Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Secrets, Sex, and Controversy

It's 2010 and, after a long break, we're back in the swing of things at the law school. Our website is finally functional (mostly...working on that) and we're already working on our next publication. Even more exciting - we're planning for our Spring Symposium! The topic is Juvenile Justice and it's going to be awesome. Tentatively it will be sometime the week of March 29. I'll be sure to keep you posted. So let's get to it:

Mum's the Word: With a Twang

In mid-December, a bunch of Texas cities and elected officials filed a lawsuit against the state. They claim that part of the Texas Open Meetings Act is unconstitutional as it infringes on elected officials' First Amendment Free Speech rights. The way the law stands, a "quorum" of elected officials cannot discuss issues facing the public without notice that they will be doing so. Historically, this was meant to combat secretive deals and deliberations - the public had to be "invited," so to speak, to discussions about public policy. But now, with changes in technology, this prohibition has been extended to email communications about public business, facebook posts, and twitter. The idea behind it is simple: PUBLIC business should be discussed in PUBLIC...otherwise it's private (or at least not "public"). The officials seem to be claiming that the Open Meetings Act is chilling their speech - i.e. making them afraid to even contact other representatives at all. To me, this notion seems ridiculous. I have an EXTREMELY hard time believing the public would have a problem with certain communications:
@texasshotgunfan Hey old man, how's about we get blasted this weekend and watch the Superbowl?
@huntfishordie Sounds great! I'll bring the scotch and you bring the babes. My team is going to KILL your team!
@texasshotgunfan @huntfishordie Why don't you ever invite Houston representatives to your parties?
@htownhunk Because Houston is too close to College Station. And you always scare off the girls.
@texasshotgunfan Whatevs. There ain't no party like an H-Town party.
@htownhunk Enjoy your sausage fest.

But seriously (and I in no way meant to suggest anything about our representatives, or offend anyone who might have those twitter names - it was merely an exaggerated way of getting my point across. The Houston thing is true though)...I feel that it is pretty obvious the sorts of discussions that would be considered public matters or not. A spokesman from the Attorney General's office said:
If a quorum of public officials wants to discuss public business, the law requires that they do so in public. In this case, elected officials, municipalities and critics of open government are turning the First Amendment on its head. Open meeting laws have been upheld under the First Amendment by every court in the country that has ever considered the issue.

Should be interesting to see how it pans out.
For more info, read this.

Transgendered New Yorker Files SuitS

Last week, Angelina Mavilia, a transgendered woman, filed suit against NFL player Eric Green for sex assault alleging forcible sodomy. She says they met in a casino, went back to his condo, and then upon discovering that she was transgendered, he sodomized her and stated, "This never happened. You'd better not tell." Obviously it's too soon to tell if this is just a case of badgering money out of a sports star (as many commentators argue) or more proof of bigger problems - the discrimination against transgendered people and the stigma that is associated with it.

The same woman also filed suit against the city of New York claiming that she had been harassed by police. After being arrested for trespassing, Mavilia claims that a female cop demanded she remove her bra and panties and then exclaimed, "It's a girl!" upon looking at her genitals. She was later put in jail with a male after another officer made her strip down. The officer came to the conclusion that, "You're not fooling me; I know you were not born a woman, I can see your plastic surgery."

For another take on this story, check this blog out.

The End of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"?

In last week's State of the Union address, President Obama said:

This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are.

And now, more officials are supporting his plan to repeal the law. Today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen spoke out against "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Hopefully this plan will be put in action soon and, as Adm. Mullen put it, soldiers will no longer have to "lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens."

Please, feel free to comment or share any news with us.
~ Andréa
Email me at: tjclcrteched@gmail.com

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