Attorney General Bill Barr is testifying to Congress for the first time since he released his summary of the Mueller Report. Barr is appearing to discuss the Department of Justice budget with the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, but he’s expected to face questions from Democrats on the Mueller report. NBC News is carrying Barr’s testimony live:
A 74-year-old woman facing eviction from the one-bedroom Bronx apartment she has lived in for 30 years now has someone fighting on her side. She qualified for a first-ever program that provides free legal services to low income tenants facing eviction. NPR’s Jenifer McKim has more on the legal aid program that’s the first of its kind in America.
Now that Robert Mueller has submitted his report to the Justice Department and Attorney General Bill Barr has released a summary to Congress and the public, what lies ahead for the investigations of the Trump administration that are still ongoing? Former federal prosecutor Seth Waxman speaks with NPR’s Michel Martin about the legal implications of Attorney General Barr’s summary of the Mueller Report.
White House lawyers are expecting to get a first look at the Mueller report when it’s filed, but before Attorney General Bill Barr submits it to Congress, multiple sources tell CNN. Those expectations could set up a political battle over the highly anticipated report. White House lawyers want to have an opportunity to claim executive privilege over some parts of the report that draw on documents and interviews with administration officials. Critics are concerned that President Trump may try to shield certain information that could be included in the report from the public. CNN’s Pamela Brown has more.
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American Consumers and Workers Detail the Harm Caused by Forced Arbitration at Capitol Hill Press Conference
Victim advocates from around the country joined Congressional leaders at a press conference to bring attention to the secretive, rigged system of forced arbitration that is hidden in the fine print of many everyday consumer contracts, employee handbooks, and even “click-through agreements.” Together, they unveiled the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal (FAIR) Act, introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), that would restore the rights of consumers, workers, and patients to seek justice and accountability from the corporations that physically or financially hurt them.
New polling data was released in conjunction with today’s press conference. A recent nationwide poll by Hart Research found broad bipartisan support of 84% of voters for a bill to end forced arbitration (87% of Republicans and 83% of Democrats). More poll results can be found here.
“Forced arbitration clauses buried in the fine print hurt everyone,” said Linda Lipsen, CEO of the American Association for Justice. “If corporations know they won’t ever be held publicly responsible, our civil rights, as well as our public health and safety are at risk, from the cars we drive, to the jobs we take, and the food we eat. That’s what makes this legislation so important, and I commend the advocates and Members of Congress who stood up today to demand action.”
“We at Public Justice routinely hear from people who are unable to seek justice after a corporation broke the law and harmed them. Forced arbitration clauses bar them from having their claims heard in court,” said Paul Bland, executive director of Public Justice. “The energy in favor of the FAIR Act is like nothing I’ve seen before in this fight for corporate accountability and against perpetrators of gender and race discrimination. Its passage would make American life much safer, healthier, and fairer.”
“Real justice means that the people’s courts – not corporate courts like those in forced arbitration proceedings – decide who gets access to justice. Forced arbitration clauses literally pick consumers’ pockets by putting big business’s favored arbitrators in charge, leaving regular people with no choice but to accept secretive, one-sided proceedings for their claims,” said Patrice Simms, Vice President of Litigation and head of the Access to Justice program at Earthjustice.” Earthjustice applauds Chairman Nadler, his colleagues, and all of the advocates fighting against this unfair and unethical practice for their efforts to craft the FAIR Act, and we are proud to support the legislation.”
“Imagine if the Supreme Court ruled that corporations could escape lawsuits aiming to enforce consumer protection, worker rights and anti-discrimination laws simply by uttering a secret code. Outrageously, exactly that has happened, except it is not a secret. Corporations of all sorts insert forced arbitration provisions in worker and consumer contracts, and effectively wipe away people’s protection against financial rip-offs, wage theft, online swindles, harassment and discrimination and more,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “The good news is that the public has caught on to this racket and is demanding action. The FAIR Act, introduced by Rep. Hank Johnson and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, provides exactly what the public is demanding: an end to the forced arbitration fraud that systematically strips Americans of their legal rights and access to justice.”
“Forced arbitration is a rigged secret proceeding that denies the cheated and ripped off the right to seek remedies before a judge and jury, and allows corporations to hide their misconduct from the public,” said Christine Hines, legislative director at National Association of Consumer Advocates. “The FAIR Act and other bills introduced today will help to level the playing field for consumers and workers by ending forced arbitration in the corporate fine print and restoring our choice to seek to hold wrongdoers accountable in open court.”
“I am proud to have spearheaded the Ending Arbitration Act of Sexual Harassment. Forced arbitration clauses in employment agreements are not designed to achieve fair, expeditious or cost-effective resolutions for sexual harassment cases. They are often used by companies to demean and silence women and conceal pervasive sexual harassment while allowing sexual predators to operate with virtual impunity,” said Gretchen Carlson. “I believe every woman and man should be entitled to have their claims adjudicated in a courtroom rather than behind closed doors where victims can never discuss what happened. I’m thankful for this bi-partisan effort to make workplaces safer for ALL across our country.”
“Alliance for Justice applauds the FAIR Act and this very important step to address a serious injustice that affects millions of Americans,” said Nan Aron, President of Alliance for Justice. “Forced arbitration is an abusive practice that denies workers and consumers their right to a fair day in court. Instead, it corrals them into an unjust process controlled by the very party that harmed them, whether it be an employer, a lender, a nursing home, a service provider or some other entity. It’s time for forced arbitration to end.”
President Trump is asking his legal team to stay on beyond the end of the Mueller investigation, according to The Daily Beast. That’s because the Southern District of New York isn’t limited in the scope of what it can investigate. Above the Law editor Elie Mystal tells MSNBC’s Ari Melber “there is significant jeopardy up and down the Trump Organization” as to what the SDNY may look into.
The Arthur D. Shores – Robert S. Vance American Inn of Court is hosting a special presentation entitled Human Trafficking in Our Own Backyard: A Panel Discussion. The presentation will be held February 12th at the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Birmingham (250 18th St. South).
The nation’s most trafficked intersection runs along I-20 from Birmingham to Atlanta, making human trafficking an issue that affects every community in the metro area and throughout the state. Carla Ward, Assistant U.S. Attorney, will moderate a panel of professionals who are dedicated and active in the efforts to halt human trafficking: Carolyn Potter, Executive Director of The Well House, Sgt. Trent Kempster, Tuscaloosa Police Department, Doug Gilmer, Special Agent in Charge with Department of Homeland Security, and Jordan Giddens, Finance Director and Member Resource Liaison of the AL House Democratic Caucus.
The presentation has been approved for one hour of CLE credit. CLE materials will be sent to registrants ahead of the meeting. The meeting will start with a cash bar cocktail hour at 5:00 pm and the meeting will begin promptly at 5:30 pm. The cost to attend is $25 per person to cover the cost of dinner. Seating is limited so RSVP you and your guests early.
Meeting Date: Tuesday, February 12, 2019 5:00 PM Where: Hilton Garden Inn, 250 18th Street South, Birmingham, Alabama 35233 Cost: $25 per person RSVP Deadline: Friday, February 8, 2019 12:00 PM (or when limited seating is full)
Non-Members: RSVP by emailing Ben Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org. To complete your registration you will need to mail your $25 check ahead of the meeting, made payable to Birmingham Inn of Court, to P.O. Box 59591, Birmingham, Alabama 35259.
The American Bar Association filed an amicus brief Monday with the U.S. Supreme Court, contending that the Calhoun, Ga., bail system, which ties pretrial release directly to a fixed-payment schedule of offenses, violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the 14th Amendment.
“A money bail system that deprives defendants of their liberty without individualized assessments of their personal and financial circumstances violates the Constitution,” the ABA brief said.
The brief, in support of a group of defendants in Calhoun, asks the high court to grant certiorari to review a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upholding Calhoun’s revised bail system. Scores of jurisdictions nationwide use similar inflexible money-bail systems in their criminal justice proceedings although many states and local entities have discarded their use in recent years.
The Calhoun case, as well as others before other circuit courts, have been moving through the federal court system for several years, with the Eleventh Circuit challenge giving the Supreme Court a chance to consider the constitutionality of a system that detains poor defendants, regardless of the offense, solely because they were unable to pay pre-set bail.
The ABA brief cites long-standing ABA policies and ABA Criminal Justice Standards that encourage release on recognizance and notes that “pretrial release conditions should be imposed only as necessary to serve their legitimate purposes of ensuring defendants’ reappearance and protecting the public.
“Because poverty strongly correlates with race, cash bail tends to result in the pretrial incarceration of racial minority groups, exacerbating pre-existing racial disparities in the criminal justice system,” the ABA brief said.
The amicus brief in Maurice Walker v. City of Calhoun, Ga., is available here. The ABA has also filed amicus briefs in similar cases arising out of Rutherford County, Tenn. and Harris County, Texas. These and other amicus briefs can be found on the ABA Standing Committee on Amicus Curiae Briefs’ website.