ACLU

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.

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.

An Update On The Fight For Marriage Equality In Pennsylvania

Apr 24, 2014
Emmanuel Huybrechts / Flickr

There may not be a trial to decide whether the state's same-sex marriage ban is constitutional. The plaintiffs argued the state isn't disputing their facts and hasn't identified an expert witness, so a judge can toss the ban out without a trial.

Plaintiffs challenging the Pennsylvania law that bans same-sex marriage say there’s no need for a June trial and want a federal court judge to issue an immediate decision.

Vic Walczak, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, said the plaintiffs in January filed a list of experts with the court but the commonwealth indicated it would not provide witnesses to refute the plaintiffs’ witnesses.

A civil-rights group is raising questions about Pennsylvania's participation in a national program designed to help cull voters with duplicate registrations in different states.

Witold Walczak of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania voiced concern Tuesday about the lack of information from state officials about how they'll oversee the purging of voter rolls under the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program.

Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

Marriage matters to Diane Polson and Dawn Plummer.

They have been together for 13 years, but the state will not allow them to marry. Same-sex marriage is legal in 16 states and Washington, D.C., but Pennsylvania is not one of them.

While a challenge to Pennsylvania’s marriage law makes its way through the courts, the ACLU launched its Why Marriage Matters campaign Wednesday.

Polson and Plummer are now plaintiffs in the ACLU’s lawsuit, a decision sparked by their 5-year-old son Elijah.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

The ACLU of Pennsylvania has filed a federal lawsuit against Pittsburgh police officer Jonathan Gromek, who last summer arrested a black teacher after a community meeting on police/community relations in Homewood.

All charges against Dennis Henderson were withdrawn by the district attorney, but Henderson said that the damage that was done can’t be undone.

Pennsylvania has settled a lawsuit that sought to force the commonwealth to allow witnesses to view the entire execution of condemned prisoners.

The agreement follows a federal judge’s order last fall that the state shall not prevent witnesses, including reporters, see the entire lethal injection process.

Vic Walczak is legal director for the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union, which worked on the case.

Early Unions Collectively Bargained For Their Safety

Oct 16, 2013
U.S. Office of War Information / wikipedia

America’s earliest unions of the 19th century were connected to craft and trade guilds. But with factory workers facing terrible working conditions such as 12+ hour work days, and 7 day work weeks in cramped, dangerous spaces, their only choice was to come together to collectively bargain for their safety.

When Crystal Eastman, Co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union visited Pittsburgh in the 1920’s, she reported 526 industrial related deaths in Allegheny County within one year.

According to Dr. Charles McCollester, a former professor of Industrial and Labor Relations at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and author of The Point of Pittsburgh, about 3,000 mining industry workers died each year, between 1890 and 1920.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Women’s Law Project have filed a lawsuit against the Allegheny Intermediate Unit on behalf of Bradley Ankney, a math teacher for the AIU.

The suit was filed after the AIU rejected Ankney’s attempt to add his partner to his health insurance policy.

Sarah Rose, staff attorney for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said the AIU does provide benefits to the spouses of employees.

jamelah / Flickr

Pennsylvania's controversial voter ID law is back in Commonwealth Court this week, but it's unlikely to be decided conclusively any time soon.

Voting rights advocates are seeking a permanent injunction against the 2012 law, which requires Pennsylvania voters to present state-issued photo identification in order to cast a ballot. Implementation was postponed ahead of last year's general election and again in 2013 in advance of the May primary.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Two weeks after the Supreme Court of the United States overturned key provisions in the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania has filed a federal lawsuit to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The 23 plaintiffs, including 10 same-sex couples, one widow, and two teenage children of one of the couples, say they've seen firsthand the inequality of PA law in its discrimination against same-sex couples. 

ACLU Staff Attorney Molly Tack-Hooper and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh, Anthony Infanti, weigh in on the legality of the lawsuit and the path for equality in Pennsylvania paved by the repeal of DOMA.

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