Lasting Effects of Prohibition

(Source) America as a nation has a long and intertwined history with alcohol as the pilgrims relied on beer for a sterile drink in the same way that the founding fathers did days before signing the Constitution. The alcohol industry and attempts to regulate it have led to rebellions, prohibition, and a Supreme Court ruling. As attempts to regulate the lucrative and profitable industry continued and have given rise to multiple sets of rules, the industry and its many consumers have experienced many changes along the way. The largest and most well-known of the changes was prohibition, brought forth by the 18th Amendment as a result of the temperance movement. While the success of prohibition was limited, the eventual repeal gave rise to the modern system today.  The 21st amendment repealed the 18th amendment and allowed states to determine how they would handle liquor distribution. As states now had specific authority to control different aspects of alcohol rules, the system became more complex with different laws, as seen in Pennsylvania compared with a state like New Hampshire.  With the myriad different laws making it confusing for customers, manufacturers, and distributors the efficiency present in a direct system disappears. The three [read more]

Courts Should Continue to Offer ODR In Civil Disputes

(Source) Court-annexed alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) is a process by which courts assist parties in resolving their legal disputes. Any method of dispute resolution that is hosted or supported by a court and does not involve litigation is considered court-annexed ADR. Examples of ADR include: negotiation, arbitration and mediation. Since the 1990s, ADR has been available online. Virtually conducted ADR is known as online dispute resolution (“ODR”). During ODR, parties meet by video conference. Some of the first courts to adopt ODR were located in Singapore, the Netherlands and Canada. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, courts in Connecticut, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, Kentucky, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and California utilized ODR. By 2019, 66 courts offered ODR in the United States.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, courts across the country increased their reliance on ODR. Most federal courts allowed a greater number of ADR conferences to occur online. Many state and local courts also utilized ODR. The New York State Unified Court System held all of their ADR conferences through Microsoft Teams. In California, the Superior Court of Placer County conducted their civil settlement conferences through Zoom. Over the course of the pandemic, millions of civil court proceedings – including [read more]

Is Build Back Better’s Paid Leave Provision Really a No-Brainer?

(Source) America is one of very few nations that lack a national paid leave program. The Build Back Better Act passed by the U.S House of Representatives attempted to remedy this by instituting a uniform paid leave policy for those working in the private sector. This would have been the most significant expansion of the scope of paid leave since the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was enacted in 1993. However, paid leave has always been a hotly debated topic with both sides of the argument expressing valid concerns. This time too, the paid leave provisions of the Build Back Better Act has divided people across and within Party lines. After slicing down the initial proposal heavily, the Democrats completely excluded paid leave from the Act for a lack of sufficient consensus.       1. The Paid Leave Provision in the Build Back Better Act Paid leave was an important part of President Biden’s agenda when he was voted into office. As a section of the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better package, the proposal initially envisioned twelve weeks of paid leave per year. In an attempt to secure higher support for the provision, the paid leave was reduced to four weeks [read more]

Can The President Cancel Student Debt?

(Source) Student loan forgiveness has been a popular topic in the news lately.  This should not come as a surprise considering there are over 43 million student borrowers in the United States, each with an average debt size of $39,351. As the current total student loan debt in the United States tops $1.7 trillion, President Biden has called for cancelling $10,000 federal student loan debt for every borrower. In fact, in April 2021, President Biden even tasked the Departments of Education and Justice with drafting a memo on whether he has the legal authority to cancel student debt. However, since this memo has not yet been released to the public, the answer remains unclear. This article will broadly explore arguments regarding the President’s legal authority to cancel federal student loan debt.  To start, the Biden administration has actually already cancelled nearly $10 billion in federal student loan debt as of late 2021. However, this relief was only available to borrowers with disabilities and to victims of college fraud. The legal basis for cancelling the federal student loan debt of borrowers with total and permanent disabilities is the Higher Education Act of 1965, while the Department of Education’s “Borrower Defense to Loan Repayment” regulation [read more]

Government Sponsored Legal Research Tool That Facilitates Nonlawyers’ Access to Caselaw

(Source) Today, under Gideon v. Wainwright, any criminal defendant who risks at least one year of jail time has free access to defense counsel. But that is not the case for civil litigants and some misdemeanor defendants, many of whom could hardly afford a lawyer and have to represent themselves. They do not have access to counsel, but what is worse is that they do not have fair and effective access to law. America is a common law country, which means that its law largely consists of case decisions. Most lawyers heavily rely on legal search engines like LexisNexis and Westlaw to conduct legal research. Such tools help them efficiently locate cases that address their legal issues. But for pro se litigants who could hardly afford a lawyer, legal research tools like LexisNexis and Westlaw are too expensive and hard to use. Their access to caselaw is significantly impaired compared to professional lawyers. If they are involved in a litigation where the opposing party is represented by a lawyer or if they are prosecuted under conditions that do not guarantee a right to free counsel, then they would have to face the experienced lawyers who have full access to caselaw. [read more]

Crime and Profits? The Story of the Most Profitable Punishment in American History

(Source) In 2015, Volkswagen admitted to engineering and rigging devices used on their diesel vehicles to skirt compliance with emissions testing and knowingly fouled the air by producing cars that were far out of compliance with emissions standards. Volkswagen’s befouling plot released 46,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, linked to an estimated 100+ deaths from the increased pollution. The repercussions for Volkswagen included pleading guilty to three criminal convictions resulting in a court-ordered criminal fine of $2.8 billion. The criminal fine was the largest ever imposed by the U.S. on an automaker. However, the criminal charges originated from the company’s acts of deceit and conspiracy against the U.S.; the charges did not stem from enforcement of the Clean Air Act (CAA) against polluters who knowingly violate it. The Act exempted “mobile source violators,” i.e., carmakers, from criminal culpability for emissions violations. In addition, thirteen executives and employees of the company and its subsidiaries faced criminal charges, with several receiving prison sentences. In the end, the company has had to pay more than $34 billion in fines and settlements, including the costs for buybacks and modifications of their rigged diesel cars. However, arguably, the most significant sanction against Volkswagen has been the [read more]

We’re Abandoning our Afghan Allies

(Source) For the past twenty years, the U.S. military worked in Afghanistan and relied on the assistance of Afghan allies who supported them. Time and time again, Afghans saved American lives in Afghanistan in their joint efforts to oppose the Taliban.  Now that the United States has left Afghanistan and the Taliban has taken over the country, the Taliban has been systematically tracking down Afghans who have any connection to the United States, along with their extended families. This includes anyone who worked for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, like translators and guides, anyone who worked for the previous Afghanistan government that partnered with the United States, and people who worked for American nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). These Afghan allies are now in danger because of their association with the United States.  The U.S. evacuated some Afghans at risk while they were pulling out the military, but many of our allies were left behind and are stuck in danger. The Taliban has already killed many people who opposed them, and it does not appear as though they will stop anytime soon. Many Afghans are in hiding or fleeing to other countries. The United States has an obligation to protect our Afghan [read more]

The West Coast Migration: How California’s Battle with Climate Change Has Affected the Cost of Living

(Source) Boasting the fifth largest economy in the world, the Golden State is a beacon for various American industries, such as entertainment, technology, and agriculture. Yet population growth has halted. Some who reject the “California Dream” attribute the decline in growth to a so-called West Coast migration, pointing to Tesla’s recent move to Texas, along with that of tens of thousands of other Californians. Others attribute it to a baby bust and a downward trend in international immigration. While these factors, along with the devastation of an international pandemic, have led to the state’s population standstill, the high cost of living seems to remain at the heart of the issue. Although housing costs are largely to blame for the rising cost of living, numerous natural disasters have posed an insurmountable direct and indirect cost to residents. California’s public policy response to climate change could serve to foreshadow what is to come for the nation as a whole.  Among the most outspoken states in favor of zealous climate change policy, California is also one of the most vulnerable, encountering some of the first largescale effects of climate change in the United States. It has most notably been struck by worsening drought, [read more]

20 Years On: Why Congress Should Repeal the Post 9/11 AUMFs

(Source) I. Introduction Three days after the September 11 attacks, the 107th Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force (“2001 AUMF”). Section 2 of the 2001 AUMF authorized the President of the United States (“President”) to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United Stated by such nations, organizations or persons.” This sixty-word broad authorization served as a blank check for the U.S. to conduct military operations in Afghanistan. The counterpart of the 2001 AUMF was the 2002 AUMF, which authorized military force against Iraq. While the initial focus of the 2002 AUMF was to address the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s regime, the U.S. used it for the “dual purposes of helping to establish a stable, democratic Iraq and of addressing terrorist threats emanating from Iraq.” For example, President Obama used the 2002 AUMF to conduct the counter-ISIS military campaign in 2014. Similarly, in January 2020, after invoking both the Article II powers and the 2002 AUMF, President [read more]

The State of New York Should Pass a Right to Counsel in Eviction Proceedings

(Source) The start of the COVID-19 pandemic brought heightened attention to a common occurrence in the United States: evictions. On September 4, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a moratorium on evictions across the nation in an effort to curtail the rapid spread of the virus.  The agency’s rationale for promulgating this order is that evictions increase the spread of the virus by raising the risk of homelessness.  Homeless individuals are more likely to move into congregate settings, such as homeless shelters, which places them at an increased risk of contracting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.  Evictions also make it more difficult for State and local governments to implement stay-at-home orders and make it difficult for individuals who become ill to self-isolate.   The spread of COVID-19 is not the only detriment resulting from evictions.  Evictions break up families, impair careers, and marginalize Black and Brown communities.  Evictions are associated with higher rates of stress and depression, addiction, suicide, parental abuse, and other mental health conditions.  Evictions cause an increase in the risk of homelessness, and elevate long-term residential instability.  In some cases, evictions result in a (modest) decrease in earnings as well as credit access.  [read more]
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