Issues to Watch


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North Carolina’s Voter ID Law: A Burden on the Right to Vote

Ashley Triplett*

Amidst an already controversial and historic election cycle, federal courts have stepped in to strike down or modify states’ voter identification (ID) laws.  On July 29, 2016, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit unanimously overturned a decision by the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina and struck down provisions of North Carolina’s voter ID law.  N.C. State Conference of the NAACP v. McCrory, No. 16-1468, No. 16-1469, No. 16-1474, No. 16-1529, 2016 WL 4053033 (4th Cir. July 29, 2016).  In its opinion, the Fourth Circuit recognized the “disproportionate [negative] impact” that North Carolina’s voter ID law, SL 2013-381, had on African Americans attempting to vote in the state.  See id. at *15.  Considering the history of voting discrimination in North Carolina and the inexorable link between race and party lines, the Fourth Circuit struck down certain provisions of SL 2013-381, finding that they were motivated by “discriminatory racial intent” in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  Id. at *17.

Designed to protect the voting rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, the Voting Rights Act prohibited every state and local government from imposing any voting law that would result in discrimination against racial or language minorities.  See Voting Rights Act of 1965, Pub. L. 89-110 §§ 2, 4 (1965) (codified at 52 U.S.C. §§ 10301, 10303(f)(2) (2012)).  Section 5 of the Act established a preclearance requirement that prohibited certain jurisdictions, including North Carolina, from implementing any change affecting voting without receiving preapproval from the United States Attorney General or the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.  See id. § 5 (codified at 52 U.S.C § 10304 (2012)).  Section 5 utilized a coverage formula originally designed to encompass jurisdictions that engaged in egregious voting discrimination in 1965.  See id.  In 2013, the United States Supreme Court struck down the coverage formula as unconstitutional in Shelby Cty. v. Holder. 133 S. Ct. 2612, 2631 (2013).  Finding the formula outdated and no longer responsive to current conditions, the Court declared that it violated the principles of federalism.  See id. at 2618, 2629.  The Supreme Court did not strike down Section 5, but without the formula, Section 5 was unenforceable.  See id. at 2631.


Issues to Watch

Protecting National Guard Members’ Employment Rights: South Carolina Adopts New Legislation, Other States to Follow?

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Protecting National Guard Members’ Employment Rights: South Carolina Adopts New Legislation, Other States to Follow?

Kristin Tracy*

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) was signed into law by President Clinton in 1994 in order to improve upon and replace the Veterans’ Reemployment Rights law of 1940.  Charles T. Passaglia, USERRA: Bolstering Veterans’ Rights, 24 Colo. Law. 577, 577 (1995); see also 38 U.S.C.A. §§ 4301–4333 (West 2015).  One of the main purposes of USERRA is “to prohibit discrimination against persons because of their service in the uniformed services.”  § 4301(a)(3).  Essentially, service members’ civilian jobs are protected under USERRA when they are in a federal active duty status under Titles 10 or 32 of the United States Code.  Id. §§ 4301–4333.  USERRA provides many guarantees, including reemployment rights and continuation of benefits, such as health insurance and pension plans.  Id.  These guarantees, however, only apply to service members who must be absent from their civilian job when they are placed on federal active duty—USERRA does not extend to protect service members on state active duty.  H. Craig Manson, The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, 47 A.F. L. Rev. 55, 86 (1999).    (more…)

Issues to Watch

Collegiate Athletes: Students, Staff, or Somewhere in the Middle?

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Collegiate Athletes: Students, Staff, or Somewhere in the Middle?

Drew Chlan*

Are American college athletes, students, employees, or a combination of the two? The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the governing body of American collegiate athletic teams, strongly emphasizes a student-athlete remaining an amateur.  See NCAA, 2009-10 NCAA Division I Manual (2009),  The NCAA states in its bylaws that a student-athlete is:

[N]ot eligible for participation in a sport if after full-time collegiate enrollment [the student has] ever:

  1. Taken pay, or the promise of pay, for competing in that sport;
  2. Agreed (orally or in writing) to compete in professional athletics in that sport;
  3. Competed on any professional athletics team (as defined by the NCAA) in that sport; or
  4. Used your athletics skill for pay in any form in that sport. (Prior to collegiate enrollment, an individual may accept prize money based only on his or her place finish or performance from the sponsor of an open athletics event, the United States Olympic Committee or the appropriate national governing body and actual and necessary expenses associated with the individual’s practice and competition on a professional team.)

Id. § l2.1.3., .5.  While the NCAA’s adherence to an amateur student-athlete model may be based on altruistic notions of uncompensated, academically successful athletes remaining a part of a college’s diverse fabric, a change in status from student-athletes to employees would require the financial reconstruction of collegiate athletics and collegiate budgets.  See, e.g., Karl Borden, College Football Players Deserve a Share of the Spoils, Wall St. J. (Jan. 23, 2014), (proposing that colleges contribute 25% of gross football revenues to a trust fund authorized to make post-eligibility payments to players); Joe Nocera, Let’s Start Paying College Athletes, N.Y. Times (Dec. 30, 2011), (proposing minimum salaries of $25,000/year for players).  As the NCAA and its respective conferences continue to receive record-shattering amounts of revenue each year, the concept of amateur student-athletes has routinely been criticized. (more…)

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6,000 Federal Prisoners Released, But Where Did They Go?

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6,000 Federal Prisoners Released, But Where Did They Go?

Lelia Parker*

The United States’ prisoner population is 20% of the world’s prison population, making the United States the “world’s largest jailer”—but this is nothing to boast about.  The Prison Crisis, ACLU, (last visited Feb. 21, 2016).  The War on Drugs, the longest war in American history, has significantly contributed to the nation’s rising incarceration rate over the past 30 years.  A Brief History of the Drug War, Drug Pol’y Alliance, (last visited Feb. 21, 2016).  The federal prison system’s budget is $9 billion of the Department of Justice’s $27 billion budget.  Sara Horwitz, Justice Department Set to Free 6,000 Prisoners, Largest One-Time Release, Wash. Post (Oct. 6, 2015),  However, the burgeoning prison population and its outrageous costs have led administrative agencies and legislators to implement efforts to reduce the federal prison population.  (more…)

Issues to Watch

But First, Let Me Take a Selfie…

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But First, Let Me Take a Selfie: Milwaukee Attorney Snaps Selfie with Client After Jury Verdict Comes Back Not Guilty, Raising Concerns about Professionalism within this Generation and Whether the Government Can Regulate When One Can Take a Selfie

Shannon Clancy*

On September 18, 2015, Brandon Burnside, a Milwaukee citizen convicted of first-degree intentional homicide, was acquitted. Bruce Vielmetti, Attorney Flagged for Facebook Selfie with Client After Winning Murder Acquittal, J. Sentinel (Sept. 28, 2015),  Burnside was originally serving a life sentence, but was granted a new trial after winning his appeal last year. Id. When the decision came out, Burnside and his attorney rejoiced—and what better way to celebrate in our media-obsessed society than with a selfie.[1] Id. Cotton snapped a photo of himself with his client to post on his Facebook page, including the caption: “Not guilty.  First-degree intentional homicide.” Id. (more…)