Tag Archives: US Supreme Court

High court to settle redistricting dilemma?

I don’t expect the current U.S. Supreme Court to decide that Texas’s legislative and congressional boundaries were drawn in a manner that discriminates against people of color.

Why not? Because its ideological composition would tilt toward those who dismiss such concerns.

The court will decide Abbott v. Perez sometime this year. It involves the manner in which several districts were drawn. Critics say that Hispanics were denied the right to choose a candidate of their own because of the way a San Antonio-area district was gerrymandered.

I’ll set aside the merits of the case that justices will hear. I want to concentrate briefly on the method the states use to draw these districts.

They are done by legislatures. The Texas Legislature is dominated by Republican super-majorities. The custom has been that the Legislature draws these boundaries to benefit the party in power.

Legislators don’t like being handed this task at the end of every census, which is taken at the beginning of each decade. The late state Sen. Teel Bivins of Amarillo once told me that redistricting provides “Republicans a chance to eat their young.” I’ve never quite understood Bivins’s logic. To my mind, the process allows the party in power to “eat the young” of the other party.

The 1991 Texas Legislature redrew the state’s congressional boundaries in a way that sought to shield Democrats, who controlled the Legislature at the time. The Legislature divided Amarillo into two congressional districts, peeling Republicans from the 13th Congressional District to protect then-U.S. Rep. Bill Sarpalius, a Democrat. Sarpalius was re-elected in 1992, but then lost in 1994 to Republican upstart Mac Thornberry.

Gerrymandering not always a bad thing

My own preference would be to hand this process over to a bipartisan commission appointed by the governor and both legislative chambers. I favor taking this process out of politicians’ hands. Their aim is to protect their own and stick it to the politicians — and to voters — from their other party.

Perhaps the Supreme Court’s decision might include a dissent that spells out potential remedies to what I consider to be a political travesty.

One can hope.

Mitch McConnell: partisan powerhouse

Oh, how I wanted to give U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell the benefit of the doubt.

I didn’t like the way he stonewalled Barack Obama’s choice for the Supreme Court after Antonin Scalia died in 2016. Then he turned around and said all the right things about Roy Moore, the religious zealot — who also has been accused of sexually abusing girls; McConnell said Moore is unfit to serve in the Senate and he wanted him to end his candidacy.

Now the Republican from Kentucky is showing who he really is: a partisan powerhouse hack.

He doesn’t want to wait for Alabama U.S. Sen.-elect Doug Jones — the Democrat who beat Moore this week in that special election — to take his seat before voting on the GOP-authored tax cut bill. Moore is a certain “no” vote on the bill.

But wait! Seven years ago, a Republican was elected to the Senate from Massachusetts and McConnell insisted that the Senate wait for Scott Brown to take his seat before voting on whether to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Which is it, Mr. Majority Leader? Is it right for one party to gum up the works, but not for the other party?

I refer to McConnell’s successful obstruction of President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the high court for a reason as well. McConnell wanted to hold off on confirming a Supreme Court pick until after the 2016 election. He was hoping Donald Trump would defeat Hillary Clinton, even though almost no one thought he would. His gamble paid off.

However, while obstructing the president, he accused Democrats of “playing politics” with the nomination by insisting that Judge Garland get a hearing and a vote. I trust you see the irony in that statement, as McConnell was “playing politics” like the master politician he has proven to be.

Now the Senate Republican majority is poised to foist a tax cut that will explode the federal budget deficit on Americans; analyses suggest it will benefit the wealthiest Americans while burdening the rest of us. But that’s OK, says Mitch. Bring it on!

Don’t wait for a duly elected Democrat to take his seat. We gotta get this bill to the president’s desk because we’re desperate for a win.

Oh, and never mind what he said before about Sen.-elect Brown. Hey, if Americans can ignore what the president says about his political foes, surely they’ll give McConnell a pass on his brazen duplicity.

Oh, boy … let’s watch this clerk’s race

Kim Davis is going to seek re-election as county clerk in Rowan County, Ky.

Big deal, you say? Sure it is. Here’s why.

Rowan is the county clerk who made a big-time name for herself after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2015 to legalize gay marriage in all 50 of our states. It declared that the 14th Amendment’s “equal protection clause” meant that gay couples are entitled to be married because they are entitled to equal protection under the law.

Davis didn’t agree with that. She said that her religious beliefs wouldn’t allow her to sign off on marriage certificates involving gay couples. The court told her to do her job; she refused and then spent a few days in the slammer on a contempt of court charge. The issue was resolved when the courts ruled Davis didn’t have to sign the certificates, but could allow her deputies to do so.

During all that tumult, Davis changed her party affiliation from Democrat to Republican. So now she wants to be re-elected to a second term.

I normally wouldn’t give a royal rat’s rear end about Kim Davis, except that I spent a good bit of time on this blog commenting on how she violated the oath of office she took.

It’s that oath — and her violation of it — that make her unfit for re-election.

This campaign under normal circumstances wouldn’t command any attention outside of Rowan County. It will, because Davis made such a spectacle of herself by protesting the high court’s decision on gay marriage.

Davis took an oath office to defend and protect the U.S. Constitution and to obey the law of the land. She failed to do her job by injecting religion into a secular political office. The oath she took doesn’t allow her to use her faith as a dodge.

That is how her political opponent ought to frame his or her campaign against her.

So, with that Kim Davis is going to run for re-election. I should resist the urge to follow how this will play out.

But I won’t.

Court brings cause for concern

Oh, brother.

Donald J. Trump is predicting he could get to fill as many as four seats on the U.S. Supreme Court.

How does that grab you? I’ll tell you the unvarnished truth: It scares the ever-loving bejabbers out of me.

The president already has picked Justice Neil Gorsuch for the highest court in the land; he replaced another conservative, Antonin Scalia, who died suddenly a year ago in Texas. Justice Anthony Kennedy is reportedly considering retirement. Who’s next? Might it be Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg? Try this one on for size: Justice Sonya Sotomayor.

Trump could swing court balance

That’s four of them. Kennedy is considered a “swing vote” on the court; Ginsburg and Sotomayor are part of the so-called “liberal wing.” Ginsburg’s health reportedly has been getting more frail over the years. Sotomayor, one of the court’s younger members, suffers from Type 1 diabetes, which could inhibit her ability to continue.

What might occur? Trump will get to appoint justices who’ll swing the court so far to the right that it could scare a whole lot more Americans than just yours truly.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to send good-health vibes to Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg and Sotomayor. We need them on the highest court in the land to maintain some semblance of balance and reason.

Stunning profile may emerge on local judicial bench

The Texas Panhandle received excellent federal judicial service for nearly four decades, thanks to the steady hand provided by U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson.

She is stepping aside. A new president has nominated a replacement for Judge Robinson. But some potentially chilling information is coming forth about the new guy.

The Texas Tribune is reporting on statements made by another judicial nominee who is linked to the man Donald Trump has selected for the Northern District of Texas federal bench. Jeff Mateer formerly served as general counsel for a right-wing advocacy group, the First Liberty Institute; Matthew Kaczmaryk — Trump’s choice to succeed Robinson — is deputy general counsel for the same group. Mateer now works in the Texas attorney general’s office. Follow me for a moment.

Mateer is Trump’s pick for another federal judgeship. He reportedly believes transgender children are part of “Satan’s work.”

In a 2015 speech, Mateer said this, according to the Texas Tribune Texas Tribune, about the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage in the United States: “I mean, it’s disgusting,” he said. “I’ve learned words I didn’t know. There are people who marry themselves. Somebody wanted to marry a tree. People marrying their pets. It’s just like — you know, you read the New Testament and you read about all the things and you think, ‘Oh, that’s not going on in our community.’ Oh yes it is. We’re going back to that time where debauchery rules.”

There you have it: Same-sex marriage equals “debauchery,” according to Mateer. The nation’s highest court ruled that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution guarantees that all Americans are entitled to “equal protection under the law,” meaning that gay Americans have a constitutional right to marry people of the same gender.

My question is whether Kaczmaryk is cut from the same mold as Mateer, given that they both work for the same ultra-right wing advocacy group.

Is this the kind of justice we can expect from the federal bench in Amarillo? Please say it won’t be so.

Travel ban now in effect: Do you feel safe now?

Donald J. Trump’s travel ban is back in force now, thanks to a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The court struck down previous lower-court rulings that set aside the ban, giving the president a limited victory in his campaign against Muslims around the world.

The president hails it as a way to make Americans safe from international terrorists. The ban affects those seeking to come to the United States from six Muslim-majority nations. If they do come here from any of those six nations, they must have some tangible, identifiable connection to this country: a relative, enrollment at a U.S. college or university.

He has vowed to protect us from those who seek to do us harm. The president asserted during the 2016 campaign that potential terrorists were “pouring into” our country and that, by golly, he intended to stop it.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe I’ll feel one bit safer down the road when the travel ban becomes fully implemented.

This ban doesn’t account for the home-grown terrorists who have brought misery to fellow Americans. It doesn’t deal at all with the terrorists, or terror groups, opening fire in crowded movie theaters, in nightclubs, at a U.S. Army post, in a Charleston, S.C., church.

We all remember 9/11. We recall the hideous nature of that dastardly act. We scorned the terrorists as cowardly bastards. We have gone to war against them.

Have we been hit by terrorists in an attack even remotely similar since that terrible day? No. Our national security apparatus, though, has stopped many attempts during the past 16 years.

It’s the so-called “lone wolf” terrorist who is so very difficult to detect in advance of their act.

In my view, a travel ban cannot stop someone from sneaking into this country from, say, Sweden or France, or Brazil or Russia who then would commit an act of terror.

Court (more or less) restores Trump’s travel ban

The notion of banning people from entering this nation because they come from places where most citizens practice a certain religion remains repugnant to me.

The United States of America is supposed to stand for a principle that welcomes all citizens of the world. That’s no longer the case.

Donald J. Trump’s ban on folks coming from six Muslim-majority nations has been kinda/sorta restored by the U.S. Supreme Court, which today issued a 6-3 ruling to back the president. Today’s ruling overturns a lower court decision that threw out the ban on the basis that it discriminates against people because of their religion.

What does it mean? I guess it bans anyone who comes here who lacks any “bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

Others can come in, according to the court.

My question remains the same: Will any of this make us safer against international terrorists? I do not believe that’s the case.

It’s just a partial ban

Nothing in the president’s initiative prevents U.S. citizens from committing acts of terror. The U.S. Army psychiatrist who killed those folks at Fort Hood in November 2009 is an American, to cite just one example.

I continue to cling to the notion that “extreme vetting,” which the president also has called for, isn’t a bad thing by itself. Indeed, U.S. customs and immigration officials need to do better at ensuring at points of entry that everyone coming here does not pose a threat; they’re doing that already.

Today’s ruling only settles it temporarily. The court’s next term begins in October and the justices will take it up fully then.

Score one for the president, though. He got a ruling he can live with, even though it won’t do a thing to make us safer against those who would harm us.

Get set to watch further politicization of federal judiciary

Now there are “reports” that Anthony Kennedy is considering an end to his judicial career.

The Supreme Court associate justice’s retirement, if it comes next week as some are thinking it might, is going to produce something I suspect the nation’s founders didn’t anticipate when they wrote the U.S. Constitution.

That would be the extreme politicization of the judicial selection process.

Those silly men. Sure, they were smart. They weren’t clairvoyant.

The present-day reality is that the process has become highly political. When did politics play such a key role in selecting these jurists? It’s hard to pinpoint the start of it all. Some might suggest it began with President Reagan’s appointment in 1987 of Robert Bork to succeed Lewis Powell, who had retired. The Senate would reject Bork largely on the basis of his vast record of ultraconservative writings and legal opinions.

Clarence Thomas’s nomination in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush also produced plenty of fireworks, owing to the testimony of Anita Hill, who accused Thomas of sexual harassment and assorted acts of impropriety.

On and one it has gone, through Democratic and Republican administrations ever since.

The founders wrote a provision into the Constitution that allows federal judges to get lifetime appointments. The idea was to remove politics from their legal writings. Indeed, some judges have taken seats on the U.S. Supreme Court with their presidential benefactors expecting them to toe a philosophical line, only to be disappointed when they veer along uncharted judicial trails.

It’s too early to tell whether Justice Neil Gorsuch will fall into that pattern. He was Donald J. Trump’s initial pick for the high court. The president might get to make another appointment quite soon. Then again, maybe not.

Whenever that moment arrives, you can take this to the bank: The next Supreme Court pick is going to ignite a whopper of a political fight if one side of the Senate sees a dramatic shift in the court’s ideological balance.

Something tells me the founders might not have anticipated these judicial nominations would come to this.

Who’d ever thought we’d reach this point?

WASHINGTON — I’ve witnessed plenty in my lifetime: an erupting volcano, a Ku Klux Klan rally, returning to where I served in a time of war.

I was able to knock another experience off my list of things I thought I’d never see: I got to watch a gay pride extravaganza in the nation’s capital.

My first — and most profound — takeaway was this: An event such as what we saw could not have been possible a generation ago. It speaks to the changes in attitude, culture, social mores that have swept across the country.

I was told the gay pride activities were “tame” compared to how they used to be. Every one of the thousands of people I saw along the many streets we walked was fully clothed. I saw plenty of rainbow colors. People’s hair was dyed in the colors of “Gay Pride.” They were festooned in rainbow-colored clothing. They were lugging signs, selling trinkets of assorted value.

I saw lots of smiles on a gorgeous day under a bright late spring sun.

Who in the world could have foreseen events such this a generation ago, perhaps even a decade ago.

I guess we can thank the U.S. Supreme Court for delivering millions of Americans from a form of purgatory when it ruled that under the 14th Amendment’s “equal protection clause” that gay marriage is therefore legal in all 50 states of this great nation.

But here’s another aspect of what I heard about the gay pride activities taking place in this most political place in America: Corporate and, yes, church endorsement helped make it mainstream. Think about that for just a moment. Gay pride events no longer are the sole province of radicals and extremists intending to shake up “the establishment.” The establishment has signed on.

So the parade took place. The capital was alive with celebration along block after block around the corridors of political power. I was there to witness it.

It was cool.

More ‘so-called judges’ deal blow to travel ban

Donald J. Trump stepped into a serious political minefield when he labeled a federal jurist who disagreed with his ban on Muslims entering this country a “so-called judge.”

Mr. President, here’s a flash. More of those “so-called” judges have joined in rejecting your revised travel ban.

http://thehill.com/regulation/335359-trump-travel-ban-on-shaky-ground

The latest rejection comes from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Virginia. The court ruled that the president’s second travel ban is as discriminatory against a certain religion as the first ban. The judges scolded him, too, for seeking to pursue a policy they deem to be unconstitutional.

It doesn’t look good for Trump’s effort to ban entry into this country to those who practice a certain religious faith. The 9th Court of Appeals is set to hear another case that was struck down by a federal judge in Hawaii; the 9th Court had rejected the first ban initially.

The case is likely to end up in the U.S. Supreme Court’s lap. Indeed, the nine men and women on the nation’s highest court well might decide against even hearing the case, which would let the lower-court rulings stand.

We are witnessing from the front row an exercise in the checks-and-balances that the nation’s founders intended in the 18th century when they drafted the U.S. Constitution.

They did well. Don’t you think?