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Tag: amy coney barrett

Justice Barrett Doesn’t Want You To Think She’s A ‘Partisan Hack’

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the newest member of the U.S. Supreme Court whose nomination was rammed through the Senate by then-Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, on Sunday told guests invited to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville, "My goal today is to convince you that this court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks."

She was roundly criticized and mocked for that claim, which was reported by the Louisville Courier Journal.

Barrett was nominated immediately after liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death, before she had even been buried. She was confirmed one week before the November 2020 election in a 52-48 vote, entirely on party lines, and sworn in the very next day, all thanks to the efforts of Senator Mitch McConnell. McConnell in 2016 infamously blocked President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, from even getting a committee hearing, then pushed through Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh before Barrett's nomination.

Here's Senator McConnell celebrating Barrett's confirmation, which indeed was on former U.S. Secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's birthday:

The court now sits with a 6-3 highly-conservative majority, and some across the country feel several of the conservatives have flouted judicial ethics by weighing in on issues, directly or in directly. Justice Clarence Thomas's wife, Ginni Thomas, is a far right wing lobbyist who used to run a Tea Party organization. She is believed to have had a hand in President Donald Trump's expulsion of transgender service members from the U.S. Armed Forces. And Justice Kavanaugh, infamously during his Senate confirmation hearing, infamously threatened revenge against Democrats.

In fact, as Amy Coney Barrett was being sworn in, The New Republic published an opinion piece stating she and Justice Kavanaugh "have demonstrated this week that they should be thought of as political operatives, not justices."

Barrett of course brought this perception on herself, allowing her nomination to be pushed through in the weeks before a highly controversial presidential election, appearing at a super-spreader event at the White House celebrating her nomination, then later standing on the White House balcony with President Trump, days before the election, all of which effectively worked as an endorsement of his re-election.

Los Angeles Times columnist Jackie Calmes noted at the time just how unprecedented this single act was:

Many are mocking Barrett's claim.










Supreme Court Will Hear Case That Endangers Roe Decision

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Reproductive freedom is under direct threat after the Supreme Court said it will review a Mississippi law placing harsh restrictions on abortion rights. The law in question is one of many passed in states around the country by Republicans seeking to get a challenge to Roe v. Wade heard at the Supreme Court, an effort bolstered by Donald Trump's appointments moving the court sharply to the right.

The Mississippi law bans abortions after 15 weeks, with exceptions only for "severe fetal abnormality" or medical emergency, and not for rape or incest. Roe v. Wade allows abortion until the point of fetal viability, which comes around 24 weeks. Even though the vast majority of abortions take place before 15 weeks of gestation, banning the procedure starting at 15 weeks would give the most vulnerable pregnant people less time to consider their choice, save money if needed, find a provider, and overcome the many barriers states like Mississippi put in their way. Yet, showing the degree to which the Mississippi law is a political move and not one responding to real conditions in the state, the only abortion clinic in the state only performs the procedure up to 16 weeks.

But the political move is a powerful one, reaching far beyond Mississippi: As part of this case, the court will reconsider whether "all pre-viability prohibitions on abortion are unconstitutional." That raises the possibility of shattering decades of the court's own precedent, and it does so for no medical reason.

"In an unbroken line dating to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's abortion cases have established (and affirmed, and re-affirmed) a woman's right to choose an abortion before viability," Judge Patrick Higginbotham wrote for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. "States may regulate abortion procedures prior to viability so long as they do not impose an undue burden on the woman's right but they may not ban abortions."

This is one of the key reasons then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell held open one Supreme Court seat for the last ten months of Barack Obama's presidency, then filled another in an unprecedented rush in the final weeks before the 2020 election. Now, the Trump-McConnell six to three conservative court could fulfill years of efforts to effectively end women's control over their own bodies and right to decide their futures.

But, uh …

Justice Barrett Ignores Ethical Concerns To Hear Koch Outfit's Lawsuit

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett is facing backlash for her refusal to recuse herself from a case involving the Koch billionaires who spent a substantial amount of money on political ads ahead of her confirmation.

According to Law & Crime, on Monday, April 26, the Supreme Court heard verbal arguments for two cases: Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Rodriquez and Thomas More Law Center v. Bonta. Both cases center on First Amendment opposition to a California law requiring select non-profit groups to disclose donor information to the U.S. Department of Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The top petitioner listed in the case is a non-profit organization spearheaded by billionaires David Koch and Charles Koch. When Barrett was nominated for the nation's highest court by former President Donald Trump, the group shelled out more than $1 million to cover the cost of advertisements to amplify Barrett's image.

During an interview with Forbes, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) expressed concern about the presumed conflict of interest Barrett is treading toward by refusing to recuse herself from the case.

"Justice Barrett is ignoring important ethical standards to rule on a case that could open our democracy to further infiltration by dark-money influence, perhaps permanently," Whitehouse told Forbes. "Her choice to press forward in spite of recusal laws also creates a troubling new precedent, and undermines public confidence in the integrity of the Court."

Whitehouse and other Democratic lawmakers also penned a letter last week to express their concern.

"Statute, constitutional case law, and common sense all would seem to require your recusal from [the case]," Whitehouse, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) wrote. "At a minimum, there should be a public explanation as to why you think recusal is not required under federal law, since your participation in the case on these facts would appear to both conflict with 28 U.S.C. § 455 and effectively overturn [relevant case law]. Understanding this determination will also aid Congress in its ongoing consideration of judicial ethics and transparency rules."

"The American people are alarmed about the seemingly dominant influence of special interests on our politics and government," the trio of Democrats continued. "And the [Koch-funded] operation's 'full scale campaign' for your confirmation makes plain that our judiciary is a target of this massive influence apparatus. Now, in AFPF, the Court takes up an important case that squarely implicates the power of big special interests to exercise their influence from behind veils of secrecy."

"We hope you will consider seriously and address publicly the question of recusal in this case," that letter concluded.

In Stunning Rebuke To Kavanaugh,  Sotomayor Warns Of Radical Trump Court

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor delivered a strong warning to the American people and a strong rebuke of Justice Brett Kavanaugh and the newest far right wing Justices on the Trump-shaped conservative-majority Supreme Court in a blistering but brilliant dissent handed down Thursday.

Justice Sotomayor warned this newly-constructed court, unevenly weighted with six justices (ranging from highly conservative to far right wing religious extremist,) is "willing to overrule precedent without even acknowledging it is doing so, much less providing any special justification."

That warning is similar to those posed by legal experts from the left who were extremely opposed to then-President Donald Trump's final Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett. Justice Barrett's judicial opinions made clear she will not honor precedent, known as stare decisis. Without that legal guardrail many decidedly settled law targets of conservatives, from the right to choose an abortion to the right to marry, could be struck down by the "Trump Court."

The case Justice Sotomayor used to deliver her warning and her criticism of Justice Kavanaugh, is Jones v. Mississippi. It centers on a 15-year old boy who murdered his father, claimed self defense, and was sentenced to life in prison. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled life in prison for minors convicted of "non-homicide crimes" constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, unless that minor has been found to be "incorrigible," or unable to be rehabilitated. (The ACLU's position is regardless of the type of crime, life in prison for minors is cruel and unusual.)

On Thursday Justice Kavanaugh, who himself has a history of disturbing acts in college, as his confirmation hearing proved, wrote the 6-3 majority opinion in which he upheld the lower court ruling that the defendant was rightly sentenced to life in prison despite no finding of whether or not he is able to be rehabilitated.

"How low this Court's respect for stare decisis has sunk," Justice Sotomayor warned.

"Not long ago, that doctrine was recognized as a pillar of the 'rule of law,' critical to 'keep the scale of justice even and steady, and not liable to waver with every new judge's opinion,'" she wrote, citing Kavanaugh's own opinion in a previous ruling.

"Now, it seems, the Court is willing to overrule precedent without even acknowledging it is doing so, much less providing any special justification. It is hard to see how that approach is 'founded in the law rather than in the proclivities of individuals,'" she added, again using Kavanaugh's own words against him.

She called the ruling a "contortion" of previous rulings, and writes: "As this Court has consistently reiterated, 'a departure from precedent demands special justification.'"

"The Court offers no such justification today. Nor could it," she charged.

"Instead of addressing these factors, the Court simply rewrites Miller and Montgomery," she observes, naming the two cases the provide the precedent today's ruling effectively overrules, "to say what the Court now wishes they had said, and then denies that it has done any such thing."

Slate's legal expert Mark Joseph Stern calls the ruling in the case "barbarous," Sotomayor's warning "ominous," and her criticism of Kavanaugh "one of the most savage passages she has ever written."

University of Michigan Law School asst. professor Leah Litman:


The U.S. Supreme Court has now made emphatically clear it is an activist court and "settled law" is fair game.

Civil rights activists, and the American people who value their rights, consider yourselves warned.

Like A Mob Boss, Trump Wanted Two Favors From ‘His’ Supreme Court

Like a mob boss looking for payback, Donald Trump wanted the Supreme Court to do him two favors heading into the November election: keep him in power and keep him out of jail. To its everlasting credit, the court quickly declined to deliver on the first. Even though Trump had nominated three arch-conservatives to the bench—Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett—the court rejected his baseless challenges to the results of the election.

It took the court far too long to screw up the courage to decline the second favor, but in a one-sentence order issued on February 22, the court dismissed an emergency petition Trump's lawyers had filed last October to stop Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. from enforcing a critical grand jury subpoena issued to the former president's accounting firm—Mazars USA, LLP—as part of a wide-ranging criminal investigationinvolving Trump's business practices.

Pending the court's ruling on the petition, Vance had agreed to pause enforcement of the subpoena. And in the meantime, as the court dithered, New York's five-year statute of limitations continued to tick away, threatening to derail the entire probe.

The investigation can now move forward, full speed.

Of all the potential avenues for indicting Trump now that he is out of office and has lost the immunity from prosecution that comes with the presidency, Vance's probe, which began in 2018, offers the most immediate promise. Although New York grand jury proceedings are secret, it has been widely reported that Vance is investigating Trump not only for the hush money paid to pornographic film star Stephanie Clifford, aka "Stormy Daniels," and onetime Playboy magazine model Karen McDougal, but also to determine if other aspects of Trump's private financial dealings have violated state fraud and income tax laws.

The Mazars subpoena is a key component of Vance's inquiry. It demands multiple years of Trump's personal and corporate federal and state tax returns and other financial documentation, dating back to 2011.

As some commentators have noted, information from Mazars could help prove that the Trump Organization used deceptive accounting techniques to inflate the value of assets when applying for bank loans and insurance while understating values to reduce tax bills. Documents from Mazars could also help establish that Trump or members of his family acted with the knowledge and intent needed to prove the commission of financial crimes.

Usually, the Supreme Court rules on emergency petitions expeditiously, often within a matter of weeks, or even days. So, what was behind the inaction in this case? Was there a legitimate reason for the inordinate delay, or were political considerations in play?

The court itself isn't saying. Unlike elected politicians, the justices don't issue press releases or regularly speak to the media. In the absence of an official explanation, the reason for the delay appears to lie in the ideological orientation of the court, which has shifted sharply to the right since the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last September.

The court's conservatives now outnumber its liberals, 6-3. They determine the substantive outcome of most cases as well as the timing of decisions. But despite the backbone they displayed in rebuffing Trump's 2020 election complaints, the conservatives may not have been willing to abandon Trump to deal with Vance and his prosecutorial team while he was still president.

Whatever the reason, there was no good excuse for the more than four-month delay on the Mazars subpoena, especially because the court was already familiar with the subpoena and the facts and issues it raised. Indeed, the subpoena was the subject of the court's historic 7-2 decision last July, which recognized the authority of a state grand jury to demand documents from a sitting president.

Writing for the majority in last year's case, Chief Justice John Roberts reached deep into the history of U.S. constitutional law, as I have noted before, citing the legendary Chief Justice John Marshall's approval of subpoenas issued to President Thomas Jefferson in the 1807 treason trial of Aaron Burr. Roberts' opinion was also layered with repeated references to the cases of United States v. Nixon and Clinton v. Jones.

In the process, Roberts rejected both the claim raised by Trump's private attorneys that sitting presidents enjoy "absolute immunity" from state criminal investigations, as well as an alternative contention advanced by the Trump Justice Department that state prosecutors must demonstrate a "heightened" standard of need before gaining access to the president's records.

Roberts and the majority, however, stopped short of ordering compliance with the subpoena. Instead, they remanded the case to the lower federal courts to permit Trump's attorneys to argue the subpoena was overly broad in scope and issued in bad faith. Afterward, in short order, both the federal district court judge assigned to the litigation in Manhattan as well as the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the subpoena, setting the stage for the Supreme Court to resolve the matter once and for all.

Lacking any sound basis to invalidate the subpoena, Trump's attorneys were obviously counting on continued delays to keep their client out of jail. But despite the rejection of their emergency petition, they may not be done trying yet.

According to CNN, the disgraced ex-president's lawyers are preparing to file a new petition with the Supreme Court, requesting a full hearing with oral arguments and a new briefing schedule to review the 2nd Circuit's ruling. If granted, such a petition could impose additional delays and restrictions on Vance's investigation.

Trump, for his part, has responded to the court's order in typical fashion, releasing a statement lambasting the order as a continuation of the "witch hunt" against him. "The Supreme Court never should have let this 'fishing expedition' happen, but they did," the statement asserted. "This is something which has never happened to a President before, it is all Democrat-inspired in a totally Democrat location, New York City and State, completely controlled and dominated by a heavily reported enemy of mine, Governor Andrew Cuomo."

To restore the public's faith in judicial independence, the court should reject any further efforts to undermine, limit or suspend the Vance investigation. In the aftermath of Trump's shameful acquittal in his second Senate impeachment trial, the court should stand aside and force Trump to face accountability.

Now a private citizen, Donald Trump deserves no more deference or protection from the judiciary than any other criminal suspect. It's high time to bring him to justice. Nothing less than the rule of law is at stake.

Bill Blum is a retired judge and a lawyer in Los Angeles. He is a lecturer at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication. He writes regularly on law and politics and is the author of three widely acclaimed legal thrillers: Prejudicial Error, The Last Appeal, and The Face of Justice.

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

Supreme Court Unanimously Rejects Trump Effort To Overturn Pennsylvania Election Result

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Remember how Donald Trump specifically picked Amy Coney Barrett so he would have a friend on the Supreme Court to make sure he "won" the election? So much for that. With absolutely zero dissents, the court said, basically: "Nope, we're not going to nullify the vote in Pennsylvania for you."


Officially, the court said, "The application for injunctive relief presented to Justice Alito and by him referred to the Court is denied," but same difference. Either way, Trump is still a big loser. To put the cherry and the icing on top: This was his 50th loss in court.

Ghoulish McConnell Disrespected Ginsburg On Night Of Her Death

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

On Friday night, September 18, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell learned that liberal Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died of cancer at the age of 87. And according to PBS' "Frontline," McConnell contacted President Donald Trump that very night and made it clear he wanted to see Judge Amy Coney Barrett nominated for the seat and confirmed by the U.S. Senate as quickly as possible.

Josh Holmes, McConnell's former chief of staff, explained to "Frontline" that on September 18, "McConnell told (Trump) two things. McConnell said: First, I'm going to put out a statement that says we're going to fill the vacancy. Second, he said, you've gotta nominate Amy Coney Barrett."

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Brett Kavanaugh Explained How He Plans To Cheat American Voters

Unless my Election Day expectations are badly mistaken, we're going to hear a lot less from the U.S. Supreme Court in coming weeks than many anticipate, because the presidential election won't be close enough to steal. If I'm wrong, the nation is in for a spectacle of legalistic casuistry, pettifoggery and intellectual dishonesty like something out of Kafka's The Trial.

My own favorite literary portrayal of the judiciary, however, occurs in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, in which our hero explains his native country's legal system to his Master Houyhouyhnm, a philosophical talking horse who has never encountered a Yahoo capable of reason.

"I said, 'there was a society of men among us, bred up from their youth in the art of proving, by words multiplied for the purpose, that white is black, and black is white, according as they are paid. To this society all the rest of the people are slaves.'"

Of course, Swift lived in an Ireland ruled by English judges, but the situation feels familiar. Citing a dispute over livestock, Gulliver explains: "they never desire to know what claim or title my adversary has to my cow; but whether the said cow were red or black; her horns long or short; whether the field I graze her in be round or square; whether she was milked at home or abroad; what diseases she is subject to, and the like; after which they consult precedents, adjourn the cause from time to time, and in ten, twenty, or thirty years, come to an issue."

These days, of course, things can move more quickly when politically convenient. So it is that Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh got the ball rolling early with a recent opinion so filled with factual and legal absurdities that it became necessary for him to issue a correction. It is not recorded whether or not the great man's well-known fondness for beer played a role.

A constitutional "originalist" like his newly-installed colleague Amy Coney Barrett, Kavanaugh embraced what the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin called the "Cinderella theory" of voting—i.e. that votes not counted by midnight on Election Day turn into pumpkins.

This would be news to the authors of the Constitution, who lived in a time when it could literally take weeks to travel, from, say, Washington to Boston, depending upon the winds and tides. That's why the Electoral College doesn't meet until several weeks after the election, and the results aren't tabulated by Congress until the second week in January.

Nevertheless, Kavanaugh's opinion claims that states "definitively announce the results of the election on election night." This is brazen nonsense. Even the TV networks don't necessarily do that; not that it's Wolf Blitzer or Lester Holt's decision to make.

"To the contrary," as Mark Joseph Stern writes in an astringent takedown in Slate, "every state formally certifies results in the days or weeks following an election," and every state always has. None certify results on election night, nor ever have. For most of American history it's been a practical impossibility, and remains so today.

So why would a supposedly brilliant Supreme Court Justice make so elementary an error? Basically, because it's not a mistake at all, but a necessary prelude to Kavanaugh's attempt to cast suspicion (and to instruct Trump-appointed judges around the country) regarding mail-in and absentee ballots.

"States," the Justice pronounces, "want to avoid the chaos and suspicions of impropriety that can ensue if thousands of absentee ballots flow in after Election Day and potentially flip the results of an election."

To which Justice Elena Kagan responded tartly in her dissent that "there are no results to 'flip' until all valid votes are counted. And nothing could be more 'suspicio[us]' or 'improp[er]' than refusing to tally votes once the clock strikes 12 on election night."

Never mind also that Boss Trump himself has always voted absentee until 2020. Nor that many 'suckers" and "losers" mailing ballots from U.S. military deployments around the world would also be disenfranchised. That's the Trump plan to abscond with the presidency: just don't count upwards of one third of the ballots and he wins.

Bret Kavanaugh is down with it all the way. It appears likely that the rest of the GOP-appointed justices, with the possible exception of Chief Justice Roberts, who sometimes appears concerned about the court's future, would back his play. Assuming, as I say, that there's any play to be made; and that the Justices believe that the spectacle of courts ordering millions of legally-cast votes to be discarded would serve even the short-term interests of the Republican Party.

If so, they ought to ditch the sacerdotal black robes and wear brightly-colored red team uniforms on the bench. For that matter, I can just see Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett decked out in cheerleader costumes with a big T on their chests, can't you?