Tag: brett kavanaugh
The Supreme Court's 'Immunity Club' And The Advent Of Fascist Jurisprudence

The Supreme Court's 'Immunity Club' And The Advent Of Fascist Jurisprudence

I just watched a full hour of some very, very smart legal eagles analyzing what it means that the Supreme Court has decided to hear Donald Trump’s immunity appeal. Six experts were interviewed by Nicole Wallace on MSNBC. She’s good. Every one of the experts was good. The whole show did an excellent job of running through all the permutations and combinations of what it could mean that the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments of the Trump appeal on April 22, and what that could mean in terms of when they might issue a decision, and what that would mean about when the case before Judge Tanya Chutkan might come to trial.

I don’t care how you cut it, this is the terrifying result you get when you elect a raving fascist lunatic like Donald Trump and he gets the opportunity – aided and abetted by right wing puppets in the Senate and their right-wing corporate puppeteers – to appoint a gaggle of starry-eyed authoritarian moonies to the highest court in the land. It takes only four justices for the Supreme Court to agree to hear a case. We learned today that four of the justices who went through the authoritarian training camp run by the Federalist Society, which is backed by a small group of fascist billionaires, got together and decided to hear Trump’s case, which makes the absurdly authoritarian claim that he, and he alone, is above the law.

Justice Clarence Thomas, whose wife participated in Trump’s conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election, has been supported monetarily by one of the right-wing billionaires that funds the Federalist Society. Although the court didn’t announce the names of the justices who voted to take the Trump case, it is a certainty that Thomas was one of them. The other three are no better, because all six of the Republican appointed justices attend Federalist Society private functions, they give speeches to Federalist Society gatherings, they hire clerks approved by the Federalist Society.

It's almost like it wasn’t the Supreme Court, it was the fucking Federalist Society that voted today to hear Donald Trump’s appeal.

The details of the arguments the court will hear in April are almost too depressing to go through. Trump’s lawyers told the D.C. Court of Appeals that his claim of immunity would cover him if while president, he had ordered Seal Team Six to assassinate a political opponent, because that would have amounted to an “official act,” and thus it would come under his immunity from prosecution. If that isn’t enough for you, Trump’s lawyers told both the D.C. Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court that anything Trump did to overturn the election, such as interfering with the counting and certification of electoral ballots, would fall under his claim of immunity, because what he did was an official act.

In fact, at least two of the legal experts on MSNBC this afternoon said the argument before the Supreme Court in April will come down to the court deciding what is an official act, and what isn’t.

The same Donald Trump who is claiming absolute immunity for anything he did as president is yapping at his campaign rallies that the first thing he will do if they elect him president is prosecute Joe Biden for pretty much everything he has done as president since the day he took office, even though unlike Trump, he has been charged with no crimes.

Do you think that incredibly obvious contradiction – that Trump has immunity, but Biden doesn’t -- will be argued at the Supreme Court on April 22? Do you think it will even be mentioned?

Not at the Supreme Court immunity club, it won’t

One of Clarence Thomas’ close friends bribed him with a “loan” of about $250,000 to buy a luxury motor home. The “loan” was never paid back. Another of his close friends, Harlan Crow, bribed Thomas by buying his mother’s house, renovating it, and then allowing her to continue living in it rent-free. Thomas never paid a dime of taxes on what was, on its face, a gift from Crow.

Clarence Thomas has been allowed to live a life of bribery and corruption. But nothing has been done to him because the lack of a Supreme Court code of ethics makes him effectively immune from prosecution.

How do you think he will vote after the Trump immunity case is heard on April 22? How about Brett Kavanaugh, who got away with sexually harassing a young woman while he was in high school and then perjured himself about it before the Senate? He’s in the immunity club. How do you figure he’ll vote?

How about Justice Samuel Alito, who flew for free on a billionaire’s private jet and stayed in a $1000-a-night luxury fishing lodge and whooped it up with his billionaire benefactor and his billionaire pals and drank their expensive liquor and then flew home on the private jet – all without spending even a dime of his own money to pay for his luxury vacation? He’s a paid-up member of the immunity club. Got any guesses how he’ll vote?

Amy Comey Barrett hasn’t taken any billionaire bucks that we’ve heard about, but she doesn’t need to, because her immunity comes from the same place her instructions do – from God himself. Amy believes the United States is a “Christian nation,” and wishes fervently that its laws adhered to the laws of the Bible, which of course immunizes all kinds of people from punishment for all sorts of things. Hers is an immunity club membership with a special dispensation. She’ll just follow God’s will. That’s immunity enough.

There are four votes to hear the Trump appeal.

All they need is one more. And even if they don’t end up endorsing Trump’s arguments that he can commit murder and get away with it, and all this other stuff is just chicken feed, all they’ve got to do is dick around deciding the case until the end of their term on July 1, and that alone will make it nearly impossible for Judge Chutkan to start the Trump trial before October 1, and what do you know, but that’s within the DOJ window before an election when no prosecutions or investigations of a candidate for election can begin.

Is the fix in? Not completely, but it’s just terrifying how close we’re getting to having a country run by a small club of billionaire fascists who of course are all paid-in-full members of the same immunity club their paid-for Supreme Court justices are members of.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

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The 'Deep Roots' Of Justice Alito's Illegitimate Opinion

The 'Deep Roots' Of Justice Alito's Illegitimate Opinion

Not so long ago, the Supreme Court possessed sufficient stature that nobody — least of all its own justices — felt obliged to reassure the public of its legitimacy. Neither Chief Justice John Roberts nor his colleagues had to promise that the court reaches its decisions based on law, not partisanship or ideology. Today they regularly utter such cheerful bromides — and the more they talk, the less anyone believes them.

The highest court's credibility has trended downward for the past two decades, ever since a Republican majority handed the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush, with consequences that most Americans agree were disastrous. That steep slide will seem gentle if and when, as now appears inevitable, the conservative majority's draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade becomes law.

Stunningly ill-advised and contrary to constitutional order, that decision will starkly highlight the crisis of the court — and demonstrate once more how Republicans have gnawed like termites at the lawful foundation of democracy.

The decision's illegitimate foundations lie in the very construction of the court majority that will make it possible. Justice Samuel Alito, who auditioned for his appointment as a relentless foe of abortion, is only on the court thanks to the partisan outcome of Bush v. Gore — which awarded the presidency to a man who had decidedly lost the popular vote and probably lost the Electoral College as well. The three Trump justices — Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — likewise gained their appointments via an election that saw the popular-vote loser elevated to power.

Far worse, the conservative majority exists only because Senate Republicans denied an appointment to Barack Obama on spurious grounds that they abandoned at the end of Trump's presidency. By that measure, neither Gorsuch nor Barrett belongs in their seats. When Mitch McConnell whipped those swindles through the Senate, he irrevocably stained the justices who benefited from them. (The McConnell rule is simple: When a Supreme Court vacancy arises, it's always too late for a Democratic president to appoint, but never too late for a Republican.)

Next came the deception perpetrated by the Trump justices during their confirmations, when asked about how they would handle this vital issue. At least two of them clearly stated in public hearings — and privately told senators who supported them — that Roe was settled law, validated many times over the past five decades. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins both now profess astonishment that these men misled them during the confirmation process.

The same lie was reiterated in conservative media. In July 2018, The Wall Street Journal, that repository of reactionary falsehood, published an editorial mocking the "abortion scare campaign" that accompanied the appointment of Republican justices. According to the Journal editorial board, nobody needed ever to fear for Roe: "The reason is the power of stare decisis, or precedent, and how conservatives view the role of the Court in supporting the credibility of the law." (Be warned: That editorial board now breezily insists that vacating Roe won't endanger same-sex marriage, contraception or any of the other "unenumerated" privacy rights whose demise Alito strongly hinted in his opinion.)

Yet there is another stigma of illegitimacy on this act that overshadows all the rest: the almost mindless misogyny that is, to use a favorite Alito phrase, so "deeply rooted" in the court's ongoing repeal of abortion rights. The draft opinion exposed Alito's profound sexist contempt in a way that would be comical if not for the fact that it has cost so many women's lives and will continue to destroy them.

To justify his assertion that abortion is an affront to Western legal traditions, Alito went deep indeed. He cited the views of a 17th-century British jurist named Edward Coke, who declared abortion to be a heinous crime. As Lawrence O'Donnell noted on MSNBC, that same Coke believed some women (and a few men) were witches and should be torturously put to death for assisting the devil. As an additional legal authority, Alito also cited several times Sir Matthew Hale, another 17th-century British judge who oversaw the execution of alleged witches — and came up with the stunning theory that a man by definition could not rape his wife, regardless of her consent.

It seems possible that one of Alito's clerks pranked him with these choices, but he circulated the draft that included the embarrassing citations, so it's on him. Evidently such barbaric jurisprudence is what the likes of Alito mean when they blather on about "original intent."

More than two-thirds of Americans believe that Roe should be preserved to protect the health and security of women and their families. When it is cast aside, the political consequences for those responsible should be severe — because the damage done to one of our most important institutions will be so grave.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Poll: Americans Reject Senate Republican Assault On Judge Jackson

Poll: Americans Reject Senate Republican Assault On Judge Jackson

If you watched any of the Supreme Court hearings for Ketanji Brown Jackson and found yourself repulsed by Republicans, you weren't alone. In a Quinnipiac University poll released late last week, 52 percent of Americans disapproved of the way GOP senators were handling the historic confirmation process for Judge Jackson's nomination, while just 27 percent approved of it (21 percent didn't offer an opinion).

In contrast, a 42 percent plurality of Americans approved of the way Democrats handled the process, while 34 percent disapproved (23 percent offered no opinion).

Americans also support confirming Jackson to the high court 51 percent to 30 percent, according to the poll.

As The Washington Post's Aaron Blake pointed out, Republicans fared worse in their handling of Jackson's confirmation than Democrats did in their handling of the contentious hearings for Brett Kavanaugh—who faced a credible sexual assault allegation amid his confirmation.

Republicans received a 25-point net negative rating from the public (27 percent--52 percent) for the way they comported themselves during Jackson's process, while a CNN/SSRS poll in October 2018 found Democrats received a 20-point net negative rating from the public (36 percent--56 percent) during the Kavanaugh confirmation.

The public also opposed confirming Kavanaugh by 51 percent--41 percent. In fact, the place where Kavanaugh really excelled with the public was in the 33 percent who held a "very negative" view of him. For comparison, eight percent of Americans had a very negative view of Neil Gorsuch and seven percent held a very negative view of John Roberts in CNN polls during confirmation for the two eventual justices.

In any case, the main differences between the Jackson and Kavanaugh confirmations is the fact Jackson is substantially more popular and that during consideration of Kavanaugh, neither party fared particularly well in the public's estimation of their handling of the confirmation process. In fact, Republicans also received a 20-point net negative rating from Americans—35 percent--55 percent—for the way they handled Kavanaugh's confirmation, whereas Democrats won plurality support for their handling of Jackson’s confirmation.

But Republicans clearly aren't concerned one bit that a majority of Americans disapprove of the way they conducted themselves during consideration of a nominee who will likely become the Supreme Court's first Black female justice. In fact, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is currently pressuring his caucus to vote against Judge Jackson’s confirmation.

The only audience Republicans ever really care about—particularly in a pre-midterm environment—is the 27 percent who said they approved of how the GOP has handled the Jackson hearings. It's always about juicing the base for Republicans, who continue to be out of step with the majority of Americans on most issues concerning voters. But it's who shows up at the polls that matters, and Republicans will continue to ignore American majorities as long as they don't face any real electoral consequences for their extreme positions.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Abortion Bans Don't Protect The Rights of 'The People'

Abortion Bans Don't Protect The Rights of 'The People'

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments over a Mississippi law banning abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy. The law roundly defies the court's decisions affirming a right to abortion, but the state portrays the ban as the mildest of correctives.

All Mississippi wants the justices to do, insisted state solicitor general Scott Stewart, is defer to "the people." The law, he said, came about because "many, many people vocally really just wanted to have the matter returned to them so that they could decide it — decide it locally, deal with it the way they thought best, and at least have a fighting chance to have their view prevail."

Justice Brett Kavanaugh seemed to find the argument persuasive. It's his understanding, he said, that Mississippi believes "this Court should be scrupulously neutral on the question of abortion, neither pro-choice nor pro-life."

Letting the people decide, and aligning the court to neither promote nor prevent abortion, sounds sensible — even libertarian. What neither Stewart nor Kavanaugh acknowledged, though, is that, in a fundamental sense, these conditions have already been met.

Under the court's major abortion decisions, the people, as individuals, already have the full authority to make up their minds on the issue. Those who believe that every pregnancy should be carried to term are free to forgo abortions. Those who disagree are free to procure abortions. No woman is forced to abort her fetus, and no woman is forced to undergo childbirth.

By the same token, the Supreme Court has adopted a position of neutrality. Just as the Constitution does not let government forbid or require anyone to worship, the Constitution does not let the government forbid or require anyone to bear a child. Each pregnant woman is free to decide for herself.

But when Stewart and Kavanaugh use these terms, they have in mind a different meaning. If Roe and Casey were overturned, the people would be empowered not as individuals but as a collective. The court would be "neutral" only on the matter of whether states allow abortion or ban it.

Apply these meanings to a different constitutional right and the defects in their logic become clear. Champions of gun rights have always argued that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms" is an individual liberty — as the court agreed in 2008.

They believe the court must keep "the people" of any state from using the power of government to abridge this right. Americans who believe in free speech and religious liberty feel the same way about First Amendment guarantees.

Stewart insisted that abortion rights are different because the framers didn't explicitly protect them. The Roe and Casey decisions, he argued, "have no basis in the Constitution. They have no home in our history or traditions."

In fact, they have a spacious place in our history and traditions. In his 2017 book Sex and the Constitution, University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone notes that abortion was legal and widely performed in the United States at the time the Constitution was ratified — and wasn't outlawed for more than a century afterward.

It's true that the Constitution doesn't mention the right to abortion. But the Constitution protects many freedoms it doesn't mention — the freedom to marry, the freedom to refuse medical treatment, the freedom to have children and govern their upbringing, and more.

The Ninth Amendment stipulates that not all protected liberties are spelled out: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

If the Constitution has nothing to say about abortion, does that mean a state could require some women to have abortions — say, to prevent the birth of children with serious congenital defects?

Of course not. Requiring abortion would be a gross violation of physical autonomy, which enjoys broad constitutional protection. But banning abortion has the same effect. And the Supreme Court appears poised to let it happen.

Pro-life advocates say abortion ends a human life, as if that settles everything. But the issue is not whether a fetus is alive or human. It's whether and when its preservation is sufficiently important to override a woman's fundamental right to control her own body.

Americans have long disagreed on that question. Our disagreement is a powerful argument for leaving the choice to each pregnant woman.

Right now, we let the people decide, one by one, under the protection of a neutral government. But probably not for long.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.