CourtSide: Civil Rights Archives
CourtSide - The FindLaw Breaking Legal News Blog

Recently in Civil Rights Category

Both Indiana and now Arkansas are the center of a nationwide debate about Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs). Critics of the recently passed legislation say the laws will allow businesses to refuse service to gay, lesbian, and transgender customers under the protection of religious freedom.

Indiana's Gov. Mike Pence signed that state's RFRA into law last week, and the Arkansas State House passed their own version yesterday. With all of the controversy surrounding the laws, let's take a look at the actual text of each, and see how they compare to each other, and federal religious freedom legislation.

The verdict is in on the Ellen Pao discrimination case. Sort of. Earlier this afternoon, a San Francisco jury returned verdicts in favor of defendant Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers on three of four counts.

On the fourth count, the jury failed to reach the required nine votes out of 12, but the judge sent them back to deliberate further.

The Wikimedia Foundation has filed a federal lawsuit alleging the government agency's mass data collection violated the Constitution.

Wikipedia's parent company is heading a lawsuit against the National Security Agency (NSA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), among others, and contends the online encyclopedia was specifically targeted for surveillance.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The Department of Justice issued two reports Wednesday: one finding that police in Ferguson, Missouri, engaged in a pattern of conduct that routinely violated residents' civil rights, and another detailing the fatal police shooting of Ferguson resident Michael Brown.

Citing the results of the Michael Brown investigation, the DOJ declined to file federal civil rights charges against former Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Brown after an altercation in August.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the investigations revealed "a community that was deeply polarized, and where deep distrust and hostility often characterized interactions between police and area residents."

The National Association of the Deaf filed two federal class actions complaints today. The suits -- against Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) -- allege that the universities discriminate against the deaf because their online content is not captioned, or is poorly or illegibly captioned.

This lack of captioning, according to the plaintiffs, deprives the 48 million deaf or hard-of-hearing Americans of the same educational opportunities as those who can hear. It also violates federal law, the lawsuits assert.

Ferguson Grand Juror Sues Over 'Lifetime Gag Order'

A member of the grand jury that declined to press charges against former Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown has filed a lawsuit against St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCulloch.

The anonymous juror, known only as "Grand Juror Doe," is seeking the right to speak publicly about what went on during the grand jury's investigation, reports The Huffington Post.

According to the lawsuit, the evidence presented to the grand jury was done in a way that was "muddled and untimely" and "differed markedly and in significant ways" from how evidence was presented to the grand jury in previous cases.

The U.S. Supreme Court has issued an order allowing gay marriage to begin in Kansas, despite attempts to appeal the issue in federal court.

In a one-page order released Wednesday, the High Court noted the emergency stay that was granted by Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Monday was now lifted, meaning the state can no longer continue to enforce its prohibition on same-sex marriage. The initial halt on gay marriage in Kansas came after federal Judge Daniel Crabtree last Wednesday found the state's ban to be unconstitutional.

Now, only a week after Crabtree's ruling, the Supreme Court's terse order has allowed gay marriages to begin. What else does this brief Supreme Court order tell us?

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld gay marriage bans in the four states in its jurisdiction: Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.

In a 2-1 decision, the three-judge panel decided that these bans did not violate the constitutional rights of same-sex couples in those states, becoming the sole circuit court to uphold prohibitions on gay marriage. The sole dissenter, Judge Martha Daughtrey, called the majority decision "a largely irrelevant discourse on democracy and federalism" that avoided the real constitutional question.

This ruling is certainly not the end of the gay marriage issue in these states, as the issue may soon be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Maine Judge Rejects In-Home Quarantine for Ebola Nurse Kaci Hickox

A judge in Maine has reversed a temporary in-home quarantine order for a nurse who treated Ebola victims in West Africa. The judge's new order, issued Friday, removes many of the restrictions initially placed on the nurse's movement.

Judge Charles C. LaVerdiere had issued a temporary order Thursday, requiring nurse Kaci Hickox to submit to in-home monitoring and be subject to restrictions on her movement. The order was in response to a petition filed by the state, reports the Portland Press Herald.

Hickox had refused to abide by the state's request that she voluntarily restrict her movements, and even went out for a bike ride Thursday. So far, Hickox has tested negative for the Ebola virus and has not shown any symptoms of potential infection.

A group of Chinese high rollers is accusing the FBI of posing as Internet repairmen in order to secretly infiltrate and search their Las Vegas villa.

As part of a motion to suppress evidence filed in federal criminal court on Tuesday, the men accused of running an illegal gambling operation out of their hotel assert that FBI agents illegally snuck in to investigate. The document warns that the next time your Internet or phone service goes out, it could actually be an elaborate plot by federal agents trying to gain access to your home.

Can FBI agents legally do this sort of alleged "repairmen" ploy?