Volume V, Issue 2 Published!

June 2nd, 2014 No comments

WJLERCOVER
The Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race is proud to announce that Volume V, Issue II is now available! Click the link, read, and enjoy!

 

Women of Color: Domestic Violence Victims & Nuisances in the Eyes of the Law

October 27th, 2014 No comments

By: Patrice Turenne 

Blog Category: Domestic Violence Issues and the Law, Economics, & Race 

In the last twenty-five years hundreds of cities and towns across the country have enacted nuisance ordinances. These ordinances make landlords responsible for weeding out drug dealers and other types of disruptive and undesirable tenants, with the goal of saving neighborhoods from blight.  Landlords are tasked with controlling the conduct of their tenants or face penalties, ranging from fines to the loss of their license to rent.  While the goal of creating beautiful and peaceful neighborhoods is admirable, these ordinances have resulted in an unintended negative consequence, namely the labeling of minority domestic violence victims as nuisances and as a result punishing them for the conduct of their abusers.  This is a heavy burden for a domestic violence victim to bear.  A recent case which stemmed from events that took place in Norristown, Pennsylvania, a small town northwest of Philadelphia, attracted nationwide attention to the plight of domestic violence victims in communities with nuisance ordinances.

Lakisha Briggs, an African-American resident of Norristown, Pa, was afraid to call the police to her rental unit when her live-in boyfriend was abusing her.  Her fear was based on a Norristown Municipal Code, which states that landlords are responsible for the “disorderly behavior” of their tenants.  Under the ordinance, disorderly behavior includes “domestic disturbances that do not require that a mandatory arrest be made.”  More than three calls to the same rental unit for domestic disturbances can result in a landlord being forced to evict their disorderly tenant.  Based on the ordinance in effect at the time, Ms. Briggs, after being beaten with a broken ashtray and then stabbed in the neck, was served an eviction notice.  Prior to losing consciousness Briggs begged her neighbor not to call 911 because she had been warned that further calls to police for domestic disturbances might result in her eviction.

Nuisance ordinances like the one in effect in Norristown, in addition to labeling domestic violence victims nuisances, have an additional unintended impact on minorities.  They disproportionately impact African-American women.  This is due to the fact that African-American women are more likely to be domestic violence victims than Caucasian women.  Recent statistics indicate that African-American women experience intimate partner violence at rates significantly higher than Caucasian women.  The same appears to be the case for African-American men as compared to Caucasian men.  With these statistics in mind, if nuisance ordinances remain in place, minority women and men all over the country are at greater risk for ending up in situations like Ms. Briggs, abused and facing eviction as a result.

Luckily, Ms. Briggs’ situation attracted the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union.  A complaint was filed on behalf of Ms. Briggs against Norristown in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  The complaint alleges that Norristown’s ordinance violated Ms. Briggs’ constitutional rights, including her right to procedural and substantive due process.  Nuisance ordinances like the one in place in Norristown threaten citizens’ fundamental right to call the police for help in situations where domestic violence is involved.  We can only hope that Ms. Briggs’ case will result in the removal of domestic violence disturbances from the list of eviction worthy offenses in Norristown, PA.  Furthermore, the pending lawsuit hopefully will result in a wave of similar changes to the nuisance ordinances in effect in other jurisdictions.  Finally, I sincerely hope that the attention brought to Ms. Briggs’ case will result in widespread education, especially for police officers, about domestic violence.  The last thing a victim needs is to feel like a nuisance or a burden when they call for help.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race. 

Sources:

Sandra Park, Shut Up or Get Out: PA City Punishes Domestic Violence Victims Who Call the Police, available at https://www.aclu.org/blog/womens-rights-lgbt-rights-racial-justice-criminal-law-reform/shut-or-get-out-pa-city-punishes  Shut Up or Get Out: PA City Punishes Domestic Violence Victims Who Call the Police.

American Bar Association, Domestic Violence Statistics, available at http://www.americanbar.org/groups/domestic_violence/resources/statistics.html.

Josh Sugarmann, Black Women Face a Greater Risk of Domestic Violence, available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/josh-sugarmann/black-women-face-a-greate_b_4157659.html.

Anna Stolley Persky, A Call for Help an Ordinance That Evicts Tenants for Seeking Police Aid Is Putting Abused Women Out on the Street, ABA J., September 2013.

Erik Eckholm, Victims’ Dilemma: 911 Calls Can Bring Eviction, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/17/us/victims-dilemma-911-calls-can-bring-eviction.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.

Pennsylvania is Fracking its Most Vulnerable Citizens

October 20th, 2014 No comments

By: Aaron Kostyk

Blog Category: Economics of Environmental Regulation

As of 2012, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has been charging companies an “impact fee” to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale deposits.[1]  Several States, which have had longer relationships with the natural gas industry, have what are known as severance taxes, which are essentially just set rate percentage taxes.[2]  Pennsylvania could potentially generate $1.2 billion annually by the year 2019-20 with a 4% severance tax, which is three times as much as the current revenue generated by the “impact fee.”[3]  This is hardly some radical, leftist environmental regulation, Texas and West Virginia have had severance taxes for years, and as production increases the revenue gap between these two models increases in favor of a set percentage severance tax.[4]  The obvious question is why does the Commonwealth continue to surrender revenue to private interests while bemoaning budgetary constraints?

As editorials and think tanks coalesce against leaving money on the table with the “impact fee”, Pennsylvania will have to reconsider its tax policy to conform to States that have been dealing with the natural gas industry for decades.  Given Governor Corbett’s very public spat with Philadelphia area activists and education interests, perhaps it is time for the Commonwealth to consider plucking the low hanging fruit of natural gas revenue to ensure that education funding and spending on social services continue to improve.  Obviously the Marcellus Shale deposits bring jobs and opportunity to many long suffering rust belt towns but it does not stand up to scrutiny that  these jobs will dry up if Pennsylvania has the same tax rate as Texas.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race. 

[1] Michael Wood, A Look at Other States Shows Marcellus Impact Fee Shortchanges Pennsylvanians, 2013 Pa. Budget & Pol’y Center, Aug. 08, 2013 at (2013), http://pennbpc.org/look-other-states-shows-marcellus-impact-fee-shortchanges-pennsylvanians (last visited Mar. 17, 2014).

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

Supreme Court Upholds Gun Ban for Domestic Violence Offenders

October 13th, 2014 No comments

By: Amanda DiLiberto

Blog Category: Domestic Violence Issues and the Law, Economics, & Race

In 1996, Congress passed 18 U.S.C.S §922(g)(9), forbidding anyone convicted of “a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” to possess firearms.  In passing this law, Congress considered the strong connection between gun violence and domestic violence.

On March 24, 2014, the United States Supreme Court decided United States v. Castleman.  Here, the respondent, James Castleman, had been previously convicted under Tennessee law for the offense of having “intentionally or knowingly cause[d] bodily injury to his child’s mother.  Several years later, federal authorities discovered that Castleman was selling firearms illegally.  Castleman was charged with two counts of violating §922(g)(9).  The question before the Court was “whether this conviction qualifie[d] as a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.”

To be considered a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence,” an element of the crime must be “the use or attempted use of physical force.”  It is this phrase that the Court focused on throughout the majority of its analysis.

In its 9-0 decision, the Court concluded that the requirement of “physical force” was satisfied.  To aid in its decision, the Court reviewed Castleman’s original indictment.  The language of the indictment made it clear that the use of physical force was an element of Castleman’s conviction.  Thus Castleman’s conviction qualified as a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” under §922(g)(9).

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race. 

Sources:

United States v. Castleman, 572 S.Ct. 1 (2014).

18 U.S.C.S. § 922(g)(9).

How Race and Religion is Affecting the American Electorate.

October 6th, 2014 No comments

By: Lauren Zrillo

Blog Category: Religion & Race

There has been recent debate within the American electorate regarding the cause of the stark divide between coalitions who support the two major parties. This debate is centered on why the Republican Party has been unable to win a presidential election in the past two elections. The answer can be boiled down to two crucial factors—race and religion.

Over the past several decades there has been an increase in racial diversity and a shift in moral values. Today, Democratic and Republican voters are far more divided by race, moral beliefs, and policy preferences than in the past fifty years. It is well known that the Republican Party has a major demographic problem—the party is struggling to attract growing demographic groups in America, these groups include young and minority voters.

One problem the Republican Party is having with attracting voters between the ages of 18-33 (young voters) is the shift in moral and religious views the American culture has had in past decades. There has been a drastic decrease among voters who would classify themselves as being religiously observant and most voters between the ages of 18-33 are more likely to vote democratic when it comes to social policies. For example, the dramatic shift in American culture has prided itself on individual autonomy. Therefore, unless the Republican Party changes its outdated views on religious and moral issues young voters will continue to join the Democratic coalition.

Today, American society would like to believe that racial segregation is no longer a crucial problem and all men are treated equal. However, American society remains deeply divided among racial lines especially when it comes to political affiliation. Historically minorities collate with the Democratic Party, while whites collate with the Republican Party and the same is true today. This creates a twofold problem for the Republican Party moving forward. First, African American and Latinos continue to face an uphill battle when it comes to equality with white Americans. These minorities continue to experience poorer education, inferior housing, higher unemployment, and a higher incarceration rate than white Americans. The experiences that minority voters have with these issues sculpt their beliefs about the role the government should have in helping citizens, spending on social services, and taxation. The Democratic Party caters to these issues, which is why minorities continue to join the Democratic coalition. Second, This creates a future problem for the Republican Party because the demographic make-up of the United States is changing. There are more minorities voting then ever before. This is largely due to the large-scale immigration from Latin America and Asia, in addition to the fertility rate being higher among African Americans and Latin Americans. This boils down to a simple realization for the Republican Party—minorities collate with the Democratic Party and the number of minorities voting is growing with each presidential election.

In order to lessen the stark divide between the two coalitions and have a shot at a Presidential seat in the future, the Republican Party must “re-brand” themselves with the issues of race and religion in mind.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.

Sources:

Alan I. Abramowitz, How race and religion have polarized American voters, The Washington Post  (Jan. 20, 2014, 12:27 PM), available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/01/20/how-race-and-religion-have-polarized-american-voters/.

Katie Glueck, Report: How the GOP lost young voters, Politico (Jun. 3, 2013, 6:00 PM), available at  http://www.politico.com/story/2013/06/gop-youth-vote-report-92119.html.

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Fire and Ice

September 29th, 2014 No comments

By: Dr. Robert Gorkin

Blog Category: Economics of Environmental Regulation

Robert Frost, in his poem Fire and Ice, wrote:

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.

So too, do those who believe in catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW).  For some, there is no debate.  Those who think there is room for further scientific deliberation are derided as being fully equivalent to “holocaust deniers,” and some of the more passionate “true believers” would have that CAGW questioners suffer a similar fate.  Indeed, some have advocated that those who question CAGW dogma should be held legally responsible and have gone so far as to propose Nuremberg-style trials and even execution.

The Precautionary Principle implies that if the world as we know it is to end because of global warming, it becomes obligatory to do everything possible to prevent the impending catastrophe.  An obvious rational corollary needs to be that any danger, no matter how great, ought to be realistically measured against its likelihood of occurring.  For example, the iconic modern day “prophet” with his sandwich board proclaiming “Repent! The World Will End Tomorrow!” asserts a danger that no one is going to take seriously.

Supporters of CAGW contend that mankind’s increasing use of fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution (particularly since the late 1900s), and the consequent injection of carbon dioxide—a greenhouse gas—into the atmosphere, will cause the runaway destruction of the environment.  Their proposed solution is to dramatically restrict the use of traditional energy sources (e.g., by international treaty, regulation, and “carbon” taxes) and to subsidize the development of alternative energy sources.

Opponents of CAGW, in addition to martialling conflicting evidence, claim that even if global warming were true, the proposed remedial economic disruption and its ramifications are unwarranted. Opponents claim it would be far better to take a wait-and-see approach tempered by adapting to any climate change as it occurs.  They argue that even if there were any thermal abatement, it would amount to mere fractions of a degree achieved at an enormous cost. Among the dangers, they cite the cold weather deaths of the poor and elderly already seen in England due to unaffordable heating costs.  Costs attributable to the skyrocketing price of electricity caused, in part, by the regulatory imposition of costly wind-generated power.  Other concerns include increasing food costs associated with “green” economics favoring using food grains to make biofuels (gasohol), and the diversion of treasure and resources from currently pressing medical and other humanitarian needs.  Furthermore, there may actually be overall benefits, since many plants show increased productivity with higher levels of ambient carbon dioxide, and many people would prefer to live in a temperate climate.

Climate always changes, and has done so over the eons since earth first acquired its modern atmosphere starting about 2.8 billion years ago. Trying to prevent climate change may well be a Sisyphean task as effective as trying to prevent the continental drift that will surely obliterate the world’s geography, as we know it today.

No matter what side of the debate one falls on, one thing can be assured: Time will tell. We are today faced with a choice; a choice we shall recount to our grandchildren. And in the telling of our tale, perhaps we will have the much the same sentiments that Robert Frost poignantly captured in this well-known stanza from The Road Not Taken:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.

Source:

See generally, e.g., Watts Up With That?, available at http://wattsupwiththat.com (last visited Mar. 31, 2014).

Burma’s Censored Census

September 22nd, 2014 No comments

By: Konstantinos Patsiopoulos

Blog Category: International Law & Race

Although not an official confirmation, a brief review of Burma on Wikipedia supports the proposition in TIME’s article that the Rohingya Muslim community have been discriminated against in the latest U.N. census.  Under the “Ethnic groups” category, Rohingya is not listed.  On February 25, 2014, TIME covered a story related to the release of a report alleging that the Rohingya people were victims of oppression by Buddhist-dominated government in Burma.  Roughly one month later, TIME reported that the Burmese government would not allow the Rohingya people to be identified on the census.

Since there have been accusations of involvement with U.N. officials, what remedial measures could the minority group take?  After approximately 140,000 Rohingya people have been essentially quarantined in displacement camps over the past two years, the minority group views this head-count procedure as just another discriminatory tool in the Burmese government’s arsenal.  Moreover, anti-Rohingya mobs have destroyed international aid boats and vehicles, which were transporting food, water, and medical supplies to the minority group.

Luckily, these reports and news articles caught the attention of the U.N. Population Fund, who expressed its concern.  Therefore, with U.N. assistance and continued international news coverage, remedial measures may be on the way for the Rohingya people.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.

Sources: 

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, available at En.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burma (last visited Apr. 21, 2014).

Charlie Campbell, Burma Accused of ‘Crime Against Humanity’ Over Persecution of Rohingya, TIME (Apr. 21, 2014, 4:54 PM), available at http://time.com/9518/burma-rohingya-crime-against-humanity.

Charlie Campbell, Burma’s Racist Census Degenerates Into Violence, TIME, (Apr. 21, 2014, 10:00 AM), available at http://time.com/44891/burma-census-rakhine-rohingya.