Justice department won’t charge white officers in killing of Alton Sterling – Oliver Laughland Tuesday 2 May 2017 19.30 EDT


Fatal shooting of the 37-year-old black man in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was caught on video and led to widespread protests

Alton Sterling’s family give emotional statement after police killing

The US justice department has declined to bring charges against the white police officers involved in the 2016 fatal shooting of Alton Sterling, a black man in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, according to multiple reports.

The 37-year-old was killed last July after two officers wrestled him to the ground and opened fire from close range in an incident that caught on video by eyewitnesses. The case was referred quickly to federal civil rights investigators after calls from Sterling’s family and unrest on the streets of Baton Rouge.

Sterling’s death came the day before the fatal police shooting of Philando Castile, a black man in Minnesota, and the same week that five officers in Dallas, Texas were gunned down in a targeted killing carried out during a protest to mark the deaths of the two men. The officer who shot dead Castile has since been charged with manslaughter.

Both the New York Times and the Washington Post quoted anonymous justice department officials confirming that no charges would brought in the Sterling case. The justice department did not respond to a request for confirmation.

L Chris Stewart and Justin Bamberg, attorneys for the Sterling family said they had not been informed by the department of “any decision or announcement”.

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Justice Department Fires Salvo at Consumer Watchdog – By  Brent Kendall Updated March 17, 2017 7:10 p.m. ET


POTUS’ administration backs legal effort to have structure of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau declared unconstitutional

The Justice Department, above, says the CFPB’s structure creates separation-of-powers problems under the Constitution because the bureau director isn’t sufficiently answerable to the president.

The Justice Department, above, says the CFPB’s structure creates separation-of-powers problems under the Constitution because the bureau director isn’t sufficiently answerable to the president. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

WASHINGTON—The Trump administration took aim at a consumer finance regulator created after the 2008 financial crisis, backing a legal effort to have the structure of the Obama-era agency declared unconstitutional.

The Justice Department, now under Trump administration leadership, filed court papers on Friday opposing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an independent regulator, asking a federal appeals court to order the restructuring of the agency.

The CFPB is fighting to keep its current setup, which gives its director protection from political interference from the White House. The administration in February said that President Donald Trump believes the bureau as currently organized is unaccountable to the public.

The dispute stems from a case in which the CFPB alleged PHH Corp., a New Jersey mortgage lender, violated the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act by accepting kickbacks from mortgage insurers.

The Democratic-controlled Congress that created the CFPB after the 2008 financial crisis gave the agency power over the markets for consumer-finance products and an unusual amount of independence. It is headed by a single director who can be removed by the president only for cause, such as negligence or malfeasance.

The six-year-old bureau has been criticized by Republicans since its inception for what they see as heavy-handed and unnecessary regulation of firms that sell loans, credit cards and other financial products.

CFPB Director Richard Cordray has defended the bureau’s independent structure and mandate as an enforcement agency, saying it has helped consumers across the country.

The Justice Department said the CFPB’s structure creates separation-of-powers problems under the Constitution because the bureau director isn’t sufficiently answerable to the president.

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Justice Department Watchdog Launches Internal Probe Into Handling of Clinton Email Case – By  Devlin Barrett Updated Jan. 12, 2017 2:22 p.m. ET


Inquiry follows public debate over FBI director’s pre-election statements

FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Photo: jim lo scalzo/European Pressphoto Agency

The Justice Department’s inspector general announced Thursday he would investigate how the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s top two leaders handled a probe into Democrat Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, to see if the FBI or the Justice Department failed to follow their own policies and procedures.

The announcement comes amid continuing public debate over whether FBI Director James Comey, by alerting Congress to new investigative work on the Clinton case 11 days before the election, violated the longstanding Justice Department practice of avoiding overt actions that could influence, or seem to influence, an election’s outcome.

Mrs. Clinton has said Mr. Comey’s actions contributed to her defeat in the 2016 presidential election.

The inspector general’s announcement ensures that one of the most bitterly contested questions of the recent election—whether Mrs. Clinton’s chances were irreparably damaged by the unusual FBI moves—will live on for at least several more months.

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Justice Department: New Texas Voter ID Rules Are Misleading To Voters – ASHLEY LOPEZ September 10, 2016


Ann Moss checks a voter’s ID before signing her in to vote at Hunters Creek Elementary School in Houston during the Texas primaries on March 1.

Lucian Perkins/The Washington Post/Getty Images

The legal battle over the Texas voter ID law is a fight that just won’t end.

The law was passed by the state’s Republican-led legislature in 2011. It immediately became one of the strictest photo ID laws in the country. And the law has been in and out of courts ever since.

According to civil rights attorney Chad Dunn, the courts ruled that the law is discriminatory.

“There is some considerable evidence that it was adopted with the purpose to prevent certain voters from voting,” Dunn says.

He says judges ruled the Texas law made it harder for minorities to vote. That’s why the state was forced to change the law before the presidential election. As a result, voters without one of the seven photo IDs required by the state now have some wiggle room. They can present alternative forms of ID — like a voter registration card. And Dunn says they just have to sign a document saying they had trouble getting a Texas photo ID.

“And if they have an impediment to getting an ID — a reasonable impediment to getting an ID — they shouldn’t fear at all coming into a polling location and filling out a declaration and casting that full ballot they are entitled to,” Dunn says.

A federal judge ordered the the state to communicate these changes to voters. And that’s where things have hit a snag: The state is accused of using language that doesn’t stress that people without a photo ID can now vote.

From the state’s website: “Voters who cannot obtain one of the seven forms of approved photo ID have additional options at the polls when casting their ballots.”

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Justice Department Plans to Stop Using Private Prisons – PEMA LEVY AUG. 18, 2016 12:06 PM


The announcement comes after a Mother Jones investigation found serious deficiencies at a private prison in Louisiana.

An inmate at Winn Correctional Center, in Louisiana, which until recently was run by the Corrections Corporation of America. Mother Jones

The Department of Justice will stop contracting with private prisons, the department announced Thursday morning. The decision comes a week after the DOJ inspector general released a damning report on the safety, security, and oversight of private prisons, which incarcerate 12 percent of federal inmates.

The announcement comes on the heels of a Mother Jones investigation of a private prison in Louisiana that found serious deficiencies in staffing and security. It also documented a higher rate of violence than the prison reported. Last week’s DOJ report found that private prisons are more violent than federal prisons.

As of December 2015, private prisons incarcerated about 22,600 federal inmates. The news of the DOJ’s decision prompted a quick downturn in stock prices for the two largest private prison companies.

The decision was announced in a memo by Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, according to the Washington Post. The memo directs department officials not to renew existing contracts or to “substantially reduce” their scope, with the goal of “reducing—and ultimately ending—our use of privately operated prisons.”

Read Mother Jones‘ editor-in-chief and CEO on what it took to pull off our investigation.

Justice department investigating fatal police shooting of Loreal Tsingine – Jamiles Lartey Saturday 30 July 2016 15.02 EDT


Tsingine, a Native American, was killed by officer Austin Shipley in late March as fatal shootings of Native Americans by police have increased in 2016

In body-camera footage, Loreal Tsingine is seen getting up and walking toward an officer with a small pair of scissors in her left hand, and another officer quickly approaches her from behind.

The Justice Department will investigate the police shooting of a Native American woman in Arizona, a spokesman said on Friday, a day after footage released by the Winslow police department raised concerns about racial bias in the fatal shooting.

The department’s civil rights division will review the local investigation into the March 27 shooting death of Loreal Tsingine, spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle said.

Tsingine, 27, was shot and killed by the Winslow police officer Austin Shipley in late March after officers suspected her of shoplifting in a local store and confronted her. Silent body-camera footage, first obtained by the Arizona Daily Sun, shows a police officer trying to restrain Tsingine then shoving her to the ground and finally drawing a gun on her as she approaches him.

In the video, Tsingine gets up and walks toward Shipley with a small pair of medical scissors in her left hand, and another officer quickly approaches her from behind. Shipley draws his gun and directs it at Tsingine, and the footage is cut off before he fires the fatal shot.

The shooting was ruled justified by the Maricopa County attorney’s office last Friday.

Tsingine’s aunt, Floranda Dempsey, said her niece was 5ft tall and weighed 95lbs. “They should have been able to subdue her with their huge size and weight,” she said. “It wasn’t like she came at them first. I’m sure anyone would be mad if they were thrown around.” She added a question: “Where were the tasers, pepper sprays, batons?”

The family filed a $10.5m wrongful death lawsuit against the city at the beginning of the month, claiming that “the city of Winslow was negligent in hiring, training, retaining, controlling and supervising” the officer who killed Tsingine.

Shipley’s training records show two of his fellow officers had serious concerns that he was too quick to go for his service weapon, that he ignored directives from superiors, and that he was liable to falsify reports and not control his emotions.

A day before Shipley’s training ended, nearly three years ago, a police corporal recommended that the Winslow police department not retain him.

“They were warned he was likely to hurt someone back in 2013 or so, by another commanding officer,” Floranda said. “It’s unbelievable as to why he was still allowed to wear a badge.”

Floranda said watching the video shocked her and made her angry, and that all she saw was “a bully who got angry for getting his ego squashed” by a small Native American woman.

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Judge Sides With Technology Firms in Case Over Justice Department’s Gag Orders – By Joe Palazzolo and Devlin Barrett May 13, 2016 5:46 p.m. ET


Judge denies 15 government applications for gag orders against service providers, ruling they lacked enough information

A U.S. magistrate judge denied the Justice Department’s applications for gag orders against service providers, writing in a ruling Thursday that they lacked enough information for him to judge whether the secrecy was warranted.

A U.S. magistrate judge denied the Justice Department’s applications for gag orders against service providers, writing in a ruling Thursday that they lacked enough information for him to judge whether the secrecy was warranted.– PHOTO: ANDREW HARNIK/ASSOCIATED PRESS

A Brooklyn magistrate judge has rejected the Justice Department’s practice of getting gag orders against technology companies, saying federal agents should have to give a specific reason why customers of Facebook and other firms shouldn’t be told when the government searches their data.

U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein denied 15 separate government applications for gag orders against service providers, writing in a ruling Thursday that they lacked enough information for him to judge whether the secrecy was warranted.

Of the 15 applications, at least two sought orders against Facebook to prevent it from disclosing grand jury subpoenas. While Judge Orenstein referenced the case titles in his ruling, the nature of investigations and applications themselves remain under seal.

“The government cannot…obtain an order that constrains the freedom of service providers to disclose information to their customers without making a particularized showing of need,” he wrote. “The boilerplate assertions set forth in the government’s applications do not make such a showing.”

Facebook’s policy is to tell customers about law-enforcement searches of their data unless the company is legally obligated not to do so. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on the new ruling, as did a spokesman for Facebook.

Because the court hadn’t yet approved the orders at issue, the company wasn’t aware of the specific cases until the ruling was publicly filed.

The 12-page ruling took aim at secrecy that technology companies have bridled under in recent years.

Judge Orenstein has challenged the Justice Department in other contexts, including frustrating the agency’s efforts to compel Apple Inc. to help investigators unlock an iPhone.

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Apple Asks Judge To Reject Justice Department Order in New York Case – By DEVLIN BARRETT Updated April 15, 2016 6:00 p.m. ET


The court filing casts doubt on FBI claims and is the latest salvo over encryption

An Apple logo is seen at the Apple store. Apple Inc. filed court papers Friday asking a judge to turn down an effort by the Justice Department to force the company to help unlock an iPhone in a New York drug case.

An Apple logo is seen at the Apple store. Apple Inc. filed court papers Friday asking a judge to turn down an effort by the Justice Department to force the company to help unlock an iPhone in a New York drug case. Photo: Michaela Rehle/Reuters — By Devlin Barrett Updated April 15, 2016 6:00 p.m. ET

Apple Inc. on Friday asked a federal judge to reject the Justice Department’s effort to make it help unlock an iPhone tied to a New York drug case—the latest legal volley in a continuing battle over encryption and privacy.

For months, the world’s largest technology firm has been locked in a high-stakes battle with the Justice Department over whether the government can continue to force Apple employees to help investigators open locked iPhones.

That disagreement escalated sharply in February when the Federal Bureau of Investigation took Apple to court, seeking an order to force it to help open the locked work phone of Syed Rizwan Farook, who along with his wife killed 14 people and injured 22 others in San Bernardino, Calif., last year.

The government dropped that case last month after a third party showed them a new method of cracking open the phone. The FBI has said the technique only works on a narrow slice of iPhones and can’t be used on many others, including the one currently at issue in New York.

In that case, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn are seeking a court order compelling Apple to help them extract data from an iPhone taken from a drug suspect who has since pleaded guilty. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein ruled in February that the government didn’t have legal authority to compel Apple to help agents extract data from phones. The government is asking a higher judge to review that finding, which is why Apple filed its response to prosecutors on Friday.

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Obama calls for international tax reform amid Panama Papers revelations — Rupert Neate in New York and David Smith in Washington Tuesday 5 April 2016 18.25 EDT


Unscripted remarks come as Justice Department confirms it is examining US links to leaked documents from Panama-based tax firm Mossack Fonseca

Barack Obama: ‘Tax avoidance is a big, global problem.’

Barack Obama: ‘Tax avoidance is a big, global problem.’

Barack Obama has called for international tax reform in the wake of the revelations contained in the Panama Papers.

“There is no doubt that the problem of global tax avoidance generally is a huge problem,” he told reporters at the White House on Tuesday. “The problem is that a lot of this stuff is legal, not illegal.”

The US president said the leak from Panama illustrated the scale of tax avoidance involving Fortune 500 companies and running into trillions of dollars worldwide.

“We shouldn’t make it legal to engage in transactions just to avoid taxes,” he added, praising instead “the basic principle of making sure everyone pays their fair share”.

Obama described the Panama revelations as “important stuff” and highlighted the impact upon ordinary citizens, adding that “a lot of these loopholes come at the expense of middle-class families, because that lost revenue has to be made up somewhere.

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Ferguson Approves Police And Courts Overhaul — With Some Changes – LAURA WAGNER Updated February 10, 20161:32 AM ET Published February 9, 201611:31 PM ET


Ferguson mayor James Knowles III, (second from left) speaks during a city council meeting on Feb. 2. The meeting was the first opportunity for residents to speak directly with city leaders about the preliminary consent agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Ferguson mayor James Knowles III, (second from left) speaks during a city council meeting on Feb. 2. The meeting was the first opportunity for residents to speak directly with city leaders about the preliminary consent agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. — Jeff Roberson/AP

The city council of Ferguson, Mo., agreed late Monday to implement intensive changes to the city’s police department and court system, under a consent decree negotiated by city officials with the U.S. Justice Department. But, concerned about the price tag, the council made some changes.

If Ferguson and the Justice Department don’t agree on all the terms, federal prosecutors could file a civil rights lawsuit, which could prove more costly than the reforms, the Associated Press reported.

The Justice Department responded quickly with dismay. In a statement, Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said:

“The Ferguson City Council has attempted to unilaterally amend the negotiated agreement. Their vote to do so creates an unnecessary delay in the essential work to bring constitutional policing to the city, and marks an unfortunate outcome for concerned community members and Ferguson police officers. Both parties engaged in thoughtful negotiations over many months to create an agreement with cost-effective remedies that would ensure Ferguson brings policing and court practices in line with the Constitution. The agreement already negotiated by the department and the city will provide Ferguson residents a police department and municipal court that fully respects civil rights and operates free from racial discrimination.

“The Department of Justice will take the necessary legal actions to ensure that Ferguson’s policing and court practices comply with the Constitution and relevant federal laws.”

As the Two-Way previously reported, the package includes a number of facets, and would require the city to submit to independent monitoring.

The 127-page proposed agreement creates guidelines for training police officers on issues such as when they should use force and how to “reorient Ferguson’s use-of-force policies toward de-escalation and avoiding force.” The agreement also requires body-worn cameras and an overhaul of the municipal court system.

The implementation of the plan is expected to be pricey. The AP reports that “the city estimates it would cost $2.2 million to $3.7 million to implement the agreement in the first year, and $1.8 million to $3 million in the second and third years.”

The AP also reports:

“Councilman Wesley Bell, who proposed the changes, said he was confident the Department of Justice would agree.

“‘I don’t think there’s anything unreasonable,’ Bell said.”

The biggest change made by the council was dropping an increase in police officers’ salaries; officials believe that would also require higher firefighter salaries, at a cost to the city of $1 million, the AP reported. The amended plan will require Justice Department approval, but the city said it would begin making many of the changes immediately.

The approval of the amended document came at the end of a raucous city council meeting, at which many attendees voiced their support for the agreement as-is.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that audience member Kayla Reed said if the city had enough money to buy and use tear gas on protesters, it has enough money to follow the Justice Department’s requirements.

The price tag prompted some in the community to urge the council to reject the agreement, arguing that the plan could bankrupt Ferguson, which has an annual budget of $14.5 million, according to the AP.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, however, said in a statement on Tuesday that cost should not be a prohibiting factor and urged the council to vote yes.

“We encourage Ferguson officials to think creatively about how to meet the costs of implementation of the proposed consent decree,” Monique Dixon, LDF’s Deputy Director and Senior Counsel said in the statement. “This may include consulting with other cities that have successfully implemented similar consent decrees, accepting any free technical assistance from the DOJ, and applying for state or federal grants.”

The Justice Department began an investigation into Ferguson after white police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Michael Brown, who was black and unarmed, on August 9, 2014. Wilson was later cleared by a St. Louis County grand jury and by the Justice Department. After the decision, the Justice Department opened an investigation into Ferguson’s police department. The consent decree was the product of the months of negotiation between the city and the DOJ.

At the city council meeting Tuesday night, citizens weighed in on the proposed plan, some claiming it was too costly to implement; others arguing it was too costly not to. Brown’s father, Michael Brown Sr., attended the meeting wearing a sweatshirt that read “Justice for Mike Brown,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.