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October 15, 2013

When to Grant Clemency?

Friday, Governor Pat Quinn granted 65 clemency requests while working through a backlog of cases left by Fmr. Gov. Rod Blagojevich. This hour on Focus, we’ll talk about why and when clemency requests are granted.

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November 27, 2012

From the Closet to the Altar: Courts, Backlash and the Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage

Over the last 20 years, Americans have discussed, debated, fought over and been divided by the issue of same-sex marriage. The arguments in those two decades haven’t changed very much. Supporters of same-sex marriage see it as a civil rights issue, and that any limits on the ability of two consenting adults to wed are manifestly unfair. Opponents argue the state has always set some measure of restriction on marriage, and fear a slippery slope towards further changes to what they see as ‘traditional’ marriage. What has changed, in recent years, is public opinion, which has shifted from majority opposition to majority approval. This November, voters in Maine, Maryland, and Washington voted in support of same-sex marriage. It's the first time such rights have been affirmed directly by voters.

On Tuesday's Focus, we’ll examine the history and politics of same-sex marriage with author and historian Michael Klarman. In his book From the Closet to the Altar, Klarman examines how the issue has been dealt with by the courts, and the political backlash of decisions both for and against same-sex marriage.


November 21, 2012

Drug Courts in the United States

A drug court is a specialty court for drug abuse cases, using supervision, drug testing, treatment and sanctions/incentives. The philosophy of a drug court is that while incarceration may be appropriate for some defendants, for many, society is better served by addressing the underlying causes of a defendant's addiction. Research has found drug court programs to be effective in reducing drug use and related crime as well as to be more cost-effective than traditional criminal justice methods. The cost to taxpayers for incarcerating a defendant is approximately $24,000 per year, versus $5,000 a year for the cost of treatment for a Drug Court participant. Drug courts handle more than 120,000 clients per year and have more than a million graduates in all 50 states and 15 countries.

Justice Jeffrey B. Ford founded the Champaign County Drug Court in 1999. The mission of the Champaign County Drug Court is to develop substance-free, productive citizens and break the cycle of criminal recidivism. Caroline Cooper has been a practicing attorney, an assistant public defender, and has written numerous publications addressing a variety of judicial system issues relating to the management of criminal, civil, juvenile and family matters. Her most recent publications have addressed topics relating to drug courts, civil and criminal differentiated case management, and strategies courts are using to manage their caseloads, including the multi-volume reports of the 1997 and 2000 National Drug Court Surveys and Drug Case Management and Treatment Intervention Strategies in the State and Local Courts.


September 20, 2012

A Preview of The Upcoming 2012-2013 US Supreme Court Term

Lisa T. McElroy, J.D., Associate Professor of Law, Earle Mack School of Law, Drexel University

Daniel W. Hamilton, J.D., Ph.D., Professor of Law and History, University of Illinois

Host: Craig Cohen

The Supreme Court’s new term begins on October 1st, and includes cases dealing with issues ranging from affirmative action to the constitutionality of a global terrorism wiretapping program, to the Fourth Amendment and law enforcement use of drug-sniffing dogs. The High Court may add other cases to the docket, potentially including a challenge to a law banning same sex marriage in California. We’ll preview the fall term with Daniel Hamilton, Professor of Law and History at the University of Illinois…and Lisa McElroy, an Associate Professor of Law from Drexel University Law School.


August 28, 2012

Why the Constitution Matters

Mark Tushnet, J.D., William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law, Harvard University

Host: David Inge

This is a repeat broadcast from Friday, July 30, 2010, 10 am


July 20, 2012

Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas How a Bedroom Arrest Decriminalized Gay Americans

Dale Carpenter, J.D., the Earl R. Larson Professor of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Law, University of Minnesota Law School

Host: David Inge

In 1998, two Houston men were arrested and charged with having sex…a violation of Texas law. Gay rights activists took up the case and when it was all over…the US Supreme Court had overturned the law…and similar laws in twelve other states.  That is the standard story of Lawrence v. Texas but there is much more to the story than that. Our guest will be Dale Carpenter professor of law at the University of Minnesota and author of Flagrant Conduct. The book presents some surprising features of the case including the willingness of the two men charged to admit to something they didn’t do in order to challenge an unjust law.

This is a repeat broadcast from Wednesday, May 23, 2012, 10 am


June 13, 2012

Showdown in the Sonoran Desert: Religion, Law, and the Immigration Controversy

Ananda Rose, Ph.D., Poet; Journalist

Host: David Inge

Every day, people from Mexico risk their lives to enter the United States. Many become lost in the desert. A few Americans have taken steps to help these undocumented people who would otherwise die of exposure, but that puts them in direct conflict with their fellow citizens and with the U.S. government. Poet and journalist Ananda Rose traveled to the Southwest to talk with people on both sides of the issue, those motivated by compassion and those by law. She’ll tell us what she learned. It’s all in her book "Showdown in the Sonoran Desert."


May 17, 2012


President Obama has declared that the cyber threat is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation. But, University of Illinois Law professor Jay Kesan says the public is more concerned about the loss of internet freedoms. Is there a policy that can address both concerns? Jay Kesan will be out guest and we’ll look at what government is doing to guard against cyber-attacks both in terms of protecting the country from attack and punishing successful hackers.


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