TIME California

California Lawmakers Renew Push to Pass Right-to-Die Bill

Luis Alejo
Rich Pedroncelli—AP Luis Alejo,D-Watsonville, at the Capitol in Sacramento on Aug. 28, 2014.

At least two dozen states have introduced aid-in-dying legislation this year, though none has passed a bill

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — California lawmakers announced Tuesday that they are making a new push to allow terminally ill patients to legally end their lives after opposition from religious groups and hesitance from fellow Democrats helped stall efforts earlier this year.

The bill allowing doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs was renewed by legislators in a special session on health care convened by Gov. Jerry Brown. It comes after at least two dozen states have introduced aid-in-dying legislation this year, though none has passed a bill. Doctors already may give life-ending drugs in Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana.

The right-to-die movement has been galvanized by the highly publicized case of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard, a California woman with brain cancer who moved to Oregon to legally take her life. She argued in widely viewed online videos that she should have been able to access life-ending drugs in her home state.

“Californians should have more options available to those suffering constantly other than moving to other states or living in constant pain,” Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, said Tuesday at a press conference.

Religious groups and advocates for people with disabilities opposed a nearly identical California bill this year, saying it goes against the will of God and put terminally ill patients at risk for coerced death. The measure passed the state Senate but stalled in the Assembly.

Opponents said Tuesday that the new bill was a heavy-ended attempt to skirt the legislative process. The governor called the special session to address funding shortfalls for programs providing health insurance to the poor and home health aides, but lawmakers are using it to advance other contentious legislation related to health care.

“It is particularly troubling that in this rush to judgment, proponents are linking this bill with health care financing,” said Tim Rosales, a spokesman for the Californians Against Assisted Suicide that includes groups advocating for Catholics, oncologists and people with disabilities. “That should be truly frightening to those on MediCal (the state health insurance program for the poor) and subsidized health care, who quite logically fear a system where prescribing suicide pills could be elevated to a treatment option.”

Debbie Ziegler, Maynard’s mother, criticized religious groups, including the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, that have been lobbying against the bill.

“What right does anyone of a specific religious faith have to say I should act in accordance with their fate in my death?” she said.

Advocates also have turned to courts, where they faced recent defeats in New Mexico and San Diego, where the judge said the issue should be resolved by state lawmakers.

Elizabeth Wallner, a single mother with Stage 4 colon cancer who filed the San Diego lawsuit, urged lawmakers to allow people like her to have a peaceful death at home.

“I don’t want my son’s last image to be of me struggling and in pain,” she said.

The earlier California bill stalled in the Assembly Health Committee. Sens. Lois Wolk of Davis and Bill Monning of Carmel could not get support from fellow Democrats on the panel who lost parents to cancer and who were uncomfortable with allowing patients to kill themselves.

The new bill would bypass that committee.

The right-to-die advocacy group Compassion and Choices has said it would attempt to qualify a 2016 ballot measure if they lose in the Legislature.

TIME Connecticut

Connecticut’s Highest Court Overturns Death Penalty

11 men on the state's death row would no longer be subject to execution orders

(HARTFORD, Conn.) — Connecticut’s highest court has overturned the death penalty in the state, saying it’s unconstitutional.

Thursday’s ruling could mean that the 11 men on the state’s death row would no longer be subject to execution orders. Those inmates include Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes, who were sentenced to die for killing a mother and her two daughters in a 2007 home invasion in Cheshire.

The state had passed a law in 2012 to repeal the death penalty only for future crimes.

The ruling comes in an appeal from Eduardo Santiago, whose attorneys had argued that any execution carried out after repeal would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Santiago faced the possibility of lethal injection for a 2000 murder-for-hire killing in West Hartford.

TIME justice

California Court Gets One Step Closer to Deciding Uber’s Fate

An Uber ride in Washington on April 8, 2015.
Andrew Harrer—2015 Bloomberg Finance LP An Uber ride in Washington on April 8, 2015.

Lawyers argued over whether 160,000 Uber drivers in California can be treated as one class

For Uber’s lawyers, the case heard before theirs in a San Francisco courtroom on Thursday may have looked like a harbinger of future woes.

California Northern District Judge Edward Chen was going over the details of a $227 million settlement that FedEx, a 44-year-old company with close to the same value as 6-year-old Uber, agreed to pay earlier this summer. That payout should end an argument over whether FedEx misclassified 2,100 drivers as independent contractors in California and thus denied them benefits that employees get like overtime pay, reimbursed expenses and meal breaks. Soon Uber’s lawyers would be before the same judge arguing about the same classification question — with respect to about 75 times that many drivers.

At stake in a suit that could shape the future of the on-demand and sharing economies was the question of whether 160,000 Uber drivers in California can be treated as a single class. Uber’s lawyers argued that they cannot, that there is no such thing as a “typical” Uber driver and that it would make more sense for each driver to bring their own case — an expensive undertaking that most drivers likely wouldn’t pursue.

On the other side was Boston-based lawyer “Sledgehammer Shannon” Liss-Riordan, who spent a long, heated afternoon arguing that three Uber drivers should be able to stand in for all current and former drivers in the state. If Chen sides with her when he rules in the coming weeks, that would make this single suit potentially worth billions and capable of setting a precedent that sends other startups reeling to revamp their business models.

Following in Uber’s tracks, a long string of startups have shaped their business models around treating drivers or couriers or cleaners as independent contractors rather than employees. That’s a much cheaper proposition but it requires that companies give up control. While contractors legally can’t be told when or how to work, they also don’t have to be paid minimum wage or given money for the gas they use on the job. Uber doesn’t have to shell out any payroll taxes for independent contractors or pay them workers’ compensation.

Liss-Riordan, who was given her nickname by American Airlines skycaps after winning them a six-figure settlement in a wage-and-hour case, argue that Uber is really an transportation company using technology to pose as mere software licenser in order to save money and unfairly compete. The company exercises the kinds of control that employers do, she has argued, setting the rates that drivers earn per mile, telling them which models of cars they can drive and kicking them off the platform for getting low ratings.

In the arguments over the diversity of Uber drivers in California, questions arose about what all the drivers want — and whether it matters. Theodore Boutrous presented some 400 declarations from drivers who said they loved being contractors, that they didn’t want their status to change, that they cherished the freedom that their status affords them. If they were employees, “the business model would have to change,” Boutrous warned, “and there would be rigid schedules and this flexibility and this autonomy couldn’t exist.”

Liss-Riordan countered by offering a declaration from her paralegal, who had called about 50 of those drivers to ask if they understood the stakes. “They didn’t realize they could be reimbursed for expenses,” she said. “They didn’t really understand what this was about.” Chen questioned Boutrous’ claim that their flexibility would have to evaporate if they were reclassified, saying those drivers may have been under the impression that things would have to change rather than be within Uber’s discretion to change.

A growing group of startups who began their lives using the contractor model are reverting to more traditional employment, saying that they’re willing to pay the extra costs to have more direct control over their workers and their process. Curtis Lee, CEO of on-demand valet company Luxe, says that they hope that as employees their valets will be more likely to stick around and be more dedicated to the company. They still will not be required to work a minimum or maximum amount of hours as employees, he says, though they will start scheduling them in shifts. Lee also says that he doesn’t think the conversion is right or fair to force on every company. “For Uber, it’s a totally different situation,” he says.

Boutrous spent his day arguing that point, cataloging how some the 160,000 have agreed to 17 different terms of agreement, some of which forbade them from driving for other companies like Lyft while their Uber app is on (which many drivers do). He detailed how some have used Uber to start their own small businesses while others turn on the app just a few hours per week. While some of them do rely on Uber to make a living, others use it for a little extra cash or to make their car payments. “These are real live human beings who vary widely,” he says. “It’s a hornet’s nest.”

The day ended with Chen inviting the lawyers for the two remaining cases on the docket to approach the bench. Like Liss-Riordan, both of them were arguing cases against Uber, involving issues like how the company conducted background checks. Boutrous stood and reintroduced himself as the counsel representing the company in case after case. If Chen rules that the 160,000 drivers can go ahead as a class, that might make Uber more seriously consider settling that suit amidst its own hornet’s nest of legal troubles.

TIME justice

Orange Is the New Black Author Testifies Before Congress

Piper Kerman
Bill Clark—AP Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison, is sworn in before testifying during the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on "Oversight of the Bureau of Prisons: First-Hand Accounts of Challenges Facing the Federal Prison System" on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015.

Piper Kerman spoke about how the prison system can better serve women

Piper Kerman, the author of the book that inspired the hit Netflix show Orange Is the New Black, told a congressional committee Tuesday that the federal prison system should adopt gender-specific policies to better address the challenges women inmates face.

“When I was locked up in Danbury I knew women who were trying to raise their children during brief reunions in the visitors’ room while fending off sexual harassment and struggling with addiction and trying to get a high school education so that when they got out they stood some chance of surviving despite their felony conviction,” she told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Mashable reports.

This is not the first time Kerman, who published Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison in 2010, has testified on Capitol Hill. Since serving 13 months out of a 15-month sentence in a Danbury, Ct., federal prison, she has become an advocate for prison reform.

Kerman also told the committee that the federal prison system disproportionately affects women of color.

“One of the things that was so striking to me the very first day that I spent in prison was that so many of the women that I was incarcerated with who I would spend a great deal of time with were serving much harsher sentences than I was,” Kerman said. “In fact, the only conclusion I could draw was that they had been treated much more harshly by the American criminal justice system…in some cases because of the color of their skin.”

You can watch her full testimony below:

[Mashable]

TIME Crime

Amy Schumer Calls for Action on Gun Control After Trainwreck Shooting

"Unless something is done and done soon, dangerous people will continue to get their hands on guns"

Comedian and actress Amy Schumer joined her cousin, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, on Monday to make an emotional call for more intensive background checks and increased government funding for mental health care to combat mass shootings.

“Unless something is done and done soon, dangerous people will continue to get their hands on guns,” the Trainwreck star said, several days after a gunman—whose name she refused to say—killed two people and injured nine others when he opened fire during a screening of the romantic comedy.

“We need a background check system without holes and fatal flaws,” she said. “We need one with accurate information that protects us like a firewall. The critics scoff and say, ‘Well, there’s no way to stop crazy people from doing crazy things,’ but they’re wrong. There is a way to stop them. Preventing dangerous people from getting guns is very possible. We have common-sense solutions. We can toughen background checks and stop the sale of firearms to folks who have a violent history or history of mental illness.”

The Democratic senator for New York laid out proposals to incentivize states to share information on felons, domestic abusers and dangerously mentally ill, to increase funding for mental illness treatment, and to standardize involuntary commitment for the mentally ill across all 50 states.

 

 

TIME Louisiana

Mom Throws Epic Party for Toddler Obsessed With a Personal Injury Lawyer

He's obsessed with New Orleans' Morris Bart

Most kiddie birthday parties feature superheroes, princesses, the latest children’s movie characters, but when L’erin Dobra threw her two-year-old son Grayson a party, she featured a different sort of character: New Orleans personal injury lawyer Morris Bart.

“He’s always been very drawn to Morris Bart commercials,” she told the Wall Street Journal‘s Law Blog. “He used to watch ABC and color videos, and he used to love those. But now he wants to watch Morris Bart commercials.”

A fixture for his New Orleans-area television spots, Bart’s signature “One Call, That’s All!” tagline is accompanied by soothing background music.

Grayson’s January birthday party featured a cake frosted with a photo of Bart and a cardboard cutout of the personal injury lawyer.

Bart did not come to the party but did send along an autographed photo, key chains bearing his likeness, and a New Orleans Pelicans shirt with his company logo.

“He might be a future lawyer,” Bart told the Law Blog. “That could be a future competitor of mine many years down the road.”

TIME Music

The Long History of the ‘Happy Birthday’ Song—And Its Copyright

Irving Berlin
American Stock Archive—Getty Images circa 1920: Portrait of American composer Irving Berlin (1888-1989)

An ongoing case has drawn attention to the song's ownership. This wouldn't be the first time the tune's fate could be changed by a lawsuit

The strange tale of “Happy Birthday to You” took a new twist this week, when lawyers told the New York Times that they had submitted new evidence in an ongoing case about the song’s copyright. The music publishing company Warner/Chappell has long claimed ownership of the rights to the song, but a filmmaker working on a movie about the song claims to have found proof that the song belongs in the public domain.

Though the lawsuit’s results have yet to be determined, this won’t be the first time the song’s fate has been changed by a lawsuit.

The saga began back in 1893, in Louisville, Ky. Patty Smith Hill was a kindergarten teacher with a musically inclined sister, Mildred. When Mildred wrote a little tune and Patty put some child-friendly words with it—”Good morning, dear children / Good morning to all”—it was loved by the students, who helped it spread to schoolrooms throughout Kentucky and beyond. The verse about birthdays was added after the fact, and it spread even faster.

Years later, after Hill had become a recognized expert in childhood education stationed at Columbia in New York City, a new Irving Berlin musical revue called As Thousands Cheer opened on Broadway. One of the comedy sketches in the show was set at a birthday party for John D. Rockefeller Sr. during which, as the Great Depression continued in the real world, his children gave him Rockefeller Center as a token of their affection. Though the rest of the show featured music by Berlin, that scene relied on the birthday song, without the “Good Morning” verse. As TIME reported in 1934, while the case was still ongoing, the producer of As Thousands Cheer was sued for plagiarism, to the tune of $250 in payment per performance. Though Patty Hill said that she had “long ago resigned herself to the fact that her ditty had become common property of the nation,” those who had paid to use the tune in the past—like Fox, which had used it in Baby Take a Bow, a Shirley Temple film released that same year—didn’t feel so easygoing about it, and neither did Hill’s family.

It was in 1935, after the As Thousands Cheer lawsuit (which was settled), that the Hills officially registered the copyright of the birthday-centric lyrics of the song, in order to avoid future disputes.

But, ironically, it was that very show that helped make the copyright so difficult to enforce: As Thousands Cheer was a hit, and the birthday scene was influential in spreading the ritual of singing the song at every birthday party. As George Washington University law professor Bob Brauneis described on an episode of On the Media about the song, the timing was also appropriate on a world-historical level: the very idea of a regular birthday party wasn’t really widespread before the era during which the Hill sisters wrote the song. The song and the occasion at which to sing it came up together.

In 1988, the Birch Tree Group music publishers sold the copyright to Warner for an estimated $25 million. Back then, TIME reported that it would pass into the public domain in 2010. A law extending copyright terms, however, was passed in the late 1990s, and now the the “Happy Birthday” copyright should hold until no sooner than 2030—unless the current lawsuit changes that.

TIME justice

Bill Cosby To Be Deposed By End of September, Says Attorney

He'll have to testify under oath about a molestation allegation

Bill Cosby will have to testify under oath about an old sexual assault allegation by Sept. 30, according to attorney Gloria Allred, who represents 17 of Cosby’s more than 40 accusers.

Allred said Tuesday that by the end of the week a judge will set an exact date for the comedian to be deposed in the case of Judy Huth, who claims Cosby molested her when she was 15. The statute of limitations has expired for a criminal case in the matter, but a 1990 California law allows allegations of sexual assault on minors to become civil suits years later, USA Today reports.

Now 55, Huth alleges that Cosby “took her hand in his and performed a sex act on himself without her consent” after taking her to the Playboy Mansion. A December 2014 court filing says Huth and a 16-year-old friend she was with told Cosby how old they were.

“We are very pleased that the case is now moving forward whether Mr. Cosby likes it or not,” Allred said in a statement. “Mr. Cosby may be praying for divine intervention to halt his deposition, but he will soon have to give his testimony in Ms. Huth’s case, and we are looking forward to that day.”

Read next: Why the New Case Against Bill Cosby Is Different

 

TIME Law

When Spousal Rape First Became a Crime in the U.S.

A statement by Donald Trump's lawyer has highlighted continued misunderstanding about the concept

Donald Trump lawyer Michael Cohen quickly apologized on Tuesday after he said—in response to an old allegation against Trump—that it’s impossible to rape one’s spouse. Cohen said that he did not actually believe what he had said.

His original statement also happens to be inaccurate—spousal rape is a crime in the U.S. today—but that wasn’t always so.

English common law, the source of much traditional law in the U.S., had long held that it wasn’t legally possible for a man to rape his wife. It was in 1736 that Sir Matthew Hale—the same jurist who said that it was hard to prove a rape accusation from a woman whose personal life wasn’t entirely “innocent,” setting the standard that a woman’s past sexual experiences could be used by the defense in a rape case—explained that marriage constituted permanent consent that could not be retracted.

That idea stood for centuries. Then, in 1979, a pair of cases highlighted changing legal attitudes about the concept.

Until then, most state criminal codes had rape definitions that explicitly excluded spouses. (In fact, as TIME later pointed out, it wasn’t just the case that saying “no” to one’s husband didn’t make the act that followed rape; in addition, saying “no” to one’s husband was usually grounds for him to get a divorce.) As the year opened, a man in Salem, Ore., was found not guilty of raping his wife, though they both stated that they had fought before having sex. But, even as the verdict was returned, a National Organization for Women spokesperson told TIME that “the very fact that there has been such a case” meant that change was in the air—and she was quickly proved right.

The case believed to be the first-ever American conviction for spousal rape came that fall, when a Salem, Mass., bartender drunkenly burst into the home he used to share with his estranged wife and raped her. It’s not hard to see how this case was the one that made the possibility of rape between a married couple clear to the public: they were in the middle of a divorce, and the crime involved house invasion and violence. As TIME noted, several other states had also adopted laws making it possible to pursue such a case, though they had not yet been put to the test.

By 1983, when TIME devoted an issue to “private violence,” 17 states had gotten rid of the rules that made spousal rape impossible to prosecute. In 1991, as part of another cover-story package about rape, the question came up again, revealing another change in attitudes that had yet to occur: A governmental committee the previous year had estimated that about 15% of married women would experience marital rape, and yet few of those rapes would be reported. Though the oft-cited joke about spousal rape—”But if you can’t rape your wife, who can you rape?”—no longer described mainstream opinion, an activist told TIME that many people still thought that marital rape was not real abuse but rather “she has a headache and doesn’t want to have sex and she gives in.”

And yet, when incidents were pursued, the charges tended to stick: the vast majority of cases brought in the first years after 1979 led to a conviction.

Today, spousal rape is illegal throughout the U.S.

TIME faith

The Evolution of Modern Satanism in the United States

Occult Cover
Cover Credit: JACK AND BETTY CHEETHAM The June 19, 1972, cover of TIME

The unveiling of a statue in Detroit has garnered fresh headlines for Satanism

This weekend, hundreds of adherents and observers flocked to a Detroit warehouse to witness the unveiling of a statue erected on behalf of the Satanic Temple. As organizer Jex Blackmore told TIME, the Satanic Temple isn’t quite a religious organization, but rather a group of people who prioritize human logic. One of the meanings of the monument, Blackmore added, is to celebrate “a reconciliation of opposites”—particularly in relation to the public display of monuments of other faiths.

But, though the new statue has earned the Satanic Temple a fresh round of attention, Satanism has a long tradition.

In the early 1970s, interest in the occult in American culture was so high that TIME devoted a cover story to the topic, and a large portion of it was focused on Satanism. As the story pointed out, the idea of “the Devil” is an ancient one, predating the Old Testament’s coinage of Satan. The early days of Christianity saw the development of a theology about Satan, and an increase of his agency and power in religious stories. Narratives outside the biblical canon expanded that characterization; by the 13th century, Satan was seen to be mighty (and popular) enough to be worthy of condemnation.

“Some of the confessions [in the Inquisition age] must have been sheer defiance: faced with a ruling establishment that was sanctified by the church, a resentful peasantry followed the only image of rebellion they knew—Satan,” TIME posited. “The satanic messiah became especially appealing in times of despair, such as the era of the plague known as the Black Death. Real or imagined, the pact with the Devil may have been the last bad hope for safety in a world fallen out of joint.”

Perhaps for that reason, the Christian Church’s efforts to root out Satanism were not entirely successful. The French aristocracy under Louis XIV was titillated by tales of nude demonic ritual, and the prim and proper Victorian period saw a spike in interest too.

But the existence of Satanists as an organized, public group in the United States is a much newer phenomenon, much of which can be largely traced to one man: Anton Szandor La Vey, author of 1969’s The Satanic Bible. La Vey founded the Church of Satan in 1966 in San Francisco. As TIME explained in 1972, La Vey’s organization was not the scary Satanism of religious imagination:

La Vey’s church and its branches might well be called the “unitarian” wing of the occult. The members invest themselves with some of the most flamboyant trappings of occultism, but magic for them is mostly psychodrama —or plain old carnival hokum. They invoke Satan not as a supernatural being, but as a symbol of man’s self-gratifying ego, which is what they really worship. They look down on those who actually believe in the supernatural, evil or otherwise.

La Vey’s church is organized, incorporated and protected under the laws of California. La Vey, 42, stopped giving out membership figures when his followers, who are grouped in local “grottoes,” reached a total of 10,000. The most striking thing about the members of the Church of Satan (one of whom is shown on TIME’S cover) is that instead of being exotic, they are almost banal in their normality. Their most insidious contribution to evil is their resolute commitment to man’s animal nature, stripped of any spiritual dimension or thought of self-sacrifice. There is no reach, in Browning’s famous terms —only grasp. Under the guise of eschewing hypocrisy, they actively pursue the materialistic values of the affluent society—without any twinge of conscience to suggest there might be something more.

Though the 1960s and ’70s saw the introduction of several other concepts called Satanism—from actual religious belief, to a credo used to justify criminality—the Church of Satan did not fade away. In 1978, the U.S. Army even included the group in the manual of “Religious Requirements and Practices” delivered to its hundreds of chaplains. (TIME mentioned that the manual explained that Church of Satan devotees might need “candles, a bell, a chalice, elixir, a sword, a gong, parchment and ‘a model phallus,'” but that chaplains would not be expected to supply those materials.) Though La Vey died in 1997, the organization he founded continues without him.

The brand of Satanism on display in Detroit was of a different sort: political Satanism, a more recent innovation. Those activists are associated with the Satanic Temple, a New York-based group that has spent the last few years publicly offering alternatives to more mainstream displays of religiosity. The Satanic Temple sees Satan as a Paradise Lost-inflected metaphor who represents skepticism and the ability to challenge authority. A spokesperson for the Church of Satan told TIME in 2013, for a story highlighting the differences between the two groups, that the newer organization was focused on “politically oriented stunts” that had “cribbed” their philosophy from the more established group. Meanwhile, the Satanic Temple said that its aim was, in cases where religion had been inserted into the public sphere, “to ensure that its view of the world is included.” If the Detroit attendance figures are any indication, they’ve succeeded.

The continued existence of two organizations that claim Satanism for two different functions highlights a point made by John M. Kincaid, the Church of Satan’s minister of information in the mid-1970s: though it may take a variety of forms, interest in mystery and rebellion is timeless. “The need to believe,” he wrote to TIME in 1974, “is as dominant a factor in this so-called enlightened age of ours as it has ever been”—which means those who are skeptical are present and accounted for too.

Read the full story from 1972, here in the TIME Vault: A Substitute Religion

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