Impeachment Moving Forward This Week | Why Democratic Candidates Need To Start Talking About SCOTUS
January 14, 2020
BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATERS|
Today the Supreme Court hears arguments involving the “Bridgegate” scandal in which former New Jersey GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE ordered the shutdown of two of three access lanes from Fort Lee onto the George Washington Bridge (the busiest bridge in the world) as a way to retaliate against a local mayor. It’s possible that justices could rule in this case to throw out the criminal convictions of two NJ officials who were found guilty of fraud for the roles they played in conducting the shutdown. These officials claim that while their conduct might not have been kosher, it wasn’t illegal.
Speaker of the House NANCY PELOSI has announced that there will be a vote Wednesday on a resolution appointing House impeachment managers and transmitting the articles of impeachment to the Senate, allowing the trial of PRESIDENT TRUMP to begin as early as this week. Lisa Mascaro with The Associated Press reports on the important role MITCH MCCONNELL will play in shaping the trial, with notably no mention of CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS in her piece.
NOW WE'RE TALKIN'|
Jeffrey Toobin argues in The New Yorker that Democratic presidential candidates need to start talking about the Supreme Court (Preach!). He says that while Democratic debates have so far all featured lengthy discussions about competing health care plans, there hasn’t been nearly enough talk about the federal judiciary. Next month, a coalition of civil-rights groups will host a presidential forum in New Hampshire that should force the remaining candidates to address judicial issues, including in particular, reproductive rights. Toobin writes, “Do they have litmus tests for judicial nominees? Who are their judicial heroes? What if the Senate is still in Republican hands next year, and McConnell is still in charge? If that’s the case, how would a new Democratic President push through his or her judicial nominees? How big a priority will that be? The answers to those questions may not be clear after this Presidential forum, but at least the candidates will finally be asked the right questions.”
THE BIGGER THE BETTER|
Some Democratic presidential candidates have touched upon the subject of the Supreme Court, though. Thus far, the conversation has focus on potential court reforms such as making the Supreme Court bigger to make up for the conservative “theft” of MERRICK GARLAND’S seat. Bob Egelko with the San Francisco Chronicle reports, “Even if Democrats sweep the November elections, their hopes of rewriting the laws and policies of the Trump administration would face a significant obstacle — a Supreme Court with a conservative majority that is likely to stay in place for another decade or more. So some Democratic presidential candidates are proposing to expand the court, for the first time in 150 years, or to broaden the rules for selecting its members.”
Ian Millhiser with Vox notes that as soon as Friday SCOTUS could take up two consolidated cases “examining the Trump administration’s rules allowing virtually any employer to deny birth control coverage to its employees.” Millhiser explains, “The cases reignite a legal conflict over the rights of employers who object to contraception on religious grounds. This conflict raged throughout much of the Obama administration, then briefly simmered down after JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA’S death temporarily stripped conservatives of the Supreme Court majority they needed to expand the rights of religious employers. The core question in the Pennsylvania cases, however, is not whether the Constitution gives such religious objectors a right to deny contraceptive coverage to their employees. Rather, it’s whether the Trump administration acted properly when it wrote a sweeping exemption into regulations requiring employers to include birth control coverage in employee health plans.”
SCOTUS VIEWSThe Hill
“Actress Michelle Williams got some traction when she used her Golden Globe acceptance speech to champion abortion rights, saying she was ‘grateful to have lived at a moment in our society where choice exists.’ But the moment she spoke of may be fleeting. Three days before Willams’s speech, over 200 members of Congress signed onto an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to reconsider, if not overturn, Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision legalizing abortion in the U.S.”The Atlantic
“Later this month, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear one of the most significant education cases in decades: Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. Centering around a modest tax-credit scholarship program in Montana, Espinoza could have major ramifications for educational-choice programs across America, which help nearly half a million students attend private schools. In deciding Espinoza, the Court has the opportunity to do more than just settle the fate of one controversial tax credit; it could also junk Montana’s Blaine Amendment, finding it in violation of the Constitution’s religious-freedom and equal-protection clauses. In doing so, it would set a strong precedent against any law born of bigotry, even if other justifications seem neutral.”
“The U.S. Supreme Court signaled interest in giving companies a broader shield from lawsuits by victims of overseas atrocities, asking the Trump administration for advice on a case stemming from child slavery on cocoa farms in Ivory Coast. Nestle’s U.S. unit and Cargill Inc. are urging the court to end a suit that accuses them of complicity in the use of forced child labor in the African country. The Supreme Court on Monday asked U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco to advise whether the justices should hear the companies’ appeals.”The Hill
“Google is garnering support from some of its toughest critics amid an upcoming Supreme Court battle with Oracle, pitting some of the tech industry’s most formidable heavyweights against the U.S. government in a fight with billions of dollars and the future of the software industry on the line. Some of Google’s most formidable rivals – including Microsoft, IBM and Mozilla, which makes Firefox – filed amicus briefs on behalf of Google on Monday, arguing the high court could severely harm technological innovation if it sides with Oracle in the landmark copyright case.”Reuters
“The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear Sudan’s bid to avoid paying $3.8 billion in damages to family members of people killed or injured in al Qaeda’s 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania after a lower court found Sudan complicit. Those damages are only a portion of the $10.2 billion a federal judge awarded to the hundreds of plaintiffs who brought several lawsuits in the litigation that began in 2001.”