Eaten Alive: Inaction as a form of Cruel and Unusual Punishment in State Jails and Prisons

(Source)   If you have watched a lot of Law and Order, cop shows, or even viral TikTok videos involving the police, you have probably heard the phrase “this violates my constitutional rights.” You might have also heard people on the news say “this is cruel and unusual punishment” when something outrageous happens to someone at the hands of the State. The truth is that everyone who faces charges does have a constitutional right under the Eighth Amendment to not have cruel and unusual punishment inflicted upon them. This right has been incorporated to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, which means whether someone is charged with a crime on the state or federal level, they have this constitutional protection. But what rights exactly does the cruel and unusual punishment clause protect? Originally, the literal meaning of the text was likely to prevent coercive torturing of criminal defendants, which was a problem that occurred in the old European inquisition proceedings. But the right to not have cruel and unusual punishment inflicted has now been expanded to contemplate a broad range of constitutional protections for people being charged with crimes from what is excessive bail to what drugs can be used [read more]

Copyrights and AI: A Solution

(Source)   Copyrights are everywhere. There’s a copyright on the Gideon the Ninth book, the Eras Tour movie, the Thomas the Tank Engine theme song, and so much more. Virtually every book, movie, painting, recording, script, etc. that you can think of has a copyright. But what is a copyright? And how do you get it? According to the US Copyright Office, a copyright is a form of protection on an expression of an idea. With a copyright, you, and only you, have the right to reproduce, sell, distribute, and perform the work. Copyrights are also automatically created. You don’t need to register the copyright with the US Copyright Office to own it. Although you should if you want to ensure legal protection. So you own a copyright on every email and text message you have ever sent. To automatically create a copyright you must satisfy three basic requirements: originality, creativity, and fixation. Originality means the idea must be original to you. The idea doesn’t have to be something novel, it just can’t be a copy of something else. Creativity only requires a “modicum” of creativity. And fixation means the idea must be expressed in a tangible medium. For example, [read more]

School Book Bans: The Fight for Students’ Right to Read

(Source)   1,557 books. 33 states. 153 districts. The 2022-23 school year saw record-breaking numbers of book bans in schools and libraries across the country. PEN America, a nonprofit committed to promoting free expression, recorded 3,362 instances of book bans in the 22-23 school year, a 33 percent increase from the year before. These books, mostly young adult fiction novels, deal with issues of health and well-being, contain sexual experiences between characters, and/or contain non-white or LGBTQ+ characters. The recent surge in book bans has been fueled by state legislation. Missouri passed a law that bans depictions of “sexually explicit” material. In Tennessee, it’s now a felony for book publishers, distributors, or sellers to provide any matter deemed to be “obscene” to K-12 public schools. A Texas law requires that booksellers rate books based on their sexual references or they won’t be able to sell to public schools. In Florida, a series of recently passed laws have contributed to censorship in schools across the state. Florida House Bill 1467 requires that an individual with an educational media specialist certificate review all public school books for “pornography” or “race-based teachings.” These individuals must also complete an online training program created by [read more]

The Fourteenth Amendment: Toothed or Toothless against Trump?

(Source)   Few people are as controversial as Donald Trump. Even after 7 years, 4 indictments, and over 50,000 tweets, the former president and current Republican lead candidate seems to be just as controversial as when he clinched the 2016 Republican nomination. Many feel that history will repeat itself with Trump again winning the nomination and perhaps the presidency, ushering in another 4 years of chaos. However, Trump may actually be constitutionally prohibited from running for office. To understand why, let’s consult a rarely discussed portion of Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which reads: “No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of [read more]

Rise of the Shadow Docket

(Source)   In Allen v. Milligan (2023), the Supreme Court ruled that a redistricting plan adopted by the State of Alabama prior to the 2022 congressional midterm elections likely violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The 5-4 majority affirmed a District Court’s findings that (1) the plan impermissibly undermined the voting rights of African Americans residing in Alabama and (2)  the redistricting map must be redrawn. Prior to the ruling, however, the Supreme Court gave the green light to Alabama to use the map for the 2022 Midterms, overriding the concerns of both the District Court and the map’s challengers. This green light was granted via the Court’s emergency docket, also known as the “shadow docket”. In what has become an increasingly familiar move, the Supreme Court paused the Alabama District Court’s injunction on the map via an unsigned and unexplained order. The result was that African Americans in Alabama were forced to vote under an illegal districting scheme. Put otherwise, the Court had gone out of its way to intervene, and without explanation, permitted Alabama to institute a suspect voting scheme for a congressional election. In recent years through its shadow docket cases, the Court has ruled [read more]

The Congressional Insider Trading Conflict of Interest

(Source) On February 13, 2020, former Senator Richard Burr sold between $628,000 and $1.7 million in personal stocks. A week later, the stock market crashed because of anxiety concerning the COVID-19 Pandemic. However, prior to his trades, Burr projected confidence in the US’s response to the pandemic. Hours before he sold the shares, Burr was briefed on the worldwide effects of the virus. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice subsequently investigated Burr for insider trading but eventually ended investigations with no consequences. Richard Burr was not the only senator to sell stocks before the stock market crash, and neither is he the first lawmaker to make questionable trades. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been criticized for her husband’s success in the markets, former House Representative Chris Collins pleaded guilty to insider trading and was sentenced to 26 months in prison, and many other members of Congress have been accused of using nonpublic information to place trades. Congressional stock trading risks a conflict of interest in policymaking and insider trading. If legislators are trading stocks, there is the risk that legislators will write laws and expend efforts to benefit their private stock holdings rather than the [read more]

The Kids Online Safety Act: A Censorship Bill or a Champion of Children’s Online Safety?

(Source)   Overview of KOSA Just before the August recess this year,  , the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) passed unanimously out of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Originally introduced by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) in February 2022 and reintroduced in May 2023, KOSA is the latest in Congress’s bipartisan push to pass comprehensive data privacy laws. The recently amended bill claims to provide children and parents with the tools to protect “minors,” defined as people under 17 years old, from harmful online content.Such content includes materials promoting self-harm, eating disorders, online addiction, bullying, and other “destructive behaviors” on social media. as social media promoting self-harm, eating disorders, online addiction, bullying, and other “destructive behaviors.” The bill has also been supported by  , signaling public support for the bill. In short, KOSA aims to protect children’s online experiences in : by providing children and parents with the tools to safeguard their online experience, holding online platforms accountable for their harm to children, and demystifying black box algorithms. First,   to protect their information, disable addictive features, and opt out of personalized algorithm recommendations. The law will also provide parents with new controls [read more]

Should Medical Treatments be Patented?

(Source)   Over the decades, hospital visits and medications have become more and more expensive for the average American. This problem has become such a dilemma for the United States that people often cannot pay for their life-saving medication and affordable healthcare is a hot-button issue for presidential administrations. While insurance companies, lack of regulation over medication prices, etc., all contribute to this issue, there is another problem: the existence of medical patents that contribute to a rise in medication costs. Beyond money, patents have raised several other issues within the medical community. What is a patent? Patents are a form of intellectual property rights, which are often treated similarly to other property rights. 35 USC Section 101, also known as the patent-eligibility doctrine, states that “any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof” may be eligible for a patent. Patents for one’s invention or discovery protect the idea; they grant the patent-holder exclusive rights over their invention. For example, suppose a doctor discovers a new combination of synthetic compounds and living organisms that creates a treatment for cancer; if they patent this new discovery, the doctor is able to [read more]

Heartbalm Torts: Solution or Impediment to Modern Reproductive Justice Issues

(Source)   Sex, relationships, and family are not only intimate concepts defined through personal experience; they are also public institutions shaped by a mosaic of laws and societal influences. In the past century, these institutions have undergone radical change as feminist, racial, and queer activism secured new protections from courts and legislatures. However, as these protections expanded, reactionary movements also pushed back to prevent the redefining of intimate relations, a circumstance once more exemplified in the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision rolling back judicial restrictions on anti-abortion laws. History offers critical lessons in understanding the present as well as in organizing for the future. As abortion bans – prior to Dobbs not seen in 50 years – spread across much of the country, it is especially important to examine previous perspectives on the institutions of intimate relations; through these perspectives we can better understand the shape of today’s institutions and what activism succeeded to define them. With this in mind, this article fleshes out the development of contemporary American intimacy institutions by exploring the fall of heartbalm torts – once-abundant civil claims to redress romantic wrongs – through Black feminist, queer, and abolitionist lenses.   Part One: The History of Heartbalm [read more]

In the Likeness of the Human Mind AI Liability and the Speculative Fiction of Dune

The author generated this image using Stable Diffusion, an AI art generator. At the time of writing this piece, this art cannot be copyrighted and is not owned by anyone.   A note on the use of the word Jihad: Frank Herbert’s Dune novels use the word Jihad to mean a holy war. This is an erroneous translation that diminishes the breadth of situations the word applies to.  For accuracy, this article also uses the word Jihad in the places where Herbert used the word, with the understanding that the word has been removed from its original religious meaning.   In Frank Herbert’s Dune, it is a vital fact that computers, as we understand them, do not exist. Instead, humans called Mentats are trained to do the work of calculators themselves. This distrust of machine intelligence stems from an event known as the Butlarian Jihad, an apparent revolt in the distant past in which machines were destroyed altogether. The distrust of artificial intelligence and the veneration of the human mind have become first principles in the far future setting of Dune. While the specifics of the Jihad are kept extremely vague in the six books Herbert wrote himself, a couple [read more]