Despite International Pressure, Virginia Man Executed

Supporters who tried to convince Terry McAuliffe, the governor of Virginia, that a man sentenced to die suffered from mental illness failed in their attempts as the convicted double murderer was put to death last Thursday. Governor McAuliffe did not grant clemency to William Morva, a Hungarian national convicted of killing a sheriff’s deputy and a security guard in 2008.

According to Jurist.org, a psychiatrist appointed by the courts diagnosed Morva with a delusional disorder. Supporters who wanted the governor to grant clemency said Morva was not mentally fit when he committed his crimes. The psychiatrist stated that Morva may have been suffering from delusions at the time the murders occurred.

Human rights workers from the UN pleaded with Governor McAuliffe to grant clemency, stating Morva did not receive the “proper accommodations” during trial, and that the courts nor the prosecution did not notify the jury Morva was mentally ill. Although McAuliffe opposes the death penalty, he released a statement saying Morva was given a fair trial and there was substantial evidence presented to the jury regarding Morva’s mental health issues. The governor concluded by saying in the statement that there was not enough evidence to justify overturning the decision of the jury. Dozens of members of Virginia’s General Assembly and three house representatives from the state opposed the execution of Morva.

The death penalty remains a hot topic of conversation nationwide. The governor of Florida, Rick Scott, recently scheduled the execution of a man convicted of murder, which will be state’s first execution in over 18 months. The state had halted the death penalty when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the way Florida handed down death sentences was unconstitutional. A new Florida law took effect in March that only allows judges to sentence defendants to the death penalty if there is unanimous consent by the jury.

What you should know about Abortion Law in Northern Ireland

The court of appeal in Belfast, Northern Ireland has made the decision that abortion law should be determined by Stormont Assembly and not the courts. In a recent case, the high court ruled that there was a flaw in the current abortion laws in Northern Ireland. The country’s abortion laws breached the European Convention on Human rights, the court determined. In an explanation that followed, the high court explained that the law didn’t give direction on sexual crimes pregnancies as well as fatal foetal abnormality that would require abortion to save the life of the mother. However, the ruling was later challenged by Northern Ireland attorney general and the country’s justice department. Compared to other countries in the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland has much stricter laws concerning the issue of abortion.

The court of appeal decision was made by three judges who decided to overturn the lower court’s ruling. They instead found out that the current laws in Northern Ireland were not in line with UK’s Human Rights Act Obligations. Things didn’t end there as the Court mentioned that the case could be heard in the Supreme Court if legal submissions are made on time. In a layman’s language, the ruling determined that the issue of abortion should not be determined by courts or the local governments. Instead, the judges ruled that there are other issues that should be used in determining the case such as religious beliefs and complex moral issues.

After the ruling, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission criticized the decision saying that the court should have done better. To better understand the ruling, it’s good to know what the law says in Northern Ireland. For a woman to be allowed to abort, the pregnancy must be posing serious risks to her life. This could be physical health or mental health. Anyone caught to have breached this law is punished by life imprisonment.

This case had been presented to the court of appeal by the NI Human Rights Commission. The commission had introduced other grounds for abortion that were quashed by the court hence the disappointment. A woman known as Sarah Ewart revealed that she had to travel to England to take care of the fatal foetal abnormality. With this condition, her child would not have survived and yet, the law in Northern Ireland didn’t allow termination. She explicitly said that she had been devastated by the ruling and they would appeal.

Changing The U.S. Tax Code Is A Challenge For Lawmakers

One of Donald Trump’s campaign promises was to throw out the old tax system and replace it with a simpler system that reduces individual and corporate tax payments. But revamping a tax code that is out of control and totally confusing is not a simple task. The Republican effort to overhaul the tax system has hit a wall in the House of Representatives, and the wall is full of spending cut battles and infighting.
The House Budget Committee is not sending a budget resolution to the floor because conservation Republicans are adding billions of dollars in spending cuts to the basic blueprint of the budget. Trump needs House and Senate approval of a budget, so Republicans can avoid Democratic opposition in the Senate. But the proposed spending cuts on food stamps and Medicaid are not helping matters, and a stalemate could be “the political blue plate special of the day.” A stalemate means no movement on tax reform.

The fly in the political ointment seems to be gaining strength, according to Washington insiders who say “no budget, no tax reform.” The conservation House Freedom Caucus wants to cut $400 billion from programs that help the poor. And the chairman of that committee wants another $295 billion in spending cuts. There is a Republican agreement in place that will top spending levels for defense and nondefense programs, but other spending cuts are necessary so the national deficit doesn’t increase when a new tax system becomes a reality.

But cutting programs for the poor to fund tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations is not the answer, according to many Democrats. And the initial Trump plan to cut tax rates from seven to three would not help average Americans if some of the itemized deductions go away. And there is talk of a reduction in itemized deductions, especially interest deductions.

There are House and Senate members who want a consumer-driven tax system or a consumption tax. A consumption system would eliminate all the complex paperwork and most of the daily functions of the IRS. But a consumption tax system is not in the cards on Capitol Hill this year. And if the infighting continues in Congress, any new tax system is out of the question. But one way or another Trump will get a new tax code. But just putting any tax code in place may not help solve the long-term tax system debacle.

Two Attorneys General Sue President Trump

Two attorney generals have decided to sue President Trump for violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause. The emoluments clause was put into the Constitution by the founding fathers to prohibit representatives of the federal government from granting titles of nobility or receiving gifts and emoluments in exchange for preferential treatment.

The aim behind the clause tucked into section nine of the U.S. Constitution is to prevent foreign powers from exercising undue influence on the national interests of the United States and its people. Founding fathers like Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton positioned their opposition to attempts at foreign gifts and bribery in history. Both England and France in the late 19th century had fallen victim to corruption from foreign governments, and the founding fathers didn’t want to see that happen to the United States.

Bringing things back to today’s politics, District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh suspect that President Trump may be unconstitutionally profiting from his time in office. Both attorneys general sued the president earlier this month for violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution and failing to divest himself fully from his family-operated business.

Technically, the two attorneys general are suing for President Trump’s alleged violation of the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clause. (An emolument is an antiquated term for a profit or a fee that one collects while serving in office.) In the language of the original emoluments clause, a sitting president must have the expressed consent of Congress before taking any kind of inducement or gift from a foreign power.

Attorney General Racine opined that President Trump has rode roughshod of the anti-corruption laws included in the U.S. Constitution. Both attorneys general suing the president are doing so partly to show that nobody is above the law. Each also believes that the state’s attorneys general have a binding duty to ensure that there are safeguards along the way to thwart federal politicians from bending the rules for material advantage.

Both Attorney General Racine and Attorney General Frosh have sought an injunction to prevent President Trump from continuing to violate the emoluments clause of the Constitution. Many from around the country forcefully assert that the president’s duty is foremost to the American people; personal economic advantage should not enter into the picture. Attorney General Frosh concedes that he is spearheading the lawsuit partly to prevent this behavior from becoming more normalized.

Trump’s Attorney General May Go After Medical Pot Providers

Jeff Sessions, the former Alabama senator, and the current Attorney General of the United States is shaking the political trees and what is falling from those trees isn’t pretty. Sessions is a hard-nosed politician with extremely conservative views when it comes to criminal activity and the legalization of marijuana.


Session’s performance in front of Congress recently wasn’t as forthright as some lawmakers wanted it to be. But his performance did show a man who is not afraid to protect himself, and his reputation, at all costs. Some Washington insiders say Sessions is pushing hard to seek the maximum penalty in all criminal cases and to battle legalizing cannabis in order to protect his reputation as a narrow-minded lawmaker with antiquated beliefs.

The new attorney general sent a letter to Congress recently. Sessions wants the lawmakers to help him override state marijuana laws. Members of Congress could do that by not renewing the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which stops the Justice Department from interfering with state medical marijuana decisions. Sessions believes marijuana is the primary cause of the current drug epidemic in the United States. But the facts show opioid addiction, not marijuana use, is the catalyst for the drug epidemic. According to a Washington Post article, there are fewer cases of opioid addiction and abuse in states where marijuana use is legal.

And Jeff Sessions didn’t stop shaking the trees when he stopped federal prosecutors from using their discretion in fitting the punishment to the crime. Sessions wants the maximum penalty possible in all criminal cases. Sessions wants to stop the recent crime surge in America. But statistics show between 2004 and 2014 crime fell in spite of the fact that prosecutors were treating crime with a sense of understanding.

The truth is, the minimum sentencing procedures put in place by former Attorney General Eric Holder, did not jeopardize the American public. In fact, for the first time in four decades’ crime fell. The severely over-populated prisons in the U.S. were less crowded between 2013 and 2016 because low-level drug offenders did not serve long prison terms.

But Jeff Sessions is on a mission to increase the prison population problem. U.S. attorneys must throw the book at all defendants even though some prosecutors think that is a bad idea. Throwing the book at low-level criminals is an attack on American taxpayers, according to the Washington Post and other news agencies.

Google Sued Record $2.7 Billion in Landmark Antitrust Case

The tech giant Google has recently been sued a staggering $2.7 billion by European antitrust officials. Announcement of the fine came on June 27th. Margaret Vestager, the European Union’s antitrust chief, fined Google 2.4 billion euros on Tuesday. The move to fine Google so heavily provides a stark counterpoint to the lax attitudes taken by regulatory authorities in the United States.

The European Union’s antitrust officials grabbed headlines by forcing Apple to pay over $14 billion in back taxes that the antitrust commission felt was Ireland’s due. The more recent judgment with Google goes one step further. To date, the fine levied against Google is more than twice the amount paid out by the second-highest fined corporation.

Margaret Vestager claimed in a press conference that Google violated market competitiveness when Google favored its own products over those of its competitors. European Union antitrust authorities made the claim that Google seized advantage of its monopoly-like clout in online searches to steer customers towards Google’s proprietary shopping business.

This is a serious charge with serious implications. Google has 90 days to pay the fine of $2.7 billion or face more serious fines that could have an impact on Google’s business. Although Google pulls in approximately $90 billion in annual revenue, the future looks somewhat bleak for the tech giant if they put off paying the fine levied by the European Union’s chief antitrust authority.

Executives at Google are taking the European Union at its word when it says that it plans on fining the parent company of Google, Alphabet Incorporated, as much as five percent of its daily revenue if the fine is not paid on time and in full. The European Commission is the official agency making these threats, and it alleges that Google flagrantly violated competitive laws in Europe.

How does Google do that exactly? Some claim that Google bolstered the search results of company-affiliated products when other products may have been better for consumers. Margaret Vestager informed reporters after her news conference exactly what had happened. She claimed that European consumers were denied real choice and effectively limited from taking advantage of recent innovations in the tech industry.

Astute macroeconomic observers believe that the European authority’s throwing down the gauntlet by singling out Google represents a more assertive posture in regulating the brave new world of online sales. In the meantime, Google is disputing the fine amid stock downturns.

Constitutional Law Expert Sujit Choudhry Presents an Analysis of Freedom of Speech

Understanding Freedom of Speech 

It’s important to comprehend the legal parameters of the freedom of expression in particular jurisdictions. The right to freedom of speech is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Human Rights Law. Freedom of speech is basically the right to articulate opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or societal sanctions. The United States Constitution is a document understood best in context form. There have been 27 amendments to the United States Constitution since its inception as America’s founding political document. The First Amendment primarily focused on protecting political as well as religious expressions. In essence, this Amendment was designed to protect the people from government pressure. As late as 1798, the scope of free speech was still up in the air when President John Adams signed the Alien and Sedition Acts. Based on the First Amendment, Americans receive protections from exercising their spiritual beliefs freely without government restrictions. Free speech and a free press are protected under the Constitution on citizens assembling peacefully, but the confusion in this scenario arises when people don’t understand what each of those two things means.

Understanding Hate Speech 

Americans across the board are widely in support of the idea of freedom of expression and yet there is a growing movement that is promoting social justice as well hate speech restrictions. From a legal point of view, those ideas entirely contradict. In a broader sense, there is no constitutional prohibition distinctively addressing hate speech despite the fact that some states have enacted laws that target hate speech. Hate speech may fall under the category of “Fighting Words and Offensive Speech.” According to the First Amendment of the Supreme Court of 1942, the spoken or written works that would likely cause violence are not protected under the law. The general statement against a group that causes emotional distress under the umbrella of free speech cannot be restricted.

Free Speech and College Campuses 

In the United States College Campuses, free Speech is more volatile. It’s believed that colleges are strongholds of democratic deliberation and critical thinking. Moreover, in the last decade dramatic shift in mutual attitudes at institutions of higher learning has been noticed. College environment illustrates why free speech is important and some universities remain devoted to protecting the free exchange of ideas. Many institutions in America are in support of freedom of expression simply because student activism has indeed changed school policies. The concept of human nature apparently helps people to relatively narrow the range of thought and ideas. The only way to broaden these perspectives is to challenge them with competing ideas in favor of emotional growth along with human understanding. Therefore, free speech is fundamental.

Role of Social Media 

The transfer of information was a slow process for the most of America’s history. It’s evident that the transmission of information from coast to coast took weeks before the existence of radio, telegram, and telephones. In the last 50 years, the internet has turned the world into universally acknowledged social standards and people can interact with an increasingly different pool of acquaintances. However, social media exposes a variety of political opinions in real time by bringing new as well different ideas right on your front door. The United States Constitution lawfully protects your fundamental human rights by valuing free speech and advocating generation of new ideas. This promotes respect and creates the safest public atmosphere for all citizens transversely to every political stripe and social issue.

Who is Sujit Choudhry? 

Sujit Choudhry is the Director of the Center for Constitutional Transitions. He is the I. Michael Heyman Professor of Law California University, Berkeley school of Law, where he served as a dean. Choudhry is an expert in comparative constitutional law. Previously Choudhry was the Cecelia Goetz Professor of Law at New York University, and the Scholl Chair at the University of Toronto. Born in New Delhi in 1970, Sujit is an internationally recognized authority on comparative constitutional law and politics. He holds law degrees from Oxford, Toronto, as well from Harvard. Professor Sujit was a Rhodes Scholar in which he served as law clerk to Chief Justice Antonio Lamer of the Supreme Court of Canada. He combines a wide-ranging research agenda with in-depth field experience as an advisor to constitution building processes since he has lectured in over two dozen countries including Jordan, Nepal, Libya, South Africa, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, and Ukraine. Professor Choudhry generates and mobilizes knowledge in support of constitution building by assembling as well as leading international network of experts to produce thematic research projects that offer evidence-based policy options to practitioners and agenda-setting research. Up to date, the Center for Constitutional Transitions has worked with more than fifty professionals from more than twenty-five countries whereby it partners with a global network of multilateral organizations such as think tanks and NGOs.

Professor Choudhry’s research addresses a wide range of issues in comparative constitutional law along with politics. He has written extensively on Canadian constitutional law. The fields he has concentrated more includes; constitutional design as an instrument to manage the change from violent conflict to diplomatic democratic politics, constitutional design in ethnically divided into societies, constitutional design in the context of transition from authoritarian to democratic rule, basic methodological questions in the study of comparative law, minority and group rights, official language policy, Bills of rights and proportionality. He also discussed issues related to federalism, decentralization, and secession. Professor Choudhry has published over 90 articles, book chapters, working papers, along with reports. Central to such an endeavor, the books include; “The Migration of Constitutional Ideas” (Cambridge, 2006), “Constitutional Design for Divided Societies: Integration or Accommodation?”(Oxford, 2008), “The Oxford Handbook of the Indian Constitution” (Oxford, 2016), and “The Constitution Making” (Edward Elgar, 2016). In collaboration with the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, Professor Sujit Choudhry is currently co-leading three global collaborative research projects. The projects are; “Dealing with Territorial Cleavages in Constitutional Transitions,” “Security Sector Reform and Constitutional Transitions in Emerging Democracies” and “Security Sector Oversight” which will yield a series of research and policy outputs to be published in 2017.

Interviews with Sujit Choudhry: 

Ideamensch

CEO/CFO

Daniel Budzinski Podcast

I-CONnect