WBEZ | law http://www.wbez.org/tags/law Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Illinois' red light on Sunday car sales http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/illinois-red-light-sunday-car-sales-110136 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/148403096&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Judging by how many transportation-related <a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/questions/archive" target="_blank">questions Curious City receives</a>, we denizens of the Chicago region are obsessed with getting around and will ask about any <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/question-answered-why-ban-pickups-lake-shore-drive-where-can-they-park-104631" target="_blank">stumbling blocks</a> &mdash; legal or otherwise &mdash; that threaten to get in our way.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/illinois-red-light-sunday-car-sales-110136#julischatz">Juli Schatz</a> of South Elgin is just one fan who&rsquo;s stepped forward with a puzzler related to mobility. Here&rsquo;s the gist of what she wants to know: &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>When did the state of Illinois begin its ban on Sunday car sales, and why?</em></p><p>The short answer? Turns out, auto dealers in Illinois have kept their doors closed on Sundays for more than three decades &mdash; from a law passed in 1982, to be specific. The state legislature sided with a group of dealers who argued that having a mandatory day off allowed employees to be with their families and practice their faith, without worrying that their competitors were open and could steal a sale.</p><p>Here&rsquo;s an excerpt of the <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=062500050K5-106" target="_blank">law </a>Illinois still follows today:</p><blockquote><p><em><span style="font-size:12px;">(625 ILCS 5/5-106) (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 5-106)</span></em></p><p><em><span style="font-size:12px;">Sec. 5-106. No person may keep open, operate, or assist in keeping open or operating any established or additional place of business for the purpose of buying, selling, bartering, exchanging, or leasing for a period of 1 year or more, or offering for sale, barter, exchange, or lease for a period of 1 year or more, any motor vehicle, whether new or used, on the first day of the week, commonly called Sunday; ...</span></em></p></blockquote><p>But this story about Sunday car sales goes back even further than the 1980s; Illinois has had this debate since the 1950s, with similar arguments for and against being deployed each time &mdash; including the issue&rsquo;s resurrection today.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Chapter 1: Prairie State car law, in the shade of blue</span></p><p>The state&rsquo;s Sunday auto sales ban is one of many state-level blue laws, which &mdash; as a category &mdash; prohibit certain secular activities on Sundays. It&#39;s a bent the Prairie State apparently shares with several neighbors: Iowa, Indiana, and Missouri also prohibit selling motor vehicles on Sundays. Wisconsin prohibits a dealer from selling on Sundays, unless the operator holds that the Sabbath occurs between sunset Friday and sunset Saturday.</p><p>Illinois&#39; own ban first made its way through the legislature in 1951. Dealers wanted to allow a day off, but any single dealership couldn&rsquo;t close its doors while competitors stayed open. Legislators agreed to a mandatory day off and passed a bill to make it happen, but the story got complicated as soon as the bill hit Governor Adlai Stevenson&rsquo;s desk.</p><p>Stevenson&rsquo;s Attorney General, Ivan A. Elliott, encouraged the governor to veto the bill, saying it likely violated the Illinois Constitution &ldquo;as an interference with the right of an individual to pursue any trade or occupation which is not injurious to the public or a menace to the safety or welfare of society.&rdquo;</p><p>Stevenson heeded the AG&rsquo;s word, and vetoed Senate Bill 504.</p><p>&ldquo;If such a restriction on Sunday trade is sound for automobiles, why should it not be extended to newspapers, groceries, ice cream cones and other harmless commercial transactions?&rdquo; Stevenson wrote in a veto message. &ldquo;Carried to its logical extreme, any business group with sufficient influence in the legislature can dictate the hours of business of its competitors. And if hours, why not prices?&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">A short Chapter 2, and complicated Chapter 3</span></p><p>A nearly identical bill followed a similar path in 1957. House Bill 946 survived both houses, only to be defeated at the hand of Governor William Stratton days after passage.</p><p>The legislature made another attempt in 1961, only this time Governor Otto Kerner signed Senate Bill 597, making it a crime for any person to sell, barter or exchange any new or used motor vehicle on the day &ldquo;commonly called Sunday.&rdquo;</p><p>But some car dealers weren&rsquo;t jazzed about their new schedules. Employees at Courtesy Motor Sales in Chicago had been able to choose any day of the week they wished for their day off, but many of them chose to work on Sundays because they made almost twice as much as they did any other day of the week. Twenty percent of Courtesy&rsquo;s annual sales in 1960 were made on Sundays.</p><p>So Courtesy employees filed an injunction in Cook County Circuit Court that ended up before the Illinois Supreme Court. The salesmen and their lawyers argued the law was unconstitutional, as it singled out one specific group of sellers.</p><p>Attorney Joe Roddy was a senior in law school at the time, working as a law clerk for the State&rsquo;s Attorney&rsquo;s office. As the State&rsquo;s Attorney was responsible for defending the statute, Roddy helped write the briefs. He also penned an article for the Chicago-Kent Law review about the case.</p><p>&ldquo;It was a huge deal,&rdquo; Roddy recalls. &ldquo;I remember a lot of publicity. Because you know, car dealerships, everybody buys a car &mdash; even in the 60s &mdash; and the car dealers wanted to be open on Sundays. So it attracted a lot of publicity because they didn&rsquo;t single out any other industry at that time.&rdquo;<a name="lawshistory"></a></p><p>The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in 1962 that the law was unconstitutional, and the debate died down for a bit.<a name="timeline"></a></p><p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><strong><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">TIMELINE: The law&#39;s history</span></strong></span></p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="650" src="http://cdn.knightlab.com/libs/timeline/latest/embed/index.html?source=0Ai7E2pZ6aCZtdFd5Wllad2gzaWZpQnlGTGwxQzZNY0E&amp;font=Bevan-PotanoSans&amp;maptype=toner&amp;lang=en&amp;height=650" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Blue (law) since 1982</span></p><p>In the 1980s, car dealers across the state wrote state lawmakers, arguing that a mandatory day off would protect the livelihood of sellers and would provide needed time for family or faith. A new bill banning sales on Sundays made its way through the legislature, with major support coming from trade organizations that represent car dealerships.</p><p>But the measure also had opponents.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it comes with some amazement that a bill like this would come before us. We have heard time and time again from the business community that they would like less regulation by the state, and less mandates,&rdquo; Senator Don Totten argued on the Senate floor at the time. &ldquo;I think this runs contrary to our system of free enterprise.&rdquo;</p><p>The bill ended up making it way through both houses, leaving Governor Jim Thompson with a tough decision.</p><p>&ldquo;Look, I&rsquo;m not a big fan of blue laws,&rdquo; Thompson now says. &ldquo;I think commerce should be open and free.&rdquo;</p><p>And because of that, Thompson says, he did go back and forth on this one.</p><p>&ldquo;It was not a simple decision,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It was more a complex decision, but I guess what impressed me was the unanimity of the opinion [of] the dealer and the employee group. And the notion that if people &mdash; in order to protect their livelihood &mdash; had to work 7 days a week, that was a pretty tough proposition, especially people with families.&rdquo;</p><p>Thompson ended up signing the bill on July 13, 1982, but the law wasn&rsquo;t implemented until April 1984, when the state&rsquo;s Supreme Court ruled the ban was constitutional. The state has enforced a six-day sales week for dealers around Illinois ever since.</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">Ice cream cones and planned purchases</span></p><p>Fast forward to early 2014. It turns out that our question from Juli Schatz question is timely. Much to the dismay of many Illinois car dealers, Republican State Senator Jim Oberweis introduced a bill at the end of 2013 that would allow all dealers to open their doors on Sundays, should they want to.</p><p>Oberweis made the argument that his plan wouldn&rsquo;t <em>force</em> dealerships to do anything. Having government decide when businesses can and can&rsquo;t be open, he says, amounts to too much regulation.</p><p>&ldquo;I believe it is wrong for government to tell a business when they can be open and when they cannot be open. That&rsquo;s what they do in Russia, not in the United States,&rdquo; Oberweis says. &ldquo;And it becomes even worse when we learn that this is an industry supported effort. They decided they don&rsquo;t want to be open themselves, and then they attempt to use government to prohibit competition on those days. That is just fundamentally wrong in my opinion.&rdquo;</p><p>Oberweis says the bill likely won&rsquo;t go anywhere in 2014, as too few Senate Democrats are on board with repealing the ban.</p><p>Dave Sloan, President of the Chicago Automobile Trade Association, says the bill&rsquo;s also likely to fail because both consumers and dealers are happy with the current law. The CATA has been a long-time supporter of the Sunday closing law, and Sloan says he was surprised to see Oberweis&rsquo; bill come up in the first place. In his 20 years at the CATA, including their work running the Chicago Auto Show, he says he&rsquo;s never heard a single complaint from a consumer over not being able to shop on Sundays.</p><p>&ldquo;If the purchase of a car was an impulse buy, like if you were buying an ice cream cone from one of Mr. Oberweis&rsquo; ice cream stores, that might make a difference. But it&rsquo;s a planned purchase,&rdquo; Sloan says. &ldquo;So if you have the opportunity to keep costs lower, and the consumer isn&rsquo;t inconvenienced by that, well, then everyone wins.&rdquo;</p><p>Sloan says a six-day work week helps dealers attract high-caliber employees; he argues it&rsquo;s hard to find full-time salesmen who will commit to working on commission when the dealership is open seven days a week.</p><p>As time goes on, and technology advances, so too do auto sales, according to Pete Sander, president of the Illinois Automobile Dealers Association. He says compared to decades past, many more vehicles are financed during the purchase process. Since banks aren&rsquo;t open on Sundays either, he says, closing a sale becomes difficult, if not impossible. &nbsp;</p><p>And Sander says now that both dealers and manufacturers have websites available 24/7, the average customer only visits a dealership lot an average of one and a half times before purchasing a vehicle. Five years ago, the average customer would visit a sales lot five times.</p><p>&ldquo;By the time they get to the dealer on Saturday, they pretty much know what they want, and whether the dealer has what they want. It&rsquo;s just a matter of negotiating the price of the trade-in, and negotiating the price of the car,&rdquo; Sander says. &ldquo;So it&rsquo;s not like the old going from dealer to dealer to find the right car in the color and model you want, and kicking the tires as we used to do in the old days.<a name="julischatz"></a></p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a much different commercial transaction now.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Our question comes from: Juli Schatz</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/JuliBW.jpg" style="float: left; height: 205px; width: 150px;" title="Juli Schatz, who asked why Illinois banned Sunday car sales. (Photo courtesy Juli Schatz)" />Our look at Illinois&rsquo; ban on Sunday car sales comes courtesy of South Elgin resident Juli Schatz, who says she can&rsquo;t quite put her finger on when, exactly, this seed of curiosity about Illinois&rsquo; ban on Sunday cars was first planted.</p><p>It likely happened, she says, decades ago when her dad helped her shop for a car. Schatz&rsquo;s dad worked five days a week, so he was only free to kick tires or test-drive on weekends. She thought it was strange that Sunday sales were off the table.</p><p>&ldquo;I asked [my dad] and he had no idea why, and that was long before the Internet or anything,&rdquo; Schatz recalled. &ldquo;We actually asked a couple of car dealers while we were shopping for my new used car, and they had no idea.&rdquo;</p><p>Schatz says she&rsquo;s been curious about it ever since. Years later, she worked in ad sales for several newspapers, including the <em>Naperville Sun</em>, and she had car dealerships as some of her customers.</p><p>&ldquo;Same thing,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;Nobody really knew. And some of these dealers had been in business for quite a while and they said, &lsquo;You know, it&rsquo;s just always been that way.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ Reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a>.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Mon, 05 May 2014 17:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/illinois-red-light-sunday-car-sales-110136 Trouble with taxis http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/trouble-taxis-108523 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/taxi thumbnail for timeline cms.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Curious Citizen Dan Monaghan from Chicago&rsquo;s Wicker Park neighborhood says he can&rsquo;t recall ever seeing a taxicab pulled over. And, to him, that seemed kind of crazy, considering the number of &ldquo;close calls&rdquo; he says he&rsquo;s had with taxis as a bike commuter, driver and pedestrian.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It just seems lawless, like they can get away with anything,&rdquo; he says.</p><p dir="ltr">WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side bureau reporter Odette Yousef hopes data can tease out this claim, as well as answer Dan&rsquo;s core question. Odette&rsquo;s reported on <a href="http://www.wbez.org/cabbie%E2%80%99s-lawsuit-against-chicago-moves-forward-104355">issues some Chicago taxi drivers already have</a> with the city&rsquo;s regulations, as well as <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-hunt-taxi-recruits-105421">cabbie recruitment</a>.</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="650" src="http://embed.verite.co/timeline/?source=0Am-AbC8HDbXMdG9NV0VtRURYRFpXS0dtOHZCdWRxa0E&amp;font=Bevan-PotanoSans&amp;maptype=toner&amp;lang=en&amp;height=650" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Mon, 26 Aug 2013 12:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/trouble-taxis-108523 Lawmakers: Federal involvement needed to curb illegal gun trafficking http://www.wbez.org/news/lawmakers-federal-involvement-needed-curb-illegal-gun-trafficking-108456 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Gun Checks_130819_AYC.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Lawmakers said Illinois&rsquo;s new gun law needs federal involvement to truly stop or even curb illegal gun trafficking.</p><p>Illinois Governor Pat Quinn this weekend signed a new law that requires gun owners to report within 72 hours any lost or stolen gun .</p><p>The law also requires background checks for all gun purchases, including private sales.</p><p>But State Senator Kwame Raoul said there&rsquo;s more to be done.</p><p>&ldquo;We can continue to do (more) at the state level, but the reality is a lot of the gun trafficking occurs across the state lines,&rdquo; Raoul said. &ldquo;Enacting law is only one measure that we can do to combat gun violence, but we also need the help from the federal level.&rdquo;</p><p>Cook County State&rsquo;s Attorney Anita Alvarez said the new requirement gives police more control in keeping track of illegal firearms.</p><p>&ldquo;This lost or stolen requirement will help police identify suspicious patterns of behavior by persons who fail to file reports yet continually claim their guns were lost or stolen after they are recovered at a crime scene,&rdquo; she said in a press release.</p><p>Illinois is the 9th state to require the reporting of lost or stolen guns. Michigan and Ohio are the only two nearby states with the same requirement.</p><p>The reporting requirement takes effect immediately, and the new background check system will start in the beginning of next year.</p><p><em>Aimee Chen is a WBEZ business reporting intern. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/AimeeYuyiChen">@AimeeYuyiChen</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 19 Aug 2013 16:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/lawmakers-federal-involvement-needed-curb-illegal-gun-trafficking-108456 Morning Shift: Medical marijauna 101 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-08-05/morning-shift-medical-marijauna-101-108283 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Marijuana 2-Flickr- it was 3 a.m.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Today we school you on the ins and outs of Illinois&#39; new medical marijuana law. Still confused on what it entails? Call us with your questions. And &quot;Deal Estate&quot; columnist Dennis Rodkin breaks down the boom in Chicago&#39;s hotel industry.</p><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-35.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-35" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Medical marijauna 101" on Storify</a>]</noscript></p> Mon, 05 Aug 2013 08:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-08-05/morning-shift-medical-marijauna-101-108283 Evanston considers banning hands-free devices while driving http://www.wbez.org/story/evanston-considers-banning-hands-free-devices-while-driving-97057 <p><p>City Council members in Evanston are considering a proposal that would ban hands-free devices while driving. The ordinance would be one of the toughest cell phone bans in the country, keeping all electronic devices out of driver's hands.</p><p>Ald. Jane Grover (7th) sponsored the proposal, which would amend the current city law that allows drivers to only use hands-free devices. Grover was the sponsor of that ordinance as well, which has resulted in almost 3,000 tickets since it was enacted in 2010. According to Grover, the laws aren't tough enough to prevent accidents from distracted driving.</p><p>"It's the same level of cognitive impairment whether a driver is using a handheld device or using a hands-free device," she said. "There's really no difference in the risk of crashing."</p><p>In December, the National Transportation Safety Board called for a national ban of all electronic devices, especially those that are hands-free. Officials say the level of distraction a driver experiences is the same on a hands-free device as it is on a regular cell phone.</p><p>But the ordinance isn't getting unanimous support from the city council. Ald. Judy Fiske (1st) voted against the bill in committee. She said she voted for the current law, but thinks amending it to include all devices would go too far.</p><p>"I think it will just lead to ill will between taxpayers and the city government in Evanston because it is unenforceable," Fiske said.</p><p>Fiske said she believes creating cell phone bans is the responsibility of the state, not separate municipalities. She said it's less confusing for drivers who travel throughout Illinois. Fiske and her fellow aldermen will be discussing the bill in the coming days, with a vote scheduled for the full city council meeting later this month.</p><p><em>Correction on 03/19/12 at 10:24: An earlier version of this story misspelled Grover.</em></p></p> Wed, 07 Mar 2012 19:44:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/evanston-considers-banning-hands-free-devices-while-driving-97057 High Court Considers Disabilities Act Dispute http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-10-05/high-court-considers-disabilities-act-dispute-92874 <p><p>It could be "a mess," said Justice Stephen Breyer.</p><p>That sentiment seemed to sum up the intellectual somersaults performed by the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, as they grappled with the question of who is a minister and when a minister is exempt from federal laws that apply to everyone else.</p><p>The court's eventual decision will have profound implications for the nation's religious institutions and the people who work in them.</p><p>The case before the court began when Cheryl Perich, a tenured teacher at a parochial school, took disability leave after she was diagnosed with narcolepsy. When her doctor certified that she was ready to return to work, the school asked her to resign, and when she threatened to sue under the Americans with Disabilities Act, she was fired.</p><p>The Hosanna-Tabor church and school in Redford, Mich. does not dispute that it fired Perich for threatening to sue. The school maintains that, although Perich taught primarily non-religious subjects like math and science, she is a minister because she taught one religion course. Under church doctrine, ministers are required to resolve all disputes within the church. Thus, the church argues that Perich is exempt from the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and has no right to go to court to win back her job.</p><p>But inside the Supreme Court, Douglas Laycock, the school's lawyer, immediately ran into a buzz saw when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted that Perich had never been decommissioned as an officer of the church, and the school principal even recommended her to other parishes.</p><p>Justice Sonia Sotomayor then turned the questioning to whether religious institutions are immune from lawsuits when they fire a person on the basis of a pretext, asking "How about a teacher who reports sexual abuse to the government and is fired because of that reporting?" Doesn't society have a right to say certain conduct is unacceptable even when it occurs in a religious institution, she asked.</p><p>Observing that Perich was "fired simply for asking for a hearing," Justice Anthony Kennedy asked whether going through an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission hearing would have settled whether she was actually fired for a religious reason. When Laycock hesitated, Justice Antonin Scalia leaped to the rescue: "I think your point is that it's — it's none of the business of the government to decide what the substantial interest of the church is."</p><p>Chief Justice John Roberts sought a concrete definition of who counts as a minister. What about a "teacher who teaches only purely secular subjects, but leads the class in grace before lunch. Is that somebody who would be covered" as a minister? Laycock seemed to say that such a teacher would not be covered.</p><p>Roberts did not relent, noting that some churches view all its members as ministers. Laycock replied that, in cases like that the courts might determine how many secular duties the individual performs.</p><p>Justice Kennedy, exasperated, said that is exactly the question in Perich's case.</p><p>That prompted Justice Scalia to ask how a minister should be defined. A person is a minister, Laycock replied, if it is "per your job responsibilities to teach the doctrines of the faith."</p><p>Justice Ginsburg, unconvinced, noted that Perich's "duties at the school, did not change from when she's a contract teacher, and therefore not a minister" to when she became a commissioned minister. Indeed, Ginsburg continued, the majority of Lutheran teachers are lay ministers and not commissioned.</p><p>Returning yet again to Laycock's definition of minister, Justice Sotomayor seemed to suggest that Laycock's functionality test, where a minister is "anyone who teaches religion" would include even people who were not members of the faith. Justice Scalia asked Laycock if, "you'd be here anyway even if she hadn't been ordained," to which the response was, "yes."</p><p>Defending Perich's right to sue was the EEOC, represented by Assistant Solicitor General Leondra Kruger. She faced an even tougher battering from the justices after she asserted that Congress was perfectly within its rights in making it illegal to fire a fourth-grade teacher in retaliation for asserting her rights under the disabilities law.</p><p>Chief Justice Roberts probed that assertion, asking if "there [is] anything special about the fact that the people involved in this case are part of a religious organization." The "basic contours," responded Kruger, "are not different."</p><p>At this, Justice Scalia exploded. "That's extraordinary," he proclaimed, noting that the Constitution does not protect, say, labor unions. "But there, black on white in the text of the Constitution are special protections for religion."</p><p>Justice Alito asked whether the constitutional principle of separation of church and state was designed to prevent the government from selecting ministers. "No," responded Kruger, who also objected to a characterization that anti-discrimination laws in some way amount to "choosing the ministers."</p><p>Following Kruger to the lectern was Perich's lawyer, Walter Dellinger. He literally got one word out of his mouth before the justices pounced. Justice Elena Kagan asked Dellinger "why this commissioned minister does not count as a minister," to which he responded that she was not a minister because "she carries out important secular functions in addition to her religious duties."</p><p>Chief Justice Roberts was not persuaded, saying, "The Pope is a head of sate carrying out secular functions." Is he not a minister? Dellinger rejected Laycock's "categorical approach" as being both "over and under inclusive." When a religious organization enters the public arena, as it does when it sets up schools, it is involved with government rules, and those rules have to be applied with neutrality. In other words, there is no automatic exemption for those the church dubs ministers.</p><p>Whether the Supreme Court buys that argument remains to be seen. <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1317852005?&gn=High+Court+Considers+Disabilities+Act+Dispute&ev=event2&ch=1070&h1=Religion,Education,U.S.&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=141089062&c19=20111005&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=2&v21=D%3Dc2&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Wed, 05 Oct 2011 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-10-05/high-court-considers-disabilities-act-dispute-92874 Do Civil Rights Laws Apply To Parochial Schools? http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-10-04/do-civil-rights-laws-apply-parochial-schools-92833 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-October/2011-10-05/scotus.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The United States Supreme Court hears arguments Wednesday in a major case testing the rights of teachers in religious schools. At rock bottom, the issue is who is a minister and when, if ever, that individual is exempt from the nation's civil rights laws.</p><p>Civil rights statutes do provide some exceptions for religious institutions. The laws allow religious organizations to prefer their own believers in hiring, for instance, and they allow churches and other religious organizations to require their employees to adhere to certain religious tenets. But what happens when a parochial school fires a teacher because she invokes her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the law that bars discriminating against the disabled? The answer to that question could have huge implications.</p><p>Cheryl Perich began teaching at the Hosanna-Tabor Lutheran Church school in 1999 as a contract teacher. She became what is known as a "called teacher," with tenure, after she completed a course of study at a Lutheran university. At Hosanna-Tabor, in Redford, Mich., Perich taught primarily nonreligious subjects, like math and science. In addition, both as a contract teacher and as a called teacher, she led her classes in prayer, gave the homily in chapel several times a year and taught a religion class, for a total of 45 minutes of religion-related instruction each day.</p><p>At the beginning of the 2004-2005 school year, Perich was hospitalized and went on disability leave. In December, she told the school principal that she had been diagnosed with the sleep disorder <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001805/">narcolepsy</a>, that treatment had begun, and that her doctor expected her to be able to return to full-time work in two to three months. The following month, the school changed its health insurance policy, hired another teacher and suggested that Perich resign. When she refused and threatened to sue under the Americans with Disabilities Act, she was fired.</p><p>She sued the school under the provision of the ADA that bars retaliatory firing.</p><p>The school does not dispute that it fired Perich for threatening to sue. It maintains that she is a minister of the church, and that church doctrine teaches that all such disputes must be resolved internally, within the church.</p><p>"It doesn't matter why she was discharged," says the school's lawyer, University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock. "What matters is that she was performing ministerial functions, and churches get to decide for themselves who their ministers ought to be."</p><p>But Walter Dellinger, representing Perich, counters that "this is not a case in which anybody is deciding for a church who their ministers can be." He points out that all of Perich's duties, including her religious duties, can be and are performed by teachers who are not "called," or even Lutheran.</p><p>"The duties that she's performing are not those that the church or the school had reserved to people with any particular religious status," Dellinger argues.</p><p>Laycock, representing the school, says that is simplistic. "We're not saying that this is a majority of her job," he says. Rather, "it is a majority of the religious instruction that these children are going to get, even if they go to Sunday school." In short, he says in his brief, Perich was the "primary instrument for communicating the faith to her students."</p><p>Being a called minister, he argues, is much like being a nun, and Perich, he contends, was like a nun who teaches nonreligious subjects in a parochial school. She too had specialized training and an ecclesiastical office in the Lutheran church as a called teacher, a position that he says is just as religiously significant in the Lutheran tradition as being a nun is in the Catholic tradition.</p><p>He concedes that means called teachers will not have the right to go to court under the ADA, or other civil rights laws.</p><p>Dellinger calls that a "radical proposition" that would exempt from the nation's civil rights laws hundreds of thousands of teachers and administrators, and potentially millions of employees who work not just for schools but for other organizations with religious affiliations.</p><p>Taken to its logical conclusion, Dellinger contends, it would mean that a religious organization could bar its employees from reporting to civil authorities that children are being sexually abused, or that health and safety violations are taking place. "A religious organization has no such constitutional entitlement to become a law unto itself," he argues.</p><p>A decision in the case is expected later in the term. <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1317801534?&gn=Do+Civil+Rights+Laws+Apply+To+Parochial+Schools%3F&ev=event2&ch=1070&h1=Around+the+Nation,Religion,Education,U.S.,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=141011341&c19=20111005&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=3&v21=D%3Dc2&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Tue, 04 Oct 2011 23:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-10-04/do-civil-rights-laws-apply-parochial-schools-92833 Supreme Court Hears Medicaid Case http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-10-03/supreme-court-hears-medicaid-case-92782 <p><p>The U.S. Supreme Court has opened a new term with a raft of hot-button issues headed its way. The biggest is the legal challenge to the Obama health care law, a case almost certain to be heard this term. On Monday, however, the court heard arguments in another case involving the provision of medical care, a case with enormous ramifications for states desperate to cut costs, and patients desperate to get medical care. The issue is whether doctors, hospitals, and patients can go to court to challenge cuts in Medicaid.</p><p>The federal Medicaid law establishes a cooperative federal-state program to provide medical care for the poor. Depending on the state, the federal government pays between 50 and 75 percent of the costs, but the condition for getting the federal money is that the state pays health providers sufficiently to ensure that poor patients have access to doctors and hospitals.</p><p>In 2008 and 2009, California cut these fees by up to 10 percent, and the cuts went into effect without being submitted to the federal Medicaid agency for approval as required by law. Health care providers went to court, contending that the cuts were solely for budgetary purposes and did not meet the federal requirements for balancing money issues and access to health care. On the steps of the Supreme Court on Monday, California Medical Association doctors said they simply can't afford to take care of substantial numbers of Medicaid patients when fees are so low. Dr. Ted Mazer said, for example, that the California Medicaid program pays him $168 to perform a tonsillectomy on a child, including pre- and post-operative care, and that, he said, is not enough to even cover his costs.</p><p>Seeking to stop this downward spiral, doctors, hospitals and patients went to court and won a temporary injunction to freeze the status quo pending a trial. The state, backed by the Obama administration, appealed.</p><p><strong>'Drastic' Remedy</strong></p><p>Inside the Supreme Court chamber on Monday, California's Deputy Attorney General Karen Schwartz told the justices that doctors and patients have no right to bring a court challenge because the Medicaid law does not explicitly authorize such suits. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted that the federal government doesn't have injunctive power to stop the rate cuts, even if it thinks the state is violating the Medicaid law. Schwartz agreed with that assessment, saying that the only option for the federal government is to cut off all funds to the state's Medicaid program.</p><p>But, Justice Ginsburg observed that removing that funding would be a "drastic" remedy that would hurt the people that Medicaid was meant to benefit. Nevertheless, Schwartz responded, there is no other remedy provided by the law. She said that generally states simply resolve these issues in consultation with the federal Medicaid agency. Justice Elena Kagan observed that there was no consultation to resolve this case because California "end ran the administrative process" by putting rate changes into effect before submitting them to the Department of Health and Human Services as required by law.</p><p>Focusing on the core question of whether the doctors, hospitals, and patients in this lawsuit had the right to sue at all, Justice Samuel Alito noted that Congress never explicitly creates a right to sue in a case like this involving federal spending. He went on, asking if Schwartz was asking to adopt a rule that "is good for this case only."</p><p>Justice Anthony Kennedy added that "the courts have the prerogative, perhaps even the obligation" to freeze the status quo and "simply withhold adjudication until the agency acts."</p><p><strong>Lawsuits Galore?</strong></p><p>Justice Ginsburg also inquired into what kind of sanctions could be carried out against California health care providers, including doctors, who violate California law by "charg[ing] more than the state ceiling" for treating patients. The law states that physicians would be "subject to sanctions." Schwartz replied that the state had not threatened to punish any providers for overcharging.</p><p>But Justice Scalia was unconvinced. "That could happen, couldn't it?" he asked. Schwartz conceded the point and sat down.</p><p>The legal worm turned, however, when attorney Carter Phillips got up to argue on behalf of the medical providers and patients. Chief Justice John Roberts repeatedly asked why Phillips' clients can sue when Congress did not authorize lawsuits, and Phillips repeatedly answered that his clients are not asking for damages; they are just suing to prevent irreparable harm to health care under a state law that violates a federal law. In such conflicts, he argued, the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution means that federal law is supreme, and that is the longtime teaching of Supreme Court decisions dating back to the 1800s.</p><p>Justice Stephen Breyer asked what limits there could be under that theory: Wouldn't there be lawsuits galore? Phillips replied that the federal agency always has the ultimate authority to step in and take action, but here the state tried to put "unlawful" rate cuts into effect without even notifying the agency and then made no response when the agency asked for information. Without court action, he said, these illegal cuts would have gone into effect for years and indeed would still be in place. Unpersuaded, Justice Breyer reiterated that if anyone could challenge a state law on the grounds it violates a federal law, it would just be "a mess."</p><p>The justices all looked rested and ready for a new term, or, as lawyer Phillips put it ruefully, "the penalty for being the first argument in the new term is that the justices are full of energy."</p><p>Monday also marked an important landmark for the current court's longest-serving justice, Antonin Scalia. Chief Justice Roberts opened the day's proceedings by observing that 25 years ago, Scalia heard his first case as a Supreme Court justice, and "the place has not been the same since." <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1317682811?&gn=Supreme+Court+Hears+Medicaid+Case&ev=event2&ch=1070&h1=Health,Around+the+Nation,Health+Care,U.S.,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=141019152&c19=20111003&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=2&v21=D%3Dc2&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Mon, 03 Oct 2011 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-10-03/supreme-court-hears-medicaid-case-92782 In New Term, Supreme Court To Tackle Divisive Issues http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-10-02/new-term-supreme-court-tackle-divisive-issues-92732 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-October/2011-10-03/scotus.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>If the U.S. Supreme Court term opening Monday were a Broadway show, all eyes would be on the stars waiting in the wings.</p><p>The constitutional challenge to President Obama's health care overhaul almost certainly will be decided this term, but at this point it has not formally made it onto the docket. Also making their way to the court are cases involving almost every hot-button issue in America: immigration; affirmative action; gay marriage; and the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law barring federal recognition of gay marriage even in states where it is legal.</p><p><strong>A Challenge To State-Enacted Medicaid Cuts</strong></p><p>Although these star cases are still backstage, as it were, there are plenty of important cases already center stage. In the spotlight Monday is a case testing when and whether doctors, hospitals and patients can challenge state-enacted reductions in Medicaid payments that violate federal law. It is a case with huge implications for cash-strapped states desperate to cut costs, and for patients desperate for care guaranteed by federal law — and paid for in large part by the federal government.</p><p>The federal Medicaid law establishes a cooperative federal-state program in which the federal government assists states to furnish medical help for the poor, elderly and the disabled. The federal government contribution varies from state to state, but is a majority of the total tab. The program is voluntary, but if a state participates, it has to comply with federal requirements, which include paying enough to health care providers that patients can get access to care. And the state, before cutting fees to health care providers, must get approval from the federal agency that runs the program.</p><p>In 2008 and 2009, the California Legislature cut fees for hospitals, doctors and other providers by as much as 10 percent. The changes went into effect without being submitted to the federal Medicaid agency as required by law, and when they were submitted, the cuts were not approved. When California went ahead with the cuts anyway, hospitals, doctors and patients sued to stop them.</p><p>Dr. Ruth Haskins, an obstetrician-gynecologist who practices in Southern California, has 4,500 patients, about 15 percent of them Medicaid, or Medi-Cal, as the program is known in California. She and other doctors worry that they will simply have to stop taking Medicaid patients.</p><p>"I have a quota already ... because the reimbursement is just too low to meet my overhead," Haskins says.</p><p>She notes that 56 percent of Medicaid patients in California at this point cannot find a primary care doctor, and hospital administrators tell horror stories about unmet medical needs.</p><p>After a federal appeals court ruled the cuts were illegal and halted them, California appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The state, backed by the Obama administration, contends that health care providers and their patients have no right to sue to enforce the Medicaid law.</p><p>California Solicitor General Manuel Medeiros says these cuts amount to a contract dispute between the United States and the state, and the health care providers don't get to horn in on that dispute by taking the state to court.</p><p>"There was no expectation that we were going to have to be administering this multibillion-dollar program by ad hoc litigation, where courts can substitute their individual judgment for the views of an expert administrative agency that has worked out the problems with the state administrative agency, balancing the competing state and federal interests and policy objectives," says Medeiros.</p><p>Countering that argument, lawyer Carter Phillips, representing the health care providers, contends that if California had in fact been able to show how it was balancing competing interests, there would have been no case. But, he maintains, it didn't do that.</p><p>"California has a budget problem, and that is all that animated California's actions in this case," he says. "There was no effort made to determine whether or not these cuts would have any impact on services." The state just said, "We want to save money, we're doing it this way, we're done."</p><p>The lower court said that was illegal and ordered the state to stop the cuts, citing a long line of cases that bar state officials from defying federal law. But the state contends that Congress did not specifically authorize this kind of lawsuit, and that even if the state did act illegally, the only remedy would be for the federal government to cut off all federal Medicaid funds — a process that would take years and has never been done because the consequences are so dire.</p><p>Interestingly, this dispute pits Democrats against Democrats. Though the case started during the tenure of Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, it is being carried on by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.</p><p>And while the Obama administration is supporting Brown and the state, the Democratic leadership in Congress, including key California Democrats, has filed a brief on the other side, supporting the rights of the providers to sue to enforce the Medicaid law. The Democratic congressional leadership says the Obama administration has, in essence, formed an unholy alliance with the states to undermine the minimums set out as conditions for the federal government giving billions of dollars to the states.</p><p>The state's Medeiros responds ruefully. "These are peculiar times," he says. The states and the federal government are operating under a very severe fiscal crisis, and everybody's trying to manage their financials the best they can."</p><p><strong>Other Cases On The Docket</strong></p><p>Later this week, the court will hear another thorny constitutional question testing whether the federal Americans with Disabilities Act applies to parochial schoolteachers whose primary job is teaching non-religious courses like math and history.</p><p>Like all civil rights laws, the ADA bars not just discrimination, but also retaliating against an employee who threatens to sue to enforce his or her rights under the law. In the case before the court, a Lutheran church school contends that the law violates its religious mandate to resolve disputes internally.</p><p>Also on the docket next week is a case testing whether the Constitution allows local jailers to automatically strip-search even those arrested for minor offenses, including traffic violations. And later in the term, the justices will examine a case testing whether government investigators have to get a warrant before putting a GPS tracking device on a car.</p><p>The term also features a variety of cases pushing conservative causes, a property rights challenge to EPA enforcement of the Clean Water Act, and a free-speech challenge to union dues collected from all state employees. And there are a wide variety of criminal law cases that could have significant repercussions.</p><p>On the more entertaining side of the docket is a case brought by Fox TV and backed by other broadcasters testing the constitutionality of a Federal Communications Commission ban on expletives, nudity and other "indecent content" on TV and radio.</p><p>At issue in the case are fines imposed on Fox for excretory and sexual expletives uttered by celebrities at the Billboard Awards ceremonies broadcast live by the network. A lower court ruled that the ban on indecency is so vague as to be unconstitutional, meaning nobody would know what is and isn't legal. Now the case is at the Supreme Court, along with a lot of other cases with sex appeal, both real and figurative. <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1317628735?&gn=In+New+Term%2C+Supreme+Court+To+Tackle+Divisive+Issues&ev=event2&ch=1070&h1=Health+Care,U.S.,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=140964360&c19=20111003&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=3&v21=D%3Dc2&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Sun, 02 Oct 2011 23:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-10-02/new-term-supreme-court-tackle-divisive-issues-92732 'Safety Zone' Bans Meetings Of Alleged Gang Members http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-30/safety-zone-bans-meetings-alleged-gang-members-92871 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-October/2011-10-05/LI+Gang_1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A controversial law enforcement technique called a gang injunction "safety zone" has been getting the attention of law enforcement in at least eight states. Essentially, it lists people police say are gang members and bans them from meeting or even speaking to each other inside a defined geographic area.</p><p>Police in Wyandanch, N.Y., are trying to convince a judge that curtailing rights normally protected under the Constitution can make their community safer.</p><p>Law enforcement officials need two key things for a gang injunction safety zone: a place troubled by gangs, and a list of gang members. In a small corner of Wyandanch, a far-flung suburb of New York City, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy is pushing to <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/254118/suffolkganginjunction.pdf" target="_blank">create a safety zone</a>.</p><p>Levy sees it as an experimental tool police can use to prevent gang violence. He is sympathetic to critics who say the zones violate people's freedom of speech and right to assemble. But he says police should be able to constrain people with criminal pasts.</p><p>"Things change when you're convicted and there are conditions placed upon your future, and that's exactly what's happening in this case," Levy says. "The great thing about this process is it gives the opportunity for due process."</p><p>Youth counselor Heath Broughton grew up in Wyandanch and says gang violence has gotten bad. He points out a prostitute, people drinking beer and a group of boys gambling at spades. Broughton says Wyandanch is "a needy, needy town" and would benefit from a safety zone.</p><p>"It is a violent place; there's gunshots constantly around here," Broughton says. "People getting killed constantly around here.<em>"</em></p><p>As much as Broughton wants a safety zone, he worries police are targeting a very narrow group of people. Lots of idle youths walk the streets, along with more hookers and more people drinking in public.</p><p>"We need an injunction that says anyone out here that's doing wrong should go to jail," he says.</p><p>The proposed safety zone is about 2 square miles with lots of liquor stores, several gas stations also operating as head shops, and what used to be working-class homes. According to the census, half the homeowners have left and subdivided their homes to renters.</p><p>Anthony Clemons, who lives in one of these homes, is one of 37 young men police identified as being part of the Bloods. "I'm really not [part of the Bloods]," he says. "I'm not gonna sit here and lie in your face. If I was Blood, I would say I was Blood."</p><p>Clemons is unemployed and lives with his 1-year-old daughter. He's done county time for a gun charge, a separate assault and drug possession. Police say all those cases were gang related; Clemons says politicians are just using him to grandstand.</p><p>"Possession of marijuana is gang? How? Smoking weed is gang?" Clemons says. "All this is nonsense."</p><p>The New York Civil Liberties Union is challenging Levy in court, even though these safety zones have largely been ruled legal. One <a href="http://www.icjrc.org/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/RM210721_Final_Version_by_JCJR_for_Publication_1.63200430.pdf" target="_blank">journal cites 122 known attempts</a> to create them in recent years; only three were denied. Columbia University Law School professor Jeffery Fagan specializes in policing strategies. He says there's no definitive evidence that they reduce crime, but prosecutors love the injunctions because they make it easier to target gangs.</p><p>"In a civil injunction, the evidence that prosecutors have to put forward is [of] a much lower standard," Fagan says.</p><p>In civil court, all it takes to label someone a gang member is a "preponderance of evidence," unlike criminal court, where proof beyond a reasonable doubt is required. But once the injunction is in place, violating it is criminal. It's only a misdemeanor, but in some states it can be one of three strikes leading to life in prison.</p><p>"Basically what you have is enforcement at a heightened level — at a lower level of suspicion — in predominantly minority neighborhoods," Fagan says.</p><p>At a Wyandanch park, Jennifer Cooly says it sounds like a cover for discrimination.</p><p>"It's an opportunity to harass black people and tell them, 'No, you can't do this, you can't do that,' " Cooly says.</p><p>Cooly, a former teacher, says the gang injunction threatens to further erode her community's trust in police.</p><p>"I feel that my neighborhood is being targeted," she says. "I feel safer knowing that the Bloods are around, because I know who they are, and they know who I am, and they're not gonna let anybody bother me."</p><p>At the opening hearing, the judge considering the gang injunction in Wyandanch put the onus on the alleged gang members. To get off the banned list, the judge recommended they get a lawyer. <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 WSHU Public Radio Group. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.wshu.org/">http://www.wshu.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1317848408?&gn=%27Safety+Zone%27+Bans+Meetings+Of+Alleged+Gang+Members&ev=event2&ch=1070&h1=Around+the+Nation,U.S.,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=140951590&c19=20110930&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=610&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=2&v21=D%3Dc2&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Fri, 30 Sep 2011 10:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-30/safety-zone-bans-meetings-alleged-gang-members-92871