Supreme Court holds tribe’s hunting rights per treaty still valid
May 20, 2019
The US Supreme Court held Monday in Herrera v. Wyoming that hunting rights provided to a western American Indian tribe, the Crow Tribe, via federal treaty did not expire when Wyoming became a state. It also determined that the term “unoccupied” in the same federal treaty that granted hunting access was still valid and that the Bighorn National Forest did not become categorically “occupied” when the forest was created.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote for the majority in the 5-4 opinion that Congress did not intend to end the right when it established Wyoming as a state. In addition, simply creating a national forest did not meet the “occupation” requirement of the treaty, but rather reserved the lands from such.
“The Federal Government’s exercise of control and withdrawing of the forest lands from settlement would not categorically transform the territory into an area resided on or settled by non-Indians; quite the opposite.”
The court did not touch on a decision by the state trial court that Wyoming could regulate the exercise of the 1868 Treaty right “in the interest of conservation.”
US House passes Equality Act to protect LGBTQ individuals from discrimination
May 20, 2019
The US House of Representatives passed HR 5, “The Equality Act,” Friday to protect LGBTQ individuals from various forms of discrimination.
The bill, first introduced in mid-March, aims to protect individuals from discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity or sexual orientation. The bill accomplishes this by amending a number of existing laws to include the new protections. Among the more notable laws to be amended are the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act. Under these two laws it would be illegal to discriminate in most places of public accommodation including public facilities like government buildings or municipal stadiums as well as public schools or public housing programs. The bill also provides specific guidelines on how language added and amended is supposed intended by Congress to be interpreted by the courts.
The Equality act passed 236-173 largely along party lines. This bill comes a little over a month after the House voted to block the Trump administration’s ban on transgender troops serving in the military. The Equality Act now heads to the Senate and if passed there will head to President Donald Trump.
New York Senate approves bill requiring health insurers to cover eating disorders
May 8, 2019
The New York state Senate on Monday approved a bill closing a gap in healthcare coverage for people with eating disorders by a vote of 53-8. It requires health insurers in the state to “provide coverage for inpatient hospital care and physician services for eating disorders.”
The bill defines eating disorder as: “pica, rumination disorder, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder,” or any other eating disorder described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). The DSM is used by mental health professionals to aid in the recognition and diagnosis of mental disorders.
The bill also covers “schizophrenia/psychotic disorders, major depression, bipolar disorder, delusional disorders, panic disorder, [and] obsessive compulsive disorders.”
The bill awaits the signature of the governor and will become effective 90 days after it becomes law.
PPG to pay $1.2 million in pollution settlement
April 03, 2019
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on Tuesday announced the terms of a settlement with PPG Industries, Inc. (PPG), requiring PPG to pay a $1.2 million civil penalty for environmental contamination.
For decades, from the 1920’s until 1970, PPG dumped polluted materials from a glass manufacturing plant into the Allegheny River in Armstrong County. While there is evidence that the contamination has harmed stream quality and fish near the site of pollution, DEP said that public water supply intakes located downstream have not been impacted by the discharge.
The settlement also requires that PPG cleanup and treat the discharge in the Allegheny River and its tributary Glade Run. Since the lawsuit, PPG has “conducted numerous investigations of its own at the site and implemented various control and remedial strategies to control the leachate discharges.”
DEP Southwest Regional Director Ron Schwartz said that reaching this agreement is “long overdue” but it is necessary for the environment and “protects further generations.”
As part of this settlement, PPG has agreed not to appeal the final National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for treated wastewater discharges.
Indiana hate crimes bill signed into law
April 03, 2019
The bill allows judges to impose harsher sentences for criminals who victimize others based on listed traits.
It has been controversial because it was significantly amended from the original bill. Originally, the bill was written to extend protections to people based on age, gender identity and sex. However, the bill that was passed only includes color, creed, disability, national origin, race, religion and sexual orientation in the list of protected traits.
According to the fact sheet released by the Indiana Senate Republicans, judges are not limited to the list in determining sentencing: “This law is carefully worded to make sure that courts can punish any bias crime committed against a person based on any trait they may have, including gender, even if that trait is not specifically listed in the law.”
Senate minority leader Tim Lanane tweeted in response to the bill: “The bias crimes amendment in SB 198 leaves out protections for age, gender and gender identity, but is being called ‘inclusive’ by the supermajority. I wish I could tell you this is an April Fool’s Day jokes, but sadly it’s not.”
Previously, Indiana was one of five states without a hate crimes bill.
Supreme Court rules certain immigrants do not have right to bond hearing
March 19, 2019
The US Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in Nielsen v. Preap that immigrants who have committed certain crimes are not entitled to a bond hearing and once detained can be held in federal custody until their removal proceedings are resolved.
In an opinion by Justice Samuel Alito, the Supreme Court overturned two Ninth Circuit decisions (Preap v. Johnson and Khoury v. Asher) that held that aliens who were not immediately detained upon release from criminal custody were entitled to a bond hearing.
This class action suit arose under 8 USC § 1226, known as the “mandatory detention provision” of the Immigration and Nationality Act. This provision, in relevant part, mandates that “the Attorney General shall take into custody any alien who … is deportable by reason of having committed any offense covered in section … when the alien is released.”
Plaintiffs, mostly green-card holders, argue that, because they were not immediately taken into custody upon completing their sentences, they are not covered by the mandatory detention provision. Many of the plaintiffs lived and worked in the US for years upon release and argue that they should be considered for bond release, rather than detention, while their removal orders are being processed.
The court’s majority disagreed, finding more persuasive the Trump administration’s argument that the government’s duty to detain aliens who have committed certain crimes is not abrogated if the government fails to detain the individual immediately upon release. In closing his opinion, Alito emphasized that the court did not consider the constitutionality of the mandatory detention provision because that question was not brought by the plaintiffs in this case.
In a brief concurrence joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that various statutes limit judicial review in this cases, noting that the Districts Courts likely did not have jurisdiction.
Justice Stephen Breyer, in a dissent joined by Justices Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sonia Sotomayor, focused primarily on the statute’s text, finding that:
The language of the statute will not bear the broad interpretation the majority now adopts. Rather, the ordinary meaning of the statute’s language, the statute’s structure, and relevant canons of interpretation all argue convincingly to the contrary.
In announcing his dissent, Breyer also cited concerns with the powers the majority’s opinion grants to the government: “It is a power to detain persons who committed a minor crime many years before. And it is a power to hold those persons, perhaps for many months, without any opportunity to obtain bail.”
Toledo voters approve legal rights for Lake Erie
February 27, 2019
Lake Erie is a source of water for an estimated 11 million US and Canadian citizens. As recently as 2014 the water in Toledo was unsafe to drink for a period of three days, due to runoff from farms causing a toxic green cyanobacteria bloom.
On Wednesday a lawsuit was filed in federal district court, challenging the Lake Erie Bill of Rights. The lawsuit was brought by the Drewes Family Farm and alleges that the Lake Erie Bill of Rights will “put the family at risk of massive liability if any fertilizer runoffs enters the Lake Erie watershed.”