From the Justice Department to the Department of Education to the Department of Commerce, contempt for enforcement of civil rights laws is an organizing principle of this administration. In some attempts to minimize the prospective damage, the US Commission on Civil Rights, a bipartisan agency, will launch a two-year investigation into the effects this administration’s policy and budget has on civil right enforcement. Many individuals vulnerable to discrimination, however, will face a significant decrease in the basic protections offered. For at least four years, this administration is likely to do only the bare minimum required by law to enforce civil rights and anti-discrimination.
In Atkins v. Virginia, the Supreme Court issued a momentous ruling stating that it is a violation of the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment to execute inmates with intellectual disabilities. This statement seems straightforward. However, the Court failed to establish a specific test or define under what circumstances it considers individuals to be intellectually disabled for purposes of capital punishment. Thus, in practice, states are left to determine what standard to utilize.