Tag Archives: US Supreme Court

Please stay put, Justice Kennedy

I want to join a chorus of those who want U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy to stay right where he is.

He is on the nation’s highest court and is reportedly, allegedly, supposedly considering retiring sometime this year.

I don’t want him to go. I want him to remain as a key “swing vote” on the court, giving it some semblance of balance. The consequences of a Kennedy departure could have — in my humble view — a potentially devastating impact on the way of life for millions of Americans.

The New York Times editorialized over the weekend about its desire that he stay on the court. Read the editorial here.

Yes, I understand that “elections have consequences.” I have taken particular note of that when previous presidents have made critical federal judicial appointments.

This president could shape the high court’s makeup for decades with yet another appointment. Donald Trump already has picked a solid conservative, Neil Gorsuch, to the Supreme Court. What would another Trump pick do? Hmm. Let’s see.

It could revoke a woman’s right to determine whether she wants to end a pregnancy; it could mean the end of same-sex marriage, which the court has determined was guaranteed under the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution; it could roll back civil rights guarantees that previous courts have upheld repeatedly.

President Reagan appointed Justice Kennedy to the court in 1988. The president counted on Kennedy being a reliable “conservative” voice on the court. Kennedy hasn’t filled that bill. He has sided with conservatives and with liberals. He’s a swing vote. Kennedy presence on the court produces a certain drama as the public await key court decisions.

He’s now 81 years of age. It’s been reported that he wants to hang up his robe and spend more time with his grandchildren. I get it. Honest. I do. But why not wait another two years, until after the 2020 election? If Trump gets re-elected, then he could quit if he really wants out. If the president is not re-elected and the nation regains its political sanity and elects someone with a clue about how government works, then he surely can retire from the bench.

Just … not yet, Mr. Justice.

Why not just ‘mend’ the 2nd Amendment?

President Gerald R. Ford thought he was appointing a conservative jurist to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1975 when nominated John Paul Stevens.

Wrong, Mr. President. The justice turned out to be a liberal icon on the court. The retired justice has ignited a wildfire. He writes in a New York Times essay that it’s time to — gulp! — repeal the Second Amendment.

Justice Stevens is 97 years of age but he still has a razor-sharp mind. He’s a learned and brilliant man.

That all said, I happen to disagree with him on the need to repeal the amendment that says the “right to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”

Stevens writes, in part: Concern that a national standing army might pose a threat to the security of the separate states led to the adoption of that amendment, which provides that “a well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Today that concern is a relic of the 18th century.

Read the entire essay here.

I don’t intend to suggest I can match Justice Stevens’s intellectual wattage. I just want to offer the view that the Second Amendment contains no language that I can identify that says it must remain sacrosanct.

With the March For Our Lives emboldening literally millions of young Americans to seek legislative remedies to the spasm of gun violence, I am going to cling tightly to the view that those remedies exist somewhere in the legislative sausage grinder. And those remedies can be enacted without repealing the Second Amendment.

I know what the amendment says and nowhere does it ban any reasonable controls on the purchase, sale or the possession of firearms. Gun-rights proponents keep insisting that any legislation that seeks to impose tighter controls on gun purchases launches us down some mysterious “slippery slope.” They fill Americans with the fear that the government is coming for their guns; they’ll be disarmed and made vulnerable to governmental overreach.

That is the worst form of demagoguery imaginable.

Surely there can be some way to allow “law-abiding Americans” to purchase firearms while keeping these weapons out of the hands of lunatics. This can be done under the guise of a Second Amendment guarantee that Americans can “keep and bear Arms.”

SCOTUS gives Dreamers a reprieve; get to work, Congress

Several hundred thousand U.S. residents have just been given a reprieve from a most unlikely source: the Supreme Court of the United States.

The court today declined to consider a Trump administration request to expedite a decision on whether a plan to revoke a Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals directive issued by Donald Trump.

This means the so-called “Dreamers,” those who affected by DACA, have more time to remain in the United States even though they were brought here illegally by their parents when they were children.

According to Politico: The Justice Department had asked the justices to skip the usual appeals court process and review a district court judge’s ruling requiring the administration to resume renewals of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The Supreme Court declined the request Monday with no justices dissenting. The high court could still weigh in later, but the move suggests the justices want to allow one or more appeals courts to take up the question before considering it.

A federal judge has blocked the administration’s plan to cancel President Barack Obama’s DACA order. The issue is now before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Justice Department wanted the court to allow a sped-up process to resolve it in time for the March 5 deadline that the president had set for Congress to come up with a legislative solution for DACA recipients.

I would have thought the Supreme Court would side with the administration, given its ideological bent. Silly me. The court has given DACA recipients more time to stay in the United States, the only country many of them have ever known.

Now, to Congress, I want to offer this word: Get to work to find a solution. These U.S. residents must not be deported and returned to nations they do not know.

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.