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Judiciary Committee Sends Barrett Nomination to Full Senate

On a 12-0 vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved President Trump's nomination of Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court. The unanimous vote occurred as the panel's Democratic members boycotted the vote, objecting to the way the process has developed.

 

Instead of appearing at the vote, Judiciary Committee Democrats placed pictures of Americans who are using the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Democrats have attacked Barrett's nomination on the grounds that she would vote to overturn the ACA. Barrett has said that her mind was not made up about the legality of certain areas of that law. 

 

With no Democrats taking part, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee moved quickly to vote in favor of Barrett. The 12-0 vote sends her nomination to the full Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is targeting next week for a confirmation vote. While there are some indications that Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) may vote against Barrett, the rest of the Senate's GOP members are likely to support her. 

 

Democrats have vowed to use procedural means to delay the vote. They contend that the nomination should be filled by whomever voters select as president in November. Republicans have vowed to confirm Barrett before Election Day. Options for blocking the nomination are slim since members can no longer filibuster judicial nominations.

 

Do you support Judiciary Committee Democrats boycotting today's vote on Amy Coney Barrett?

Obamacare Takes Center Stage at Barrett Hearings

The Senate Judiciary Committee is spending a lot of time discussing health care this week.

 

The issue of whether the Supreme Court could overturn the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, has become a centerpiece of Democratic opposition to the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett. Democrats fear that if the Senate confirms Barrett, she will vote with four other justices to invalidate the ACA. Judge Barrett has responded that she has not made up her mind on the fate of the controversial health care law.

 

Democrats point to Barrett's criticism of the 2012 Supreme Court decision that upheld the individual insurance mandate as a tax. Barrett countered by noting that the current cases dealing with the ACA involve completely separate issues. She also said that she is "not hostile" to the ACA.

 

The Senate Judiciary Committee is considering Barrett's nomination this week. Democrats on the committee have been pressing her on various issues, from gay rights to abortion. However, the fate of the ACA is one of their biggest topics of discussion. They see this as a pertinent issue during the runup to the November election.

 

The committee hearing is likely to conclude this week. There is little chance that any Democrats on the committee will vote for Barrett. But with Republicans in control of the chamber, there are few obstacles to a supportive committee vote and Senate confirmation before the end of the month.

 

Do you think the Supreme Court should overturn the ACA?

Court Packing Becomes Issue in Presidential Campaign

The number of Supreme Court justices has become a flashpoint of disagreement between Republicans and Democrats this election season.

 

Some liberals are calling on Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to embrace the idea of expanding the Supreme Court if they are elected in November. They argue that since Republicans are intent on pushing through the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett prior to the election, then President Biden should support increasing the number of justices. They say this is a way to fix the conservative tilt that the high court will likely have for decades to come. 

 

Republicans argue this is playing politics with the Supreme Court, and have called on Biden and Harris to promise not to engage in what they call "court packing." So far, however, both members of the Democratic ticket have demurred.

 

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.

 

The current calls to increase the number of Supreme Court justices is not new. There was also support to do this in response to President Trump's prior two Supreme Court nominations. At the time, these liberals contended 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 argued 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. 

 

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.

 

Should Joe Biden and Kamala Harris promise to oppose any efforts to increase the number of Supreme Court justices?

Senate Schedules Amy Coney Barrett Hearings for Next Week

The fight over the future of the Supreme Court will move to the Senate Judiciary Committee next week.

 

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) announced today that his committee will begin hearings on Monday. President Trump nominated federal appeals court judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the Supreme Court seat left empty by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

 

Chairman Graham said that the committee will be taking precautions to protect against coronavirus transmission. These include meeting in a larger room, the use of protective equipment, and social distancing. Members can also participate remotely. Democrats, however, say that this is still not safe enough. They argue that given the coronavirus outbreak that has infected President Trump and three U.S. senators, that it is irresponsible to conduct a Judiciary Committee hearing at this time.

 

It remains unclear if Democratic Judiciary Committee members will attend next week’s hearings. They argue that the Senate should not vote on this nomination, pointing to Senate Republicans’ refusal in 2016 to vote on then-President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has vowed that the Senate will vote on Barrett’s nomination before Election Day.


Do you think the Senate should proceed with hearings on Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court?

Trump Nominates Barrett to Fill Supreme Court Seat

Over the weekend, President Donald Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court. While conservatives praised her, liberals condemned the choice.

 

Currently a federal appeals court judge, Barrett was formerly a law professor at Notre Dame. She is a Catholic with a large family, and clerked for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

 

Conservatives see her as a reliable judge that adheres to an originalist view of the Constitution. They contend that she would interpret the Constitution in ways that are consistent with the original meaning of the document, and not embrace the idea of  "living Constitution" that can be changed to fit the whims of judges.

 

Liberals, however, have vowed to everything they can to stop the nomination. They argue that her decisions show she would gut the Affordable Care Act, impose new restrictions on abortion, and expand gun rights. They argue that her presence on the high court would lead to a reversal of decisions that protect the rights of women and minorities.

 

With Republicans controlling the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised quick action on Barrett's nomination. It is possible that a vote could take place by the end of October, with Barrett taking her seat shortly afterwards if confirmed.

 

Do you support the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Death Sets Up Contentious Confirmation Process

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died last week, setting off a wave of mourning across the nation. The new vacancy on the Supreme Court is also setting up a bitter fight over whether President Trump will be ale to fill her seat before Election Day.

 

When there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court, the president nominates a new justice and the Senate votes on that nomination. There is no constitutional restriction on the timing of the process. However, Democrats are arguing that Republicans set a precedent of not giving nominees a vote in an election year, so that precedent should be followed now.

 

Democrats point to the situation in 2016, when Justice Antonin Scalia died in the final year of Barack Obama's term in office. Republicans refused to hold a vote on his nominee, Merrick Garland, prior to the presidential election. That November, Donald Trump won the presidency and then nominated Neil Gorsuch for the seat. The Senate then confirmed Gorsuch.

 

Democrats are saying that what happened in 2016 should be repeated this year. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), has said that he will schedule a Senate vote quickly on President Trump's Supreme Court nominee. Republicans argue that the situation is different than in 2016, which had a different party controlling the presidency and the Senate. They also note that Democrats then were arguing that the president's nominee deserved a vote.

 

It remains to be seen if all Senate Republicans will back a vote prior to Election Day. Some, such as Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), have already expressed reservations.

 

President Trump is expected to announce his Supreme Court nominee this week.

 

Do you think that the Senate should vote on President Trump's Supreme Court nominee before Election Day?

High Court Doesn’t Exempt Churches from Coronavirus Shutdown

In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to Nevada’s coronavirus shutdown that affects in-person church services.

 

In Nevada, the governor has ordered that churches must limit in-person attendance at services to 50 people. This differs from the standard the governor set for other businesses, such as casinos, which can allow people inside their premises at 50% capacity. Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley wanted to hold services with 90 attendees while observing social distancing rules. When the state refused permission, the church sued.

 

In its suit, the church alleged that Nevada was infringing up its First Amendment rights by denying it the ability to hold in-person services. It noted that since the state held other businesses to different standards, it should give more accommodation to churches that wished to allow more people inside. The state, however, argued that its rules are necessary in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus. 

 

The church had asked the Supreme Court to take up the case, but five justices declined to do so. They did not offer an opinion, which is customary in cases where the only issue is whether or not the high court will consider arguments in the case. But Justice Gorsuch did write a dissent, where he noted the inconsistency of allowing entertainment facilities to have looser standards than churches.

 

Do you think that states should give more leeway to churches that want to hold in-person services?

Trump Administration Urges Court to Uphold Medicaid Work Requirement

This week, the Trump Administration filed a brief with the Supreme Court urging it to support an Arkansas program requiring some able-bodied Medicaid recipients to work.

 

Under the Arkansas Works program, individuals newly eligible for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, must meet certain work requirements. These include engaging in work or work-related activities for 80 hours a month. Only those in the Medicaid expansion population – able-bodied adults without children who are between 18 and 62 – face this requirement. There are also exceptions for people who are unable to work.

 

While the Department of Health and Human Services under President Barack Obama had not approved Arkansas’s work requirement (or similar requirements in other states), the Trump Administration did. However, federal judges have blocked many of these requirements from going into effect. The Trump Administration’s legal filing urges the Supreme Court to overturn these rulings.

 

The legal issues center on whether federal law permits states to add a work requirement to Medicaid recipients. Medicaid is funded in part by the federal government, but states opt into it and have some leeway to design their programs. The Trump Administration and states say that states have the authority to require work for some able-bodied recipients, but courts have ruled that Congress must amend the program to allow this.

 

Supporters of work requirements argue that they are helping Medicaid recipients by giving them an incentive to go to work, where they may be able to obtain private health insurance eventually. They also argue that childless, able-bodied adults -- the group covered by the work requirement -- should be working. Opponents, however, see these requirements as a way to limit participating in Medicaid, noting that 18,000 people lost eligibility once Arkansas put its requirement in place. They also contend that the work verification rules under Arkansas Works are too difficult for many to comply with.

 

Do you support requiring able-bodied Medicaid recipients to work or seek work?

Supreme Court Rejects Trump’s Claim of Immunity on Tax Records

President Trump has claimed that he has absolute immunity from criminal investigation while in office. Today, the Supreme Court said that was not the case.

 

In a 7-2 decision, the high court ruled that the president could not block subpoenas for his financial information. New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance is seeking his tax records to look into whether Trump violated New York law when paying money to two women who claim he had sex with them. Vance wants to present this evidence to a grand jury to consider criminal charges against Trump.

 

The president and his lawyers argued that these records should not turned over to the district attorney while Trump is in office. Their claim was that the president has a broad grant of immunity to criminal investigations, and violating this would open him up to politically-motivated prosecution.

 

Seven Supreme Court justices disagreed, however. They pointed out that no one is above the law, including the president, and shielding him from investigation would go against centuries of precedent. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented.

 

President Trump said that this decision was political and that he was being unfairly targeted. District Attorney Vance called it a victory for justice.

 

Do you think the president should be immune from criminal investigations?

Supreme Court Allows States to Punish Faithless Electors

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court has ruled that states have the power to punish or remove electors who break their pledges to support specific candidates.

 

Justice Elena Kagan wrote for 7 fellow justices, saying that the Constitution’s text and the history of the Electoral College demonstrate that states have latitude to punish or replace faithless electors. Justice Clarence Thomas came to the same conclusion, although he said that the Tenth Amendment protects states’ power to set limits on electors.

 

When voters cast their ballot for president, they vote for electors who then make the binding vote for president. Electors take a pledge to support a certain candidate for office. Occasionally, electors vote for different candidates than the ones they are pledged to support. In 2016, there were more faithless electors than in any previous election, with ten electors in five states. Two more electors tried to vote for someone other than their pledged candidate, but were replaced.

 

The Supreme Court concerned three of these electors from Washington and one in Colorado. After they cast their votes for someone other than Hillary Clinton, who won their states’ popular vote, the Washington electors were fined and the Colorado elector was replaced. The justices ruled in the case concerning the Colorado elector, but the reasoning applies to the Washington case, too.

 

While not directly affecting other efforts to change the way the Electoral College works, this ruling does appear to confirm that states can reform how they assign electoral votes. Some states want to require electors to vote for the winner of the national popular vote, for instance.

 

What do you think about the Electoral College?

Supreme Court Rules States Can’t Discriminate Against Religious Schools

On a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court held that if states pay private school tuition, they cannot refuse to pay tuition at religious private schools.

 

In Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, a Montana parent who was using a state-funded scholarship program to pay for tuition at a private religious school. However, this arrangement ended when the Montana Supreme Court ruled that the program violated a constitutional ban on state money going to religious schools. The parent sued, saying that this ruling violated the First Amendment by singling out religious schools for discrimination.

 

The Supreme Court agreed that Montana’s prohibition on state aid to private schools did indeed amount to religious discrimination. Many states have similar prohibitions, known as “Blaine Amendments.” They originated in the late 1900s, when there was growing concern about Catholic private schools. The high court held that Montana is not obligated to pay for private school tuition, but if it does it cannot allow funding to go to some private schools but not religious schools.

 

The four dissenting justices pointed out that the Montana Supreme Court had ended that state’s program, so it was treating all schools equally. Some also said that the court’s majority was overturning hundreds of years of precedent by allowing state money to go to religious education.

 

Thirty-seven states had constitutional prohibitions on government money going towards religious education that could potentially be affected by this decision.


Do you think it is constitutional for states to fund secular private schools but not religious private schools?

Supreme Court Protects "Dreamers"

Today the Supreme Court has ended the Trump Administration's efforts to strip legal protection from "Dreamers" -- children who were brought to the U.S. illegally.
 
In a 5-4 ruling, the high court said that the Trump Administration did not follow the proper procedures to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This program gave legal protection to some illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. Those in this program had to meet certain qualifications, such as having a clean criminal record.
 
President Trump had said that Congress should enact a law to protect these individuals, but that President Obama did not have the authority to protect them by executive action. He ordered the program to be phased out, which set up a legal fight that eventually ended up before the Supreme Court.
 
Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Roberts said that this case was not about the merits of the president's actions. Instead, he said it concerned the procedure the Trump Administration followed to undo DACA. His opinion leaves open the possibility that the Trump Administration could once again try to end DACA.
 
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the dissenting minority, arguing that the president's actions were indeed legal. He said that it is up to Congress, not the courts, to settle this issue.
 
Do you think the Trump Administration should continue trying to end legal protection for Dreamers?

Supreme Court Rules Anti-Gay Discrimination Illegal

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that federal anti-discrimination laws cover gay and transgender individuals.

 

The high court ruled that when the law uses the word “sex,” it also protects people from being fired for being gay or transgender. Writing for the majority, Justice Neil Gorsuch concluded that the plain reading of the text leads to the conclusion that sex discrimination is not limited to ensuring that men and women are treated equally in the workplace. Instead, he noted that if an employer fired a man for being in a relationship with a man, but did not fire a woman for being in a relationship with a man, then that is a clear case of an employer discriminating against someone based on sex.

 

In his decision, Gorsuch wrote, “an employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision…”

 

The three dissenting justices disagreed. Justice Samuel Alito pointed out that in the decades following the enactment of the federal anti-discrimination law, no one thought it covered gay or transgender individuals. He said that the majority was re-writing the law, not interpreting it. In his dissent, he wrote, “If every single living American had been surveyed in 1964, it would have been hard to find any who thought that discrimination because of sex meant discrimination because of sexual orientation — not to mention gender identity, a concept that was essentially unknown at the time.”

 

The case concerned three individuals who were fired for being either gay or transgender.

 

The justices joining Gorsuch in the majority were Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kagan, Sotomayor, Breyer, and Ginsburg.

 

Do you support the Supreme Court ruling that federal law protects gay and transgender individuals from discrimination?

Supreme Court Upholds California’s Coronavirus Restrictions on Churches

A California church has lost its appeal to be exempt from California Governor Gavin Newsom’s coronavirus shutdown order.

 

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court denied a Chula Vista church’s request to issue an injunction stopping the enforcement of an order that forbids it from opening. The church argued that the California governor was infringing upon the First Amendment by keeping the church shut down.

 

A majority of the high court disagreed, however. Writing for that majority, Chief Justice Roberts said that the state’s orders treated the church the same as similar secular businesses. His opinion said that it is not an infringement on the First Amendment if the government regulates churches in the same manner as other businesses with similar safety concerns, like concerts or sporting events.

 

Four justices dissented, however, arguing that the California governor is allowing some places to re-open with social distancing restrictions. The Chula Vista church has said it could abide by these same restrictions, so it should not be prohibited from opening. The dissenting justices agreed, and argued it is unconstitutional to treat churches differently than these other businesses.

 

This is the first case the Supreme Court has decided that deals with coronavirus restrictions.

 

Do you think that states should allow churches to open as governors relax coronavirus restrictions? Or should states continue to restrict church gathering because they pose too much risk of spreading the virus?

Supreme Court Takes up Faithless Electors Case

With the U.S. facing another spirited presidential election contest, the Supreme Court is considering whether states can punish “faithless electors.”

 

Under the U.S. system, voters do not vote directly for the person they want as president. Instead, they vote for electors who then cast votes for president. In every state, these electors are part of a slate that are pledged to candidates of each political party. However, some electors vote for different candidates than the ones they are pledged to vote for. Most states have laws that seek to punish these “faithless electors,” and these laws are at issue before the Supreme Court.

 

In 2016, there were more faithless electors than in any previous election, with ten electors in five states. Two more electors tried to vote for someone other than their pledged candidate, but were replaced.

 

The Supreme Court is hearing the case of three of these electors from Washington and one in Colorado. After they cast their votes for someone other than Hillary Clinton, who won their states’ popular vote, the Washington electors were fined and the Colorado elector was replaced. A federal appeals court ruled that the state could not punish them, while the Washington Supreme Court upheld their fines.

 

The question before the court is whether states have the power to control what electors do. States say they should be able to punish faithless electors to ensure that the voters’ will is respected. Others argue that the Founding Fathers set up a system where people choose electors who then are free to choose the best person for president, and states should not intrude upon this.

 

Do you think that states should be able to punish faithless electors?

High Court Considers Birth Control Mandate

The legal fight over the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate continues at the Supreme Court today.

 

When enacted, the ACA included a mandate that insurance companies offer no-cost birth control. Some employers objected to this mandate, arguing that they had religious objections to some forms of birth control. They said that they should not have to pay for insurance that then provides a service they find morally objectionable.

 

There were various legal cases filed about this mandate, culminating in a 2014 Supreme Court decision affirming that some companies did not have to provide such insurance. In 2017, the Trump Administration went further, expanding this exception to include more companies. This administrative change is what is at issue in today’s Supreme Court arguments.

 

Pennsylvania is suing the Trump Administration, alleging that it exceeded its authority in granting more businesses an exception to the law. The state also alleges that the administration did not follow federal law in promulgating the rule.

 

At the heart of the argument is the idea, embodied in the ACA, that birth control should be widely available to individuals at no cost. Supporters say this is a good way to prevent unwanted pregnancies, and it an essential part of women’s health care. Opponents to this idea have a variety of arguments. Some people point to their religious objection to providing birth control to others, especially types of birth control that they see as being no different than abortion. Others argue that if people want to use birth control, they should pay for it themselves, especially since it is widely available and not very expensive.

 

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments and ask questions remotely over video conference.

 

Do you think that the government should mandate that businesses provide no-cost birth control to their employees through insurance?

Supreme Court Hearing Broadcast for First Time

The coronavirus has changed many things about the way Americans are living their daily lives. Those changes have also affected the Supreme Court. Today, the high court heard arguments remotely, allowing media outlets to broadcast their hearing for the first time in history.

 

The case involved a patent dispute that will not be one of the major cases the justices decide this term. But with each justice working in a separate location via a video conference, this case will make history. If one wanted to watch the arguments made by lawyers and the questions asked by justices, usually it is necessary to obtain a ticket to appear in the Supreme Court chambers. Today, these arguments and questions were broadcast on a variety of news channels.

 

The Supreme Court members have long resisted calls to place cameras in their courtroom. They argue that it will lead to justices playing to the cameras instead of focusing on legal arguments, and that their arguments will be taken out of context. With the changes necessitated by the coronavirus, however, the justices were forced to alter their procedures.

 

There has long been a push to televise the proceedings of the high court. At least during the time when the coronavirus restrictions are in place, it looks like such broadcasts will be available. However, once the court returns to its normal practices, these are likely to end.

 

Do you think that the Supreme Court’s arguments should be televised?

High Court Avoids Taking Stand in Gun Case

The Supreme Court today avoided making a decision that could have had a big impact on gun control laws across the country.

 

The case involved a New York city laws that prohibited licensed gun owners from transporting their guns to most places. Gun owners challenged this law, saying it restricted their rights to keep and bear arms. The city eventually changed the law, but the challengers continued to press their case in court.

 

The Supreme Court decided that since the law was no longer in effect, they did not need to make a decision about it. Some gun rights supporters viewed this case as a prime opportunity for the court to define the extent of Second Amendment protections for transporting firearms.

 

The case centered on an ordinance that restricted licensed gun owners from taking their firearms to any places except specified shooting ranges within the city and to designated hunting areas in New York state. The plaintiffs in the case were barred from participating in a shooting competition in New Jersey and were also told they could not take their guns to another home in New York state. They are arguing that these restrictions are an infringement upon their constitutional rights.

 

Since New York city has since amended the law to allow wider transport of firearms, the justices decided that the case is moot and dismissed it. Three justices dissented, however, indicating that they would have used this case as a way to recognize a wider individual right to carry a firearm.

 

This is the first major gun control case considered by the high court since 2010. There have been a handful of cases in the years prior to that which established an individual right to own a gun and said that neither the federal nor state governments could pass laws that prohibited gun ownership. However, the Supreme Court has yet to settle many legal issues over the numerous gun control laws that exist at the federal, state, and local level.

 

Do you think the Supreme Court should have decided that the Constitution protects the carrying of a gun outside the home?

Supreme Court Allows Immigrant Wealth Test Rule to Take Effect

A new rule affecting immigrants who are on public assistance or who may use public assistance in the future will go into effect under a Supreme Court ruling yesterday. In a 5-4 decision, the high court said that the Trump Administration can begin implementing this rule while legal challenges continue.

 

Last year, the Department of Homeland Security issued regulations that change the “public charge” definition used to judge immigrants’ applications for citizenship or Green Cards. This new rule tightened that definition, making it more difficult for immigrants who are on public benefits or who may use public benefits in the future to obtain permanent legal status in the U.S.

 

Issuing the rule, the Trump Administration noted that it was long-standing U.S. policy to admit only those immigrants who would not be a burden on taxpayers. They said that their new definition is a long-overdue update to the law. Opponents, however, said this was a backdoor way to limit immigration, especially from nations with large Latino populations. They argued that it was unfair to discriminate against immigrants who were not wealthy, since these individuals may have the most need to enter the U.S.

 

Critics of the rule went to court to fight it. Last year, a federal judge issued a nationwide injunction stopping the regulations from going into effect. This week, the Supreme Court lifted that injunction and allowed the implementation of the new standard.

 

Court fights over the rule continue. The Supreme Court’s decision did not touch on the ultimate legality of this change to immigration law.

 

Do you think that the federal government should take into consideration’s someone’s use of public benefits while determining if that person can remain in the U.S.?

High Court Paves Way for Homeless to Sleep on Sidewalks

In the face of a rising number of homeless people camping out on city sidewalks, Boise city leaders wanted to take action. They passed a law banning the activity. But a federal appeals court overruled the city, saying that such a ban was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has refused to take up this case, allowing the lower court ruling to stand. That means that the homeless in Boise and other western cities will not be prosecuted for sleeping outside.

 

At question is a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling from earlier this year that laws banning outdoor sleeping were a violation of the Constitution’s prohibition on “cruel and unusual punishment.” The judges said that since sleep was necessary to live, the city could not prohibit people from sleeping in public if there was not sufficient housing for them. City officials say that this eliminates their ability to take steps to curb homeless camps that may cause public health issues and be a nuisance.

 

Boise appealed this decision to the Supreme Court, seeking to overturn it and allow the city law to take effect. The high court refused to hear the city’s appeal this week. That allows the Ninth Circuit’s decision to stand. This court has jurisdiction over western states, so not all of the U.S. is affected by the ruling.

 

Other cities are also grappling with this issue. Some, such as Austin, recently rescinded laws that criminalize public sleeping. Officials there said that individuals cited under the law would not show up to court, which led to criminal charges that made it even more difficult for that person to find housing and a job.

 

Loosening restrictions on homeless sleeping is often unpopular with the public. Business owners complain about homeless people deterring customers in downtown locations and city residents worry about the spread of diseases. This spring, voters in Denver overwhelmingly rejected a measure that would allow people to camp or sleep in their cars in public. Some politicians are seizing on this issue, promising to take steps that would remove the homeless from the streets by incarcerating them for minor crimes.

 

Do you think that cities should be able to ban sleeping on city streets? 

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