Skip to main content

More Related Articles

Filter by Year:

  
February 27, 2020

In a blow to all persons seeking justice for violations of the Constitution by federal officers, a sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court has ruled 5-4 that a U.S. Border Patrol agent cannot be sued for shooting and killing a young Mexican boy who was playing in a culvert within feet of U.S. territory and posed no threat to anyone. In an amicus brief filed in Hernandez v. Mesa, The Rutherford Institute and a coalition of human rights organization had urged the Supreme Court to reinstate an excessive force lawsuit against a Border Patrol agent (a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil) for shooting across the border at 15-year-old Sergio Hernandez (a Mexican national), who was struck in the head.

February 24, 2020

Pushing back against government attempts to further extend the surveillance state, The Rutherford Institute is asking the Virginia General Assembly to reject legislation that would authorize state entities to use automated cameras and radar devices to bring speeding charges for which the accused is presumed guilty. In denouncing House Bill 1442, which would allow localities to set up “photo speed monitoring devices” in school crossing and highway work zones, Institute attorneys point out that HB 1442 upends bedrock legal principles that are meant to protect citizens accused of misconduct. The letter also accuses the General Assembly of concealing the existence of HB 1442 as it worked its way through the lawmaking process, robbing citizens of the opportunity to air their views on the use of speed monitoring systems, which have been widely unpopular when proposed in other jurisdictions.

February 13, 2020

In a case that will decide whether the government can interfere with the choices of religious institutions regarding who may minister to and lead followers on matters of faith, The Rutherford Institute has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm that the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty prevents the government from meddling in church decisions involving religious doctrine and who is allowed to teach that doctrine. In an amicus brief filed with the Court in Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Agnes Morrisey-Beru and St. James School v. Darryl Biel, Institute attorneys argue that the government has no jurisdiction to second-guess church decisions on who can act and serve as “ministers.”

February 07, 2020

Taking a stand for environmental justice for minority communities that have historically borne the brunt of the damaging effects of corporate development, The Rutherford Institute has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm a lower court ruling that halted construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on a path that includes crossing the Appalachian Trail and national forests. In an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court in U.S. Forest Service v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association, Rutherford Institute attorneys point out that the planned pipeline construction would not only permanently deface national natural treasures like the Appalachian Trail but also would have disproportionate adverse environmental and health effects on predominantly African-American communities.

January 30, 2020

Denouncing government efforts to silence dissent and punish civil disobedience, The Rutherford Institute has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down as unconstitutionally overbroad a federal statute making it a crime to “encourage” undocumented aliens to remain in the country. For example, legal advice given by an immigration attorney or a plea from a grandmother to her grandson not to abandon her could be considered criminal activity under this law. In an amicus curiae brief filed in United States v. Sineneng-Smith in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union and the Service Employees International Union, Rutherford Institute attorneys argue that the federal law infringes on the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of speech and could eventually be used to punish anyone who urges resistance to government tyranny.

January 23, 2020

The Rutherford Institute has come to the defense of Youth Alive, a high school student club that was ordered to remove its inspirational bulletin board display featuring Post-It notes inscribed with citations to Bible verses over concerns that it might be a violation of the so-called separation of church and state. Warning that the actions by officials at Lewis County High School violate the First Amendment and the Equal Access Act, a federal statute that guarantees religious and political clubs equal rights in public schools, Rutherford Institute attorneys are demanding that Youth Alive be allowed to re-post the inspirational Post-It notes. Included among the self-help topics addressed by the Post-It notes were a selection of Bible verses for those who are feeling broken-hearted, alone, insecure, stressed, confused, needing faith, needing encouragement, and in need of forgiveness.

January 09, 2020

An Oklahoma federal court has refused to hold police responsible for brutalizing an African-American man who, despite complying with police orders during an arrest, was subjected to excessive force and brutality, including being thrown to the ground, tasered, and placed in a chokehold that rendered him unconscious and required his hospitalization for three days. In granting the police officers’ motion to dismiss a Fourth Amendment lawsuit filed by attorneys for The Rutherford Institute on behalf of Jeriel Edwards, the court ruled that Edwards’ confusion and trouble understanding police directions constituted “resistance” that justified the force used by the four police officers involved in the violent arrest. Institute attorneys argued that, as shown by dash cam video of the arrest, Edwards was peaceful, did not defy police orders, and did nothing to provoke the clearly unreasonable and excessive force employed by the police.

December 05, 2019

The Rutherford Institute has come to the aid of an elderly Delaware woman who has alleged that Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners groped her upper and lower body, including feeling inside the waistband of her pants, during a security screening at Philadelphia’s International Airport (PHL) earlier this year. In a request under Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law, Rutherford Institute attorneys have demanded copies of any video surveillance footage of the incident, which if confirmed, could support a Fourth Amendment-style lawsuit under a recent federal court ruling authorizing citizens to sue for tortious conduct committed by TSA agents. Institute attorneys point to numerous incidents in which poorly trained TSA agents have subjected elderly travelers to inappropriate touching, excessive searches and aggressive pat downs. For example, TSA employees reportedly ordered a 95-year-old leukemia patient in a wheelchair to remove her adult diaper so that agents could search her. Ninety-year-old Marian Peterson, also confined to a wheelchair, was pulled out of line for a random security check and according to her son, Joe, TSA agents “groped her. All of her body: her crotch, her breasts and everything else.”

November 21, 2019

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to review the case of a Hispanic man who was sentenced to death—and subsequently subjected to eight years of solitary confinement for up to 22 hours a day, which is tantamount to physical torture—based on an expert witness’ racist testimony suggesting that Hispanics pose a greater danger to society than other individuals. The Rutherford Institute had asked the Supreme Court to address the many failings of America’s capital punishment system, epitomized by the case of Victor Hugo Saldaño (Saldaño v. Davis), whose death sentence and lengthy solitary confinement in Texas were allegedly the result of racial bias, mental incompetence and systemic injustice.

November 15, 2019

Condemning draconian zero tolerance school policies bereft of common sense, The Rutherford Institute is demanding that a Kansas City area school district seek the exoneration of a middle school student who pointed an imaginary “finger gun” at classmates, resulting in her being handcuffed, arrested, charged with a felony for threatening a mass shooting, and criminally prosecuted. Incredibly, the girl with the "imaginary" gun was punished more harshly than students who brought actual guns to school in their backpacks.

November 01, 2019

Oklahoma police have asked a federal court to support their claim that citizens who comply with police during an arrest do not have a clearly established right to be free from police brutality. The police’s justification of the use of excessive force, even in the absence of provocation, were made in a motion by City of Muskogee police seeking the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by attorneys for The Rutherford Institute on behalf of Jeriel Edwards, an African-American man who, despite complying police orders during an arrest, was subjected to excessive force and brutality, including being thrown to the ground, tasered, and placed in a chokehold that rendered him unconscious and required his hospitalization for three days. The police officers’ motion seeks immunity from The Rutherford Institute’s Fourth Amendment lawsuit. In light of the fact that the beating Edwards was subjected to by police was clearly unreasonable and excessive, Institute attorneys have urged the court to reject the government’s justifications and claim of immunity. 

October 18, 2019

Citing the First Amendment and a state religious freedom law, The Rutherford Institute has told Kentucky regulators that their ongoing attempts to place bureaucratic roadblocks in the path of a ministry’s efforts to provide free corrective eyeglasses to the poor and homeless violates the ministry’s rights. Kendall Optometry Ministry—whose mission is to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ by providing eyeglasses to the poor and homeless throughout the world—hosts free eye clinics for the poor and homeless where it distributes used and new glasses, all of which have been carefully measured for their corrective properties and catalogued. The Kentucky Boards of Optometric Examiners and Ophthalmic Dispensers have warned the Ministry that its charity work violates state licensing laws that could result in fines and jail time. In coming to the defense of the Optometry Ministry, Rutherford Institute attorneys contend that attempts to shut down the Ministry violate a state law protecting religious freedom.

October 02, 2019

In a victory for common sense and the rights of citizens to not have their lawful First Amendment activity chilled by egregious, excessive government security protocols, officials with the City of Charlottesville have agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by The Rutherford Institute. Rutherford Institute attorneys filed the lawsuit on behalf of a disabled war veteran who was arrested in 2018 for lawfully purchasing canned iced tea, bug spray, lightbulbs and razor blades at a mall drug store in so-called “violation” of the city’s pre-emptive “state of emergency” lockdown measures adopted in anticipation of the one-year anniversary of the August 12, 2017, racially-charged protests and counter-protests in the City. The items were banned under the City’s 2018 ordinances and as part of the city’s pre-emptive measures to discourage civil unrest. Illustrating how absurdly illogical the city’s protocols were, the veteran—punished for being in possession of canned iced tea and bug spray—was permitted to open carry two firearms through a downtown mall security checkpoint.

September 26, 2019

Denouncing state laws that claim to advocate for school choice while discriminating against individuals who favor private schools with religious ties, The Rutherford Institute has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reject a provision of Montana’s constitution that prohibits students from using scholarship funds to attend religiously-affiliated private schools. In filing an amicus brief in Espinoza v. Mont. Dept. of Revenue, Rutherford Institute attorneys argue that Montana’s discriminatory law violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Moreover, Institute attorneys point out that the school choice restrictions are the end result of a 150-year-old provision of the state’s constitution known as a “Blaine Amendment,” which was enacted in an era when anti-Catholic prejudice and nativist opposition to immigration from Ireland and Germany were rampant. Thirty-seven states still have versions of the Blaine Amendments in their constitutions.

September 20, 2019

The Rutherford Institute has asked a federal appeals court to strike down an Arkansas county jail’s postcard-only policy that limits the mail prisoners can send and receive to postcards, arguing that the restriction violates the First Amendment. In an amicus curiae brief in Human Rights Defense Center v. Baxter County, AR, filed in conjunction with R Street Institute, the Clark-Fox Family Foundation, Arch City Defenders and Americans for Prosperity, Rutherford Institute attorneys point to historic examples of prisoner communications—such as St. Paul’s epistles written from prison, the letters of Martin Luther King, Jr.,  and German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer—as examples of the kinds of writings that could be inhibited or prevented by the postcard-only rule.

September 13, 2019

The Rutherford Institute is challenging the police practice of stopping cars registered to unlicensed owners, whether or not the owners are behind the wheel (such vehicles are often driven by licensed family members and friends) and in the absence of specific wrongdoing. In an amicus curiae brief filed with the Supreme Court in State of Kansas v. Glover, Rutherford Institute attorneys argue that allowing police to stop a vehicle anytime the registered owner is unlicensed gives police too much leeway to violate the standards established by the Fourth Amendment requiring particularized and articulable evidence that the specific individual being stopped has, is, or soon will be engaged in unlawful conduct.

September 05, 2019

Pushing back against the expansion of secret government surveillance programs at the expense of individual privacy, The Rutherford Institute is asking the State of Illinois to disclose information about its participation in the federal government’s scheme to establish a massive facial recognition database by collecting the drivers’ license photographs of millions of Americans. In a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, The Rutherford Institute is seeking details about the federal government’s facial recognition program, which allows government agents to track citizens whenever they are in public. The request comes after it was disclosed in July 2019 that the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have mined information kept by state DMVs to create a massive database of biometric photos and personal information without the consent of citizens.

August 29, 2019

Pushing back against efforts to sidestep the rule of law and disregard fundamental protections for the rights of the accused, The Rutherford Institute has asked a federal appeals court to prohibit government officials from undermining the Sixth Amendment’s assurance of the right to legal counsel. In a joint amicus brief filed in Federal Defenders of N.Y. v. Federal Bureau of Prisons before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, The Rutherford Institute, the ACLU and the Constitutional Accountability Center have come to the defense of public defenders prevented from meeting with jailed clients awaiting trial in New York City.

August 23, 2019

Denouncing the many failings of America’s capital punishment system, a consistently unjust, error-bound system plagued by racial prejudice, economic inequality and prosecutorial misconduct, The Rutherford Institute is challenging the death sentence and lengthy solitary confinement of a Texas inmate whose sentence was impacted by racial bias, mental incompetence and systemic injustice. In filing an amicus curiae brief in Saldaño v. Davis, Rutherford Institute attorneys have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to vacate the sentence of Texas death row inmate Victor Hugo Saldaño. Saldaño, sentenced to death based on an expert witness’ racist testimony suggesting that Hispanics pose a greater danger to society than other individuals, was subsequently subjected to eights years of solitary confinement for up to 22 hours a day, which attorneys argue is psychologically stressful treatment tantamount to physical torture.

August 19, 2019

The Rutherford Institute has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hold a U.S. Border Patrol agent accountable for shooting and killing a young Mexican boy who was playing in a culvert within feet of U.S. territory and posed no threat to anyone. The brief urges the Supreme Court to reinstate the excessive force lawsuit against a Border Patrol agent (a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil) for shooting 15-year-old Sergio Hernandez (a Mexican national) in the head.

Copyright 2020 © The Rutherford Institute • Post Office Box 7482 • Charlottesville, VA 22906-7482 (434) 978-3888
The Rutherford Institute is a registered 501(c)(3) organization. All donations are fully deductible as a charitable contribution.