Civil Rights

Civil Rights Newsletters

Feeding Tube Law Declared Unconstitutional

A Florida woman died nearly two weeks after doctors, under court order, removed her feeding tube for the third and final time. The woman’s parents suffered a string of legal settbacks after the removal of the tube, both in state and federal courts, trying to get her feeding tube reconnected.

Felony voting disenfranchisement

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 includes a provision that allows states to “disenfranchise” or take away the voting privileges of persons who have been convicted of a felony. The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution gives states the authority to decide whether or not to deny the right to vote to persons who have been convicted of a felonious offense. Accordingly, a convicted felon or an ex-felon may or may not be able to register to vote in his or her state of residence.

Internet surveillance provision of USA PATRIOT Act

A federal court has ruled that the surveillance provision of the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (USA PATRIOT Act) was unconstitutionally broad. In striking down § 505, the federal judge said that while national security was of “paramount value,” personal security was equal in importance. The judge held that § 505 was violative of the First Amendment because § 505’s permanent ban on disclosure of the request was an impermissible “prior restraint” on free speech. Additionally, the surveillance provision violated the Constitution because it gave “unchecked powers” to obtain private information. Furthermore, it violated the Constitution’s prohibitions against unreasonable searches.

The Freedom of Religion in Prisons

The federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) says in part that no government shall impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise of anyone confined to a federally-funded government institution, including prisons and jails. RLUIPA requires prisons to accommodate the religions practiced by inmates. The law allows governmental authorities to interfere with religious practices only if they can show a “compelling governmental interest.” Often, prison security and discipline have been found to be sufficient reasons to restrict inmates’ religious practices.

The Freedom of Speech and Political Signs

For the most part, cities and municipalities cannot implement “sign” ordinances or regulations that restrict a person’s right to free political speech. To do so would be considered “state action” that is subject to the provisions of the United States Constitution. Because homeowner associations and condominium associations are not state actors, they are not constrained by the Constitution. Accordingly, they can implement–and enforce–political sign regulations and rules without fear of running afoul of the First Amendment.

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