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9th Circuit gives HUD's drug-eviction policy the boot

January 25, 2001
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday struck down federal regulations allowing local housing authorities to evict tenants whose friends and family engage in drug activity, even if the tenants know nothing of the crime.
      A seven-judge majority on the sharply divided en banc panel ridiculed the one-strike-and-you're-out policy as "odd" and "absurd" in holding that 1988 congressional reforms aimed at making public housing safer for law-abiding tenants could not be interpreted to effect the eviction of so-called "innocent tenants."
      "Innocent [public housing] tenants live barricaded behind doors, in fear for their safety and the safety of their children," wrote Judge Michael Daly Hawkins. "What these tenants may not realize is that, under existing policies of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, they should add another fear to their list: becoming homeless if a household member or guest engages in criminal drug activity on or off the tenant's property, even if the tenant did not know of or have any reason to know of such activity."

Campaign insiders: Gore avoided ties with blacks

December 19, 2000
Al Gore received a record turnout of black voters, but Goreinsiders say the vice president went out of his way to avoid seeming too close to this key constituency.
     Gore returns Tuesday from a short vacation in the Virgin Islands justin time to face a chorus of carping (How did he blow it? Could he really be moresuccessful in 2004?). But while he was off making sand castles, the vanquished veep should at least have been expected totake a little comfort -- and hope -- from African-Americans, a key Democratic constituency that turned out to vote for him inrecord numbers. 
     And yet. Insiders say the Gore campaign's handling of theblack community during the campaign -- and especially during the post-election period -- caused a series of slights, fights andfeelings of betrayal. While his campaign poured millions over the last year intotrying to appeal to swing voters, some of Gore's ground troops, backed up by furious black lawmakers,complained for months that the campaign was ignoring black voters. Money and time were finallyinvested, but late, not until weeks before Election Day. 

Undercover work in jeopardy in Oregon

October 09, 2000
In November 1997, an undercover DEA agentmet a drug dealer in a room at the Heathman Hotel, exchanging $70,000 for 1.5 pounds of highly refined white heroin. 
     Operation White Horse was a success because it stopped anemerging drug pipeline, federal agents said. But today, such a meeting could violate federal and Oregon law. 
     An attempt by Congress to prevent unethical conduct by federalprosecutors and a recent Oregon Supreme Court disciplinary decision have collided, unintentionally curtailingpolice undercover operations in Oregon and leaving prosecutors scrambling for a fix. 
      Last year, Congress passed the Citizen Protection Act,which, among other things, requires federal prosecutors to abide by attorney ethics rules for any state in which theypractice. 
     In August, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that Salem attorneyDaniel J. Gatti violated the Oregon State Bar's ethics rules when he posed as a doctor in two phone callsto a company he was preparing to sue. The justices said no Oregon lawyers, prosecutors included, couldengage in, encourage or sanction deceptive practices by police or other investigators. 
     Hence the problem for law enforcement. In conducting undercoveroperations of all kinds, police regularly lie.
     In cases ranging from corporate pollution to organized crime, fairhousing investigations to drug stings, police use insiders and informants to covertly gather information that'sused as evidence in court. They regularly go undercover, posing as criminals to expose lawbreakers andto root out corruption and conspiracies. And most do it with the advice ofprosecutors, who are lawyers covered by attorney ethics rules. 

Gays not protected under Title VII, court rules

August 29, 2000
Despite a 1998 landmark Supreme Courtdecision making same sex discrimination in the workplace unlawful, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals warns that homosexuals are not a "protected class" under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and generally cannot sue their employer for discrimination based solely on their "sexualorientation." Hamner v. St. Vincent Hospital and Health Care Center Inc., No. 99-3086.
      "There is a difference between one's sex and one's sexuality" under federal law, reminded Judge Daniel A. Manion in writing the August 24 opinion for the unanimous three-judge panel. In enacting Title VII, he wrote, "Congress intended the term 'sex' to mean 'biological male or biological female,' and not one's ...sexual orientation."

Actions promote US hate crimes law

August 25, 2000
A series of "United Against Hate" rallies are underway to urge the U.S. House of Representatives to vote on the Hate Crimes Prevention Act(HCPA), which would add sexual orientation, gender and disability as protected categories under existing federal law and greatly expand the cases in which federal investigators and prosecutors could act.
      In June, the Senate passed the measure for a second time as part of a larger appropriations bill, only to have its amendment dropped in conference committee. Supporters of HCPA are convinced that if the House Republican leadership would allow the measure to come to the floor before the current legislative session ends, it would pass.
      While President Bill Clinton (D) has repeatedly called for enactment, Republican Presidential candidate, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, does not believe that bias-motivated crimes should be treated differently from other crimes.

Court to review HUD's drug eviction policy

August 18, 2000
A federal appeals court will reconsider its approval of the government's policy of evicting public housing tenants for drug use by any household member.
      The Department of Housing and Urban Development's so-called one-strike policy, in effect since 1991, applies to more than 3 million low-income tenants nationwide. It allows, but does not require, local housing authorities to evict families if a household member or guest isinvolved in illegal drug activity, on or off the premises and with or without the tenant's knowledge.
      A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 inFebruary to uphold the Oakland Housing Authority's power to evict four elderly tenants under the federal policy. But the full court announced Friday that a majority of its 24 participating judges had voted to withdraw the panel ruling and order a new hearing before an 11-judge panel.
      The hearing, not yet scheduled, will determine the legality of the policy in California and eight other Western states in the nation's largest federal appellate circuit.

Landlord religion case premature, appeals court says

August 04, 2000
The federal appeals court for the West dismissed a challenge Friday by religious landlords to laws banning housing discrimination against unmarried couples. 
     The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not decide whether the state and local laws in Alaska violated the rights of rental property owners with religious objections to non-marital sex, ruling instead that the suit was premature because the landlords faced no imminent threat of enforcement. 

Senator: Hate crimes bill sends message

June 19, 2000
On June 7, 1998, James Byrd Jr. was dragged to death along a dusty Texas road. On October 12, 1998, Matthew Shepard was beaten and left to die on a lonely Wyoming fence. They were murdered not for their property, but for who they were--one black, the other gay.
     Their brutal murders shocked the nation and spurred a national debate over what can be done to prevent further hate crimes and to ensure that perpetrators of such crimes are brought to justice.
     The Senate soon will consider the Hate Crimes prevention Act of 2000.  This act would authorize federal law enforcement officers to aid and assist state and local police in the pursuit and prosecution of hate crimes--even if state lines have not been crossed. 
     The act is controversial. Some believe that all crime is hateful, and that by providing federal resources for hate crimes we would be telling the victims of crimes committed for other motives that they are not as important. I believe, however, that hate crimes are different. While perpetrated upon an individual, the violence is directed at a community. 

Vt. couples will end same-sex marriage suit

May 10, 2000
The couples whose landmark lawsuit spurred Vermont's creation of "civil unions" -- registered partnerships for gay and lesbian couples carrying all the state-level benefits and responsibilities of legal marriage -- will not continue to press their suit
seeking inclusion of same-gender couples in the marriage statutes. In a joint statement May 9, the three plaintiff couples and their attorneys declared their intention to terminate the "Baker v. State" lawsuit once civil unions go into effect on July 1. 
     The Vermont Supreme Court found in December that the Equal Benefits clause of the state constitution required making the benefits of marriage accessible to same-gender couples. The court ordered the state legislature to achieve that either by extending the marriage statutes to include gays and lesbians or by creating a parallel structure, while retaining jurisdiction to ensure that the legislature's action met its standards. The legislature created and enacted civil unions, in a bill signed into law by Governor Howard Dean (D) last month. 


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