New York Law School

Archive for 2011

The Target of the New York City Police Department’s Stop and Frisk Program: Crime or Race?

The New York City Police Department (NYPD) engages in a tactic known as Stop, Question, and Frisk. The NYPD uses this tactic allowing a police officer to stop an individual based on “reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity. The NYPD uses the tactic throughout the city alleging that it helps prevent crimes, make arrests, and solve future crimes. The NYPD has dramatically increased enforcement of the program in recent years. The number of stop and frisks grew from 97,000 in 2002 to 601,055 in 2010. While enforcement of the tactic has dramatically increased, the percentage of arrests or summonses resulting from a stop has consistently hovered around ten percent.

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Congressional Hypocrisy on Extremism

On March 11, 2011, the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee and Republican congressman from New York, Peter T. King, began a hearing on the “radicalization” of American Muslims. Titled “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response,” the hearing was the twenty-third on such a topic, following a long line of similar hearings held by both Republicans and Democrats during the past five years. Why stop at having hearings about Islamic extremism? Why not have hearings about other forms of extremism?

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The Impact of Foreclosure on Racial Minorities

In recent months, there has been a drastic increase in the number of foreclosures in America. This increase in foreclosures is a result of a combination of many factors: the housing market, banks, mortgages, secondary mortgage market, unemployment rates, and the weak economy overall. Foreclosure can have drastic impacts on any family, but recent studies have shown that the effects may have a heavier impact on racial minorities than other groups.

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Racial Resentment and Healthcare Reform

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the healthcare reform law passed by Congress in the spring of 2010, includes a number of health-related provisions which are to take effect over the four years after the law was passed. The health-related provisions of PPACA include requirements that insurers offer the same premium to all applicants of the same age, sex, and geographical location, regardless of any pre-existing conditions; expanding Medicaid access to individuals and families with incomes up to 133% of the poverty level; and offering a marketplace where individuals and small businesses can compare policies and premiums and buy insurance, with a government subsidy if eligible. Each of these provisions was vigorously debated both in Congress and by the public, and President Obama was forced to make a number of changes to his original proposal before getting this bill passed.

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Disparities in Public School Funding in New York State: Checking in on Progress since the Campaign for Fiscal Equity Litigation

Disparities in public school funding between schools that teach mostly Black and Latino students and schools that teach mostly white students is institutionalized racism at its core, and is illegal when funding disparities cause students to be denied a “sound, basic education.” This issue is not new to the Courts. Most notably, in the 2006 Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State of New York (“CFE”) ruling, the New York Court of Appeals declared that New York State’s method for funding schools not only violated the state’s Constitution, but directly harmed children of color, thus violating federal civil rights laws. More recently, in Hussein v. State of New York, a four-member Panel of the Appellate Division, Third Department, unanimously denied the State’s motion to dismiss Hussein’s complaint, allowing a group of parents with children in low-income school districts to proceed with their lawsuit that seeks more education funding from the State. While these court decisions are a step in the right direction for bridging the achievement gap between students of color and their often wealthier white counterparts, recent New York State budget cuts have left low-income schools that serve children of color in similar unequal conditions as they were in pre-CFE litigation.

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Vertical Patrols: The Illegal Expansion of Search and Seizures Targeted at Minority Communities of New York City Housing Authority

The New York Police Department (“NYPD”) implements vertical patrols and trespass arrests (“vertical patrols”) as tools to encourage public safety. A legal vertical patrol is when the police sweep a building from the rooftop to the floor level, noting any safety hazards, and securing the premises against any possible illegal acts when they have an articulable suspicion to do so. In Davis v. City of New York, plaintiffs filed a complaint against the City of New York and the New York City Housing Authority (“NYCHA”), alleging that the NYPD had enforced and conducted illegal vertical patrols that produced a pattern of illegal stops, seizures, and arrests. These vertical patrols violated plaintiffs’ constitutional rights under the 4th and 14th Amendments of the United States Constitution, the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968, the Fair Housing Act, the United Housing Act, and the laws of New York City and New York State law. Here, I focus on New York’s Constitution, Article I, Section 12, the right against illegal search and seizures. The NYPD has overstepped the legality of vertical patrols when they target individuals, often minorities, on NYCHA premises, and arrest them for criminal trespass. The NYPD makes arrests when the minority individuals cannot provide proof of being a NYCHA resident or proof of them visiting a NYCHA resident, such as providing the legal name or exact address of their friend. These vertical patrols violate the rights of NYCHA residents and interfere with their comfort and enjoyment of their homes.

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Federal Appeals Court Upholds University of Texas Race-Conscious Admissions Policy

On January 18, 2011, with Fisher v. Texas, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals restated the constitutionality of the University of Texas’s use of race in its undergraduate admissions process. The decision, written by Judge Patrick E. Higginbotham, marks a stop for the first federal court challenge to Grutter v. Bollinger—the landmark 2003 Supreme Court decision. 539 U.S. 306 (2003). In Fisher v. Texas, the Fifth Circuit adhered to the pronouncements of Grutter. The court found that serious, “good-faith consideration” supported UT’s decision to reintroduce a race-conscious admissions policy, even as it layers atop of Texas’s Top Ten Percent Law—a law, enacted in 1997, that guarantees Texas students graduating in the top ten percent of their high school class automatic admission to all state-funded universities. In ultimate, the Fifth Circuit stated that diversity was, and still is, a compelling interest. Read more

Celebrity, Race, and Crime: Locked Up while Beautiful, Dirty Rich

“Cook, coke, cash.” In the song Digital Girl Kanye West alliterates this summation of celebrity life. Though certainly made of other substance(s), the world of celebrity largely remains a distant one, a daydream one. Celebrity is an untouchable life despite the guilty (and yet still reverent) fascination with which we reach for celebrity magazines, click on gossip sites, or eagerly scour the critical annals of the internet for ‘insider’ information on the lives of our most beloved—and often hated—stars.

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Creating New Courts: The System Intended to Stop Truancy

In the past decade truancy has become a hot topic. From President Bush’s 2001 “No Child Left Behind” program to the increasing number of states enacting truancy programs, our country has increasingly shifted its sights towards youth education. Education has been shown again and again to be vital to American life. Statistics such as the fact that over 88% of all adult prison inmates in Georgia are high-school dropouts, or a study which shows that simply atteding school while in jail reduces the likelihood of reincarceration by 29% provide ample evidence in support of the nation’s push to keep its kids in school.

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