The City of New York has agreed to pay a total of $180,000 to three Muslim females who were required to remove their hijabs for mug shots after being arrested. All of the women filed cases in Brooklyn federal court. The three lawsuits have now prompted implementation of NYPD policies on taking mug shots of arrestees who are wearing religious head coverings. Prior to 2015, there were no uniform NYPD policies on mug shot arrests of people wearing religious coverings over their heads. The initial 2015 policies were updated in 2017.
One of the women was a high school student in 2012 when she was arrested, but the criminal case against her was later dismissed. At the police station, she was told to take off her hijab for her mug shot, and she refused. She was then taken to a private room where her photo was taken by a female police officer. It was the mug shot issue that brought her civil rights lawsuit.
When the same woman was transferred to central booking, police wanted another mug shot. She was told that no female officers were available for that purpose, and it couldn’t be taken elsewhere. A male officer took her photo on a stationary booking room camera. The woman claimed that she felt “exposed, violated and distraught” without her hijab in the presence of male officers and arrestees.
According to the New York Times, another woman was asked to remove her hijab at central booking, but she refused as she purportedly was only allowed to do so in the presence of men who are family members. The third woman asked for a female officer to take her mug shot in private, but her lawsuit alleges that police refused.
The two other hijab cases were filed in 2015 and 2016. All three of the women settled their cases at $60,000 apiece. The three cases operate as examples of how law enforcement agencies and airport security personnel have been required to change policies in order to satisfy religious requirements.
As students cowered behind desks as an active shooter killed 17 teachers and students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, there was one more person cowering for safety. Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy spent the entire six-minutes of the attack cowering outside behind a building. Despite being a trained deputy with a firearm and assigned to the school in order to protect students, Scot Peterson hid outside and listened to the sounds of gunfire as students waited helplessly for police protection that never came.
Peterson has since resigned. The local sheriff’s department is protecting Peterson’s house for his own safety, even though Peterson made no attempt to protect the students at the school while they were murdered by an armed gunman. Peterson is still eligible to collect his retirement benefits.
The massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has reignited nationwide debates about guns, mental health and police protection in schools. Some say that Peterson’s failure to act is a reminder that police protection alone may not be enough to stop a school shooter. Others say that Peterson merely ran away when he should have run in to do his duty.
It’s unclear if Peterson may face criminal charges for his failure to act. In Florida, it’s a crime for a police officer to fail to perform a required duty. Any police officer who doesn’t perform a required duty is guilty of a misdemeanor in the second degree. However, in Florida, a misdemeanor in the second degree is only punishable by up to 60 days in jail. For many, that hardly seems adequate given the number of people that Peterson may have saved if he had gone into the building to engage the shooter.
The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that police officers have no duty to protect someone or respond to an emergency. Gun owners say that’s exactly why they don’t want lawmakers to restrict gun ownership in the wake of the Florida tragedy. Others say that addressing gun ownership will prevent gun violence.
There’s no word if Peterson will face charges of dereliction of duty for failing to go inside the school. Peterson was present and outside of the school building for four of the six minutes during which the school shooting took place. U.S. President Donald Trump says that he’s open to raising the minimum age for gun ownership. He also wants to allow teachers to carry weapons.
If federal prosecutors have their way, Jared Fogle isn’t going to be eating Subway sandwiches anytime soon. The disgraced former Subway Spokesperson is serving a 16-year prison sentence. He says that the sentence is unfair because the judge had a bias at his sentencing. Fogle says that his sentence is invalid and the court should let him out of prison.
Fogle says that the judge couldn’t have been fair and impartial in her decision. He says that the judge couldn’t have decided the case fairly because she has teenage daughters. However, the judge had only one daughter who is over the age of adult majority.
Fogle spends his days in a federal prison in Colorado. He began serving his 16-year sentence in 2015. He pleaded guilty to possessing or distributing child pornography. He also faced charges of traveling to another state in order to accost a minor for sexual purposes in exchange for a fee. In exchange for Fogle’s guilty plea, the federal prosecutor agreed with Fogle and his defense team on a recommended sentence. The judge exceeded that recommendation.
Today, Fogle doesn’t have any expensive lawyers or a deal as a Subway spokesperson. He represents himself. He says that because his case involved teenage girls, a judge with teenage girls couldn’t possibly have been fair and impartial. Fogle says that the judge should have recused herself from the proceedings. However, the judge had only one daughter and the daughter was an adult when the judge heard Fogle’s case.
The most recent filing isn’t the first time that Fogle has tried to appeal his case. In 2016, he tried an appeal with the help of an attorney. His attorney at the time said that Fogle only thought about wanting to commit a crime and that he didn’t actually commit any conspiracy to commit a crime.
U.S. prosecutors say that’s untrue. They say that Fogle repeatedly sought out teenage girls for immoral purposes and sexual assault. However, Fogle’s legal team for the appeal said that Fogle was unfairly punished for things he wanted to do or thought about doing instead of just the things that he actually did. If the conviction stands, Fogle can’t see the light of day until he serves 85 percent of his sentence or more. When he gets out, he’ll be more than 50 years old. There’s no word if Fogle is eating fresh in federal prison.
The student also had a specific message for the president himself. She said that even if he came up and gave her sympathy in person for the shooting, she would accept but still ask him to answer for how much money he has received from the National Rifle Association. According to a report out of the Center for Responsive Politics, there is no other politician who benefited from the 2016 election spending from the NRA as Trump did. They had spent more than $30 million to support his candidacy. This was more than all other combined spending for other presidential candidates in both the 2008 and 2012 campaign elections. These conclusions also included the 145 House races and the 45 Senate races during this time period.
This week, President Trump is going to host a teacher and student listening session. According to representatives from the White House, there is no official list yet about which teachers or students will be attending this session. It was also recently announced that President Trump will be meeting with local and state officials about school safety later in the week.
While all of the gun tragedies in schools are unfathomable, they may have a positive outcome in the end for future students. They are all starting to highlight the passion, intellect and drive for changes by groups of motivated and informed high school students, especially those affected by and attending Stoneman Douglas High School.
The students from the high school are organizing a march next month. In a recent interview with some of the students, they are hoping to use political action and protests to make the mass shooting at their school a turning point for discussion in the national debate going on currently about gun control. Many people feel that now is not the time to be discussing gun control while families are grieving. They respect that and will be hoping that schools and students across the nation will be marching together next month in hopes of protesting for their lives and changes.
Immigration arrests have increased faster in Florida over the past year than any other state in the country. On that basis, more than 12 immigration advocacy activist groups have advised travelers to Florida to think carefully about trips to the state. They have been told to be ready to be questioned by immigration authorities at Florida travel hubs.
The Chilling Florida Effect
The Associated Press reports that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has teamed up with the sheriffs of 17 Florida counties in preparation for the spring break season that begins in March when millions of travelers will be arriving in the state. As per ICE, arrests increased from about 3,500 to about 6,200 in Florida during the agency’s last fiscal year. That’s a 76 percent increase. Advocacy groups say that the teaming of federal and county law enforcement agencies coupled with the spike in arrests of undocumented individuals have chilled the desire of undocumented immigrants to travel to Florida.
Related Texas Legislation
Federal legislators are requiring an examination of detentions and arrests within 100 miles of United States borders and coastlines. In the last week, immigration activist groups have held demonstrations at Florida bus stations where a minimum of two arrests were caught on camera. In Texas, where new legislation banned sanctuary cities, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) cautioned travelers of the new law. Texas law enforcement officers are now authorized by statute to inquire into an individual’s immigration status during routine detentions.
In January of 2018, Florida released information on what it labeled a nationwide model that allows law enforcement agencies to detain undocumented immigrants who have been arrested for unrelated offenses. This policy was objected to by both the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center. A representative of the Florida Immigration Coalition remarked that with Florida and ICE teaming together, immigrant communities are not safe in the state.
Nearly a decade after Dennis Mikko lost his bar license and his job as a Michigan court referee, he wants the Michigan State Bar to reinstate him as a practicing attorney. Bar officials denied the request. After a panel review by licensed attorneys, the State Bar of Michigan said that Mikko hasn’t proven that he’s fit to resume practicing law. Mikko appealed the panel’s decision, but officials say the decision is fair.
Mikko was a sitting court referee in Grand Traverse County’s 13th Circuit Court. Officials found inappropriate photos of teenage girls in his office. Mikko said that the images didn’t influence his work. State officials didn’t buy that argument, and they suspended Mikko’s license to practice law. They said the behavior definitely constituted misuse of his position as a court official.
He also fought criminal charges. A judge threw out the charges because he said the photos weren’t criminally offensive. Still, the photos cost Mikko his career.
Mikko used photos of local teenagers along with other lewd photos of teenagers to make a book. He compiled it all into a strange, homemade fiction book of his own making. He also looked at pornography on his work computer and had sexual conversations with a dozen people using his work computer.
After losing his law license, Mikko continued to coach youth soccer. He served a brief suspension, but then local soccer officials reinstated him to referee local games. Mikko says the public shouldn’t worry. Local parents expressed concern that he was working as a referee for youth soccer games, but said they felt powerless to stop it.
Mikko is far from the first Grand Traverse County court official to run into trouble. Judge David Stowe left the bench shortly after his wife’s run-ins with the law. The court declined to remove another sitting family law referee after law enforcement found child pornography on her husband’s computer and marijuana in her home. She continued to make decisions regarding children in Grand Traverse County for years before finally stepping down from her post.
Just in case you thought the 13th Circuit Court has the market cornered on judge misconduct in Grand Traverse County, 86th District Court Judge Thomas Gilbert received a suspension from the bench after getting caught smoking marijuana at a concert. Even so, the District Court isn’t shy about accepting tens of thousands of dollars in grant money with the supposed goal of helping addicts. Citizens charged with a crime in Grand Traverse County can expect to answer to officials in the 86th District and 13th Circuit Courts.
End Citizens United released a poll, and the group found that their candidate Beto O’Rourke is only trailing Senator Ted Cruz by 45-37 percent. According to the Cruz campaign’s polling, Senator Cruz is ahead by 52-34 percent.
End Citizens United’s goal is to end the stranglehold that “Big Money” has on Washington, D.C., and candidate Beto O’Rourke is someone whom the group can support because he refuses to take money that corporate political action committees offer him. People behind End Citizens United have made it their mission to support candidates in this year’s congressional races who repudiate large donations from large corporations.
End Citizens United was created on March 1, 2015 because of the disastrous Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case. That decision declared that “corporations are people” and allowed special interest groups to spend unlimited amounts of money on America’s elections without the need for transparency. This made it possible for large donors to have an unreasonable amount of influence on our elections.
O’Rourke is currently a congressman from El Paso, and he is the first person that End Citizens United is endorsing this year. He could have also received an endorsement from the AFL-CIO, but he chose not to attend the group’s convention this year, so he lost the endorsement.
This year, Republicans hold 51 of 100 seats in the Senate. Ordinarily, the party that is not in power gains more seats in mid-term elections than the party in power, but it doesn’t look like this will be the case for the Democrat Party this year.
There are 34 elections scheduled for 2018, and the Democrats must defend 24 of them. This includes the two independent seats that caucus with the Democrats, and they are located in states President Donald Trump won in 2016. Republicans need to defend eight of these seats, and one of them is located in Texas, a state that voted for Trump by nine percentage points.
Ted Cruz isn’t being taken seriously by anybody, and Democrats now have hope because a Democrat won the Alabama election in December against a Republican candidate who was plagued by scandal.
In the End Citizens United poll, 38 percent of voters were in favor of Cruz, but 49 were not. Unfortunately, 61 percent of those polled had never heard O’Rourke’s name before. Only 20 percent of the voters were in favor of him, and 19 percent were not.
When asked whether they would support a candidate who vowed never to take large donations from corporate entities, 63 percent of respondents said that they would support the candidate. After respondents heard that O’Rourke stated that he would never accept money from corporate entities, he tied with Cruz at 43-41 percent.
Beto O’Rourke has said that he wants most of his donations to come from the state of Texas. He doesn’t particularly want Super Political Action Committees to contribute to his campaign.
End Citizens United is a political action committee that wants to encourage campaign finance reform, and it wants to do this by helping candidates get elected who propose to support legislation that will change the way that campaigns are financed. ECU obtains a majority of its donations from small donors. In fact, the average donation is just $14.
Last election cycle, the group raised $25 million for the candidates it supported, but this year, it planned to raise $35 million to support challengers in the “Big Money 20” races this year. The Big Money 20 is senators and representatives who accept money from large corporate donors and special interest groups. In Texas, the group received donations from 157,000 people. Most of Ted Cruz’s donors are also from Texas, and these supporters donated $5.7 million to his campaign. In contrast, O’Rourke only received $2.9 million.
In 2009, a Public Policy Polling survey showed that U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison had 56 percent of the vote and that Governor Rick Perry only had 31 percent. A report by Rasmussen showed very different results. In the Rasmussen poll, Perry had 56 percent of the vote while Hutchison had 36 percent, and he went on to win the contest. Public Policy Polling has done another poll, and experts are taking the results with a grain of salt. The poll has O’Rourke behind Cruz by eight points, but these results are similar to the results obtained by other surveys.
ECU paid for the poll, and the questions were worded in such a way so that Beto O’Rourke would be favored, but he only beat Cruz by two points. None of the other polls are indicating that O’Rourke has a chance of beating Cruz. However, Cruz is not seen favorably by the voters, and it is believed that he could lose because of his prior loss during the 2016 primary race for President of the United States.
Harvey Weinstein is an American Oscar-winning film producer best known for movies like Shakespeare in Love, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and Gangs of New York. In late October 2017, multiple women began coming forward accusing Weinstein of sexual abuse. The allegations have gotten so extensive that there are now over 90 women claiming Weinstein has sexually abused or harassed them in some manner. As a result, Weinstein is facing several lawsuits (Pumphrey, 2018).
On January 25th 2018, Harvey Weinstein’s former assistant, Sandeep Rehal, filed her own sexual harassment lawsuit against him. Her lawsuit claims that she was forced to work for over 2 years “…in a pervasive and severe sexually hostile work environment…” that was “…defined by endless offensive, degrading, and sexually harassing actions, statements, and touching at the hands of her boss, Harvey Weinstein,” (Rehal vs Weinstein et. al, 2018).
The claims in the lawsuit are extended through not only Weinstein, but also through to his company, his company’s head of human resources and his brother. Rehal claims that Weinstein’s inappropriate sexual behavior towards her and other women was common knowledge throughout the company including management. She also claims that his brother, Robert Weinstein, aided and abetted Harvey Weinstein’s creation of a sexually hostile work environment (Rehal vs Weinstein et. al, 2018). The lawsuit goes on to claim that Rehal was required in her job duties to prep for and clean up after Weinstein’s sexual encounters, take weekly dictation of emails from him while he was nude, and endure a myriad of inappropriate touching instances where he would rub her thighs and butt or press himself against her. She was also instructed to maintain his supply of Caverject injections for his erectile dysfunction.
As a result of enduring this sexually hostile work environment, Rehal claims that she has suffered and is still suffering from severe emotional distress, depression, anxiety, humiliation and loss of self-esteem (Rolling Stone, 2018).
Larry Nassar, a former doctor for the United States gymnastics team, was sentenced to a prison term of not less than 40 and not more than 175 years in prison resulting from a plea of guilty by Nassar for sexually assaulting seven young girls.
Judge Rosemarie Aquilina gave the sentence on Wednesday after allowing over 150 victims of Nassar to make victim impact statements to the court. Aquilina, who was visibly upset, was reported to tell Nassar “I just signed your death warrant” during the proceedings.
Nassar had been accused of molestation by many girls and women including some that were Olympic gymnasts. The sexual misconduct is said to have occurred while Nassar provided medical treatment for members of the USA gymnastics team as well as female athletes at Michigan State University. The sentence imposed on Wednesday was for offenses committed in Ingham County Michigan. Nassar is still facing charges in nearby Eaton County.
In the moments leading up to imposing the sentence on Nassar, Aquilina read portions of a letter written by Nassar. In the letter, Nassar suggested that the allegations against him were due to his accusers seeking attention from the media and monetary gain. Nassar even referred to his accusers as scorned women with a quote that caused audible gasps to collectively come from onlookers in the courtroom.
Nassar also expressed his criticisms in a separate child pornography case in which he was sentenced to 60 years in prison.
The fallout that has resulted from the revelations of Nassar’s misconduct has been drastic and far-reaching. Several board members and the chairman of the United States gymnastics team have been forced to resign. And on Wednesday evening, Lou Anna Simon, president of Michigan State University also announced that she would relinquish her post.
The NCAA is performing an independent investigation of Michigan State’s response to the allegations made against Nassar.
The lawsuits against Nassar, Michigan State University, and USA Gymnastics continue to mount and many of these suits allege that officials were knowledgeable of Nassar’s abuse and did not act to put an end to the misconduct.
The first public accusation against Nassar was Rachael Denhollander who is now a lawyer in the state of Kentucky. Denhollander reached out to the Indianapolis Star after becoming conscious of an investigation regarding sexual abuse within USA Gymnastics. Denhollander also made a report of her allegations the following week to Michigan State University.
With more than one million lawyers in the United States, governing organizations such as the American Bar Association and the respective state bar associations continue to grapple with the question of how to qualify lawyers. A new study calls for law schools to raise their admissions standards. The study says that law schools have lower attrition rates when their students have higher LSAT scores.
University of St. Thomas School of Law professor Jerry Organ completed the study. According to his research, when a law school’s entering class has a median LSAT score of 160, attrition is 0.2-0.3 percent. Organ doesn’t count students who leave school for other reasons. He notes that attrition rates have increased in the past several years before finally declining in the 2016-17 academic year. Organ says that the closure of Charlotte School of Law may have skewed the statistic for the 2016-17 year.
Organ says that the data shows that as LSAT scores fall, attrition rates rise. For schools where LSAT scores range from 155 to 159, the attrition rate rises to two percent. When the LSAT scores fall to 150 to 154, attrition rises to more than four percent.
The most startling data is when LSAT scores are less than 150. With LSAT scores ranging from 145-150, a school can expect academic attrition that ranges between 12.7 and 14.3 percent. When LSAT scores dip below 145, the academic attrition rate is a staggering 25.3 percent. Organ says that the 25.3 percent figure is a sharp increase from an attrition rate of 15.6 percent for the lowest group in years past.
Schools with low LSAT scores are on the rise. In 2010, only one accredited law school claimed the ominous title of having an entering class with a median LSAT score that fell below 145. Fast forward to 2014 and 12 law schools could claim the distinction.
Some say that Organ’s study calls for law schools to raise their admissions standards. They say that low-performing law schools should close. They say that it’s unfair for law schools to collect upwards of $40,000 per year from students they know aren’t likely to graduate or pass the bar.
Others say that law schools with relatively open admissions policies allow people who go on to make good lawyers to find a way into the profession. They say they’re willing to give people a chance. As long as the students are willing to pay for the chance, they say, they’re not doing anything wrong and even performing a public service.
Prosecutors in Myanmar are seeking charges against two reporters from Reuters, for violating the Open Secrets Act. If convicted, the two could spend 14 years in prison.
On December 12, authorities arrested the two Reuters reporters — Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone — after they met two police officers for dinner and were given a set of documents. The reporters had been covering the situation in the country’s Rakhine state, where it is said that more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have left in the wake of military action against militant factions.
The charges the prosecutors are seeking relate to a section of the Open Secrets Act, which is a nearly 100-year-old law that was established when the country was a part of British India and known as Burma. The section of the law that the two have allegedly violated pertains to acquiring secret documents that could be useful to an enemy. Authorities also arrested the two police officers the reporters met, on the suspicion of violating the same law.
Prosecutors have also requested that the court deny bail to the two men, and the court will decide on this at the next hearing, which is scheduled for January 23.
In protest of the arrest, more than two dozen journalists stood outside the court house during the hearing. Dressed in black, the reporters wore T-shirts in support of a free press and ones that demanded the release of the two men.
Stephen J. Adler, who is the editor-in-chief and president of Reuters, expressed dismay that the government was seeking to prosecute his employees. He also demanded the release of the two men, and he said that their prosecution was nothing more than an attack on the freedom of the press.
Officials from the United Nations, as well as from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom have also requested the release of the men.
Zaw Htay, who is a spokesperson for the Myanmar government, refused to comment on the specifics of the charges, but he insisted that the two would receive a fair trial. The Myanmar military has yet to comment on the case.
One New Jersey teenager didn’t think that there was anything to celebrate on New Year’s Eve. Instead of watching Ryan Seacrest and Mariah Carey’s New Year’s do-over, the 16-year-old instead decided to brutally murder his entire family shortly before midnight. He mercilessly killed his sister, both of his parents and a friend of the family. Only his brother and grandfather fled and escaped the brutal killing.
The crime occurred in Long Branch, New Jersey. Police received a call at approximately 11:43 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. Police arrested the teenage shooter. Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni says the incident is “tragic” and “isolated.” He said that it’s a domestic incident, and they don’t believe that the public is in danger.
The victims range in age from 18 to 70. The surviving brother and grandfather were home when the shooting occurred, but they ran. Officers say the assailant used a semi-automatic assault rifle, and that a family member owned and registered the weapon.
Police aren’t giving information about a possible motive. They say they didn’t have prior calls to the home for domestic incidents. They said the killings appear to be a one-time event. Police also aren’t giving information about the mental health or disability of the killer.
Friends describe the victim’s family as “caring” and “loving.” They say the parents enjoyed spending time with their children. They also describe the victim as a “good kid.” Family members say that the assailant had learning challenges, but that he still knew how to behave appropriately. Friends say that they didn’t believe anyone in the family used drugs or alcohol.
They said they believe the killer was home-schooled because of his special needs. They say the child appeared to improve academically and emotionally with homeschooling. They describe the killer as outgoing and even funny.
The teenage victim was in her first year at Stockton University. She was majoring in health sciences. A university spokesperson says that they’re shocked by the victim’s death. They plan to offer counseling for distraught students.
The killer’s older brother said that the family wasn’t financially well off, but that the parents were committed to doing the best they could for their kids. He described his slain sister as “beautiful and smart.” Friends say that the shooter needed extra care from family members because of his challenges. The Long Branch Police Department continues to investigate. A fundraiser has raised approximately $20,000 for funeral expenses.
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 CNN.com.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.