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  Human Rights - Legal News


Chicago and state officials released a plan Friday to carry out far-reaching police reforms under federal court supervision more than a year after a U.S. Justice Department investigation found a longstanding history of civil rights violations by the police department.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson released a more than 200-page proposed consent decree that would cover topics ranging from police recruitment and training to the use of force and misconduct investigations.

Among the proposed reforms are requiring that officers issue a verbal warning before any use of force and provide life-saving aid after force is used. The Chicago Police Department would need to issue monthly reports on use of force incidents.

The plan also establishes a 180-day deadline for investigations to be completed by the police department's internal affairs bureau and the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, and calls for better training and supervision of officers.

Madigan acknowledged there have been many attempts over decades to reform the department and the relationship between police and the community, most recently after video of a white police officer fatally shooting a black teen 16 times led to protests and the Justice Department investigation. Yet she said too many Chicago residents still don't feel safe in their neighborhoods, or calling the police.



Abortion rights supporters decry court ruling

  Human Rights  -   POSTED: 2018/06/27 15:48

Abortion-rights supporters say the Supreme Court "turned its back on women" by striking down a California law requiring anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers to provide information about abortion services.

NARAL Pro-Choice America calls the pregnancy centers "fake women's health centers" because they do not provide details about a full range of services. Critics of the centers say they prey on low-income women.

The group says the court's decision is a step toward dismantling abortion rights. Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California is urging the state attorney general and law enforcement officials to "protect the rights of patients from deceptive practices."

Supporters of the court's decision call it a win for free speech and say the law unfairly required the centers to promote abortion.
Abortion-rights supporters say the Supreme Court "turned its back on women" by striking down a California law requiring anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers to provide information about abortion services.

NARAL Pro-Choice America calls the pregnancy centers "fake women's health centers" because they do not provide details about a full range of services. Critics of the centers say they prey on low-income women.

The group says the court's decision is a step toward dismantling abortion rights. Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California is urging the state attorney general and law enforcement officials to "protect the rights of patients from deceptive practices."

Supporters of the court's decision call it a win for free speech and say the law unfairly required the centers to promote abortion.
Assemblyman David Chiu, the bill's author, says the court decision shows reproductive rights are more vulnerable than ever.

The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, which brought the lawsuit, is cheering the court for overturning what it called a "coercive law" forcing the centers to provide "free advertising for tax-funded abortions." Abortion rights groups estimate more than 4,000 such pregnancy centers are operating around the nation.


An Arizona appeals court on Thursday upheld a Phoenix anti-discrimination law that makes it illegal for businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples because of religion.

The ruling comes days after the U.S. Supreme Court sided with a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The high court found Monday that a Colorado civil rights commission showed anti-religious bias when it ruled against Jack Phillips for refusing to make the cake at his Masterpiece Cakeshop.

The decision, however, did not address the larger issue of whether a business can invoke religious objections to refuse service to gay and lesbian people.

In the Arizona case, the state Court of Appeals sided with the city in a lawsuit first brought in 2016 by a wedding invitation business, saying the ordinance is constitutional and does not violate freedom of religion or speech.

"We have previously found that eliminating discrimination constitutes a compelling interest," Judge Lawrence Winthrop wrote, adding that "antidiscrimination ordinances are not aimed at the suppression of speech, but at the elimination of discriminatory conduct."

The court said if Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, owners of Brush & Nib Studio, "want to operate their for-profit business as a public accommodation, they cannot discriminate against potential patrons based on sexual orientation."

Attorney Jonathan Scruggs of Alliance Defending Freedom, who represented the women, said they intend to appeal the decision to the Arizona Supreme Court.


A bakery owned by a Christian family asked Britain's Supreme Court on Tuesday to overturn a ruling that it discriminated against a gay customer for refusing to make a cake supporting same-sex marriage.

Ashers Baking Co. in Northern Ireland refused in 2014 to make a cake iced with the "Sesame Street" characters Bert and Ernie and the slogan "Support Gay Marriage."

The owners argued they were happy to bake goods for anyone, but could not put messages on their products at odds with their Christian beliefs.

After the customer filed a lawsuit that received backing from Northern Ireland's Equalities Commission, lower courts ruled that the bakery's refusal was discriminatory.

Judges from the London-based Supreme Court heard the bakery's appeal at a special sitting in Belfast that is due to continue Wednesday.

David Scoffield, lawyer for the bakery's owners, argued Tuesday that the family should not be compelled to create a product "to which they have a genuine objection in conscience."


The Supreme Court for the second time has refused to hear an appeal by imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich of his corruption convictions.

The justices didn't comment Monday in letting stand the convictions and 14-year prison term the 61-year-old is serving. His scheduled release date is 2024.

Blagojevich's lawyers had wanted the high court to take up his case to make clear what constitutes illegal political fundraising. They argued that politicians are vulnerable to prosecution because the line between what's allowed and what's illegal is blurry.

His convictions included trying to extort a children's hospital for contributions and seeking to trade an appointment to the Senate seat Barack Obama vacated when he was elected president for campaign cash.

The court also refused to hear his 2016 appeal.




Public officials and homeless advocates reached an agreement Tuesday on providing for homeless people who are being evicted from an encampment in a Southern California riverbed.

Orange County officials said they would use motels and other means to get 700 to 800 beds for the homeless driven from the encampment in Anaheim.

"We pledge up to 400 motel rooms, immediately," County Supervisor Andrew Do told the court, adding that the county would also add beds to other facilities and could put up a tent on a county-owned parking lot if space was needed.

Brooke Weitzman, an attorney for the plaintiffs seeking to stop the eviction, said she was concerned that the tent dwellers would not trust county officials' offer of help on such short notice, but U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter told her notices would go up as soon as Wednesday and he trusted their word.

He said he suspected homeless residents who don't want help, and want to wander, will move elsewhere.

"If you want to solve this, this is the one opportunity we really have, all the county leaders and the city leaders in one place," Carter said, after officials emerged from four hours of talks.

The sides agreed that social workers would help the homeless find longer term housing after the initial relocation, which will take place in a week.

The deal came at the demand of Carter, who called the sides in for the unusual hearing on Tuesday and is known for summoning public officials for questioning.

He called on Orange County officials, veterans, women's advocates and others to step up and offer solutions for those living on the two-mile (3.2 kilometer) stretch of riverbed trail once popular with joggers and bikers that has been overrun by tents, trash and human waste.


A Dallas man was executed Tuesday for the 1999 slaying of his ex-girlfriend while he already was on parole for killing his estranged wife.

William Rayford, 64, became the nation's second inmate put to death this year, both in Texas, when he received lethal injection for beating, stabbing and strangling 44-year-old Carol Lynn Thomas Hall. Her body was found about 300 feet (91 meters) inside a drainage pipe behind her home in South Dallas' Oak Cliff area. Hall's 11-year-old son, Benjamin, also was stabbed in the attack but survived. He testified against Rayford.

Asked by the warden at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Huntsville Unit if he had a final statement, Rayford apologized repeatedly to his victim's four children who watched through a window a few feet from him.

"Carol didn't deserve what I done," he said. "Please try to find it in your heart to forgive me. I am sorry. It has bothered me for a long time what I have done."

He said he has made mistakes and asked God to forgive him. "If this gives you closure and makes you feel better, I have no problem with this taking place," Rayford said.

As the lethal dose of pentobarbital began taking effect, he lifted his head from the pillow on the death chamber gurney, repeated that he was sorry and then said he was "going home."

He began to snore. Within seconds, all movement stopped. He was pronounced dead at 8:48 p.m., 13 minutes after the powerful sedative was injected.

Among the four witnesses present was the victim's son who was also stabbed in the attack. He and three siblings showed no emotion as they watched Rayford die. They declined interviews afterward.

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