The Journal of Law and Public Policy is….

Twin Crises – Abortion During Covid-19

(Source) Limited access to healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic severely curtailed the ability of pregnant persons to access abortion services. At a time when abortion access was especially critical, mobility and quarantine measures were widely used as pretenses to delay services. Under the guise of protecting frontline workers, saving PPE kits, and allowing only essential medical services to continue, legislators imposed several crackdowns to restrict abortion that, in fact, had failed to address the concerns raised in the first place. Given abortion’s time-sensitive nature, this further exacerbated existing inequalities within society in terms of race and socio-economic status, and created a vacuum for essential services that were of utmost importance to basic health care.    I. Curtailing Abortion During a Pandemic   During the growing COVID-19 crisis, it became evident that the United States had a serious lack of PPE kits available for use while treating patients. To efficiently address the issue, several state governments announced a temporary halt of elective health care activities. Some states, like Alabama, issued a very basic executive order that asked people to postpone their elective health care procedures. Other states chose to define “elective” services, providing examples of procedures considered elective by the state, [read more]

American Infrastructure and the Biden Administration

(Source) On March 31, 2021, the White House issued a press release on the first landmark piece of legislation for the Biden administration, “The American Jobs Plan.” The Administration describes the Plan as “an investment in America” amidst a time of mounting climate change concerns and increasing inequality. The Administration also touts the Plan as a strategic component of the “Build Back Better” framework, President Biden’s proposed solution to tackle many of America’s most pressing issues in both physical and human infrastructure. To that end, the Administration is seeking to frame the Plan as a tool to combat “long-standing and persistent racial injustice.” To understand the impetus for such a claim, one must be familiar with the strong historical connection between infrastructure and racial injustice as well as the implications that improved access to quality infrastructure may have for marginalized communities.  I. How does the American Jobs Plan Address Racial Injustice?  While the American Jobs Plan seeks to improve antiquated structures across many industries, most objectives in the bill focus on infrastructure. According to the press release, “the United States of America is the wealthiest country in the world, yet we rank thirteenth when it comes to the overall quality of [read more]

The wrong way to save Afghans: America must make it easier for refugees to come here

(Source) This article originally appeared in the New York Daily News. When U.S. troops left Afghanistan, many Afghans who had supported the United States’ work there became Taliban targets due to their association with the United States. While in theory, Afghans at risk can apply for humanitarian parole to come to the United States, in reality, this option falls grossly short of humane. Humanitarian parole allows non-U.S. citizens to remain in the United States for a two-year parole period. Applicants must meet certain qualifications to be eligible, such as urgent humanitarian need. While other immigration options technically exist for Afghans, like the Special Immigrant Visa and the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, those application processes can take years. That delay renders those options nonviable for Afghans whose lives are in danger.  Humanitarian parole is theoretically the quickest way for Afghans to gain admission into the United States, making it the most appealing option for many Afghans hoping to escape the Taliban. But the application process is nearly impossible for someone in hiding. Applicants must complete several confusing immigration forms and compile many supporting evidentiary documents. The forms are in English legal jargon, which is obviously a problem for many Afghans who [read more]

Admit or Acquit: Why Circuit Courts Should Admit All New Evidence

(Source) To succeed on a claim of actual innocence, a defendant needs to introduce new evidence that was not available at the time of trial. When a defendant wants to introduce new evidence to appeal a federal court conviction, the defendant must undergo an arduous trial. Because an appeal is not a retrial, appellate courts will review the lower court’s record. Defendants who move for a new trial can succeed when new evidence is available which can prove the defendant’s innocence. The process is further complicated because of the circuit court split over the definition of “new evidence.” The Tenth, Sixth, Seventh, and Ninth Circuits are willing to look at evidence that was not presented before the appeal. However, the Third, Fifth, and Eighth Circuits are only willing to review new evidence that was not yet available at the trial court. The circuit split is problematic because criminal defendants could face jurisdictional inequality based on which appellate court they appeal to. Even when new evidence is available after trial, time constraints can limit what new evidence is sufficient to file for a new trial. To file for a new trial, new evidence must be filed within three years under Federal [read more]

Expanding the Courts to Reduce Case Backlogs

(Source) Case backlogs significantly impact the judicial system. By delaying the proceedings, case backlogs increase the cost of litigation. When a case is backlogged, parties—especially those that cannot afford to wait or pay for protracted litigation—are incentivized to accept less than optimal settlements. Backlogs also force criminal defendants, who cannot afford bail, to spend a greater amount of time in jail before a determination of their guilt can occur. Moreover, backlogs can stymie justice by delaying trials until after witnesses or even parties have passed away. Courts across the United States have experienced backlogs for quite some time. Between 2000 and 2014, thousands of civil cases were backlogged in U.S. District Courts each year, and this trend has only continued into the 2020s. For example, as of 2020, the number of backlogged cases in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey sat at a staggering 39,000, up over 230% since 2016. In the administrative law courts of the Department of Health and Human Services, hundreds of thousands of Medicare appeals were backlogged during the 2010s. Similarly, the nation’s immigration court has faced severe backlogs for more than a decade. Concerningly, the immigration court’s backlog has grown at [read more]

Drug Testing for Marijuana: An Arbitrary & Capricious Practice?

(Source) Although congressional efforts to decriminalize marijuana remain ongoing, we have seen the legalization of marijuana in several states both for medicinal use and for recreational use. In as early as 2012 following election day, Colorado became the first state to legalize the use and sale of marijuana. Since then, it isn’t uncommon to see “marijuana tourism,” a term used to describe consumers traveling to use marijuana in those progressive states and territories that legalized its recreational use. Despite the trend of states legalizing marijuana, employers still screen employees and prescreen potential employees for marijuana usage. Is such testing justified or is the practice arbitrary or even adverse to society?  Drug tests are optional tests for employers who use them to identify whether employees or prospective employees are using illicit drugs such as methamphetamines, THC which includes marijuana, cocaine, opiates, phencyclidine, and others as requested. These tests may also be in the form of (1) random tests; (2) periodic testing; (3) post-accident testing; (4) reasonable suspicion testing; (5) follow-up testing; or (6) pre-employment testing.  The purpose of these tests is to reduce workplace hazards and improve safety as well as productivity, which can be compromised with the use of drugs. [read more]

Modern Gambling: The Tragic Reality of Stock Trading in the 21st Century

(Source) The innovations of the modern age have put the American dream within reach for anyone. The only thing required is a computer or a smartphone, which gives users access to financial markets worldwide. Meanwhile, the American public has dreamt up an idyllic view of achieving the epitome of financial success through Wall Street and stock trading. This modern American dream has driven many to the lure of securities trading, especially during the pandemic. However, new traders, not enticed with the slow yearly gains of the Wall Street establishment, have looked to day trading to satisfy their desire for profits and lack of patience. Smartphones and social media facilitated this new trend as stock trading is more informal and accessible to all. The problem is, succeeding in day trading has not become easier. Many aspiring new day traders have turned to the brokerage firm Robinhood, which claims to be “democratizing” trading. The brokerage began in 2013 exclusively offering trading through their smartphone app.  Robinhood appeals to new traders by not requiring a minimum account size and having commission-free trading. The brokerage became a favorite for inexperienced traders as the company enticed anyone with a few bucks and a smartphone. This [read more]

The Parent Trap: Addressing the Legal Anomaly Blocking the Annulment of Same-Sex Adult Adoptions

(Source) The Supreme Court’s fateful decision in Obergefell v. Hodges will forever be an incredible achievement for the LGBTQ+ community. The landmark case declaring same-sex marriage legal across all 50 states celebrated its sixth anniversary this past June. Even still, with rampant discrimination, elevated homeless rates, and higher chances for sexual assault, the LGBTQ+ community has a tumultuous road ahead to achieve full equality. Simply granting the right to marry is not enough; as it stands, some gay couples are unable to access their constitutional right at all. This frustrating barrier finds its roots in a lack of legislation addressing the pre-Obergefell practice of adult adoption between gay partners.   Before the gay rights movement spearheaded successes like the Obergefell decision, LGBTQ+ couples had few means of acquiring legal status as a family. With limited options at hand, gay couples in the 1980s began to use adult adoption, in which one partner legally adopted the other, to ensure their partner’s inheritance, property, and hospital visitation rights. Unlike domestic partnerships, adult adoption allowed gay couples to achieve a “pseudo marriage” status, even if this meant that legally the couple would be considered parent and child. This was a common practice nationwide, especially [read more]

Easing H-1B Visa Cap for International Public Defenders: a Way to Resolve Current Shortage of Public Defenders

(Source) Although lack of funding, high caseloads, and shortage of attorneys are nothing new in America’s public defense system, the pandemic has worsened the problems to a new level.  As many courts in New England began to reopen after a long period of closure due to the pandemic, many public defenders were facing a large number of stacked up cases whose proceedings were suspended during court closure.  As a result, public defenders now bear much heavier workloads and many of them simply decided to leave the office or stop taking new cases due to the unbearable caseloads, leaving their co-workers even more work.  Such heavy workloads also endanger their clients’ deserved quality defense.  Each criminal case requires hours of legal research, investigation, and client correspondence.  A public defender working on too many cases cannot invest enough time in each case, and would therefore fail to provide quality defense for their clients.  At the same time, international students interested in becoming public defenders are discouraged from doing so due to difficulties obtaining a working visa in the US.  But there exists one solution to both problems: granting non-citizen public defenders’ exemption from the H-1B visa cap.  This solution may incentivize international [read more]

Retail Investors, Social Media, and the Future of Moderation

(Source) What happened? Earlier this year, retail investors took advantage of an opportunity to invest in stocks they collectively believed would increase in price. Using Reddit, retail investors came together on a subreddit, aptly named WallStreetBets, to parse through publicly available information and act “collectively” on certain stocks. These stocks included GameStop, AMC Entertainment, and BlackBerry Limited. This rally was led by Keith Gill, known as Roaring Kitty on YouTube or DFV on Reddit. Prior to the ~2000% surge in GameStop’s stock price in January 2021, Gill had been posting his findings and predictions on YouTube and on Reddit. Although his predictions were initially met with criticism from other retail investors on Reddit, Gill held firm in his belief that GameStop was undervalued, especially as new game consoles were released, which would increase sales and bolster GameStop’s value. Gill’s predictions soon received validation as individuals like Michael Burry (founder of Scion Capital, the hedge fund that successfully took a position against the housing market in 2008) and Ryan Cohen (cofounder of Chewy) also noted that they had taken large stakes in GameStop.  Gill, along with a small group of likeminded investors, pointed to two factors that influenced their decision to [read more]