War of Words Between Pres. Trump and John Roberts Extends into Thanksgiving

A war of words has continued into the Thanksgiving weekend between President Donald Trump and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

“Justice Roberts can say what he wants, but the 9th Circuit is a complete & total disaster. It is out of control, has a horrible reputation, is overturned more than any Circuit in the Country, 79%, & is used to get an almost guaranteed result. Judges must not Legislate Security…and Safety at the Border, or anywhere else. They know nothing about it and are making our Country unsafe. Our great Law Enforcement professionals MUST BE ALLOWED TO DO THEIR JOB! If not there will be only bedlam, chaos, injury and death. We want the Constitution as written!” President Trump wrote in a series of tweets this morning.

The President’s words came in response to a chastisement of Mr. Trump by Roberts earlier in the week.

“We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for,” Roberts said.

The back-and-forth started when President Trump harshly criticized the 9th U.S. Circuit for what he calls political bias in their rulings.

“It’s a disgrace when every case gets filed in the 9th Circuit,” Trump said as part of a longer statement of that court. “That’s not law. Every case in the 9th Circuit we get beaten and then we end up having to go to the Supreme Court like the travel ban and we won. Every case, no matter where it is, they file is practically, for all intents and purposes, they file it in what’s called the 9th Circuit. This was an Obama judge. I’ll tell you what, it’s not going to happen like this anymore,” he wrote.

The President’s words came in response to a judge from the Northern District of California who issued a restraining striking down a decision by the Trump administration to bar South American migrants from crossing into the U.S. illegally seeking asylum. The 9th U.S. Circuit is where cases from the Northern District of California get appealed.

Mr. Trump has seen a number of his administration’s decisions get struck down in the 9th Circuit, including a controversial travel ban on individuals coming to the U.S. from majority-Muslim countries.

Roberts, who has been weary of seeing the High Court politicized, took umbrage with the President’s classification of judges. Mr. Trump, however, was not deterred.

“Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have ‘Obama judges,’ and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country. It would be great if the 9th Circuit was indeed an ‘independent judiciary,’ but if it is why…are so many opposing view (on Border and Safety) cases filed there, and why are a vast number of those cases overturned. Please study the numbers, they are shocking. We need protection and security – these rulings are making our country unsafe! Very dangerous and unwise!” he wrote on Twitter in response to Roberts’ comments.

Roberts was reportedly dismayed over the contentious – and highly politicized – confirmation hearings of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. “I will not criticize the political branches,” Roberts told a University of Minnesota audience last month. “We do that often enough in our opinions. But what I would like to do, briefly, is emphasize how the judicial branch is — how it must be — very different.”

Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court in October.

Photo by The White House via Wikimedia Commons

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Kavanaugh Confirmed

Judge Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court yesterday after a contentious nomination process that included recriminations of political double standards and accusations of sexual assault.

The vote, largely along party lines, was 50-48 in favor of confirmation. Republican Senator Steve Daines of Montana was not present for the vote because he was attending his daughter’s wedding. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was the sole Senator who broke with their party. She voted against advancing Kavanaugh’s nomination on Friday and for the full vote on Saturday voted “present.”

President Trump hailed the victory on Twitter. “I applaud and congratulate the U.S. Senate for confirming our GREAT NOMINEE, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, to the United States Supreme Court. Later today, I will sign his Commission of Appointment, and he will be officially sworn in. Very exciting!” he wrote.

Kavanaugh was sworn in a few hours later in a ceremony at the Supreme Court presided over by Chief Justice John Roberts and the Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh is replacing, Anthony Kennedy. Supporters of Kavanaugh’s cheered his motorcade as it arrived for the ceremony. Protesters also gathered outside of the Supreme Court and were eventually pushed back from the building’s steps by police.

Kavanaugh is accused of sexual assault by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University in California. Ford says Kavanaugh lured her into a bedroom during a gathering at a home in suburban Maryland in the summer of 1982. She says he then threw her on a bed, got on top of her and tried to remove her clothes.

Ford says that when she attempted to scream for help, Kavanaugh covered her mouth with his hand. A Kavanaugh friend, Mark Judge, falling on top of the two and sending all three tumbling to the floor allowed Ford an opportunity to escape.

Ford, along with Senate Democrats pushed hard for an FBI investigation. Senate Republicans, along with the White House, under strong public pressure acquiesced to the demand. That investigation, limited in nature, concluded the middle of last week.

The findings of the investigation were made available to all 100 Senators but were not made public. Republicans declared that no corroborating witnesses were found to support Ford’s allegations, while Democrats decried the investigation as incomplete, citing the fact that neither Ford nor Kavanaugh were interviewed.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Saturday morning that the final vote would be held between 4 P.M. and 5 P.M. in the afternoon.

“Judge Brett Kavanaugh is among the very best our country has to offer,” McConnell said from the Senate floor. “He unquestionably deserves confirmation.”

He also called the fierce opposition to Kavanaugh’s nomination a “great political gift.”

“I want to thank the mob, because they’ve done the one thing we were having trouble doing, which was energizing our base,” McConnell told The Washington Post.

Democrats urged their supporters to keep fighting. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, in remarks from the Senate floor criticized Kavanaugh as an unfit, partisan nominee, who would work hard to overturn landmark decisions important to progressives, such as Roe v Wade. He implored voters frustrated by Kavanaugh’s nomination process to channel their anger into Election Day action.

“If you believe Dr. Ford, and other brave women who came forward, and you want to vindicate their sacrifice, vote,” he said.

Photo by the Office of Senator Chuck Grassley via Wikimedia Commons

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Vote on Kavanaugh Supreme Court Nomination Delayed One Week

The confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court was delayed by at least a week when President Trump ordered an investigation into an alleged sexual assault involving Kavanaugh. The attack is alleged to have happened some thirty-six years ago. The investigation will not be broad and will be concluded in a week the President announced Thursday.

“I’ve ordered the FBI to conduct a supplemental investigation to update Judge Kavanaugh’s file. As the Senate has requested, this update must be limited in scope and completed in less than one week,” a statement issued by the White House read.

The developments surrounding the call for an investigation were fast moving and may have forced the President’s hand. The President had previously resisted calling on the FBI to open a probe into Kavanaugh’s past, laying the responsibility for any inquiry at the Senate’s feet instead.

“I would let the senators take their course. Let the senators do it. They’re doing a very good job. They’ve given tremendous amounts of time. They’ve already postponed a major hearing. And, really, they’re hurting somebody’s life very badly,” the President told reporters last week.

By Thursday the President’s position had changed. That change was precipitated by a dramatic development earlier in the day during vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Kavanaugh’s nomination. A nomination to the Supreme Court must pass out of that committee before heading to a full vote on the Senate floor.

Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Republican from Arizona, was seen largely as a reluctant vote to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination out of the committee. Prior to the committee vote, Flake stood up from his chair walked across the dais and tapped Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware on the shoulder. He motioned for him to follow him out of the committee room.

The two then retired to an anteroom just outside the main room. Flake remained outside of the committee room for more than an hour. As the minutes wore on, Flake’s fellow Republican Senators became increasingly concerned that he had changed his mind on the vote and had decided to vote Kavanaugh’s nomination down.

The Committee was set to vote at 1:30 P.M. ET but couldn’t because Flake was not in the room. Shortly thereafter Flake returned to the Committee room and was recognized to speak.

“I have been speaking with a number of people on the other side, we’ve had conversations ongoing for a while with regard to making sure that we do due diligence here and I think it would be proper to delay the floor vote for up to but not more than one week in order to let the FBI continue to do an investigation limited in time and scope to the current allegations that are there…limited in time to no more than one week,” he said.

“I will vote to advance the bill to the floor with that understanding. And I’ve spoken to a few other members who are on my side of the aisle that may be supportive as well, but that’s my position. I think that we ought to do what we can to make sure that we do all due diligence with a nomination this important,” Flake continued.

Immediately after, Kavanaugh’s nomination advanced out of the Committee. Soon after the vote however, several other Senators, mostly Republicans, announced that they too would only vote for Kavanaugh’s nomination in the full vote if an FBI investigation into the allegations were conducted.

At about 4 P.M. ET Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee formally asked the White House to order an investigation. Within the hour the President had made his announcement.

The White House, along with Senate Republicans, reiterated several times that the investigation will be narrow in purpose, focusing only on the accusations made last week by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University. Ford trains graduate students in clinical psychology.

Ford claims one day in the summer of 1982, Kavanaugh and a friend, described by Ford as both being “stumbling drunk,” lured her into a bedroom during a get together of teenagers at a home. Ford says she knew Kavanaugh and the friend, a man by the name of Mark Judge, as “friendly acquaintances” in the private-school circles they both were a part of in suburban Maryland.

Ford says Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed and got on top of her, attempting to pull off her clothes and grope her, all while Judge watched. When Ford attempted to scream, Kavanaugh put his hand over her mouth, she says.

“I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” Ford told The Washington Post. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.”

Judge falling on top of the two and sending all three teenagers stumbling to the floor allowed Ford an opportunity to escape. She briefly locked herself in a bathroom before fleeing the house, she says.

Kavanaugh has denied the allegations. “Judge Kavanaugh ‘categorically and unequivocally’ denie[s] this allegation,” a statement released by the White House after the accusations became public read.

Kavanaugh, during congressional testimony last week attempted to characterize the accusations as part of a conspiracy to undermine his nomination as well as Mr. Trump’s presidency.

“This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record and revenge on behalf of the Clintons,” Kavanaugh said.

Senate Republicans, while agreeing to the delay and the investigation, remained adamant that the inquiry will not be expansive, either in focus or in duration.

“I think what Jeff is trying to do is end this the best he possibly can, to accommodate some people on the other side, and to bring the committee together if possible. This is democracy,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

“A week is enough time…maybe less. We’re not playing this game of opening this up and …

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Hearing for Accusations Against Judge Kavanaugh Set for Monday

The Senate Judiciary Committee has announced a public hearing on Monday, September 24 on the allegations against President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh is accused of sexual assault by a woman who knew Kavanaugh when they were high school students in suburban Maryland in the 1980s.

The woman, Christine Blasey Ford, is a professor at Palo Alto University who teaches in a consortium with Stanford University. She trains graduate students in clinical psychology.

She claims one day in the summer of 1982, Kavanaugh and a friend, described by Ford as both being “stumbling drunk,” lured her into a bedroom during a get together of teenagers.

Ford was a sophomore at the all-girls Holton-Arms School in Bethesda at the time. Kavanaugh would have been a junior at his high school, Georgetown Prep. Ford says she knew Kavanaugh and the friend, a man by the name of Mark Judge, as “friendly acquaintances” in the private-school circles they both were a part of.

Ford says Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on the night in question and got on top of her, attempting to pull off her clothes and grope her as Judge watched. When Ford attempted to scream, Kavanaugh put his hand over her mouth, she says.

“I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” Ford told The Washington Post. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.”

Judge allegedly falling on top of the two and sending all three teenagers stumbling to the floor allowed Ford an opportunity to escape. She briefly locked herself in a bathroom before fleeing the house, she says.

Kavanaugh has denied the allegations. “On Friday, Judge Kavanaugh ‘categorically and unequivocally’ denied this allegation,” a statement released by the White House read. “This has not changed. Judge Kavanaugh and the White House both stand by that statement.”

Judge says he remembers no such incident taking place and voiced his continued support for Kavanaugh. “…I have no memory of the alleged incident,” Judge said in a statement through his attorney.

“Brett Kavanaugh and I were friends in high school but I do not recall the party described in Dr. Ford’s letter. More to the point, I never saw Brett act in the manner that Dr. Ford describes,” he continued.

Kavanaugh has said he will attend the hearing, which effectively delays a vote on his confirmation, which was originally scheduled for Thursday.

Ford has not agreed to testify and has called on the FBI to investigate her claims first. A statement released by her attorney says Ford does not believe a hearing with just her and Kavanaugh as witnesses qualifies as a “fair or good faith investigation.” But, she says, she is willing to cooperate with the committee.

Both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate agree an investigation should take place but differ on what one should look like. Democrats believe the FBI should lead the investigation while Republicans believe the Senate should handle it.

President Trump has maintained his support for Kavanaugh in light of the accusations but has signaled his want to see an investigation by the Senate take place.

Kavanaugh is one of the “great intellects and one of the finest people,” the president said this week but the Senate should be allowed “to go through a full process…If it takes a little delay, it’ll take a little delay,” he said.

Photo by the Office of the Vice President via Wikimedia Commons

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President Trump Nominates Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court

President Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the forthcoming vacancy on the High Court left by the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kennedy was nominated by then-President Ronald Reagan and has served for 31 years.

Although nominated by a Republican, Kennedy became a reliably independent voice, providing swing votes on such landmark issues as marriage-equality, affirmative action and the campaign finance case known as Citizens United.

Kavanaugh, Mr. Trump hopes, will follow in the same mold.

Kavanaugh, 53, currently serves as a federal appeals court judge but his ties to official Washington and the Republican establishment go back decades. He is a former aide to President George W. Bush and played a large role in independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s investigation of President Bill Clinton during the 1990s. Kavanaugh, working for Starr, was a strong advocate for, and laid out broad legal grounds to impeach Clinton.

Kavanaugh’s legal credentials are impeccable: He is a graduate of Yale and Yale Law School. He also actually clerked for Justice Kennedy, and currently teaches at Harvard, Yale and Georgetown. He reportedly impressed President Trump during his interview, and was also endorsed enthusiastically by White House Counsel Don McGahn.

“He is a brilliant jurist, with a clear and effective writing style, universally regarded as one of the finest and sharpest legal minds of our time,” President Trump said during his prime time announcement ceremony from the White House last night.

“There is no one in America more qualified for this position, and no one more deserving.”

But it is precisely his long track record working with, and against, past administrations that have some on the Republican side of the aisle worried. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly told President Trump that two other nominees whom he was considering, Judges Thomas Hardiman and Raymond Kethledge, would have an easier path to confirmation should they be nominated.

People familiar with the President’s thinking say McConnell’s warnings may have had the opposite effect on President Trump, pushing him closer to choosing Kavanaugh. McConnell called the pick “superb” after it was announced.

Democrats, unsurprisingly, took the opposing view, warning that with Kavanaugh’s selection, decisions in landmark cases such as Roe v. Wade and Obamacare are jeopardized.

“I will oppose Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination with everything I have, and I hope a bipartisan majority will do the same. The stakes are simply too high for anything less,” said Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in the wake of the announcement.

Still, it is unclear what Democrats can do to stop Kavanaugh’s appointment from going through. Because of a rule change made during the confirmation battle of President Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee last year, only a simple majority is needed to get Kavanaugh on the bench.

Republicans currently control 51 seats in the U.S. Senate and because Kavanaugh is perhaps the least conservative choice President Trump could have made, he is likely to enjoy wide support in the Senate.

With a second appointment to the Supreme Court, President Trump will have successfully tilted the Court’s slant rightward for perhaps a generation. Consequences of that shift have already been felt with the Court’s recent decisions on cases such as the travel ban and gerrymandering.

President Trump’s first appointee, Justice Neil Gorsuch, provided enough support to shift the decisions in those cases in the conservative direction.

Photo by The White House

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Kennedy to Retire, Ensuring Second Trump Nominee to Supreme Court

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has announced his retirement. He will be leaving the High Court in July. The announcement was made yesterday in the public release of a letter he wrote to President Donald Trump.

“This letter is a respectful and formal notification of my decision, effective July 31 of this year, to end my regular active status as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, while continuing to serve in a senior status,” Kennedy wrote to the President.

“For a member of the legal profession it is the highest of honors to serve on this Court,” he added.

President Trump said Kennedy had visited the White House for thirty minutes prior to the announcement being made public. He and the President spoke for half an hour. During their meeting Kennedy informed the President of his decision and offered replacement recommendations.

Trump addressed Kennedy’s retirement while addressing reporters prior to a meeting with Portuguese President Rebelo de Sousa after the announcement.

“[Kennedy’s] been a great justice of the Supreme Court. He is a man who is displaying great vision. He’s displayed tremendous vision and tremendous heart. And he will be missed, but he will be retiring,” he said.

“He’s a very spectacular man. Really, a spectacular man. And I know that he will be around, hopefully for a long time, to advise. And I believe he’s going to be teaching and doing other things. So thank you to Justice Kennedy. Okay? Thank you.”

The President did not share the names of possible replacements with reporters but did mention he had a short list of about twenty-five names he had compiled during his election campaign of possible nominees should there be a vacancy on the Court.

The timing of the retirement should be a boon to Republicans, as it allows his replacement to become a key issue in the upcoming midterm elections.

Justice Antonin Scalia passed away in February of 2016 but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to consider a replacement while President Barack Obama was still in office. He famously refused to meet with President Obama’s nominee at the time, Judge Merrick Garland.

President Trump’s election win in November 2016 allowed a conservative justice to be chosen to fill Scalia’s seat. The President nominated Neil Gorsuch who was confirmed in April of last year.

Democrats attempted to filibuster Gorsuch’s confirmation but Republicans invoked the so-called “nuclear option,” changing the number of votes required to confirm a Supreme Court justice from a filibuster-proof sixty to a simple majority of fifty-one.

Republicans currently control fifty-one seats in the Senate, a razor-thin margin that will undoubtedly be used as a rallying cry for both parties in the run-up to this year’s elections.

Kennedy was nominated to the Court in 1987 by then-President Ronald Reagan. Although nominated by a Republican, Kennedy became a reliably independent voice, providing swing votes on such landmark issues as marriage-equality, affirmative action and the campaign finance case known as Citizens United.

Court watchers believe that with another conservative confirmed to the Court, other landmark laws such as Roe v. Wade could be up for overturning as well.

The text of Justice Kennedy’s letter to the President appears below:

Supreme Court of the United States
Washington, D.C. 20543
CHAMBERS OF
JUSTICE ANTHONY M. KENNEDY
June 27, 2018

My dear Mr. President,

This letter is a respectful and formal notification of my decision, effective July 31 of this year, to end my regular active status as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, while continuing to serve in a senior status, as provided in 28 U.S.C. § 371(b).

For a member of the legal profession it is the highest of honors to serve on this Court. Please permit me by this letter to express my profound gratitude for having had the privilege to seek in each case how best to know, interpret, and defend the Constitution and the laws that must always conform to its mandates and promises.

Respectfully and sincerely,

Anthony Kennedy

The President
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500

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Supreme Court, in Major Victory for Trump, Upholds Travel Ban

The Supreme Court handed the Trump administration a major victory today upholding its travel ban against majority-Muslim countries. The decision was split 5-4, with the Court’s conservative-leaning justices voting to uphold the ban while its liberal-leaning justices voted to strike it down. Justice Kennedy, the Court’s sole swing vote, sided with the conservative view.

The administration was sued by the State of Hawaii, three individuals with foreign relatives who were denied entry into the U.S. because of the ban as well as the Muslim Association of Hawaii.

The ban bars from entry into the U.S. citizens of eight countries: Chad, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen. Iraq was subsequently dropped from the list while Somalia was subsequently added. Most of the countries have Muslim-majority populations.

The Trump administration claimed the ban was based on national security, but the plaintiffs argued that national security was a red herring and what the President really wanted to do was to prevent Muslims from entering the United States.

They cited the President’s calling for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” in December 2015 as proof of his true intentions, among other statements. Donald Trump was a candidate for President at that time he made that statement.

Plaintiffs point out that that statement remained on his campaign website until May 2017, well into his administration and believe it is evidence of religious animus.

The Court found that when a President weighs a national security decision, it is not required that he also take into account every possible discrimination claim or court challenge to that decision.

Existing U.S. law (8 U.S. Code 1882) allows the President to ban from entry into the U.S. “any class of aliens” he finds “would be detrimental to the interests of the United States…for such period as he shall deem necessary…or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”

Chief Justice John Roberts, in the majority opinion, acknowledged the President’s statements, but wrote that the Court must, in essence, take the administration’s word for it that the ban is based on national security and not discrimination toward any one group of people.

“[Plaintiff’s] arguments are grounded on the premise that §1182…not only requires the President to make a finding that entry ‘would be detrimental to the interests of the United States,’ but also to explain that finding with sufficient detail to enable judicial review. That premise is questionable,” he wrote.

“We may consider plaintiffs’ extrinsic evidence, but will uphold the policy so long as it can reasonably be understood to result from a justification independent of unconstitutional grounds.”

“But because there is persuasive evidence that the entry suspension has a legitimate grounding in national security concerns, quite apart from any religious hostility, we must accept that independent justification,” Roberts added.

President Trump tweeted his pleasure at the news shortly after it was announced. “SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS TRUMP TRAVEL BAN. Wow!” he wrote.

The President issued the first version of his travel ban one week after entering office in 2017. Protests erupted at major airports and border crossings all over the country. The ban, although revised several times since then, had been struck down by several courts in that time.

A federal district court in Hawaii entered a nationwide preliminary injunction on the ban in March of 2017, ruling the ban could not go into effect.

Justice Roberts was joined in his opinion by Justices Kennedy, Thomas, Alito and newest member of the Court and President Trump appointee, Justice Neil Gorsuch. Justice Breyer filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Kagan joined. Justice Sotomayor filed a separate dissent in which Justice Ginsburg joined.

Breyer pointed to the fact that a very small number of waivers for the travel ban were granted by the U.S. State Department as evidence of religious discrimination. Only two waivers were granted (out of 6,555 requests) during the first two months of the ban’s institution.

That number increased to 430 over the next two months, but Breyer says that number, when compared with the number of visas granted before the ban went into effect “accounts for a miniscule percentage of those likely eligible for visas, in such categories as persons requiring medical treatment, academic visitors, students, family members, and others belonging to groups that…would not seem to pose security threats.”

Justice Sonya Sotomayor also dissented on the belief that the President’s words revealed the ban’s true purpose to be discriminatory animus, and also criticized the ban’s waiver program, saying it is “nothing more than a sham.”

In dissenting she also cited another controversial Supreme Court decision: the one upholding the U.S. government’s internment of Japanese citizens during WWII. She likened today’s court decision to that one, quoting Justice Robert Jackson’s dissent in that case who said that the Court’s decision to uphold the government’s internment would be “a far more subtle blow to liberty than the promulgation of the order itself.”

The majority rejected that comparison.

“The dissent’s reference to Korematsu, however, affords this Court the opportunity to make express what is already obvious: Korematsu was gravely wrong the day it was decided, has been overruled in the court of history, and—to be clear—’has no place in law under the Constitution,’” Roberts wrote, also quoting Justice Robert Jackson.

The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, the agencies responsible for defending the ban in the court system and executing the ban respectively, both praised the ruling.

“Today is a great victory for the safety and security of all Americans….Today’s decision is critical to ensuring the continued authority of President Trump – and all future presidents – to protect the American people. We will continue to take and defend all lawful steps necessary to protect this great nation,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

“It is the duty of the government to ensure that those seeking to enter our country will …

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Tennessee Store Owner Puts “No Gays Allowed” Sign in Window in Wake of Supreme Court Decision

A Tennessee store owner has re-posted as sign that reads “No Gays Allowed” in the front window of his shop in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling last week in a case involving a baker who refused to bake a cake for gay couple’s wedding.

The store owner, Jeff Amyx originally put the sign in the window of the Amyx Hardware & Roofing Supplies in Grainger County, TN, in 2015, after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. He later removed it following a harsh backlash.

Amyx replaced the sign with a sign that read “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone who would violate our rights of freedom of speech & freedom of religion.”

“I was shocked. I was really shocked because of the track record of our Supreme Court,” Amyx said of the recent decision.

“Christianity is under attack. This is a great win, don’t get me wrong, but this is not the end, this is just the beginning,” Amyx said. “Right now we’re seeing a ray of sunshine. This is ‘happy days’ for Christians all over America, but dark days will come.”

The case involved Jack Phillips, owner and operator of the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, a suburb of Denver. A same-sex couple, Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins, entered the bakery in 2012 and asked Phillips to bake a cake for their wedding.

Phillips told the couple that he would create birthday cakes, shower cakes or sell them any of the other items he offered in his store but that he would not create cakes for same-sex weddings because it violated his religious beliefs. Phillips is a devout Christian.

Craig and Mullins sued Phillips under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court. The Hight Court, in a 7-2 ruling found that the Colorado state commission, the body the case originally went before, failed to rule against Phillips without hostility toward religion or religious viewpoint.

“The Commission’s hostility was inconsistent with the First Amendment’s guarantee that our laws be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority’s opinion.

Phillips was represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a group dedicated to protecting religious freedoms. Kristen Waggoner, Senior Vice President and General Counsel at ADF, argued the case before the high court. She praised the ruling.

“Jack serves all customers; he simply declines to express messages or celebrate events that violate his deeply held beliefs. Creative professionals who serve all people should be free to create art consistent with their convictions without the threat of government punishment,” she wrote in a statement.

“Government hostility toward people of faith has no place in our society, yet the state of Colorado was openly antagonistic toward Jack’s religious beliefs about marriage. The court was right to condemn that. Tolerance and respect for good-faith differences of opinion are essential in a society like ours. This decision makes clear that the government must respect Jack’s beliefs about marriage,” she added.

Photo by Ted Eytan via Flickr

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Supreme Court Legalizes Sports Betting

The Supreme Court struck down a 1992 law outlawing sports betting in most states, clearing the way for wagering to take place.

The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act made it illegal for states to “sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license, or authorize by law” sports gambling. Nevada was exempt from the law, and three other states – Montana, Delaware and Oregon – were allowed to continue their existing sports lotteries.

In 2011 the state of New Jersey approved sports betting in their legislature to help failing casinos in a down economy. The measure was swiftly challenged by professional sports leagues (the NFL, NBA and MLB among others) along with the NCAA. The main concern for the leagues was the integrity of their sports saying legalized wagering would turn their activities into vehicles for gambling. The leagues won in federal court.

New Jersey then tried to pass a law in 2014 that narrowed the focus of legalized sports betting, allowing it only to take place at racetracks and casinos. The courts ruled against New Jersey again. Then-Governor Chris Christie challenged the verdict, taking it to the Supreme Court, saying that the issue was a state’s right issue and that the 1992 law was unconstitutional under the “anti-commandeering” provision of the 10th Amendment.

Today the Supreme Court agreed.

In the majority opinion of the Court’s 6-3 decision, Justice Samuel Alito wrote, “The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make. Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each state is free to act on its own.”

The verdict was applauded by Christie.

“A great day for the rights of states and their people to make their own decisions. New Jersey citizens wanted sports gambling and the federal Gov’t had no right to tell them no. The Supreme Court agrees with us today. I am proud to have fought for the rights of the people of NJ,” the now-former governor wrote on Twitter.

The U.S.’ major sports leagues struck a cautious tone but vowed to keep working on issues they see as vital to the protection of the integrity of their sports.

“The NFL’s long-standing and unwavering commitment to protecting the integrity of our game remains absolute,” the NFL said in a statement. “Congress has long-recognized the potential harms posed by sports betting to the integrity of sporting contests and the public confidence in these events. Given that history, we intend to call on Congress again, this time to enact a core regulatory framework for legalized sports betting. We also will work closely with our clubs to ensure that any state efforts that move forward in the meantime protect our fans and the integrity of our game.”

“Our most important priority is protecting the integrity of our games,” Major League Baseball said in a statement. “We will continue to support legislation that creates air-tight coordination and partnerships between the state, the casino operators and the governing bodies in sports toward that goal.”

It is unclear whether Congress will take the issue up to create a national framework or if it will remain largely a states’ issue.

Photo by Baishampayan Ghos via Wikimedia Commons

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Supreme Court Declines to Take Up DACA Case, Likely Meaning Program Stays in Place for Foreseeable Future

The Supreme Court has declined to hear a case involving President Trump’s authority to end the immigration-protection program known as DACA, likely signaling the program’s continuance for at least several months.  The program’s original end date was March 5.

President Trump ended the DACA program last September but gave Congress six months to come up for a legislative six for its recipients.  Under the program, immigrants who were brought to the country illegally, but as young children, are allowed to remain as long as work, education and legal conditions are met.

Despite ending the program President Trump indicated a desire to see a permanent solution to the program pass in the Congress.  His administration has even proposed a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients, a step further than even pro-immigration activists had proposed.

Repeated attempts to see a permanent solution to DACA pass through the Congress however, have failed as part of larger immigration-reform negotiations.

Today’s decision allows lower courts’ decisions to stand and likely means that the program will continue past March 5.  Two federal judges had previously struck down Trump’s rescission of the program, ruling that the program must continue until a “decision on the merits” in other lawsuits brought over the program’s ending is made.

The Supreme Court’s decision was not wholly unexpected as no appellate court has reviewed those lower courts’ decisions, and it is exceedingly rare for the Supreme Court to hear a case bypassing that step.

In a statement, the White House reiterated its view that the DACA program, the result of an executive action by former President Obama and not by Congress is illegal.

“The district judge’s decision unilaterally to reimpose a program that Congress had explicitly and repeatedly rejected is a usurpation of legislative authority,” White House spokesman Raj Shah said.

“The fact that this occurs at a time when elected representatives in Congress are actively debating this policy only underscores that the district judge has unwisely intervened in the legislative process.”

Congress returns from a week-long winter recess today, but it is unclear whether any new attempts at DACA legislation will be made prior to March 5.

 

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