TCP Newsletter
October 2017
Dear Friend of TCP,Top

On September 18, we held our 2017 Gala, observing both Constitution Day and TCP's 20th anniversary.  By all accounts, the event was a smashing success.  We were so lucky to be able to honor two of our founders, Mickey Edwards and Mort Halperin, as this year's Constitutional Champions.  As I said in my opening remarks, "I can't think of any people who more deserve to be honored tonight than two of our founders, Mort Halperin and Mickey Edwards."  Constitutional Champions are individuals who have, in the face of adversity, stood up for the American ideals of liberty, justice, and the rule of law and fought to defend our nation's Constitution and the rights it guarantees. 

We have posted video and photos of the event here

At that link, you will also find links to Mort and Mickey's remarks. Copies of their stirring words of warning about the state of our democratic system and adherence to our Constitution and its values, as well as praise for TCP's work, were in great demand. 

Virginia Sloan
In This Issue
Current Events

In September, constitutional law expert Lou Fisher, who serves as TCP's Scholar in Residence, received the Career Service Award, honoring outstanding professional service contributions to the Presidents and Executive Politics Section, from the American Political Science Association.  He has also released yet another book, Supreme Court Expansion of Presidential Power.  The Legal History Blog ended its favorable review in this way: 

"The book has a pretty terrific dedication, or at least it seems so to us, as Congress returns to session during another fraught moment in the Presidency of Donald J. Trump:
To Justice Robert Jackson, who wrote in the Steel Seizure Case: 'With all its defects, delays and inconveniences, men have discovered no technique for long preserving free government except that the Executive be under the law, and that the law be made by parliamentary deliberations.'"

Listen as Lou discusses the book on Just Security here.  

Back to top
Oklahoma Death Penalty Commissioners Continue Their Work Article1
Death Penalty

Oklahoma Death Penalty Review commissioner and former Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives Kris Steele was appointed to the OK Pardon & Parole Board. The Commission's report has a number of recommendations related to the PPB, and Speaker Steele's appointment to the PPB gets us closer to ensuring those recommendations are implemented. We are thrilled to see Speaker Steele in such an important role in Oklahoma's capital punishment system. The Oklahoma report continues to make the news and be utilized by stakeholders. You can follow the press coverage here:

Back to top
TCP Responds to Administration's Revocation of Limits on Providing Military Equipment to States   Article2
In late August, President Trump rescinded President Obama's 2015 Executive Order 13688 and its ensuing recommendations, which placed critical limits on federal programs that provide military equipment to law enforcement agencies. TCP quickly mobilized coalition partners to respond to this disappointing policy change, and on September 12th, over 60 organization called for a moratorium on the Department of Defense 1033 program until Congress holds oversight hearings to ensure that military equipment is not misused if it is provided to law enforcement agencies. The letter, signed by organizations from the right and the left, was sent to several committees in both the Senate and House. We also coordinated with the Cato Institute--their blog post and TCP's press release helped the letters get additional coverage. This issue is even more pressing given today's political climate--against a backdrop of increased protests nationwide (including most recently in St. Louis) and President Trump's inexplicable speech this summer encouraging law enforcement to be "rough." 

As TCP's Policing Committee articulated in last year's report, unfettered access to military equipment enables and arguably encourages escalated, military-style tactics and excessive and oftentimes fatal use of force. We continue to meet with stakeholders and policymakers to prevent return to an era in which law enforcement agencies will have virtually unchecked access to military equipment.  

Back to top
Texas Death Row Inmate Resentenced to Life Article3
Death Penalty
In 1997, Duane Buck was sentenced to death after a Texas jury heard false and unconstitutional testimony from an "expert" that Buck was more likely to be a future danger because he is black. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-2 opinion authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, characterized this testimony as akin to a deadly toxin of racial prejudice and held that Mr. Buck's death sentence could not stand.  The Constitution Project organized an amicus brief of former state and federal prosecutors in support of relief for Buck and the Washington Post printed an op-ed authored by two of the amici before the argument.  

Following the ruling, an array of our amici called on the State of Texas to end this litigation in the most just way possible: through resentencing Mr. Buck to life in prison. In a statement, Linda Geffin, who prosecuted Mr. Buck at trial; Mark Earley, former Attorney General of Virginia; Michael Cody, former Attorney General of Tennessee; and Scott Harshbarger, former Attorney General of Massachusetts, said, "Each day, Mr. Buck's actions confirm the fallacy of Dr. Quijano's testimony: Buck has demonstrated in his nearly two decades on death row that he is no danger to the community." 

On Oct. 3, the Harris Court DA agreed and Mr. Buck pleaded guilty to two charges of attempted murder (stemming from the original crime) in exchange for a life sentence. In announcing the plea, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said "After reviewing the evidence and the law, I have concluded that, twenty-two years after his conviction, a Harris County jury would likely not return another death penalty conviction in a case that has forever been tainted by the indelible specter of race." 

Back to top
TCP Continues Privacy Advocacy Article4
Government Surveillance & Searches

On privacy, TCP continues to actively engage on the risks of new technologies and respond to important events.  Senior Counsel Jake Laperruque published an op-ed in Wired on September 14 highlighting the risks of Apple's new FaceID facial recognition program potentially being co-opted for government surveillance, and conducted multiple radio interviews on the subject.  The pending expiration of FISA Section 702 - the controversial law that is used for the PRISM and Upstream programs revealed by Edward Snowden - has also been a topic of engagement for TCP.  Jake was cited in a Roll Call report on the ongoing FISA Section 702 debate, and the importance of legislation including meaningful reforms.  And on September 28, he served as a panelist for a congressional briefing on civil rights and the disproportionate impact of FISA surveillance; video of the entire event - which was watched by thousands live and more after-- is available here.

Back to top
Supreme Court to Hear Landmark Surveillance Case CarpenterAnchor
Government Surveillance & Searches
The Supreme Court recently announced that on November 29 it will hear oral arguments in Carpenter v. United States. This critically important privacy case  could expand safeguards against location tracking and potentially upend surveillance law as the Court grapples with how to address the outdated third party doctrine in the digital age.  TCP submitted an amicus brief along with several other groups, and we are confident that it will help guide the Court in understanding the ubiquity of cell phones and importance of creating a warrant protection for tracking them.  On October 20 TCP's Jake Laperruque will be speaking at the International Criminology Conference on the impact of Carpenter, and broader ramifications to other forms of location tracking such as aerial surveillance and use of facial recognition technology (learn more about and register for the conference here).

Back to top
Office Space Available Anchor5
Current Events
TCP has several offices available for short-term rental.  Most are window offices.  If you are interested, please contact Shoshana Riley at

Back to top

The Constitution Project | 1200 18th St NW | Washington, DC | 20036
T: 202.580.6920 | F: 202.580.6929  


Like us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter View our videos on YouTube