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Court Won’t Let Border Wall Plans Move Forward

The Trump Administration wants to move forward with building a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, but lawsuits are stopping this from happening. A federal appeals court this week declined to issue a stay that would allow the wall work to proceed.

 

President Trump has made a border wall a top priority for his administration. Congress, however, has failed to provide money to build one. After a government shutdown earlier this year over the issue, the president used his emergency power to re-allocate funds to build such a wall. Residents in the border area went to court to stop this construction.

 

These residents argued that the president is violating the Constitution and federal law by his emergency action. They say that Congress did not appropriate funds for a border wall, so the president should not be able to build a wall. Federal courts have agreed with this argument, stopping the Trump Administration from proceeding with border barriers.

 

The Justice Department asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to stay these lower court orders, which would allowed construction to begin. By a 2-1 decision, a panel of this court’s judges disagreed. They wrote that the president is indeed misusing his authority:

 

The Constitution assigns to Congress the power of the purse. Under the Appropriations Clause, it is Congress that is to make decisions regarding how to spend taxpayer dollars. Congress did not appropriate money to build the border barriers Defendants seek to build here. Congress presumably decided such construction at this time was not in the public interest. It is not for us to reach a different conclusion.

 

The Trump Administration argues that the wall is necessary to secure the border from drug traffickers and illegal immigrants.

 

This decision by the 9th Circuit judges does not end the matter. The Justice Department can continue its legal fight in favor of the border wall, which means the Supreme Court may ultimately decide this matter.

 

Do you think that President Trump misused his power to spend money for a border wall when Congress did not authorize such spending?

Judge Blocks Indefinite Detention of Asylum-Seekers

A federal judge dealt the Trump Administration another setback in its quest to reshape the nation’s immigration policy. Judge Marsha J. Pechman issued a nationwide injunction stopping the administration’s plan to end bail hearings for some asylum seekers. The White House blasted the judge, saying she had no authority to do this.

 

Judge Pechman’s order affected a decision by Attorney General William Barr to end bail hearings for some people who have entered the U.S. seeking asylum. This order would have left these individuals in detention indefinitely, without any chance to request a hearing for release.

 

In the judge’s decision, she wrote “that plaintiffs have established a constitutionally protected interest in their liberty, a right to due process, which includes a hearing before a neutral decision maker to assess the necessity of their detention and a likelihood of success on the merits of that issue.”

 

She then ordered that these asylum seekers must either have a bond hearing within seven days of detention or be released.

 

In response, White House spokesperson Stephanie Grisham released a statement saying, “The decision only incentivizes smugglers and traffickers, which will lead to the further overwhelming of our immigration system by illegal aliens. No single district judge has legitimate authority to impose his or her open borders views on the country.”

 

This case is the latest in a series of decisions where federal judges have blocked or overturned aspects of the Trump Administration’s changes to immigration policy.

 

Do you think that asylum seekers should be able to be held without a bail hearing? Should a federal judge be able to block implementation of a policy nationwide?

Senators Speeding up Confirmations after Rule Change

Confirming President Trump’s nominees has been a top priority of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Last week he engineered a step that speeds up Senate confirmation, and this week the Senate moved quickly to approve numerous nominees put forward by the president.

 

Senate rules have traditionally given senators numerous ways to block or delay consideration of legislation or nominees. In recent years, however, when the president’s party controls the Senate, the majority leader has taken steps to limit the minority’s power when he perceives it as being obstructionist. In 2013, then-Majority Leader Harry Reid thought that Republicans were blocking too many of President Obama’s nominees. He ended the judicial filibuster for lower court nominees, allowing them to be confirmed with a majority vote instead of a supermajority.

 

Since President Trump has been elected, Senator Mitch McConnell has eliminated the judicial filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. Last week he also eliminated the 30-hour rule for consideration of nominees, limiting debate time to 2 hours. Senate Democrats had been using that rule to delay many of President Trump’s nominees, even though they could not ultimately stop them.

 

While it takes a supermajority to change Senate rules, it only takes a majority to change how the Senate interprets these rules. Both Senators Reid and McConnell have used this “nuclear option” to make their rule changes. By a vote of 48-51, senators on April 3 voted against sustaining the ruling of the parliamentarian who said that debate over nominees must last 30 hours.


The Senate has moved 9 nominees under this expedited consideration process:

  • David Bernhardt, Secretary of the Interior, 56-41
  • Steven Morales, U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Texas, 56-41
  • Holly Brady, District Judge for the Northern District of Indiana, 56-42
  • John Abizaid, Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, 92-7
  • Cheryl Marie Stanton, Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor, 53-45
  • Patrick Wyrick, Judge for the Western District of Oklahoma, 53-47
  • Daniel Domenico, Judge for the District of Colorado, 57-42
  • Mark Calabria, Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, 52-44
  • Kalman Altman, Judge for the Southern District of Florida, 66-33

 

Do you support Majority Leader McConnell’s move to speed up consideration of presidential nominees? Do you think that Senate Democrats are right to use 30 hours of debate on President Trump’s nominees?

Representative Wants to Amend Constitution to Prevent Court Packing

It’s a hot topic in the emerging Democratic presidential primary – enlarging the Supreme Court’s membership. Critics call lit “court packing,” and one member of Congress wants to amend the Constitution to prevent it.

 

Right now, there are 9 Supreme Court justices. This number is fixed by law, not the Constitution. In the past, the Supreme Court has had both more than 9 justices and fewer. Senator Elizabeth Warren has said that this number should be enlarged to “de-politicize” the high court. In this view, recent Republican tactics over Supreme Court nominations have been unfair, leading to a politicized court. Some of Warren’s fellow candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, such as Sen. Kamala Harris and Beto O’Rourke, have also expressed support for expanding the number of justices.

 

Rep. Mark Green, a Tennessee Republican, is pushing back against this idea by introducing an amendment to the Constitution that would permanently set the number of Supreme Court justices at 9. Those who oppose Sen. Warren’s plan argue that expanding the membership would be the event that politicizes the court, since every new president would be tempted to do that. In this view, a change in presidential party control would lead to more Supreme Court members that reflect that partisan preference. Having a fixed number would prevent presidents from doing this.

 

While some Democrats have expressed support for a “court packing” plan, others have not. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, has said she thinks the current number of justices is fine.

 

Do you think that it would “de-politicize” the Supreme Court if a Democratic president increased the number of justices? Should the Constitution be amended to fix the number of Supreme Court justices at 9?

Senate Approves 3 Federal Judges

 

For many of his supporters, President Trump’s judicial appointments rank near the top of why they backed him for president. Throughout his term, his team has put a priority on filling judicial vacancies. This week saw three more of these judges move through the Senate.

  • Eric Murphy, Sixth Judicial Circuit, approved 52-46
  • Chad Readler, Sixth Judicial Circuit, approved 52-47
  • Allison Jones Rushling, Fourth Judicial Circuit, approved 53-44

 

During President Trump’s term, judicial votes have largely fallen along partisan lines. Nearly all the Democrats vote against them, while every Republican supports them (with few exceptions). This was the case in the votes this week.

 

The importance that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell places on filling these judicial vacancies was clear from the Senate action this week. Aside from votes on these judges, the only other vote that he scheduled was for another Trump Administration nomination.

 

Do you approve of President Trump’s judicial nominees?

High Court Hears Cross Case

A cross in Bladensburg, Maryland, is at the center of a legal case that could allow the Supreme Court to further define just how far the government can go in accommodating, or promoting, religion.

 

The American Legion and residents of Bladensburg erected the cross in 1925 to commemorate those killed in World War I. The state of Maryland has owned the land that the cross sits on since 1961 and a state commission pays for its upkeep.

 

The American Humanist Association says that this violates the First Amendment. It brought suit to remove the cross from state land on the grounds that this was an impermissible promotion of Christianity. Maryland has resisted doing this, arguing that the cross has secular meaning within the larger context of being situated among other monuments to veterans.

 

During oral arguments on Wednesday, a majority of the justices seemed willing to buy Maryland’s arguments. They appeared to be searching for ways to find a secular meaning for the monument, which would avoid larger First Amendment questions. Some justices, however, appeared to find it difficult to separate the cross from its Christian meaning.

 

The court will return a verdict on this case before it adjourns in June.

 

Do you think that using a cross on public land as a way to commemorate the war dead is a violation of the First Amendment?

All-Male Draft is Unconstitutional, Court Rules

For men across the U.S., their 18th birthday comes with a mandate to register with the Selective Service. That makes them eligible to be drafted for military service. Women are exempt from this requirement, but that may soon end. A federal judge in Texas recently ruled that mandating that only men register for the draft is unconstitutional.

 

In 1973, the federal government stopped drafting men for military service. However, it still requires that men 18-25 must register with the Selective Service, meaning they could be called up for a future draft if needed.

 

The National Coalition for Men argues that this is discriminatory. They say that women should also be required to register, and brought a constitutional case on those grounds. A Texas judge agreed, saying that the practice was indeed unconstitutional.

 

There had been a similar case in the early 1980s arguing that Selective Service registration was discriminatory. At the time, the courts ruled that since only men served in combat, the government was justified in its requirement. In today’s military, however, women can serve in combat. That, said the Texas judge, undermined the government’s rationale for mandating that only men register with the Selective Service.

 

Do you think that women should register with the Selective Service just like men are required to do? Should women serve in military combat roles?

Tens of Thousands Gather in DC to “March for Life”

Forty-six years after the Supreme Court established a woman’s right to an abortion, an expected 100,000 people will gather in Washington, D.C., for the annual “March for Life.”

 

This march draws pro-life individuals from across the nation to protest abortion and call for policies that would restrict the practice. The event begins by gathering on the National Mall, then a march to the Supreme Court where speakers address the crowd. This year, conservative activist Ben Shapiro will be the keynote speaker for the march. Last year, President Trump addressed the crowd via satellite, which was a first for a U.S. president. In previous years some presidents had taped a message or spoke to the crowd over the phone.

 

The first “March for Life” occurred on the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. That decision legalized abortion across the nation, and has been controversial from its announcement. Through court cases and legislation at the state and federal level, there have been a variety of restrictions placed on access to abortion. However, the ultimate goal of the “March for Life” is the end of legalized abortion in the U.S.

 

Do you think that abortion should be legal? What types of laws, if any, should be enacted to regulate abortion?

Obamacare is Unconstitutional Says Federal Judge

By a single vote, the U.S. Senate failed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Now a federal judge has done what lawmakers failed to do – invalidate the key legislative accomplishment of President Obama’s two terms in office.

 

On Friday, a federal judge in Texas ruled in a lawsuit brought by attorneys general from 20 states. It centers on how the individual mandate to be covered by health insurance interacts with the rest of the ACA. In the tax bill signed by President Trump last year, the penalty for violating this individual mandate was set at zero. The attorneys general argued that the mandate is essential to upholding the rest of Obamacare. If there is no penalty, they say, the mandate is unenforceable, and the rest of the law cannot work.

 

Judge Reed O’Connor agreed with these arguments, striking down the law.

 

Supporters of this ruling say that without an individual mandate, the health insurance markets simply will not work as the architects of the ACA intended. Opponents argue that the judge overreached using weak legal logic. They contend that he could have provided a much narrower ruling, and that this decision was an example of judicial activism meddling in what should be the prerogative of legislators.

 

This ruling will not immediately invalidate the entire law, however, as it will be appealed to a federal circuit court. The case may end up before the Supreme Court, which has already upheld key parts of the ACA.

 

Do you think that Obamacare is unconstitutional? Should the law’s insurance mandates and other provisions be scrapped since the individual mandate has essentially been repealed?

Cases Challenging Planned Parenthood Funding Bans Stand

Today, the Supreme Court took a minor foray into the debate over abortion. The justices refused to hear cases challenging court decisions involving state bans on Planned Parenthood funding. Some see this as a victory for abortion rights, but the reality is more complex.

 

A number of states have passed laws removing taxpayer funding from Planned Parenthood. While Planned Parenthood provides a variety of reproductive services, the organization also performs abortions. Lawmakers who voted to end government money to Planned Parenthood did not want to provide financial support for an organization involved with abortion.

 

Predictably, there were lawsuits. In Kansas and Louisiana, the cases involved whether or not Medicaid recipients who received services from Planned Parenthood could sue over the ending of state support for the organization. Lower courts held that they could and the Supreme Court declined to take a case that would have reviewed these court decisions. This decision allows the lower court cases to proceed.

 

Three justices, with Clarence Thomas in the lead, said the court should have taken up the case. He pointed out that the issue did not directly involve abortion rights, but instead involved the question of whether or not an individual could sue under the Medicaid Act. However, he claimed that the other justices were reluctant to wade into a wider debate over abortion, so they declined to take up this case.

 

This case involved only one aspect of the Planned Parenthood funding bans. There may be other cases involving this issue that reach the Supreme Court in the future.

 

Do you think that states should cut off funding for Planned Parenthood? Should people who receive services be able to sue if the funding to Planned Parenthood is eliminated?

Court Strikes Down Ban on Encouraging Illegal Immigration

How far can the federal government go to discourage illegal immigration? This question has taken on new importance during the presidency of Donald Trump, but it has long been a concern for policymakers. A recent ruling by a federal court has turned attention on a little-known immigration law that, according to the judges, violates the First Amendment.

 

A three-judge panel on the Ninth Judicial Circuit ruled that criminalizing speech that encourages or induces someone to illegally immigrate is not consistent with the U.S. Constitution. At question is a portion of the federal code that imposes a fine and prison sentence for anyone wo “encourages or induces an alien to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such coming to, entry, or residence is or will be in violation of law.”

 

The judges unanimously ruled that this language is so broad that it encompasses a variety of speech, such as a grandmother who encourages her grandson to overstay his visa. The judges acknowledged that there is a legitimate government interest in curtailing illegal immigration, but that this law criminalizes much more speech than necessary to accomplish that goal.

 

Supporters of this ruling see it as a victory for the First Amendment. They say that the government should not be punishing what people say. They argue that this law could make certain political advocacy illegal. Opponents counter that the government should be able to stop people who are encouraging others to break the law.

 

The federal government could appeal this decision to the full Ninth Circuit or, ultimately, the Supreme Court.

 

Do you think that it should be illegal to encourage someone to immigrate illegally to the U.S.?

Supreme Court May Curb Property Grabs by the Government

If someone commits a crime, the government may be able to seize any property connected to that crime – regardless of the crime’s severity or the value of the property. Today the Supreme Court is considering a case that may rein in a practice that people across the political spectrum argue is being abused.

 

The case involves Tyson Timbs, convicted of selling $225 worth of heroin to undercover police officers. His sentence for that crime was a year of home detention and five years of probation. The state of Indiana also seized his Land Rover, worth $42,000.

 

Lawyers for Timbs are not disputing that he sold the drugs. Instead, they are arguing that the seizure of the Land Rover violates the Constitutional prohibition on excessive fines. While the Eighth Amendment was originally written to apply only to the federal government, courts have held that the Fourteenth Amendment applies some of the Bill of Right’s protections to state governments. The prohibition on excessive fines, however, has not been one of those protections.

 

The practice of asset seizure and forfeiture is widely practiced by both states and the federal government. This is when the government confiscating property that is connected with crime, generally involving drugs, and keeping the property to use or sell. This can occur upon conviction of a crime or even upon the mere suspicion of criminal activity.

 

Timbs’ lawyers contend that the seizure of his $42,000 vehicle amounts to a fine. As such, they say, it is excessive to fine someone $42,000 for a crime that did not even involve jail time. They say that the Constitution forbids states from doing this. The lawyers for Indiana counter that this is not a fine, but is instead the seizure of property connected to drug trafficking. They say that states have broad authority to pass laws to combat such crimes.

 

Asset forfeiture has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years from groups on both the conservative and liberal side of the ideological spectrum. They argue that this practice gives governments an incentive to “police for profit,” using their power to look for lucrative assets to seize rather than focusing on other crime. They also contend that asset forfeiture disproportionately targets minorities and individuals in other disadvantaged groups. Timbs is represented by the Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm, and groups as diverse as the Chamber of Commerce and the American Civil Liberties Union are supporting him.

 

Justice Clarence Thomas has signaled in past decisions that the Supreme Court should look into asset forfeiture, noting that there have been many abuses of this practice.

 

Do you think that the government should be able to take the property of people convicted – or even suspected – of crimes, regardless of the value of the property or the level of crime?

Obamacare Contraception Mandate Being Revised

For the past six years, there have been legal and regulatory fights over the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. With the Trump Administration getting set to announce new rules on the mandate, it appears these fights will continue for years to come.

 

The ACA, or Obamacare, mandated that employers provide contraception coverage as part of their health insurance benefit at no charge to their employees. The Obama Administration wrote rules that required employers to offer coverage for all contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This has led to ongoing lawsuits over the constitutionality of the mandate. The Supreme Court has ruled in one case that some corporations can be exempt from the mandate on religious grounds.

 

In response to another court cases, both the Obama and Trump Administrations have been devising regulations that would allow certain religious-based nonprofits to claim an exemption from the mandate. Several states challenged the Trump Administration’s 2017 rules that would have given a broad religious exemption from the mandate and a federal court struck them down.


The Trump Administration is preparing new rules that will attempt to survive a legal challenge. Observers expect them to give wide leeway to groups that do not want to provide coverage of contraceptive services that violate their religious beliefs.

 

Opponents of an expansive exemption to the contraception mandate say that the religious beliefs of employers should not dictate what types of health care that employees receive. They argue that contraception decisions are between a patient and a doctor, so an employer should have no say over it.

 

Those who favor a broad exception to the mandate say that it is unconstitutional for the federal government to force people to pay for contraceptive services that they view as immoral. They point out that this contraception would not be banned, and that employees could purchase it on their own.

 

It is unclear when the Trump Administration will announce these new contraceptive mandate rules. When it does, there will likely be lawsuits challenging them.

 

Do you think that religious nonprofits should be forced to offer contraceptive coverage even if such contraception violates the religious beliefs of those who operate the organization?

Kavanaugh Approval Leads Some to Consider Court Packing

Brett Kavanaugh is now a Supreme Court Justice via an acrimonious nomination process that enraged many liberals. Coming on top of Senate Republicans’ refusal to consider President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the high court, some of these liberals are floating ideas to reform the Supreme Court. One of the most prominent is adding new justices to the court, or “court packing.”

 

The idea of expanding the Supreme Court’s membership in response to a disagreement over its ideological makeup was prominently championed by President Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s. Upset by court decisions invalidating part of his New Deal legislation, President Roosevelt suggested expanding the number of Supreme Court justices. There was an uproar in opposition to that idea, and Congress never acted on it.

 

Some liberals are now resurrecting a similar “court packing” plan. They contend that Senate Republicans’ played bare knuckle politics with their refusal to allow a vote on President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland and to approve Brett Kavanaugh in light of sexual assault allegations. They argue that these two actions were illegitimate, so it would be only right to counter them by expanding the court’s membership when Democrats regain the White House and Congress. Having one or two new justices appointed by Democrats would balance the court in response.

 

Opponents of court packing argue that once this process starts, it will lead to an ever-larger number of justices appointed for purely political reasons. They note that if Democrats expand the court’s membership when they control the presidency and Congress, then Republicans will do so when they regain both branches of government.

 

There are currently nine Supreme Court justices. This number is not set by the Constitution, so Congress and the president could pass legislation to alter it.

 

Do you think that the number of Supreme Court justices should be expanded? Should Democrats enlarge the court’s membership if they regain control of the presidency and Congress?

Senate Confirms Brett Kavanaugh to Supreme Court

After perhaps the most contentious Supreme Court nomination battle in U.S. history, Brett Kavanaugh is poised to take a seat on the nation's highest court.

 

By a vote of 50-48, the Senate today confirmed Kavanaugh. All the Republican senators except Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted in favor of Kavanaugh. All the Democratic senators except Joe Manchin of West Virginia voted against him.

 

The Supreme Court seat became open when Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement in June. Because Kavanaugh would replace Kennedy, who was seen as a swing vote for many important issues, this nomination was especially ideological from the beginning. Liberals viewed it as threat to court precedents that protected gay marriage, privacy rights, and abortion. Conservatives saw this as a chance to solidify a court majority that would adhere to the text of the Constitution.

 

During his first round of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, Kavanaugh faced questions about his judiical philosophy and his views on adhering to precedent. Democratic senators had a litany of complaints about the process, saying that they had not received enough information and accusing the Republican majority of rushing the process. Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley countered that Democrats were simply using any means necessary, regardless of whether they were fair or not, to sink the nomination.

 

This dispute was overshadowed when Dr. Christine Blassey Ford came forward with accusations that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her during high school. Kavanaugh denied the allegations. The Judiciary Committee held a meeting to hear from the two as other accusations about misconduct came to light. Republican senators defended Kavanaugh, arguing that this was a smear campaign, while Democratic senators said that Americans should believe Dr. Blassey Ford. Republican Senator Jeff Flake brokered a deal to delay the full Senate's consideration of the nomination by a week so the FBI could investigate the assault claims.

 

The FBI completed its report and presented it to senators on Thursday. Yesterday, the Senate voted to proceed to 30-hours of debate.

 

The Supreme Court's term began on October 1. Kavanaugh will likely take the oath of office within days and join the court so he can begin hearing cases.

 

Do you support the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court?

Kavanaugh Nomination Advances to the Senate

Brett Kavanaugh moved one step closer to a seat on the Supreme Court today.

 

By a vote of 11-10, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to recommend his nomination to the full Senate. All the Republicans on the committee voted in favor of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination, while all the Democrats opposed it. Kavanaugh is currently a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

 

This action came on the heels of a dramatic day of testimoney yesterday from Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused the judge of sexual assault when he was a teenager. These accustions, and others which have come recently, has disrupted the normal nomination process. Democrats and women's groups have called for Judge Kavanaugh to withdraw his name from consideration, a suggestion he has repeatedly rejected. Judge Kavanaugh proclaims his innocence on these matters, saying he has never sexually assaulted anyone.

 

This sharply divided committee reflects the partisan divisions in the Senate over the Kavanaugh nomination. It is likely that all Republicans will vote in favor of this nomination, although Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have yet to announce their position. Republicans are targeting one or two Democrats for a "yes" vote, but Judge Kavanaugh may be confirmed with no Democratic support. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) supported the nomination during the committee vote, but he indicated he may not support the nomination on the Senate floor until after the FBI further investigates the allegations.

 

Like all Supreme Court nominees in recent decades, Judge Kavanaugh avoided taking stances during his initial confirmation hearings on issues that may come before the high court. While senators tried to pin him down on what he thought about the constitutionality of abortion rights or the contraceptive mandate, Judge Kavanaugh refused to take any firm stance. He mainly discussed his constitutional philosophy and answered questions about rulings he had made.

 

Republican senators defended Judge Kavanaugh from Democratic attacks at those hearings, pointing out that he had a long record of service that makes him extremely qualified for the court. Prior to his tenure as a circuit court judge, Kavanaugh worked for Independent Counsel Ken Starr and in the White House counsel’s office under President George W. Bush.

 

During the follow-up hearing yesterday, the questions from Democratic senators were not about judicial philosophy. Instead, they focused on Judge Kavanaugh's actions during high school and college. From his alcohol consumption to what he wrote in his high school yearbook, Judge Kavanaugh was grilled for hours about his youthful actions.

 

The full Senate will now consider Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination. It is likely the final vote on his nomination could take place early next week, depending on what type of investigation occurs. The new Supreme Court term begins on October 1.

 

Do you think that the Senate should confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court?

California Won’t Be Dividing into Three States

 

California is the third-largest state in the U.S. Some residents think it is too big; they want it divided into three states. This proposal obtained enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot, but the state Supreme Court removed it. This does not end the fight to divide California, but makes it more difficult for proponents to see their dream of two new states joining the union.

 

Under the Proposition 9, California would be split into California, Northern California, and Southern California. Tim Draper, a venture capitalist, proposed the idea and was the main backer of the initiative. He helped collect the necessary signatures to place it on the ballot, with over 460,000 valid signatures being submitted to the state.

 

That led to a court challenge on the grounds that this ballot initiative violated the state constitution’s ban on initiatives making a major change to the constitution. Draper argued that this would not be a change to the constitution but a nullification of it. The state Supreme Court did not agree with Draper, and pulled the measure from the ballot.

 

Those supporting this initiative say that breaking the state up would lead to more responsive government. They contend that California is too large and too diverse to be governed by one state government. They also note that this would lead to lead to six U.S. senators representing a population that has two senators currently. Opponents countered that there is power in being a large state. They also noted that there have been past efforts to divide the state that have never been popular with Californians.

 

The U.S. Constitution allows new states to be formed from existing states with the consent of the existing state’s legislature and the U.S. Congress. There is some question whether or not a ballot initiative can provide this consent instead of a legislature.

 

Draper, who previously supported a proposal to break California into six states, will continue pursuing this issue after the 2018 election.


Do you support splitting California into three states?

 

Trump Nominates Kavanaugh to Take Kennedy’s Place on High Court

 

All that stands between Brett M. Kavanaugh and a seat on the Supreme Court is a Senate vote. With President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Kavanaugh on Monday night, the stage is set for a showdown in the Senate over the future of the Supreme Court.

 

Judge Kavanaugh has significant experience in the legal field. He currently sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, where he has served for 12 years. Prior to that, he clerked for two federal appellate judges as well as Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. He also served in the solicitor general’s office during the George H. W. Bush Administration and was part of the independent counsel’s team investigating President Bill Clinton. He attended Yale Law School.

 

The seat to which the president nominated Kavanaugh opened when Justice Kennedy resigned effective July 31. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he wants to schedule a confirmation vote prior to the November elections.

 

Among conservatives, Kavanaugh has garnered wide praise for his experience and breadth of judicial knowledge. The D.C. Circuit upon which he currently sits is often viewed as a prime training ground for Supreme Court justices, since many of its decisions deal with the same issues that the high court often confronts. Liberals, however, have largely come out against Kavanaugh. They are concerned that his rulings will harm many liberal causes, such as abortion rights and gay marriage.

 

With the end of the filibuster over judicial nominations, Kavanaugh can be confirmed with a bare majority of Senate votes. With only a 51-seat margin in the Senate, Majority Leader McConnell cannot afford to lose many Republicans. President Trump’s prior Supreme Court nomination of Neil Gorsuch did garner some Democratic support. Given that pattern, it is likely that the Senate will vote narrowly to confirm Kavanaugh this fall.

 

Do you support the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court?

 

Washington State Sues Feds over Child Separations at the Border

 

The federal policy of separating migrant children from their parents as they cross the U.S./Mexican border has upset many Americans. Two Washington state officials, Governor Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson, have directed their outrage towards this policy into a lawsuit against the Trump Administration. They say they are trying to stop an inhumane policy, while their critics see nothing more than a political stunt.

 

The lawsuit, filed in late June, alleges that the federal government is violating the due process rights of both parents and children by the separation policy. In addition, the lawsuit alleges that the Trump Administration is violating federal law governing asylum applications by rejecting individuals who show up seeking asylum.

 

Washington is taking the lead on this lawsuit, but it is joined by 16 states and the District of Columbia.

 

Attorney General Ferguson said it was necessary to bring this lawsuit to stand up for the Constitution and human decency. Others point out that this is a good way for the attorney general and governor to insert themselves into news stories about a contentious political issue. They also point out that this is a pattern by the attorney general, who has filed 27 other suits against the Trump Administration.

 

President Trump has signed an executive order aimed at ending the separation practice, and there is also bipartisan movement in Congress to pass legislation to address this issue.

 

Do you think that states should sue the Trump Administration over family separations that occurred at the nation’s southern border?

 

Supreme Court Rules California Can’t Compel Abortion Speech

 

Abortion and free speech came together in a Supreme Court decision announced in late June. In a case over California’s law mandating that crisis pregnancy centers must tell patients about abortion services, the high court ruled that this type of requirement violated the First Amendment.

 

The case at question is National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra involving the California Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency Act. That law mandated that crisis pregnancy centers, which are set up by pro-life organizations to give prenatal counseling and provide post-birth services, must inform their clients about the health care services offered by the state, including subsidized abortions.

 

The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates sued the state, saying that the state could not compel individuals with anti-abortion views to counsel people about abortion services. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court agreed that this likely violated the First Amendment.

 

Writing for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas noted that the California law “imposes a government-scripted, speaker-based disclosure requirement that is wholly disconnected from the State’s informational interest.” In other words, it may be permissible for the state to require a disclosure about health care services, but it cannot single out these clinics to do so. He went on to write, “By requiring  petitioners to inform women how they can obtain state-subsidized  abortions—at the same time  petitioners try to dissuade women from choosing that option—the licensed notice plainly ‘alters the content’ of petitioners’ speech.”

 

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the dissent, joined by three of his colleagues. He said that the majority opinion was written broadly enough to potentially undermine many government regulations requiring disclosure. He also pointed out that the court has ruled in prior abortion cases that doctors or other health care professionals can be compelled to offer advice that discourages abortion. He asked, “If a State can lawfully require a doctor to tell a woman seeking an abortion about adoption services, why should it not be able, as here, to require a medical counselor to tell a woman seeking prenatal care or other reproductive healthcare about childbirth and abortion services?”

 

Do you agree with the Supreme Court decision that crisis pregnancy centers cannot be forced to provide information about abortion?

 

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