ACLU of Oregon Blog

Court Agrees to Consider ACLU Arguments That Fourth Amendment Requires Warrant for Access to Prescription Database

By Nathan Freed Wessler, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project

A federal judge has granted the ACLU’s motion to intervene in an Oregon case that raises the question of whether the Fourth Amendment allows Drug Enforcement Administration agents to obtain confidential prescription records without a judge’s prior approval. (We’ve previously written about the case here).

Like most states, Oregon operates a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), which tracks prescriptions for certain drugs dispensed in the state. As one of the chief sponsors of the legislation creating the PDMP recently explained, the program is intended to be a public health tool to help physicians and pharmacists prevent drug overdoses and abuse by their patients. It was not created for use by law enforcement. Recognizing that records of a person’s prescriptions can reveal private information about their underlying medical conditions, the Oregon legislature instituted robust privacy protections, including a requirement that law enforcement must obtain a warrant before requesting records for use in an investigation.

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Bipartisan Group of Legislators Lead Oregon to Equal Access to Education Law

By Becky Straus, Legislative Director

Today in front of a packed room of supporters, Gov. John Kitzhaber signed into law HB 2787, a law that brings access to in-state tuition to all Oregonians, regardless of immigration status. The governor’s action marked the culmination of an over ten-year-long campaign for tuition equity in Oregon. It is about time.

A Democratic majority in both chambers and the rising political influence of Latinos in the electorate contributed to this great victory, but ultimately it was the leadership of a few key legislators that cleared the path for this bill’s passage. Sen. Frank Morse (R-Albany) and Sen. David Nelson (R-Pendleton), each now retired from the legislature, departed from the prevailing view of many in their caucus, and co-sponsored the tuition equity bill in the 2011 session. Their sponsorship demonstrated to Oregonians that tuition equity is about fairness rather than partisan politics. And their public support for the bill invited their colleagues to follow so that, despite the fact that Morse and Nelson are no longer in the legislature, eight Republicans (including Nelson’s successor) helped tuition equity pass in 2013.

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The Constitution Applies When the Government Bans Americans From the Skies

By Nusrat Choudury, Staff Attorney, ACLU National Security Project & Hina Shamsi, Director, ACLU National Security Project

The government does not have the unchecked authority to place individuals on a secret blacklist without providing them any meaningful opportunity to object, the ACLU argued in a brief filed last Friday with the federal district court in Oregon.

We made the filing in Latif v. Holder, our lawsuit asserting that the government violated the Fifth Amendment due process rights of 13 Americans, including four military veterans, by placing them on the No Fly List and refusing to give them any after-the-fact explanation or a hearing at which they can clear their names.

Our brief highlighted the utter irrationality of the government's No Fly List procedures. The plaintiffs in Latif all flew for years without any problems. But more than two years ago, they were suddenly branded as suspected terrorists based on secret evidence, publicly denied boarding on flights, and told by U.S. and airline officials that they were banned from flying, perhaps forever. Each of them asked the government to remove them from the No Fly List through the only "redress" mechanism available—the Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program. But the government has refused to provide any explanation or basis for their inclusion in the list. Our clients have been stuck in limbo ever since.

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ACLU Challenging DEA’s Access to Confidential Prescription Records Without a Warrant

By Nathan Freed Wessler, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project

The Drug Enforcement Administration is trying to access private prescription records of patients in Oregon without a warrant, despite a state law forbidding it from doing so. The ACLU and its Oregon affiliate are challenging this practice in a new case that raises the question of whether the Fourth Amendment allows federal law enforcement agents to obtain confidential prescription records without a judge’s prior approval. It should not.

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ACLU Wants Driver License Access for All Oregonians

By Becky Straus, Legislative Director

We are pleased that today Governor Kitzhaber made the right call, directing the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to resume issuing driver licenses to young immigrants who qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, but the announcement highlights a broader, urgent need to shift the conversation.

The time is long overdue for policy makers to de-link access to driver licenses with an applicant’s ability to prove lawful presence in the country and instead recognize that obtaining a driver license should be solely dependent upon road safety factors. Does the person know the rules of the road? Is that person insured?

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State Law Prevents “Show Me Your Papers” Laws in Oregon

By Becky Straus, Legislative Director

Following Monday’s Supreme Court decision in State v. Arizona, it is more important than ever that Oregonians are aware of and understand the long-standing legal protection in our state that ensures that Oregon will not become Arizona.

Section 2(b) of Arizona’s controversial S.B. 1070 requires Arizona police to determine the immigration status of someone arrested or detained if the officer has a “reasonable suspicion” that person is not in the country legally. While the Supreme Court decisively struck down the remainder of the unconstitutional and anti-immigrant provisions of Arizona’s law, it declined to strike down this “show me your papers” provision, sending the issue back to the lower courts to rule on whether the law could be interpreted narrowly enough to avoid constitutional violations. The Supreme Court’s decision not to immediately strike down this portion of S.B. 1070 is a dangerous mistake that immediately puts in jeopardy the rights of innocent individuals, as it is very likely that implementation of the law will result in racial profiling and prolonged detention of people in Arizona.

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ACLU of Oregon Challenges Unconstitutional Mail Policy in Jackson County Jail

By David Schor, Legal Intern, ACLU of Oregon

UPDATE: June 21, 2012 - The Medford Mail-Tribune reports today that Jackson County Sheriff Winters has reversed the jail’s mail policy and will once again treat ACLU mail to and from inmates as the privileged mail that it is. This is welcomed news but we aren’t dismissing our lawsuit just yet. We look forward to learning more specifics about the Sheriff’s plan to change the jail mail policy.

On June 6, 2012, the ACLU of Oregon filed suit in federal court to challenge Jackson County Jail’s unconstitutional inmate mail policy. The U.S. and Oregon Constitutions protect the free speech rights of inmates and those who wish to communicate with them. However, over the past two years a number of Oregon counties have adopted policies that severely restrict inmate mail. These policies have limited acceptable mail to postcards and have negatively impacted prisoners by forcing inmates to either expose private information such as passwords, bank records, intimate correspondence between spouses, and other sensitive content, or else forgo written communication on those important subjects. Even inmates who have not been convicted of any crime are subject to these restrictions during pre-trial detention. On May 29, 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon held that Columbia County Jail’s “postcard only” policy violated the First Amendment, finding that limiting correspondence to and from jails to postcards was not rationally related to a legitimate and neutral governmental objective because it did nothing to increase jail security.

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Commission on Public Safety Reconvenes, Aims for Sentencing Reform in 2013

By Becky Straus, Legislative Director

Smart reform of our criminal justice system is possible. With rates of incarceration in Oregon at historic highs, policymakers are turning to address an issue that the ACLU has been litigating and advocating on for decades. We can create a criminal justice system that is both fair and effective and there is real momentum to do so now.

Last week, Governor Kitzhaber’s Commission on Public Safety reconvened in Salem, welcoming new members and charting out a work plan for the months leading up to the 2013 legislative session. The Commission’s charge is clear: in the face of a state budget in crisis and unceasing growth in prison population, find smart and sustainable ways to reduce corrections spending and protect public safety.

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Need for a Warrant for GPS Tracking Still Not Settled

ACLU Files a Friend of the Court Brief in GPS Tracking Case

Yesterday, the national ACLU and ACLU of Oregon filed an amicus brief in United States v. Pineda-Moreno in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In 2007, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents in Oregon, without a warrant, were able to place a GPS tracking device to the silver Jeep owned by Juan Pineda-Moreno while parked in his driveway. Pineda-Moreno was suspected of growing marijuana.

The Ninth Circuit initially ruled against Pineda-Moreno in 2010, but the U.S. Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for further consideration by the Ninth Circuit in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in United States v. Jones.

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Death Penalty - The Enduring Failure to Protect Against Racism

By Jeffrey Ellis, Director of the Oregon Capital Resource Center

Twenty five years ago this week in a case entitled McCleskey v. Kemp, the United States Supreme Court was faced with disturbing proof that race influences who is sentenced to death in the United States. In Georgia, where the case originated, black defendants charged with killing white victims were 4.3 times as likely to receive a death sentence as white defendants charged with killing black victims. This prompted Justice Brennan to write:

"At some point in this case, Warren McCleskey doubtless asked his lawyer whether a jury was likely to sentence him to die. A candid reply to this question would have been disturbing. First, counsel would have to tell McCleskey that few of the details of the crime or of McCleskey’s past criminal conduct were more important than the fact that his victim was white….In addition, frankness would compel the disclosure that it was more likely than not that the race of McCleskey’s victim would determine whether he received a death sentence…  Finally, the assessment would not be complete without the information that cases  involving black defendants and white victims are more likely to result in a death sentence than cases featuring any other racial combination of defendant and victim. The story could be told in a variety of ways, but McCleskey could not fail to grasp its essential narrative line: there was a significant chance that race would play a prominent role in determining if he lived or died."

Although our criminal justice system aspires to be color blind we are tethered to our unfortunate history of racism.

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