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Draft of first Trump budget would cut legal aid for millions of poor Americans

Draft proposes elimination of Legal Services Corporation, which provides free legal assistance to low-income people, victims of domestic violence and others

Cuts in Donald Trumps first draft budget to funding for legal aid for millions of Americans could strip much-needed protections from victims of domestic violence, people with disabilities, families facing foreclosure and veterans in need, justice equality advocates warned Tuesday.

A Trump draft budget circulated over the weekend called for the elimination of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), which has a $375m annual budget and provides free legal assistance to low-income people and others in need of help, with cases involving disability benefits, disaster relief, elder abuse, fair pay, wheelchair access, low-income tax credits, unlawful eviction, child support, consumer scams, school lunch, predatory lending and much more.

The legal aid program, which represents a miniscule portion of the governments projected $4tn budget, is one of many small but mighty programs flagged for elimination in Trumps draft budget. Others include the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Americorps and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities. Critics of the cuts point out that they wont budge the deficit but would erode quality of life and threaten the most vulnerable.

The possible legal aid cuts would come at a time when potentially softer enforcement by the Trump administration of laws to punish domestic violence, protect Americans with disabilities and combat discriminatory housing practices could create a spike in demand, said Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza, a fellow at the Center for American Progress who has written on the issue.

Weve already gotten an indication that theyre probably going to cut grants for domestic violence cases, VAWA-related grants, and thats one of the biggest categories that legal aid grantees use, Buckwalter-Poza said, referring to the Violence Against Women Act. This is a huge blow to women in particular, and thats devastating.

And whats so disturbing about the potential for the administration to eliminate LSC altogether is that at the same time, you have a Department of Justice thats probably not going to enforce the types of legislation on the governments side that supplements private action, like the Fair Housing Act or the Americans With Disabilities Act. And at the same time that theyre going to stop doing that, people are going to have fewer options for seeking out free legal assistance.

Linda Klein, president of the American Bar Association, the lawyers organization, said that the Legal Services Corporation assured access to justice for all, the very idea that propelled our nation to independence.

Our nations core values are reflected in the LSCs work in securing housing for veterans, freeing seniors from scams, serving rural areas when others wont, protecting battered women, helping disaster survivors back to their feet, and many others, Klein said in a statement. Thirty cost-benefit analyses all show that legal aid returns far more benefits than costs to communities across America.

The legal services corporation was created by a 1974 law, signed by Richard Nixon, acknowledging a need to provide equal access to the system of justice in our nation. The corporation helped an estimated 1.8m people in 2013, 70% of them women living near or below the poverty line. But studies indicate that legal aid offices turn away about 50% of clients in need owing to a lack of resources.

Trumps proposed budget is not all or even mostly cuts. It emerged on Tuesday that the president had directed the Department of Homeland Security to hire 10,000 more customs and immigration agents. Trump has vowed to build a border wall costing billions and to ramp up military spending.

Trumps recently confirmed budget director, Mick Mulvaney, twice co-sponsored legislation as a member of Congress from South Carolina to abolish the Legal Services Corporation. Mulvaney told a home-state newspaper this week that he was about to become the most hated man in Washington.

Republicans going back to Ronald Reagan have opposed funding for the Legal Services Corporation and related funding, arguing in part that it was not the governments responsibility to cover legal costs. As a 1973 federal racial discrimination lawsuit against Donald Trump and his real estate company illustrated, however, legal proceedings can be crucial to protecting American freedoms and rights against unsavory actors.

These are obviously critical, livelihood-related, day-to-day issues for people who certainly cant afford a lawyer on their own, Buckwalter-Poza said.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/21/trump-draft-budget-legal-aid-low-income


Trump lawyers given court date over lawsuit alleging rape of 13-year-old

Counsel for Jeffrey Epstein, associate of Prince Andrew convicted of underage sex crimes in Florida in 2008, also ordered to appear for December civil hearing

A federal judge in New York has ordered counsel for Donald Trump and the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein to appear in court along with the attorney for a woman referred to only as Jane Doe who alleges the Republican presidential nominee raped her when she was 13.

Judge Ronnie Abrams has slated an initial status conference in the civil lawsuit for 16 December in a New York district court.

The order raises the extraordinary prospect, were Trump to win the 8 November battle for the White House, of counsel for a US president-elect being called into federal court in proceedings relating to allegations of rape of an underage girl.

Trump has vociferously denied the accusations, dismissing them as fabrications and slamming the lawsuit as a sham designed to smear him as he runs for highest office. Epstein, an associate of the UKs Prince Andrew who was convicted of underage sex crimes in Florida in 2008, has also denied the allegations.

A Guardian investigation this summer found that the lawsuit appeared to have been coordinated by a former producer on the Jerry Springer TV show who has been associated in the past with a range of disputed claims involving celebrities including OJ Simpson and Kurt Cobain. A publicist acting for Jane Doe also attempted to sell a video in which the woman describes her allegations against Trump to media outlets at a $1m price tag.

The court order gives no details of the legal complaint raised by Jane Doe. It instructs all parties to the case to set out in advance the nature of the allegations and the principal defenses, as well as any previous motions and discovery as well as the estimated length of trial.

The original federal lawsuit, filed in June, alleged that Jane Doe was sexually assaulted by Trump in 1994 at Epsteins Manhattan home. Further claims were made that the real estate billionaire raped the then teenager at parties hosted by Epstein on the Upper East Side.

The Guardian investigation found that a publicist calling himself Al Taylor attempted to sell the video tape of Jane Doe relating her allegations for $1m. It linked Taylor through a variety of means including shared email addresses and phone numbers to Norm Lubow, who used to work on Jerry Springers daytime talk show.

Lubow was connected to a contentious claim, raised in the 1998 documentary movie Kurt and Courtney, that Courtney Love offered a fellow musician $50,000 to murder her husband, Kurt Cobain of Nirvana. Love denied the charge.

According to the New York Post, Lubow was also behind a tabloid newspaper story that OJ Simpson bought illicit drugs on the day his estranged wife Nicole Brown was killed.

When the Guardian quizzed Al Taylor about his true identity, the publicist replied: Just be warned, well sue you if we dont like what you write. Well sue your ass, own your ass and own your newspapers ass as well, punk.

The Trump presidential campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the forthcoming court proceedings. A lawyer for the Trump Organization told the Guardian in July: This is basically a sham lawsuit brought by someone who desires to impact the presidential election.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/oct/12/donald-trump-jeffrey-epstein-alleged-rape-lawsuit


Trump’s supreme court picks: from Tea Party senator to anti-abortion crusader

Among 10 new names, one is an originalist, one a judicial traditionalist and one said firing a hygienist for tempting a dentist was not unlawful discrimination

On Friday morning, the Trump campaign announced its latest round of potential supreme court nominees, raising to 21 the billionaires list of publicly named potential nominees to succeed Antonin Scalia, who died in February.

Trump may have had a specific reason for adding to the list of 11 potential nominees he released in May. Last week, the Huffington Post reported that the billionaire PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel the moneyman who funded the Hulk Hogan lawsuit that bankrupted Gawker Media had been assured the nomination, a story both Thiel and the Trump campaign denied. Thiel, who has a law degree but only practiced for seven months, was not seen as a particularly conservative choice.

The latest list, probably designed to further assuage the concerns of conservatives over Trumps judicial philosophy both whether he has one and what it is is not exactly a whos-who of judicial superstars.

The legal analyst and political science professor Scott Lemieux said Trumps nominees were continuing his tradition of going with generic Federalist Society hacks, which is in fact the kind of judge hed nominate.

The Federalist Society is a conservative legal group that advocates for constitutional originalism, a philosophy which says questions of law should be decided solely on the basis of the words of the constitution and the intention of those who wrote it. Decisions that legalized abortion, consensual sex between same-sex couples, interracial marriage and, arguably, even the desegregation of schools are not in keeping with this philosophy.

There are, however, some notable reasons that each Trump pick would be thrilling to conservatives and horrifying to liberals.

Utah senator Mike Lee

The only name on the list widely known outside legal circles, the conservative senator Mike Lee has made well-known his dislike of the partys presidential nominee. That might not be a problem, though: Texas supreme court justice Don Willett, who made the first list, wasnt exactly a card-carrying Trump supporter.

Lee told Politico in a statement that he was not interested in a slot on the court. Still, the man who rode to the Senate on the Tea Party wave of 2010 has an extremely conservative legal philosophy, to the right of originalism. Lee is what is known as a tenther, adhering to a philosophy that holds that the 10th amendment of the constitution, which reserves for state government any power not allocated to the federal government, essentially makes much government regulation and spending unconstitutional. As ThinkProgress noted, Lee has said he believes federal laws prohibiting child labor, as well as laws establishing Medicare, social security and, of course, the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare) are unconstitutional.

Neil Gorsuch

Gorsuch was appointed by George W Bush to the 10th circuit court of appeals, in Denver, Colorado, and is a frequent member of Republican-leaning supreme court shortlists.

His only book, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, was intended to bolster the case against its legalization its publisher called it his central thesis the idea that human life is intrinsically valuable and that intentional killing is always wrong. In 2012, Michael Fragoso, a longtime pro-life advocate and current counsel to Arizona senator Jeff Flake, called Gorsuch and other young Bush-era judicial appointees as good a college of judicial cardinals as the conservative and pro-life movements have ever seen.

Gorsuch has notably used his time on the federal bench to criticize the existing volume of federal regulation as potentially unconstitutional on a variety of grounds, a point he has made in at least one public speech as well.

Margaret A Ryan

Ryan, a US Marine Corps veteran who was deployed to Saudi Arabia during the first gulf war, is a civilian judge on the US court of appeals for the armed forces, a 15-year appointment made by Bush in 2006. The court on which she serves hears appeals under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which is distinct from the laws that govern civilian life.

In that role, she presided over a case brought by, among others, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the former Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, in the Chelsea Manning trial, seeking access to court and trial documents to which the media was denied access. She sided with the appeals courts majority, which argued that it did not have jurisdiction to force a military court to make the disclosures requested.

That was not the only time Ryan ruled that the court on which she serves lacked the jurisdiction to overrule military judges. In a 2013 case in which a marine private who attempted suicide pleaded guilty to trying to avoid service after not receiving mental healthcare, she dissented from the majority opinion that the judge had sentenced the marine improperly, arguing that the appeals judges lacked jurisdiction.

Though a military judicial record leaves less of a trail of opinions on hot button conservative issues, Ryan did clerk for the supreme court justice Clarence Thomas, an avowed conservative who is also prone to arguing that the court lacks jurisdiction.

Edward Mansfield

Mansfield is an Iowa supreme court justice appointed by the conservative governor Terry Bradstad in 2011, after three of the justices who legalized same sex marriage in the state in 2009 were voted out of office.

His first brush with national prominence came in 2012, when he authored the courts majority opinion in an employment law case: Melissa Nelson, a dental hygienist, sued her boss, James Knight, for gender discrimination after he fired her supposedly for the sake of his marriage. Knight had suggested that Nelson wear less revealing clothing to the office because of his attraction to her, according to the decision, and at one point suggested her standard for what was too revealing be if she saw his pants bulging. Her firing, he said, was unrelated to gender. Mansfield and the court agreed, stating that this conduct did not amount to unlawful discrimination.

In a May 2016 decision, Mansfield dissented with the majority of the court that held that sentencing underage defendants to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole was unconstitutional. Mansfield wrote that inherent uncertainty regarding future prospects for rehabilitation is simply an insufficient basis for supplanting the judgment of our elected representatives.

Keith Blackwell

Blackwell is a Georgia supreme court justice best known in conservative circles for being the deputy special attorney general representing the state in its ultimately unsuccessful effort to have the Affordable Care Act declared unconstitutional. He is also a strong gun rights supporter, telling students in 2013 that the second amendment guaranteeing the right to bear arms was part of the writers intent to limit government because there is only so much the government could do if the people are armed.

Charles Canady

Charles
Charles Canady speaks in Tallahassee, Florida in 2015. Photograph: Steve Cannon/AP

Canady has served as a Florida supreme court justice since 2008, but his eight years as a conservative Congressman are probably more elucidating in terms of his judicial philosophy. He was one of the sponsors of the first federal partial birth abortion ban, which was vetoed by Bill Clinton but passed in 2003 and upheld as constitutional. (He was also one of the impeachment managers in the House, strongly advocating against the president and defending the impeachment after the fact.)

His other most notable legislative effort involved the Religious Liberty Protection Act, essentially a conscience clause designed to limit state and local statutes that interfere with peoples free exercise of religion. When civil liberties advocates attempted to insert an amendment that would create an exemption for people using religion as a reason to violate anti-discrimination laws, Canady and fellow Republicans rallied to defeat it. Canady told the New York Times he opposed the amendment because it would establish as a matter of congressional policy that religious liberty would have second-class status. He denied it was an effort to allow discrimination against LGBT people in housing and employment.

Timothy Tymkovich

A colleague of Gorsuch on the 10th circuit court of appeals in Denver, Tymkovich is another Bush appointee and the chief justice on the court. Prior to that he served as Colorados solicitor general, where he unsuccessfully attempted to defend the states constitutional amendment, passed by ballot initiative, banning any attempt to legislate against discrimination against LGBT people. The US supreme court ruled against him, stating that the codification of discrimination was not a legitimate government interest.

More recently, Tymkovich found from the bench that the company Hobby Lobby was a person and thus subject to protection from laws forcing it to violate its religious beliefs: his ruling, which carved a huge hole in the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act, was upheld by the supreme court.

He has also openly questioned the constitutionality of bans on felons owning firearms.

Amul Thapar

Amul
Amul Thapar seen in 2006. Photograph: Ed Reinke/AP

The first South Asian to serve as a federal appeals or district court judge, Thapar serves as a district (trial) court judge in the eastern district of Kentucky, where he once served as the US attorney. He too was appointed by the second President Bush.

Thapar is most famous for sentencing three anti-nuclear activists, including an 84-year-old nun, to three years in prison for breaking into a Tennessee nuclear facility. He should be more famous for an opinion he authored while visiting the 11th circuit appeals court in Florida, in which he threw out the convictions of a group of women charged with fraud for pretending to like men in order to run up their bar tabs. In the opinion, he said that a man gets what he bargains for when he buys a woman a drink: the opportunity to buy a young woman a drink.

Federico Moreno

Moreno is an unusual entrant in this list: George HW Bush appointed him to the district court in southern Florida in 1990 and then chose him for the 11th circuit court of appeals in 1992. Senate Democrats, however, never took up his nomination. He is also, in a sea of former prosecutors, a former federal public defender. In the early 2000s, he sided with a doctors class-action suit against managed care providers, attempting to prove that they had violated federal racketeering statutes. More recently, he sided with plaintiffs against Honda and Takata in a class-action suit over defective airbags subject to recall.

But, like Thapar, as a trial court judge, his job is to preside over cases and not to adjudicate the law itself. His rulings might have no bearing on his legal philosophy.

Robert Young

An African American appointed to the Michigan supreme court in 1999, elected to fill a partial term in 2000, and then elected for eight-year terms in 2002 and 2010, Young is that courts chief justice and a conservative Republican. He identifies as a judicial traditionalist, a theory slightly more centrist than originalism but still opposed to the idea that the constitution is a living document.

In a 2007 decision, he upheld Michigans 1996 voter identification law which does offer voters the ability to sign an affidavit affirming their identity instead of showing photo identification calling it a reasonable, nondiscriminatory restriction and arguing that identification did not, in fact, amount to a poll tax.

Of more interest to some conservatives, he also authored a 2004 decision that overturned the use of eminent domain for economic development in the state. In 2005, the US supreme court ruled in Kelo v City of New London that governments can, in fact, use eminent domain to take land from citizens and give it to private developers if there is a benefit to the community.

Opposition to the Kelo decision was part of the 2016 Republican platform even though Donald Trump, rather infamously, attempted to use economic development eminent domain laws to his own benefit as a real estate developer.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/law/2016/sep/24/donald-trump-supreme-court-nominations-names


Obama’s nomination of first Muslim federal judge praised by advocates

Abid Qureshi was selected to serve on Washingtons US district court weeks after Donald Trumps remarks that Muslim judges could be biased against him

Barack Obama has taken the historic step of nominating the first Muslim candidate to become a federal judge.

The announcement comes just weeks after White House candidate Donald Trump made controversial remarks that it was possible, absolutely that Muslim judges could be biased against him.

US judges who are Muslims have served at state level but never the echelons above as appeals, federal or supreme court judges, according to Muslim Advocates, a national advocacy organization.

Abid Qureshi, a litigation and pro bono specialist practicing in Washington, was put forward on Tuesday night to serve on the federal judiciary at the US district court for the District of Columbia.

I think its past time for an American Muslim to be nominated as a federal judge. Im absolutely thrilled, Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, told the Guardian on Wednesday.

Khera had lobbied both Obama, during a meeting at the White House in 2015, to nominate a Muslim to the federal bench, and Qureshi to apply, she said.

A judiciary that reflects the rich diversity of our nation helps ensure the fair and just administration of the law, and it is vital for American Muslims to be included, she added.

The selection of Qureshi, who was born in Pakistan and settled in the US as a young child, became the latest milestone in a significant increase in judicial diversity under Obama.

Since becoming president, Obama has led a push to nominate more women, African American, Latino, Asian American and openly gay judges.

Of Qureshi, Obama said: I am confident he will serve the American people with integrity and a steadfast commitment to justice.

Qureshi, 45, graduated from Harvard Law School in 1997 and is a partner at the US legal giant Latham & Watkins.

A statement issued by the firm said: Abid is an exceptional litigator He practices with the highest level of integrity.

The firm said it was declining media requests to interview Qureshi.

In his commercial work he specializes in litigating healthcare fraud cases. But he is more widely known for pro bono work. He has been the head of the firms pro bono committee since 2012. And since 2015 he has served on the DC Bar Associations legal ethics committee.

Khera said: Every judge brings their legal and real-life experience to the job and this countrys jurisprudence is strengthened by diversity on the bench but a persons faith has no place in the consideration of whether they are qualified to be a judge. He has represented Americans of all faiths.

She said Latham & Watkins provided pro bono co-counsel on a recent civil rights lawsuit in New York that prompted a court to lift the local transportation authoritys block on satirical ads promoting a documentary about American Muslim comedians.

Khera and other experts pointed out, meanwhile, that the timing of the nomination shortly after Trumps comments was undoubtedly a coincidence.

The nominating process takes many months, said Christopher Kang, national director of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans and a former deputy assistant and deputy counsel to Obama.

He praised Obamas selection of Qureshi.

The presidents candidates continue to be the most diverse nominations for the federal judiciary in history and he has sent a powerful message, whether to those who are thinking of applying to be a federal judge or just someone considering a legal career in the future that you can do so regardless of your gender, race, sexual orientation or religion, he said.

Kang said it was vital for the judiciary to reflect the diversity of American society, as well as act as role models.

He added that Trumps remarks about Muslim judges were racist and offensive. The Republican presidential candidate made the remarks in June, having announced last December that as president he would ban Muslims from entering the US.

The June comments followed on from his lambasting the California federal judge Gonzalo Curiel and demanding he be recused from presiding over a class action lawsuit against the defunct Trump University, because of his Mexican heritage.

The furor about his statement on Muslim judges actually served to highlight the lack of any such individuals serving in the upper levels of the judiciary.

But even if the timing of Qureshis nomination has nothing to do with the political storm stirred up by Trump, Qureshi will have to survive the politics in Congress if he is to be confirmed by the Senate.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/sep/07/barack-obama-muslim-judge-abid-qureshi


How a failed attempt to get porn off the internet protects Airbnb from the law

The story of Airbnbs current battle with San Francisco over regulation actually begins with a senator who prayed to control the pollution of internet porn

Airbnb, like pornography, is a business based on selling a fantasy. Porn offers the simulacrum of a sexual encounter; Airbnb, that of being a local in a city not ones own. Theres less fuss, less muss, and a much reduced chance of STDs and irritated neighbors.

At least, theres less fuss for the visitors. Cities around the world, however, are waking up to the headache of hosting transient populations in previously residential neighborhoods, and attempting to crack down.

But while local politicians in Reykjavk, Berlin and Barcelona are taking a stand against Airbnb, their counterparts in the United States have struggled to come up with regulations that have teeth.

On Monday, Airbnb sued San Francisco in federal court, seeking to prevent the city from enacting a strict new law that would put the $26.5bn company on the hook for ensuring that its listings comply with local regulations.

Suing its hometown is a tricky move for a company that has attempted to brand itself with the sense of belonging, but legal experts tend to agree that Airbnb is in the right: Airbnb is protected from much local regulation by a twenty-year-old federal law that was originally intended to purge the internet of porn.

How Section 230 changed the internet

In the summer of 1995 back when it took at least an hour to download a decent nude photo from the internet, let alone a video senator James Exon of Nebraska took to the floor of the US Senate to deliver a prayer over the virtual but virtueless reality of internet pornography.

Almighty God, Lord of all life, we praise You for the advancements in computerized communications that we enjoy in our time, he intoned, before beseeching God to guide the Senate in regulating indecency out of the internet, or as he put it, consider ways of controlling the pollution of computer communications.

Exons prayer was answered with the passage of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, a much-maligned law that was decried by free speech advocates, dismissed as a departing Senators half-baked notions by the New York Times editorial board, and swiftly struck down by the supreme court.

Twenty years later, what remains of Exons quixotic quest for a godly cyberspace is Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a last minute addition to the legislation that nevertheless has become the linchpin of the modern, open internet.

Section 230 holds that providers of interactive computer services cannot be held liable for the content that users post on their sites. That means that Yelp cannot be held liable for users leaving negative reviews of your business and eBay cannot be held liable if you bid on an autographed baseball that ends up being counterfeit: the platforms are held to be neutral intermediaries and their tantalizingly deep pockets are out of reach.

Senator Ron Wyden told the Guardian that he and Chris Cox, then a Republican congressman from Orange County, California, wrote Section 230 to allow the internet to grow and flourish, and prevent lawsuits from crushing new platforms for commerce, education and speech.

At the time, I certainly thought it would be useful and create jobs in the digital economy, but did not imagine its impact as a cornerstone of internet law allowing for the existence of social media and numerous other types of online businesses, he added.

Indeed, internet advocates credit Section 230 with enabling the web we have today, in all its diversity.

What does the internet look like in a non-Section 230 world? asked Eric Goldman, a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law. It looks like online classified ads. Think how much better our lives are because we have online marketplaces instead.

Attempts to crack down on Airbnb

The internet may be governed by federal law, but the acceptable uses of an apartment or house (or any structure or piece of land) are very much the province of local governments, many of which either ban or curtail short-term rentals.

Almost all short-term rentals in San Francisco were illegal until 2014, unless the host obtained a permit to run an old-fashioned bed and breakfast. Even after the city legalized short-term rentals if hosts registered with the city and followed certain rules less than a quarter of the approximately 7,000 Airbnb hosts signed up. New York state law forbids renting an entire unit in an apartment building for fewer than 30 days, which means a significant percentage of short-term rentals in one of Airbnbs largest markets are illegal as well.

As cities attempt to crack down on the bad actors, Airbnb is an obvious target. The company knows who is renting units, and when, and could much more easily discover and punish anyone breaking local rules than government workers can.

Its just shameful that when Airbnb knows that cities are struggling to maintain their stock of affordable housing and keep tenants in housing, that they refuse to work with cities and states to have their platform not be used for illegal rentals, said New York state assembly member Linda Rosenthal.

Airbnb
Airbnb is not the first online platform to earn money off potentially illegal activity, to the consternation of local officials. Photograph: John Macdougall/AFP/Getty Images

The fact that Airbnb has the capacity to act on behalf of the government does not mean it should do so, however, argued Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Weve always had intermediaries. Long before the internet came along, there was the phone company, and that was the place that cops and regulators would go to find out who was doing what, Tien said.

Imagine if the phone company were actually legally liable for everything that phone users said. The protection of intermediaries is very important to protecting any kind of privacy that we have.

Airbnb is not the first online platform to earn money off potentially illegal activity, to the consternation of local officials. Several states have tried to crackdown on online sex work advertisements and online ticket scalping, only to run into Section 230.

StubHub has been sued a gazillion times and there are a whole lot of people saying they are facilitating the circumvention of anti-scalping laws, Tien said. I suspect that the percentage of transactions on StubHub that violate some states anti-scalping law are pretty high, but that doesnt matter because of Section 230.

The Communications Decency Act doesnt render all business laws moot simply because a business happens to operate on the internet, said Matt Dorsey, press secretary for the San Francisco city attorney, which will defend the citys law at a hearing on 1 August.

Regulators versus the online marketplace

While San Francisco prepares to defend its bill in court, other cities are wading into the legal morass as well. The Los Angeles city council is considering regulations that also attempt to put Airbnb on the hook for ensuring the legality of its users listings.

If San Franciscos law is thrown out by a judge, other cities may head back to the drawing board and try a new approach.

Thats typical for local regulators confronting a new online marketplace, Tien said. First, they go after the platform, then after they realize the limitations imposed by Section 230, they move onto another strategy.

Im hoping that were moving into the second phase, he said, into areas that will not run afoul of the values that 230 is trying to protect.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jun/29/airbnb-lawsuit-san-francisco-regulation-internet-porn


ACLU suing US over law that could let software discriminate by race or gender

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act makes technology terms of service legally enforceable, which the ACLU says can be used to hide illegal activity

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing the US Department of Justice over a law that it argues bars researchers from investigating whether software is being used to discriminate against people by race, gender and age.

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act includes a clause that makes software and hardware makers terms of service legally enforceable, which the ACLU says can be used to hide illegal activity.

The act makes any unauthorized access to a computer illegal and prevents academics and researchers from testing a system by using aliases or fake IDs.

By allowing tech companies to essentially write legislation, the ACLU wrote in a complaint filed in Washington DC district court on Wednesday, the government allows those companies to chill research that has exposed systemic financial discrimination by using dummy accounts to test variables such as race, gender and age. Those accounts generally violate terms of service restrictions.

The complaint says that tests for fairness often involve a measure of dishonesty, especially when auditors want a truthful answer to questions of bias. In the offline world, pretending to want a job or a home to learn about discrimination is specifically legal. This testing involves pairing individuals of different races to pose as home- or job-seekers to determine whether they are treated differently. The law has long protected such socially useful misrepresentation in the offline world, according to the suit.

But online, say the plaintiffs, terms of service prohibit misrepresenting your identity. Moreover, terms of service change often enough and are obscure enough that ticking the little I agree box can let defendants in for a world of hurt if the Department of Justice deems them bad actors and decides to prosecute them.

And the issue has become more pressing as data brokers organizations that compile huge troves of information about private citizens through their credit card statements, online activity and loyalty card purchases, among other means have few qualms about making race-based inferences. According to a 2014 report from the Federal Trade Commission, data brokers often focus on minority communities with lower incomes, giving those communities names like Urban Scramble or Mobile Mixers which, the report says, include a high concentration of Latino and African American consumers with low incomes.

Provided to retailers, real estate brokers, employers and financial institutions, this kind of demographic breakdown enables discrimination, the ACLU argues.

The problematic nature of this has been it raises problems for a whole host of parties not before the court, said Esha Bhandari, staff attorney for the ACLUs speech, privacy and technology project. The government is given the discretion to use the CFAA to add on charges where they believe theyre prosecuting bad actors. But if the act of violating services is criminal under the CFAA, people we dont consider bad actors are criminals.

As the ACLU has begun to focus on data-mining practices, Bhandari said the organization has heard researchers express concern that by testing for discrimination, they are breaking the law.

Bhandari pointed to US v Drew, the 2013 case in which criminal charges were brought against an adult woman named Lori Drew, who messaged Megan Meier, a classmate of her daughters, using a false name on MySpace. Meier killed herself after receiving bullying messages from Drew; Drew was convicted of violating MySpaces terms of service.

The Department of Justices prosecution of Drew, Bhandari said, had nothing to do with MySpace and everything to do with its low opinion of Meier, and the pursuit of the case endangered anyone trying to maintain their privacy on social media.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jun/29/aclu-sues-justice-department-software-discrimination


Legal experts on Donald Trump: ‘He lacks respect for basic norms’

From opening up the nations libel laws to temporarily banning Muslims, legal professionals says pays no attention to the law

Donald Trumps racist attack on a judge of Mexican heritage won him criticism across the political spectrum. But it is not the only issue worrying former judges, an ex-attorney general, and legal scholars as they contemplate a Trump presidency.

Several other issues have also raised serious legal concerns among such observers, including the presumptive Republican nominees call for a temporary ban on Muslim immigration, his advocacy of bringing back waterboarding, and his statement that if elected he would open up the nations libel laws to make it easier to sue the press and win lots of money.

Republican and Democratic legal critics tell the Guardian that Trump on several occasions has seemed woefully ignorant of the law, and dismissive of American social conventions.

My concern is that he lacks respect for basic norms, said Robert Smith, a former associate judge on the New York court of appeals who was appointed by ex-governor George Pataki, a Republican. Hes a totally irresponsible egomaniac, and it should be no surprise he pays no attention to the law and other basic social norms.

Attack on Trump University judge

Criticism of Trump escalated in legal circles last month when he devoted almost 12 minutes at a San Diego rally to vilifying Judge Gonzalo Curiel who is overseeing fraud lawsuits against the candidates defunct Trump University as a hater. Trump charged that the judge was biased and had a conflict of interest in overseeing the fraud case because of his Mexican heritage, initially claiming the Indiana-born judge was Mexican.

Stephen Larson, a former US district court judge in California who was appointed by President George W Bush, was appalled by Trumps attacks on Judge Curiel. Those remarks were racist. Those remarks were foolish. And those remarks were embarrassing, Larson told the Guardian. Larson added that its embarrassing to have a leading presidential candidate invoke race.

Likewise, former attorney general Richard Thornburgh who served under President George HW Bush, said in an interview that while he found certain Trump statements troubling, the attacks on Judge Curiel were particularly offensive. If broadly applied they threaten the sanctity of the rule of law.

Separately Larson, now a lawyer in Los Angeles with the firm Larson OBrien, voiced dismay over Trumps calls for bringing back waterboarding and killing family members of terrorists, statements that the former judge deems contrary to long and deeply held American legal and moral values.

Trumps notion of bringing back waterboarding also outrages ex-New York court of appeals judge Robert Smith, who says that the now-banned practice is tantamount to torture [which] violates American and international law.

Smith also takes strong exception to Trumps oft-touted proposal for a ban on Muslim immigration, an idea he brought up again after the recent massacre in Orlando as a way to curb terrorism. I think the idea of a religious test for immigration is un-American and appalling, said Smith, who served on the New York court for a decade and is now with the law firm Friedman Kaplan.

Constitutionally problematic

Smiths view of the proposed ban was echoed by legal scholars who spoke with the Guardian. Deborah Rhode, a Stanford law professor, said Trumps call for banning Muslim immigrants was hard to reconcile with the ideals that have motivated this nation.

Rhode noted that the standard test for immigration has long been good moral character, and said that to suggest that someone fails to meet this standard because of religion alone seems constitutionally problematic.

Similarly, Erwin Chermerinsky, the dean of the University of California Irvine Law School, said he thought Trumps call to ban Muslim immigration violates the constitutions principles of equal protection and freedom of religion.

Moreover, other legal scholars are deeply dismayed by Trumps suggestion in February that if he wins in November he intends to open up our libel laws, so that if they [the press] write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.

If you open up the libel laws, the first person who would be sued is Donald Trump, said Richard Epstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago who is highly regarded in conservative legal circles. He makes false and malicious statements about public and private people I regard him as semi-hysterical and self-righteous [and] utterly unfit to be president of the United States.

Ironically perhaps, during his decades-long business career, Trump has exhibited a strong penchant for filing suits and has often been sued. According to a recent survey by USA Today, Trump has sued or been sued an astonishing 3,500 times over the past three decades, a sum that is more than all the suits combined against five other prominent real estate moguls.

All-consuming egomania

On another legal front, conservative lawyers are aghast that Trump has made statements that are flat-out erroneous and betray his ignorance of fundamental judicial matters. A case in point: in late March, Trump stated that he would probably appoint a supreme court justice or attorney general who would look very seriously at [Clintons] email disaster because its a criminal activity What she is getting away with is absolutely murder.

But Smith noted that he would hope that high school students after civics classes would know that judges dont investigate. Judges decide.

In an effort to allay fears about his judgment and conservative bona fides, Trump in May published a list of 11 judges that, if he wins in November, he would consider as supreme court replacements for the late Antonin Scalia. The judges, eight men and three women, are all white and all allied with the Federalist Society, a powerful conservative legal organization. Chicago law professor Richard Epstein and ex-judge Robert Smith have also been involved with the Federalist Society.

Nonetheless, if Trump wins the election, Smith worries that the candidates all-consuming egomania makes him irresponsible, traits that could affect his appointments. You have some chance that you would get a principled conservative. But theres also a chance you could get someone completely off the wall. You dont put an unfit person in the presidency just because you think youd like his supreme court appointments.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/18/donald-trump-presidential-campaign-policy-legal-issues


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