Even though I still have three more years at Brandeis, I have already begun to learn many critical concepts, theories, and ideas that apply to the real-world. Legal studies, one of my favorite departments so far, introduces the principle of due process as a basic protection that is consistently violated by the court system, police officers, and school administrators when a conflict arises. Due process is a legal requirement that the state must respect all the rights owed to a person. During my freshman year, I analyzed cases under the framework of due process to determine how a judge’s language or court conduct could better protect the fairness and constitutional rights of the person involved. This same strategy can be found here at the ACLU of Utah.
Under the banner of the Know Your Rights campaign, the ACLU of Utah strives to make the Bill of Rights accessible to everyone. No matter who you are, you should know your rights as a student, as a protester, as a voter, or as a prisoner. Due process is a key component of how the government treats people who express their constitutional rights. From the treatment of incarcerated persons to the restrictive legislation that inhibits a woman’s reproductive choice, the desire for fairness and impartiality influences our everyday thoughts.
With all of this in mind, I have been investigating reproductive rights for minors, specifically Utah’s judicial bypass statute for parental consent and notification if a minor seeks an abortion. What may seem like a simple and expedited process can in reality expose a frightened minor to unnecessary embarrassment and humiliation at the hands of biased judges and incompetent guardians. Jane’s Due Process, an organization that aids minors in legal representation and spreads awareness on judicial bypass, exposes the difficulties that minors experience when seeking an abortion without parental consent and or notification. Many states will make what is commonly known as the “escape route” as complicated as possible. In Utah, the majority of teenagers have no knowledge of their options or ability to bypass parental involvement. By researching the tools other states employ to connect with youth, I am compiling strategies that the ACLU of Utah can use to launch a future Judicial Bypass Project.
However, reproductive rights for minors is not the only issue that encounter constitutional roadblocks. The ACLU of Utah organized a rally to protest the Trump administration’s new immigration policy to separate children from their parents if they cross the border illegally. This policy is also being applied to families seeking asylum at the southern border, which triggered an ACLU lawsuit earlier this spring. For asylum seekers, this new policy of family separation violates their rights to due process; they are not being treated the same as others seeking asylum who cross the border at a different location. Other examples of due process violations include unreasonable searches such as entering a home without a warrant, limited access to a competent attorney, and cruel or unusual treatment by the corrections system.
While examining all of these issues and their relation to due process, I realized that when one group’s rights are restricted, everyone is at risk. It’s important to combat all forms of private and public forms of discrimination in order to hold judicial agents accountable in keeping all processes equitable.
Recently, the ACLU of Utah participated in the annual Salt Lake City Pride Festival and Parade. During the march, a large group of ACLU staff, interns, and volunteers walked together in solidarity for LGBTQ rights. I was able to act as an ambassador for the ACLU of Utah by volunteering at the festival and answering questions and handing out fun ACLU of Utah swag!