Civil Liberties The National Newsletter of the ACLU #380, Spring 1994 (c) 1994 American Ci
Civil Liberties The National Newsletter of the ACLU
#380, Spring 1994 (c) 1994 American Civil Liberties Union
IN THE COURTS: We Won!
The ACLU continues to score significant victories in
state and federal courts across the country. Here are
summaries of some recent triumphs:
Drug Testing on Campus
In November 1993, the ACLU of Colorado won its 1984 challenge to
the University of Colorado's requirement that all students wanting
to participate in intercollegiate athletics submit to urinalysis at
their annual physical, as well as to random urine tests throughout
the academic year, whether or not they were suspected of using
drugs. The Colorado Supreme Court held that the program violated
both the Fourth Amendment's privacy guarantees and the equivalent
section of the state constitution. In May 1994, the U.S. Supreme
Court declined to review, letting the lower court ruling stand.
On May 5, the ACLU of Oregon won vindication under the Fourth
Amendment for James Acton, who was dismissed from his junior high
school football team two years ago for refusing a drug test. The
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said: Concerns about
student drug use notwithstanding, "we also understand the concern
of our forebears and the importance of the protections given by the
constitutional provisions which prohibit unreasonable searches and
Foster Care Reform
The Children's Rights Project, representing all foster children in
Washington, D.C. plus thousands of other abused and neglected
children about whom the District receives reports each year,
proved, in a lawsuit brought in 1989, that the District's child
welfare system was "in a state of ongoing crisis as severe as that
experienced by many of the homes from which the system is removing
children." In 1991, the federal District Court declared the system
illegal and irreparably harmful to the children it was supposed to
protect. Sweeping reforms negotiated by the ACLU have been in
process since; however, District officials appealed that portion of
the decision holding them liable for the system's failings. In
late 1993, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed the
liability ruling, and in January 1994, the U.S. Supreme Court
declined to review. The ACLU continues to monitor District
compliance with the reform order.
On February 22, the Superior Court of Pennsyvania threw out
criminal charges brought against Michelle Kemp for delivering a
controlled substance to her fetus. The law under which Kemp was
charged, said the Court, was not intended to apply in utero. The
Women's Rights Project and the Greater Pittsburgh ACLU Chapter
represented Kemp. Significantly, the Court was unpersuaded by the
state's invocation of Pennsylvania's Abortion Control Act, which
defines an "unborn child" as a human being at conception.
Gays in the Military
On April 4, the Lesbian and Gay Rights Project obtained a
preliminary injunction from a federal District Court in New York
blocking the government's discharge of six service members who are
plaintiffs in an ACLU challenge to the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"
policy. The ACLU acted when the government notified one of our
clients of his imminent discharge, two days after learning that he
was a plaintiff in the case. The injunction protects the six
plaintiffs' military status until their case is decided.
On March 18, the National Prison Project reached an historic
settlement in a Rhode Island lawsuit that was initiated in 1974.
Back in 1977, the federal District Court declared the entire state
prison system unconstitutional, ordered remediation of the system's
overcrowded, unhealthy and unsafe conditions and appointed an
overseer to monitor compliance with that order. Over the years,
the state was held in contempt several times for noncompliance.
The settlement compels the state to bring conditions in its prisons
up to constitutional standards.
Freedom for "Mariel Cuban"
After fleeing to these shores from Cuba in 1980, Alexis Barrera-
Echavarria spent nine years in various federal prisons -- refused
repatriation by the Cuban government and considered "dangerous" by
the U.S., although he had not been charged with a crime.
Echavarria challenged his incarceration, supported by the
Immigrants' Rights Project and the ACLU of Southern California as
friends-of-the-court. On March 31, the U.S. Court of Appeals for
the Ninth Circuit held that even excludable aliens are entitled to
due process and cannot be preventively detained for long periods
Voting Rights Victory
The Southern Regional Office and the NAACP, after triumphing when
a federal District Court created a majority black Congressional
district that elected James Clyburn, South Carolina's first black
Member of Congress since Reconstruction, have now won their appeal
of redistricting plans for the state house and senate on behalf of
a coalition of African Americans. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed
that the lower court had failed to adequately evaluate those plans
under the racial fairness standards of the Voting Rights Act. The
state is now poised to create approximately nine additional
majority black house districts in time for the 1994 elections.
Abortion Funding In Idaho
In a 1993 lawsuit filed by the Reproductive Freedom Project, the
ACLU of Idaho and Planned Parenthood, a state trial court declared
unconstitutional, under Idaho's constitution, a rule that
prohibited state funding for abortions unless two physicians
certified that the procedure was necessary to save a woman's life.
"While the state is not constitutionally required to provide
financial assistance for pregnancy care," held the court, "once it
decides to do so generally, it must proceed in a neutral manner.
It may not pick and choose ... especially where the choosing may
invade a woman's constitutionally protected right." The state has
Steven R. Shapiro is Legal Director of the ACLU.
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