New Laws Taking Effect In 2018

The stroke of midnight on December 31st, 2017 meant the start of a brand new year. At the same time, it meant that many different laws all across the country were set to take effect as well. Different states pass different laws with different starting times, but many are set to start on January 1st of 2018. The following are just a few of the laws that have now going into full effect according to

New Employment Laws

California is putting in some new laws that make it illegal for a potential employer to ask you about your previous salary during the interview process. You are allowed as the applicant to volunteer that information if you choose, but it is not something that can be demanded of you. At the same time, applicants may now ask to see a pay scale of the position for which they are applying. This is supposed to help reduce the pay gap between men and women in some ways.

Nevada is now granting employees up to 160 hours worth of leave per year if they are the victim of domestic abuse or if someone in their family is.

Education Changes

Tennessee has a new law in place now that requires that bus drivers be at least twenty-five years old to drive a bus. This is after a deadly bus accident in Chattanooga, Tennessee by a young bus driver that caused the deaths of numerous people.

Illinois has a law on the books now that requires that schools provide feminine hygiene products to students free of charge.


It is a big deal for many people in California now that recreational pot is legalized there. That being said, it is probably hard to come by any right now as businesses must apply for a license to sell it. That being said, once that process kicks into high gear, anyone over the age of twenty-one in the state can purchase a set amount of the substance for recreational use.

Special Holiday

One final law going into effect in Illinois is to make August 4th “Barack Obama Day”. Of course, this is just a commemorative holiday, so it is not going to have any impact on the functioning of government or the private sector in that state. It is more of just a nod to the home state of the first African-American President.

U.S. Economy Loses $500 Billion in Economic Output Due to Opioid Crisis

Over the past several years, the opioid epidemic has devastated many parts of the country. According to Reuters, the crisis cost the U.S. economy approximately $504 billion in 2015. The statistics were made public by economists working in the White House. A report from the White House Council of Economic Advisors shows that 2.6 percent of country’s gross domestic product came from costs related to the opioid crisis.

In October, Donald Trump called the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency. However, Democrats called Trump’s statements “meaningless” if there is no additional money added to help fight the epidemic. Republicans believe Trump’s statement is important in the fight against the epidemic.

The Trump White House could use the report from the council to request more funds to help fight the problem. The argument to persuade Republicans for more government spending is the economic impact the opioid crisis is having is far greater than additional spending. Republicans have historically been hesitant to increase spending by the federal government.

In 2015, there were 33,000 deaths related to the opioid epidemic, according to the Council of Economic Advisors. Those deaths led to lost economic output, which is estimated between $221 billion and $440 billion. Additionally, there were an estimated 2.4 million Americans addicted to opioids in 2015, which cost the United States another $72 billion in economic output.

The costs include medical treatment, expenses in the criminal justice system and a drop in economic productivity. The loss in productivity is a result of Americans struggling with addiction not being able to find or hold meaningful jobs.

The majority of drug overdoses and non-fatal drug addiction is mostly from prescription painkillers. People who are addicted to painkillers often turn to street-grade heroin if their doctors no longer give them prescriptions. According to Reuters Legal, almost 100 Americans die every day from opioid overdoses.

Attorney General Rescinds Warning Not to Extort Poor Defendants

Former U.S. President Barack Obama sent a letter to courts across the United States. The letter came from Obama’s Justice Department officials. The letter warned local judges not to assess costs and fees to low-income defendants just to pay the court’s bills and employee salaries. The letter said that court budgets aren’t a legitimate purpose of assessing the fees. Current Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the letter.

Sessions believes that it’s inappropriate for the federal executive branch to give this advice. Sessions calls it executive overreaching. Sessions rescinded Obama’s advice as part of a larger effort to undo some of Obama’s policies and guideline statements on legal matters.

Sessions is taking a closer look at a number of Obama’s guidelines. Some are about the courts. Others are about broader issues like Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms guidelines or even guidelines for individuals with disabilities.

Sessions defends his actions by saying that the statements were unenforceable guidelines. He says that it’s inappropriate for the executive branch to try to assert authority that it doesn’t have. Sessions says that government regulations need to go through the proper channels.

When you pay fines for a criminal conviction or even pay a traffic ticket, you might be surprised to learn where your fees actually go. Some of your fines and costs likely go to operating the court. Fines may even go to things like the pension fund for court employees including for the judge who ordered you to pay the fine in the first place.

Some say that when judges indirectly benefit from the fees that they collect, it creates an inappropriate conflict of interest. Others say that collecting fines to meet operating costs is a necessary evil of conducting court. For now, courts continue to profit from the people they convict.

Rescinding the policy isn’t the only thing that Sessions is doing in public office. Sessions is encouraging prosecutors to file the most serious charges possible. He’s encouraging prosecutors to bring harsh charges without regard for mandatory minimum sentences and without taking into account that prosecutors have charging discretion. Critics say that Sessions is issuing the same opinion directives that Obama’s administration issued only on different topics.

Obama’s letter went to chief judges and administrations throughout the United States in 2016. Obama’s administration said that the purpose of the letter was to make sure that courts protect the rights of citizens. They say that the police and the courts often conduct business with the goal of generating revenue rather than honestly determining guilt and innocence under the law.

Anita Hill to Head Sexual Harassment Task Force

The wave of sexual misconduct allegations brought about by Harvey Weinstein’s fall from grace has revealed a larger, widespread problem in Hollywood. The unceasing parade of accusations has forced Hollywood to face the seedier side of filmmaking. Hoping to deal with the issue of sexual assault and harassment in their own houses, studios have come together to form a task force to shed a brighter light on the guilty. Heading up this task force will be Anita Hill.
A Committee to Expose Sexual Misconduct Once and for All
Filmmaking powerhouses throughout Hollywood have come together to work towards putting an end to the sexual misconduct behind recent allegations. A committee has been formed to look into allegations, headed by Anita Hill, and will also work towards creating greater gender equality in the industry.
Kathleen Kennedy, the notable Star Wars producer, recently called for a meeting that included other celebrated female film producers in Hollywood. The meeting was intended to address the surge of sexual misconduct allegations flooding Hollywood and to come up with a solution to the growing problem. As a result, the Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace was formed, naming Hill as the commission’s chairwoman.
Speaking about the formation of the task force, Ms. Kennedy said the goal would not be to just address any one particular problem. Instead, the organization is charged with developing a strategy to prevent future instances of sexual misconduct. She said the nature of inequality that exists between producer and actor gives the former a degree of power over the former that’s too easily exploited. The committee hopes to level that playing field with new policies and a greater interest in promoting gender equality.
Hollywood Rivals Came Together to Form the Task Force
Involved in forming the new commission were executives from every major film studio, television network executives, and even music label producers. Disney CEO Bob Iger, Universal Music Group CEO Sir Lucian Grainge, Paramount CEO Karen Stuart, and CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves were among those willing to participate in the group and aid its function with financial backing.
Additionally, academies and unions throughout the entertainment industry also pledged support to the commission.
“The fact that so many industry leaders — across film, television, music, digital, unions, agencies … and guilds — came together, in one room, to explore solutions speaks to a new era,” Ms. Kennedy said of the milestone accomplishment.
It’s noteworthy that Anita Hill was chosen to lead this commission. In 1991, she was responsible for bringing sexual harassment issues to mainstream attention. At the time, she shared her own experiences, when she testified about her encounters with Clarence Thomas at Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
Of the new committee, Ms. Hill said she feels hopeful that the silence can now come to an end.
“I’ve been at this work for 26 years. This moment presents us with an unprecedented opportunity to make real change.”

Nominee For Federal Judge Can’t Answer Basic Questions

Matthew Spencer Peterson’s judicial confirmation started out painful and then got worse when Peterson couldn’t answer basic questions about the legal process. Peterson flubbed questions about motions, the Daubert standard and abstention as Senator John Kennedy quizzed the nominee on his knowledge of basic legal terms. Peterson hemmed and hawed and then admitted that he doesn’t have a background in litigation. Peterson also admitted that he hasn’t ever conducted a jury trial or even argued a motion in court. The exchange has since gone viral.

Peterson served as President of the Federal Election Commission in 2016 under U.S. President Barack Obama and in 2010 under George W. Bush. He graduated from Brigham Young University and the University of Virginia’s School of Law. In addition to his work at the FEC, Peterson has other ties to politics, serving as an attorney for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on House Administration. He practiced election law in private practice with a law firm in Washington DC.

Critics say that Peterson’s performance at the December 13, 2017 confirmation hearing calls into question his qualifications to serve as a federal judge. Peterson disagrees. He says that his background as a decision maker should be sufficient even if he doesn’t know basic terms about courts and cases.

Peterson’s case is one example of what critics say is a larger problem about the qualifications of judges. They say that it’s too easy to become a judge without having practical, trial experience to effectively run a court and make wise decisions. Critics question whether it’s a good idea to have a judge deciding motions when they’ve never argued a motion themselves.

Critics say that judges shouldn’t be getting up to speed using real cases. They argue that judges should come to the bench able to do the job effectively from the first day. Some say that it’s a miscarriage of justice to consider political loyalty and experience in politics when it’s time to choose judges.

Members of the public are often surprised to learn that judges don’t have to have a background in the courtroom in order to sit on the bench. They don’t need to have even represented a client in court. Judges are either elected or appointed, and there’s no minimum qualifications beyond a law degree and a bar license. Some local magistrates don’t even need those minimal qualifications. Soon, it’ll be up to the Senate to decide if Peterson’s qualifications make the grade.


Dr. Phil’s Son Developing Law School Comedy

CBS is working on a new legal comedy thanks to the contributions of Jay McGraw and his famous father, Phil McGraw. The pair are working on a comedy based on the younger McGraw’s experiences in law school. Jay McGraw is a graduate of SMU Law in Dallas, Texas.

McGraw’s comedy centers on a young law student. The student comes from a privileged background, and he wants an easy experience in law school. Unfortunately, he chooses one of the best law schools in the country. The law school has high expectations. Despite his attempts to slide through school on easy street, the student finds that he has to work hard and represent clients in actual cases.

The show’s developers plan to call the show “Class Action.” Modern Family writer Dan O’Shannon plans to contribute to the project. CBS plans to produce the show. Jay McGraw isn’t new to writing. He previously published “Jay McGraw’s Life Strategies for Dealing with Bullies.” He also appeared on the show “Renovate My Family” as the show’s host.

McGraw graduated from SMU’s Dedman School of Law in 2004. SMU Law is located in Dallas, Texas. The school consistently boasts above-average bar passage rates in the State of Texas. Reviewing organizations typically rank the school around the top 50 for law schools in the United States.

SMU Law offers a full-time program that takes three years. They also offer a part-time, evening program that lasts four years. Famous SMU Law alumni include U.S. Supreme Court nominee Harriet Myers and James Baker, a justice of the Texas Supreme Court. The law school sits on the north side of downtown Dallas between Highland Park and University Park.

True of the younger McGraw’s recollection, the school offers law students an intensive clinical experience. Students can choose between participation in the criminal clinic, child advocacy program, innocence project, family law assistance program and civil law clinic. The law school sits on SMU’s main campus. Students may also participate in moot court and law review programs.

The McGraws operate their creative projects through Stage 29 Productions. If the project gathers steam, it won’t be the first time that Dr. Phil has lent his creativity to a law-related comedy. The company has also produced a show called Bull. That show is based on Dr. Phil’s experiences running a trial consulting firm before his years as Dr. Phil. Before he became Dr. Phil, he also appeared on Oprah and contributed to her defense against a defamation lawsuit brought by the cattle industry.

Three Dallas Police Officers Charged in Man’s Death

There’s no question that Tony Timpa was high on cocaine on August 10 of 2016 when he phoned 911 for help. He was overdosed, but he was unarmed. He wanted help, but within an hour after the police arrived, Tony Timpa was dead.

The Dallas Morning News reports that a “beefy” Timpa parked his Mercedes Benz in the parking lot of an adult store on West Mockingbird Lane and called for help. Police officers allegedly mocked the 32-year-old Timpa when he died after 14 minutes of an officer’s knee was pinned in his back. Two Dallas police officers aged 48 and 32 were indicted on misdemeanor charges of deadly conduct in Timpa’s death. Another unnamed Dallas police officer has been charged, but he has yet to turn himself in.

Timpa’s mother indicated that she didn’t understand why the officers were only charged with misdemeanors rather than felonies. Misdemeanors only involve the possibility of a 364 day jail sentence. Timpa’s mother said that she wanted to see the accused officers go to jail for so long that they’d “smell the rust on the bars.” Dallas Police Department officials have refused to release body camera footage that was allegedly recorded that night by at least one of the indicted police officers. Timpa’s mother wants to see it. The Dallas Police Department has also failed to comment on whether any of the indicted police officers have been disciplined.

The Dallas Morning News has sought information regarding the death of Tony Timpa for more than a year. Timpa had apparently told 911 operators that he feared for his safety, and suffered from anxiety and schizophrenia and had not taken his prescription medications. He was in shorts and barefoot. No weapons were found on or near him. It’s alleged that Timpa repeatedly begged the police officers on the scene not to hurt him. It’s further alleged that police officers remained on top of Timpa after he had lost consciousness and was rendered harmless. One of the officers reportedly stated on camera that he hoped that he didn’t kill Timpa. Tony Timpa’s death was ruled a homicide due to the ingestion of cocaine and the stress involved in the occurrence.

The whereabouts of the third officer involved in Timpa’s death are still unknown. It’s also unknown whether the misdemeanor charges against the three officers will be upgraded to felonies.

Sujit Choudhry and Geography’s Threat to Democracy

Sujit Choudhry is the founding director of the Center for Constitutional Transitions and an internationally recognized authority on comparative constitutional law and politics. The focus of his research spans across a wide variety of comparative constitutional law and politics issues. In 2014, he and his colleague, Michael Pal from the University of Ottawa – Common Law Section; Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation, published an article in the Canadian Political Science Review. The article, Still Not Equal? Visible Minority Vote Dilution in Canada, discusses voting power for visible and non-visible minorities for the 2004 federal electoral map as well as for provincial electoral districts in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. The major conclusion was that the concept of vote dilution is prominent in regions of visible minorities.

Sujit Choudhry’s Address at the Semi-Presidentialism Round-table in Ukraine

The democratic political power path is bifurcated. One side is demography, or satisfying interests and beliefs of the largest group of people and winning their votes. The other path is geography, referring to securing voters in the many regions that are scarcely populated. In other words, by focusing on the geography principle, this bifurcation enables the adoption of public policies that are not always appealing to the majority. At the moment, the majority of the democratic world is largely based on geographic rather than demographic politics.


The most famous example of this is the situation in the United States, where both the presidency as well as the Senate can be won via geography rather than demography. The effect of geography is especially evident in the fact that despite a strong majority of the American people having liberal, racially tolerant and international-minded views, they have been overpowered by a faction of the Republican Party that is associated with U.S. President Donald Trump.


Even back in 2010, at a time when the broad center-left voting coalition under the former U.S. president Barack Obama seemed to dominate U.S. politics, Joel Kotkin of the conservative American Enterprise Institute prognosticated that, “Demographics may seem a long-term boon for Democrats,” he wrote, “but geographic trends tilt in the opposite direction.” This became evident in the victory of President Trump who was favored by the increasingly non-diverse, older populations residing in the underpopulated center. Even though the vast majority voted against him, out of the 592 counties that supported him, 520 were populated by fewer than 50,000 individuals, and won almost every county populated by fewer than 10,000 individuals.


This problem spans beyond the American borders, too. Europe is affected by fringe parties of intolerance and in some cases a parliamentary majority via the geography approach. The extreme-right Alternative for Germany that had a strong showing in October’s national election was in large part due to focus on the sparse and depopulated regions of former communist East Germany. Poland is another example, whose Law and Justice Party governs after appealing more to rural areas by turning nationalist and xenophobic. France, too, played the geography card when its National Front made it to the first round of presidential elections.


Canada is also not immune to this threat to democracy when leaders with fringe ideas take power by appealing to underpopulated regions of the country. The Canadian democratic system is most vulnerable due to the great imbalance between rural and urban as well as suburban ridings, the latter two of which are more densely populated. While the 2011 Fair Representation Act added equality to Canada’s provinces by introducing 30 new ridings, rural overrepresentation remained unaddressed.


This is where the study by Choudhry and Pal is of such importance. According to their findings, introducing new ridings had two downsides. Not only did those rural ridings have more voting power, but Canadians from racial-minority backgrounds living in metropolitan areas were severely underrepresented. The researchers found that for every Canadian’s vote power of 1, those in ridings that are more than 99% white have a voting power of 1.37. Canadians who reside in ridings that are more than 30% non-white have a voting power of 0.88. This means that the electoral clout of voters residing in all-white ridings is 55% higher than that of voters in diverse ridings. The scholars refer to this concept as vote dilution that is present among the diverse ridings. It carries particular demographic, policy and constitutional considerations significance, and the scholars conclude their study by highlighting that a reform is critical.


Overall, it is the moderate parties that must work on winning back geography. The inherent struggle that America’s Democrats are facing is the discrepancy between geography voters in the northern states, who felt that their candidate while too liberal on social issues, and those who are in safe Democratic urban districts thought the opposite. As the term ‘too liberal’ has many meanings, the solution to this may be in delivering different election-year messages and not focusing on changing policies. However, the overall conclusion of the 2016 U.S. election is that the in-between places must not be ignored as there is a method to win for a party that is ready to bet on symbolic resentments and fears of residents in scarcely populated areas.


Sujit Choudhry is the founding director of the Center for Constitutional Transitions and I. Michael Heyman Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley. He works as constitutional advisor to emerging democracies across the world. He is currently also a member of the United Nations Mediation Roster and was a consultant to the World Bank Institute at the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program.


Choudhry has also been a constitutional advisor for over two decades. He has expertise in facilitating public dialogue sessions with civil society groups and other stakeholders, leading stakeholder consultations, performing detailed advisory work with technical experts, training civil servants and bureaucrats, engaging party leaders and parliamentarians, and drafting technical reports and memoranda in the field. He is currently also a member of the United Nations Mediation Roster and consultant to the World Bank Institute at the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program.


His publication record includes over ninety articles, book chapters, working papers and reports. He is author of several books and a member of the Executive Committee of the International Society of Public Law, the International Advisory Council of the Institute for Integrated Transitions, the Scientific Advisory Board of the International Journal of Constitutional Law, the Editorial Board of the Constitutional Court Review, the Editorial Advisory Board for the Cambridge Studies in Constitutional Law, and is an Honorary Member of the Advisory Council of the Indian Constitutional Law Review. More information on Sujit Choudhry can be found on his personal website as well as on LinkedIn, Twitter (@sujit_choudhry), Instagram (@sujitchoudhry) and on Facebook.