Presidential Candidates Diverge Over Court Picks; AFJAC’s Aron is Quoted

la-na-pol-presidential-debate-st-louis-photos-030In their second debate, presidential candidates  Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton gave sharply divergent views when asked how they would go about choosing Supreme Court justices. They “made it clear just how critical this election is for our Supreme Court,” The National Law Journal quoted Alliance for Justice Action Campaign President Nan Aron as saying.

Replying to a question from the audience, Clinton said in the Sunday debate, “I want to appoint Supreme Court justices who understand the way the world really works, who have real-life experience, who have not just been in a big law firm and maybe clerked for a judge and then gotten on the bench.” She wants a high court “that will stick with Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose,” she said, according to The Los Angeles Times, “and I want a Supreme Court that will stick with marriage equality.”

“I want a Supreme Court that doesn’t always side with corporate interests. I want a Supreme Court that understands because you’re wealthy and you can give more money to something doesn’t mean you have any more rights or should have any more rights than anybody else,” she said at another point. She said the current court “has gone in the wrong direction” and she would want to see the court reverse the Citizens United campaign finance decision from 2010 and also protect voting rights.

Trump praised the late Justice Antonin Scalia as a model justice, and he described 20 individuals he has named as possible picks as “highly respected, highly thought of, and actually very beautifully reviewed by just about everybody.”

His nominees, Trump said, would protect the Second Amendment, “which is totally under siege by people like Hillary Clinton.” His opponent replied, “I respect the Second Amendment,” and said she supports  comprehensive background checks, closing “the gun show loophole” and “the online loophole.”

AFJAC’s Aron,  focusing on the critical nature of this election for the Supreme Court, noted, “The next president could appoint up to four justices who will serve lifetime tenures.” The National Law Journal article quoting her was headlined, “In Debate with Trump, Clinton Says She’d Look Outside ‘Big Law’ for Supreme Court Nominees.” It was available through a Google search.

A Short-handed SCOTUS Opens for Business

justice-scalesAlthough the traditional “First Monday” arguments won’t take place until tomorrow, after the Jewish holiday, the Supreme Court officially started its new term today – with one vacancy still remaining.  A flurry of articles and editorials commented on how the short-handed Court will function, including pieces in The Washington Post, The New York Times,  Reuters, McClatchy, and the Los Angeles Times.    Several noted that without a full complement of justices, the Court may find itself unable to resolve key questions of law.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on its first day declined to weigh in on two closely-watched issues.  One was the appeal of a ruling in Wisconsin’s “John Doe” case involving Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-recall campaign.  According to the Wisconsin State Journal, the Court declined to hear the appeal of three Democratic district attorneys, who were requesting a reopening of the investigation into alleged illegal coordination between Walker’s campaign and outside interest groups including the conservative Club for Growth.  The same interest groups were known to have supported the campaigns of conservative state Supreme Court justices, an issue that came under scrutiny when the court shut down the investigation into Walker’s campaign. According to the Journal, UC-Irvine law professor Rick Hasen observed,”A short-handed court split ideologically 4-4 may have been especially reluctant to delve into this politically sensitive case. Still the question of judicial recusal of judges who directly benefited from the Club for Growth’s campaign activities merited review.”

The Court also decided not to accede to the Obama administration’s request to reconsider the president’s plan to spare millions of immigrants from deportation, according to Reuters.  The Court deadlocked 4-4 over the issue last summer.

The Huffington Post took note not only of the Supreme Court’s short-handedness but of the failure to confirm scores of judges to lower federal court seats in a piece quoting Nan Aron in her role as President of our sister organization, the Alliance for Justice. Referring to Republicans in the Senate, Nan said, “What they’re doing is holding open these seats for a future Republican president to put in individuals who side with the wealthy and the powerful. That’s what this is about.”

And in state court news, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary has suspended Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore from the bench without pay for the rest of his term.  According to NPR, Moore violated judicial ethics when he ordered state judges not to respect the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling affirming marriage equality.

Huffington Post Cites Aron on SCOTUS Oversight in Debate

washington-supreme-court-building-washington-d-c-dc169SCOTUS CONSPICUOUSLY ABSENT FROM FIRST DEBATE:  Although the presidential election will have an enormous impact on the future makeup of the Supreme Court, that topic was notably absent from the agenda of the first Trump-Clinton debate. The Huffington Post’s Cristian Farias pointed out the oversight in a piece headlined “One Issue That Could Reshape America For A Generation Was Snubbed At The Debate,” and quoted Nan Aron in her role as President of  our sister organization, Alliance for Justice.  “It’s disappointing that one of the most critical issues facing our democracy, the future of the Supreme Court, didn’t get any airtime in tonight’s debate,” Nan said.  The Huffington Post piece went on to urge that the Court get coverage in the remaining presidential debates as well as the upcoming vice presidential debate.

Meanwhile, Noah Feldman in a piece for Bloomberg View offered analysis of why the SCOTUS issue failed to come up at the first debate, and why it has received less attention on the campaign trail than some might have expected.  Prof. Feldman’s take: neither candidate believes he or she can gain an edge by highlighting the Court as a campaign issue.  Donald Trump, Feldman writes, can’t promise to remake the Court as he would likely get only the chance to replace the late Justice Scalia with another conservative judge, thereby maintaining the status quo.  Meanwhile, although a Hillary Clinton appointment to replace Scalia could shift the balance on the Court, Feldman opines that “it isn’t good politics for her to trumpet a liberal transformation of the court when she’s trying to win over the median voter.”

CLIMATE PROTECTION PLAN HANGS BY A THREAD IN FEDERAL COURT:  The Hill reports that the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, a central feature of  President Obama’s second-term climate agenda, is in the hands of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals after the Supreme Court put its implementation on hold earlier this year.  The Clean Power Plan is often cited as a primary example of the Supreme Court’s, and federal courts’, influence in the environmental arena.  According to The Hill, it’s unclear whether the plan will survive the current federal court scrutiny.  Its implementation was halted in February by a Supreme Court ruling that sent it down to the lower court for review; the Court’s action was among the last joined by Justice Antonin Scalia before his death days later.

NPR Cites Aron on Trump’s Judicial Candidates; Senators Press Bank

gty_supreme_ct_jrl_160520_12x5_1600AFJAC CRITICAL OF EXPANDED JUDGES LIST: When NPR reported on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s expanded list of potential Supreme Court picks (see Gavel Grab), it quoted AFJAC President Nan Aron. The latest list, like Trump’s first one, features “ultraconservatives who espouse a backward view of the law,” NPR quoted Aron as saying.

While a measure of racial diversity was added, Aron said, it “doesn’t change the fact that these individuals’ track records suggest they would endanger the cherished rights and freedoms of Americans.”

Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network, on the other hand, “praised the Trump lists as ‘unprecedented’ steps that should ‘please conservatives’ if Trump is elected and delivers on the type of nominee he is promising.”

FAKE-ACCOUNTS SCANDAL BRINGS PRESSURE ON BANK: Wells Fargo & Co. CEO John Stumpf was pressed on Friday by a group of Senate Democrats to halt enforcing forced arbitration clauses in its agreements with customers.

“If Wells Fargo really does want to look out for the customers, if they really are in fact sorry, as the CEO said, for these unauthorized accounts, they ought to let the court system work if these people who were wronged want to bring suit,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, according to The Los Angeles Times. Brown and five other senators wrote a letter to Stumpf outlining their concerns.

ABC News explained the issue this way: “Arbitration, mandated in some if not all basic agreements that customers sign when they open accounts at the bank, ‘helps hide fraudulent schemes such as the sham accounts at Wells Fargo from the justice system, from the news media, and from the public eye,’ the senators wrote.” Gavel Grab has more about Stumpf’s testimony before a Senate panel this week.

VOTER-PURGING SYSTEM STRUCK DOWN: In another in a series of recent voting law cases around the nation, “The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that Ohio’s reliance on lack of voting activity as a trigger for purging people from the voting rolls violates federal law,” Cleveland.com reported.