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2007 May - June

The Modern-Day Poll Tax

How Economic Sanctions Block Access to the Polls

By Erika L. Wood & Neema Trivedi

Exclusion of convicted felons from the right to vote remains a categorical segregation from the franchise in the United States. The practice of felon disenfranchisement is rooted in a history of race discrimination and today disproportionately denies suffrage to members of minority groups and the poor. Legal challenges to these policies under the Voting Rights Act have produced mixed results, but attacking the constitutionality of legal financial obligations imposed on ex-offenders, such as the payment of court fines and fees, may prove to be the best approach to eradicating a policy that is the modern-day equivalent of a poll tax

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"I Just Need More Time"

Making the Case for an Extension of Time to Vacate a Rental Unit as a Reasonable Accommodation

By Nisha N. Vyas

Once an unlawful detainer action is initiated against a tenant with a disability, the tenant faces loss of possession without finding appropriate substitute housing. The tenant’s credit score suffers, and the tenant may have to meet a court order to pay landlord’s court costs and attorney fees. To avoid these risks, tenants with disabilities should request an extension of time to vacate. By showing that the extension constitutes a reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities, advocates can help them to obtain such accommodation.

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Left Behind Before Katrina and Left Behind After

By William P. Quigley

There is No Such Thing as a Natural Disaster: Race, Class, and Hurricane Katrina, edited by Chester Hartman and Gregory D. Squires, answers the question of why those left behind after Hurricane Katrina were overwhelmingly poor people of color. According to There Is No Such Thing, Katrina should be used as an opportunity to create a more just community.

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Wait a Minute

Slowing Down Criminal-Activity Eviction Cases to Find the Truth

By Lawrence R. McDonough & Mac McCreight

Defending tenants in public and subsidized housing from criminal-activity evictions reached a new urgency following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2002 decision in Department of Housing and Urban Development v. Rucker. Although some argue that tenants facing such evictions have no choice but to move, tenants have many available (and easily overlooked) federal, state, and local law defenses.

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Against Employer Retaliation

Protecting Low-Wage Workers Who Oppose Sex Discrimination

By Michael I. Marsh & Evangelina Fierro Hernandez

Title VII protects employees from sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company v. White makes clear how Title VII can be used to challenge retaliatory acts of employers against employers who complain of discrimination. Advocates should be aware of the antiretaliation elements under Title VII and how to counsel clients in a legally informative yet individually sensitive manner when their clients oppose and report sex discrimination in the workplace.

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Medicare Coverage of Dental Care Following Radiation Treatment and Chemotherapy

By Sally Hart Wilson & Jamie L. Wyman

Radiation treatment and chemotherapy prescribed for individuals with oral, head, and neck cancers can cause serious dental problems. Medicare’s restrictive dental coverage usually results in a denial of coverage for dental care to correct problems following and caused by radiation treatment and chemotherapy. A carefully planned challenge offers Medicare beneficiaries a chance nevertheless to obtain Medicare coverage.

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Preserving Tribal Families, Culture, and Communities

California's Legislation to Enforce the Indian Child Welfare Act

By Maureen Geary & Mark Radoff

Nearly thirty years after Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978, ensuring its implementation remained a challenge for California Indian tribes, who faced the state’s courts’ and county welfare agencies’ entrenched resistance to the federal law. A statewide coalition of advocates and tribes successfully pursued comprehensive statutory reform, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed their bill into law in 2006. The far-reaching new state statute clarifies the Indian Child Welfare Act’s applicability to Indian child custody proceedings in all state courts and establishes new limits on terminating the parental rights of Indian parents.

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Litigation to Improve Access to Health Care for Children

Lessons from Memisovski v. Maram

By John Bouman, Frederick H. Cohen, David J. Chizewer, Stephanie Altman & Thomas Yates

Memisovski v. Maram, a federal class action lawsuit on behalf of some 600,000 Cook County, Illinois, children receiving Medicaid, has led to improved ways of delivering health care services. In a bench trial plaintiffs used the state’s own data to show the low level of care that the class received, showed through expert analysis of reimbursement rates how the state discouraged doctors from serving Medicaid children, and gave testimony from the children’s parents about their difficult experience with health care. The court rejected the state’s argument that plaintiffs had no enforceable rights and ruled that the state was out of compliance with the Medicaid Act. The parties then negotiated a consent decree of multiple approaches, including higher reimbursement rates, to ensure that children have access to and receive mandated health care services.

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Affirmatively Litigating: How the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Require Early Case Planning

The Rule 26(f) Conference

By Greg Bass

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(f) requires counsel, early in the course of federal litigation, to “confer” regarding case planning and discovery. They must consider settlement possibilities and submit to the court a written discovery plan that states areas of agreement and issues in dispute. In general, discovery may not proceed until the Rule 26(f) conference is held. This requirement can help in organizing litigation and reveal important information about opposing counsel’s theories of the case.

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