A Conversation with Defense Attorneys in the 9/11 Military Commission Proceedings at Guantanamo Bay
6:30 - 8:00 PM
The panelists will discuss the recent history of the government's military commissions and the ongoing challenges of practicing law at Guantanomo Bay.
Father, Son, and Constitution: How Justice Tom Clark and Attorney General Ramsey Clark Shaped American Democracy
6:00 - 8:00 PM
Author Alexander Wohl discusses his new book on Justice Clark and Attorney General Clark's respective legacies in American jurisrudence.
The First Amendment in an Age of Terror
6:30 - 8:30 PM
This program will debate issues relating to leaks and whistleblowers, government surveillance, and the role of the press in the continuing struggle against terrorism.
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materials can be found on the website.
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Employment Non-Discrimination Act
On November 7, by a vote of 64-32, the US Senate passed S.815/H.R. 1755, The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. By extending employment discrimination protections under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, ENDA would make it unlawful for companies, labor unions, and employment agencies to use an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity as the basis for employment decisions, such as hiring, firing, promotion, or compensation. The Committees on Labor & Employment Law, Sex & Law, and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights have long supported ENDA's passage. However, at this time, passage in the House of Representatives remains unlikely.
Women's Equality Act
The 10-part Women’s Equality Act was passed by the Assembly in toto; however, the Senate opted to pass nine out of the ten bills separately, and did not vote on a bill related to abortion. Thus, the Act cannot become law unless, before the end of the year, the Senate passes it in toto, which is unlikely. Alternatively, the Assembly can pass certain of the bills separately in order to match what the Senate has passed, something the City Bar has urged Assembly members to do. The fate of either course of action remains unclear.
The City Bar provided comments on and supported, with limited recommendations, an omnibus bill proposed by Governor Cuomo and dubbed the “Women’s Equality Act”. This bill, which lays out a 10-point plan for advancing women’s rights in a wide variety of areas, includes measures to combat employment and pay discrimination against women. Among other things, the Act requires that employers provide equal pay to similarly positioned employees doing work that requires equal skill, effort and responsibility; requires reasonable attorney’s fees to the prevailing party in employment discrimination cases where sex was the basis of the discrimination (with the City Bar recommending that this provision be extended to all cases of employment discrimination); prohibits employment discrimination based on familial status; and requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations to the known “pregnancy-related conditions” of an employee.
In Case You Missed It
Recently, the NYC Council passed a bill that requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation “to the needs of an employee for her pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition that will allow the employee to perform the essential requisites of the job, provided that such employee's pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition is known or should have been known by the employer.” It is an affirmative defense “that the person aggrieved by the alleged discriminatory practice could not, with reasonable accommodation, satisfy the essential requisites of the job.” The bill was signed into law by the Mayor.
Fair Housing Act
The Committees on Civil Rights and Administrative Law jointly submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in Township of Mount Holly v. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens in Action, Inc. The brief addresses Section 804(a) of the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”), which makes it unlawful to refuse to sell or rent after the making of a bona fide offer, or to refuse to negotiate for the sale or rental of, or otherwise make unavailable or deny a dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status or national origin. The brief argues that the language of the section demonstrates that the FHA encompasses disparate impact claims, and that Congress did not intend to require a showing of discriminatory intent to sustain a claim. The brief further argues that to the extent that this question is unsettled, the Supreme Court should look and defer to the long-standing interpretation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development that the FHA prohibits actions which have discriminatory effects regardless of evidence of discriminatory intent.
Immigration Issues and Access to Justice
The Committee on Immigration and Nationality Law provided written testimony to Chief Judge Lippman's Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services in New York. Taking into consideration that New York State has 4.3 million resident immigrants, the Committee suggested that the Task Force: 1) more fully incorporate civil immigration proceedings into its work; 2) continue to foster a more holistic, accurate debate regarding costs and benefits of access-to-justice funding; and 3) study and learn from innovative immigration projects, and support the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP), a pilot project to represent detained immigrants in proceedings.
Through the Task Force on National Security and the Rule of Law, the City Bar issued a statement to the Senate Judiciary Subcommitee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights regarding the closing of Guantanamo and the national security, fiscal and human rights implications of doing so. The statement was issued in connection with a Senate Subcommittee hearing on the closing of the Guantanamo detention facility. Serious concerns about the facility and its handling of detainees have been raised since the facility was opened, including abusive interrogation methods and the continued detention of individuals who cannot hope to see justice done. In addition, Guantanamo serves as a galvanizing symbol for recruiting legions of young potential terrorists who focus their anger and actions against the United States. The statement urges Congress and the Administration to take all necessary actions to close the Guantanamo detention facility and provide due process and fair treatment to all detainees in accordance with the basic principles on which this nation was founded. The statement contains a number of specific recommendations regarding the various categories of detainees, and also addresses the military commissions process.
Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act
The Committees on Civil Rights and Animal Law jointly filed an amicus brief in Blum v. Holder with the U.S. Court of Appeals, First Circuit. The brief urges that the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) be found unconstitutional as by its terms the Act punishes free speech activity such as leafleting, protests and boycotts. The AETA was enacted ostensibly to provide the Department of Justice the necessary authority to apprehend, prosecute, and convict individuals who take actions against animal enterprises. The brief argues that the AETA denies due process of law under the Fifth Amendment by failing to provide constitutionally mandated notice of what is illegal and makes individuals susceptible to arbitrary enforcement, therefore chilling speech. The brief also notes that the use of the word “Terrorism” in the title of the Act in itself chills speech.
Committee Involvement--It's Never too Late
Committees are how the City Bar’s work gets done. Working on a committee can give you great experience while opening up a number of career doors, some you may not even anticipate.
A full list of the City Bar committees along with a brief description of each and an application form can be found on the City Bar’s website. As a number of City Bar committees have more applicants than available slots, please consider applying to more than one committee.
Have an interest in or questions about the City Bar’s legislative work? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, visit our website or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.