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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.



Supreme Court pick Barrett draws on faith, family for Senate
Class Action News | 2020/10/11 17:34
Supreme Court  nominee Amy Coney Barrett vows to be a justice “fearless of criticism” as the split Senate charges ahead with confirmation hearings on President Donald Trump’s pick to cement a conservative court majority before Election Day.

Barrett, a federal appeals court judge, draws on faith and family in her prepared opening remarks for the hearings, which begin Monday as the country is in the grips of the coronavirus  pandemic. She says courts “should not try” to make policy, but leave those decisions to the government’s political branches. She believes she would bring “a few new perspectives” as the first mother of school-age children on the nine-member court.

Trump chose the 48-year-old judge after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal icon. “I have been nominated to fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat, but no one will ever take her place,” Barrett says in her remarks to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Associated Press obtained a copy of her statement on Sunday.

Barrett says she has resolved to maintain the same perspective as her mentor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who was “devoted to his family, resolute in his beliefs, and fearless of criticism.” Republicans who control the Senate are moving at a breakneck pace to seat Barrett before the Nov. 3 election, in time to hear a high-profile challenge to the Affordable Care Act and any election-related challenges that may follow the voting.

Another reason for moving quickly: It’s unclear whether the election results would make it harder to confirm Barrett before the end of the year if Democrat Joe Biden were to win the White House and Democrats were to gain seats in the Senate. The hearings are taking place less than a month after the death of Ginsburg gave Trump the chance to entrench a conservative majority on the court with his third justice.

Democrats have pressed in vain to delay the hearings, first because of the proximity to the election and now the virus threat. No Supreme Court has ever been confirmed so close to a presidential election. The country will get an extended look at Barrett over three days, beginning with her opening statement late Monday and hours of questioning Tuesday and Wednesday.


Flowers, homemade signs by high court in Ginsburg tribute
Class Action News | 2020/09/19 18:23
Mourners dropped off bouquets and gathered outside the Supreme Court early Saturday in quiet tribute to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Homemade cardboard signs and a collection of flowers blanketed the court's grounds.

Hours earlier, hundreds of people had turned out after hearing of Ginsburg's death. They wept and sang in a candlelight vigil, packing the high court’s steps in a spontaneous memorial.

Scores of candles flickered in the nighttime wind as people knelt to leave flowers, American flags and handwritten condolence messages for Ginsburg, who died of metastatic pancreatic cancer at age 87 after 27 years on the court. Prayer candles with Ginsburg’s photo on them were also left on the steps.

Several times, dozens in the crowd broke out into song, singing “Amazing Grace” and “This Land is Your Land” as others embraced one another and wiped tears from their eyes. At one point, the crowd broke into a thunderous applause — lasting for about a minute — for Ginsburg.

“Thank you RBG,” one sign read. On the sidewalk, “RBG” was drawn inside a pink chalk heart. Jennifer Berger, 37, said she felt compelled to join the large crowd that gathered to pay tribute to Ginsburg’s life.

“I think it is important for us to recognize such a trailblazer,” she said. “It is amazing to see how many people are feeling this loss tonight and saying goodbye.”

Ginsburg spent her final years on the bench as the unquestioned leader of the court’s liberal wing and became something of a rock star to her admirers. Young women especially seemed to embrace the court’s Jewish grandmother, affectionately calling her the Notorious RBG, for her defense of the rights of women and minorities.

The memorial service remained mostly peaceful and somber, but turned tense for several minutes after a man with a megaphone approached people in the crowd and began to chant that “Roe v. Wade is dead,” a refence to the landmark Supreme Court ruling establishing abortion rights nationwide.

A large group confronted the man, leading to a brief shouting match. Many in the crowd began yelling “RBG” to try to drown out the man’s voice as he continued to say Republicans would push to quickly appoint a conservative justice to the court. Supreme Court police officers stood alongside the crowd and the man eventually left the area.


Colombia court calls on Uribe to testify in massacre probe
Class Action News | 2020/08/24 08:02
Colombia’s Supreme Court is calling on powerful former President Alvaro Uribe to testify in an investigation into three massacres that could once and for all establish whether he had any ties to violent paramilitary groups.

The new legal quandary for Uribe is potentially more damaging than a separate Supreme Court probe into possible witness tampering that sparked protests earlier this month after magistrates placed the ex-president on house arrest.

Details of the massacre inquiry are contained in a 71-page court document obtained by The Associated Press on Sunday and also published in local media in which magistrates examine whether Uribe had any connection to three mass killings in the Antioquia department as well as the death of a human rights activist during his time as governor.

Both cases strike at long-standing ? but never legally proven ? accusations that Uribe had a direct role in paramilitary groups, which were formed by landowners during Colombia’s long civil conflict to fight violent Marxist guerrillas.

Though the Supreme Court is still in an investigative stage, the inquiries have split open tensions in Colombia over the peace process that led to an accord with the country’s biggest rebel movement. Uribe has vehemently denied the accusations and his lawyer is calling into question the timing of the new court request. Human rights activists, meanwhile, have praised the court for advancing the probes in a country where the powerful routinely escape accountability.


Court halts police subpoena for media’s protest images
Class Action News | 2020/08/21 08:04
Less than 24 hours before a court order would have required five Seattle media companies to turn over unpublished protest photos and videos to police, the state Supreme Court has granted them a temporary respite.

A Washington state Supreme Court commissioner on Thursday postponed a King County judge’s order that would have required The Seattle Times and local television stations KIRO, KING, KOMO and KCPQ, to comply with a Seattle police subpoena by handing over photos and video taken during racial injustice protests.

Instead, Commissioner Michael E. Johnston agreed with the news companies’ motion for an emergency stay while the high court considers the media groups’ appeal of King County Superior Court Judge Nelson Lee’s July 31 order, The Seattle Times reported.

“On balance, I am not persuaded that the potential harm to SPD (Seattle Police Department) outweighs the potential harm to the news media,” Johnston wrote in his ruling.

Lee had given the news companies until Aug. 21 to produce to his court their unpublished images from a 90-minute period when protests turned chaotic in downtown Seattle on May 30.

Last month, the Seattle Police Department contended it was at a standstill in its investigation of arson and thefts that day, leading detectives to seek and obtain a subpoena for the images. Investigators say the images could help identify people who torched five Seattle Police Department vehicles and stole two police guns from police vehicles during the mayhem.

The news groups countered that Washington’s so-called “shield law” protected the images from disclosure. As in most states, journalists in Washington are shielded from law enforcement subpoenas except under limited circumstances. The laws are an extension of the First Amendment, meant to guard against government interference in news gathering.

Lee, a former King County prosecutor, ruled that the rare public safety concerns of the case overrode the shield law’s protections, subjecting the news photos and video to the subpoena. Under his order, Lee or a special master of his choosing would have screened the media images privately to decide whether any should be turned over to police.

The ruling drew criticism from First Amendment groups, the American Civil Liberties Union, press organizations and members of the Seattle City Council, who asked City Attorney Pete Holmes to drop the subpoena. Seattle police officials, however, have defended the subpoena as necessary to solve the investigation and retrieve the weapons, which remain missing.

On Aug. 11, the news groups appealed directly to the Supreme Court, asking the panel to halt enforcement of the subpoena until the court resolved the news groups’ contentions that Lee erred in his ruling.

“The equities favor the news media, though I am deeply mindful of the public safety concerns attendant to stolen police firearms and intentional destruction of law enforcement vehicles and other property,” Johnston wrote.

The Supreme Court will decide at “the earliest opportunity as to whether to retain the (media companies’) appeal or refer it to the Court of Appeals,” Johnston’s ruling stated.


US Supreme Court denies Nevada church’s appeal of virus rule
Class Action News | 2020/07/25 02:57
A sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court denied a rural Nevada church’s request late Friday to strike down as unconstitutional a 50-person cap on worship services as part of the state’s ongoing response to the coronavirus.

In a 5-4 decision, the high court refused to grant the request from the Christian church east of Reno to be subjected to the same COVID-19 restrictions in Nevada that allow casinos, restaurants and other businesses to operate at 50% of capacity with proper social distancing.

Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley argued that the hard cap on religious gatherings was an unconstitutional violation of its parishioners’ First Amendment rights to express and exercise their beliefs.

Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal majority in denying the request without explanation.

Three justices wrote strongly worded dissenting opinions on behalf of the four conservatives who said they would have granted the injunctive relief while the court fully considers the merits of the case.

“That Nevada would discriminate in favor of the powerful gaming industry and its employees may not come as a surprise, but this Court’s willingness to allow such discrimination is disappointing,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in a dissent joined by Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh.

“We have a duty to defend the Constitution, and even a public health emergency does not absolve us of that responsibility,” Alito said. “The Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion. It says nothing about freedom to play craps or blackjack, to feed tokens into a slot machine or to engage in any other game of chance.”

Kavanaugh also wrote his own dissent, as did Justice Neil Gorsuch, who said today’s world “with a pandemic upon us, poses unusual challenges.”

“But there is no world in which the Constitution permits Nevada to favor Caesars Palace over Calvary Chapel,” Gorsuch wrote.

David Cortman, senior counsel for Georgia-based Alliance Defending Freedom representing the church, said in an email sent to The Associated Press late Friday that they were disappointed in the ruling but will continue to work to protect Calvary Chapel and others “from discriminatory policies that put religious groups at the back of the line for reopening.”

“When the government treats churches worse than casinos, gyms, and indoor amusement parks in its COVID-19 response, it clearly violates the Constitution,” he said.

The governor’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.


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