ACLU

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania is threatening to sue a Pittsburgh city councilwoman for blocking constituents on Facebook.

ACLU Legal Director Vic Walczak says City Councilwoman Darlene Harris is censoring critical comments from her Facebook page, and is thus violating the First Amendment. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports Walczak wrote a letter Tuesday asking Harris to unblock four residents from her Facebook page by Dec. 4.

Brian Bohannon / AP

The American Civil Liberties Union announced Thursday it had reached an agreement with Allegheny County regarding the solitary confinement of pregnant inmates at the county jail.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

A lawsuit filed Monday against the Allegheny County Jail and its administration claims the jail allowed a transgender inmate to be repeatedly sexually abused while she was incarcerated with male inmates.

The suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and The Law Offices of Timothy O’Brien on behalf of Jules Williams is seeking damages.

U.S. Department of Education / Flickr

The American Civil Liberties Union is again threatening to sue a Pennsylvania school district for allegedly failing to enroll refugees as students.

The ACLU in February sent a warning letter to the Harrisburg Area School District on behalf of four students. The district enrolled the students in March.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

In a public hearing this week, dozens of advocates spoke to Pittsburgh City Council about what legal distinction would come from declaring itself a "Sanctuary City" legislation. Pittsburgh is not a sanctuary city, and Councilman Dan Gilman has said that label doesn't matter as much as the city's actions.

Damian Dovarganes / AP

Automatic license plate readers – those cameras on police cars and light poles that capture plate numbers – have been in widespread use since the 1990s. But some argue regulations for how and how long police can use and store that information hasn’t kept up with the technology.

Associated Press

The state House has passed a bill to keep certain drug and violent crime offenders in prison longer.

David Goldman / AP

Families of people hurt or killed by police would not learn the identity of the officer involved for 30 days or until the completion of an investigation under a new bill making its way through the Pennsylvania legislature.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Social justice advocates worry misinformation is preventing formerly incarcerated men and women from casting their ballot.

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Usually, inadequate representation lawsuits go like this: your lawyer does a bad job defending your case, you're found guilty, and then you seek a new trial on the grounds of insufficient counsel. It's a single response to a single instance of misrepresentation. 

But what if a public defender system is so chronically underfunded and understaffed that criminal defendants know going into their case that they won't be able to get a proper defense? Must they wait, individually, for their case to be tried and then hope for some sort of relief? 

Pa. Immigrant Detention Center Strikers Pause For A Week, Citing Threats

Aug 25, 2016
Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

 

*UPDATED

More than a dozen women who crossed into the U.S. illegally with their children continue to protest their long detention in a Pennsylvania facility.

A hunger strike that started Aug. 8 has paused for a weeklong "fast" of one meal a day, before the women resume the strike next week.

"We have been pushed to suspend the hunger strike by the threat of immigration officials, who have told us that, if our health weakens, the government will take away our children and send us to adult prisons," said the mothers in an emailed statement.

Months after the Obama administration advised school districts that transgender students should be given access to bathrooms based on their gender identity, a federal judge in Texas has blocked the guidance from going into effect — for now.

U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor has granted a preliminary, nationwide injunction in response to a lawsuit filed by Texas and a number of other states.

Lawsuit Brewing Over Refugee Education In Lancaster

Jul 19, 2016
Alex Brandon / AP

 

About 17,000 school-aged refugees move to the U.S. in an average year, an estimate that's a few years old and likely growing along with overall resettlement activity.

But no one is tracking how young refugees fare in school here.

Georgetown University released a study earlier this year looking at education access by students with limited English proficiency.

It focused on undocumented immigrants.

J. Chan / flickr

Pennsylvania’s incarceration rates are the highest of any northeastern state.  Beginning in the 1980's with the advent of the “War on Drugs,” Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union director Reggie Shuford said the commonwealth has a history of mass jailing. He told Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer about an upcoming ACLU roundtable discussion at the August Wilson Center addressing the incarceration debate.

sashikag / Flickr

  The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania has filed a suit to deem two state statutes unconstitutional. The group's client, Joshuaa Brubaker, was charged two years ago for flag desecration.

Brubaker, part Native American by birth, hung the American flag upside down outside his home with letters "AIM" -- an acronym for the American Indian Movement -- spray painted across it in protest of plans for the Keystone Pipeline, which is slated to run through sacred territory in South Dakota.

PhotographyMontreal / flickr

After a lawsuit launched by the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth has agreed to use more resources to house and treat criminal defendants with mental illnesses. ACLU of Pennsylvania Legal Director Vic Walczak led the legal battle and spoke to Essential Pittsburgh about the case.

The commonwealth will devote more resources to treatment and housing for criminal defendants who have mental illness, under the terms of a deal approved by a federal judge Wednesday.

Allie_Caulfield / Flickr

Allegheny County can no longer hold individuals based on solely on their suspected illegal immigration status, according to a settlement reached Wednesday with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.

Kaffeeeinstein / Flickr

Nearly a year after President Barack Obama proposed funding for 50,000 body-worn cameras for police officers nationwide, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police is getting its share.

Lock the Gate Alliance / flickr

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit that landowners and developers filed against individuals and environmental groups who have been fighting fracking near the Mars Area School District complex.

Gerry Dincher / flickr

A coalition representing students attending Mars Area School District teamed up with the American Civil Liberties Union to fight a lawsuit brought by shale drilling corporations that contends the group’s actions are halting appropriate and legal drilling opportunities.

ACLU of Pennsylvania Legal Director Vic Walczak called the suit filed by Dewey Homes & Investment Properties a "SLAPP" suit, or strategic lawsuit against public participation. Such suits have been made illegal in nearly half of U.S. states including Pennsylvania.

“What these are is lawsuits that really have no merit that are typically filed by corporate interests, often developers, against political opponents," Walczak said. "And they have virtually no chance of succeeding.”

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

The American Civil Liberties Union and the City of Pittsburgh have reached an agreement on "cutting-edge" improvements to police hiring methods, including strengthening minority hiring procedures. The settlement agreement stems from a federal class action lawsuit filed by the ACLU in August 2012 on behalf of minority applicants who scored high in Pittsburgh Police testing but were passed over for job offers. We'll speak with Ellen Doyle, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs.

Doyle says that previously, the city of Pittsburgh was being forced to diversify its ranks by hiring an African American and a woman for every four hires, as outlined in a Supreme Court order. She explains that this is no longer the case:

"The city was reporting for a number of years that [the police force] was disproportionately white in terms of the population of the city. But the difference between what happened with the prior federal lawsuit and what happened now is that the Supreme Court has seriously reduced the use of any race-conscious remedy." -Ellen Doyle 

Also on the program, after rioting and chaos in Ferguson and Baltimore, how should police departments adapt? How can departments encourage minorities to join the police force?

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh officials vowed to remedy a long-standing lack of diversity on its police force with the resolution of a federal lawsuit alleging discrimination in hiring practices.

In a tentative agreement announced Thursday, the city agreed to pay $985,000 plus court costs to eligible black police academy applicants who were not issued job offers between 2008 and 2014.

Updated at 4 p.m.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania has stepped away from its threat to file a First Amendment lawsuit against the Plum Borough School District for trying to restrict students' comments on social media about the investigation into sexual misconduct by at least two teachers. Plum Superintendent Timothy Glasspool clarified the district's position on its website late Monday morning following the threatened suit, as well as a student protest.

Allegheny County has responded to a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union and a woman who is caring for four children without receiving financial help. The ACLU filed the suit on behalf of Tracy Schaeffer who has taken care of her grand nieces and nephews since 2012. The suit alleges Schaeffer was not notified of her options to become a certified foster parent.

The city of Pittsburgh has reached a settlement with Dennis Henderson, a teacher who was arrested in June 2013 outside of a community meeting on police/community relations.

Henderson and the ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a federal lawsuit against the arresting police officer, Jonathan Gromek. The settlement was reached after mediation.

ACLU Sues Allegheny County Over Foster Parent Payments

Nov 20, 2014

In 2012, Tracey Schaeffer of Leechburg became the foster parent for her four grand nieces and nephews whose parents were deemed unable to take care of them. Since then, she has been fighting with the Allegheny County Department of Children, Youth and Families to get help paying for their care.

Now the ACLU of Pennsylvania has filed suit asking for payment and for a change in any policy or practices that might be illegal.

The Pennsylvania Senate unanimously agreed-- victims of a crime should never be punished for seeking help.

House Bill 1796 intends to rectify what some see as problematic housing ordinances in at least 23 Pennsylvania municipalities that discourage multiply calls to emergency personnel. Currently these municipalities allow land lords to evict renters who call 9-1-1 seeking help more than three times in four months.

A class-action lawsuit against the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police meant to end alleged discriminatory hiring practices against African Americans is nearing the point of resolution, either through negotiations or trial, says Witold Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.

It’s safe the say that most, if not all Americans, know about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but what about their historical context? And what’s the difference between civil and criminal court cases?

The American Civil Liberties Union in Pennsylvania is hoping to address questions like these in its continuing series “Civics for Grown Ups.”

The month-long, four-part series will take place at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in Squirrel Hill and classes will be taught by experienced attorneys and educators.

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