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‘Trust Me’ Kamala Harris Makes Big Play on Criminal Justice Reform

In an interview, Ms. Harris sought to paint her prosecutorial career as a reason voters should rely on her to deliver a criminal justice overhaul. But her critics say she has been part of the problem.

Senator Kamala Harris of California released a sweeping proposal on Monday to overhaul the criminal justice system, vowing to end mass incarceration and revamp police practices through a progressive wish list of policies, including some ideas Ms. Harris previously rejected during her years as a district attorney and state attorney general.

For months, Democratic presidential candidates have courted liberal activists with wide-ranging criminal justice plans, but Ms. Harris’s plan carries special significance. She has long cast herself as a “progressive prosecutor,” but some criminal justice experts and activists have balked at that characterization, saying she operated with the same “tough on crime” instincts that helped create the criminal justice problems she now seeks to solve.

The plan, perhaps the most ambitious effort of Ms. Harris’s campaign so far, focuses on reducing the prison population, creating national standards in policing, ensuring humane treatment for incarcerated people and prioritizing historically vulnerable communities. It also embraces ideas that have gone from the policy fringe to largely consensus positions popular among Democrats, including ending mandatory minimum sentences, eliminating private prisons, legalizing marijuana and incentivizing states to untether themselves from a cash bail system that disproportionately burdens the poor.

Astead W. Herndon is a national political reporter based in New York. He was previously a Washington-based political reporter and a City Hall reporter for The Boston Globe. @AsteadWesley
A version of this article appears in print on , Section A, Page 16 of the New York edition with the headline: Harris Says ‘Trust Me’ on Need for Criminal Justice Reform. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

Cohabitation Laws Are Under The Spotlight

As Boris Johnson and his partner were due to move into No. 11 Downing Street, they join the 3.3 million couples currently cohabiting within the UK. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has found that, one in eight people aged 16 and over in England and Wales are currently cohabiting, of this population, half of cohabiting couples own property and nearly half have financial assets including cash, shares and trade investments.

Around 53% have assets worth £100,000 – while 15% have up to £500,000. More than half also own financial and property assets between them – which are now co-owned. Weighted by financial commitments to each other, a staggering third of the nation incorrectly believes that co-owning, co-parenting and cohabiting means far more than it actually does on paper.

According to a nationally representative study from will specialist Farewill, the nation’s misconceptions of our loved one’s welfare post-death is severely skewed:

  • 29% of Brits believe that couples who have been together for more than 5 years should have the same legal rights as a married
  • 16% of Brits believe that that owning a house with their partner out of wedlock means that if they die their partner will get the estate
  • 24% of Brits stated that if they were co-owning a property with their partner who they were not married to, upon their partners passing they would expect their partner’s ownership of the property would pass to them
  • 20% of Brits state that if they were a relationship (but unmarried) and had been cohabiting for over five years, they would assume that if they were to pass their partner would inherit the entirety of their estate or assume executor status

With the average house price in the UK hovering around the £227,000 mark according to Halifax, failing to put appropriate measures in place during the relationship could throw up all sorts of problems further down the line, should you lose a loved one.

COHABITING VS MARRIAGE RIGHTS:

  • If one cohabiting partner dies without leaving a will, the surviving partner won’t automatically inherit anything. This includes any share of the house, unless the couple jointly own property as a “joint tenant” (not “tenants in common”). A married partner would inherit all or some of the estate
  • Cohabiting partners cannot access their partner’s bank account if they die, unless they’ve been named specifically as a beneficiary in their will, whereas married couples may be allowed to withdraw the balance providing the amount is small
  • An unmarried partner who stays at home to care for children can’t make any claims in their own right for property, maintenance or pension-sharing
  • If you are the unmarried partner of a tenant, you have no rights to stay in the accommodation if you are asked to leave – but each married partner has the right to live in the “matrimonial home”

Dan Garrett, CEO and Co-Founder of Farewill is of the opinion:“There’s a huge myth that, when you die, the person who you’re in a long-term relationship with, or even own a house with, will automatically inherit your estate. Unfortunately, this simply isn’t true. In the UK, the law only applies this type of automatic protection to married couples or those in a civil partnership. Being together for a long time doesn’t count, and means, legally speaking, you and your partner are entitled to nothing. For cohabiting couples, this is a particularly important issue. Millions of unmarried couples in the UK who have no protection, potentially stand to lose everything, unless they and their partner outline their wishes in a will. Without a will, the estate will often go to a parent or parent in law. The law as it stands isn’t set up for the modern family, so it’s important to take what you want to happen after you die into your own hands by making a will.”

HRW condemns Bolivia dismissal of judges

Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Bolivia on Monday of undermining judicial independence in the country by arbitrarily dismissing nearly 100 judges since 2017 and called for the Organization of American States (OAS) to address the issue.

The organization called for OAS to convene a meeting of its Permanent Council to address the ongoing changes to the Bolivian justice system that are weakening the rule of law, and to “remind Bolivian authorities that judicial independence, including guarantees protecting judges from arbitrary removal, is a key component of any rights-respecting democracy.”

HRW has accused Bolivia’s Magistrates Council, the body that appoints and dismisses judges, of arbitrarily dismissing dozens of permanent judges without cause or an opportunity to contest their dismissals.

According to HRW, President Evo Morales has taken a stance against judicial independence. HRW reports, in “October 2018, for example, he said that judicial independence was a ‘doctrine of North America,’ meaning the United States, and of ‘capitalism.’”

The current three-member council was elected by popular vote in December 2017. Voters chose from a list created by the Plurinational Assembly, the Bolivian legislature, where the Morales administration held a two-thirds majority. The list presented 10 candidates, six of whom had worked for the Morales administration at some point. Even though the mandate regulating the process set out requirements for the assembly to select candidates based on their experience as lawyers, lawmakers reserved substantial discretion to rank candidates based on interviews.

The dismissals were part of a broader justice reform, which started in 2016, led by a nine-member commission. The commission has sweeping powers, which include controlling the appointment of new judges and taking “other actions necessary” to reform the judiciary. Five of the commission’s members are either Morales supporters in the Assembly or government officials he appointed.

HRW also notes that Bolivia is a party to several treaties regarding human rights, “including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the American Convention on Human Rights, that require it to safeguard the independence and impartiality of its judiciary.” Additionally, the UN Human Rights Committee, which oversees compliance with the ICCPR, has advised governments that the right to an independent and impartial judiciary is an absolute right, not subject to any exceptions.

According to HRW, in a comment regarding the absolute right of an independent and impartial judiciary, the UN committee has taken the position that “the requirement of independence refers, in particular, to the procedure and qualifications for the appointment of judges, and guarantees relating to their security of tenure,” noting that “judges may be dismissed only on serious grounds of misconduct or incompetence, in accordance with fair procedures ensuring objectivity and impartiality set out in the constitution or the law.”