Stepping Up: The First Step Act and Criminal Justice Reform

(Source)   America incarcerates people at a higher rate than any country in the world. The highly politicized War on Drugs led to a spike in incarceration, particularly in lower-income and minority communities. Although the prison population in the United States has declined since 2016, incarceration and recidivism rates remain high. According to a study by the United States Sentencing Commission, more than half of a group of 25,000 recently released individuals were rearrested for new crimes or violations of supervision conditions. Although recidivism rates vary depending on factors such as sentence length and an individual’s previous exposure the criminal justice system, the overall rate of recidivism looks bleak. In 2018, Congress enacted the First Step Act to target high mandatory minimum sentences and recidivism rates in the federal carceral system.   A First Step Forward The First Step Act reforms mandatory minimum sentencing laws, introduces earned time credit and improves good time credit systems, and remedies compassionate release programs in federal prisons. Mandatory minimum sentencing laws restrict judicial discretion in sentencing and force judges to impose certain penalties for certain crimes, typically focusing on drug-related offenses. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 is the major source of mandatory minimum [read more]

Climate Crisis: Removing Authority from U.S. Military Commanders Over Sexual Assault Cases May Remedy the Prevalence and Underreporting of Sexual Assault

(Source)   The latest Department of Defense (DoD) Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military reports an increase in instances of sexual assault in the U.S. military (military). While rates of sexual assault increase, rates of conviction and punishment remain unchanged. The current military justice system allows for the accused’s unit supervisor (hereinafter “Commander”) to play a significant role in how sexual assault cases are resolved. While Pentagon officials promise to take more aggressive action in addressing sexual assault, it is often questioned whether the military is “equipped to police and reform itself.” According to a study commissioned by the DoD, an estimated 20,500 service members “experienced some kind of contact or penetrative sexual assault in 2018.” This is a 38% increase since the 2016 survey. The same study found that while rates of sexual assault against men remained steady, rates of sexual assault against women increased by almost 50%. With less than one-third of military survivors reporting sexual assault, and 6,053 reports of sexual assault in the 2018 fiscal year, there appears to be a greater institutional problem within the military justice system. Military sexual assault reports are processed either through the restricted or unrestricted reporting systems. Restricted [read more]

Jumping on the Ban-wagon: As Vaping Associated Illnesses Rise, Governments and Corporations Take Action

(Source)   As of September 17, 2019, there have been 7 reported deaths and 530 cases of lung injury associated with e-cigarettes and vaping. Doctors across the country are struggling to determine the true cause of this illness with a high incidence among vape product users. Doctors are unable to even prescribe a uniform diagnosis to the condition, with some using the term “vaping-associated lung injury,” or “VALI.” Many believe these vaping-related illnesses are due to additives—namely Vitamin E acetate—found in some THC vaping products. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has detected Vitamin E acetate in many of the samples tested during  , but it has not been present in all. While the CDC cannot conclusively determine that Vitamin E acetate is the cause of these mysterious illnesses, they recommend avoiding inhaling the oil. In response to this mysterious vaping illness, governments and private corporations alike are striving to heavily regulate e-cigarettes and vaping products. On September 11, 2019, the Trump administration announced it would seek to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes at the federal level. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently outlining a plan to remove all non-tobacco flavored e-cigarettes and nicotine [read more]

The Life Cycle of a Note

Have you ever wondered how notes are selected for publication or what Cornell’s journals do with the large number of notes written by associates each year? Mystyc Metrik explains the life cycle of a note. [read more]

Vaccine Torts and Bruesewitz v. Wyeth

Professors Jeff Van Detta and Joanna Apolinsky comment on Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, which ruled that federal law immunized vaccine-manufacturers from design-defect tort claims under state law. The Supreme Court cited Detta and Apolinsky's article "Rethinking Liability for Vaccine Injuries", published in the JLPP, in their holding. [read more]