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Civil liberties are dynamic. Clashes over conflicting perspectives on freedom, equality, and justice occur regularly in the Golden state. Visit this page for news on civil liberties developments throughout California and how they relate to our past.

Surveillance Lawsuit Dismissed

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February 11, 2015
Photo Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/59202267@N08/10562036794/">

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White dismissed part of a lawsuit brought by AT&T customers objecting to dragnet government surveillance of phone calls and e-mail messages. 

The lawsuit, filed in 2007, was inspired, in part, by revelations by a former AT&T technician in 2003 that equipment at a San Francisco AT&T facility allowed the National Security Administration (NSA) to conduct what he referred to as "vacuum cleaner" surveillance of all data crossing the Internet.

In 2005, the New York Times reported that the NSA had been conducting warantless wiretapping of domestic phone calls and e-mails with no judicial supervision or warrants.

In 2008, President George W. Bush approved legislation granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that had acted at the government's behest to supply private customer information. 

In his ruling, White said that the government would have to provide secret evidence that would risk grave damage to national security in order to refute the AT&T customers' claims of surveillance. 

White also said that the plaintiffs could not prove that their phone and e-mail data was part of the dragnet surveillance program.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which represents the AT&T customers, plans to appeal the decision.

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Sal Castro, Veteran Teacher and Advocate for Educational Equity, Dies at 79

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April 21, 2013
Photo by Jim Ober. Courtesy of Herald Examiner Collection / Los Angeles Public L

On April 15, 2013, Sal Castro, a teacher and counselor in Los Angeles schools for more than 35 years, died at his home in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles.

In March 1968, Castro was a 34-year-old social studies teacher at Lincoln High School in East Los Angeles. He helped organize Chicano students who were frustrated by overcrowded, understaffed, and run down schools in their neighborhoods.

Using the word "blowout" as the password for a student strike, 300 Chicano students walked out of Wilson High School on March 1.  The following day, 2,000 walked out of Wilson High School; the next day they were joined by 4,500 students from nearby Lincoln and Roosevelt High Schools.

Students were unprepared for the violent police reaction to their protest.  As students picketed in front of their high schools, Los Angeles police officers descended, attacking them with clubs. 

Officers identified student leaders and chased them through residential neighborhoods, where Mexican American families looked on in shock.

The "blowouts" and the police response attracted national attention, spotlighting the bleak educational conditions in East Los Angeles.

Eventually Castro and 12 others were indicted on charges of criminally conspiring to create riots, disrupt the functioning of the public schools, and disturb the peace.

Thousands of people picketed in front of the Los Angeles jail to support Castro and the 12 others who were called the "East L.A. Thirteen."

Charges were ultimately dropped against the East L.A. Thirteen after an appellate court judge ruled that they were exercising their fundamental First Amendment rights.

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Obama Administration Files Brief Supporting Marriage Equality

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March 4, 2013
Photo Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/53446320@N00/137231145/">zac

In a legal brief to the Supreme Court, the Justice Department argues that Proposition 8, California's ban on same-sex marriage, violates the United State's Constitution's equal protection clause.

The brief urges the high court to consider Proposition 8 under "heightened scrutiny," a legal test in which supporters of the ban must clearly demonstrate an important government purpose for discrimination.

Proposition 8, the Obama administration says, fails to meet that standard.

Justice Department attorneys argue that the justifications forwarded by Proposition 8's supporters --promoting "responsible procreation," affirming the "traditional definition" of marraige, and proceeding with caution on divisive social issues--do not advance a significant government purpose that would be accomplished by excluding gay couples from marrying. 

The "procreation" argument could be used to deny marriage to infertile heterosexual couples, and "tradition" was historically used to justify racial segregation, the brief explains.

The brief offers the court a way to strike down Proposition 8 but limit the impact of its decision to California and seven other states that deny gay couples the right to marry but that recognize same-sex civil unions or domestic partnerships.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Proposition 8 case on March 26. The following day, the justices will hold a hearing on a challenge to the "Defense of Marriage Act," which denies federal recognition to same-sex married couples.

The Obama administration filed its brief the day after results were released from a new Field Poll indicating that 61 percent of California voters now favor allowing same sex couples the right to marry.