Ginsburg makes history at Capitol amid replacement turmoil
Legal Business | 2020/09/26 15:31
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg  lay in state Friday at the U.S. Capitol as the first woman ever so honored, making history again as she had throughout her extraordinary life while an intensifying election-year battle swirled over her replacement.

The flag-draped casket of Ginsburg, who died last week at 87, drew members of Congress, top military officials, friends and family, some with children in tow, to the Capitol’s grand Statuary Hall, paying respect to the cultural icon who changed American law and perceptions of women’s power.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, joined other invited guests. His vice presidential running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris said that “RBG,” as she is known by many, cleared a path for women like her in civic life.

“She, first of all, made America see what leadership looks like -- in the law, in terms of public service -- and she broke so many barriers,” Harris told reporters at the Capitol. “And I know that she did it intentionally knowing that people like me could follow.”

Biden, who was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee when Ginsburg was confirmed 27 years ago this month, said he was brought back to when he met her back then. “Wonderful memories,” he said.

Mourners gathered to honor Ginsburg under coronavirus distancing restrictions with the nation in political turmoil.

President Donald Trump is to announce a conservative nominee to replace her on Saturday, just weeks before the election. White House officials have indicated to congressional Republicans and outside allies that the nominee will be Indiana’s Amy Coney Barrett  but are maintaining a semblance of suspense to let Trump announce her.

His third justice, if confirmed, would be sure to move the court rightward on health care, abortion and other pivotal issues. A Senate confirmation vote would be expected in late October.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it was with “profound sorrow” that she welcomed Ginsburg and opened the private service.

She and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer stood under gray skies as Ginsburg’s casket made the short procession from the court’s steps where it had been on public view for several days to the East Front of the Capitol.


Senate GOP plans vote on Trump’s court pick before election
Attorney News | 2020/09/23 15:59
Votes in hand, Senate Republicans are charging ahead with plans to confirm President Donald Trump’s pick to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s  Supreme Court seat before the Nov. 3 election, launching a divisive fight over Democratic objections before a nominee is even announced.

Trump said Tuesday he will name his choice Saturday, confident of support. Democrats say it’s too close to the election, and the winner of the presidency should name the new justice. But under GOP planning, the Senate could vote Oct. 29.

“I guess we have all the votes we’re going to need,” Trump told WJBX FOX 2 in Detroit. “I think it’s going to happen.”

Republicans believe the court fight will energize voters for Trump, boosting the party and potentially deflating Democrats who cannot stop the lifetime appointment for a conservative justice . The Senate is controlled by Republicans, 53-47, with a simple majority needed for confirmation. The one remaining possible Republican holdout, Mitt Romney of Utah, said Tuesday he supports taking a vote.

Still, with early presidential voting already underway in several states, all sides are girding for a wrenching Senate battle over health care, abortion access and other big cases before the court and sure to further split the torn nation.

It is one of the quickest confirmation efforts in recent times. No court nominee in U.S. history has been considered so close to a presidential election. And it all comes as the nation is marking the grave milestone of 200,000 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic.

During a private lunch meeting Tuesday at Senate GOP campaign headquarters, several Republican senators spoke up in favor of voting before the election. None advocated a delay.

Elsewhere, as tributes poured in for Ginsburg with vigils and flowers at the court’s steps, Democrats led by presidential nominee Joe Biden vowed a tough fight. The Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, said “we should honor her dying wish,” which was that her seat not be filled until the man who wins the presidential election is installed, in January.

But that seemed no longer an option. So far, two Republicans have said they oppose taking up a nomination at this time, but no others are in sight. Under Senate rules, Vice President Mike Pence could break a tie vote.


'Justice Joan' Larsen emerges as finalist for Supreme Court
Court Watch | 2020/09/21 22:59
One of the women on Donald Trump’s short list to succeed Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court got her first taste of politics as a college student stuffing envelopes for Democrat Joe Biden’s 1988 presidential run.

But, by 1996, Joan L. Larsen was volunteering for Republican Bob Dole, and today few doubt her conservative credentials, which includes a longtime affiliation with the Federalist Society.

Larsen is among a small group of female lawyers whom Trump is considering to replace Ginsburg, the liberal icon whose death last week gave conservatives a chance to move the court further to the right. White House officials say Trump was referring to Larsen when he said Monday his finalists included “a great one from Michigan.” On Tuesday, he called her “very talented” in an interview with a local television station.

In just five years, Joan L. Larsen has gone from a little-known University of Michigan legal scholar to a prominent federal appeals court judge and now a candidate for the high court.

Conservative activists hope that, if nominated and confirmed by the Senate, Larsen would carry on the legacy of her mentor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, for whom she clerked in the early 1990s and eulogized after his 2016 death.

For Trump, picking Larsen could give him a boost in the critical battleground state of Michigan, where she has raised her two children, advanced her career and won election to the state Supreme Court.

Liberals fear that she would follow in Scalia’s footsteps by voting to overrule decisions that legalized abortion rights and gay marriage and other rulings that Scalia and his followers vociferously oppose.

At 52, Larsen would be a candidate who could serve on the high court for three decades or longer. Her father, Leonard Larsen, the retired CEO of a Lutheran social services agency, died in April at age 91. Her mother is 89.

Larsen’s rise began when Michigan's then-Republican Gov. Rick Snyder appointed her to fill a vacancy on the state Supreme Court in September 2015, praising her as a “superb attorney” who had experience in government, academia and private practice.


White House lawyer in running for seat on the Supreme Court
Legal Interview | 2020/09/20 23:00
President Donald Trump didn't have to look very far for one of the contenders on his short list to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court: he's been considering one of his own lawyers.

Kate Comerford Todd is a deputy White House counsel, helping navigate Trump's White House through a thicket of legal issues. It's a role she knows well, having served in the counsel's office during the administration of the last Republican president, George W. Bush.

Todd, 45, is the only lawyer mentioned as being on Trump's shortlist who has not previously been a judge, though she's hardly unfamiliar with the high court, having clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas. Her experience is otherwise diverse: she's twice counseled the White House, worked at a prestigious law firm and represented the interests of a leading business advocacy group.

“She is absolutely brilliant,” said Helgi Walker, a partner at the Gibson Dunn law firm who also served as a Thomas law clerk and in the White House counsel's office under Bush. “She is thoughtful, caring, considerate. She always tries to get it right, no matter what she's doing.”

Trump has signaled that he intends to name a woman for the third Supreme Court selection of his administration. Amy Coney Barrett is emerging as the early favorite to be the nominee after he met with her Monday before leaving the White House to campaign in Ohio. Todd was viewed as the favorite of White House lawyers, but there were concerns that the confirmation process would not be as smooth for a first-time jurist, according to people familiar with the situation.


Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87
Legal Business | 2020/09/19 17:34
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a towering women’s rights champion who became the court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington. She was 87.

Ginsburg died of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer, the court said.

Her death just over six weeks before Election Day is likely to set off a heated battle over whether President Donald Trump should nominate, and the Republican-led Senate should confirm, her replacement, or if the seat should remain vacant until the outcome of his race against Democrat Joe Biden is known. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said late Friday that the Senate will vote on Trump’s pick to replace Ginsburg, even though it’s an election year.

Trump called Ginsburg an “amazing woman” and did not mention filling her vacant Supreme Court seat when he spoke to reporters following a rally in Bemidji, Minnesota.

Biden said the winner of the November election should choose Ginsburg’s replacement. “There is no doubt — let me be clear — that the voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider,” Biden told reporters after returning to his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, from campaign stops in Minnesota.

Chief Justice John Roberts mourned Ginsburg’s passing. “Our Nation has lost a jurist of historic stature. We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn, but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her — a tireless and resolute champion of justice,” Roberts said in a statement.

Ginsburg announced in July that she was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for lesions on her liver, the latest of her several battles with cancer.

Ginsburg spent her final years on the bench as the unquestioned leader of the court’s liberal wing and became something of a rock star to her admirer s. Young women especially seemed to embrace the court’s Jewish grandmother, affectionately calling her the Notorious RBG, for her defense of the rights of women and minorities, and the strength and resilience she displayed in the face of personal loss and health crises.


Shooting outside US court in Phoenix wounds federal officer
Court News | 2020/09/16 15:08
A drive-by shooting wounded a federal security officer outside the U.S. courthouse in downtown Phoenix on Tuesday, and a person was later taken into custody, authorities said. The officer was taken to a hospital and was expected to recover, according to city police and the FBI. Jill McCabe, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Phoenix office, said someone was later detained and there was no indication of a further threat to the public.

The court security officer works for the U.S. Marshals Service and was struck in their protective vest, said a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly. Court security officers work under the direction of the U.S. Marshals Service but generally are employed by private security companies.

The FBI said it isn’t providing any more details as it investigates. Police had released a photo of a silver sedan spotted leaving the area around the Sandra Day O’Connor U.S. Courthouse. Hours after the shooting, a street surrounding the courthouse was closed to traffic, roped off by yellow tape with police officers standing on each corner. Armed federal officers talked outside the main entrance to the courthouse, which was still open to the public, according to a court clerk.

The shooting came after the weekend ambush of two Los Angeles County deputies. They were sitting in their parked vehicle when a man walked up to the passenger’s side and fired multiple rounds. The deputies were struck in the head and critically wounded but were expected to recover. The gunman hasn’t been captured, and a motive has not been determined. Federal courthouses have been flashpoints for recent violence, but it’s not clear who shot the officer in Phoenix or why.

In June, a federal security officer was shot and killed and his partner was wounded outside the federal courthouse in Oakland as they guarded the building during protests over racial injustice and police brutality. An Air Force sergeant was charged with the shooting, and prosecutors say he had ties to the far-right, anti-government “boogaloo” movement and used the protest as cover for the crime and his escape.

During demonstrations in Portland, Oregon, protesters and federal officers clashed at the federal courthouse, where people set fires and tossed fireworks and rocks, while federal authorities unleashed tear gas and made arrests.


Court: Trump can end temporary legal status for 4 countries
Court News | 2020/09/15 15:10
The Trump administration can end humanitarian protections that have allowed hundreds of thousands of people from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti and Sudan to remain in the United States, a divided appeals court ruled Monday.

While an appeal is imminent and orders to leave wouldn’t take effect for months, the decision moved many people closer to losing legal status, including families who have been in the U.S. for decades and have young children who are American citizens.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a preliminary injunction that blocked the government from ending Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for people from those four countries that are affected by natural disasters and civil conflict.

The order also applies to beneficiaries from Honduras and Nepal, who sued separately but are subject to Monday’s ruling under an agreement between attorneys for both sides, said Ahilan Arulanantham, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, who argued on behalf of TPS holders.

Since 1990, the policy has granted temporary legal status, which is often extended. But the Trump administration decided to end it for several countries, saying the conditions that justified protections in America no longer exist.

That decision had been on hold even as President Donald Trump moved to restrict other forms of humanitarian status in the U.S., such as refugee resettlement and access to asylum.

A three-judge 9th Circuit panel in Pasadena, California, rejected arguments that the administration failed to follow proper procedures and that racially motivated comments by the president and his aides about some of the countries drove the decision to end TPS.

The ACLU noted that in 2017, Trump said recent immigrants from Haiti “all have AIDS” and that Nigerians, once seeing the United States, would never “go back to their huts” in Africa.

White House pressure on Homeland Security leaders to end TPS didn’t prove racial motivation and was “neither unusual nor improper,” wrote Judge Consuelo Callahan, who was appointed by President George W. Bush. She noted that the administration extended TPS for other non-white, non-European countries.

“While we do not condone the offensive and disparaging nature of the president’s remarks, we find it instructive that these statements occurred primarily in contexts removed from and unrelated to TPS policy or decisions,” Callahan wrote.



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