Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Federal Courts' Category

Court Powers Threatened Over Marriage Equality Cases

gty_gay_marriage_supreme_court_jef_130614_wgProposed legislation by Rep. Steve King (Iowa-R) to strip federal courts of its power to rule in marriage equality cases is being called “radical” by some.

MSNBC reports that King’s “Restrain the Judges on Marriage Act of 2015” has seven Republican co-sponsors. In a press release, King said:

“This bill strips federal courts of jurisdiction to hear cases related to marriage.  The effect of the bill would prevent federal courts from hearing marriage cases, leaving the issue to the States where it properly belongs. My bill strips Article III courts of jurisdiction, and the Supreme Court of appellate jurisdiction, ‘to hear or decide any question pertaining to the interpretation of, or the validity under the Constitution of, any type of marriage.'”

This type of “court stripping” by Congress has been proposed around other hot button issues in the past, including  school prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. This proposal, which would not survive a Democratic filibuster in the Senate or be signed into law by President Obama, but is yet another example of legislative attacks on the court.


Comments are off for this post

Op-ed Suggests Judicial Activism is a Key Obama Opponent

FDRPresident Obama has faced judicial opposition to many of his signature programs, including the Affordable Care Act and his executive actions on Immigration. A Bloomberg op-ed written by  Noah Feldman claims that the judiciary has not shown so much opposition to a presidential agenda since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s initial New Deal.

Opposition to the National Industrial Recovery Act and the Agricultural Adjustment Act, key components of that original plan, were struck down by the Supreme Court. Roosevelt was forced to create more “institutionally moderate,” explains the article, in order to appease the Court’s conservative and moderate factions. Feldman goes on to suggest that Obama is having more trouble with the courts because activist judges are more accepted today.

Read more

Comments are off for this post

No Let-Up in Debate Over Chief Justice’s Challenge to Ballot Measure

Wisconsin_flag_mapAlmost two weeks after voters approved a ballot measure to change the way the Wisconsin Chief Justice is selected, a heated debate continues over Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson’s legal challenge to the proposed constitutional amendment.

At Huffington Post, a commentary by Mary Bottari of the Center for Media and Democracy was headlined, “Walker’s Dark Money Allies Orchestrate Coup of the Courts.” Bottari extensively quoted David Schwartz, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin, as saying the legal challenge was an appropriate step to resolve a complicated legal questions.

In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Editorial Page Editor David D. Haynes said the April 7th referendum was clearly aimed at demoting the sitting chief justice, and was an example of the kind of “vicious, hardball politics” played in Madison. But the voters have spoken, he said, Chief Justice Abrahamson lost, and there is little common-sense argument to be made in support of her legal challenge. Read more

Comments are off for this post

Voters Won’t be Permitted to Intervene in Chief Justice Lawsuit

A small band of voters who supported a referendum to change the selection method for the Wisconsin Chief Justice may not intervene in a lawsuit filed by Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson to challenge the newly passed amendment, U.S. District Judge James Peterson ruled.

The views of those supporting the constitutional amendment will be adequately presented by the Wisconsin attorney general, who is representing the state in the case, Judge Peterson found, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

To learn background about the lawsuit, click here for Gavel Grab. Meanwhile, on another front, the Associated Press reported that a key Wisconsin legislative panel parted ways with Republican Gov. Scott Walker and rejected his proposal to place the state Judicial Commission under control of the Wisconsin Supreme Court (see Gavel Grab).

Comments are off for this post

Center for American Progress Examines ‘Why Courts Matter’

The Center for American Progress has issued a new report entitled, “Why Courts Matter: Legal disputes over gun violence, money in politics, and voting rights illustrate the profound impact that U.S. federal courts have on the lives of all Americans.”

The report offers a kind of primer about how the federal courts work and about the politics of judicial nominations. It also discusses how the federal courts “affect the issues that progressives care about.”

This week, a Politico article had an article about another topic before the courts that affects millions of people, and about the composition of the federal appeals court that will be involved. It was headlined, “GOP judges in the majority on Obama immigration stay.” For background, see Gavel Grab.

Comments are off for this post

Voters Seek Dismissal of Wisconsin Chief Justice’s Lawsuit

Five Wisconsin voters are asking to intervene in a lawsuit brought by Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson challenging a ballot measure approved April 7th to change the way the Chief Justice is selected. The voters supported the change, which is likely to result in the top judge’s demotion if upheld.

Two of the voters are leaders of the conservative group Citizens for Responsible Government, according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article. The five “are represented by the same law firm hired by Wisconsin Club for Growth to fight an investigation into alleged illegal coordination between Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 recall campaign and other conservative groups,” the article said.

The voters want to get the lawsuit dismissed. They contend, according to the Associated Press, that Chief Justice Abrahamson may not proceed with her lawsuit because she still holds her post, and that a federal court where she filed her lawsuit does not have jurisdiction because a state issue is involved. A hearing is set for April 21 in the case; Chief Justice Abrahamson belongs to the court’s liberal-leaning minority.

Comments are off for this post

Judge Denies Immediate Halt to Chief Justice Selection Amendment

220px-Shirley_AbrahamsonU.S. District Judge James Peterson declined on Thursday a request from Wisconsin Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson for a temporary restraining order to block implementation of a change in how the Chief Justice is selected.

Judge Peterson said Tuesday’s vote on a referendum requiring the change will not be certified until April 29, and he will hold a hearing to get the arguments of both sides on April 21, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Chief Justice Abrahamson filed the lawsuit Wednesday to keep her job (see Gavel Grab for background).

If it is not overturned, the constitutional amendment approved by voters is likely to result in the Chief Justice’s demotion. She is part of the court’s liberal minority. The ballot measure was drafted by Republican legislators, and enacted after a $600,000 campaign by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, though critics portrayed it as a partisan power grab to topple the Chief Justice. Read more

Comments are off for this post

In Washington, Another Court Places State Under its Supervision

With its past funding decisions about K-12 education, the Washington Supreme Court has riled plenty of legislators (see Gavel Grab). This month, it is a federal court that has taken Washington state to task — and placed it under supervision — “to ensure it meets a constitutional obligation,” according to a Spokesman-Review editorial.

U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman found violations of federal due process rights when the state did not administer mental health competency evaluations to arrested persons in a timely way.

The judge will let Washington have nine months to correct the problem and will name a monitor to follow the state’s progress. “Jails are not hospitals, they are not designed as therapeutic environments, and they are not equipped to manage mental illness or keep those with mental illness from being victimized by the general population of inmates,” she wrote. Read more

Comments are off for this post

Analysis: Watch the Courts for Verdicts on Obama Initiatives

The number and scope of legal threats to major initiatives of the Obama administration appear unprecedented, analyst Jeffrey Toobin writes in the New Yorker.

“Nearly every significant initiative of the Obama Presidency faces mortal, or nearly mortal, threats in the courts,” Toobin asserts. They include legal challenges to the federal Affordable Care Act, Obama’s executive authority on immigration, the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules and Environmental Protection Agency actions to enforce the Clean Air Act.

In part, the extent of the legal challenges comes, according to Toobin, “because the extreme polarization of political opinion in Congress is reflected in the federal courts as well. On the Supreme Court and on lower courts, the differences between conservative and liberal federal judges can lead to dramatic differences in results. Sometimes, it’s worth it for challengers to roll the dice in front of the right judge.”

Comments are off for this post

Federal Court: Ex-Judge’s Emails Must be Preserved

In a long-running controversy involving former U.S. District Court Judge Richard Cebull of Montana, a U.S. judge has ordered federal officials to preserve hundreds of his emails.

Then-Judge Cebull got in trouble after forwarding a racist and sexist email about President Obama from his courthouse computer (see Gavel Grab), and Indian petitioners asked another federal court to locate and preserve Cebull’s emails as evidence.  They want to challenge prior rulings he issued.

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers has ordered that the emails be kept until January 2019, according to the Associated Press. She did not rule yet on an argument by lawyers for the judiciary that the emails may not be disclosed under federal law.

Comments are off for this post

Next Page »