Nel's New Day

July 9, 2018

New SCOTUS Justice Nominee, Continuing Lawsuits

The suspense is over, and the work begins. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has nominated Brett Kavanaugh, anti-abortion activist, as his choice for a Supreme Court Justice, perhaps because the sitting judge on the D.C. Circuit Court believes that a sitting president should not be indicted. I will write more about him later. In the meantime, U.S. courts keep chewing away at federal injustices:

The U.S. Supreme Court, soon to be reconfigured to the right, delivered a final statement for 2018 on gerrymandering when it kept the redrawn legislative districts by returning the case to a North Carolina court that tried to reduce racial gerrymandering. Democrats are the majority voting bloc in the state, but the GOP controls ten of the 13 seats in the House of Representatives and a veto-proof majority in the General Assembly. The Supreme Court could still hear the case again if an appeal from Republicans returns the issue to the higher court. Legislators are also trying to move the court to the right by increasing the number of judges. But they can’t finish this process by the fall election—I hope!

Today DDT lost another round in the separation of children and families when a judge refused long-term detention of migrant families except in cases when parents are detained on criminal charges. Judge Molly M. Gee said the administration’s attempt to change the 1997 Flores agreement requiring the release of children within 20 days was “a cynical attempt” to shift immigration policymaking to the courts in the wake of “over 20 years of congressional inaction and ill-considered executive action that have led to the current stalemate.” In another federal case, 54 migrants under the age of six, scattered from California to New York, will be secretly returned to their parents tomorrow, half the number who were removed from their parents. Tomorrow is the court’s deadline for all the youngest migrants to be returned to their parents. The court has mandated that the remainder of children over five years old, perhaps 2,900, must be reunited by July 27.

The DOJ dropped charges against the last 38 protesters of the 200 arrested at the inauguration of DDT. Prosecutors managed to get one guilty plea to a felony and another 20 to misdemeanors in 18 months after turning the lives of hundreds of people upside down.

A federal judge has ruled against a Tennessee law that suspends or revokes driver’s licenses of people too poor to pay court costs or traffic fines because the law violates constitutional due process and equal protection clauses. The ruling does not affect other states, but it sets a precedent for other similar rulings. Over four million drivers have lost their licenses for failure to pay these charges in only five states—Texas, Michigan, North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee.

A judge in the Southern District of New York ruled that the lawsuit opposing the citizenship question in the 2020 census can go forward amid “strong” evidence DDT acted in bad faith. Also granted was the request for discovery that will bring to light the background for this decision. Judge Barbara Underwood wrote:

“By demanding the citizenship status of each resident, the Trump administration is breaking with decades of policy and potentially causing a major undercount that would threaten billions in federal funds and New York’s fair representation in Congress and the Electoral College.”

ICE cannot systematically detain migrants fleeing persecution from their home countries, according to a judge in the Federal District Court of D.C. who pointed out that the U.S. government requires these applicants to be freed when appropriate. Under DDT, parole rates have gone from over 90 percent to “nearly zero.” Judge James Boasberg has ordered individualized reviews for all asylum seekers before denying parole in a case affecting over 1,000 asylum seekers denied parole in Detroit, El Paso, Los Angeles, Newark, and Philadelphia. ICE has held one of the plaintiffs for over 18 months after he fled Haiti and passed his credible fear interview and then a judge granted him asylum in April 2017.

A ballot initiative already passing review for the fall ballot by the Michigan Court of Appeals will go to the state’s Supreme Court. A Republican and business-backed group are challenging the initiative to create an independent commission to draw legislative districts with advice of consultants and public hearings. Gerrymandering in Michigan, as in a majority of other states, has caused Republicans to take over state legislatures despite a majority of Democrat voters in some states.

A federal judge blocked Kentucky’s Medicaid work requirements because they did not consider whether these would violate the provision of health care to the most vulnerable people. The disagreement comes from whether the requirement furthers the program’s goals. Up to 95,000 people could lose Medicaid coverage within five years with these requirements. Kentucky was the first state to create these work requirements, and three other states—Indiana, Arkansas, and New Hampshire—had received federal approval. Seven other states have submitted proposals.

Gov. Matt Bevin retaliated against people on Medicaid by cutting Medicaid dental and vision benefits to almost 500,000 people, some of them children. In Kentucky, Medicaid covers about 1.4 million people, almost half of them children. Federal funding provides for 80 percent of the $11 billion dollars for the program. Bevins’ order may violate the judge’s ruling about Medicaid.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been named as a possible witness in the federal corruption trial of an Alabama coal executive and two politically connected attorneys in Alabama. The case is about an alleged conspiracy to bribe a state legislator to limit the EPA’s cleaning up a Superfund site. The legislator, Oliver Robinson, has already pled guilty to taking bribes from Drummond Coal that were facilitated by the two attorneys at a major Birmingham law firm. Other witnesses include several state legislators as well as Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), recently returned from a PR trip to Russia, and Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL). As a senator, Sessions tried to intervene with the EPA to stop the cleanup at the Superfund site after conferring with the Drummond lawyers; the law firm and coal company were Sessions second- and third-largest contributors to his senate campaign, a great deal after Sessions intervened. The DOJ has been overseeing the case while Sessions is AG.

After a number of losses in court, including being sent to take remedial law classes, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will no longer represent himself in court during his appeal for contempt in court and a ruling of unconstitutional for requiring people to show proof of citizenship in voter registration. Kobach’s office will be lead counsel. Furious because he lost a straw vote to gubernatorial competitor Gov. Jeff Colyer, Kobach accused his opponent of voter fraud by paying 106 people to vote.

A federal judge issued an injunction against a 2015 Arkansas law that bans abortion pills. Earlier the U.S. Supreme Court had refused to hear a case against the law. After Planned Parenthood presented new evidence, the judge indicated that it may prevail in the case. A federal judge also blocked Indiana’s new requirement that medical providers report patient information to the state after treating women for complications from abortions.

Last week, people celebrated the separation of the United States from the reign of George III. In another eight years, the U.S.—if it still exists—will celebrate the 250th anniversary of this document. Until then, consider the similarity between the actions of George III and DDT:

  • DDT ignores laws and court decisions he doesn’t like—anti-nepotism, Russia sanctions, emoluments clause, the Affordable Care Act—the list goes on.
  • DDT blocks laws in the Congress, such as ones about immigration, if he disapproves.
  • DDT wants to be a dictator like China’s Xi Jinping, while a majority of Republicans want to postpone the next presidential election.
  • DDT demonizes immigrants with extreme punishment. Consider the Declaration’s complaint about George III: “he has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither….”
  • DDT tries to prevent a legal investigation into ties between Russia and his campaign through attempts to weaken U.S. confidence in the FBI, the intelligence services, and the justice system as a whole.
  • DDT “has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.”
  • DDT has ordered “Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures” by sending National Guard troops to the border with Mexico.
  • DDT is stopping “Trade with all parts of the world” and “imposing Taxes on us without our Consent” with tariffs and alienation of allies.
  • DDT “has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people” through expanding offshore drilling, risking wildlife and oceans, and destroying economies of states bordering oceans.
  • George III also suffered from a mental illness.

DDT has just nominated a Supreme Court justice while he is being investigated not only for his involvement in Russian election meddling but also for illegal payoffs to women with whom he had affairs, defamation, and his illegal activities with his personal charitable foundation. He might also be charged, both civilly and criminally, with perjury by signing at least four annual federal tax returns swearing that the organization wasn’t used for political and/or business purposes although evidence shows that he lied. Yet DDT thinks he’s above the law, and his new Supreme Court justice may agree with him.

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June 28, 2018

Lower Courts May Save Nation

The good news about losing a conservative Supreme Court justice, perhaps replaced by a super-conservative nominee from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), is that the nation’s highest court hears only 1-2 percent of the appeals. Below are some victories from lower courts, despite conservative judges, a few losses, and upcoming cases.

The biggest win for the past week is the mandate that immigration stop separating children and parents and reunite families within the next month—children under six years old in 14 days and all children over five within 30 days. How the government does this is problematic because they have no idea who the parents of the kidnapped children are. Seventeen states and Washington, D.C. are also suing the government to reunite the families.

The Supreme Court may have avoided decisions on gerrymandering, but a panel of judges in a district court have ruled that racial discrimination against blacks was the predominant factor in drawing all 11 U.S. House districts in Virginia. The judges ordered the map to be withdrawn by October in time for the November election.

Paul Manafort, DDT’s former campaign manager, is losing in court big time. After, a federal judge sent Paul Manafort to jail after he allegedly tampered with witnesses while on house arrest, he lost his appeal to get his money-laundering charge dropped. The judge refuted his attempts to minimize lobbying for a foreign entity in the U.S. because he just failed to register when she pointed out that the law requires the public to know if someone is advancing “the interests of a foreign government or principal with the United States.”

Despite his doubts about Mueller’s motivation in investigating Manafort, another judge, one appointed by Reagan, ruled that Manafort’s prosecution on bank and tax fraud charges can go forward on July 25. The judge also found that the Manafort investigation is within the realm of potential collusion between DDT officials and Russia and that the deputy attorney general approved the inquiry. Manafort is accused of not paying taxes on illegally hidden millions of dollars in offshore bank accounts before he lied about his income and debt to get millions in new loans on real estate bought with his illegal income.

The National Enquirer’s publisher has been subpoenaed for records about the magazine’s $150,000 payment to Karen McDougal for a story about her affair with DDT that it refused to publish. The subpoena comes from an investigation into DDT’s lawyer Michael Cohen for alleged wire fraud, bank fraud and campaign finance violations.

Cohen is in more trouble because of the evidence that the National Enquirer vetted articles and images about DDT with Cohen before these were published. More than a media ethics question, the issue deals with alleged hush-money payments to DDT’s accusers and witnesses of his scandals, such as a doorman, Dino Sajudin, who spoke about DDT’s illegitimate child in the 1980s.

Resigning as deputy finance chair of the RNC, Cohen said he’s thinking about cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller. Wolf Blitzer said that Cohen feels “let down” and “isolated” by DDT, and Cohen also blasted DDT’s separation of migrant children from their parents. A Manhattan federal judge has also ruled that Cohen was a client instead of an attorney and that only eight—under 0.003 percent—of the almost 300,000 emails, texts, and documents would be exempted because they deal with a client.

Life got worse for Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a gubernatorial candidate, after a U.S. district judge censured him for “repeated and flagrant violations” of court procedures and ordered the former professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City to take remedial classes in the form of six hours of continuing law education.

Despite the judicial ruling to stop a Kansas law, Kobach has ordered county clerks to continue demanding documentary proof of citizenship for voter registration. There is no timeline because “the word “‘immediately’ is kind of open to interpretation,” according to Kobach’s spokeswoman. The judge wrote that the law violated both the Constitution and the National Voter Registration Act.

Kobach unsuccessfully sought a governor’s pardon for a corporate campaign donor, Ryan Bader, whose crime, police said, involved threatening a cab driver by putting a gun to his head. Bader wants the pardon so that he can again guy and carry a gun. He claimed that the event was a mistake in his youth (he was 26 years old) and didn’t remember anything about it because he was drunk.

In yet another loss for Kobach, a judge ruled that commission documents must be given to a commissioner who sued over its lack of transparency. The judge commented “that Mr. Kobach’s reputation for candor to the tribunal and compliance with its orders is less than sterling.”

J. Christian Adams, a commissioner on DDT’s defunct voter fraud investigation led by Kobach, appeared before a federal judge to defend his falsehoods about the large number of non-citizens registering and voting in Virginia. The charge in the suit is that Adams defamed the character of registered voters by accusing them of illegal action. Adams’ report “Aliens Invasion,” unsupported by evidence, claims “1046 aliens who registered to vote illegally” and that “Each of the aliens we have discovered to have registered or voted has likely committed a felony.” His “Aliens Invasion II” falsely accuses the DOJ of doing “nothing about the felonies committed by 433 suspected aliens registered in Prince William County alone.”

The suspect accused in killing Heather Heyer and injuring several others in the Charlottesville (VA) white supremacist march last summer by intentionally striking them with a car has been indicted on 30 counts which include hate crimes resulting in death and bodily injury. The indicted man also faces state charges of first-degree murder and other crimes.

White supremacists plan to celebrate their rally when they killed a woman, injured others, and generally beat up people. The National Park Service has approved an initial request for its anniversary “Unite the Right” rally across from the White House on August 11-12. Charlottesville has already denied an application for its city in “Emancipation Park”, but the organizer is suing.  What can go wrong?

Indiana is being sued for restricting women’s access to abortions. The state’s new law also bans telemedicine. Students at the University of Notre Dame are suing the Indiana school and DDT after the university used religious objections to drop coverages for some types of birth control.

After civil rights groups sued Boston Public Schools for giving student information to ICE, its superintendent, Tommy Chang, has resigned with no reason. Federal law bans schools from asking students about their immigration status, but the lawsuit accuses the district of having a “school to deportation pipeline,” stating without evidence that a student was involved in a gang and giving that allegation to law enforcement, including ICE.

A possible lawsuit in waiting occurred after North Carolina’s General Assembly overrode the governor’s veto of a “sore loser” bill that the state Board of Elections plans to enact retroactively. The new law states that candidates who lose in a primary cannot run in a general election with another party’s backing, specifically addressing three state candidates now represented by the conservative Constitution Party. Republicans fear that this candidate will split the conservative vote, helping the Democrat to win in the fall general election. The Constitution party selected its candidates and presented the names to the Board of Elections two days before the successful vote on the law. The U.S. Constitution prohibits ex post facto laws, ones trying to make an act illegal that was legal when committed.

The General Assembly also restructured judicial election districts in four counties, forcing ten candidates already in the races to either withdraw or refile, with the GOP hopes that new judges would support GOP ideology.  The new law requires that ballots post the political affiliations of the candidates beside their names.

One loss for the people came when a judge tossed out a case against Big Oil that would have required them to pay for costs in adapting to climate change. The judge seemed sympathetic to the plaintiffs’ charge that oil companies have done great damage, but he decided for the companies because it would open out a number of other lawsuits that might put fossil fuel producers out of business. The plaintiffs’ lawyer was pleased “that these companies can no longer deny [climate change] is real and valid.”

Supreme Court rulings are coming back to haunt the rights of people. When Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion allowing unlimited donations to superpacs, it was with the provision that they stay separate from candidates’ campaigns. Now the FEC is okaying coordination allowing candidates to guide allied groups toward messaging by selective public statements about their campaign needs. The fake veil has been shredded.

June 26, 2018

Conservative Supremes Move U.S. to Christian-only Nation

After several mild—in fact, wishy-washy—decisions earlier this month, the Supreme Court came out today with two rulings that eradicate any hope for freedom of religion. Instead, the five conservative justices pushed its Christian message and support for an anti-freedom president.

In Trump v. Hawaii, the conservative majority ruled that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) can ban people from majority-Muslim countries under the guise of “national security.” DDT has spent the past three years denouncing all religions except Christians and assuring people that he bill ban them from the United States. Four old white men and Clarence Thomas has given him that right to—quoting DDT—call for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Accused of being anti-Muslim in court rulings, he said that he’ll just use territory instead of religion to accomplish his anti-Islam goals.

Chief Justice John Roberts admitted that after his inauguration, DDT “retweeted links to three anti-Muslim propaganda videos” and that he connected the content to his ban on travel.  To Roberts, however, DDT’s open anti-Muslim bias makes no difference because he doesn’t want “inhibit the flexibility to respond to changing world conditions.” Declaring that the ban was not from “animus,” Roberts wrote that authority was not undermined by “this President’s words,” ignoring that the intent to discriminate is not constitutional. After lower courts ruled against DDT’s two earlier iteration of a Muslim ban, the somewhat watered-down version doesn’t protect “national security,” but it does create a symbolic ban against Muslims.

In an ironic twist, Roberts refused to use DDT’s words to rule against a travel ban on Muslims, but he used the words of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to permit a baker to discriminate against a gay couple trying to purchase a wedding cake. These two decisions each set precedents on the opposite sides of an issue. Lawyers can use Hawaii to argue that prior words don’t matter while others can argue the opposite position with a recent ruling of Masterpiece Cakeshop.  

In her rebuttal to Hawaii, Justice Sonia Sotomayor quoted DDT’s hateful comments and said that today’s decision “repeats the tragic mistakes of the past” and “tells members of minority religions” in the United States that “they are outsiders.” The court, she said, “blindly accepts the government’s invitation to sanction an openly discriminatory policy” and is essentially “replacing one gravely wrong decision with another.” She also compared the Hawaii decision to that of the 1944 Korematsu v. United States when the Supreme upheld the detention of Japanese Americans during World War II with no justification.  

Roberts strenuously objected and wrote, “It is wholly inapt to liken that morally repugnant order to a facially neutral policy denying certain foreign nationals the privilege of admission.” While still supporting the Muslim ban, he repudiated Korematsu by saying that it has “no place in law under the Constitution.”

In one way, Korematsu differs from Hawaii because justices didn’t realize that the lawyers arguing for the case hid evidence and lied to the court. DDT’s incessant tweets, rally speeches, and other statements clearly showed his intent to discriminate although the DOJ Solicitor General Noel Francisco, arguing for the travel ban, did lie about DDT’s statements of animus. Francisco also lied that the travel ban had a “waiver” program to show that DDT’s ban was fair. No one in charge of immigration knows anything about any program because it is a sham.

Two presidents, Gerald Ford in 1976 and Jimmy Carter in 1980, took actions to clear the interned Japanese-Americans, and U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel vacated Fred Korematsu’s conviction for evading internment. She wrote:

“The judicial process is seriously impaired when the government’s law enforcement officers violate their ethical obligations to the court. [The original Supreme Court opinion in Korematsu] stands as a caution that in times of distress the shield of military necessity and national security must not be used to protect governmental actions from close scrutiny and accountability.”

Roberts has added to his record of opposing civil rights, allowing unlimited donations to campaigns, and putting Christianity above all other beliefs in the diverse United States with this shameful decision. His court will go down in the history books for its infamy. Some day, a more rationale Supreme Court will hopefully repudiate Hawaii in the same way that Roberts tried to salvage his career by overturning Korematsu.  

In a second opinion today, this one for NIFLA v. Becerra, the same conservative majority ruled that Christian crisis pregnancy centers cannot be required to tell clients about state-offered reproductive services because it opposes the centers’ mission of not having abortions. The centers also do not have to tell clients whether the centers are licensed as medical facilities. The California law did not focus on crisis pregnancy centers: all medical facilities have the same requirements whether they are CPCs or not.

This ruling against a content-based regulation of speech comes from the same court that upholds state laws providing the text that doctors must read to women seeking abortions. Sometimes this mandated information contains lies that doctors are ordered to tell their patients in the privacy of medical counseling. Planned Parenthood v. Casey allows states to mandate that abortion providers tell patients about the age of the fetus, health risks, and the “availability of printed materials from the State” in an effort to discourage women from having abortions. Six states tell women that personhood begins at conception, and 13 states require women be told that fetuses feel pain.

Yet Thomas’ opinion stated that California’s law is unconstitutional because anti-choice advocates are required to “speak a particular message” while reiterating the ruling in Casey.

Justice Stephen Breyer pointed out that almost all disclosure laws might be considered “content based” because they all require people “to speak a particular message.” In this case, the conservatives assume that “speech about abortion is special.” Laws about this simple medical procedure, connected to religious beliefs, should apply fairly to diverse points of view. Anthony Kennedy took the position that mandated lies in warning women about the procedure are no problem, but that demanding the truth from the religious centers is authoritarianism. The ruling in Becerra gives anti-choice people First Amendment rights while abortion providers lack the right to free speech.

Imagine if other businesses–maybe contractors or taxi services–would not need to tell clients if they are licensed. Although this suggestion may sound far-fetched, so is the current government.

As the conservative court moves the United States toward a forced following of Christianity and away from individual rights, conservatives are preening themselves on the new justice who DDT appointed. Religious fundamentalist VP Mike Pence Senate takes great pride in removing all reproductive rights from girls and women, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who used to criticize DDT’s hatred for Muslims, is now in full support of the travel ban. Neil Gorsuch (center) is on the court only because McConnell held up all hearings for an appointed Supreme Court Justice for almost a year, blocking President Obama’s nominee. Until Gorsuch, presidents appointed nominees, and the Senate vetted them. Sometimes they turned them down, but never before did a Senate leader refuse to allow even a committee hearing on a president’s nominee. [Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts]

McConnell has set a new pattern of absolute rule in the Senate. He can push through as many conservative judicial nominees as possible until he loses the majority. If Democrats pattern themselves after Republicans, Democrats can refuse to give any conservative nominees even a hearing. The nation objects to the constant gridlock that comes from the GOP determination to block Democrats at any cost. The schism in Republicans only adds to the problem. At this point, however, the United States may be better off with gridlock than the egregious legislation that the GOP promotes.

 

June 25, 2018

The Supremes Close to Finish Rulings

Filed under: Judiciary — trp2011 @ 9:45 PM
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The U.S. Supreme Court has been very “cautious” in several of its June rulings—sending some back or refusing to hear other high-profile cases. Tired of cake, they turned down an Oregon Supreme Court ruling against bakery owners who had refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, and they sent another case, one in which a lower court ruled that a florist couldn’t refuse to provide flowers for a gay couple’s wedding because she opposed marriage equality, back to the lower court. The Washington state Supreme Court had written that public accommodation laws do more than guarantee access to goods and services:

“Instead, they serve a broader societal purpose: eradicating barriers to the equal treatment of all citizens in the commercial marketplace. Were we to carve out a patchwork of exceptions for ostensibly justified discrimination, that purpose would be fatally undermined.”

One case that the high court refused to hear will kill a man because he is gay. Chief Justice John Roberts has piously written that the “law punishes people for what they do, not who they are.” Yet a South Dakota jury sentenced Charles Rhines to death because they thought he would enjoy prison with other men. A juror said that life in prison would mean “sending him where he wants to go.” Upset about this possibility, the jury sentenced Rhines to death rather than life in prison. Thus this man was sentenced for who he is, not for what he did.

Abbott v. Perez, a Texas case, gave the strongest statement today when the conservative majority overturned a lower court ruling that several districts are gerrymandered. Overturning the lower ruling leaves in place discrimination against Hispanic voters. Only one district, according to five justices, was racially gerrymandered. In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote:

“The Court today goes out of its way to permit the State of Texas to use maps that he three-judge District Court unanimously found were adopted for the purpose of preserving the racial discrimination that tainted its previous maps. […]

“It means that, after years of litigation and undeniable proof of intentional discrimination, minority voters in Texas—despite constituting a majority of the population of the State—will continue to be underrepresented in the political process.”

As for North Carolina’s gerrymandering, the Supreme Court sent the case back to a lower court to determine whether the plaintiffs have standing, the same way that it did to Wisconsin. The Court had never found a map so infected by politics that violated voters’ constitutional rights as it did in Wisconsin, but justices did not rule on the merits of the case. In North Carolina, GOP leaders open declared that they were drawing the map to elect Republicans, and they succeeded. With 53 percent GOP vote, 11 of 13 representatives are Republicans. The Supreme Court’s inaction in gerrymandering will leave maps intact until the 2020 election.

Supreme Court Rulings from Thursday, June 21:

Ohio v. American Express: The wealthy benefit from the conservative 5-4 decision that American Express can insist that merchants don’t encourage customers to use other cards. AmEx charges higher fees than Visa or Mastercard but promotes competition with rewards programs for affluent clients. In an unusual move, Stephen Breyer read his dissent from the bench, saying that the ruling can hurt competition in other areas. Stephanie Martz from the National Retail Federal described the ruling as “a blow to competition and transparency” because retailers cannot educate people about how the AmEx “swipe fees” increase the cost of merchandise. The Supreme Court’s ruling overturned the decision from the 2nd Circuit Court that stated that a lower court ruling for AmEx had concentrated on interests of merchants “while discounting the interests of cardholders.”

Many people fail to understand how the use and selection of credit cards influences income inequality because the wealthy pay less for the same object or service that working and middle-class people, who may pay ten percent of their payment for processing a payment. The charge is the same, but credit card fees are different. AmEx costs more for processing, but people pay the same fees no matter what cards they use. The only option merchants have now is to not accept AmEx cards. 

Wisconsin Central v. United States: Justice Neil Gorsuch’s majority opinion explained that stocks are not money. The Railroad Retirement Tax Act of 1937 requires private railroads and their employees to pay income tax on “compensation,” defined as “any form of money remuneration.” Thanks to the Supreme Court, people who receive these stocks are not required to pay taxes on them.

Lucia v. Securities and Exchange Commission: The decision that SEC administrative law judges are “officers of the United States,” requiring them to be appointed by the president and approved by the Senate, may bleed over into the argument about whether special investigator Robert Mueller is the same type of “officer” instead of an “inferior official.” To declare this position means that everything he has done—evidence, indictments, convictions, etc.—can be thrown out.

Pereira v. Sessions: This immigration case rules that a “notice to appear” must specify either the time or place for it to trigger a “stop-time” rule when continuous residence or continuous physical presence ends and that information must be received. Eight justices agreed that they did not need to follow an ambiguous statute; Justice Samuel Alito dissented, using the 1984 Chevron case that the court should accept any reasonable from an agency implementing the statute. Although the decision benefits Pereira and many other immigrants, it also gives the Supreme Court, growing in ideology, in charge of determining orders from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) if a future administration tries to overturn them.

South Dakota v. Wayfair: In a 5-4 vote, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy ruled in a mixed majority permitting states to require online retailers without a physical presence in the state to collect sales tax revenue for the states. The ruling, opposed by John Roberts, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor overturns the 1992 decision in Quill v. North Dakota. Nineteen of the 20 largest online retailers already follow this practice although Wayfair, Overstock, and Newegg do not.

Major decisions Still Missing:

Janus v. AFSCME: Mark Janus doesn’t want pay anything to a union for the collective bargaining that benefits him. His free speech argument is that the fee directly influences government policies on salary, benefits, and pension. The Supreme Court has addressed this issue three separate times. In the first case,  the high court stated that the challengers weren’t government employees, and the second time was a 4-4 decision after Antonin Scalia’s death, pointing toward a ruling that unions that will have to pay for “takers” who want all the union benefits without paying for them.

NIFLA v. Becerra:  The question in this California case is whether Christian crisis-pregnancy centers, that are opposed to abortion and provide minimal services to women, are required to post disclaimers so that their clients will be aware that the services don’t provide medical help. CPCs argue that free speech allows them to keep this information from clients.

Trump v. Hawaii: Known as the travel ban—or Muslim ban—the limitation of travel to eight countries is argued on the basis that an executive order violates the Constitution’s establishment clause, barring government from preferential treatment for specific religions. Earlier cases have been decided with the use of DDT’s prejudicial tweets about Muslims that show he wants to keep people in one specific religion from coming into the United States.

The Oddest Dissent:

Carpenter v. United States: A majority vote of four liberal judges plus Chief Justice Roberts determined that police must get warrants to use cell phone records as a location device for suspects’ travel. Neil Gorsuch wrote about his interpretation of the Fourth Amendment being more “tied to the law” that the last half-century of Supreme Court opinions but finishes that he agrees with the government’s case because he wants to repeal and replace established law. New technology since the Founding Fathers has changed interpretations of “unreasonable searches and seizures.” The government’s argument was that no warrant was necessary because of no “actual physical invasion.” This argument was reversed in 1967 when Katz v. United States decided that warrants were necessary to listen in on a phone call. The Fourth Amendment was triggered by a “reasonable expectation of privacy.”

Richard Nixon’s judges gave police more authority without warrants, and Gorsuch’s dissent provides ridiculous results with the change in tests for this privacy. Yet he radically shifts to the “traditional approach” that permits privacy only if “a house, paper or effect was yours under the law.” If not, police don’t need a warrant. Gorsuch admits that his argument has no clarity but claims to know more than his colleagues. His “traditional approach” would allow law enforcement unlimited right to examine all technology—including telephone conversations and internet usage. His conclusions supposedly come from “positive law,” the argument that all these records are protected by state or federal law and not the Constitution. Gorsuch wants a Supreme Court decision to rewrite the Fourth Amendment.

June 18, 2018

Courts Feature DDT’s Problems

Today’s post is about recent legal decisions and lawsuit filings, but I’ll begin with the separation of children from their families at the Mexico border.

  • A letter to the editor complained about Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) for not doing his job because he tried to visit to incarceration facilities for these children. This is part of his job.
  • NPR, which now gets large donations from far-right contributors such as the Koch brothers, allowed statements that children are better off being separated from their parents with no one explaining the physical and emotional damage of the separations.
  • Yesterday DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tweeted, “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.” Today she backed down at a White House briefing but supported the lies of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) by blaming Democrats and adding other lies of her own.

People watching nothing but conservative media such as Fox are spared horrific tapes of the cries of abducted children separated from their parents. A six-year-old girl kept repeating her aunt’s telephone number and pleading for someone to call her. When the call was finally made, the aunt in El Salvador could do nothing because she and her daughter cannot get asylum in the U.S. because the DOJ no longer accepts people fleeing from gangs and domestic violence. The six-year-old’s mother will probably be deported without her daughter.

As bad as things are for DDT, the courts are pursuing him. New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood filed a lawsuit against DDT, his three oldest children, and the Donald J. Trump foundation because DDT’s charity allegedly engaged in “illegal conduct” by raising over $2.8 million to influence the presidential election in DDT’s campaign. The suit calls for dissolving the foundation, repaying the $2.8 million along with other penalties, a 10-year ban on DDT serving as director of a New York nonprofit, and a one-year ban on his serving on a nonprofit board for each of his children. Prison could also be a possibility. Underwood also sent referral letters to the IRS and FEC, listing potential law violations for more investigation and legal action.

Summer Zervos’ defamation civil suit for DDT accusation that his sexual assault victims are liars can continue, according to New York’s Supreme Court. Zervos’ lawyer said that they look forward to the “discovery process,” which could reveal information that DDT is hiding.

Rudy Giuliani tried to defame Stormy Daniels because of her profession as an adult film star, saying that she cannot be trusted. In return, Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti tweeted his 500,000+ followers in a search for Giuliani’s porn-watching habits.

An Emoluments Clause lawsuit against DDT for taking gifts from state and foreign governments, a case with no direct precedent, should be decided by the end of July. DDT’s legal team claims that DDT cannot be sued, that his proceeds are not emoluments, and that he has donated his profits to the Treasury. DDT has no evidence for his statement that he made only $151,470. In another emoluments case, 200 congressional Democrats state that DDT has to ask Congress for the right to receive emoluments. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington failed its first round in an emoluments claim for having no standing, but the group is appealing. Any case that manages a requirement of discovery is victorious because DDT has thus far hidden his financial records.

A federal judge in Seattle refused to stay an earlier injunction halting DDT’s transgender military ban while the government is appealing because the government has no new arguments. The judge is one of four issuing preliminary injunctions against Trump’s transgender military ban.

The day after the official end of net neutrality in the United States, an action allowing more profit-making to internet servers, a George W. Bush-appointed judge approved the $85.4 billion merger between AT&T and Time Warner with no conditions. The owners of DirecTV, U-verse, AT&T mobile and broadband, Cricket wireless, etc. will now possess HBO, TNT, CNN, Cartoon Network, Warner Brothers Studios, a stake in Hulu, etc. The judge ruled that the merger did not violate antitrust laws because of the consumer welfare standard that examines only consumer costs. Monopolies are now legal; for example, ultra-conservative Sinclair Publishing can move into almost all the local markets across the nation. Comcast entered a bidding war with Disney for Fox TV and movie assets. T-Mobile, which partners with Netflix, has a deal to buy Sprint. Leon’s ruling also leaves Aetna open to join with CVS, and other health corporations can merge.

In another permit for a huge merger earlier this year, the German pharmaceutical and chemical company Bayer can buy agricultural giant Monsanto, creating the world’s biggest pesticides and seeds monopoly.  After the $66 billion purchase, just three megacorporations–Bayer-Monsanto, Dow-DuPont, and Syngenta-ChemChina–will control 61 percent of global seeds and pesticides production, worrying farmers about prices with no competition. Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds have trapped farmers into dependence and reliance on chemicals.

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will not decide on two gerrymandering cases from Wisconsin and Maryland. The non-decision gave Wisconsin to the Republicans and Maryland to Democrats. For Wisconsin, the high court’s opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, ruled that challenges must come from each district by voters with standing because the court’s role is only for “individual rights.” The case was sent back to a lower court to determine whether plaintiffs existed in all districts. Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch wanted to end the Wisconsin case. An unsigned opinion stated that the Maryland case is at a preliminary stage but that the lower court was not wrong in refusing to order the congressional maps redrawn. The next Supreme Court decision about gerrymandering could come from North Carolina where the GOP controls 10 of 13 congressional districts.

Last Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court narrowly struck down Minnesota’s ban on political apparel in polling places with the 7-2 ruling that the law was too broad. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that a state may prohibit some apparel, but it must have a “reasonable” line. An example is the California law that defines political information.

Last week, a 4-4 split on the Supreme Court after Justice Anthony Kennedy recused himself left in place a lower court decision supporting the salmon rights of 21 Northwest Native American tribes who sued Washington state for the replacement of almost 1,000 culverts. The decision, that the state cannot impede the salmon that tribes have a right to fish, could affect development, construction, and farming practices in the Northwest by engaging tribes in decision-making.  Tribes may also look at other treaty rights outside fishing and hunting, such as the preservation of national parks and opposition to pipelines.

Healthcare specialist Mark Horton’s lawsuit against St. Louis-based Midwest Geriatric Management, now pending in the 8th Circuit Court, comes from the company’s pulling his job offer after it discovered he is gay. Major companies such as Microsoft and Airbnb joined EEOC to support Horton’s case; conservative states oppose it. The 2nd Circuit Court ruled that the Civil Right Act protects LGBTQ workers.

A federal judge in Missouri this week upheld a state law restricting access to medication to induce abortions as the case awaits trial.

A California appeals court reinstated the state’s right-to-die law until a lawsuit goes to court. A lower court had blocked the law on the grounds that the legislature could not pass the law during a special session limited to other issues. Oregon was the first to pass a death-with-dignity law in 1997 before it was joined by Washington, Vermont, Colorado, Hawaii, and Washington D.C.

Kentucky is suing Walgreens for allegedly aggravating the opioid crisis as both distributor and dispenser in filling huge quantities of prescription narcotic pain medication. This is the sixth opioid-related lawsuit filed by Kentucky. Other states are doing the same—Florida, Delaware, and the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. Massachusetts is also suing Purdue Pharma and 16 of the OxyContin maker’s executives for misleading doctors and patients about the risks of opioids. Alabama filed a suit against the company four months ago.

A federal judge blocked Indiana from immediately purging registered voters with personal records elsewhere on the faulty Crosschecks computer program.

A question about citizenship abruptly added to the 2020 census with no vetting has brought lawsuits from over two dozen states and cities in opposition. The subsequent release of 1,320 internal memos, emails, and other documents sheds light on this decision. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that the cost of the last-minute addition would be insignificant, but John Abowd, the Census Bureau’s chief scientist, conservatively estimates the expense at $27.5 million. The question came from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, known for his work to disenfranchise progressive voter. He objected to undocumented immigrants being used to determine the number of congressional seats, despite the fact that this constitutional practice has been used since the first census in 1790.

Earlier this year, Kobach was fined $1,000 for misleading the court about documents in a folder he took to a meeting with DDT soon after the presidential election. Kobach said he paid the fee “out of his own pocket,” but he used a state credit card issued to Craig McCullah, deputy assistant secretary of state under Kobach, for the payment. McCullah, in Ukraine deployed with the Oklahoma Army National Guard when the payment was made, was not told about it. Kobach was also found to have disobeyed orders to notify thousands of Kansans that they were legally registered to vote in 2016. He is running for governor of Kansas.

West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry was suspended from the bench for 32 counts of lying and using his public office for personal gain. Those seem to be actions reserved for the president of the United States.

June 11, 2018

Supreme Court Permits Vote Purging, Other Court Actions

Monday in June means the dribbling of decisions from major Supreme Court cases for the year. Today’s ruling in a 5-4 vote legitimizes the purging of registered voters from rolls if they miss elections. Ohio’s law may be unethical (my opinion) but not against federal law (Samuel Alito’s opinion). The National Voting Rights Act prevents the removal of voters because they fail to vote but requires states to keep accurate rolls. The court’s justification for the ruling comes from the lack of response to a postcard followed by four years of not voting. Cases still waiting for announced decisions concern DDT’s travel ban, gerrymandering, internet sales taxes, union fees, mobile phone privacy, and credit card fees.

Policies promulgated by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) are crossing the line into illegal. Despite DOJ AG Jeff Sessions’ claim that all children are removed from parents when immigrants try to cross the southern border, HHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen refused to be specific about this aim in a Senate hearing and avoided the term “deterrence” because she knows that this policy is illegal. A federal judge blocked President Obama in 2015 from locking up Central American immigrant mothers and their children without bond to stop others from crossing the border, and the 1997 Flores settlement bars locking up children in detention centers. To avoid this problem, the DOJ takes children from parents and treats them as if they came by themselves. The ACLU has filed a lawsuit and asked for a nationwide injunction to stop DDT’s family separation policy.

The DOJ lawyer claimed that they weren’t systematically separating mothers, but three days later Sessions announced that the “zero tolerance” police included mothers with their children. The judge ruled that the case against the policy can move forward because it “arbitrarily tears at the sacred bond between parent and child. Such conduct, if true, as it is assumed to be on the present motion, is brutal, offensive, and fails to comport with traditional notions of fair play and decency.”

Until the World of Trump, the DOJ defended federal law, no matter the political views of the DOJ and the sitting president. Now AG Jeff Sessions is supporting lawsuits from 20 GOP states to invalidate the provisions in the Affordable Care Act mandating that all people buy insurance and thus removing the requirement that healthcare provide for pre-existing conditions. The 17 Democratic-led states have filed a brief to argue for the retention of the ACA, and three career DOJ attorneys refuse to back DOJ support. Instability will cause higher charges for healthcare premiums in 2019. The DOJ controls the nation’s laws by deciding which ones to defend—legal decisions by caprice.

Doing away with the ACA could be a GOP ecological approach to reducing population and make Republicans an endangered species. Although a majority of die-hard Republicans oppose the ACA, 54 percent of people have a favorable view with strong support by independents. Support for the law grows each time that the GOP tries to repeal it.

Philadelphia will keep its status as a so-called sanctuary city after it won its lawsuit against the federal government. The DOJ had pulled a grant because the city would not allow ICE agents into city prisons, notify them when undocumented immigrants leave prisons, and give them information about their immigration status. The city argued that its police force is not an arm of federal agencies, and the judge wrote that the refusal was based in “reasonable, rational,” and “equitable” logic.

Arizona has agreed to allow voters to register without providing proof of citizenship at the time of registration.

The Arizona Court of Appeals upheld a Phoenix ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, citing the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop. The three-judge panel wrote: “[A]llowing a vendor who provides goods and services for marriages and weddings to refuse similar services for gay persons would result in ‘a community-wide stigma inconsistent with the history and dynamics of civil rights laws that ensure equal access to goods, services and public accommodations.’” They added that the law “regulates conduct, not speech.” The baker won his case not to sell one wedding cake to a gay couple but the opinion essentially ruled in favor of LGBTQ rights.

The 9th Circuit Court has just ruled that Maricopa County (AZ) is liable for the racist traffic stop policies of former Joe Arpaio, now a GOP candidate for U.S. Senate. After the federal district court ruling, Arpaio was found in civil contempt of court and criminal contempt for continuing his discriminatory practices after a court order not to enforce federal immigration law on a local level. DDT pardoned him on the civil contempt charges, but the cost to the county is almost $100 million. Maricopa County claimed it wasn’t liable for his actions because he was a policymaker for his own office or the entire state—not the county. The three-judge panel for the 9th Circuit Court disagreed.

DDT’s NFL problem with keeping players from kneeling during the national anthem won’t go away: Colin Kaepernick is suing the NFL for collusion against him because he was blacklisted for leading the NFL players’ protest of police brutality against blacks. Kaepernick’s lawyers plan to request subpoenas for DDT, VP Mike Pence, and White House officials in seeking the DDT administration’s involvement in making players stand during the national anthem. DDT suggested pardoning Ali when he said that he was looking at “thousands of names” of people he can pardon. A lawyer for Ali already turned down DDT, stating that there is no crime for DDT to pardon. Ron Tweel pointed out that the Supreme Court unanimously overturned the conviction in 1971 for Ali’s resisting the draft in June 1967. DDT’s comment was made after he made his appeal to black voters by pardoning Alice Marie Johnson, who has already served 21 years of a life term for nonviolent offenses, a week after he met with Kim Kardashian West. Johnson was convicted on money laundering, one of the charges against Paul Manafort. About DDT pardoning Muhammad Ali, his wife said that “the pardon should go to those who kneel.”

The number of lawsuits surrounding Stormy Daniels has increased after Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti discovered that other women were forced to sign non-disclosure agreements for extramarital affairs with DDT At least one of them was represented by Daniels’ previous lawyer, Keith Davidson. The new lawsuit claims that he “colluded” with DDT’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen to get Daniels on Sean Hannity’s Fox program to falsely deny that she had an affair with DDT. The lawsuit also alleges that DDT was aware of the two lawyers’ coordination but Daniels wasn’t. Another allegation is that Davidson broke client confidentiality by telling Cohen that Daniels was getting a new lawyer and announcing that she had an affair with DDT. Texts show that the two lawyers agreed that Daniels would have no interviews except through Davidson. DDT and Sean Hannity may be called as witnesses.

Davidson retaliated with his own lawsuit against Daniels and Avenatti with a separate one against Cohen for illegally recording phone calls with Davidson. He claimed that he only communicated with Cohen after instructed by his client.

The DOJ seized phone and email records from New York Times reporter Ali Watkins in its investigation into James Wolfe, formerly Senate Intelligence Committee’s director of security, who was indicted for lying to investigators. Watkins said that they had a personal relationship, but he was not a source for her. It is the first case of DDT seizing a reporter’s records, and Wolfe was not charged with passing classified information despite DDT’s inuendos. Leaking unclassified government information is not illegal. DOJ rules require officials to exhaust all of possibilities and negotiate with the reporter before taking legal action to get the records. There was no negotiation, and other actions before taking the records were not made clear. Watkins broke the news about DDT’s associate Carter Page meeting with a Russian spy in 2013.

The UN is demanding an immediate stop to the U.S. removal of children from families at the border because it violates their right and international law. The U.S. refuses to stop the practice and declares all entries as illegal although families requesting asylum, not an illegal entry, are also being separated. The A.C.L.U. has filed a class-action lawsuit, demanding a stop to the separation and reunification of families.

In the UN, the U.S. vetoed an Arab-backed Kuwait measure with ten votes to protect Palestinians from Israelis. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s resolution to condemn Hamas for Israeli violence in Gaza got only the U.S. vote. Israelis have killed 124 Palestinians, including journalists and medics, and wounded over a thousand more along the fence to Gaza where two million poor Palestinians, displaced by Israelis in 1948, live. No Israelis have been killed.

The Treasury Department has threatened governments and private companies if they trade with Iran. Under Secretary of the Treasury Sigal Mandelker said:

“Companies doing business in Iran face substantial risks, and those risks are even greater as we reimpose nuclear-related sanctions. We will hold those doing prohibited business in Iran to account.”

This website tracks court cases in which citizens, tribal nations, state and local governments, business owners, and others are standing up for U.S. conservation laws, common-sense energy rules, and ethics and transparency standards at the Department of the Interior.

June 5, 2018

Supreme Court Winds Up Year, More Court Cases

Mondays in June mean decisions from the Supreme Court. This week the justices gave extremely narrow rulings on two major case, leaving both sides dissatisfied. The first, dealing with whether religious beliefs can be used to discriminate against others, concerned a Colorado baker who would not sell a wedding cake to a gay couple. The ruling came out on the side of the baker but left no decision for the legality of allowing religious beliefs or free speech rights as justification for refusing services to LGBTQ people. The Supreme Court decision, with only Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg dissenting, claimed that the members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed “religious hostility” which “cast doubt on the fairness and impartiality of the Commission’s adjudication of Phillips’ case.”

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner for the baker approved of the statement that “government hostility toward people of faith has no place in our society,” a ruling that may also be used to assert that hostility from people’s faith likewise has no place in the United States. She refused to answer a question about future rulings if the baker again refused to sell a wedding cake to a same-gender couple. Using state anti-discrimination laws requiring public businesses to equally serve all potential customers, several courts have turned down self-identified artists such as florists, bakers, and photographers who claim violation of their rights if they have to give business to same-gender couples, a claim that this ruling doesn’t decide.

Author of the ruling, Anthony Kennedy, wrote that LGBTQ people “cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth.” He added that future cases “must be resolved … without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.” According to the ruling, the U.S. has a “general rule” that religious and other objections “do not allow business owners and other actors in the economy and in society to deny … equal access to goods and services.”

In dissension among justices, Gorsuch and Alito asserted that the Supreme Court cannot tell a baker “that a wedding cake is just like any other,” using sacramental bread as an analogy. Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer disagreed, stating that a wedding cake doesn’t change just because “a vendor like Phillips invests its sale to particular customers with ‘religious significance.’ ” Kagan referenced a 1968 decision requiring a barbecue restaurant owner to serve black customers despite his claim that his religion opposes racial equality.

The cake people failed to get a ruling that the Constitution protects discrimination, but it does give states the right to legislate against discrimination, including against LGBTQ people. The ruling against religious animus is an interesting comparison to the religious animus in DDT’s travel ban, another Supreme Court ruling to be released this month.

In a case about the DOJ imprisoning an undocumented migrant girl so that she could not get a legal abortion, the Supreme Court gave a mixed ruling. It declared the lower court’s ruling to be moot and therefore not binding because the girl had already had an abortion but declined to sanction the opposing lawyers to the DOJ for what the DOJ called deception because the procedure was rushed through before the DOJ could appeal to the Supreme Court. The high court has never before been petitioned to sanction lawyers. The decision in this case does not affect an ongoing class-action case about the rights of immigrant teens in government custody to obtain abortions. DOJ is declaring the case a win for them, but the narrow ruling was for only one girl who had already had an abortion.

The Supreme Court is also due to consider whether to review a Washington state Supreme Court decision that a florist could not legally decline to provide flowers to a same-gender wedding. Major decisions in June concern partisan gerrymandering and DDT’s travel ban.

The Supreme Court refused to address an Arkansas law that ends the use of medication abortions in the state and closes two of the state’s three abortion clinics because they perform only medical abortions. Doctors who provide medication abortions must have a contract with a specialist who has hospital admitting privileges, a burdensome, unnecessary mandate because complications are extremely during the use of two pills in the first nine weeks of pregnancy and can easily be dealt with in an emergency room or hospital. A three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit Court had earlier upheld the Arkansas law, but Planned Parenthood will appeal the case to lower courts. U.S. District Judge Kristine G. Baker temporarily blocked the law, saying that it was “a solution in search of a problem.” Two years ago, the Supreme Court overturned a Texas law requiring doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges in a local hospital.

In a more positive ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that police need a warrant to search a person’s property, specifically vehicles parted on a driveway or carport. The 8-1 decision followed a 2013 ruling that police may not bring drug-sniffing dogs to the front porch of a home without a search warrant. Samuel Alito said that a search is reasonable because “the vehicle was parked in plain view in a driveway just a few feet from the street.”

Other rulings outside the Supreme Court:

A Manhattan Supreme Court judge has ruled that Donald Trump must have a seven-hour deposition before January 31, 2019, as part of the defamation lawsuit by Summer Zervos, who accused Trump of groping her in 2016. July 13 is the deadline for both parties to issue demands for documents with September 13 the deadline for responses. The case goes to trial after June 7, 2019.

A Maine judge ordered Gov. Paul LePage to start voter-approved Medicaid expansion after he missed the April 3 deadline to file a plan with the federal HHS. After LePage vetoed the expansion in legislature five times, he argued that he couldn’t implement a law not funded by the legislation although the state has a $140 million surplus.

Felony charges have been dropped against ten people arrested protesting DDT’s inauguration because the government failed to turn over evidence it got from Project Veritas, known for James O’Keefe’s doctored videos. The judge barred the government from bringing back the charges in the future. A D.C. jury is deadlocked regarding three others involved in the protest. Forty-seven people of the original 200 charged are still facing court cases, but no defendant has been convicted.

And new cases:

Ambridge Event Center, which managed an event center owned by the Holy Rosary Church in Portland (OR), is suing the church for almost $2 million because its anti-LGBTQ bias hurt business. The negative press from the company’s inability to rent to a PFLAG chapter lost business from government and businesses that believe in equality. If Ambridge worked for the church, the law violation is employment discrimination; if Ambridge is a renter, the church violated the law with housing discrimination. Oregon’s exemption for religious groups applies only if “the use of facilities is closely connected with or related to the primary purposes of the church.” Ambridge has gone out of business.

Rustem Kazazi, a 64-year-old Cleveland resident, is suing U.S. Customs after customs agents at an airport took the family’s life savings–$58,000—that he was taking to Albania to help his family and buy a vacation home. The agency’s website says that there is no limit to the amount of money brought into or taken out of the U.S., but the agents refused to return Kazazi’s money although the family, all four citizens, was not charged with any crime. Agents also refused him a translator, strip-searched him, and gave him a receipt without the amount of money they took. A month after the money was taken, the agency wrote them, claiming that the money was “involved in a smuggling/drug trafficking/money laundering operation.” The letter also reported $770 less than Kazazi had been carrying. The federal government took over $2 billion in assets from people in 2017.

Phoenix is suing the government over the proposed census question on citizenship for fear of losing federal funds and marginalizing residents.

The American Federation of Government Employees, representing 700,000 workers, is suing DDT after he signed an executive order severely restricting the time employees may spend on union activity. The lawsuit claims his order violates the First Amendment and oversteps his constitutional authority. The order restricts “official time” for union leaders to represent workers during work time in grievances about unfair labor practices or disciplinary actions during work time, a guarantee provided by Congress 40 years ago.  The order still allows individuals to work on their grievances while on duty but without union assistance. Administration says that the change could save up to $100 million a year—equivalent to about two-thirds of DDT’s weekend junkets. Other orders instruct agencies to restrict unions in contract negotiations and fire employees more rapidly.

The League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa and ISU student Taylor Blair are suing Iowa’s secretary of state over the state’s voter ID law “apparently timed to disrupt the June 5 primary elections.” Facebook advertisements had stated that “Iowa voters will be asked to show a form of valid identification,” omitting the information that voters without ID could sign a form swearing to their identity and then cast a normal ballot. Another part of the lawsuit claims that the secretary of state’s website omitted some ID permitted under the law, such as an Iowa student identification plus proof of address.

Worried about getting DDT’s conservative judicial nominations approved after the midterms, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has reduced the August recess from four weeks to one week. Another theory for the change is that Democrat senators, defending 26 Senate seats this year, will be hobbled by less time to campaign while their Republican opponents have a free field. The GOP has nine incumbents on the ballot, including Nevada’s Dean Heller who is struggling with re-election.

May 28, 2018

Rights’ Relief from Courts – Sometimes

Democracy from people often comes from court decisions. After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) suspended democratic action by blocking any discussion for President Obama’s nominee for a Supreme Court Justice, SCOTUS moved away from people’s rights with Neil Gorsuch’s nomination by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Fortunately, the Supreme Court makes fewer than 100 decisions per year while courts across the nation can rule on constitutional rights in thousands of cases.

Recently, five Supreme Court justices removed rights from workers when five justices determined that employees must settle disputes through individual arbitration behind closed doors rather than through class action in open court. The decision worsens an earlier ruling allowing corporations to avoid class-action lawsuits from consumers. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg read part of her dissent from the bench:

“The court today holds enforceable these arm-twisted, take-it-or-leave-it contracts — including the provisions requiring employees to litigate wage and hours claims only one-by-one. Federal labor law does not countenance such isolation of employees. Trying to arbitrate such claims individually would be too expensive to be worth it, and “the risks of employer retaliation would likely dissuade most workers from seeking redress alone.”

Federal labor law permits employees to work together in improving their conditions and fight low wages, harassment, and discrimination, but the court states that companies can use arbitration clauses, forced on employees if they want the job, to ban joining together in legal actions. Employees must now fight individually against violations of minimum-wage laws, refusal to pay overtime, and requirements to work off the clock. Few private attorneys will take cases for so little money.

The day after this Supreme Court ruling, the National Labor Relations Board delivered an opposing position, that employees have the right to organize, bargain collectively and “engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” According to the Board’s interpretation of Section 8, an employment agreement requiring employees to resolve disputes by arbitration or on an individual basis is an unfair labor practice. The question now will be what opinions supersede others.

In a Supreme Court’s decision that states can legally bet on college and professional sports, Justice Samuel Alito said that each state has the right to act on its own if Congress does not regulate sports gambling. Next year, the Supreme Court will hear a case on when federal law trumps state law.

After churches in Morris County (New Jersey) received almost $5 million for repairs, the state Supreme Court ruled that the state constitution forbids using public money for religious purposes. A year ago, the Supreme Court allowed taxpayer monies to be used for repair of a church’s playground in Missouri, but the ruling did not address houses of worship. The case may go to the Supreme Court.

A federal court in California ruled Friday against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in deciding that the agency violated privacy laws by using the Social Security Administration to analyze loan forgiveness for students defrauded by Corinthian Colleges. The court ordered debt collection from defrauded students to stop after DeVos stated that only part of federal loans would be forgiven. DeVos is supporting other for-profit colleges. She appointed the dean of DeVry to head a team to investigate these schools, including DeVry. She has also frozen protections for students and reduced loan forgiveness relief for students defrauded by these schools.

Gavin Grimm, a transgender student, fought for years to use the bathroom in high school, and a federal judge ruled the school officials of Gloucester County (VA) violated his constitutional rights for stopping him from using the bathroom matching his gender identity after the 4th Circuit Court sent the case back to the lower court.

Judge Orlando Garcia, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, ruled that the state must comply with the federal National Voter Registration Act (“NVRA”) (or “motor voter” law) and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Construction on the final 18 miles of the Bayou Bridge pipeline in St. James (LA), located in an area called Cancer Alley, has been halted after a judge ruled that state regulators violated guidelines in issuing a coastal use permit. Town residents would have no way to evacuate after an explosion or other pipeline failure emergency, a fact not considered in the state’s permit. The company building the pipeline faces a legal challenge for its U.S. Army Corp of Engineers permit through the Atchafalaya Basin, a National Heritage Area and massive river swamp. The 5th Circuit Court began to hear this case the beginning of May, but pipeline builders are already cutting down old growth cypress trees.

DDT cannot block people from his Twitter account, according to a federal judge who wrote:

“The President presents the @realDonaldTrump account as being a presidential account as opposed to a personal account and, more importantly, uses the account to take actions that can be taken only by the President as President.”

DDT can mute people’s accounts so that he doesn’t have to look at their comments.

Another DDT sign came down when a New York State judge ruled that the name “Trump Place” can be removed from a high-rise condo. The bad news is that the condo cannot change its name, and the sign will stay until two-thirds majority of the condo association agrees to remove the signs. DDT’s name has already been removed from three Manhattan buildings and hotels in New York, Toronto, and Panama.

A New York appeals court refused to allow DDT to stay a defamation case by Summer Zervos regarding her claim that DDT sexually assaulted her. At this time, DDT can be deposed in the case, and lawyers can proceed with pretrial discovery, including demands for documents. In addition, Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said he’s vetting two more women on their claims that DDT gave them large hush-money payments. Zervos will subpoena documents from the Trump Organization about DDT’s alleged mistreatment of women, recordings from the archives of the president’s former reality show, and surveillance footage from the hotel in which Zervos says she was attacked.

The third federal judge has ruled against DDT over cuts to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program. The judge wrote that ending grants two years early was “arbitrary” and “capricious.” The 73 organizations receiving grants will have to follow DHS’ new requirements to focus on abstinence programs for continued funding while the eight suing organizations will not.

White supremacist Jacob Scott Goodwin has been found guilty of malicious wounding, nine months after he battered a young black man in a Charlottesville (VA) garage before his victim, 20-year-old DeAndre Harris was attacked by other white supremacists who broke his arm and injured his spine. Other attackers are awaiting trial. At the same event, another white supremacist deliberately drove into a crowd, killed Heather Heyer, and injured more than another dozen people. Two days after Goodwin’s guilt was established, white supremacist Alex Michael Ramos was found guilty of “malicious wounding” in the same attack. Both men face 20 years in prison. Two other men face trials for the assault.

Muslim-American Yonas Fikre is suing the government for putting him on its no-fly list to blackmail him into being an FBI informant to provide information about his place of worship, Portland’s largest Sunni mosque. His lawyer, Brandon Mayfield, has asked a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court to continue the suit that had been dismissed after the government removed Fikre’s name from the list stopping him from returning to his home in the U.S. Judges were irritated by the DOJ sudden offer to stop the appeal by promising that Fikre won’t be put back on the list for the same reasons as in 2010. They asked why the DOJ does not think that Fikre deserves declaratory relief after his marriage was destroyed and his business was disrupted. Mayfield has been awarded a $2 million settlement after the FBI wrongly arrested him as a suspect in the 2004 Madrid train bombings and subjected him to the same unconstitutional actions as the government did to Fikre.

Ben Carson, HUD Secretary, is the next cabinet member to be sued. A rule requiring communities to examine and address barriers to racial integration established in 2015 mandated assessment of local segregation patterns, barriers to fair housing, and planning to correct the problems. Carson called desegregation efforts “failed socialist experiments” and suspended the rule. The lawsuit asserts that Carson did not provide for public notice or comment opportunity. Carson said that the process was too burdensome. In addition, the lawsuit claims that HUD violated its duty to guarantee that federal funds promote fair housing—for example, giving millions in HUD grants to white suburbs in Westchester County that refuses affordable housing.

The next branch to be covered is the legislature.

April 25, 2018

Even Gorsuch Opposes DDT

Filed under: Judiciary — trp2011 @ 8:36 PM
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Legal decisions and new lawsuits continue to pile up against Dictator Donald Trump and the GOP:

The most amazing decision of last week came from the Supreme Court when Neil Gorsuch, DDT’s pet appointment after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused President Obama’s appointment for 11 months, sided with the four “liberal” justices to strike down a law that allowed the government to deport some immigrants who commit serious crimes. The majority ruled that the term “crime of violence” is so vague that it is unconstitutional. DDT complained that Gorsuch is too liberal.

In another deportation decision, a George W. Bush appointed federal judge for D.C. ruled that DACA protections must remain in place with the government accepting new applications because the decision to terminate the program is based on the “virtually unexplained” grounds that the program was “unlawful.” DHS has 90 days to come up with better reasoning. This week’s decision protecting DACA is the third one against DDT’s attempt to eliminate DACA and the first to require new applications.

Another astonishing ruling came from a federal judge in Kansas who ruled that the state Secretary of State Kris Kobach is in contempt of court because he failed to follow her orders to register voters who had registered at the DMV but failed to present proof of citizenship. She said that he had not complied with a 2016 preliminary injunction blocking the state law mandating that people provide proof of citizenship at voter registration, holding up registration for about 18,000. Kobach is blaming everyone else for not carrying through the orders.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled that Indiana’s abortion ban, signed by former Gov. Mike Pence, is unconstitutional according to a Supreme Court decision that states cannot prohibit women’s decision before viability. The law prevented women from having abortions based on gender, race, or disability; North Dakota, Louisiana, and Ohio have the same law. At least a dozen states and the federal government have failed to pass similar laws, and other laws are pending in Kansas and North Carolina despite no research to support that gender selection is a reason for abortion.

The 6th Circuit Court three-judge panel, two of them appointed by GOP president, unanimously upheld the lower court decision that Ohio Gov. John Kasich and GOP lawmakers acted unconstitutionally to end $1.5 million state funding for Planned Parenthood. The next anti-abortion law to go to court might be a new Arizona law requiring doctors to ask women why they want abortions and reporting their answers to the state’s Department of Health Services.

Three GOP-appointed judges on a 7th Circuit Court panel unanimously ruled against the DOJ’s attempt to keep federal funds from so-called “sanctuary cities”—decrying the term itself and writing that the administration wrongly sought to use “the sword of federal funding to conscript state and local authorities to aid in federal civil immigration enforcement.” The judges also found that the DOJ tried to take over authority to give or take federal funds, a right reserved for Congress, and that Chicago isn’t interfering in “lawful pursuit of [the government’s] civil immigration activities.”

A federal judge in Los Angeles also ruled that the DOJ cannot take public safety, policing grants from so-called “sanctuary cities.” The “permanent, nationwide ban against” DOJ follows similar victories in San Francisco, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that Exxon Mobil must release documents about what it knew regarding related to a state investigation into whether the company misled investors and consumers about the link between fossil fuels and climate change. Exxon Mobil is also appealing the dismissal of its lawsuit against the attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts to the 2nd Circuit Court. The oil companies had alleged that the accusation of fraud against them was based on politics.

A federal court in Seattle found that a lawsuit against DDT for its discriminatory ban against transgender people openly serving in the military can move forward because of the ban’s constitutional violations. Transgender military members are now protected by four separate court injunctions. Army Secretary Mark Esper and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley testified to the Senate that they had no knowledge of problems regarding unit cohesion stated in a DOJ report justifying DDT’s ban.

Karen McDougal has been released from her contract to keep her from talking about her affair with DDT just days after DDT’s “fixer,” Michael Cohen, was served with a search warrant for many of his papers.

A GOP recall effort attempting to swing the Nevada senate to Republican by getting rid of two Democratic senators has failed because the petitions lack enough signatures. The Democrats may attempt to strengthen state laws requiring that recalls have a legitimate reason such as official wrongdoing.

Pending Cases:

Former Maricopa County (AZ) Sheriff Joe Arpaio isn’t in prison because DDT pardoned him, but Arpaio had to admit guilt to his crime in order to get the pardon. Now Arpaio is running for U.S. Senate, and the DOJ won’t defend a judge’s refusal to vacate his case and wipe his criminal record from appeal. The 9th Circuit Court has appointed a private attorney to fill the role that the DOJ rejected, to defend the court’s decision and give the court the chance to decide if DDT’s pardon is constitutional. Opposition to the pardon states that it “infringes on the constitutional rights of private litigants and the power of courts to uphold the Constitution, and so is outside the President’s constitutional authority.”

The Washington DC Court of Appeals heard arguments last week that included whether Mick Mulvaney can be both director of the Office of Management and Budget and acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Filings:

The DNC is suing the Russian government, the DDT campaign, and WikiLeaks alleging a conspiracy among them to damage Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and help DDT in hacking the DNC computer networks and disseminating stolen information.

Over five years after a massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed 26 people, 20 of them small children, parents of two dead children are suing Alex Jones for claiming that they are “crisis actors” and that the shootings were faked. The lawsuits join two earlier ones against Jones for defamation, one by a man recording the deadly car attack at Charlottesville (VA) during a white supremacist march and the other a 24-year-old falsely identified by Jones’ Infowars as the gunman who killed 17 people in Florida on Valentine’s Day this year. Jones is claiming to be the victim, saying that he never said that the shooting deaths were faked and that he was just playing “devil’s advocate” when he called the tragedy a “hoax.” Faced with lawsuits, he says it isn’t a hoax.

The NAACP has sued the Census Bureau for its lack of 2020 Census preparation which will result in a drastic undercount of people of color and violation of the U.S. Constitution. Several other groups are suing Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for his addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census with no validity or research.

Colorado counties are suing Exxon and Suncor, demanding that the two oil companies help pay for climate change impacts, including that from the emission of tons of carbon dioxide. The governmental entities are the first noncoastal U.S. communities taking legal action against the fossil fuel industry. The courts are important in slowing pollution because the EPA is allowing more mercury, benzene, nitrogen oxides, and other pollutants in the air without public input requirements.

Hundreds of workers who cleaned up the biggest coal ash spill in the U.S. from a coal power plant (Kingston, TN) are suing Jacobs Engineering, hired by the Tennessee Valley Authority in 2008 after a billion gallons of coal ash inundated a residential community and contaminated two rivers. An earlier lawsuit had been filed on behalf of 53 dead and sick workers; the new lawsuit added another 180 dead or dying workers. Jacobs refused to allow workers to wear protective gear, even dust masks, to avoid alarming the public, and the EPA signed off on the “safety” plan.

In Florida, New York, and Illinois, the Trump Organization has filed nine lawsuits since DDT’s inauguration to lower property taxes under the premise that the company’s property is worth far less than DDT has claimed in his presidential financial disclosures. DDT is the first president who has used the courts to deny communities funds for roads, schools, and police departments. For example, DDT’s company is claiming that a golf course in Ossining (NY) is worth only $1.4 million about the purchase price and renovations are almost $50 million.

Former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe is working with lawyers to sue DDT for defamation and wrongful termination as well as other possible civil claims. McCabe’s lawyer is also accusing McCabe’s opponents, including DDT, of “continuing slander.”

New York AG Eric Schneiderman is working to change state law so that he can bring criminal charges against DDT’s aides who are pardoned to allow Muller’s investigation to proceed unimpeded. Presidents have no ability to pardon offenses or commute sentences at the state level. The double jeopardy clause of the 5th Amendment in the U.S. Constitution preventing prosecution of the same offense twice is covered only for federal prosecution. New York prosecuted Leona Helmsley for tax cheating after she had been prosecuted on the federal level. Several DDT aides—including Rick Gates and Michael Flynn—have pled guilty, and New York is investigating Cohen.

In a legal first, the personal lawyer for the man inaugurated in 2017 has said he will invoke the 5th Amendment to not incriminate himself in the Stormy Daniels case. Evidently Michael Cohen thinks he’s guilty of something which will openly catch DDT in a crime. DDT may be on Fox & Friends tomorrow to talk about Cohen.

 

April 12, 2018

The Judicial Branch, Sometimes on the People’s Side

Filed under: Judiciary — trp2011 @ 11:42 PM
Tags: , , ,

 

As the executive and legislative branches bring gloomy news into our homes, the judiciary branch sometimes provides for the rights of the people. From the past two weeks:

Lawsuits:

A federal judge upheld the Massachusetts law banning assault weapons because the U.S. Constitution does not cover military guns. In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Second Amendment right for individuals to “bear arms” only for firearms kept in the home for self-defense. Last November the high court refused to hear a challenge to Maryland’s 2013 state ban on assault weapons.

A Montana judge determined that a properly trained advanced practice registered nurse and a certified nurse midwife may provide abortions in the state during the challenge of a state law allowing only physicians and physician assistants to perform abortions. Only the two plaintiffs in the lawsuit are covered by the injunction.

A federal court ruled that the EPA violated the Civil Rights Act by delaying investigations into environmental discrimination complaints for decades. The Flint (MI) case became a symbol of environmental racism from the 1990s when a black neighborhood fought a permit for a nearby scrap wood incinerator and were surrounded by armed guards at a hearing about the issue. The hearing was adjourned before community members could testify, and the incinerator spewed tons of lead into the air every year. The complaint was not resolved until the state caused lead from corroding pipes to spread throughout the city. Flint is not unique.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused an Arizona appeal regarding a 9th Circuit Court decision allowing DACA recipients to get driver’s licenses. Arizona is the only state, after Nebraska rescinded its policy, to attempt a law preventing DACA youth from obtaining these licenses.

Bill O’Reilly’s sexual harassment settlements of $45 million to at least six women have been unsealed after a New York court decision that ruled them judicial documents subject to public disclosure. The settlement required one accuser to lie under oath if necessary to hide information. The decision is part of an ongoing defamation suit.

A federal judge redrew boundaries in San Juan County (UT) that gave majorities to Navajo Indians in two of three commission districts and three of five school board seat, and Anglos say they feel “disenfranchised.” The county’s population of almost 17,000 has a minority of whites who complain that Navajo commissions won’t show up for meetings or know how to govern the county.

Filings:

China is suing the United States in a World Trade Organization court because of DDT’s proposed tariffs. The claim is discrimination against Chinese goods and violation of Washington’s commitment of tariff limits. If the situation isn’t solved by both parties within 60 days, China can ask for adjudication.

After a judge called Stormy Daniels’ filing to avoid arbitration “premature” because DDT has not filed a petition to compel arbitration, DDT’s lawyers filed the petition. Michael Cohen’s story about paying Daniels out of his own pocket leaves him open to charges such as defamation, professional malfeasance, fraud, and illegal contribution as well as Treasury Department investigation. DDT spent over $27,000 of taxpayer monies for TVEyes to track media the day after Stormy Daniels’ interview on 60 Minutes, “by far” the greatest amount DDT has paid the company and the highest payment by the Executive Office to the company since it began working with TVEyes in 2011.

Karen McDougal is suing the National Enquirer for buying her story about her affair with DDT and then suppressing it. This act led Robert Mueller to investigate the tabloid for protecting Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) while publishing negative propaganda about Hillary and Bill Clinton. his act could constitute an illegal campaign contribution. David J. Pecker, chair of the tabloid’s publisher, American Media Inc., is DDT’s close friend who worked with DDT’s lawyer Michael Cohen to protect DDT. The search warrant served on Cohen this past week included communications between him, Pecker, and Dylan Howard, the business’s chief content officer. The National Enquirer also suppressed a tip for a former doorman at one of DDT’s New York City buildings. He was given $30,000 for a story about DDT having an illegitimate child to the tabloid with the threat of charging him $1 million if he talked to anyone about the information.

A third woman, a campaign staffer, is suing DDT’s campaign for being forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement because it keeps her from telling about being subjected to a superior’s harassing comments and behavior.

Three weeks ago, the Center for Reproductive Rights received a temporary injunction stopping Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban that contravenes a Supreme Court ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (2016). A new complaint against Mississippi law challenges the ban punishing doctors for providing care after 15 weeks, a restrictive licensing system that singles out clinics providing abortions, the 24-hour mandatory delay and two-trip requirement, physician-only mandate, and the telemedicine ban. Mississippi has only one remaining clinic that provides abortions.

Daily Beast contributor and radio host Dean Obeidallah is suing Andrew Anglin after neo-Nazi The Daily Stormer accused Obeidallah of orchestrating the 2017 Ariana Grande concert bombing. The Daily Stormer may be forced to reveal its financial transactions through its shell company Moonbase Holdings because Anglin is in default by not responding to the first lawsuit.

After Juli Briskman gave a third-finger salute to the presidential motorcade passing her on her bicycle, she was fired because she posted a photograph of her action on her Facebook page. The contractor Akima cited a social media policy barring obscenity but admitted fear of federal retaliation. Briskman wants $2,692 for two weeks of promised severance pay and compensation for legal fees. Akima kept an employee who posted, “You’re a fucking Libtard asshole” in response to discussion of Black Lives Matter. Legal superstar Laurence Tribe explained that the firing undermines freedom of speech and Akima must be held accountable for its unlawful action.

California’s Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye has called for more specific rules that require state courts to disclose judges who settled resolutions regarding sexual harassment and discrimination. Documents show that the state’s court system paid over $500,000 in seven years to resolve sexual harassment complaints against judges and staff. California’s legislature already identified the name of lawmakers and staff in 18 cases of sexual harassment.

Elections:

The judicial system is looking up in Wisconsin after Progressive Judge Rebecca Dallet was elected to the state Supreme Court; she defeated Michael Screnock 56.5-43.5 percent for the ten-year term. Dallet’s election moves the state’s high court to a four-to-three conservative majority from the past five-to-two, and six of the seven justices are now women. The Walker-appointed state court judge forced him to hold a special election for empty legislative seats according to law, and the legislature wouldn’t support Walker in reversing the law.

In the executive branch, the DOJ has established a quota system for U.S. immigration judges to speed up their processing cases. The mandate to clear at least 700 cases a year for a “satisfactory” performance rating will be connected to annual performance reviews. The system also penalizes judges who refer more than 15 percent of certain cases to high courts or schedule hearing dates too far apart. Judges must complete 85 percent of removal cases within three days of a merit hearing to be considered “satisfactory.” Immigration judges complete 678 cases in an average year, but some clear far over 1,000, sometimes spending only a minute on a case. Although immigrations judges are supposed to have full independence, they are part of the executive branch, not the judicial branch, because they function as part of U.S. law enforcement.

The new mandates fail to recognize not only the supposed independence of judges but also the conditions of immigration court that deals with small children, people who don’t speak English, and those with extremely limited education. The evidence needed for court cases, such as medical records to prove they fled from persecution, can take time to obtain. Doctors performing an independent mental health evaluation may not get timely clearance into detention centers. With judges’ ratings based on how fast they finish a case, all final rulings will be suspect and therefore liable to appeals.

In an 18-minute episode on Last Week Tonight, John Oliver presented a type of “Immigration Courts for Dummies” as he walked his audience through the absurdities of deportation hearings. Most horrifying is that everyone— including three- and four-year-old children—who cannot afford a lawyer will not have one and thus required to represent themselves. A judge talked about teaching toddlers how to be their own lawyers. Watch the segment if you have the stomach for it.

If speed were of the essence, the government could provide an electronic filing system and more court clerks. Many times three judges are forced to share one clerk. Instead Sessions has eliminated the requirement that asylum seekers may have a full hearing before a judge.

Maybe all judges should be put into the judiciary branch.

 

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