apparently it’s OK for Obama to ignore violations of gun laws (50+ offenders had firearm violations) – those laws which he incessantly reminds us are too lax.

O laughs

From the Seattle Times: President Obama on Wednesday cut short the sentences of 214 federal inmates, including 67 life sentences, in what the White House called the largest batch of commutations on a single day in more than a century.

Almost all the prisoners were serving time for nonviolent crimes related to cocaine, methamphetamine or other drugs, although a few were charged with firearms violations related to their drug activities. Almost all are men, though they represent a diverse cross-section of America geographically.

Obama’s push to lessen the burden on nonviolent drug offenders reflects his long-stated view that the U.S. needs to remedy the consequences of decades of onerous sentencing requirements that put tens of thousands behind bars for far too long. Obama has used the aggressive pace of his commutations to increase pressure on Congress to pass a broader fix and to call more attention to the issue.

One of the inmates, Dicky Joe Jackson of Texas, was given a life sentence in 1996 for methamphetamine violations and for being a felon with an unlicensed gun. He told the ACLU in a 2013 report that a death sentence would have been preferable, adding, “I wish it were over, even if it meant I were dead.”

Another recipient, Debra Brown of Tennessee, was convicted of selling cocaine in 2002 and sentenced to 20 years. Both Brown’s and Jackson’s sentences will now end Dec. 1, along with most of the rest of those receiving commutations Wednesday.

All told, Obama has commuted 562 sentences during his presidency — more than the past nine presidents combined, the White House said. Almost 200 of those who have benefited were serving life sentences.

“All of the individuals receiving commutation today — incarcerated under outdated and unduly harsh sentencing laws — embody the president’s belief that ‘America is a nation of second chances,’” White House counsel Neil Eggleston wrote in a blog post.

Eggleston said Obama examines each clemency application on its specific merits to identify the appropriate relief, including whether the prisoner would be helped by additional drug treatment, educational programming or counseling. He called on Congress to finally pass a criminal justice overhaul to bring about “lasting change to the federal system.”

Presidents tend to use their powers to commute sentences or issue pardons more frequently at the end of their presidencies, and Obama administration officials said the rapid pace would continue during Obama’s final months.

“We are not done yet,” Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said. “We expect that many more men and women will be given a second chance through the clemency initiative.”

Read the whole story here.

DCG

Advocates demand that California DMV suspend fines for poor people

Gee, I wonder which “poor” people they are trying to assist…

serious

From Sacramento Bee: Advocates for the poor are demanding that the California Department of Motor Vehicles stop suspending the driver licenses of people who fail to pay traffic fines or appear in court.

Monday’s letter from Bay Area Legal Aid, the ACLU of Northern California, Western Center on Law and Poverty and others alleges that the DMV lacks the authority to suspend licenses at the request of court officials. That’s because many courts, the letter said, improperly conclude that someone falls under the suspension law that applies to people “willfully failing” to pay fines or appear in court.

The letter to Transportation Secretary Brian Kelly and DMV Director Jean Shiomoto comes as state lawmakers consider legislation that would prohibit the practice.

“We ask that the DMV immediately cease suspending driver’s licenses for failure to pay and failure to appear…until there is a system in place to ensure that all courts provide legally-required procedural protections,” the letter reads.

Mike Herald of the Western Center on Law and Poverty said many poor people cannot afford the high fines and surcharges from traffic tickets. Losing their license makes it that much harder to earn a living and pay off the tickets, he said. “It’s become so damaging to people. They’re pretty much stuck in a hole forever,” Herald said. Monday’s letter follows lawsuits against some counties over the suspensions. A lawsuit against the state over the suspensions is possible, he said.

Lawmakers last year unanimously approved legislation that allowed people to go to court to contest traffic fines without first paying the money.

Another measure, Senate Bill 881 by state Sen. Robert Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, would prohibit a county or court from seeking to suspend a driver’s license to collect on unpaid fines. The bill also would repeal the rule requiring the DMV to suspend a driver’s license at a county’s request. It is pending in the Assembly.

The DMV was not immediately available for comment.

DCG