Tag Archives: SCOTUS

Federal bench: to date the silent issue of 2020 campaign

Let’s see, we’ve had two rounds of Democratic Party presidential primary debates, with 20 candidates beating the hell out of each other over a number of issues and, yes, drawing some blood from the Republican president of the United States, Donald John Trump.

I’m waiting, though, for discussion about what the Democrats plan to do about one of the serious consequences of the 2020 election: appointing judges to federal benches all over the nation.

This is where we learn about how “elections have consequences.”

Barely halfway through the president’s term in office, he has been able to seat two new justices to the nation’s highest court. Trump has solidified — so far — the court’s conservative majority. He replaced one conservative icon, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, with another reliable conservative jurist, Neil Gorsuch; he put another conservative on the court, Brett Kavanaugh, to succeed moderate/swing justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired.

He’s already sprinkled his brand of judicial conservatism — however he defines it — on federal courts across the nation.

Count me as a voter who does not want to see the federal bench populated by right-wing zealots shrouded in black robes. Trump has promised to carry through with that threat/promise, in so many words.

I am waiting for Democrats to speak openly about the judicial appointment issue as they talk to and about each other during the primary campaign. I want some assurance that they will look for men and women of impeccable integrity, who have no personal “history” to which they must answer and who understand fully how to interpret the U.S. Constitution without putting a rigid right-wing spin on what they think the framers intended when they wrote the document more than two centuries ago.

States that have long-term governors understand the importance of these appointments. Rick Perry served as Texas governor longer than anyone else in state history and he appointed more judges to state courts than anyone else as well. Gov. Perry’s legacy will stand with those appointments, for better or worse, even as they stand for election and re-election in the years to come.

For the federal bench, though, the stakes are even more profound. These judges are appointed to serve for as long as they live, if they choose to do so. Federal judges are the living, breathing embodiment of how consequential presidential elections can become.

Let’s be sure to air these issues out with clarity and conviction.

Mitch McConnell: Partisan hack demonstrates his hypocrisy

There well might be no more demonstrably partisan political hack in the U.S. Senate than the man who runs the place … and who has the gall to accuse politicians on the other side of playing politics.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has blocked a bill that would seek to make our electoral system more secure and to prevent foreign hostile powers from hacking into our system.

Why did he do that? Because he says Senate Democrats have made it too “partisan.” They are “playing politics” with the legislation.

Wow, man!

Hmm. Let’s see how this works. Requiring paper ballots to back up the electronic ballots is “partisan”? Mandating that political candidates report to the FBI any suspected foreign-power interference is “partisan”?

Meanwhile, Donald Trump has stood with the Russians who did attack our election in 2016 and are likely to do so again in 2020. Trump’s partner in the Senate now is standing with him, declaring that Democrats are the partisan hacks.

Let’s flash back for a moment to 2016.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died while vacationing in Texas. The conservative icon’s body barely had gotten cold before McConnell declared that President Obama — serving his final full year in office — would not be allowed to seat a justice to replace the conservative icon, Scalia.

Obama ended up nominating Merrick Garland, an eminently qualified jurist. Garland didn’t get a hearing. McConnell was at his obstructionist worst in blocking Garland’s nomination and in denying President Obama the opportunity to fulfill his constitutional responsibility.

So now the majority leader calls Democrats the partisans? He says Democrats are playing politics with an electoral security bill?

The man’s hypocrisy takes my breath away.

Waiting for the ‘perfect headline’ to present itself

I won’t belabor this topic, but it deserves a quick-hit mention anyway.

I am waiting for the chance to use several acronyms in the same headline. I am don’t yet know the circumstance will present itself, but I’m going to look for it.

They are: POTUS, VPOTUS, SCOTUS and FLOTUS, referencing the president, vice president, U.S. Supreme Court and first lady.

I use them individually whenever I write about them on High Plains Blogger. I’ve even written a headline a few times that contains two of them. Three is a stretch. Four seems impossible.

But bear with me. I’m on the hunt. Patience is the key.

SCOTUS says POTUS can use defense funds to build The Wall

This judicial ruling might raise a hackle or two among some congressional Republicans. I now will explain.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled 5 to 4 that it’s all right to spend Defense Department funds to build The Wall along our southern border, giving Donald Trump a victory in his ongoing fight with those who oppose The Wall.

Why the GOP objection? Get a load of this: When he was chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Republican Mac Thornberry — my former congressman — criticized openly any effort to redirect appropriated Defense money to build The Wall. Thornberry said wall construction is not part of the military’s mission. He opposed any effort to turn our troops into construction workers.

A lower court had said any such move would violate federal law.

I happen to agree with the lower court.

Congress appropriates Defense Department funds to pay for military missions. Trump has said the immigration “crisis” on our southern border is a national security matter. Thus, he is willing to divert those funds to build The Wall he believes is necessary to curb illegal immigration.

I am wondering how Thornberry, who represents the 13th Congressional District of Texas, is going to respond to the high court’s ruling that pokes the former committee chairman in the eye.

Chief Justice Roberts merely shows his independence

Political conservatives are angry with one of their own.

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has turned on them, they say, because he is siding with liberals on the court … on occasion.

Interesting.

The chief justice, to my way of thinking, merely is showing what happens when these men and women get lifetime appointments to the federal bench. They toss aside their partisan labels and start deciding cases on matters relating to the law.

That’s not good enough for many conservatives who believe Roberts should remain the conservative they knew he was when President Bush appointed him to the high court in 2005.

Roberts this week joined the court liberals by turning aside the Trump administration’s insistence on including a “citizenship question” when taking the 2020 census.

The previous day, according to Politico: “Roberts was the sole GOP appointee to side with the liberal wing in a case many legal conservatives were hoping would deal a major blow to the much loathed administrative state by overturning decades of precedent allowing federal agencies wide leeway to interpret their own regulations.”

Roberts earlier was the swing vote on the court that helped save the Affordable Care Act, which the right wing in Congress — and the president — detest merely because it was proposed by a Democratic president and enacted by congressional Democrats.. He also sided with the court progressives in declaring gay marriage to be legal in all 50 states.

Conservatives are angry. Some activists want him impeached. Why? Because he isn’t true to their cause.

This is utter nonsense! The founders established an ostensibly independent judiciary understanding that judges who take the federal bench well could upset the proverbial “conventional wisdom.”

Roberts has not flown off the rails in the 14 years since he joined the Supreme Court. So, he sides with liberals from time to time. The chief justice is entitled under the provisions set forth in the U.S. Constitution to interpret the law and to rule according to his understanding of what the law tells him.

Will there be rulings from Roberts that disappoint me? Sure. Am I going to yammer for Chief Justice Roberts’ impeachment?

No. Never.

Get a grip, righties.

Flag-burning ban … it’s back!

I am both not surprised but still amazed that this issue keeps coming back. Donald J. “Panderer in Chief” Trump says he is “all in” on a proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution to prohibit flag-burning as a form of political protest.

Oh, boy. Here we go. Again!

Trump put a Twitter message out this weekend that said he supports a “strong BAN on burning our American flag. A no brainer.”

He is backing a proposed amendment pushed by Republican U.S. Sens. Steve Daines of Montana and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota.

Where can I possibly begin on this matter? Let me try this gambit.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly already that flag-burning to make a political statement is protected by the First Amendment guarantee of free political speech. Even high court judicial conservatives, such as the late Justice Antonin Scalia, have upheld the principle of keeping the First Amendment unfettered. According to the Washington Post, Scalia once said he’d prefer to jail “every sandal-wearing, scruffy-bearded weirdo who burns the American flag. But I am not king.” He has joined SCOTUS majorities in upholding the action as a form of political speech.

I am one who cherishes what the flag symbolizes, which is the right to make an a** of oneself, which is what flag-burning does to anyone who burns a flag as a form of criticism of government policy. I have maintained for as long as I can remember that such an act does not win converts to a point of view. It only enrages Americans who — such as myself — who have gone to war under that flag and who love their country … even with its warts.

Banning the act of flag-burning doesn’t do a damn thing but please those who somehow equate a piece of cloth with the doctrine it represents. The flag is merely a symbol of something greater, which is individual liberty — which includes the rights of citizens to act stupidly.

But the president of the United States doesn’t see it that way. He chooses to hug the flag to make some kind of goofy showbiz point.

‘Litmus test’ must not be a four-letter word

I have long wondered why the term “litmus test” has become a sort of plague to politicians running for offices that hold the power of appointment.

The U.S. Supreme Court, for instance, is going to become a key issue in the 2020 presidential campaign. Namely, the issue will revolve a potential appointment of the next justice on the nine-member court.

The expected Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, will insist he would appoint justices with a record of favoring pro-life litigants who would come before his or her court. Indeed, he’s already got two judicial appointments on the SCOTUS and they certainly seem to fit the bill prescribed by what Trump has said.

The large field of Democratic Party candidates will argue to a person that they want judicial candidates who take a more expansive view of a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy.

But no one says they will apply a “litmus test” to determine who they intend to nominate the highest court in the nation.

They dance all over and around the issue. Litmus tests exist on all sorts of issues. They involve capital punishment, sentencing guidelines, drug policy, firearm ownership and, yes, abortion.

We know the types of individuals that presidents would nominate. They telegraph that punch before they deliver it. However, we refuse to hold them accountable on whether they are applying litmus tests on the individuals they are considering for these appointments.

U.S. senators who have the right to confirm or deny these appointments often make their decisions on single issues. Yet they won’t ever acknowledge they have applied a litmus test to the nominee, indicating whether they pass or fail the exam.

This is a circuitous way of saying, I suppose, that we apply litmus tests at every turn.

Why not, then, just call them what we know them to be?

Sen. McConnell: partisan hack supreme

There could be little, if any doubt, about Mitch McConnell’s partisan credentials.

The U.S. Senate majority leader, though, has just removed any possible benefit of the doubt. The man plays pure, raw, partisan politics better (or worse) than anyone else in Washington, D.C.

Consider his answer to this question recently: If a seat on the Supreme Court came open in 2020, the final full year of Donald Trump’s term as president, would he seek to confirm the nominee?

McConnell’s answer: “Oh, I’d fill it.”

Just four years ago, he had the chance to “fill” a seat on the high court upon the sudden and unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia. His response in 2016, the final full year of President Obama’s tenure in the White House, was markedly different from what he said to the crowd in Paducah, Ky.

McConnell said immediately upon Scalia’s death that Obama would not fill the vacancy. McConnell would block any attempt for a Democratic president to replace a conservative justice appointed by a Republican president; in this case, it was President Reagan who nominated Scalia.

Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the SCOTUS. The Senate didn’t give him a hearing. Key Republican senators never even met the fellow. His nomination withered and died. We elected a new president in November 2016 — and it happened to be Donald Trump!

Oh, but now we have a GOP president in office. If a vacancy were to develop on the court, McConnell — also a Republican — would move to fill the vacancy.

Just think that this partisan hack has the gall, the stones, the chutzpah to suggest Democrats are “playing politics.”

This guy, McConnell, plays the political game with the best of ’em.

Sen. McConnell’s thinly disguised contempt for fairness — to my way of thinking — is what gives politics and politicians a bad name.

Merrick Garland to preside over Trump appeal? Oh, the irony

The irony here is just too obvious and too rich to ignore.

Donald Trump’s legal team is going to appeal a federal judge’s ruling that the president must obey congressional demands to turn over his financial records.

And just who is going to preside over the federal appeals court that will consider this case? None other than Judge Merrick Garland, the man who by all rights should be sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court instead of serving as chief of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

This is quite fascinating.

President Barack Obama nominated Garland to the high court after the sudden and shocking death of Justice Antonin Scalia in early 2016. Justice Scalia had been dead mere hours when U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared that President Obama would not get to fill the SCOTUS seat. Obama was in the final full year of his presidency and McConnell insisted that the next president be allowed to perform that constitutional duty.

In truth, Merrick Garland was a superb choice. He should have been given a hearing. He should have been confirmed by the Senate. He wasn’t because of McConnell’s partisan grandstanding.

Now the judge gets to preside over an appellate case filed by Donald Trump.

My hunch is this: Judge Garland is going to demonstrate for the entire world his impartiality, his legal judgment, his expertise and knowledge of the U.S. Constitution . . . and will show us precisely why he should be sitting on the United States Supreme Court.

Trump once again speaks from ignorance of government

Donald Trump’s blunderbuss tendency has seized control of him once again. Who would’ve thunk that?

He said via Twitter that if the U.S. House of Representatives impeaches him he is heading immediately to the Supreme Court to get the justices to intervene on his behalf, to block an impeachment.

D’oh! Except for this little bit of information that Trump either ignores or does not know exists: The U.S. Constitution does not give the SCOTUS any authority to act.

The U.S. Constitution says the House shall have “sole authority” to impeach and that the U.S. Senate shall have “sole authority” to put the president on trial for the impeachable offenses brought by the House.

Get it? The high court cannot intervene in a political action by one of the other co-equal branches of government.

The only role the court plays involves only one of its justices. The chief justice would preside over a Senate trial. Chief Justice William Rehnquist fulfilled that role during President Clinton’s impeachment trial; Chief Justice John Roberts would get the call if the House impeaches Donald Trump.

So, with that we have seen yet another example of the president of the United States not knowing what he’s talking about.

Who knew?