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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.

Supreme Court Rules That Prosecutor Can Get Trump Tax Returns

The Supreme Court has ruled that the IRS can release Donald Trump's tax returns to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., who is conducting a criminal probe of the former president and his business, according to CNN. The decision, issued without comment or dissent, represents a major legal defeat for Trump, who has violated promises to release his tax returns and fought in court to conceal them from prosecutors.

The returns will still be shielded by grand jury secrecy rules that prohibit their public release. The subpoenas demand tax returns and other documents between January 2011 and August 2019 from Mazars, his accounting firm

In practical terms, the court's ruling means that Vance's probe of alleged hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels, tax evasion, and fraud will no longer be hindered by Trump's effort to keep his taxes and other documents from the prosecution.

.Last summer the high court majority rejected Trump's broad claims of immunity from a state subpoena seeking his tax returns and said that as president he was not entitled to any kind of special privilege or standard. By 7-2, the justices remanded the matter back to the lower court, allowing Trump to offer further objections to the subpoena's scope, which his lawyers described as "geographically sprawling, temporally expansive, and topically unlimited," raising "suspicions of a fishing expedition."



Texas Supreme Court Rejects GOP Scheme To Toss 127,000 Ballots


By Jolie McCullough, The Texas Tribune

A legal cloud hanging over nearly 127,000 votes already cast in Harris County was at least temporarily lifted Sunday when the Texas Supreme Court rejected a request by several conservative Republican activists and candidates to preemptively throw out early balloting from drive-thru polling sites in the state's most populous, and largely Democratic, county.

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