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US to get 9th justice with Dems powerless to block Barrett
Attorney Blogs | 2020/10/27 23:33
A divided Senate is set to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, giving the country a ninth justice Monday as Republicans overpower Democratic opposition to secure President Donald Trump’s nominee the week before Election Day.

Democratic leaders asked Vice President Mike Pence to stay away from presiding over her Senate confirmation due to potential health risks after his aides tested positive for COVID-19. But although Pence isn’t needed to break a tie, the vote would present a dramatic opportunity for him to preside over confirmation of Trump’s third Supreme Court justice.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and his leadership team wrote that not only would Pence’s presence violate Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, “it would also be a violation of common decency and courtesy.”

But Senate Republicans control the chamber and Barrett’s confirmation isn’t in doubt.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell scoffed at the “apocalyptic” warnings from critics that the judicial branch was becoming mired in partisan politics as he defended its transformation under his watch.

“This is something to be really proud of and feel good about,” the Republican leader said Sunday during a rare weekend session.

McConnell said that unlike legislative actions that can be undone by new presidents or lawmakers, “they won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”

Schumer, of New York, said the Trump administration’s drive to install Barrett during the coronavirus crisis shows “the Republican Party is willing to ignore the pandemic in order to rush this nominee forward.”

To underscore the potential health risks, Schumer urged his colleagues Sunday not to linger in the chamber but “cast your votes quickly and from a safe distance.” Some GOP senators tested positive for the coronavirus following a Rose Garden event with Trump to announce Barrett’s nomination, but they have since said they have been cleared by their doctors from quarantine. Pence’s office said the vice president tested negative for the virus on Monday.

The confirmation was expected to be the first of a Supreme Court nominee so close to a presidential election. It’s also one of the first high court nominees in recent memory receiving no support from the minority party, a pivot from not long ago when a president’s picks often won wide support.


Trump, Biden lawyer up, brace for White House legal battle
Employment Law | 2020/10/25 04:30
President Donald Trump’s and Democratic rival Joe Biden’s campaigns are assembling armies of powerful lawyers for the possibility that the race for the White House is decided not at the ballot box but in court.

They have been engaging in a lawyer’s version of tabletop war games, churning out draft pleadings, briefs and memos to cover scenarios that read like the stuff of a law school hypothetical more than a real-life case in a democracy.

Attorneys for the Republicans and the Democrats are already clashing in courts across the U.S. over mailed-in ballot deadlines and other issues brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. And as Trump tries to sow doubt in the legitimacy of the Nov. 3 election, both sides have built massive legal operations readying for a bitterly disputed race that lands at the Supreme Court.

“We’ve been preparing for this for well over a year,” Republican National Committee Chief Counsel Justin Riemer told The Associated Press. “We’ve been working with the campaign on our strategy for recount preparation, for Election Day operations and our litigation strategy.”

On the Democratic side, the Biden campaign’s election protection program includes a special national litigation team involving hundreds of lawyers led by Walter Dellinger, acting solicitor general in the Clinton administration, and Donald Verrilli, a solicitor general under President Barack Obama, among others. Bob Bauer, a former White House counsel to Obama, and Biden campaign general counsel Dana Remus are focused on protecting the rights of voters, who have been enduring long lines at polling places around the country on the belief that the presidential election will be decided by their ballots.

Both sides are informed by the experience of the 2000 election, which was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore. But this year, because Trump has pushed unsubstantiated claims about the potential for voter fraud with increased voting by mail, sowing doubt about the integrity of the result, lawyers are preparing for a return trip before the high court.


Supreme Court puts curbside voting on hold in Alabama
Business Law Info | 2020/10/22 11:31
The Supreme Court on Wednesday put on hold a lower court order that would have permitted curbside voting in Alabama in November.

The justices' vote was 5-3, with the court's three liberals dissenting. As is typical when the Supreme Court acts on an emergency basis, the justices in the majority did not explain their decision. It was not clear how many counties might have offered curbside voting, allowing people to vote from their car by handing their ballot to a poll worker.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in a dissent joined by Justice Stephen Breyer and Justice Elena Kagan, described the lower court's order allowing curbside voting in November as “modest,” and she said she would not have put it on hold.

“It does not require all counties to adopt curbside voting; it simply gives prepared counties the option to do so. This remedy respects both the right of voters with disabilities to vote safely and the State’s interest in orderly elections,” she said, noting that 28 states permit curbside voting.

The decision stemmed from a lawsuit the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program filed on behalf of voters with health issues who were concerned about the risk of COVID-19 at the polls.

The state’s Republican attorney general and secretary of state sought to block a lower court's ruling in the case that would have let counties offer curbside voting. Lawyers for the state argued that since Alabama does not have a law expressly permitting curbside voting, that it should not be allowed.

“I am very enthusiastic that the Supreme Court of the United States has seen fit to secure Alabama’s election integrity by ruling as to the letter and the spirit of the law," Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said in a telephone interview.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall argued Alabama has “taken extraordinary measures to ensure that all voters can vote safely," and that it would be potentially chaotic to rapidly implement curbside voting days ahead of the election.



Supreme Court to review Trump's 'Remain in Mexico' policy
Court Feed News | 2020/10/19 16:16
The Supreme Court is agreeing to review a Trump administration policy that makes asylum-seekers wait in Mexico for U.S. court hearings.

As is typical, the court did not comment Monday in announcing it would hear the case. Because the court's calendar is already full through the end of the year, the justices will not hear the case until 2021. If Joe Biden were to win the presidential election and rescind the policy, the case would become largely moot.

Trump's “Migrant Protection Protocols” policy, known informally as “Remain in Mexico,” was introduced in January 2019. It became a key pillar of the administration’s response to an unprecedented surge of asylum-seeking families at the border, drawing criticism for having people wait in highly dangerous Mexican cities.

Lower courts found that the policy is probably illegal. But earlier this year the Supreme Court stepped in to allow the policy to remain in effect while a lawsuit challenging it plays out in the courts.

More than 60,000 asylum-seekers were returned to Mexico under the policy. The Justice Department estimated in late February that there were 25,000 people still waiting in Mexico for hearings in U.S. court. Those hearings were suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.


Justices to weigh Trump census plan to exclude noncitizens
Business Law Info | 2020/10/17 23:05
The Supreme Court agreed Friday to take up President Donald Trump’s policy, blocked by a lower court, to exclude people living in the U.S. illegally from the census count that will be used to allocate seats in the House of Representatives. Never in U.S. history have immigrants been excluded from the population count that determines how House seats, and by extension Electoral College votes, are divided among the states, a three-judge federal count said in September when it held Trump’s policy illegal.

The justices put the case on a fast track, setting arguments for Nov. 30. A decision is expected by the end of the year or early in January, when Trump has to report census numbers to the House. Trump’s high court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, could take part in the case if, as seems likely, she is confirmed by then. Last year, the court by a 5-4 vote barred Trump from adding a census question asking people about their citizenship. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last month, was part of that slim majority. Barrett would take Ginsburg’s seat.

“President Trump has repeatedly tried ? and failed ? to weaponize the census for his attacks on immigrant communities. The Supreme Court rejected his attempt last year and should do so again,” said American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Dale Ho, representing a coalition of immigrant advocacy groups that challenged Trump’s plan in court.

Trump left it to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Census Bureau, to figure out how many immigrants are not living legally in each state. The outcome of the census case could affect the distribution of political power for the next 10 years. The census also helps determine the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal funding annually. The administration told the court that the president retains “discretion to exclude illegal aliens from the apportionment based on their immigration status.”

Trump’s violation of federal law is “not particularly close or complicated,” the ACLU said in a court filing arguing that the court shouldn’t hear the case. The Supreme Court separately allowed the administration to end the actual census count this week, blocking a court order that would have kept the count going until the end of the month.

The court did not take action on two other administration appeals of controversial policies on asylum seekers and the border wall that also were ruled illegal by lower courts. Since early last year, the administration has made asylum-seekers wait in Mexico for U.S. court hearings, which has forced tens of thousands of people to return to Mexico.


Barrett bats away tough Democratic confirmation probing
Class Action News | 2020/10/15 16:38
Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett batted away Democrats’ skeptical questions Tuesday on abortion, health care and a possible disputed-election fight over transferring presidential power, insisting in a long and lively confirmation hearing she would bring no personal agenda to the court but decide cases “as they come.”

The 48-year-old appellate court judge declared her conservative views with often colloquial language, but refused many specifics. She declined to say whether she would recuse herself from any election-related cases involving President Donald Trump, who nominated her to fill the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and is pressing to have her confirmed before the the Nov. 3 election.

“Judges can’t just wake up one day and say I have an agenda ? I like guns, I hate guns, I like abortion, I hate abortion ? and walk in like a royal queen and impose their will on the world,” Barrett told the Senate Judiciary Committee during its second day of hearings.

“It’s not the law of Amy,” she said. “It’s the law of the American people.”

Barrett returned to a Capitol Hill mostly shut down by COVID-19 protocols, the mood quickly shifting to a more confrontational tone  from opening day. She was grilled by Democrats strongly opposed to Trump’s nominee yet unable to stop her. Excited by the prospect of a judge aligned with the late Antonin Scalia, Trump’s Republican allies are rushing ahead to install a 6-3 conservative court majority for years to come.

The president seemed pleased with her performance. “I think Amy’s doing incredibly well,” he said at the White House departing for a campaign rally.

Trump has said he wants a justice seated for any disputes arising from his heated election with Democrat Joe Biden, but Barrett testified she has not spoken to Trump or his team about election cases. Pressed by panel Democrats, she skipped past questions about ensuring the date of the election or preventing voter intimidation, both set in federal law, and the peaceful transfer of presidential power. She declined to commit to recusing herself from any post-election cases without first consulting the other justices.

“I can’t offer an opinion on recusal without short-circuiting that entire process,” she said.

A frustrated Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the panel, all but implored the nominee to be more specific about how she would handle landmark abortion cases, including Roe v. Wade and the follow-up Pennsylvania case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which confirmed it in large part.



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