Tag Archives: US Supreme Court

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?

Merrick Garland at FBI? Holy cow, man!

What in the name of political contrition might be happening in Washington, D.C.?

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch “The Obstructionist” McConnell has just endorsed someone for FBI director that he fought tooth and nail to keep off the U.S. Supreme Court.

That would be U.S. District Judge Merrick Garland, whom then-President Barack Obama nominated for the high court in 2016, only to be rebuffed when McConnell refused to let Garland have so much as a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The FBI has a vacancy at the top, thanks to Donald John Trump’s firing of Director James Comey. Now we hear that Garland might be considered for the job. And with McConnell’s blessing to boot!

Is McConnell trying to make nice with someone he stiffed?

According to The Hill: “I think if he picks someone with a deep background in law enforcement, who has no history of political involvement, a genuine expert — and the reason I mention Garland is he’s an example of that — it will serve him well, serve the country well and lead to a more bipartisan approach,” McConnell said.

Sounds like a good choice for the Supreme Court, too, don’t you think?

Whatever. The notion that Merrick Garland would be considered for the FBI director’s job is nearly as shocking as Comey’s firing by Trump. Still, as McConnell noted, Garland does have prosecutorial experience, given that he led the federal government’s case against the late Timothy McVeigh, the monster who blew up the Murrah Federal Courthouse in Oklahoma City in April 1995.

Do I think Garland would be a good pick to lead the FBI? I understand that he happens to be a straight arrow, a Boy Scout, a guy with an impeccable judicial reputation. It seems to me those traits would serve him well as head of the nation’s top federal law enforcement agency.

I am just wondering, though: Does he want the job?

If he does, and the president nominates him, then I believe hell will have frozen over and that the sun will rise the next day above the western horizon.

Break up the 9th U.S. Circuit? C’mon, get real

Donald J. Trump keeps ratcheting up his open combat with the federal judicial system.

The president wants to break up the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals because — doggone it, anyway! — the judges keep issuing rulings with which he disagrees.

Poor guy. That’s how it goes sometimes, Mr. President.

The 9th Circuit has ruled against the president’s ban on refugees seeking entry into this country from majority-Muslim countries. That just won’t stand in Trump’s world. So his solution is to dismember the court, which is based in San Francisco and is considered to be arguably the most liberal appellate court in the federal judicial network.

He said lawyers shop for friendly judicial venues and the president believes the 9th Circuit is a favorite forum to hear cases pitting the federal government against anyone else.

Give me a break.

Conservative courts have ruled against liberal presidents. Indeed, liberal courts have ruled against conservative presidents as well. Have presidents of either stripe been so thin-skinned that they’ve sought to break up an appellate court? Not until this one took office.

Leave the court alone, Mr. President.

A better option for the president would be to craft laws that can withstand judicial challenge. Federal judges in Hawaii, Washington state and Maryland all have found sufficient fault with the Trump administration’s effort to ban refugees to rule against them. Appellate judges have upheld the lower court rulings.

In a strange way this kind of reminds me of when President Franklin Roosevelt sought to tinker with the federal judiciary by “packing” the U.S. Supreme Court with justices more to his liking; he sought to expand the number of justices on the nation’s highest court. He didn’t succeed — thank goodness.

To be sure, Trump isn’t the only recent president to bully the federal judiciary. Barack Obama called out the Supreme Court while delivering a State of the Union speech in 2010 over its Citizens United ruling that allowed unlimited political contributions by corporations. The president was wrong to do so — in that venue — with the justices sitting directly in front of him.

The nation’s founders sought to establish an independent federal judiciary that ostensibly should be immune from political pressure. The president is seeking to bully the court system through a number of methods: He calls out judges individually and criticizes the courts’ decisions openly and with extreme harshness.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals needs to remain intact and the president needs to live with the consequences of how it interprets the U.S. Constitution.