Showing posts with label constitutional law. Show all posts
Showing posts with label constitutional law. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Chile reflexiona sobre los derechos digitales en desarrollo de nueva constitución

Foto por jpereira via The Loop (c. 2019; CC no especificada)
[English.] La creación de una nueva constitución está en marcha en Chile, y los derechos digitales podrían figurar de manera importante en un nuevo modelo de derechos civiles.

Los votantes chilenos pidieron una convención constitucional en una votación de 2020. La actual constitución de 1980 fue redactada bajo la dictadura de Pinochet. Entró en vigor con el fin del régimen de Pinochet en 1990 con la transición del país a la democracia, pero su texto original y sus muchas enmiendas nunca han sido verdaderamente un producto de la democracia. En contraste, la presente convención se desarrolla con una asombrosa representación de la diversidad chilena, incluidos los pueblos indígenas, casi sin precedentes en la historia de las democracias occidentales.

Chile tiene un historial de marcar el ritmo legal para América Latina. Chile y Costa Rica fueron inusuales en la experiencia latinoamericana por no haberse convertido en una guerra civil después de la independencia. Esa estabilidad suministró un terreno fértil para el desarrollo legal. Andrés Bello elaboró el código civil del país, siguiendo el modelo francés, en 1857. El código Bello fue muy influyente en el continente y anima el derecho civil latinoamericano todavía hoy en día. Costa Rica se convirtió en un innovador en derechos humanos en el sistema interamericano en el siglo XX.

Una propuesta de línea de base en el proceso chileno exige como mínimo el acceso a internet como un derecho humano. La realización del derecho requeriría el desarrollo de la infraestructura de internet en todo el vasto país, 2,653 millas de norte a sur, abarcando desiertos y montañas. La responsabilidad del gobierno sería sustancial. No se podía dejar que el sector privado desarrollara la infraestructura de internet con los márgenes de ganancia derivados de la densidad de población, una limitación que ha atrofiado la penetración de Internet de alta velocidad en los Estados Unidos.

Pero el acceso a internet es solo un mínimo, y hay muchas otras propuestas sobre la mesa que llevarían los derechos humanos convencionales, como la libertad de expresión y la privacidad, al mundo en línea. Muchos países han reconocido aspectos de los derechos humanos convencionales en el entorno en línea. Incluso en los Estados Unidos, los tribunales han reconocido que las órdenes judiciales civiles y penales que limitan el acceso de una persona a internet pueden contravenir los derechos civiles si no se adaptan estrictamente.

La idea que el acceso a Internet para recibir información, en lugar de hablar, ha sido una propuesta precaria en los derechos humanos, de la misma manera que los regímenes modernos de derechos humanos siempre han luchado con el acceso a la información (ATI). Hace diez años, un informe del Relator Especial de la ONU sobre la libertad de expresión describió acertadamente el acceso a internet como un derecho "habilitador" ("enabler" right). En los últimos años, expliqué esta caracterización del ATI en el marco moderno de los derechos humanos.

Participantes del proceso constitucional chileno, coordinado por Patricio Urriola Aballai, director ejecutivo de la Fundación Abriendo Datos, publicaron en mayo una "Carta Magna Digital" que explora el potencial de los derechos digitales para ser reconocidos como derechos humanos.  HT @ Observacom.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Genetic manipulation will transform humankind; Enríquez book aims to keep law, science in pace

Paul Enríquez, J.D., LL.M., Ph.D. (LinkedIn, SSRN) has published a must-have book for readers interested in the cutting-edge juncture of law and science.  A superb writer, Dr. Enríquez has geared the book for general audiences, while also offering plenty of thought-provoking flesh for lawyers and scientists alike to sink their teeth into.  And that's before science accidentally turns us into zombies.

Here is the précis of Rewriting Nature: The Future of Genome Editing and How to Bridge the Gap Between Law and Science from Cambridge University Press (2021).

History will mark the twenty-first century as the dawn of the age of precise genetic manipulation. Breakthroughs in genome editing are poised to enable humankind to fundamentally transform life on Earth. Those familiar with genome editing understand its potential to revolutionize civilization in ways that surpass the impact of the discovery of electricity and the development of gunpowder, the atomic bomb, or the Internet. Significant questions regarding how society should promote or hinder genome editing loom large in the horizon. And it is up to humans to decide the fate of this powerful technology. Rewriting Nature is a compelling, thought-provoking interdisciplinary exploration of the law, science, and policy of genome editing. The book guides readers through complex legal, scientific, ethical, political, economic, and social issues concerning this emerging technology, and challenges the conventional false dichotomy often associated with science and law, which contributes to a growing divide between both fields.

Besides being a family friend, Dr. Enríquez was, many moons ago, a student in one of my law classes: a rather impertinent fact I mention only to boast.  In truth, the student already had surpassed the mentor.  Nevertheless, he generously asked my feedback on some points of constitutional law for this book.  So I weaseled my way into the acknowledgments, and you can blame me if anything is wrong in the relevant chapter.

Here is the impressive About the Author:

Paul Enríquez, J.D., LL.M., Ph.D., is an intellectual property attorney and scientist who researches and writes at the intersection of law, science, and policy. He holds doctoral degrees in law and structural and molecular biochemistry. His research on law, science, and technology, genome editing, biochemistry, and the regulation of biotechnology, has been published in numerous scientific, legal, and popular-media publications, and has been presented at national and international conferences. He currently serves as a judicial clerk at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Buy yours now in hardback, paperback, or Kindle from Amazon.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Emergency orders survive constitutional scrutiny; Mass. Court cites Korean War, smallpox cases

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ruled Thursday that pandemic emergency orders of the Commonwealth Governor were valid under the Massachusetts Civil Defense Act and public health law, rejecting challenges based in state and federal civil rights, including due process and the freedom of assembly.

Defunct Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co., 2006 (stu_spivack CC BY-SA 2.0)
The Court borrowed doctrine from U.S. constitutional law on separation of powers, Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer (U.S. 1952), a case about President Truman's seizure and operation of steel mills during the Korean War.  The SJC used Youngstown and the concurring opinion of Justice Robert H. Jackson to reason that Governor Charlie Baker acted at the zenith of executive power, because he acted within broad statutory authority.

Official portrait of Justice Jackson,
by John C. Johnsen, Collection of the
Supreme Court of the United States, via Oyez
In Youngstown, Justice Jackson set out a three-part rubric to test the strength of executive power, whether bolstered by congressional authorization, occurring amid legislative silence, or arising in defiance of legislative imprimatur.  Though not without controversy attaching to the communitarian result in the context of government seizure of private enterprise, Justice Jackson's famous test has been committed to memory by law students studying for the bar exam for generations.  Justice Jackson was Attorney General to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, so loyal to the New Deal.  Roosevelt appointed Jackson to the Court in 1941.  While a Supreme Court Justice, Jackson also served as chief U.S. prosecutor in Nuremberg after World War II.

Ruling the pandemic within the scope of "other natural causes" of emergency under the Civil Defense Act (CDA), the Court indicated also that it was not shirking its oversight role:

[W]e emphasize that not all matters that have an impact on the public health will qualify as "other natural causes" under the CDA, even though they may be naturally caused. The distinguishing characteristic of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it has created a situation that cannot be addressed solely at the local level. Only those public health crises that exceed the resources and capacities of local governments and boards of health, and therefore require the coordination and resources available under the CDA, are contemplated for coverage under the CDA. Therefore, although we hold that the COVID-19 pandemic falls within the CDA, we do not hold that all public health emergencies necessarily will fall within the CDA, nor do we hold that when the public health data regarding COVID-19 demonstrates stable improvement, the threshold will not be crossed where it no longer constitutes an emergency under the CDA.

Mass. Gov. Baker (Charlie Baker CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Relative to civil rights, the Court recognized the Governor's argument under Jacobson v. Massachusetts (U.S. 1905).  A federal Supreme Court case that arose in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at the turn of the century before last, Jacobson has been cited widely lately, amid the coronavirus pandemic, because in Jacobson, the Court upheld an ordinance requiring vaccination for smallpox as a valid exercise of state police power.

Critics fairly argue that Jacobson is read too broadly as a constitutional authorization of mandatory vaccination.  Among points of distinction, the upheld ordinance merely subjected an objector to a five-dollar fine—about $150 today, much less than the individual-healthcare-mandate penalty before Congress zeroed it out.  More importantly, Jacobson predates the complex system of multi-tiered constitutional scrutiny that the U.S. Supreme Court devised under the due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments in the 20th century. 

Justice Cypher
The SJC quoted Jacobson's logic in some detail "as an initial matter," but declined to give the Governor carte blanche, instead applying 20th-century due-process scrutiny.  The Court rejected procedural due process arguments because the emergency orders occasioned no individual adjudication, and rejected substantive due process because the generally applicable orders satisfied rational-basis review.  The selection of "essential" businesses was non-arbitrary and did not treat disparately any protected class, such as religious institutions.

Similarly with regard to the freedom of assembly, the Court regarded the emergency orders as valid time, place, and manner restrictions, appropriately narrowly tailored to a significant government interest in intermediate scrutiny, leaving open ample alternative channels of communication.

The case is Desrosiers v. Governor, No. SJC-12983 (Mass. Dec. 10, 2020).  Justice Elspeth B. Cypher authored the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Poland scholars explain turmoil in streets over court decision nearly outlawing abortion; what next?

Protesters take to the streets in Kraków on October 25. (Silar CC BY-SA 4.0)
Social stability in Poland has been increasingly shaky since populist politics has threatened the independence of the judiciary in recent years.  Professor Leah Wortham wrote about the issue and kindly spoke to my Comparative Law class one year ago (before Zoom was cool).

Recently tensions have reached a boiling point.  In October, the nation's constitutional court outlawed nearly all abortions (Guardian).  Protestors have taken to the streets in the largest numbers since the fall of communism, The Guardian reported, confronting riot police and right-wing gangs.

Friend and colleague Elizabeth Zechenter, an attorney, visiting scholar at Emory College, and president of the Jagiellonian Law Society, writes: "Poland is in upheaval, after the Constitutional Tribunal restricted even further one of the most strict anti-abortion laws in Europe.  I and several other Polish women academics have gotten together, and we created a webinar, trying to offer an analysis, legal, cultural, sociological, etc."

The scholars' webinar is available free on YouTube.  Below the inset is information about the program.  Please spread the word.

Women Strikes In Poland: What is Happening, and Why?

Since the fateful decision of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal (Trybunał Konstytucyjny or TK) on October 22, 2020—further restricting one of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in Europe—Poland saw massive, spontaneous demonstrations and civic protests in most cities, small and big, and even villages. Protests have been continuing since the day of TK’s decision and show no signs of abating.

To explain what is happening, we have assembled a panel of academics and lawyers to clarify the current legal situation, to analyze the scope of new anti-abortion restrictions, to explain whether this new law may be challenged under any of the EU laws applicable to Poland, and what might be political implications of doing that, as well as offer a preliminary cultural, linguistic, anthropological, and sociological analysis of the recent events.

Contents

0:00:00-0:03:17 Introduction: Bios of Speakers, Disclaimers

Legal Panel

0:03:17-0:26:00 Elizabeth M. Zechenter, J.D., Ph.D., "October 2020 Abortion Decision by the Constitutional Tribunal: Analysis and Legal Implications"

0:26:00-0:46:00 Agnieszka Kubal, Ph.D., "Human Rights Implication of the Decision by the Polish Constitutional Tribunal from 22 October 2020"

0:46:00-0:59:00 Agnieszka Gaertner, J.D., LLM, "Abortion Under EU Law"

Panel: Culture and Language of Protest

0:59:00-1:31:00 Katarzyna Zechenter, Ph.D., "Uses of Language by the Protesters, the Polish Catholic Church, and the Ruling Political Party 'Law and Justice' (PiS)"

Panel: Sociological and Anthropological

1:31:00-1:49:00 Joanna Regulska, Ph.D., "Struggle for Women's Rights in Poland"

1:49:00-2:12:00 Helena Chmielewska-Szlajfer, Ph.D., "Augmented Reality, Young Adults, and Civic Engagement"

Praise for the Webinar

"Wow! That was, without a doubt, one of the most informative, fascinating, engaging, and powerful webinars I have ever attended."

"All of us in your virtual audience 'voted with our feet' ... i.e., it is generally considered that 90 minutes is an audience's absolute maximum attention span for an online webinar, particularly since everyone these days is simply 'Zoomed-out' (over-Zoomed), in this era of COVID-19. But YOUR audience stayed with you for a marathon 2 hours and 45 minutes (and it felt like a sprint, not a marathon)!"

"A high tribute to you and your sister (not fellow!) panelists."

Disclaimers

The webinar was organized impromptu in response to numerous calls to analyze Poland's ongoing protests. The goal of the webinar was to provide a non-partisan review of the evolving situation and better understand the legal, cultural, and sociological underpinnings of the Constitutional Tribunal’s anti-abortion decision that resulted in such massive country-wide protests.

The opinions expressed in the seminar are those of the speakers alone who are not speaking as representatives of any institution; the main goal has been to advance understanding of the situation.

Given the urgency to offer at least a preliminary analysis (and in light of the continuously evolving situation), most speakers had less than 24 hours to prepare their remarks. We apologize for any imperfections.