Opinion: Thankfully, an Incompetent Trump Can’t Even Pack The SCOTUS

This term’s Supreme Court rulings prove that America’s democracy is destined to survive the incompetent dictator-wannabe currently occupying the White House. Without question, the rule of law and democracy won. The unanimous finding among Supreme Court Justices across the ideological spectrum used various methods of legal analysis to find that the president is not above the law – at least he isn’t this week. read more

Coronavirus Forces Supreme Court to Postpone Arguments, Including Fight Over Trump’s Financial Records

The Supreme Court announced it would postpone arguments for late March and early April because of the coronavirus pandemic. No new dates for the postponed arguments have been set at this time. Among the high-profile cases to be postponed was the March 31 argument on President Donald Trump’s refusal to release his financial records, including his tax returns.

Some functions will continue; the justices will hold a regularly scheduled conference on March 20, for example, and other orders will be released by next week.

“The Building will continue to be open for official business, and filing deadlines are not extended under Rule 30.1,” the Court said in a press release. “The Court is expanding remote working capabilities to reduce the number of employees in the Building, consistent with public health guidance. The Building will remain closed to the public until further notice.”

The postponements are a pragmatic decision in light of the public health crisis that has claimed 71 lives across the United States to date. Six of the nine justices are age 65 or older and are at high risk of developing severe cases of the coronavirus, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.

The Court noted in its press release that its “postponement of argument sessions in light of public health concerns is not unprecedented.”

“The Court postponed scheduled arguments for October 1918 in response to the Spanish flu epidemic.  The Court also shortened its argument calendars in August 1793 and August 1798 in response to yellow fever outbreaks,” according to the release.

As Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” Plan Hits A Legal Snag, His Administration Turns to SCOTUS

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco is preventing President Donald Trump’s administration from enforcing its Migrant Protection Protocols, otherwise known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, for asylum-seekers to stay in the country. Restrictions remain in place until March 11 for review by the Supreme Court. The ruling only applies to Arizona and California, the states under the court’s authority, and not New Mexico and Texas.

The ruling affirms the court’s ruling last week that the policy violates both United States and international law. The policy, which went into effect in January 2019, requires asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico while they wait for their immigration hearings. The Trump administration considers the policy a great success, saying it has curbed the “uncontrolled flows” of migrants at the southern border, but advocacy groups have found that thousands of migrants required to wait have been kidnapped, raped, or tortured.

The appeals court’s decision will take effect on March 12 if the Supreme Court opts not to hear the case. Attorneys with the Justice Department argue that stopping the program would create “massive and irreparable national security and public safety concerns” because U.S. Customs and Border Protection lacks enough detention space to house thousands of new migrants who, they contend, would create a “rush on the southern border.”

Lawyers challenging the policy say the Supreme Court should deny the government’s request for a stay because the 9th Circuit’s original decision did not require the government to allow asylum-seekers affected by the policy to immediately re-enter the United States. They point out in court filings that the decision requires the government pursue an “orderly unwinding” of the policy.

The Supreme Court has sided with the Trump administration on immigration issues before. In January, the court allowed the government to temporarily continue enforcing a policy barring migrants from applying for asylum unless they’d already been denied asylum in another country while in transit to the United States.

John Roberts Rebukes Schumer For Bogus “Threatening Statements” Against Gorsuch, Kavanaugh

Chief Justice John Roberts has rebuked Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for “threatening statements” against two conservative justices.

“Justices know that criticism comes with the territory, but threatening statements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous,” Roberts said, adding that the justices “will continue to do their job, without fear or favor, from whatever quarter.”

Roberts’s comments came after Schumer, standing outside the Supreme Court, said Associate Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh would “pay the price” if they fail to uphold abortion rights as the judiciary takes up June Medical Services v. Russo, which considers the constitutionality of a law requiring doctors to possess admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 minutes of their abortion clinics.

“I want to tell you, Gorsuch. I want to tell you, Kavanaugh. You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price,” Schumer said to a crowd of abortion-rights advocates. “You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”

Schumer was soon criticized by Congressional conservatives, including Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Steve Scalise (R-La.).

🚨 UNHINGED → Schumer threatened conservative justices Kavanaugh & Gorsuch on the steps of the Supreme Court:

"You have released the whirlwind & you will pay the price. You won't know what hit you."

Enough. This rhetoric has dangerous consequences. Where's the media outrage? pic.twitter.com/SiGNHxG0iX read more

Opinion: SCOTUS Ruling All But Guarantees State Criminal Charges For Trump

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 (Justices Ginsburg and Gorsuch dissenting) to uphold the “dual sovereignty” doctrine. That means that state law is separate and independent from federal law in relation to “double jeopardy,” that is, being putting on trial twice for the same act. Which means in turn that Trump loyalists charged and convicted under state law can’t be pardoned by Trump.

As many court watches noted, Monday was a bad day for Paul Manafort, because this ruling means Trump will not be able to pardon Manafort on convictions under State law. It was also a bad day for Donald Trump because it means his pardon power is smaller than he thought, and it’s very likely that he could face criminal charges under State law.

There’s a special sprinkling of karma in the fact that it was Justice Alito, a Federalist Society pick, who wrote the opinion that would uphold the dual sovereignty doctrine.

“We have long held that a crime under one sovereign’s laws is not “the same offence” as a crime under the laws of another sovereign. Under this “dual-sovereignty” doctrine, a State may prosecute a defendant under state law even if the Federal Government has prosecuted him for the same conduct under a federal statute.” read more

Supreme Court conservatives sympathetic toward Trump census citizenship query

By Andrew Chung and Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices on Tuesday appeared sympathetic toward a bid by President Donald Trump’s administration to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, a plan opponents have called a Republican effort to deter immigrants from taking part in the population count.

During an extended argument session that lasted about 80 minutes, the court’s liberal justices voiced skepticism over the administration’s stated justification for the citizenship question – that it would yield better data to enforce the Voting Rights Act, which protects eligible voters from discrimination.

Lower courts have blocked the question, ruling that the administration violated federal law and the U.S. Constitution in seeking to include it on the census form.

The court has a 5-4 conservative majority, and conservative justices signaled support toward the administration’s stance.

Chief Justice John Roberts challenged New York Solicitor General Barbara Underwood, whose state sued the administration over the plan to add the question, saying citizenship is critical information for enforcing the Voting Rights Act.

A ruling is due by the end of June.

The case comes in a pair of lawsuits by a group of states and localities led by New York state, and a coalition of immigrant rights groups challenging the legality of the question. The census forms are due to be printed in the coming months.

The official population count, as determined by the census, is used to allot seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and distribute some $800 billion in federal funds.

Opponents have said inclusion of the question would cause a sizeable undercount by frightening immigrant households and Latinos from filling out the census, fearful that the information would be shared with law enforcement. This would cost Democratic-leaning areas electoral representation in Congress and federal aid, benefiting Republican-leaning parts of the country, they said.

Trump, a Republican, has pursued hardline immigration policies.

The Supreme Court, which includes Trump’s conservative appointees Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, has handed the Republican president some major victories, including last year allowing his travel ban targeting people from several Muslim-majority countries.

During Tuesday’s arguments, liberal justices noted evidence presented in the case from the Census Bureau’s own experts that showed the citizenship question would lead to a population undercount, and, contrary to the administration’s stated goal, less accurate citizenship data.

The liberal justices dismissed the administration’s Voting Rights Act rationale, noting that the Commerce Department solicited other federal departments to make a formal request to add the citizenship question.

“You can’t read the record without sensing this need is a contrived one,” Justice Elena Kagan said.

U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco, arguing on behalf of the administration, said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose department includes the Census Bureau, acted within his discretion in deciding to add the citizenship question.

“It boils down to whether the secretary’s judgment is a reasonable one,” Francisco said.

Business groups and corporations such as Lyft, Inc, Box, Inc, Levi Strauss & Co and Uber Technologies Inc also opposed the citizenship question, saying it would compromise census data that they use to make decisions including where to put new locations and how to market products.

Manhattan-based U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman on Jan. 15 ruled that the Commerce Department’s decision to add the question violated a federal law called the Administrative Procedure Act. Federal judges in Maryland and California also prohibited the question’s inclusion in subsequent rulings, saying it would violate the Constitution’s mandate to enumerate the population every 10 years.

In November, when the Supreme Court allowed the trial before Furman to proceed, three of the court’s conservative justices – Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito – said they would have blocked it, indicating they may be sympathetic to the administration’s legal arguments.

Furman found that Ross concealed his true motives for his March 2018 decision to add the question.

The Census Bureau itself estimated that households corresponding to 6.5 million people would not respond to the census if the citizenship question is asked, leading to less accurate citizenship data.

Citizenship has not been asked of all households since the 1950 census. It has featured since then on questionnaires sent to a smaller subset of the population. While only U.S. citizens can vote, non-citizens comprise an estimated 7 percent of the population.

For a graphic on the major Supreme Court cases this term: https://tmsnrt.rs/2V2T0Uf

(Reporting by Andrew Chung and Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

U.S. chief justice rejects bid to block ‘bump stocks’ gun ban

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday rejected a bid by gun rights activists to put on hold a ban by President Donald Trump’s administration on “bump stock” gun attachments that enable semi-automatic weapons to be fired rapidly.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor has not yet acted on another similar request. The ban goes into effect on Tuesday but lower courts have yet to rule on an appeals brought by gun rights activists in Michigan and the U.S. capital.

Trump pledged to ban the devices soon after a gunman used them to shoot and kill 58 people at a country music festival in Las Vegas in October 2017. The Justice Department on Dec. 18 announced plans to implement the policy.

A Washington-based federal district court judge in February upheld the ban, prompting gun rights advocates to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. That court heard oral arguments on Friday but has not yet ruled. The appeals court, however, say that the ban cannot go into effect in relation to the specific individuals and groups challenging it.

The action by Roberts concerned only the Washington case. The challengers in the Washington case include individual gun owners and gun rights groups such as the Firearms Policy Foundation and Florida Carry Inc.

In the Michigan case, a federal district court judge last week ruled in favor of the administration. The challengers include individuals and the gun rights group Gun Owners of America. The Cincinnati, Ohio-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday refused to put the ban on hold pending appeal.

Sotomayor is now weighing an emergency request in that case.

On the day the administration announced plans to put the policy in place, gun rights advocates sued in federal court to challenge it. They have argued that the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) lacks the authority to equate bump stocks with machine guns under decades-old law.

One of the laws at the center of the legal dispute was written more than 80 years ago, when Congress restricted access to machine guns during the heyday of American gangsters’ use of “tommy guns.”

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)