The death of George Floyd has kickstarted a growing national conversation on racism in America and led to a clarion call for accountability in law enforcement. Where can we start to create this stronger accountability? As discussed this week at In Defense of Liberty, we should look to America’s city court system, where judicial decisions and heavy-handed police action are driven by money, not by the public good.
City court judges are appointed and retained by the mayor and city council in about a dozen states. This makes them vulnerable to political pressure from those who appointed them, as well as the police, prosecutors, and other city administrators. One of those places with such a city court system is Ferguson, Missouri—where Michael Brown was fatally shot by a police officer in 2014. A U.S. Department of Justice investigation of Ferguson’s police and court practices revealed that the judge and his staff, as well as the police chief, were repeatedly urged to take steps to increase revenue to meet budget projections. This compromise in judicial independence created an incentive for greater police activity, putting justice in jeopardy.
Goldwater Institute National Investigative Journalist Mark Flatten has authored a series of reports on city court reform, revealing how freeing city courts from political influence is necessary to ensure that there is a proper check on illegal police action. You can read Flatten’s investigative reporting on city courts here.
Right to Try Turns Two
Last week marked a major milestone in the move toward more patient-centric healthcare: Two years ago, Right to Try was signed into federal law. Developed by the Goldwater Institute, this law allows terminally ill patients to seek treatments that are considered safe enough to test on humans but have not received FDA approval.
And we’re seeing the positive differences this law is making. Take a look at Matt Bellina: A former U.S. Navy pilot, his service to the country was cut short in 2014 when he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease). Before long, he was out of treatment options. But there was another way—and that way was Right to Try. As one of the patients most strongly advocating for Right to Try, it’s fitting that he was one of the first beneficiaries of the federal law. In January 2019, Bellina began receiving an investigational treatment under the law, and within weeks, he was able to breathe more easily and even pull himself to standing from his wheelchair.
Red Tape Ties Our Hands in Coronavirus Fight
“Regulatory roadblocks are keeping Americans from getting the rapid, responsive healthcare we need,” write the Goldwater Institute’s Naomi Lopez and Christina Sandefur at RealClearPolicy this week. The latest example? FDA regulators recently halted to the Seattle Coronavirus Network Assessment (SCAN), a program that aims to test patients for exposure to COVID-19, because it had not received bureaucratic authorization to share the result of self-administered tests with program participants.
“You read that right: The FDA was fine with testing…but without bureaucratic approval, the SCAN program may not tell patients the results of their self-administered tests. Sadly, this kind of FDA red tape is typical of our increasingly obsolete system of medical regulation,” Lopez and Sandefur write. In their op-ed, they lay out several possible avenues for opening up the potential in our healthcare system. At the Goldwater Institute, we’re working on two reforms that Congress is currently considering: the Reciprocity Ensures Streamlined Use of Lifesaving Treatments (RESULTS) for Coronavirus Patients Act of 2020, which would speed approval for treatments and vaccines that are already commercially available in certain foreign countries with a stringent treatment approval process, and the Right to Test Act, which would allow states to certify and distribute diagnostic tests during public health emergencies.