Law School Faculty Blog

The Clean Power Plan and Environmental Justice: Part Three


On Thursday and Friday of last week, I blogged about environmental justice and the Clean Power Plan. My first post considered how stringent targets and the right incentives could lead to significant aggregate reductions that will indirectly lead to reductions in co-pollutants that have a disproportionate impact on of-color and low-income communities. Friday, I examined the plan’s distributional effects and its provisions requiring community engagement. Today, I’ll examine provisions intended to help overburdened communities benefit from a transition to genuinely clean energy, and then I’ll draw some conclusions based on the issues discussed in all three blog posts.


The Clean Power Plan and Environmental Justice: Part Two


Yesterday in this space, I discussed how stringent Clean Power Plan targets are critical to achieving significant aggregate co-pollutant reductions that will indirectly benefit many overburdened communities. Today, I turn to classic environmental justice issues: the distributional effects of the plan and its community engagement provisions.


The Clean Power Plan and Environmental Justice: Part One


Though directed at greenhouse gases, the Clean Power Plan, by controlling existing fossil-fuel power plants, will have important implications for associated co-pollutants, many of which continue to be emitted at unhealthy levels notwithstanding decades of control. The degree to which the Clean Power Plan will lead to reductions in traditional pollutants – the extent of its “co-pollutant benefits” – is an especially important issue for communities experiencing the highest pollution levels, communities that are disproportionately of-color and low-income. Hence, the Clean Power Plan presents an opportunity for the federal government and the states to further environmental justice. So, how does the Plan measure up? And how should the states maximize the opportunity to achieve environmental justice?


Connecticut v. Santiago


Case # SC 17413 (CT Supreme Court, 8/25/15)

In a 4-3 decision, the Connecticut Supreme Court recently held that the statute abolishing the death penalty had to be applied retroactively to the eleven inmates already on death row.  The legislature abolished the death penalty in 2012 but did not make it retroactive to the cases of 11 persons already on death row.  This decision is in compliance with international human rights principles and practice regarding the retroactive application of ameliorative statutes in criminal cases, as well as other international human rights standards.


How Mindfulness Can Defeat Racial Bias


When I was promoted to tenured full professor, the dean of my law school kindly had flowers sent to me at my home in Pacific Heights, an overpriced San Francisco neighborhood almost devoid of black residents. I opened the door to find a tall, young, African-American deliveryman who announced, “Delivery for Professor Magee.” I, a petite black woman, dressed for a simple Saturday spent in my own home, reached for the flowers saying, “I am Professor Magee.”

The deliveryman looked down at the order and back up at me. Apparently shaken from the hidden ground of his preconceptions, he looked at me again. Incredulous, he asked, “Are you sure?”

Let me be clear. I’ll never know what exactly it was that caused the deliveryman to conclude, on seeing me, that I must not actually be the person to whom the flowers were to be delivered. I am not privy to what was going on inside his head. But it seems inescapable that his confusion had something to do with features of my social identity that had, for him, been coded instantly, if not unconsciously, as inconsistent with the identity of “professor” and “resident” of a home in an upscale neighborhood.


“That Same Ennoblement”—Is It Too Much To Ask?


Whatever Justice Kennedy decides on the question of whether states can ban same-sex marriage, the name Obergefell will mark this landmark moment in constitutional history.  That’s fitting because the remarkable story of undying love between James Obergefell and his late husband, John Arthur, is truly what the battle for marriage equality is about.

The Obergefell story is about two men determined to marry before one of them succumbed to the ruthless disease that was taking his life.  It’s a story about a medical plane transporting two men to a wedding on a tarmac in a state that would recognize their same-sex marriage.  It’s a story about the pain of the indignity suffered when their home state refused to recognize their love and their marriage on that ultimate of legal documents, the death certificate.  It’s a story about seeking “that same ennoblement” bestowed on heterosexual couples.

It’s also a story all-too-familiar within my own family.  My sister Suzanne Nice and her partner, Maureen Martin, devoted themselves to the life they built together and sustained for over thirty years.  Through the beauty of their quiet harmony, they provided an inspiring model of loving commitment to all of us in their circle of family and friends.  Maureen died early in 2014, just months before Illinois began recognizing same-sex marriage.


How Guantanamo Was Chosen


People have known for years that the Bush administration chose the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in 2001 because it was not on American territory. American officials believed, based on a WWII Supreme Court decision, that detainees held offshore would not have the constitutional right to challenge their detentions by filing habeas corpus petitions in federal court.

However, the process that led to the selection of Guantanamo Bay to house detainees has not been publicly known. The Witness to Guantanamo project recently learned of the process through its interview of Pierre Prosper, Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues. Prosper served during the early years of the Bush Administration.


“I Live in Slovakia but Am Still in Guantanamo”


Most Americans pay scant attention to Guantanamo.  In fact, many Americans believe it is closed or only houses convicted terrorists.  However, Guantanamo is still open, holding 122 men, 55 of whom have been cleared for release.

As little as Americans know about Guantanamo, they know even less about the lives of detainees after they have been transferred out of Guantanamo.  The more fortunate detainees are resettled to their home country, where they can reunite with and be supported by their families.

However, a number of the detainees cannot return home because of the instability of their home country, their home country does not want them, or they may be tortured or executed on their return.  These men must wait for other nations to accept them.  Initially, nations wanted to help President Obama close Guantanamo and agreed to accept prisoners.  However, as confidence in Obama’s initial pledge to close the detention center has waned, fewer nations are willing to reach out and receive former detainees.


“GTMO Saved My Life!”


January 11 is the 13th anniversary of the opening of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Nearly six years have passed since President Obama announced on his second day in office that he would shutter the detention center within one year. 127 detainees still remain at Guantanamo, 59 have been cleared for release, many for years.  Over these 13 years, Guantanamo has been a black stain on America, a stain that Obama himself has acknowledged. Because of Guantanamo, people around the world have come to question the United States’ position as world leader in human rights and the rule of law.


A Veterans Day Message


The eleventh day of the eleventh month has been, for over a century, a symbolic time to recognize the contributions to America made by the men and women of the Armed Forces, our veterans.

Within the School of Law, we have at least 17 current students who have already served in the military and are now devoting their future careers to law. While the role of lawyers as leaders will come naturally to them, we have an important responsibility to veterans, not just on Veterans Day, but throughout the year.