What’s law got to do with it? For Same-Sex Couples the Question Remains

January 27, 2013

Charlotte School of Law Law Review’s Annual Symposium  (March 15th 9:00 am – 2:00 pm)

This year, the Law Review is presenting speakers from across the political and ideological gamut to discuss the social institution of marriage, and the effects of marriage laws on states and citizens alike.  As the Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments on Hollingsworth v. Perry and U.S. v. Windsor (two major cases that challenge both the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Proposition 8 (a state marriage law), the Law Review seeks to keep local activists, attorneys, and students on par with the theories that fuel these debates.

The morning panel, “I do, You don’t. A Constitutional Debate on Marriage,” will showcase legal, academic, and social scholars presenting unique and wide-ranging theories on the definition of ‘Marriage.’  The debate will mirror the current issues before the Supreme Court, as proponents and opponents of state and federal constitutional amendments are given the opportunity to fully flesh out the issues before an inquisitive audience of students and attorneys.  The panel will respond to questions from the audience and participation is encouraged as this is an issue that affects all members of the public, regardless of orientation or belief.

As the issues from the first panel resonate, speakers, students, staff and attorneys will have the opportunity to meet and greet, and come together in reflection during a catered lunch.

The afternoon panel, “A Straight and Narrow Path: Navigating the Law for LGBT clients,” will be a practice-oriented discussion of how to serve and advocate for LGBT clients within the existing legal framework.   Topics will include ethical issues that lawyers may face, overcoming state constitutional amendments such as North Carolina’s Amendment One when representing clients in family law or wills and trust issues, discrimination issues, and the relatively new and unique issues faced by transgender clients.

With such a hot topic currently being decided by the Supreme Court of the United States, the Law Review strives to have a wide range of public representation at the Symposium.   Regardless of belief, orientation, practice, or opinion, these are issues that affect each and every person, and if every viewpoint could be represented, the conversation would greatly benefit.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” —Helen Keller


January 27, 2013

KC Education Enterprise

This just in from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights:

Extracurricular athletics — which include club, intramural, or interscholastic … athletics at all education levels — are an important component of an overall education program. The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report that underscored that access to, and participation in, extracurricular athletic opportunities provide important health and social benefits to all students, particularly those with disabilities. These benefits can include socialization, improved teamwork and leadership skills, and fitness. Unfortunately, the GAO found that students with disabilities are not being afforded an equal opportunity to participate in extracurricular athletics in public elementary and secondary schools.

To ensure that students with disabilities consistently have opportunities to participate in extracurricular athletics equal to those of other students, the GAO recommended that the United States Department of Education … clarify and communicate schools’ responsibilities under Section 504 of…

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Civil Rights Clinic member Lindsey Engels becomes Student Liaison to the Education Section of the NC BAR.

January 25, 2013

Lindsey Engels, a new member to the Civil Rights Clinic, has recently been appointed as the Law Student Liaison to the Education Section of the North Carolina Bar Association.  Lindsey is a former special education teacher from Virginia, and her work with the Council for Children’s Rights here in Charlotte has fueled her passion for child advocacy, seen through her presidency of the Education Legal Society at the Charlotte School of Law and her dedication to a new project regarding school discipline in partnership with Hailey Strobel.

As the Law Student Liaison, Lindsey will help promote the Education section in all 7 law schools across the state of North Carolina, help in obtaining articles and information for the newsletter, help organize networking socials with the 7 law schools and help promote membership from those law schools to the Education Section. If you are interested in education law, please join the Education Section of the NCBA and join the Education Legal Society at the Charlotte School of Law.  You may email Lindsey at leengels@gmail.com.


January 25, 2013

Commentary on the passing scene

Reflections for MLK Day: May Our Grasp on Dr. King’s Vision, However Seemingly Tenuous, Not Weaken Further

 By Ken K. Gourdin

I have tried to make it a tradition in recent years to do something related to the “holidays” on the calendar such as Martin Luther King Day; something which will mark the day as at least a little more significant than simply “a Monday off,” or a day to do things on a weekday that I normally don’t get to do, such as going out to eat or going to the movies.  In that spirit, in recent years I have tried to read the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” each Martin Luther King Day.

Arguably, I am not a member of “an oppressed group” (I say arguably because I am disabled.)  Still, any oppression I have experienced is far more difficult to quantify than…

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The Renewed Fight Over Guns

January 19, 2013

In the wake of the numerous and tragic shootings of 2012-2013, the public has witnessed an upheaval surrounding our current gun laws, gun violence, mental health and what, if anything, should be done to curb gun killings.  All sides have engaged in pitched rhetoric on this issue, and with President Obama putting forth his proposed solution, the debate is likely to continue with a great deal of ferocity.

If we desire to seek solutions in order to prevent another tragedy like the one that recently took place, we must sift through the misunderstandings and misconstrued facts to ascertain what the issues really are, and how to begin discussing them without coming to blows or shots for that matter. Here are the basics about what an assault weapon is, as well as the details of the President’s proposal.

What is an “assault weapon”?

The Assault Weapons Ban (AWB), which Congress passed into law in 1994 and expired in 2004, defines a semi-automatic assault weapon as the following:

  •  A semiautomatic rifle that has an ability to accept a detachable magazine and has at least 2 of— a folding or telescopic stock; a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon; a bayonet mount; a flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor; and a grenade launcher
  • A semiautomatic pistol that has an ability to accept a detachable magazine and has at least 2 of— an ammunition magazine that attaches to the pistol outside of the pistol grip; a threaded barrel capable of accepting a barrel extender, flash suppressor, forward hand grip, or silencer; a shroud that is attached to, or partially or completely encircles, the barrel and that permits the shooter to hold the firearm with the non-trigger hand without being burned;a manufactured weight of 50 ounces or more when the pistol is unloaded; and a semiautomatic version of an automatic firearm; and
  • A semiautomatic shotgun that has at least 2 of— a folding or telescopic stock; a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon; a fixed magazine capacity in excess of 5 rounds; and  an ability to accept a detachable magazine.

To sum it up, if you have a firearm with a combination of at least 2 of any of the listed items and a detachable magazine, you have an assault weapon. One particular, seemingly often misunderstood concept is the difference of automatic vs. semiautomatic guns. A semi-automatic weapon fires one round per trigger pull while a fully automatic weapon fires a stream of rounds as long as the trigger is held. Automatic weapons are highly regulated and for most intents and purposes are legally inaccessible to the general public.

The President’s Proposal

This portion of the order would require Congressional approval in order to made into law. (The percentages following each are the likelihood of the item receiving actual approval as stated by the Washington Post):

• Ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. Odds of passage: Less than 50 percent;

• Requiring universal background checks in gun sales, including those at gun shows. Odds of passage: 75 percent or better;

• Confirming B. Todd Jones as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Odds of confirmation: Very good, considering that there are no obvious reasons to hold it up;

• Enhancing school safety, including putting as many as 1,000 trained police officers and school counselors on the job. Odds of passage: Very good;

• Ban possession, transfer, manufacture and import of armor-piercing bullets. Odds of passage: N/A.

The following is a list of actions that need only the President’s signature to take effect:

• Address legal barriers in health care laws that bar some states from making available information about people who are prohibited from having guns;

• Ensure federal agencies share relevant information with background check system;

• Direct attorney general to work with other agencies to review existing laws to make sure they can identify those who shouldn’t have guns;

• Direct Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, other agencies to conduct research into causes, preventing gun violence;

• Clarify that no federal laws prevent health care providers from contacting authorities when patients threaten to use violence;

• Give communities the opportunity to hire up to 1,000 school resource officers and counselors

• Require federal law enforcement to trace all recovered guns;

• Propose regulations to enable law enforcement to run complete background checks before returning seized firearms;

• Direct Justice Department to analyze information on lost, stolen guns; make that information available to law enforcement;

• Training for state and local law enforcement, first responders, school officials on how to handle active-shooter situations;

• Make sure every school has a comprehensive emergency management plan

• Help ensure young people get needed mental health treatment; that health insurance plans cover mental health benefits;

• Encourage development of new technology to make it easier for gun owners to safely use and store their guns;

• Have Consumer Product Safety Commission assess the need for new safety standards for gun locks and gun safes;

• Launch national campaign on responsible gun ownership.

A Final Thought

Armed with equivocal evidence, both sides could argue back and forth all day as to whether gun control measures have or will reduce gun violence; whether the Second Amendment protects large capacity magazines, pistol grips, bayonet mounts; and whether the President’s proposal will prevent the terrible tragedies that have befallen us this last year. But there are some things that, as a civil society on which we can reach a consensus: 1. One needless killing is one too many; 2. No simple gun violence solutions exist; 3.  All constitutional rights, including those which the Second Amendment protects, are subject to reasonable regulation; and 4. Perhaps most importantly, that we stop shouting across the aisle long enough to hear ourselves think.

by Daniel Melo


January 14, 2013

An interesting look at the voting rights we actually have, and issues we as citizens should look to address in relation to those rights.

Data Driven Viewpoints

In an off handed comment made after the 2012 election, President Barack Obama said we need to fix our election process.  This is a welcome suggestion.  Our election process is badly broken and we need to take a good look at it.  We should start by asking:

What voting rights do I have in my state? 

This is not a commonly asked question, but it should be.  Most of us believe voting rights are guaranteed under the federal constitution. This isn’t exactly true.  The Constitution contains several amendments to prevented states from disenfranchising certain categories of voters. For example, states cannot use race, religion, gender or the age of anyone 18 or older as a means to disqualify a “citizen” from voting.  The actual right of suffrage, however, isn’t a federal guarantee. This is up to the states.  Fixing our voting system will be a state by state effort.

In all our public discussions…

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Students, we need your support in helping the Civil Rights Clinic get the Ban the Box initiative passed by the Charlotte City Council!

January 14, 2013

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Ban the Box, it is an ordinance intended to encourage full participation of motivated and qualified persons with criminal histories in our workforce, reduce recidivism, and assure public safety.  The ordinance accomplishes these ends by establishing practices that:

1)      Encourage the use of an applicant’s job application as a tool in appropriately assess information about their qualification for the position desired without the specter of      any past legal mistakes.

2)      Help city employees making hiring decisions more adequately and correctly assess an applicant’s criminal history by providing a qualified applicant an opportunity to discuss any inaccuracies, contest the contend and relevance of a criminal history, and provide information about rehabilitation.

3)      Encourage the full employment and full integration of people with conviction histories back into the community as a critical part of ensuring public safety.

4)      Ensure strict EEOC compliance in relation to criminal backgrounds.

We are planning on presenting the initiative at the City Council meeting on Monday February 25th at 6:15pm.  Our goal is to have a turn-out between 50-100 people in support of the measure, along with 4 people who will address the Council directly.  I would like to get your commitment to come out and support the initiative at that meeting.  Along with your support, I would like to also enlist your help in spreading the word, and getting people with whom you work or know to also commit to coming to the meeting.  In our conversations with the people who got a similar ordinance passed in Durham, they said that the number of people who attended the meeting, a little more than 50 people, was the key to their success.  If the City Council sees that this is a community effort, we have a great chance of success.  We already have Councilwoman Mayfield in our corner, and she is ready to motion to have the initiative sent to committee after our presentation.  What we need now is your commitment to attend, and your help in spreading the word so that the rest of the Council will be motivated to pass the ordinance.  If you can come to the meeting, please email me at waltersc@students.charlottelaw.edu,  and I will add your name to the list of attendees.  You may also forward this email to your contacts, and enlist their help.  Please have them email their commitment to my email address.  I look forward to working with all of you, and thank you for your support!


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