Friday, June 5, 2009

The rights of the child: freedom from recruitment

Very interesting news from Northern California, as residents of Eureka and Arcata strive to uphold in court the protections they've worked toward to keep recruiters from initiating contact with minors:

June 4, 2009



On Tuesday, June 9 at 1pm, in Courtroom 3 at the Oakland Federal Courthouse, Federal Court Judge Saundra Armstrong is scheduled to hear oral arguments regarding the Arcata and Eureka Youth Protection Acts. These ordinances prohibit military recruiters from initiating contact with minors for the purpose of recruiting them into any branch of the military. They were approved as ballot initiative Measures F and J, on November 4, 2008 by margins of 73% in Arcata and 57% in Eureka.

Judge Armstrong is scheduled to hear oral arguments on two motions by the United States Department of Justice.

One motion is the plaintiff's (United States') motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, in which the US is arguing that, as a matter of law, Measures F and J are both invalid under the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution. Such a motion can only be granted if the Court believes that all of the Cities’ arguments in defense of the measures lack any substance worthy of a hearing. A ruling in favor of the Federal Government on this motion would effectively invalidate the ordinances without further opportunity to defend them, subject to possible appeal by the Cities.

The second motion is the plaintiff's motion for Dismissal of the Cities' Counterclaims. The Cities' Counterclaims assert that the United States recruiting practices are themselves invalid because they are in conflict with International Treaty obligations that prohibit the military recruiting of minors. The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflicts, as ratified by the United States Senate, has the standing of the Supreme Law of the Land, on equal footing with the US Constitution and any federal laws regulating military recruiting. The U.S. argues that the Cities do not have standing to bring the counterclaims, based on a lack of harm to the Cities themselves.

Ironically, the U.S. argues this in the face of the recent ruling by Judge Armstrong that the proponents of the initiatives passed by the voters do not have the right to intervene in the case. She based her ruling on the assertion that the Cities are able to present a full defense of the measures without the participation of the proponents in the case. If neither the Cities nor the proponents have standing to defend the measures, then how will the people who voted for them be represented in defending their right to protect youth from the excesses of recruiters?

The Cities have argued that, under the Ninth Amendment to the Constitution, people have a right to privacy and to protect their children from uninvited or inappropriate advances by anyone, including military recruiters. Further, under the Tenth Amendment, they have the right to enact and enforce ballot initiative ordinances.

The City of Arcata is represented by Brad Yamauchi of the San Francisco firm of Minami and Tamaki, LLP, and by the Law Offices of Michael Sorgen, and City Attorney, Nancy Diamond. The City of Eureka is represented by their City Attorney, Sheryl Schaffner, and by San Francisco attorney, Dennis Cunningham. All non-city attorneys are offering their services pro-bono.

Whatever the outcome of Tuesday’s hearing, the people of Arcata and Eureka continue to demand that the United States of America “Stop Recruiting Kids!” in their communities.

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