Paralegal Student Article about 1st Amendment

Impressed with this letter to the editor by a paralegal student about a new Indiana license plate (published in The Journal Gazette):

"The pending lawsuit regarding the 'In God We Trust' license plates has a few attention-catching flaws. As a paralegal student with a special interest in constitutional law, I found the suit to be a serious mistake.

"The first reason comes from the popular misunderstanding of the First Amendment. Instead of reading, 'there shall be a wall of separation between church and state,' or 'no law that even so much as allows religious liberties can be made,' the amendment reads: 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.'

"The claim brought to court is based on the assumption that the state of Indiana (or any other government agency) cannot be religion-friendly in any way. This, however, is false. If you were to go back to the discussion surrounding the formation of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, you would find that many of the Founding Fathers were Christians and that all of them, Christian or not, were not concerned with the state or federal governments being religion-friendly, but rather that the governments would enforce a specific denomination (i.e. Baptist, Anglican, Catholic, etc.)."

Read the complete letter & tell me if you're also impressed with Abigail Snyder's reasoning.


Amnesty criticizes Guantanamo abuse investigation

I just hope the paralegal who blew the whistle doesn't have her career damaged:

"A human rights group on Thursday accused the U.S. military of failing to adequately investigate the latest allegations of prisoner abuse at Guantanamo Bay and urged officials to open the detention center to more independent monitors.

"An investigation was launched in October by U.S. Southern Command, which oversees the U.S. naval base in southeastern Cuba, after a Marine paralegal reported guards she met at Guantanamo bragged about beating detainees.

"Amnesty International said the probe was 'flawed' because the chief investigator, Army Col. Richard Bassett, did not interview any detainees before concluding there was no evidence of mistreatment."


"Local peace vigils gaining popularity"

Well, this is one way to voice opinons about the Iraq war:

"With death tolls growing and President Bush vowing to send more troops to Iraq, more North Jersey protesters are appealing to their neighbors at anti-war vigils alongside highways, municipal buildings and churches, activists say.

[snip]

"Few local protests attract more than 50 people at a time, but some have grown slowly and steadily. A vigil alongside Hamburg Turnpike in Wayne started this summer with four people. On a recent Wednesday, a dozen people huddled in coats, hats and mittens alongside the windy highway. One of them was Laura Fram, a paralegal from Pompton Lakes who stopped on a whim on her way back from work."


"Investigator: Paralegal filed false complaint"

Oh, this news can't be good for anyone:

"A Marine paralegal who reported that she overheard guards at Guantanamo Bay brag about beating detainees was accused by a military investigator of filing a false report, the paralegal’s boss, a Marine officer, said Friday.

"Army Col. Richard Basset, who was ordered by the U.S. Southern Command to investigate the allegations into guards’ actions, met the paralegal, Marine Sgt. Heather Cerveny, late last year at Camp Pendleton, Calif., where she is based, according to Marine Lt. Col. Colby Vokey.

"Basset told Cerveny the guards denied her account of their conversation in a Guantanamo bar — and the investigator accused her of having made a false statement, Vokey told The Associated Press in a telephone interview."


"Man files lawsuit to take wife's name"

Well, all I have to say about this news is "You go, Mike!"

"Mike Buday isn't married to his last name. In fact, he and his fiancee decided before they wed that he would take hers. But Buday was stunned to learn that he couldn't simply become Mike Bijon when they married in 2005.

"As in most other states, that would require some bureaucratic paperwork well beyond what a woman must go through to change her name when marrying.

"Instead of completing the expensive, time-consuming process, Buday and his wife, Diana Bijon, enlisted the American Civil Liberties Union and filed a discrimination lawsuit against the state of California. They claim the difficulty faced by a husband seeking to change his name violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

[snip]

"In California, a man who wants to take his wife's name must file a petition, pay more than $300, place a public notice for weeks in a local newspaper and then appear before a judge."

So, what do you think? Is this discrimination?


Paralegal Opening: Immigrants' Rights Project

Found what sounds like a challenging open position using Google's blog search:

"The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation (ACLU), a national non-profit public interest organization, seeks applicants for a full-time Paralegal position with the Immigrants' Rights Project (IRP) in the ACLU’s National Headquarters in New York City. The IRP works to defend the civil and constitutional rights of immigrants through a comprehensive program of impact litigation and public education.

"The IRP conducts the largest litigation program in the country dedicated to enforcing and defending the constitutional and civil rights of immigrants and to combating public and private discrimination against non-citizens. The IRP maintains offices in New York and California with a combined staff of fifteen, plus interns and volunteers. Current cases and priorities include lawsuits against military commanders for torture of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan; litigation challenging unconstitutional detention of immigrants; preserving the right to habeas corpus and access to the courts; challenging unconstitutional city and local ordinances targeting immigrants; enforcing anti-discrimination laws; compelling disclosure of government documents under the Freedom of Information Act; and ensuring due process for immigrants under the immigration laws.

[snip]

"Applicants are encouraged to apply immediately."

Here are 3 links to bios for the ACLU's current IRP staff:

Sarah Weiss -- Paralegal, New York
Pauline Nguyen -- Legal Assistant, New York
Isaac Menashe -- Paralegal, California
Derrick Wortes -- Paralegal, California


Paralegals staff voting question 'hotlines'

Helping people vote legally & successfully is a good thing:

"South Carolina voters will have a lot of company at the polls on Election Day as several groups say they will watch for problems across the state.

[snip]

"The U.S. Justice Department will dispatch more than 800 observers nationwide, a record for a non-presidential election year, but will not make an announcement about where poll watchers will be located until Monday, agency spokeswoman Cynthia Magnuson said Friday.

"Meanwhile, several voter groups will document voting problems and a task force made up of U.S. attorneys and FBI agents will investigate any allegations of election fraud.

"The poll watchers will be looking for incidents like when several students, were turned away momentarily from a precinct at Benedict College in 2004 after poll watchers affiliated with the Republican Party contested the legality of their vote.

[snip]

"In addition to having volunteers at the polls, voters who encounter problems can call 866-OUR-VOTE as part of a national effort organized by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

"Callers to the hotline will reach a legal assistant trained in South Carolina election law. If the caller needs immediate legal attention, it will be routed to Columbia, where attorneys will be standing by."


Paralegal & military lawyer ordered not to discuss Gitmo claims

We earlier noted this paralegal's actions in reporting abuse; now she's been told not to talk to the press:

"A paralegal and a military lawyer who brought forward allegations about prisoner abuse at the Guantanamo Bay detention center have been ordered not to speak with the press, lawyers and a military spokeswoman said Saturday.

"Marine Lt. Col. Colby Vokey, who represents a detainee at the U.S. naval base in eastern Cuba, filed a complaint with the Pentagon last week alleging that abuse was ongoing at the prison. He attached a sworn statement from his paralegal, Sgt. Heather Cerveny [PDF link], in which she said several Guantanamo guards bragged in a bar about beating detainees, describing it as common practice.

"Muneer Ahmad, a civilian defense lawyer for Omar Khadr, a Canadian detainee whose military counsel is Vokey, said that Vokey and Cerveny were ordered Friday by the U.S. Marines not to speak with the press.

"Cerveny, reached by telephone late Saturday, said she disagreed with the order but also would abide it. She declined to comment further."


"ABA to Continue Fight Over Detainee Rights"

Excellent news for supporters of habeas corpus:

"The American Bar Association [PDF link] said last week it will continue to challenge key provisions of a federal bill authorizing military tribunals to try terrorism suspects, even though the legislation ultimately passed by a lopsided margin in the Senate.

"ABA members say they are most concerned about sections of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that deny judicial review of habeas corpus claims filed on behalf of 'enemy combatants' being held at facilities in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other locations.

"'It's a sweeping denial of habeas, so that any alien who is detained by the U.S. can be detained forever without any hope of ever getting to a court. That's just wrong,' said Neal Sonnett, a Miami attorney who chairs the ABA's Task Force on Treatment of Enemy Combatants [PDF link]."