CRT Biweekly Newsletter November 10, 2016

  • The Justice Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released updated guidance today on the application of the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) to state and local land use and zoning laws.  The guidance is designed to help state and local governments better understand how to comply with the FHA when making zoning and land use decisions as well as to help members of the public understand their rights under the FHA.
     
  • Vanita Gupta delivered remarks at the National Legal Aid & Defender Association Annual Conference this morning, explaining the important role of legal aid lawyers and public defenders in civil rights work: “When we, as a society, support civil legal aid and public defender programs, we fulfill a core promise of America.  In our country, all people – regardless of wealth or poverty, status or stature, color or creed – are entitled to a set of undeniable rights: equal protection, fundamental fairness and impartial justice.  These rights define the essence and purpose of America.”
     
  • An Ohio man pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime for beating an African-American stranger he saw on the street.
     
  • The Justice Department filed a statement of interest in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia addressing the constitutionality of state policies that automatically suspend the driver’s licenses of those who fail to pay court fines or fees.  The statement of interest was filed in Stinnie et al. v. Holcomb, a class action brought by four individuals whose driver’s licenses were suspended because they could not afford to pay fines, fees and costs assessed by Virginia courts.
     
  • The Civil Rights Division deployed more than 500 personnel to 67 jurisdictions in 28 states for the Nov. 8, 2016, general election.
     
  • On October 31, the Division filed an amicus brief in Amanda Geraci v. City of Philadelphia, et al. and Richard Fields v. City of Philadelphia, et al., arguing that citizens have a First Amendment right to photograph or video record officers in public regardless of motivation. 
     
  • On November 4, the Seventh Circuit issued its decision in Midwest Fence Corporation v. United States Department of Transportation, et al., joining the Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Circuits in upholding the facial constitutionality of the federal DBE program. 
     
  • The Division developed the idea for the creation of a new website to help inform workers of their rights and how to enforce them.  Specifically, we proposed a website, Worker.gov, that would be user-friendly, use plain language and serve as an online “front door” through which workers could go to learn about their labor and employment rights and then, if necessary or desired, be linked directly to the correct federal enforcement agency for additional information or to file a complaint.  The Division pitched this proposal at a July 2015 meeting of the full Vulnerable Workers Project (VWP) working group, and it was enthusiastically received by representatives from the VWP federal agency partners, the Department of Labor, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the National Labor Relations Board.  The Department of Labor began the process of bringing the website the Division proposed, now known as Worker.gov, to life.
     

Twitter: @CivilRightsAAG | @CivilRights

Updated December 28, 2016

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