Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Greg Morris Becomes New Executive Director of ACLU of Idaho

Posted By on Tue, Dec 2, 2014 at 2:25 PM

A familiar name will be taking the reins of the ACLU of Idaho. Greg Morris, who founded a pilot program to assist the homeless for the city of Boise in 2006 and ultimately became executive director of CATCH Inc., has announced that he'll be taking over the top job at ACLU of Idaho.

"With social justice at the forefront of my passion, and with the state tackling some large Constitutional issues, I look forward to fighting for our civil liberties alongside you," Morris wrote to in a letter introducing himself to ACLU supporters. "My career has been spent fighting for one of our most vulnerable populations, those experiencing homelessness. I accepted the position with the ACLU knowing that I will continue to fight for them but looking forward to using my expertise in overcoming other injustices."

Earlier this year, former ACLU of Idaho Executive Director Monica Hopkins transferred to Washington, D.C., to act as the organization's regional executive director in the capital city. Hopkins held that position at ACLU of Idaho beginning in 2008.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Corpus Christi Reopens Amid 'Homelessness Crisis'

Posted By on Wed, Oct 1, 2014 at 12:46 PM

Boiseans traveling Americana Boulevard have noticed that the number of people under the overpass near the Corpus Christi day shelter has grown dramatically over the summer and in these first days of autumn. At the Oct. 1 Boise/Ada County Homeless Coalition, the situation was described by one member as a "homelessness crisis."

Simply put, it's a crisis that consists of more homeless who need goods and services from stressed organizations designed to service them. According to Corpus Christi House Education Director Lisa Veaudry, between 30 and 50 people have set up permanent camp under the overpass near Rhodes Skate Park and in nearby Cooper Court.
A volunteer conducts a tour of Corpus Christi House - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • A volunteer conducts a tour of Corpus Christi House

"It's a neighborhood," she said.

So it was opportune that ACLU Legal Director Ritchie Eppink, guest speaker at the meeting, discussed a string those organizations can pull to influence how Housing and Urban Development funds can be directed to potential solutions to the city's growing homelessness problem: Consolidated Planning and its citizen participation component

"It's a string, and at the other end of that string are funds—and policy," Eppink said.

Boise's consolidated plan is a City Council-approved set of objectives and methods for distributing Housing and Urban Development funds made available to major cities across all 50 states totaling billions of dollars, and public participation, including policy recommendations, is required for those funds to be disbursed to cities and states. (In 2009, Texas was denied some HUD funds for failing to document or meet those public participation standards. Read Gov. Rick Perry's response here.)

"The point is, we can participate. And, in fact, government is designed for us to participate," said CATCH Executive Director Greg Morris.

Following the coalition meeting, attendees were invited to tour the reopened Corpus Christi House that closed for improvements for much of the summer. Contractors had removed two walls from the building and conducted electrical upgrades, but the day shelter's closure drew public attention to Boise's homelessness problem when they began to loiter and camp nearby. Though the shelter has reopened, many continue to camp in Cooper Court and under the bridge.

The public is invited to an open House for Corpus Christi Wednesday, Oct. 8, from 5-7 p.m. to see what changes have been made to the day shelter and enjoy refreshments. 
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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

ACLU Director to Take New Post in Washington, D.C.

Posted By on Tue, Apr 15, 2014 at 11:01 AM

Monica Hopkins has been the executive director of the ACLU of Idaho since 2008. - BOISE WEEKLY
  • Boise Weekly
  • Monica Hopkins has been the executive director of the ACLU of Idaho since 2008.

Monica Hopkins, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, is transferring to Washington, D.C., to act as the organization's regional executive director in the capital city.

Hopkins has held her position at the ACLU of Idaho since 2008. Her last day will be Friday, May 16.

“I am humbled to have been part of this incredible team and look forward to their continued success in championing the rights of all Idahoans,” Hopkins said in a press release.

During her six years as executive director, Hopkins tackled a variety of civil liberties issues. Hopkins saw out multiple lawsuits against the Canyon County jail in order to improve the health and safety conditions of prisoners, held Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) accountable for civil rights violations, and worked on creating a comprehensive outreach program that educates Idahoans about their rights. During the 2014 legislative session, Hopkins fought against the so-called “ag-gag” bill and protested the lack of support and resources for public defenders in the state of Idaho.

ACLU Board President Michael Bartlett feels that despite Hopkins departure, ACLU of Idaho will not lose ground.

“We are fortunate to have a well-oiled machine at the ACLU of Idaho,” Bartlett said in a press release. “I have no doubt that the staff will continue to fiercely defend the Constitutional rights of every Idahoan.” 
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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Atlantic Gives BW Some Link-Love on Ag-Gag Reporting

Posted By on Wed, Mar 19, 2014 at 4:38 PM

  • Adam Rosenlund

In the weeks since Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter signed SB 1337—the controversialALEC-inspired "ag-gag" bill—into law, the rest of the country has responded with shock, culminating in a multi-party lawsuit filed against Otter and Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden on March 17.

Boise Weekly has been doggedly covering the issues of food safety and animal treatment in Idaho agricultural for years before "ag-gag" started grabbing headlines, and national magazine The Atlantic has taken notice.

In a piece posted today on the magazine's website (and one posted March 12 on The Week), writer Andrew Cohen referenced BW's 2011 award-winning investigation into antibiotic use at Idaho dairies, as well as our 2012 report on animal abuse occurring at Bettencourt Dairies in Hansen.

"It was this investigative work that caused one concerned lawmaker to lament recently not the cruelty, or unclean food, but the injustice of these farm operators being 'tried and convicted in the press or on YouTube,'" Cohen wrote.

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

ACLU Idaho Considers Internet Privacy

Posted By on Thu, Jul 18, 2013 at 2:25 PM

Lisa McGrath (left) and Jessica Flynn (right) were the main speakers at ACLU of Idahos Law and Liberty: Privacy in the Digital Age.
  • Lisa McGrath (left) and Jessica Flynn (right) were the main speakers at ACLU of Idaho's "Law and Liberty: Privacy in the Digital Age."

Anything you say may be used against you. But does that include anything you say or write on the Internet?

Addressing the issue of Internet privacy in relation to the law and public workforce, Boise-based social media attorney Lisa McGrath and Jessica Flynn, founder of Red Sky Public Relations, were the guest speakers as ACLU of Idaho hosted 2013’s first in a series of summer lectures July 17, titled Law and Liberty: Privacy in the Digital Age.

“The National Labor Relations Board has found that the provisions of the Disparagement Clause, as well as the prohibition of social media on company time and equipment, are unlawful under the National Labor Relations Act,” McGrath told a packed room of attorneys and downtown professionals.

McGrath said private employees have the right to engage in what she called "protected concerted activity," to discuss wages, working conditions, and supervisors on social media sites. However, employees can still be discharged if their comments reside “outside the scope of protected, consorted activity” identified by the National Labor Relations Act. That said, McGrath emphasized the importance of Internet-based account ownership and protecting one’s intellectual property on social media websites.

In order to protect personal information and statements on the Internet, McGrath suggested companies and individuals use two-step authentications for Gmail and Twitter accounts, change Facebook privacy settings to release posts to “Friends Only,” password protect or encrypt electronic devices, clear browser history on a regular basis, and set up Google Alerts on specific names.

“We are in a state of digital ubiquity,” said Flynn. “It’s probably easier these days to get a tattoo removed than it is to erase a digital footprint.”

Flynn’s final message was one that stressed education in digital literacy.

“I think we as a society owe it to our next generation to really make sure there is that digital literacy education,” she said to her mixed audience. “There’s this assumption that just because [young people] can use an iPad very easily, they fully understand what technology means in the broader sense of the world, but I don’t think they fully understand how the choices they’re making and what they’re sharing is going to impact them down the road.”

ACLU of Idaho officials said they strive to give people the opportunity to learn about this social media awareness through their programs.

“We feel it’s really important that even with the changes in technology, people still are able to understand how technology works and how they can protect their privacy,” ACLU of Idaho Program Coordinator Kathy Griesmyer, told Boise Weekly. “With the way that social media and online platforms are advancing, the privacy laws don’t really follow that, so we want to make sure that as people are accessing either the Cloud or Twitter or their email that they know how to best protect themselves and their privacy in a world that is free to access.”

ACLU of Idaho plans to host more Law and Liberty lectures throughout the rest of 2013. The next topic in the Law and Liberty CLE Series will cover Equality in Education on Tuesday, August 13, at noon in the Idaho State Bar Classroom on Jefferson Street.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

ACLU Attorney: Idaho Becoming a 'Heavy User' of Executions

Posted By on Wed, Jul 11, 2012 at 3:58 PM

Audience members participate in July 11 ACLU discussion on capital punishment.
  • Tabitha Bower
  • Audience members participate in the July 11 ACLU discussion on capital punishment.

In the shadow of Idaho’s June 12 execution of Richard Leavitt, the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho engaged with Gem State citizens July 11 concerning the constitutionality of capital punishment in the 21st century. Advocates also discussed Idaho's protocols concerning lethal injections and what they called an "evolving standard of decency."

“Right now, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is deciding weather or not the policies that the Idaho Department of Correction have are constitutional under First Amendment free speech guidelines, so this topic is very relevant,” said Monica Hopkins, ACLU executive director.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

ACLU Idaho Challenges New Protest Rules, But State Says Many of the Rules Haven't Changed

Posted By on Tue, Jul 10, 2012 at 9:53 AM

The American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho is suing the state over new guidelines on how the steps of the Capitol and the grounds surrounding the Statehouse can be used.

“Even two people—whether ordinary citizens or professional lobbyists—could be subject to permitting requirements and citation if they gather on the Statehouse steps to make their voices heard,” said Ritchie Eppink, legal director of the ACLU of Idaho and co-counsel to Occupy Boise.

But a spokesman for the Idaho Department of Administration, which oversees the use of the steps and the grounds, told Citydesk that the ACLU doesn't have it exactly right. While individuals or groups can file for a permit, five business days before an event to secure the use of the steps, it's not necessary in many cases.

"Anybody can have an event on the steps without a permit," said Rick Johnston, facility services manager with the Department of Administration. "But they could possibly be bumped by someone else who applied for a permit. The permit gives someone the first right to the steps."

Johnston said an elected official would also have priority for use of the steps.

As an example, Citydesk asked about the June 28 rally on the Capitol steps held by the Boise Tea Party, protesting that day's U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold most of the Affordable Care Act.

"Tea Party Boise faxed over a statement of responsibility to use the day before, but no, they didn't have a permit," said Johnston. "Had there been someone else with a permit, they would have been asked to leave. But there was no permit for anyone else."

Johnston said the permit is considered as a formal placeholder for organizations to secure the space.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

ACLU Attorney: Cost of Detaining Immigrants High, Litigation Costs 'Remarkable'

Posted By on Wed, Jun 13, 2012 at 4:29 PM

The rise of anti-immigration legislation was the hot-button topic of discussion this afternoon at the inaugural Law and Liberty Lecture series hosted by The American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho.

Tanaz Moghadam, part of the ACLU litigation team challenging Arizona’s controversial SB 1070 law imposing tight restrictions on undocumented workers and their families, led the first lecture.

“When the [Arizona] law was passed in 2010, my team at the ACLU decided to put our minds together and try to file a suit to prevent this law from going into effect,” said Moghadam.

The midday lecture included a primer of the U.S. government's role in immigration laws. According to Moghadam, the government "was working hard to further restrict" the rights of non-citizens in the United States, making it easier to deport them.

“The states are doing something in the backdrop of the increasing rigor of federal enforcement,” Moghadam said. “In fact, under the Obama administration—a Democratic administration that claims to be more favorable to immigrants—there have been record deportations in the last few years, even exceeding the Bush administration. So more people are being thrown out of the country than ever before.”

Arizona was among the first states to pass what Moghadam called an "omnibus bill" on immigration.

“Most significantly, they are starting to criminalize different conduct that relates to immigration, so they are creating new crimes that relate to immigration that the federal law never has,” said Moghadam.

In 2011, 25 states had considered similar broad sweeping omnibus laws to that of SB 1070. Only five states— Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah, ended up passing variations of Arizona’s law. All of these laws are now being challenged in the courts, in differing forms.

“The same goes with Arizona. Most of its provisions have been blocked pending this long process of judicial review,” said Mogahadam.

Concerns of those in attendance at the lecture included the logistics of anti-immigration ordinances, as well as the cost to implement and defend such laws. According to Moghadam, the litigation costs "are remarkable and the costs of detaining immigrants are even higher." She said every year nearly 400,000 people are being held just for immigration purposes.

“It is easy to vilify immigrants when things are down and there is a recession as there is now,” said Moghadam. “There is a lot of scapegoating going on, and I don’t think it is a coincidence that as the economy here has turned, it has really correlated with the rise of these laws.”

Tanaz Moghadam was the inaugural speaker at ACLU lecture series.
  • Tabitha Bower
  • Tanaz Moghadam was the inaugural speaker at the ACLU lecture series.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Immigration in Idaho To Be Examined In First of Midday Panels

Posted By on Tue, Jun 12, 2012 at 3:12 PM

The controversial topic of immigration in Idaho moves into the spotlight Wednesday, June 16, when the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho launches its Law and Liberty Lecture Series. The three-part series—each offered as a midday one-hour panel discussion—will highlight hot button civil-rights topics.

“We chose topics that are relevant civil-liberty topics that we see going on nationally and locally,” said Monica Hopkins, ACLU executive director. “With immigration rights, we are talking specifically about the legal issues surrounding [Arizona's] Senate Bill 1070.”

ACLU fellow Tanaz Moghadam will lead the first lecture, considering Arizona's controversial strict, anti-immigration law.

“She has expertise in that area and will talk for around 45 minutes and then there will be a question-and-answer session to have more of a discussion,” Hopkins said.

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

ACLU, Canyon County Locked in Jail Disagreement

Posted By on Sun, Dec 11, 2011 at 11:20 PM

The new year may see a new lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union against Canyon County over unsanitary and overcrowded jail conditions.

ACLU of Idaho Executive Director Monica Hopkins told the Idaho Press Tribune that her organization is poised to drag Canyon County back into court after new complaints of overcrowding and other problems.

The county was sued in 2009 for the same problems, but a two-year consent decree was mediated with county officials promising to fix the problems. The decree expires in January.

Dana Maxfield, Canyon County's Jail Security Services administrator, told the Press Tribune that the new allegations of overcrowding are false and any maintenance problems are fixed properly.

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