Category Archives: Laws/Legislation

Secrecy versus sunshine: Efforts to hide government records never stop

Source: Brent Walth, The Conversation, May 15, 2019

….All 50 states give the public the right to see government records and documents, but many state legislatures are weighing changes in their open-records laws.

These changes rarely end up making our government more transparent. Instead, lawmakers often try to conceal public records from the people who own them – that is, you and me.

Public records laws exist to allow us to see into the decision-making of our government. When bureaucrats make efforts to obscure our view into their actions, it serves only to undermine government officials’ accountability.

It also diminishes the public’s understanding of, and faith in, democracy. ….

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA): Historical Overview, Funding, and Reauthorization

Source: Lisa N. Sacco, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report, R45410, April 23, 2019

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was originally enacted in 1994 (P.L. 103-322). It addressed congressional concerns about violent crime, and violence against women in particular, in several ways. Among other things, it allowed for enhanced sentencing of repeat federal sex offenders; mandated restitution to victims of specified federal sex offenses; and authorized grants to state, local, and tribal law enforcement entities to investigate and prosecute violent crimes against women.

This report provides a brief history of VAWA and an overview of the crimes addressed through the act. It includes brief descriptions of earlier VAWA reauthorizations and a more-detailed description of the most recent reauthorization in 2013. It also briefly addresses reauthorization activity in the 116th Congress. The report concludes with a discussion of VAWA programs and a five-year history of funding from FY2015 through FY2019.

Is Algorithmic Affirmative Action Legal?

Source: Jason R. Bent, Georgetown Law Journal, Forthcoming, Date Written: April 16, 2019

From the abstract:
It is now understood that machine learning algorithms can produce unintentionally biased results. For the last few years, legal scholars have been debating whether the disparate treatment or disparate impact theories available under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act are capable of protecting against algorithmic discrimination. But machine learning scholars are not waiting for the legal answer. Instead, they have been working to develop a wide variety of technological “fairness” solutions that can be used to constrain machine learning algorithms. They have discovered that simply blinding algorithms to protected characteristics like sex or race is insufficient to prevent algorithmic discrimination. Given enough data, algorithms will identify and leverage on proxies for the protected characteristics. Recognizing this, some scholars have proposed “fairness through awareness” or “algorithmic affirmative action” — actively using sensitive variables like race or sex to counteract unidentified sources of bias and achieve some mathematical measure of fairness in algorithmic decisions. But is algorithmic affirmative action legal? This article is the first to comprehensively consider that question under both Title VII and the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The article evaluates the legality of the leading fairness techniques advanced in the machine learning literature, including group fairness, individual fairness, and counterfactual fairness. The article concludes that existing affirmative action doctrine under Title VII and existing constitutional equal protection jurisprudence leave sufficient room for at least some forms of algorithmic affirmative action.

Status of State Medicaid Expansion Decisions: Interactive Map

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation, April 26, 2019

To date, 37 states (including DC) have adopted the Medicaid expansion and 14 states have not adopted the expansion. Current status for each state is based on KFF tracking and analysis of state expansion activity.

To view this data in a table format, click here. To download a Powerpoint slide of the expansion status map, click here.

Learn for Free: Law Courses & Lectures Online

Source: Inner Temple Library, Updated April 2019

From interactive courses spanning several weeks to quick introductory tasters, there is a huge amount of free learning materials available online. Covering a range of topics and jurisdictions, there’s something for everyone (so long as you’re into law)!
MOOCs, Tasters and Courseware
Lecture Collections and Podcasts
Open Access Books and Journals

Courses include:
Labor Law and Employment Discrimination
Missouri State University on YouTube

‘Legal, regulatory, and ethical issues related to employer-employee relationship, including employment-at-will doctrine, discrimination and union contracts.’

Law, Social Movements, and Public Policy: Comparative and International Experience
MIT Open Courseware

‘This course studies the interaction between law, courts, and social movements in shaping domestic and global public policy. Examines how groups mobilize to use law to affect change and why they succeed and fail. The class uses case studies to explore the interplay between law, social movements, and public policy in current areas such as gender, race, labor, trade, environment, and human rights. Finally, it introduces the theories of public policy, social movements, law and society, and transnational studies.’

Technology, Law, and the Working Environment
MIT Open Courseware

‘This course addresses the relationship between technology-related problems and the law applicable to work environment. The National Labor Relations Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, state worker’s compensation, and suits by workers in the courts are discussed in the course. Problems related to occupational health and safety, collective bargaining as a mechanism for altering technology in the workplace, job alienation, productivity, and the organization of work are also addressed. Prior courses or experience in environmental, public health, or law-related areas will be useful.’

Law
Cornell University on iTunesU

‘Andrew D. White, Cornell’s first president, established a law school to produce “not swarms of hastily prepared pettifoggers, but a fair number of well-trained, large-minded, morally-based lawyers in the best sense.” Cornell Law graduates are found in major law firms and corporate law departments; and as public defenders or winning discrimination cases. Undergraduates can take courses in labor, business, and international law, and study the impact of a legal system on societies and individuals.’

Gender and the Law in U.S. History
MIT Open Courseware

‘This subject explores the legal history of the United States as a gendered system. It examines how women have shaped the meanings of American citizenship through pursuit of political rights such as suffrage, jury duty, and military service, how those political struggles have varied for across race, religion, and class, as well as how the legal system has shaped gender relations for both women and men through regulation of such issues as marriage, divorce, work, reproduction, and the family. The course readings will draw from primary and secondary materials in American history, as well as some court cases. However, the focus of the class is on the broader relationship between law and society, and no technical legal knowledge is required or assumed.’

Introduction to Alternative Dispute Resolution
Alison

‘The free online course Introduction to Alternative Dispute Resolution describes the benefits of using ADR as a conflict resolution method, how to prepare for an ADR process, and how confidentiality is maintained during the ADR process. The course also outlines both the common and uncommon methods of ADR and the situations in which each method can be used.’

Introduction to Copyright Law in America
MIT on Alison

‘With the wide-spread use of the Internet copyright has become a very important issue for publishers of books, music, software, films, television programmes and many other industries. This free online course is an introduction to copyright law as practised in the United States, however, the principles and concepts will be of interest to legal professionals in other jurisdictions. The course reviews the structure of copyright under federal law, the basics of legal research and legal citations. It examines copyright and its applications in the music and broadcasting industries, and looks at legal cases involving examples such as Napster, Grokster and peer-to-peer file sharing services. It also reviews software licensing, and the General Public License and free software. This course will be of great interest to legal and business professionals who would like to learn more about copyright law and how it is practised in the United States, and to students who are pursuing a career in the legal professions and would like to learn more about this very important legal topic.’

State-by-State Estimates of the Coverage and Funding Consequences of Full Repeal of the ACA

Source: Linda J. Blumberg, Matthew Buettgens, John Holahan, Clare Wang Pan, Urban Institute, March 26, 2019

From the abstract:
This analysis provides information on some of the consequences should a case pending before the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit be decided in favor of the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs argue that the entire Affordable Care Act be eliminated due to the fact that he individual mandate penalties were set to $0 beginning with plan year 2019. We estimate the state-by-state implications of full ACA repeal for insurance coverage and government funding of health care in 2019. Our estimates take into account 2019 marketplace enrollment and premiums as well as recent Medicaid data.

Fundraising for Favors? Linking Lobbyist-Hosted Fundraisers to Legislative Benefits

Source: Amy Melissa McKay, Political Research Quarterly, Online First, April 24, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Do legislators and lobbyists trade favors? This study uses uncommon data sources and plagiarism software to detect a rarely observed relationship between interest group lobbyists and sitting Members of Congress. Comparison of letters to a Senate committee written by lobby groups to legislative amendments introduced by committee members reveals similar and even identical language, providing compelling evidence that groups persuaded legislators to introduce amendments valued by the group. Moreover, the analysis suggests that these language matches are more likely when the requesting lobby group hosts a fundraising event for the senator. The results hold while controlling for ideological agreement between the senator and the group, the group’s campaign contributions to the senator, and the group’s lobbying expenditures, annual revenue, and home-state connections.