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Tag: supreme court

Appeals Panel Tosses Trump Bid To Shield Documents; Supreme Court Next

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals has just declined Donald Trump’s request to shield documents from his time in the White House from the bipartisan House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack.

MSNBC’s Pete Williams reports the court said the former president had provide “no basis” for his request, and added that the court specifically stated the current President, Joe Biden, had dutifully considered Trump’s request and was warranted to decline it.

The D.C Appeals Court has placed a two-week stay on its ruling to give Trump time to elevate the case to the Supreme Court.

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.










Republicans Push Texas-Style Abortion Bans Across Country

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Last week, the U. S. Supreme Court let stand a Texas law that is the most restrictive abortion law in the nation. With that green light, other states are lining up to pass similar laws, and at this time, there isn't much way to stop them.

Anti-choice legislators in four states — Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina, and South Dakota — have already stated they will follow Texas's lead. They're planning on introducing bills that will mirror both the restrictive nature of Texas's law — a ban on abortion at six weeks — and the unique enforcement mechanism, which allows any citizen to sue someone who aids or abets an abortion. Several other states, including Nebraska, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Ohio, will likely be considering similar laws.

In Florida, Ron DeSantis, the anti-abortion GOP governor, said his state would "look more significantly" at the Texas law and that he found it "interesting." In South Carolina, Larry Grooms, a GOP state senator, said the state would "move to pass legislation that would mirror what Texas did."

Jason Rapert, a GOP state senator in Arkansas who is mounting a lieutenant governor bid in that state for 2022, immediately posted a model bill from his organization, the National Organization of Christian Lawmakers. Rapert has stated he will file a Texas-style bill in his state immediately.

Rapert's Twitter feed makes clear that some legislators pushing bills that functionally outlaw abortion no longer feel tethered to whether those bills are good law under existing Supreme Court precedent. Instead, Rapert tweets about how the left has an "unrelenting demand for the innocent sacrifices of unborn children" and repeatedly refers to abortion as a "demonic force."

One day after the Texas law took effect, GOP Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota tweeted her office would "immediately review the new TX law and current South Dakota laws to make sure we have the strongest pro-life laws on the books in SD."

Noem's tweet is emblematic of the approach being taken by many abortion-hostile states. There's no discussion of what the voters might want. There's no belief that the existing restrictive laws might be enough — even in a state like South Dakota with only one clinic that offers abortions only twice per month. Rather, there's a rush toward imitating the Texas law simply because it is the most restrictive that has yet succeeded.

The states that have announced their intentions to replicate the law so swiftly may be taken by the notion that since the Texas law offloads enforcement from the state to private citizens, it insulates the state from lawsuits. States likeSouth Carolina and Arkansas just saw courts block their highly restrictive abortion laws. However, if they took those laws and "piggybacked" the Texas enforcement scheme onto them, a court might have to let the law stand, given that the Supreme Court did so in Texas.

There exists a chance that the Texas law will be overturned once it is completely litigated, as what happened at the Supreme Court was only that the court refused to block the law from taking effect. Indeed, some anti-abortion groups have stated they will continue to focus on the Mississippi 15-week pre-viability ban that the Supreme Court is set to hear this term. However, all that really means is that anti-abortion activists have more than one opportunity to utterly undo Roe v. Wade.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Compulsory Childbearing Comes To Texas

For nearly half a century, Americans have lived in a country in which safe, legal abortions were generally accessible to those needing them. The constitutional protection established in the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision was firm and secure. That fact, paradoxically, worked to the political advantage of activists who reject abortion rights.

They could pose as moderates trying merely to set some reasonable limits. So they pushed to require parental consent for minors, forbid "partial-birth" abortions, impose waiting periods, prevent post-viability abortions and saddle clinics with extensive regulations in the name of safeguarding health. In many states, they got their way.

But the new Texas abortion law should dispel any illusions about their real, and immoderate, purpose. What they want is to deprive all women of the liberty to decide whether to carry pregnancies to term. They favor a regime of compulsory motherhood from which there is no escape.

The law prohibits abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, a point at which many women and girls don't even know they're pregnant. It allows no exception for a woman who has been gang-raped or a girl who has been molested by a relative. It would punish not only doctors and nurses who perform abortions but anyone who furnishes the slightest assistance to someone who gets one.

The scheme is fiendishly clever, delegating enforcement to private citizens. They are empowered to sue providers and anyone who "aids and abets" an abortion — and collect a minimum of $10,000, plus lawyers' fees, for each abortion performed. It is designed to turn Texas into a nest of profit-seeking narcs.

This setup was meant to avert a constitutional challenge, and so far, it's working. Because state officials have no role in enforcing the law, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday, it has no authority to block it.

Part of the sinister genius of the law is that it doesn't ever have to be used to succeed in extinguishing the right to abortion. Clinics and medical personnel will be at risk of onerous judgments if they terminate pregnancies after the cutoff point. If they win their cases, they would still have to pay their own attorneys — and if they lose, they would have to pay the lawyers who sued them.

By merely cooperating with women who choose to exercise a constitutional right, providers would invite severe financial penalties. The law may eliminate the vast majority of abortions even if no one ever files a lawsuit or collects a reward. It promises to render the constitutional right null and void.

You may assume the effects will be confined to the Lone Star State. Women with money may figure they can always drive to New Mexico or fly to Chicago to terminate a pregnancy. But as Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe told me, the law has an unlimited reach.

If a Texas woman gets an abortion anywhere, any person — not just any Texan — would probably be able to file a lawsuit and collect rewards from the clinic and anyone who gave her any help. Texas lawmakers have locked every exit. And it's safe to bet that other states will do the same.

The point is not to put purportedly sensible limits on the reproductive freedom of women. John Seago, the legislative director of Texas Right to Life, said his goal is "to live in an abortion-free state." He doesn't want fewer abortions; he wants no abortions. He wants his state — not to mention all of America — to be a place where any pregnant woman or girl has only one option: enduring a nine-month physical ordeal before giving birth.

But the "pro-life" movement's efforts to punish those involved in abortion contains a curious omission. Anyone working for a clinic that performs a prohibited abortion may be sued. Anyone helping someone obtain an abortion may be sued.

Who may not be sued? The woman herself. Seago cheerfully admits that he would like to see abortion doctors sent to prison. But "women need to be treated differently than abortionists," he told The Atlantic. "Even with civil liability, we say that women cannot be the defendants. That's not the goal." It's a stunning display of hypocrisy that makes nonsense of the claim that abortion is murder.

For half a century, most American women and girls have been able to take for granted that they would have the option of ending a pregnancy if they felt the need. But millions now face the reality of being forced into childbearing. In Texas, reproductive freedom is a contradiction in terms.

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

Senate Judiciary Panel Will Probe Supreme Court ‘Shadow Docket’ Abuse

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

The powerful chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is blasting the conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court in the wake of their 5-4 decision to allow Texas' unconstitutional abortion ban to become law after women's rights groups urged the Court to pause and examine the legislation.

Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) is announcing he will hold a hearing to examine how the Court handled the case, while accusing its right wing jurists of "abuse of the shadow docket," CBS News reports.

The New York Times calls the shadow docket a "process intended to help the court deal with emergency petitions and routine matters," but notes it "has grown into a backdoor way of making major policy decisions."

"The Supreme Court," Chairman Durbin said in a statement, "must operate with the highest regard for judicial integrity in order to earn the public's trust."

"This anti-choice law is a devastating blow to Americans' constitutional rights—and the court allowed it to see the light of day without public deliberation or transparency. At a time when public confidence in government institutions has greatly eroded, we must examine not just the constitutional impact of allowing the Texas law to take effect, but also the conservative court's abuse of the shadow docket."

While Bashing Biden, Beltway Media Ignored Assault On Abortion Rights

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Wednesday morning's Politico Playbook, the AM round-up of Beltway news, led offwith a "BREAKING NEWS" update: "The Supreme Court allowed a controversial Texas law banning abortion after six weeks to go into effect just months before it hears a more direct challenge to Roe v. Wade this fall."

"Controversial" is putting it mildly. The Texas law, passed in May, bans all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, which is well before most women even know they are pregnant. The Supreme Court on Tuesday night, without comment, refused to block the bill from becoming law, despite the fact it runs counter to Court precedents, which prohibit states from banning abortion prior to fetal viability, usually between 22 and 24 weeks of pregnancy. If the Texas law remains, it would block the vast majority of abortion patients from obtaining services in the state.

In short, the law represents a legal and political earthquake, as Republicans march closer toward overturning Roe v. Wade. Yet loyal Politico readers were excused Wednesday morning if they were caught unaware, because in the weeks leading up to its midnight trigger, Politico didn't publish a single stand-alone article about the historic GOP attempt to deny women choice. That, according to a search of Politico's online archives. (The site then published three articles on the topic yesterday.)

Politico wasn't alone. Across the national media spectrum, outlets in the last 24 hours scrambled to play catch-up with the story, which could alter nearly fifty years of choice in America. The stunning lack of coverage plays into the hands of conservatives who likely don't want a loud debate about overturning Roe v. Wade, since a clear majority of Americans support the right to choose.

"I literally watch the news for a living, and I had little to no knowledge of this abortion ban in Texas until late last night," tweeted Media Matters' Lisa Power. "It's a huge indictment of cable news that something this important can occur with practically no cable news coverage until after it's too late."

During the week prior to the bill becoming law, "Texas" and "abortion" were not mentioned in any Fox News segments over that seven-day stretch, according to TVeyes.com. For all three news channels, "Texas" and "abortion" were referenced together less than 10 times. During that same stretch, "Afghanistan" was mentioned nearly 4,000 times.

It's impossible to miss the fact that the media's virtual Texas abortion blackout occurred while the press gorged itself on Afghanistan "optics" coverage for weeks. For most of August, the Beltway press presented nonstop, 24/7 "crisis" coverage, condemning President Joe Biden for a "disaster" and "debacle" — as he oversaw the successful evacuation of 120,000 people from the Kabul airport.

The U.S. troop withdrawal was obviously a big story and required lots of attention. And within that coverage, the Taliban's inhumane treatment of women represented a pressing news story, and the media were right to focus on the fears that surround Afghanistan's future. But the GOP's appalling treatment of women in the United States also represents an urgent news story that deserves constant attention. Instead, it's being ignored.

And it's not just cable news viewers largely left in the dark.

Prior to the bill being enacted, both the Washington Post and New York Times ran a couple of perfunctory news updates about the unfolding legal challenges. Readers had to visit the papers' opinion sections though, for in-depth analysis of what the Texas bill meant and how radical and dangerous it was. Meanwhile, CNN.com during the month of August published just one news article about the history-making bill.

Most of the thin national coverage glossed over stunning aspects of the Texas law. Aside from effectively banning choice, the law's enforcement is head spinning and dangerous. From the Texas Tribune, which has been excellent on the story [emphasis added]: "The state wouldn't enforce the law. SB 8 instead provides enforcement only by private citizens who would sue abortion providers and anyone involved in aiding or abetting an abortion after a "heartbeat" is detected."

Texas Republicans have basically created a taxpayer-funded system for snitching on abortions and anyone associated, where an Uber driver who takes a woman to a health clinic to get a procedure could be targeted under the law.

The media's lack of coverage is especially galling considering the one area of the abortion story over the years that the press normally focuses on are the various legal and legislative tracks, as Republicans ceaselessly try to overturn Roe v. Wade. In fact, the topic is usually treated as a political football, and not a pressing healthcare issue.

Media analysis from 2019 sponsored by the pro-choice group NARAL found "that more than 77 percent of articles about abortion were written by political, legal, breaking news or general assignment writers—rather than health reporters," Ms. magazine reported. "Just 13.5 percent of articles analyzed quoted a physician, and only 8 percent referenced the lived experience of someone who has had an abortion."

A separate media study from 2019 confirmed that, "The personal experiences of people who get abortions are present in only 4% of the sample, and language personifying the fetus appears more often than women's abortion stories. State abortion restrictions are newsworthy, yet basic facts on the commonality and safety of abortion are virtually absent."

In their radical attempts to outlaw choice, Republicans don't want a lot of attention lavished on their actions. This week they got their wish.

Former Bush Speechwriter: GOP May Soon ‘Regret’ Texas Abortion Law

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

This week, Texas' draconian anti-abortion law went into effect, and the U.S. Supreme Court — in a 5-4 decision — let the law proceed. Far-right social conservatives in the Republican Party are delighted, as they are optimistic that the High Court will overturn Roe v. Wade. But one conservative who isn't celebrating is journalist/author David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush. In an article published by The Atlantic this week, Frum warns fellow conservatives that their anti-abortion victories could lead to a major backlash against the Republican Party.

According to the 61-year-old Frum, the Texas law and the possible end of Roe v. Wade will bring about a seismic shift in the abortion debate in the United States.

"Pre-Texas," Frum argues, "opposition to abortion offered Republican politicians a lucrative, no-risk political option. They could use pro-life rhetoric to win support from socially conservative voters who disliked Republican economic policy, and pay little price for it with less socially conservative voters who counted on the courts to protect abortion rights for them."

Frum continues, "Pre-Texas, Republican politicians worried a lot about losing a primary to a more pro-life opponent, but little about a backlash if they won the primary by promising to criminalize millions of American women. That one-way option has just come to an end."

The Texas law outlaws abortion about six weeks into a woman's pregnancy. Because many women who become pregnant don't know that they're pregnant until after six weeks, the law effectively prohibits abortion in most cases — even if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. To make matters worse, the law allows private citizens to sue someone for $10,000 if they "aid and abet" an abortion. And abortion rights activists are warning that even an Uber driver who drives a pregnant woman to an abortion clinic could be sued for that amount.

Because of the Texas law and the Supreme Court's response to it, Frum predicts, abortion will be a major issue going into the 2022 midterms.

"Today, accountability has suddenly arrived," Frum warns fellow conservatives. "Texas Republicans have just elevated abortion rights to perhaps the state's supreme ballot issue in 2022. Perhaps they have calculated correctly. Perhaps a Texas voting majority really wants to see the reproductive lives of Texas women restrained by random passersby. If that's the case, that's an important political fact, and one that will reshape the politics of the country in 2024."

Frum adds, "But it's also possible that Texas Republicans have miscalculated. Instead of narrowly failing again and again, feeding the rage of their supporters against shadowy and far-away cultural enemies, abortion restricters have finally, actually, and radically got their way."

Countless critics of the GOP have argued that Republicans are pushing voter suppression bills because they know how unpopular their ideas are. But Frum speculates that even voter suppression laws may not be enough to prevent Americans from expressing their disdain for the Texas law at the polls.

"There's already compelling evidence that Texas Republicans understand how detested their new abortion law will soon be — not only in New York City and Los Angeles, but also in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin and Fort Worth," Frum writes. "They took the precaution of preceding the nation's most restrictive abortion law with one of the nation's most suppressive voting laws…. But the Texas voting law only impedes voting; it does not prevent it."

According to Frum, "Republicans do best when the electorate is satisfied and quiet" but "face disaster when the electorate is mobilized and angry" — and the Texas law may result in a lot of angry, mobilized voters.

"Texas Republicans have just bet their political future in a rapidly diversifying and urbanizing state on a gambit: cultural reaction plus voter suppression," Frum stresses. "The eyes of Texas will be upon them indeed. The eyes of the nation will be upon them too."

Supreme Court Upholds Conviction Of Neo-Nazi Thugs On Riot Charges

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

If white nationalists who engaged in acts of thuggish violence at protests during the Trump years were hoping they could escape culpability with the help of the Trump-appointed courts, then that gambit is not looking very solid right now, courtesy of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The high court on Monday announced it would refuse the case of two members of the Rise Above Movement (RAM)—a band of neo-Nazi alt-righters from Southern California who like to travel around the country to participate in far-right protests with the intention of inflicting violence on "leftists"—who wanted to overturn the riot laws federal prosecutors had used to convict them for their violent roles in the August 2017 "Unite the Right" riots in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Members of RAM had flown from California to Virginia in August to participate in the event, and had committed numerous acts of violence there, at the culmination of which a young white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing a young woman named Heather Heyer and maiming 19 other people. Three of the men pleaded guilty to felony federal charges of conspiracy to riot and crossing state lines to riot in May 2019; two of them, Michael Miselis and Benjamin Daley, filed appeals.

In 2020, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had considered the men's conviction and sentencing on the grounds that the Anti-Riot Law used to imprison them was unconstitutionally overbroad. It ruled that while certain provisions in the law—such as those criminalizing speech that "tends to encourage a riot"—are unconstitutional First Amendment violations, it nonetheless upheld the men's convictions because those charges fell under other parts of the law—namely, the men's "substantial conduct," which included "pushing, punching, kicking, choking, head-butting, and otherwise assaulting numerous individuals, and none of which 'were in self-defense'"—which the court found were perfectly constitutional.

The Supreme Court's announcement leaves the convictions of Miselis and Daly, as well as the rulings in their appeals, in place. As is typical, the high court offered no comment in turning away the cases.

Daley faces a 37-month prison term, while Miselis was sentenced to 27 months.

The Rise Above Movement's existence and its activities were first exposed in detail in a ProPublica investigative piece published in October 2017. Nearly a year later, federal prosecutors filed charges against the men and another Charlottesville participant, Cole Evan White. Four other RAM members, including co-founder Robert Rundo, were charged in October 2018 with conspiracy to riot as well; however, their convictions were overturned on appeal in June 2019 by a federal judge who deemed the law unconstitutionally overbroad. Those charges were reinstated this March, primarily as a result of the Ninth Circuit's 2020 ruling.

RAM, as a 2019 sentencing memo explains, "represented itself as a combat-ready, militant group of a new nationalist white supremacy and identity movement. RAM regularly held hand-to-hand and other combat training for its members and associates to prepare to engage in violent confrontations with protestors and other individuals at purported political rallies. All three of the defendants attended these trainings to prepare for their violence."

Like most far-right street-brawling groups, their entire raison d'être was to provoke fights with far-left and anarchist groups, particularly those attached to various campuses in California and elsewhere. "RAM's goal when they attended these rallies was simple: They sought to provoke physical conflict, or—even better—they looked for any reason to serve as an excuse which they believed would justify their use of violence against their ideological foes," the memorandum notes. Their violence included events in Huntington Beach and Berkeley, California, in the spring of 2017.

At the Aug. 12, 2017, event in Charlottesville, the RAM gang once again played a leading role in provoking violence on the streets, both at the Aug. 11 tiki torch march onto the University of Virginia campus and at the main Aug. 12 event in Charlottesville around the Robert E. Lee statue in a downtown park. The men were especially exultant about the Friday night march in which they had massively outnumbered counterprotesters and had mercilessly assaulted them: "After the students and protestors left, Miselis's own Go-Pro video captured him yelling 'total victory' and 'we beat you tonight, we'll beat you tomorrow too!'"

The next day, they engaged in such violence as punching protesters and knocking them to the ground, at which point they began kicking them so hard that Miselis broke his own toe. Daley infamously attacked a feminist and began strangling her, caught in an image reproduced frequently, and then threw her to the pavement with such force that she suffered a concussion.

Afterwards, online conversations made clear that "the defendants' primary regret about their time in Charlottesville was not having exacted enough violence."

Rundo, who fled the country after being cleared on appeals, is now an international fugitive. He is believed to be currently hiding out in Bosnia while being sought by police there, after having been expelled from Serbia.