TIME

Legal Scholars: Obama’s Immigration Actions Lawful

Backing the President's Move

President Barack Obama’s announced immigration executive actions are lawful, a group of ten prominent legal scholars wrote in a joint letter shared by the White House with TIME.

Pushing back on Republicans who have blasted Obama’s action as unconstitutional and unlawful, the signatories include Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe, conservative legal scholar Eric Posner, and former Yale Law School Dean and former State Department Legal Advisor Harold Hongju Koh.

“While we differ among ourselves on many issues relating to Presidential power and immigration policy, we are all of the view that these actions are lawful,” the professors wrote. “They are exercises of prosecutorial discretion that are consistent with governing law and with the policies that Congress has expressed in the statutes that it has enacted.”

The letter reinforces a Justice Department opinion that the president’s actions were lawful. The same memorandum noted that the Office of Legal Counsel believed that extending prosecutorial discretion to prevent deportations of the parents of those granted deferred action in 2012 would not be lawful, providing Obama cover from criticism from advocates who wanted the president to do more.

The full letter is below:

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: November 7

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Reimagining a Pentagon for the future in pictures: Group personnel by skills, streamline leadership, dump outdated regional commands.

By Shawn Brimley and Paul Scharre with Valerio Pellegrini in Foreign Policy

2. Innovators should cater new wearable tech to those who need it most: older and chronically ill people.

By J.C. Herz in Wired

3. Add kids football to the list of cultural dividers in America.

By David Leonhardt in the Upshot

4. “We live in a world of evolutionary state disorder.” We must upgrade our global institutions or risk a future with no rules.

By Mark Malloch Brown at Project Syndicate

5. In resisting the law of supply and demand, law schools are saddling students with debt and aggravating income inequality.

By Jeffrey Toobin in the New Yorker

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Burma

Top Legal Academics Want Burmese Generals Indicted for War Crimes

Guards of honour salute during an event marking the anniversary of Martyrs' Day at the Martyrs Mausoleum in Yangon
Burmese soldiers salute during an event marking the anniversary of Martyrs' Day at the Martyrs' Mausoleum in Rangoon on July 19, 2014 Soe Zeya Tun—Reuters

The abuses are described as "too grave to be ignored"

Leading generals in Burma’s powerful military should be charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, according to researchers who claim to have accumulated enough evidence to mount a successful prosecution under international law.

A four-year investigation by the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School focused on an offensive in the eastern part of Burma, also known as Myanmar, in 2005 and 2006. The study documented soldiers firing mortars at villages, slaughtering fleeing villagers, destroying homes and food, laying land mines indiscriminately and forcing civilians to work without pay.

On Friday, a legal memorandum, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity in Eastern Myanmar, was released that implicates three commanders in international crimes as defined by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

“These are serious allegations that demand a determined, good faith response by the Myanmar government and military,” said Tyler Giannini, co-director of the clinic. “The abuses perpetrated by the military have been too widespread, too persistent, and too grave to be ignored.”

Burma has been transitioning from military dictatorship to civilian government since 2011; however, many former junta figures remain key players in the new quasi-democratic administration headed by President Thein Sein.

Asked about the war-crimes report, a government spokesman told the New York Times, “Both the Tatmadaw [Burmese military] and ethnic armed groups might have violated human rights.”

Read next: Aung San Suu Kyi’s Silence on Burma’s Human-Rights Abuses Is Appalling.

TIME Law

Slim Majority of Americans Support Marijuana Legalization

marijuana plant
Alessandro Bianchi—REUTERS

Support is down from last year's Gallup poll

Though the majority of Americans still support the legalization of marijuana, the percentage of the population in support has dropped significantly since last year. The poll comes just days after voters in Oregon and Alaska decided to legalize recreational marijuana in the state and voters in D.C. passed a measure that makes it legal for residents over 21 years of age to possess up to 2 oz. of marijuana. Four states and the District of Columbia have now all legalized recreational use of pot.

Fifty-one percent of Americans support the legalization of pot, according to a new Gallup poll that was conducted from Oct. 12 to 15. That number is down from 2013, when 58% said they were in favor, but similar to the numbers from 2011 and 2012 when 50% of the population supported legalizing marijuana.

While 73% of liberals and 58% of moderates supported legalization, only 31% of conservatives did.

Gallup suggests that the drop in enthusiasm for legalization of marijuana may come from recent news items about the risk that marijuana-infused edibles pose to children. They also say that momentum had built behind legalization around the time of last year’s poll as Colorado prepared to put its new laws into effect, but no such momentum has built this year.

 

TIME Law

Gay-Marriage Ruling Means High Court Review Likely

US-JUSTICE-GAY-MARRIAGE
Same-sex marriage supporters wave a rainbow flag in front of the US Supreme Court on March 26, 2013 in Washington. Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images

(CINCINNATI) — A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld anti-gay marriage laws in four states, breaking ranks with other courts that have considered the issue and setting up the prospect of Supreme Court review.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel that heard arguments on gay marriage bans or restrictions in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee on Aug. 6 split 2-1, with Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton writing the majority opinion. The ruling creates a divide among federal appeals courts, increasing the likelihood the U.S. Supreme Court will now take up the issue.

The ruling concluded that states have the right to set rules for marriage and that such change as expanding a definition of marriage that dates “back to the earliest days of human history” is better done through political processes.

“When the courts do not let the people resolve new social issues like this one, they perpetuate the idea that the heroes in these change events are judges and lawyers,” Sutton wrote, adding that it’s better to have change “in which the people, gay and straight alike, become the heroes of their own stories by meeting each other not as adversaries in a court system but as fellow citizens seeking to resolve a new social issue in a fair-minded way.”

The president of pro-gay marriage group Freedom to Marry, Evan Wolfson, blasted the ruling as “on the wrong side of history.”

He called it “completely out of step with the Supreme Court’s clear signal last month, out of step with the constitutional command as recognized by nearly every state and federal court in the past year, and out of step with the majority of the American people.”

“This anomalous ruling won’t stand the test of time or appeal,” he said in a statement.

In October, the Supreme Court surprisingly turned away appeals from five states seeking to uphold their marriage bans, even with the gay couples who won in the lower courts joining with the states to ask for high court review.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg explained in the weeks following the court’s denial of those appeals that the lack of a split in the appellate courts made Supreme Court review of the issue unnecessary.

Thursday’s ruling out of Cincinnati changes that dynamic, and the big question now is whether an appeal can be ready for the justices in time for consideration this term. Generally, that means the court would have to decide by mid-January whether to hear the case in time for a decision in June. Otherwise, the case would be pushed back to the following term and probably not decided until June 2016.

The ruling followed more than 20 court victories for supporters of same-sex marriage since the Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year. A federal judge in Louisiana recently upheld that state’s ban, but four U.S. appeals courts ruled against state bans.

The issue appears likely to return to the Supreme Court so the nation’s highest court can settle whether states can ban gay marriage or gay and lesbian couples have a fundamental right to marry under the U.S. Constitution. Thirty-two states recently asked the Supreme Court to settle the issue once and for all.

When the high court on Oct. 6 unexpectedly turned away appeals from five states seeking to prohibit gay and lesbian unions, its order effectively made gay marriage legal in 30 states. The San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals the next day overturned same-sex marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada, the fourth federal appeals court to rule against state bans.

Ginsburg told a Minnesota audience the 6th Circuit’s then-pending ruling would likely influence the high court’s timing, adding “some urgency” if it allowed same-sex marriage bans to stand.

Before the 9th’s Oct. 7 ruling, three other appellate courts, the 10th Circuit in Denver, the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Virginia, and the 7th Circuit in Chicago, overturned statewide gay marriage bans in Wisconsin, Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia over the summer, ruling that they were unconstitutional.

During the Aug. 6 arguments, it was apparent that Sutton would be the deciding vote, with the two other judges clearly on opposite sides of the debate.

Sutton vigorously questioned each side’s attorneys, though he repeatedly expressed deep skepticism that the courts were the best place to legalize gay marriage, saying that the way to win Americans’ hearts and minds is to wait until they’re ready to vote for it.

“I would have thought the best way to get respect and dignity is through the democratic process,” Sutton, a George W. Bush nominee, said at the time. “Nothing happens as quickly as we’d like it.”

Michigan’s and Kentucky’s cases stem from rulings striking down each state’s gay marriage bans. Ohio’s two cases deal only with the state’s recognition of out-of-state gay marriages, while Tennessee’s is narrowly focused on the rights of three same-sex couples.

Plaintiffs include a Cincinnati man who wants his late husband listed as married on his death certificate so they can be buried next to each other in a family-only plot and a Tennessee couple who both want to be listed on their newborn daughter’s birth certificate.

TIME poverty

Cops Stopped a 90-Year-Old Man From Feeding Homeless People

Arnold Abbott
Homeless advocate Arnold Abbott, 90, of the nonprofit group Love Thy Neighbor Inc.,right, shakes hands with a Fort Lauderdale police officer, left, Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Abbott and a group of volunteers were feeding the homeless in a public parking lot next to the beach when he was issued a summons to appear in court for violating an ordinance that limits where charitable groups can feed the homeless on public property. Lynne Sladky—AP

They were enforcing a controversial law against outdoor feeding, designed to reduce large public gatherings of homeless

A Florida senior was stopped and issued a citation by police last Sunday for trying to feed homeless people at a Fort Lauderdale park.

Arnold Abbott, 90, runs a group called Love Thy Neighbor and has been providing food to the homeless for over 20 years. He had barely served three or four of the 300 meals he prepared when police officers stopped him, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

The officers were enforcing a new law against public feeding sites, which is aimed at reducing the city’s homeless population.

“I’m not satisfied with having a cycle of homeless in city of Fort Lauderdale,” explained mayor Jack Seiler. “Providing them with a meal and keeping them in that cycle on the street is not productive.”

[Sun-Sentinel]

TIME Crime

$2.5 Million Settlement for Hot Jail Cell Death on Rikers Island

The temperature in Jerome Murdough's cell on New York City's Rikers Island is said to have exceeded 100 degrees when he was found dead in February

The family of a New York City prisoner who died in an overheated jail cell will receive $2.5 million to settle a wrongful-death suit, the city comptroller’s office announced Friday.

“A mother lost a son, the City lost a citizen. It is my hope that this settlement provides some small measure of closure for the family of Mr. Murdough,” said city comptroller Scott M. Stringer in a statement, referring to the deceased inmate.

The Rikers Island prison complex, where Jerome Murdough was found dead this past February in a cell where the temperature exceeded 100 degrees, has been the subject of frequent criticism for the poor treatment of prisoners in recent months. In this particular case, jail officials had received reports of high temperatures but had not fixed acted to solve the problem.

At the time of his death, the 56-year-old prisoner was awaiting trial for trespassing. Murdough, who is said to have suffered from mental illness, was arrested a week prior to his death as he sought shelter from the cold in a public housing building.

“This is a very awful thing I’m going through, and I hope that no one else will have to ever go through anything like this,” said the inmate’s mother Alma Murdough, at a Friday press conference.

TIME justice

Philadelphia Cops Offer Safe Space for Craigslist Exchanges

Man handing woman US dollar banknotes, close-up
PM Images/Getty Images

Residents of the suburb of Conshohocken can swap their used futons for cash in the safe surroundings of their local police station

A police department in the Philadelphia suburb of Conshohocken is offering its lobby and parking lot as a venue to buy and sell items from Craigslist and other online marketplaces. The location is well-lit and has 24-hour surveillance so that you can feel safe exchanging your used futon for money.

“I figured there’s got to be a better place for people who don’t know each other to complete these transactions,”Conshohocken Police officer Steve Vallone said, the AP reports. “Why not allow people to complete their online transactions from here? It seems like the perfect match.”

The offer came shortly after an alleged rapist was charged with killing a local man he met through Craigslist, according to NBC News in Philadelphia.

Similar measures have been taken in Hillsborough County in Florida, where residents can visit four of the police station’s parking lots to engage in cash transactions.

[NBC]

TIME Law

Secret Service Prostitution Investigator Resigned Over Own Scandal

A new report found that David Nieland may have resigned in August after being implicated in an incident also involving prostitution

An investigator who led an internal review of the 2012 Secret Service prostitution scandal resigned in August because he had been implicated in an incident involving prostitution, according to a new report.

Officials said the investigator, David Nieland, was seen entering and leaving a building that was being monitored as part of a prostitution investigation, which was unrelated to the Secret Service scandal, the New York Times reported. When they interviewed the prostitute, she identified Nieland and said he had paid her for sex.

Nieland had cited health problems for his resignation, but officials said he stepped down after refusing to answer questions asked by a Department of Homeland Security official regarding his activities. Nieland denied the reports, stating to the New York Times in an e-mail that, “The allegation is not true.”

A Department of Homeland Security spokesman said an investigation is underway.

[NYT]

TIME Video Games

Judge Dismisses Manuel Noriega’s Call of Duty Lawsuit

(L) Panamanian strongman Manuel Antonio Noriega takes part in a news conference at the Atlapa center in Panama City on Oct. 11,1998.(R) The character Noriega claims was created in his likeness.
Panamanian strongman Manuel Antonio Noriega (left) sues Activision over a portrayal of him in Activision's Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 game (right) Alberto Lowe—Reuters; Activision/AP

The former dictator of Panama sought damages for a character based on him

A California judge Tuesday threw out a lawsuit filed by former dictator Manual Noriega against a video game he claimed depicted him in a bad light.

Manuel Noriega, who ruled Panama for most of the 1980s, sought charges in July against video game publisher Activision, for creating a character based on him without permission in Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Wall Street Journal reported. Noriega said the 2012 shooter game unlawfully depicted him “as a kidnapper, murderer and enemy of the state,” according to court documents.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge William H. Fahey tossed the lawsuit on grounds that Noriega’s likeness was sufficiently “transformative”–meaning that its use was adopted for the sake of commentary or expression. Fahey also argued that the video game did not benefit from Noriega’s inclusion, as the former soldier and convicted drug trafficker had argued.

“The Court concludes that the marketability and economic value of the challenged work in this case comes not from Noriega, but from the creativity, skill and reputation of defendants,” Fahey wrote in court documents.

The dismissal was supported by former NYC major and Activision co-counsel Rudy Giuliani, who called Noriega’s claims “audacious,” as it touches on the issue of the many other video games and works of art that draw from and freely interpret historical or political figures.

“This ruling is an important victory and we thank the court for protecting free speech,” said Rudy Giuliani. “This was an absurd lawsuit from the very beginning and we’re gratified that in the end, a notorious criminal didn’t win. This is not just a win for the makers of Call of Duty, but is a victory for works of art across the entertainment and publishing industries throughout the world.”

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser