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It's time to provide legal counsel to the poor

Tipping the Scales in Housing Court - NYTimes.com
Millions of Americans face eviction every year. But legal aid to the poor, steadily starved since the Reagan years, has been decimated during the recession. The result? In many housing courts around the country, 90 percent of landlords are represented by attorneys and 90 percent of tenants are not. This imbalance of power is as unfair as the solution is clear. When tenants have lawyers, their chances of keeping their homes increase dramatically. Establishing publicly funded legal services for low-income families in housing court is a cost-effective social policy that would prevent homelessness and uphold our ideals of fundamental fairness. Poor people cannot afford lawyers, and in nearly all civil cases they don’t have a right to one. In the 1963 landmark case Gideon v. Wainwright, the Supreme Court unanimously established the right to counsel for indigent defendants in criminal cases on the grounds that a fair trial was virtually impossible without a lawyer. Eighteen years later, the court heard the case of Abby Gail Lassiter, a poor black woman from North Carolina who appeared without counsel at a civil trial that resulted in her parental rights being erased. This time, a divided Supreme Court ruled that the right to appointed counsel was reserved for indigent litigants only when the loss of physical liberty was at stake. Incarceration is a misery, but the outcomes of civil cases, as Ms. Lassiter learned, can be devastating, with stubbornly resilient consequences. Consider eviction’s fallout. Families forced from their homes often lose their possessions, too: furniture and clothes piled on the sidewalk or auctioned off by moving companies. Evicted families experience long stretches of homelessness, with kids bouncing between shelters or abandoned houses.

November 27, 2012

Four servicewomen sue to challenge exclusion of women from combat

They are basically already serving in combat, but don't get training, recognition, pay or benefits associated with combat. Servicewomen Sue To Challenge Exclusion Of Women From Combat: News: SFAppeal
Four military women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan sued the U.S. Department of Defense in federal court in San Francisco today to challenge the policy of excluding women from almost all combat duty. The four Army and Marine Corps and Air National Guard officers, who are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, say the policy violates their constitutional right to equal treatment. They are asking for a court order overturning the exclusion. The lawsuit alleges that because battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan lack clear boundaries and front lines, women are in effect already serving in combat. But the policy denies them combat training as well as recognition and promotions for their service, and deprives the military of their talents by causing women to leave, the lawsuit states. "The combat exclusion policy is based on outdated stereotypes of women and ignores the realities of the modern military and battlefield conditions," the lawsuit alleges.

November 23, 2012

Adventures in post-racial America: North Carolina edition

And by "post-racial" I mean "super crazy racist." Great Moments in Not-Racism | TPM Editors Blog
It seems like 21st century America is still experiencing its birth pangs in North Carolina. Bob Dumas, it seems is the local right-wing shock jock in Raleigh, North Carolina. And coming off the election, he and his show G105 “Showgram” decided it would be a good idea to have a special float at the Saturday’s Raleigh WRAL Christmas Parade. As described by the News & Observer … The entry featured a black man dressed in a skirt with fairy wings, strapped to a harness that was suspended from the back of a tow truck. Dumas, riding on the float, described the scene to parade goers as “Tyrone the Black Christmas Fairy” who was going to turn “crackers” into Beyonce. Predictably now, everyone is running for cover. The organizers of the parade say they had no advanced warning of the what was coming. Jennifer Martin of The Greater Raleigh Merchants Association told the local alt weekly: “We were told it would be the ghost of Christmas Present Angel, and he would be floating over the air and not hanging from the back. I can tell you we are going to have a sit-down with G105 with and their producers.”

November 22, 2012

I'm Having Trouble Cheering for the Bullying of Bullies; Do I Need Therapy?

Anonymous and MTV: trying to protect kids online. - Slate...