U.S. Supreme Court

One of Those Moments (… cum Farce)

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testifies to the House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., 13 December 2017. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

To the one, something goes here about unnamed sources; it’s a long question, by now. To the other, though—

For all the morning’s madness, there may have been an underlying logic. Over the weekend, as Brett Kavanaugh’s prospects appeared increasingly imperiled, Trump faced two tactical options, both of them fraught. One was to cut Kavanaugh loose. But he was also looking for ways to dramatically shift the news cycle away from his embattled Supreme Court nominee. According to a source briefed on Trump’s thinking, Trump decided that firing Rosenstein would knock Kavanaugh out of the news, potentially saving his nomination and Republicans’ chances for keeping the Senate. “The strategy was to try and do something really big,” the source said. The leak about Rosenstein’s resignation could have been the result, and it certainly had the desired effect of driving Kavanaugh out of the news for a few hours.

(Sherman)

President Donald Trump speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, in Washington, D.C., 24 May 2018. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo)—this is the Trump administration: What insanity will we be expected to believe, tomorrow? The question is how well a bit like this ages; certes, it makes a powerful headline, but the instinct to disbelieve seems largely reasonable.

And, again, to the other, this is the Trump administration. The idea of a T&A comedy presidency ought to be a really stupid joke. Something, something, Trump administration, right. This really is what they voted for, and no, it’s been more of a tragedy cum farce than any sort of comedy. It really isn’t funny.

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Image notes: Top — Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testifies to the House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., 13 December 2017. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)  Right — President Donald Trump speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, in Washington, D.C., 24 May 2018. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo)

Sherman, Gabe. “‘The Strategy Was to Try and Do Something Really Big’: Trump Wanted to Nuke Rosenstein to Save Kavanaugh’s Bacon”. Vanity Fair. 24 September 2018.

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What They Vote For (Yellowhammer Special)

#supremacism | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Lebanon's memories: Pictures of Lebanon's family, in happier days. (Detail of frame from Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor, episode 5, "Gunsmoke Blows, Life Flows...")

This is the sort of thing only voters can achieve:

Rep. Mo Brooks is moving on after a distant third-place finish in the Republican primary on Tuesday for the Alabama Senate special election.

And Brooks is doing that without endorsing either of the two men, Judge Roy Moore and appointed Sen. Luther Strange, who beat him to enter a runoff on Sept. 26 to decide the GOP nominee.

(Connolly)

More precisely: After rejecting Rep. Mo Brooks to replace Attorney General and former U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, voters find themselves presented with a choice between the disgraceful Luther Strange and the disgraced Roy Moore, and history reminds that state voters have already re-elected the twice-disgraced former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court after his first tumble from grace for abuse of authority. What chance does Luther Strange have? All he ever did was take his dispute against human rights, on behalf of religious supremacism, to the Supreme Court and lose.

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Where the Tide Takes Us

The hammer drops

The application for stay presented to Justice Kennedy and by him referred to the Court is denied. The orders heretofore entered by Justice Kennedy are vacated.

Supreme Court of the United States

This is not an unexpected outcome. Indeed, the blunt, unsigned order refusing Idaho’s request to stay the Ninth Circuit decision striking the state’s same-sex marriage ban is pretty much exactly expected. The only strange thing about it, really, is that the order exists at all.

The point arose last week when the Court refused to hear arguments from several states after Appeals courts struck their marriage bans. As Rachel Maddow explained to viewers:

So, there are nine Supreme Court justices. Do the math. If you want to win a case at the Supreme Court, you need five votes. You need five justices on your side. You need five votes to win a case.

But it only takes four votes for the Supreme Court to decide to take a case in the first place. So, we know there are four anti-gay marriage justices on the Supreme Court—Scalia, Roberts, Alito and Thomas. If they had wanted to hear one of these cases today, if they had wanted the chance to overturn one of those pro-gay marriage cases from the lower courts, those four justices had enough votes to take the case to do it.

I mean, the anti-gay marriage side could have taken one of those cases if they want to. So, why didn’t they?

Latta is an Article IV case. The thing is that no excuse a judge might invent to try to get around Amendment XIV, the Equal Protection Clause, marriage equality runs up against the Full Faith and Credit Clause of Article IV of the Constitution.

Given that the Supreme Court just said no to appeals in Article IV cases, one might wonder why Justice Kennedy thought to issue a stay and ask his colleagues to undertake another Article IV case.

Lyle Denniston brings us the answer:

Without explanation, the Supreme Court late Friday afternoon rejected a request by state officials in Idaho to postpone a lower-court ruling that had nullified the ban on same-sex marriage there. The two-sentence order also lifted an earlier order by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy temporarily delaying that decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

There were no noted dissents from the Court’s new order. Although it gave no reasons, the Court’s action was a further indication that the Justices are unwilling to be drawn into the constitutional controversy at this point, leaving it to lower courts to continue to explore it. Idaho officials had tried to convince the Court that their case was different from the ones that the Court had bypassed on Monday.

Certainly, it was a weak reason, but, you know, it is no big deal, right? Just making people wait for their civil rights in order to be nice to Idaho while they attempt to make an impossible argument.

Nonetheless, Idaho is go. And, you know, it was only a day. What’s another day after all these years?

Oh. Right. Obergefell. Which reminds, there is no news from the Sixth.

But there is news from North Carolina, where a District Court in Charlotte struck the Tar Heel State’s marriage ban according to Bostic v. Schaefer, a Fourth Circuit case the Supreme Court refused.

Additionally, Denniston explains the Ninth Circuit Memorandum issued Saturday, bringing a formal end to the moot Jackson v. Abercrombie in Hawai’i. It’s a happy ending.

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Supreme Court of the United States. “Order in Pending Case”. Otter v. Latta. 10 October 2014.

Maddow, Rachel. “‘Edie and Thea’ lead way to marriage equality, argle-bargle notwithstanding”. The Rachel Maddow Show. msnbc. 6 October 2014.

Denniston, Lyle. “No delay on Idaho same-sex marriages”. SCOTUSblog. 10 October 2014.

Cogburn, Max O. “Memorandum of Decision and Order”. General Synod of the United Church of Christ v. Resinger. United States District Court Western District of North Carolina Charlotte Division. 10 October 2014.

United States District Court for the District of Hawaii. “Memorandum”. Jackson v. Abercrombie and Bradley v. Abercrombie. 10 October 2014.

Follow-up … Clean-up … Something-up

The Rachel Maddow Show, 6 October 2014

Rachel Maddow’s nearly giddy segment on msnbc last night noted that when the full effect of yesterday’s Supreme Court rejection of appeals against marriage equality reaches the states, the roster will equal thirty states. And she looked forward to decisions expected from the Sixth and Ninth.

Today, the hammer dropped in the Ninth; Dale Carpenter quips:

I haven’t read the Ninth Circuit opinion yet. I have to teach now, so it would be nice if the courts would stop issuing gay-marriage decisions for an hour or so.

The estimable Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog explains what happened in the Ninth:

The Ninth Circuit’s ruling was made up of three parts.

First, all three judges on the panel joined in an opinion by Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt finding that the Idaho and Nevada bans violate the constitutional guarantee of same-sex couples to be treated the same legally as opposite-sex couples. Second, Judge Reinhardt issued a separate opinion, for himself only, saying he would also strike down those bans under the Constitution’s Due Process Clause, arguing that the right to marry is a fundamental guarantee and that gays and lesbians have a right to share in that right. Third, Circuit Judge Marsha S. Berzon, in a separate opinion only for herself, said she would have also struck down the bans on the premise that they discriminate on the basis of gender.

The third member, Circuit Judge Ronald M. Gould, joined only the main opinion on the equal protection principle.

This ruling was perhaps the least surprising among four federal courts of appeals decisions striking down state prohibitions on same-sex couples marrying, and already-married couples gaining official state recognition of those unions, performed elsewhere.

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Something About Today: Quiet Hash

USConstitution-ArticleIV-header

Sometimes the answers really are blowing in the wind, even if the answer is nothing more than the sounds of silence. Of course, in modern America genuine silence is hard to come by. Kate Nocera explains for Buzzfeed:

On Monday afternoon, Sen. Mike Lee was one of the few GOP members to issue a statement. His home state of Utah was one of the states where a marriage ban was overturned by an appeals court and the state is now moving forward with allowing same-sex couples to marry. Lee called the Supreme Court decision to not review the appeals “disappointing.”

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz likewise criticized the decision on the part of the court and announced that he would introduce a constitutional amendment that would allow the states to define marriage.

“I will be introducing a constitutional amendment to prevent the federal government or the courts from attacking or striking down state marriage laws,” Cruz said.

Supreme Court decisions are often met with swift reaction from members on Capitol Hill, filling reporter’s inboxes with statements of disappointment or support for whatever the justices have ruled. All the more when the decision impacts a hot-button social issue.

The muted response from congressional Republicans is telling. As public opinion on legalizing marriage for same-sex couples has dramatically shifted in its favor, the GOP’s opposition has quieted. Republicans have often argued that the decision on marriage should be left up to the states.

And let us bear in mind that Sen. Lee (R-UT) is from one of the rejected states; it’s hard for the Utah delegation to say absolutely nothing. And the Republican junior from Texas? Sen. Cruz, the strict constitutional constructionalist, is welcome to try. You know, since strict construction fails to satisfy his desires.

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How It Goes: Recognition Edition

Last month, Emma Margolin undertook an effort to list the reasons why the Supreme Court was expected to take up marriage equality in the new term that began today. And, of course, something about today, because the msnbc reporter brings the news that we should add five states to the officially official marriage equality roster:

Marriage equality is coming to five more states – with six more on the way.

Practically, today SCOTUS recognized a right to SSM. Implausible that later it will undo marriages, absent a big change in Ct’s membership. (SCOTUSblog via Twitter)The Supreme Court on Monday rejected appeals to hear same-sex marriage cases out of Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin – all of which saw their bans fall in both federal district and appeals courts. The move immediately legalizes marriage equality in those five states, and will soon topple bans in six other states that make up the 4th, 7th, and 10th circuits. Those states include Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming, bringing the total number of states where gay and lesbian couples can wed from 19 plus the District of Columbia to 30 – more than half the nation.

With a ruling expected sometime this fall, all eyes turn to the Sixth Circuit, where it is hard to imagine the court rejecting Full Faith and Credit.

SCOTUSblog checked in with the summary reflecting the sentiments coloring the headlines:

Practically, today SCOTUS recognized a right to SSM. Implausible that later it will undo marriages, absent a big change in Ct’s membership.

And so it goes. For now.

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Margolin, Emma. “Five signs the Supreme Court will take up gay marriage”. msnbc. 29 September 2014.

—————. “Marriage equality comes to five more states”. msnbc. 6 October 2014.

SCOTUSblog. “Practically, today SCOTUS recognized a right to SSM”. Twitter. 6 October 2014.

One of the Most Fascinating Political Questions of the Year

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

“Despite my deep respect and admiration for Ginsburg and her inspiring career, I find her approach extraordinarily reckless. For all of our sakes, here’s hoping her gamble pays off.”

Steve Benen

And as much as we all at This Is adore Mr. Benen’s insightful analyses, we do indeed disagree on occasion. And in the matter of whether or not Justice Ginsburg should retire, a simple question asserts itself: Do we trust Justice Ginsburg?

Benen’s overview is sufficient, let there be no doubt. And, to be certain, it is fair to point out that Ginsburg’s political calculations are not without risk. Furthermore, of course we all, as such, hope the gamble pays off. But in a time so uncertain as to cloud the prognostications of conventional wisdom, it also pays well to remember that not all things are equal. On paper, sure, the analysis suggesting Ginsburg is taking too big a risk by her political calculation is at least arguable. But what of the human terms? The variables resolve with diverse values, and in that, quite frankly, it is not a matter of who does one trust, Mr. Benen or Justice Ginsburg. The question to consider is whether or not one trusts Justice Ginsburg.

Fear the FrillIf her calculation is so dangerously awry, she ought not be on the Court in the first place. Those of us who not only appreciate her presence on the Court but also recognize the magnitude of what kindness history will speak of her tenure have every reason to trust Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

In a way, it does help to point out: Remember, she’s the one throwing down. And before anyone stutters about Scalia or Alito or whoever, that is beside the point. Ginsburg recently let the lower courts know what was on the minds of the Supremes and while Justice Scalia was in Texas explaining why the perspectives of self-centered supremacist bigots from the eighteenth century should describe the twenty-first, Ginsburg explained to law students in Minnesota that the nation’s ranking court would not get involved in the growing noise and bluster over same-sex marriage unless lower courts botch it all up.

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A Note on Narrative and Context: Life and Death Edition

 Henry Lee McCollum wiped tears at a hearing Tuesday in Lumberton, N.C., where a judge declared him and his half brother Leon Brown innocent and ordered them both released from prison. Credit Chuck Liddy/The News & Observer

“I feel very, very sorry for them and I’m glad to know they’re out. At least the process worked, it just took too long.”

―State Rep. Thom Tillis (R-NC98)

Context … is … everything.

At first blush, North Carolina State Speaker of the House Thom Tillis seems to have the right answer, politically speaking, to the inherent question of just what happened the now-infamous case of Henry Lee McCollum and Leon Brown. Mr. McCollum spent thirty years on death row, and his half-brother Leon Brown the same period under a life sentence; as the fact of their innocence echoes from sea to shining sea, the tragic tale is also boosted into the realm of the political circus, courtesy the one and only Justice Scalia:

The exoneration ends decades of legal and political battles over a case that became notorious in North Carolina and received nationwide discussion, vividly reflecting the country’s fractured views of the death penalty.

The two young defendants were prosecuted by Joe Freeman Britt, the 6-foot-6, Bible-quoting district attorney who was later profiled by “60 Minutes” as the country’s “deadliest D.A.” because he sought the death penalty so often.

For death penalty supporters, the horrifying facts of the girl’s rape and murder only emphasized the justice of applying the ultimate penalty. As recently as 2010, the North Carolina Republican Party put Mr. McCollum’s booking photograph on campaign fliers that accused a Democratic candidate of being soft on crime, according to The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C.

In 1994, when the United States Supreme Court turned down a request to review the case, Justice Antonin Scalia described Mr. McCollum’s crime as so heinous that it would be hard to argue against lethal injection. But Justice Harry A. Blackmun, in a dissent, noted that Mr. McCollum had the mental age of a 9-year-old and that “this factor alone persuades me that the death penalty in this case is unconstitutional.”

It was a spectacular line Scalia uttered; far beneath the dignity of any court in this fair land. Jonathan M. Katz and Erik Eckholm were kind enough to omit it from their New York Times article describing this week’s acquittal of McCollum and Brown, but still manage to make the point, anyway. This was just one of those cases, and in his own, inimitable way, Justice Scalia may well, by the fact of these acquittals, see what was merely crass and inflammatory rhetoric transformed into an icon of his shameful tenure on the Nation’s Highest Court.

But, yes, at first glance, it might seem Tillis has said exactly the right thing. The Devil, of course, is in the details:

Now middle aged, the two brothers have been in prison — one of them on death row — since they were teenagers, wrongfully accused of raping and murdering a child. When ThinkProgress asked Tillis if anything needs to change in light of this case, he said that because they were eventually exonerated, “It’s an example of how we have protections in our judicial system in North Carolina.”

“I feel very, very sorry for them and I’m glad to know they’re out,” he said. “At least the process worked, it just took too long.”

(Ollstein)

It’s called WYWA. The point is to answer the question you Wish You Were Asked. This is, of course, standard fare, and as much as it might annoy us, it is also true that voters respond affirmatively; if you cannot answer WYWA, you do not stand a chance.

But in this case, Tillis’ answer would seem to leave a certain issue unresolved. If the question is if anything needs to be changed, and the answer is that at least the system worked and an example of how we have protections, then what about how it just took too long?

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