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Donald Trump

DeVos Plans to Dismantle Standards for Campus Sexual Assault Investigations

Donald Trump's new Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced plans to rescind a six-year-old policy issued by Barack Obama's administration that advised colleges and universities on how to handle sexual assault allegations on campus. "Washington has burdened schools with increasingly elaborate and confusing guidelines that even lawyers find difficult to understand and navigate," DeVos told a crowd at George Mason University. "That's why we must do better, because the current approach isn't working." But DeVos wasn't as clear about what the new approach would look like as she was about rebuking the old approach. So where does that leave victims, alleged abusers, and schools trying to meet their legal obligations? Out With the Old In 2011, Obama's Department of Education issued what is known as a "Dear Colleague" letter, addressing the requirements of colleges and universities under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 in regards to sexual violence on campus. Schools must "take immediate and effective steps to end sexual harassment and sexual violence," including a prompt investigation of any incident the school knows of or reasonably should know of, and apply a "preponderance of evidence" standard to determinations based on sexual harassment allegations. According to DeVos, this system "has failed too many students." "Survivors, victims of a lack of due process, and campus administrators have all told me that the current approach does a disservice to everyone involved," she said, adding, "That's why we must do better, because the current approach isn't working." In With What Now? What the new approach will be, however, isn't immediately clear. DeVos announced plans to "launch a transparent notice-and-comment process" to formulate new guidance on sexual assault investigations, presumably to standardize procedural elements and protections across all schools. One of the issues that many, including the American Bar Association, have highlighted in prior critiques is the lack of due process protections for both victims and accusers in on-campus hearings, along with the lack of uniformity in schools' reporting, investigating, punishment, and appeals processes. "We can do a better job of making sure the handling of complaints is fair and accurate," DeVos promised, but how that job will be done remains to be seen. Related Resources: DeVos Announces Plan to Revamp Obama Administration Guidance on Campus Sex Assault Investigations (ABA Journal) Columbia Settles Title IX Lawsuit Filed by Student Accused of Rape (FindLaw's Decided) University May Raise Tuition to Fund Sexual Assault Investigations (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Are Schools Using Student Privacy Laws to Cover up Crimes? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Defense Secretary Puts President Trump’s Transgender Ban on Hold

In the wake of President Donald Trump's proclamation that openly transgender individuals be discharged from the military, in addition to the lawsuits, there has been some pushback from an unexpected source: the Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis. After sources reported that the general was appalled by the president's proclamation, soon after, he came out with a plan that effectively puts the ban on hold. While socially, and politically, transgender rights are a polarizing and controversial issue, it may not be possible to read anything more than prudence into Mattis's actions. Making a sweeping change like this to the military requires careful planning and assessment. What's Mattis's Hold Up? The general, reportedly, has instituted the hold on implementing the newest ban in order to study the effects and strategically plan how to actually do it (and potentially even whether to do it at all). Although the president, in a series of Tweets, claimed to have met with his generals prior to implementing the ban, no general has corroborated this claim. As such, not only was the general caught off guard, but the new policy's effects had not been studied prior to the implementation. While it may be too soon for those on either side of this issue to celebrate, LGBT advocates are pleased that there is at least some relief from the abruptly announced policy that would have uprooted many people's lives. Constitutional Challenges and Civil Rights Laws The lawsuit by the ACLU that challenges the transgender military ban argues that there is no military basis for the ban. According to the ACLU's complaint, "The Trump Administration has provided no evidence that this pronouncement was based on any analysis of the actual cost and disruption allegedly caused by allowing men and women who are transgender to serve openly."The Trump administration also faces a lawsuit from Lambda Legal that challenges the constitutionality of the transgender ban. Lambda Legal's lawsuit alleges "the Ban and the current accessions bar violate the equal protection and due process guarantees of the Fifth Amendment and the free speech guarantee of the First Amendment," and "are unsupported by any compelling, important, or even rational justification."Although the new administration has taken a position that transgender individuals should not be protected under civil rights laws, there has been a steady trend in the law to protect transgender individuals. The number of states, and even federal courts, that have recognized transgender individuals as belonging to a protected class, and thus protected by civil rights laws, keeps growing. Related Resources: Trump Administration Rescinds Guidance on Bathroom Use for Transgender Students (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) The Rise of Anti-Anti-Discrimination Laws (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) California's Gender Neutral Bathroom Bill (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Here's the Latest on Trump Immigration Reform Efforts (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Here’s the Latest on Trump Immigration Reform Efforts

It's not untrue to say that Donald Trump has had a 'busy' presidency -- the Twitterer-in-Chief has been as active on social media as he has been with executive orders. But many of those orders have been met with litigation and currently stand somewhere in legal limbo between lawsuits filed and Supreme Court review. One of Trump's most active areas of executive authority has been immigration. Here's the latest on Trump's immigration reform efforts, where they stand (legally speaking), and what they could mean. 1. Trump's Travel Ban Headed to Supreme Court Perhaps Trump's most infamous executive order on immigration, and certainly his most litigated one, is the attempted ban on immigrants and refugees from several majority Muslim countries. Blocked by federal circuit courts, rewritten, then blocked again, the Muslim ban is now in the hands of the Supreme Court, although many of the main legal issues may be moot by the time the Court hears oral arguments. 2. 3 Important Facts About Sanctuary Cities for Immigrants and Opponents Trump has also threatened to withhold federal funds from so-called sanctuary jurisdictions -- cities and states that decline to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. It's a legally touchy subject, since immigration is largely a federal matter and there are constitutional protections against federal departments controlling state and local law enforcement, and many of those jurisdictions have sued in response. 3. How Would a 'Merit-Based' System Change Immigration? While battling illegal immigration, Trump also wants to shift the focus of legal immigration from birthplace and family considerations to employment and education qualifications. The president-supported RAISE Act would also slash the number of refugees and visa applicants allowed into the country every year. 4. Mixed Immigration Messages? Trump Administration's Latest on DAPA, Dreamers Trump rescinded Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, last June. But the new president has yet to decide on the old president's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA, leaving many apprehensive about their immigration status. 5. Can Undocumented Immigrants Attend Public School? In the meantime, immigrants must go on with their daily lives even though their legal status is uncertain. The Supreme Court has said that public schools can't bar undocumented immigrant children from K-12 education, or charge them extra to attend. If you're unsure about your immigration status or need legal help, contact an experienced immigration attorney in your area. Related Resources: Find Immigration Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Top 7 Immigration Laws for Families (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Trump's Executive Order on Immigration: What Does It Mean When a Judge Issues a 'Stay'? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) What Power Does the President Have Over Deportation Policy? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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ACLU, Lambda Legal Sue Trump Over Transgender Military Ban

Over the course of three tweets last month, President Donald Trump expressed his intent to ban transgender people from serving in the military. The White House made that intent official on Friday, issuing a Presidential Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security "prohibit[ing] openly transgender individuals from accession into the United States military and authoriz[ing] the discharge of such individuals. And it didn't take long for the lawsuits to follow. Both the ACLU and Lambda Legal have sued Donald Trump and his Secretary of Defense James Mattis, claiming the ban is unconstitutional and "compromises the safety and security of our country." Animus Trump's memo reverses Obama-era guidance allowing transgender individuals to openly serve in the military and allowing defense funds to cover sex-reassignment surgery. The ban would remain in place "until such time as a sufficient basis exists upon which to conclude that terminating that policy and practice would not have the negative effects discussed above." In the memo, Trumps says, "The Secretary of Defense ... may advise me at any time, in writing, that a change to this policy is warranted," but that recommendation for change must be something that "I find convincing." The ACLU claims there is no military basis for the ban: The Trump Administration has provided no evidence that this pronouncement was based on any analysis of the actual cost and disruption allegedly caused by allowing men and women who are transgender to serve openly. News reports indicate that the Secretary of Defense and other military officials were surprised by President Trump's announcement and that his actual motivations were purely political, reflecting a desire to accommodate legislators and advisers who bear animus and moral disapproval toward men and women who are transgender, with a goal of gaining votes for a spending bill that included money to build a border wall with Mexico. Amicus The claims may bear some truth. Mattis was reportedly caught off guard by Trump's tweets, and sources say he was "appalled." Lambda Legal's suit alleges "the Ban and the current accessions bar violate the equal protection and due process guarantees of the Fifth Amendment and the free speech guarantee of the First Amendment," and "are unsupported by any compelling, important, or even rational justification." This is not the first time Trump has been sued over an executive order or memo -- there are now at least three lawsuits regarding the transgender military ban alone -- and will likely not be the last. Related Resources: Find Civil Rights Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Military Transgender Ban to Begin Within 6 Months, Memo Says (The New York Times) Transgender Service Members Sue Trump Over Military Ban Tweets (FindLaw's Courtside) Trump Administration Rescinds Guidance on Bathroom Use for Transgender Students (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Top Legal Questions About the President’s Power

There were certainly questions about presidential power during Barack Obama's presidency, especially when it came to Obamacare and his executive actions on gun control. But those questions have reached a fever pitch under President Donald Trump, as he has attempted to remake the presidency in his own image. So what are the limits on the president's power, if any? 1. Can President Trump Change the Constitution? As a candidate, Trump proposed quite a few constitutional amendments. Now that he's president, can he make them happen? Even though a president can't unilaterally change the text of the Constitution, he can direct executive agencies in their interpretation and enforcement of its provisions. 2. What Power Does the President Have Over Deportation Policy? There are reports of immigration officials pulling undocumented persons out of hospitals. Is this a new practice? And how much impact can President Trump have on choosing who to deport and why? 3. Can the President Really Curb Speech of Federal Agencies? Trump's White House issued directives to several federal agencies, looking to limit public statements and social media posts regarding matters that the previous administration supported. But do those orders violate federal employees' First Amendment rights? 4. Ethics Rules for White House Employees There are strict ethics rules regulating what government officials should do when they have a personal financial interest in a certain business or industry, generally requiring the official to disclose their interest and recuse themselves from work where there could be a conflict of interest. But the Trump administration appears to be playing fast and loose with those rules. 5. Can Trump Cancel the Iran Deal? Previous President Barack Obama's administration brokered a historic nuclear agreement with Iran in 2015, an accord current President Donald Trump has called "the stupidest deal of all time." Does that mean the current administration can back out of the deal? Related Resources: Find Civil Rights Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Trump's First Week as President (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Do Restrictions on Protests Violate the Constitution? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Trump's New Travel Ban Blocked Like the Old Travel Ban (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Is the President Immune From Defamation Lawsuits?

Before he was President Donald Trump, he was host of the reality TV series "The Apprentice" Donald Trump. But his actions then may come back to legally haunt him now. Summer Zervos, a former "Apprentice" contestant, is suing the president, claiming his denials of her sexual harassment claims amounted to defamation. But Trump's attorneys are planning to argue that the president is immune from this and other civil lawsuits while he remains in office. Is that argument going to work? Defamatory Statements Zervos appeared on Trump's TV show in 2006, and was seeking a job with the Trump Organization when the president allegedly groped her breast and began to kiss her aggressively against her will. Trump denied the allegations, calling them a "total fabrication" and a "hoax," while calling Zervos a "phony" and labeling other women making similar claims of sexual harassment "liars." Zervos then sued in New York state court, claiming Trump's attack caused her emotional distress and lost business, and that Trump knew his denials of her allegations were defamatory, because he knew the truth of their interactions and "engaged regularly in this kind of unwanted sexual touching for years, and that was, in fact, how he treated women routinely and how he lived his life." Defamation, legally speaking, refers to any false statement that hurts someone's reputation. In order to win a defamation lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove that someone made a statement, the statement was published, the statement caused an injury, the statement was false, and the statement did not fall into a privileged category. Presidential Immunity Bill Clinton attempted to mount the same immunity defense when he was sued by Paula Jones for sexual harassment. Back then, the Supreme Court ruled that litigation against a sitting president can proceed if it is over conduct unrelated to his public office. While conceding that point generally, Trump's attorneys are asking for deference in scheduling and for the court to stay the lawsuit until after Trump's presidency. Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz also wrote: "Defendant Donald J. Trump, the President of the United States, intends to file a motion to dismiss this action on the ground, among others, that the United States Constitution, including the Supremacy Clause contained therein, immunizes the President from being sued in state court while in office." As the Washington Post points out, this issue of presidential immunity in state courts remains unresolved, as the Paula Jones case involved federal sexual harassment claims. So while the president might not be immune to defamation claims, those claims may need to be filed in federal court. In an interesting twist to the case against Trump, one of the lawyers who successfully argued against Clinton's immunity was George T. Conway III, husband of Trump aide Kellyanne Conway and nominated by Trump to lead the Justice Department's civil division. Related Resources: Find Defamation Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Trump Claims Immunity From 'Apprentice' Contestant's Lawsuit (USA Today) Do You Know How Slander, Libel and Defamation are Different? (FindLaw's Injured) Is It Worth Suing for Defamation to Protect Your Reputation? (FindLaw's Injured)
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Stronger, Kinder, and Gentler

As I let the results of the election sink in, one of the biggest fears that I have is that it will now be socially acceptable for people to be mean to others based on their membership in a group, whether it be women or minorities or immigrants or gays or anybody else who is not part of the white male establishment. Nobody can deny that the recent presidential election has been one of the ugliest in our lifetimes with women being called names and being publicly criticized for their appearance and for speaking out against assault and Hispanic politicians being called liars and having their judgment questioned based on their cultural heritage. I have heard people praise the Donald Trump campaign for making it okay not to be politically correct and for him saying things that others think but are afraid to say, and I fear his affirmation through the election will make such hurtful and regressive discourse even more common and tolerated than it already is. Although we can debate whether political correctness has gone too far, I think we can agree that it is not okay to vilify and hate others based on their gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. So what can we as female criminal defense attorneys, who see the debilitating effects of stereotyping on a daily basis, do for the next four years? I suggest that we become stronger together to fight to make this nation kinder and gentler despite our divisions. We must speak out against hatred of all types, whether it be in the form of racial or religious profiling or gender stereotyping. We must raise our voices even louder to speak out against injustice when we see it and fight harder in our local communities to eradicate it. We must speak up publicly in and out of court when our clients have been victims of hate or are being judged in whole or in part because of their membership in a group. And when our clients are the haters, advocate for the punishment designed to rehabilitate rather than lead to recidivism by embedding the hatred even further. I also suggest that we use our economic power to make changes. We must support local women and minority-owned business (and lawyers) and boycott businesses associated with those who hate. We must spend our charitable dollars on local organizations which work to empower girls and immigrants rather than on charitable foundations which make their officers and directors richer. We must support candidates at the local level who will fight for the values we believe in. Let politicians see that we will vote with our purses as well as through the pulpit and polls. I suggest strongly that we work together to be stronger and to make this country kinder and gentler every day in our local courts and communities and that we show the public and the Government and its officials that smart, kind, strong, and gentle female criminal defense lawyers can make a difference. The post Stronger, Kinder, and Gentler appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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How to Legally Challenge an Election

It's no secret that Donald Trump thinks the upcoming presidential is "absolutely being rigged." When given the opportunity to clarify his stance, Trump said, "I would accept a clear election result, but I would also reserve my right to contest or file a legal challenge in the case of a questionable result." If the results are "questionable," what would such a legal challenge look like? And what grounds would you need to challenge an election's results? Legal Questions Republican election lawyer Chris Ashby told PBS that it wasn't necessary for Trump to reserve his right to contest the election this far in advance, and "after the election, if there is some evidence that an election of electors in a particular state was tainted by fraud, then he could pursue that." Ashby added: "You can't just say that there was generally fraud. You have to know how many votes either from fraud or by mistake. And it has to be enough votes to cover the margin between the candidates. And so, if you think that you have to go out and actually get this evidence, you have to find voters, you have to election records, and you have to quantify this, and you have to do it in a time period of about a month." So, in order for Trump, the Republican Party, or someone else to legally challenge the results of an election, the election must particularly close and there would need to be credible evidence of fraud or miscounting of votes, enough to cover the margin of victory. State and Federal Questions Even though president is a federal office, voting in federal elections is still run by the states. Each state has its own rules and procedures for counting and contesting votes, and any challenge to the results would occur at the state level. Some state laws may require a manual recount if results are within a certain margin, while others may provide a means for a candidate or party to request a recount. Either way, the challenge would need to be made regarding a particular state's results, and it would need to come quickly. Most states have their own deadlines to certify final election results, and federal law requires all states to certify and report their results within 35 days of the election. Trump would need an extremely tight result, legitimate claims of fraud or mistake, and he would need to, very quickly, follow state-specific procedures for challenging that state's result. So a little bit more than simply not winning. Related Resources: Browse Civil Rights Lawyers by Location (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Why Voter Fraud Doesn't Matter, but Allegations of Rigged Elections Do (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) What Should I Bring to the Ballot Box? An Update on State Voter ID Laws (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 7 Important Voting Rights Questions (and Answers) (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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