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Minneapolis Civil Rights Law Blog

Avoiding DWI charges during Minnesota’s increased enforcement period

Minnesota’s snowfall totals have been rather unimpressive so far this year, especially here in the Twin Cities metro. While this means that we are in danger of a less-than-white Christmas, the upside is that automobile travel may be safer due to mild weather.

That being said, Minnesota roads and highways are physically and legally dangerous this time of year for a reason that has nothing to do with the weather. Christmas and New Year’s are strongly associated with higher rates of drunk driving and alcohol-related car accidents. Because of this, the Minnesota State Patrol and local law enforcement agencies will be out in full force over the next couple weeks looking to catch drunk drivers.

Documenting patterns of racial discrimination at work

Earlier this week, we wrote about recent comments from President Obama concerning race discrimination that he has personally faced prior to becoming president. It is telling that such a highly educated, well-dressed and well-spoken man has been mistaken for a valet and a waiter simply because he is black.

All workers and potential employees are theoretically protected from racial discrimination in the workplace by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Unfortunately, allegations of race discrimination can be difficult to prove. In today’s post, we’ll talk about how substantiating allegations often comes down to documenting patterns of subtle behavior rather than overt and obvious incidents of discrimination.

President Obama comments on continued racial injustice in America

A major theme in news reports over the past year has been the significance of race in nearly all aspects of American life. Minnesotans like to think of themselves as “color blind,” and most of white America in general finds the issue of race to be an uncomfortable one.

It’s true that the United States is far more tolerant than it was even 50 years ago, but we cannot in good conscience call ourselves a post-racial society. African Americans in particular face both subtle and obvious discrimination in employment, education and criminal justice.

How race too often plays a role in school disciplinary actions

We sometimes write about the problem of bullying in Minnesota schools. While every student has the right to an educational experience free from bullying, their education rights also include the expectation of equal treatment by teachers and school administrators.

It has been well documented that African-American boys are more likely that their white classmates to be disciplined for behavior problems, including suspension and expulsion. This creates a social problem for these students that can make them more likely to be incarcerated as adults. The problem is often referred to as the “school to prison pipeline.”

Understanding controlled substances & when they are legal: Part II

Earlier this week, we began a discussion about how street drugs and certain mood-altering pharmaceuticals are legally categorized. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 put most of these drugs into one of five categories, also known as “schedules.”

Many common street drugs are listed in Schedule I, which means they are (almost) always illegal to possess and supposedly have no accepted medical use. Certain pharmaceutical drugs starting in Schedule II are only legal to possess with a valid prescription and obtained through a pharmacy or similar legal distribution source.

Understanding controlled substances & when they are legal: Part I

There seems to be an endless supply of nicknames and slang terms to describe the mood-altering drugs - both legal and illegal – that Americans ingest. Most of these drugs (listed under their technical names) are considered “controlled substances,” and are classified according to their potential for abuse and their medical usefulness (or lack thereof).

In this week’s posts, we’ll discuss how street drugs and prescription drugs are “scheduled,” according to the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. We’ll also discuss when certain drugs are legal to possess and when they are not.

Supreme Court hears arguments in pregnancy discrimination case

Earlier this week, oral arguments began in a very important case before the U.S. Supreme Court. The dispute, between United Parcel Service and one of its former employees, has broad implications for how the Pregnancy Discrimination Act can and should be interpreted.

For background on the case, you can read this October 2014 post. The short version is that a woman named Peggy Young sought accommodations from UPS when she was pregnant. She asked only to avoid lifting heavy packages for health and safety reasons. UPS declined her request and essentially forced her to go on unpaid leave for more than two-thirds of her pregnancy. As a result, she lost her health insurance during a time when it was desperately needed.

Facing facts about racial bias in criminal justice: Part II

Today we are continuing a discussion started earlier this week about racial bias in the criminal justice system. The shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri in August has turned up the heat on long-simmering racial tensions across the country, including tensions here in Minnesota. The flames were recently fanned when a grand jury failed to indict the white police officer responsible for the teen’s death.

It is clear that America needs to have a frank discussion about racial bias in the criminal justice system. But a September report put out by a group called The Sentencing Project suggests that white Americans and Americans of color may have trouble even having the same conversation. Their experiences and perceptions are often entirely different.

Facing facts about racial bias in criminal justice: Part I

One of our posts last week focused on the public anger surrounding events last August in Ferguson, Missouri. A grand jury recently decided not to indict a white police officer for fatally shooting an unarmed black teenager during an altercation several months ago.

Anger over the shooting and the subsequent failed indictment has spread across the country, including here in Minnesota. Many African-American communities in the Twin Cities metro continue to feel disenfranchised and targeted by police and the rest of the criminal justice system. As President Obama has said, “communities of color aren't just making these problems up.”

National protests show need to address racism in criminal justice

New agencies around the country have been eagerly awaiting the results of a grand jury investigation. As readers probably already know, the focus of that investigation was the killing of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer earlier this year in Ferguson, Missouri.

When it was recently announced that the officer will not face criminal charges, the news almost immediately set off a blaze of anger. Protests have been held in major metro areas around the country, including here in the Twin Cities. Some of the protesters were arrested for violence, vandalism and looting, while police in certain cities turned to crowd-control tactics that included tear gas.

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