law professor

According to law professor David Gonzalez, the jogger who was arrested Thursday for failing to identify herself after being stopped for jaywalking could have avoided arrest by being more cooperative.

Austin police officers detained Amanda Jo Stephen, 24, after seeing her disregard a pedestrian traffic signal at the intersection of 24th and San Antonio streets. Once stopped, Stephen refused to identify herself to the officers, who then arrested her.

“She had already committed an arrestable offense when she failed to obey traffic laws,” APD spokeswoman Veneza Bremner said.

According to Gonzalez, in most cases, withholding one’s name, residential address or date of birth only causes unnecessary tension with police. If one has not been detained or arrested, it is legal to withhold information, but Gonzalez said he discourages it.

“It’s never OK,” Gonzalez said. “If you are stopped, even if you did nothing wrong, a police officer has the right to ask you for your name, your residence address and your date of birth. There’s nothing illegal or incriminating about giving that information.”

“There is an argument of, ‘Well, I was illegally detained, so I don’t have to give it to the officer because I haven’t been legally detained,’” Gonzalez said. “But, in general, it’s bad practice. Asking for your name isn’t really considered an interrogation.”

In Stephen’s case, Gonzalez said officers would not have gone through with the arrest if her name had been provided.

“The reality is that, if she didn’t go limp, they would’ve given her a ticket, and that’s all there is to it — but, once she went limp and wouldn’t identify herself, they escalated it,” Gonzalez said.

Jaywalking alone is an arrestable offense, according to Gonzalez.

“It is confusing because it is typically a ticket,” Gonzalez said. “In Texas, other than speeding or having [an] open container of alcohol, every other thing is an arrestable offense, and it’s the police officer’s discretion as to whether to arrest you or to give you a ticket.”

Gonzalez said the best course of action for Stephen would have been to fight the arrest in court rather than on the street.

“Judges do not want people fighting with police officers on the street about whether it’s a lawful search or a lawful arrest,” Gonzalez said. “If you have a question, ask for a lawyer, follow what the police’s instructions are, say, ‘I want to have a lawyer. I don’t want to consent to anything,’ and then go to court and fight it out like civilized people. What they don’t want are people making those decisions on the street. It just aggravates things.”

Undeclared freshman Claire Matlock said she thinks jaywalking should not be an arrestable offense.

“It’s not as serious as other crimes that people are arrested for. It’s such a petty thing,” Matlock said.

Pre-public relations freshman Marisa Ballard said she thought the most severe punishment for jaywalking would be a citation.

“I think jaywalking is something that every college student does,” Ballard said. “I’m not planning on jaywalking on the Drag anytime soon.”

Photo Credit: Lauren Ussery | Daily Texan Staff

In her Wednesday keynote address for the 18th Annual Barbara Jordan Forum at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier said America must work together to protect current voting rights in the same way civil rights workers convinced President Lyndon Johnson to sign the Voting Rights Act of 1964.

LBJ School dean Robert Hutchings said in a press release that the presence of Guinier, a prominent civil rights lawyer, is especially timely because the school is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act this spring. 

Guinier said she thinks citizens of the U.S. should consider how similar Western democracies handle voting issues rather than simply comparing different states’ voting policies.

“We really need to embarrass the United States in its claim that [it is] the world’s most important, significant and honorable democracy, when we have such a small percentage of our population participating in any election,” Guinier said in regard to new voter ID laws that critics have called unnecessarily restrictive. “We have in many ways abdicated our commitment to democracy in the name of democracy.”

Guinier said maintaining civil rights accomplishments of the past, such as the Voting Rights Act, will require continued cooperation not only to ensure progress but also to avoid worsening issues of the past by assuming they are no longer problems.

“What was new to me was [not only] how she brought up the past and where we were but also how far we still have to go,” said Judith Mitchell, a former social worker at the Counseling and Mental Health Center. 

Mitchell said it’s still hard to have an open and frank discussion about diversity, even within a progressive setting such as the University.

Guinier said we should model current efforts to advance civil rights after the leadership style of Nelson Mandela.

“Nelson Mandela said that you really need to think about leadership the way a shepherd leads a flock,” Guinier said. “The shepherd does not stand in front of the flock and say, ‘Hey, follow me.’ The shepherd identifies one or two individual sheep who are moving in the right direction and then corrals the rest of the flock to follow the leader.”

Bea Ann Smith, a law professor, former judge of the Texas Court of Appeals, Third District, and longtime friend of Barbara Jordan, said she loved Guinier’s speech because the issues of diversity and voter ID laws are problems that require cooperative solutions.

“I thought her idea about leading from behind seems very appropriate right now,” Smith said. “Collaboration and consensual leadership instead of authoritative leadership is much more effective.”

When the Supreme Court decided two weeks ago to invalidate the heart of the Voting Rights Act (“VRA”) of 1965, the decision sent shockwaves throughout the state, where the court’s decision prompted Attorney General Greg Abbott to announce just hours after the ruling that Texas’ voter ID law, which had been rejected by a federal panel as “retrogressive,” would be reinstated. The court’s decision and Abbott’s subsequent actions are bad for Texans and bad for UT students.

Prior to the court’s ruling, several states with a history of racial discrimination at the ballot box, including Texas, were required to report changes to their election law to the federal government for approval. (The preclearance requirements in Section 5 of the VRA were not thrown out, only the coverage definitions in Section 4, without which Section 5 can’t be enforced barring congressional intervention.) It was during this approval process that the Texas voter ID law, which puts in place stricter identification requirements for voters at the ballot box, was struck down by the federal court.

According to law professor Joseph Fishkin, the court’s majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, implies that discrimination and disenfranchisement in the United States are not what they once were. Roberts was joined by Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito in the 5-4 ruling.

The court’s decision to imply that racism is no longer present at the polls is surprising: If this were true, why did Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott immediately reinstate Texas’ disenfranchising Voter ID law after learning of the ruling?

At first glance, Texas’ voter ID law seems like common sense; the attorney general has stated that the state simply wants to ensure that voters are U.S. citizens before they cast their ballot. But the San Antonio Express-News reported last year that fewer than five complaints of voter fraud were filed with Abbott’s office between 2008 and 2010. According to law professor Sanford Levinson, there is a widespread lack of evidence of voter fraud, which forces the question: Did the lawmakers who put in place voter ID do so to protect against voter fraud or to disenfranchise voting blocs?

Under the law, a driver’s license, military ID, passport, state personal ID card, citizenship certificate, passport, concealed handgun license or a special "election identification certificate" (which would be provided by the DPS free of cost) would suffice. But a student ID? No such luck. Consequently, this law would handicap the ability of UT students, who often visit the ballot box on campus in between classes, to vote. Traditionally, students have been able to vote on campus by showing a picture ID, including a UT ID card. But under the voter ID law, students with only a student ID would be unable to vote, leaving students without driver’s licenses out in the cold.

Requiring students to show this kind of proof in order to exercise their most basic right as Americans is not only shameful, but far-reaching—many students will simply forgo the entire process.

Students, of course, are not the only group who would be affected. Fishkin notes that a number of other groups would be disenfranchised. Elderly voters, minority voters and, generally speaking, people who lack the means to obtain the type of identification required by the new law would be obstructed from voting.

Despite the court’s decision, the battle is far from over. Law professor Stefanie Lindquist keenly notes that Section 2 of the VRA, as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment remain as legal bulwarks against discrimination, as they allow for individuals to sue over discriminatory voting laws.

But this opportunity for potentially changing the law yet again in the future is a consolation prize at best. In the meantime, the court’s decision has put the participation of voters across the state at risk.

Kapasi is a finance junior from Sugarland.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this column did not state that an election identification certificate, personal ID card, citizenship certificate or passport could also be used as identification at the polls under the Voter ID law. This information has been added for clarification. 


Editor’s Note: Portions of the interview have been translated from Spanish.

Although some Mexican attorneys, policymakers and citizens criticized the 2008 reforms to the Mexican justice system, they are necessary in light of the current system’s inefficiency and inaccuracy, a Mexican law professor said in a panel Tuesday.

In 2008, the Mexican government mandated all states change their law procedures from a written to an oral system by 2016. Before the amendment, the majority of lawyers would never see a judge, and courts would take up only one-fifth of crimes filed, said Carlos Natarén, a law professor at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

The Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies hosted Natarén, along with the state of Mexico’s Supreme Court chief justice and a judicial professor for a panel on the judicial reforms.

Natarén said 37 percent of Mexicans said they had confidence in the written judicial system, but the public is slow to accept the new one.

“In a violent environment where the public is paralyzed by fear and [policymakers] are trying to protect the rights of the defendants, [policymakers] are not going to be very popular,” Natarén said.

Eight of 32 Mexican states have already switched to the adversarial system — one similar to United States law proceedings. The system, he said, will be more transparent and emphasize victims’ and defendants’ rights.

Public criticism included accusations that the system is foreign to Mexican culture and that it should not be implemented during the escalated violence of the drug wars.

Antonio Caballero, director of judicial studies at Center for Research and Teaching in Economics in Mexico City, Mexico, said lawmakers pointed to rising crime rates as proof that the reforms had failed.
Despite the criticisms, Caballero said states that have implemented the changes are more efficient in reviewing cases.

Baruch Delgado Carbajal, chief justice of the Supreme Court of the state of Mexico, said reforms will require courtrooms, administrative buildings and attorneys to accommodate the emphasis on oral hearings.

“We lack attorneys who know the techniques,” Carbajal said. “We have to write a whole new set
of textbooks.”

Mexican attorneys need to learn techniques, such as making opening statements and questioning witnesses effectively, he said.