Larry pleads with members of Congress to do their jobs after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to act on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. I find anyone who has the support of Orrin Hatch unsuitable for any office or position in our government.
Apr 04 2016
The US Supreme Court handed a conservative challenge to one person, one vote principle a unanimous defeat. In Evenwel v Abbott the court ruled (pdf) that states could count the total population, not just eligible voters, in drawing legislative districts. The plaintiffs claimed that redrawing electoral districts based on the population of citizens and non-citizens …
Mar 25 2016
The voters in Arizona’s heaviest populated district, and largest Latino population, Maricopa County faced waits as long as five hours. Why? Because of a lack of polling places. Why did they lack polling places? The Robert’s Supreme Court, when the conservative majority gutted by declaring the Voting Rights Act’s Section 5 unconstitutional. The Arizona Republic …
Mar 24 2016
President Barack Obama’s choice of Merrick Garland, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, to replace late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme court is not the nominee the left was dreaming about last month. Any justice who has won the praise of neocon Senator Orin Hatch and Fox …
Jun 30 2015
In a late announcement Monday afternoon, the Supreme Court stayed a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which imposed limits on a woman’s right to choose. In a 5 -4 decision, the court allows Texas abortion clinics to remain open.
The Supreme Court issued a brief, two paragraph order (pdf) on Monday permitting Texas abortion clinics that are endangered by state law requiring them to comply with onerous regulations or else shut down to remain open. The order stays a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which imposed broad limits on the women’s right to choose an abortion within that circuit.
The Court’s order is temporary and offers no direct insight into how the Court will decide this case on the merits. It provides that the clinics’ application for a stay of the Fifth Circuit’s decision is granted “pending the timely filing and disposition of a petition” asking the Court to review the case on the merits. The Court adds that, should this petition be denied, the stay will automatically terminate. Otherwise, the stay “shall terminate upon the issuance of the judgment of this Court.”
Justce Anthony Kennedy joined the liberal judges to grant the clinics a reprieve. The court has yet to decide if they will hear arguments in the case in the fall.
Jun 29 2015
Today is the last day of this years Supreme Court session. After yesterday’s momentous ruling in favor of marriage equality for all (yes, gays should have the same right to be miserably married as heterosexuals), the court handed down rulings in three cases, two which have even a wider impact than the Affordable Care Act ruling.
In another five – four ruling Justice Anthony Kennedy sided with the conservatives approving Oklahoma’s use of the controversial sedative midazolam in Oklahoma’s execution protocols which opened the door for the state to carry out the first executions since January.
The ruling ends a hold on most executions outside Texas and Missouri. Several states had delayed executions while they awaited the ruling in Glossip v Gross, in which the court was asked to decide whether Oklahoma’s use of midazolam fell within the boundaries of the US constitution.
Though the ruling fell into the familiar 5 to 4 conservative to liberal split within the supreme court, it marked the first time in seven years that the nation’s highest judicial panel considered directly the constitutional basis of modern executions by lethal injection. It also gave the progressive-leaning justices an opportunity to vent their opinions on the ultimate punishment, with Stephen Breyer backed by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, using a dissenting opinion to openly denounce the death penalty as a violation of the eighth amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
In the case against the Environmental Protection Agency, the court struck down the agency’s efforts to set limits on the amount of mercury, arsenic and other toxins coal-fired power plants can spew into the air, lakes and rivers.
The 5-4 decision was a major setback to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and could leave the agency more vulnerable to legal challenges from industry and Republican-led states to its new carbon pollution rules.
It was also a blow to years of local efforts to clean up dangerous air pollution.
The supreme court has now sent the case back to the Washington DC circuit court of appeals, which will then ask the EPA to reconsider its rule-making. Activists are now urging the EPA to act definitively and quickly to issue revised regulation.
In its final ruling, the curt upheld Arizona’s independent redistricting that was passed in a 2000 ballot referendum, striking a blow to gerrymandering.
The court’s decision affirms the constitutionality of an Arizona state ballot measure approved by voters in 2000 that allowed an independent commissioner to determine congressional districts in the state.
State legislatures determine congressional district boundaries after each census, as dictated by the constitution, but the Arizona measure sought to undo this model, which is widely understood as a tool for partisan lawmakers to divvy up districts to favor the political party in power – also known as gerrymandering.
The supreme court ruled 5-4 that the elections clause of the US constitution does not disallow such commissions from being created.
Jun 27 2015
I don’t think I can actually describe the emotions I’ve felt today; they’ve run the entire gamut. I’m not LGBT, so technically, this ruling legally doesn’t affect me directly, but I have really felt strongly today. Strongly proud. Strongly jubilant. Strongly angry at a select few.
The decision came down around 9am Central, just as I got to work. My phone, with its many news notifications, went absolutely nuts. I did my first work stuff, then got online and it was so early it wasn’t even in my regular newsfeeds. But I got to Facebook. That graphic of the guy with the rainbow coming out from his computer – that was it – that captured the moment perfectly.
I was very emotional. This surprised me. I don’t even think I can adequately convey it in words. I got really choked up. I’m still really choked up, but this morning was just something else.
Jun 26 2015
It’s been a busy court calendar for the Supremes this year. They had to add extra days for the release of their rulings. One of the biggies came today when the court rejected the lawsuit that would have ended the health care subsidies of the Affordable Care Act.
The stakes of the case, King v. Burwell, were enormous. Had the plaintiffs prevailed, millions of people who depend upon the Affordable Care Act for insurance would have lost financial assistance from the federal government. Without that money, most of them would have had to give up coverage altogether. And the loss of so many customers would have forced insurers to raise premiums, seriously disrupting state insurance markets.
But two of the court’s conservatives, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy, joined the court’s four liberals in rejecting the lawsuit in a 6-3 decision. Roberts delivered the opinion (pdf) for the majority. And the decision was a concise, stinging rebuke of the plaintiffs, who contended that Congress intended to write a law that would leave so many people without coverage, and cause such disarray.
“Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not destroy them,” Roberts wrote.
In the other ruling released today, in a 5 – 4 decision the justices backed a broad interpretation of the 1968 Fair Housing Act a crucial tool in the fight against housing discrimination.
The question in the case was whether plaintiffs suing under the housing law must prove intentional discrimination or merely that the challenged practice had produced a “disparate impact.” Drawing on decisions concerning other kinds of discrimination, Justice Kennedy said the housing law allowed suits relying on both kinds of evidence.
The first kind of proof can be hard to come by, as agencies and businesses seldom announce that they are engaging in purposeful discrimination. “Disparate impact,” on the other hand, can be proved using statistics.
Justice Kennedy wrote that the history of the law and of the civil rights movement supported the broader interpretation.
On Monday they handed down four rulings
Supreme Court rules on patents, property
By Jaelynn Grisso, Scripts Howard Foundation Wire
Patent holders cannot be paid after the patent expires
The Supreme Court ruled that patent holders cannot keep getting paid for their inventions after the patent expires, upholding a previous Supreme Court decision.
Marvel agreed to pay Stephen Kimble royalties for a Spider-Man glove that shot out fake spider webs. He held a patent on the glove, but the contract did not specify how long payments would last. When the patent on the toy expired after the typical 20 years, Marvel stopped paying Kimble. The district court and the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals sided with Marvel based on the Supreme Court case Brulotte v. Thys, which also ruled patent holders were not entitled to royalties after the patent expired.
The court reaffirmed these decisions in a 6-3 vote, determining Kimble’s reasons for overturning Brulotte were not substantial enough. [..]
Crops, like raisins, are protected property
In Horne v. Department of Agriculture, the Supreme Court ruled that the government cannot make raisin growers forfeit a portion of their crops because they are protected property under the Fifth Amendment.
Marvin and Laura Horne refused to give the USDA a portion of their raisin crop, violating a law passed in 1937, which allows the government to require growers to reserve a portion of their crops for government management. The law said the government could take the crops for free to help control market prices. It would pay farmers only if it made profit on the produce.
The court’s ruling reversed the 9th Circuit’s decision on an 8-1 vote, with Sotomayor dissenting. The ruling upheld that personal property – such as cars, computers or raisins – is protected under the Fifth Amendment as is real property, such as houses. [..]
Excessive force needs to be determined objectively
The Supreme Court ruled that county jails need to set objective standards for use of force against prisoners who have not yet been convicted. The court reversed a ruling from the 7th Circuit Court and sent the case back for a rehearing.
Michael Kingsley sued officers in a Wisconsin county jail after they used force to remove him from his cell after he refused to comply with their instructions. Kingsley had not been convicted of a crime and was being held until his trial.
After a jury trial found in favor of the officers, Kingsley appealed. He claimed the instructions to the jury did not require that jurors consider whether the guards had intentionally violated Kingsley’s rights or had use force with complete disregard for his rights.
The 7th Circuit disagreed, saying that subjective standards about the officers’ intentions – whether or not they meant to violate or disregard his rights – should be used. The Supreme Court reversed this decision on a 5-4 vote, with Breyer, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan agreeing. Scalia, Roberts, Thomas and Alito dissented.
Officers cannot conduct a search without judicial review
In a case involving the city of Los Angeles and a group of hotel operators, the Supreme Court decided city ordinances allowing officers to search hotel records was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment. The 5-4 vote upheld the decision of the 9th Circuit.
Los Angeles requires hotel operators to keep records about their guests, and the hotel operators can be charged with a criminal misdemeanor if the records are not maintained correctly. The district court sided with the city because it said hotel operators did not have an expectation of privacy for the records. But the 9th Circuit reversed this decision because the ordinance did not allow for a neutral party, such as a judge, to review the records for compliance before a search.
The city will now need to get a subpoena before getting hotel records if the hotel operator declines to give up the records voluntarily. The city wanted access to records because it said maintaining the records is a deterrent to criminal activity like prostitution and housing undocumented immigrants.
The court also previously released these rulings:
Race and Redistricting
In two Alabama cases, the court found that the State Legislature had relied too heavily on race in its 2012 state redistricting by maintaining high concentrations of black voters in some districts.
Religious Freedom in Prison
In Holt v. Hobbs, the court found that Arkansas corrections officials had violated the religious liberty rights of Muslim inmates by forbidding them to grow beards over security concerns.
In Young v. United Parcel Service, the court found that the lower courts had used the wrong standard to determine whether UPS had discriminated against one of its drivers, Peggy Young, who was pregnant.
Judicial Elections and Free Speech
In Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar, the court ruled that states may prohibit judicial candidates from personally asking their supporters for money.
The court decided in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores that Samantha Elauf was not required to make a specific request for a religious accommodation to wear a hijab when applying for a position at a children’s clothing store owned by the company.
Social Media and Free Speech
The court decided in Elonis v. United States that prosecutors did not do enough to prove Anthony Elonis’s intent when he published threatening rap lyrics on Facebook directed at his wife.
Separation of Powers in Foreign Affairs
The court decided in Zivotofsky v. Kerry that Congress was not entitled to order the State Department to “record the place of birth as Israel” in the passports of American children born in Jerusalem if their parents requested.
The Confederate Flag and Free Speech
The court decided in Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans that Texas had not discriminated against the view of the group that “the Confederate flag is a symbol of sacrifice, independence and Southern heritage” when refusing to allow its license plate bearing the Confederate flag.
Religious Signs and Free Speech
The court decided in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Ariz., that a town ordinance that places different limits on political, ideological and directional signs violates the First Amendment.
There are four more rulings coming down the pike for tomorrow and Monday:
1. Obergefell v. Hodges (Same Sex marriage)
2. Glossip v. Gross (Lethal Injection)
3. Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (Congressional Redistricting)
4. Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA et. al. ( EPA Emissions Regulations)
5. Johnson v. U.S. (Gun Laws and Criminals)
So far, the Supremes haven’t upset the apple cart too much
Feb 10 2015
I have a couple articles for your perusal this morning.
First, an interesting take on the reasons behind what Saudi Arabia is currently doing regarding their oil:
In 2000, Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, former oil minister of Saudi Arabia, gave an interview in which he said:
“Thirty years from now there will be a huge amount of oil – and no buyers. Oil will be left in the ground. The Stone Age came to an end, not because we had a lack of stones, and the oil age will come to an end not because we have a lack of oil.”
Oct 08 2014
Today I have 2 articles for your perusal.
First up is an interview with Noam Chomsky. It covers a variety of issues and is long but well worth the read:
For decades now, Noam Chomsky has been widely regarded as the most important intellectual alive (linguist, philosopher, social and political critic) and the leading US dissident since the Vietnam War. Chomsky has published over 100 books and thousands of articles and essays, and is the recipient of dozens of honorary doctorate degrees by some of the world’s greatest academic institutions. His latest book, Masters of Mankind: Essays and Lectures, 1969-2013, has just been published by Haymarket Books. On the occasion of the release of his last book, Chomsky gave an exclusive and wide-ranging interview to C.J. Polychroniou for Truthout, parts of which will also appear in The Sunday Eleftherotypia, a major national Greek newspaper.
Apr 03 2014
Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when
we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.