Judiciary

Supreme Court Deals Crushing Blow to Unions

The Supreme Court has delivered a devastating blow to public-sector labor unions, ruling 5-4 that they cannot collect fees from non-members, the Washington Post reports.

“The case has major implications for the future of organized labor, which has become a pillar of Democratic Party politics, and for the millions of workers in the nearly half of states that authorize payments from nonmembers to cover the cost of collective bargaining.”

Axios: “The public sector is one of the last bastions of labor’s strength — about 34% of government workers are unionized, compared with just 6.5% of the private sector. But this ruling could shrink those rolls significantly.”

Did Justice Kennedy Just Signal His Retirement?

Rick Hasen: “Rumors about Justice Kennedy’s retirement from the Supreme Court have circulated for well over a year, with the common one being that he was prepared to retire last year and some force—maybe norm-bashing President Donald Trump—stopped him. But something feels different this term…”

“On the key issues of the day, the feeling from Kennedy is that he’s done. It appears that this will be the first term since he’s become a swing justice where he did not side with the liberals in one significant 5–4 case. He’s returned to his conservative roots and has given up decisively bucking his own party. The separate concurrence in the travel ban case felt to me like a Kennedy mic drop. He’s done all that he can do to fix the problems in American society. Now it’s up to those in power, and those who put them there.”

Supreme Court Upholds Trump’s Travel Ban

The Supreme Court ruled that President Trump “acted lawfully in imposing limits on travel from several predominantly Muslim nations,” the New York Times reports.

“The vote was 5 to 4, with the court’s conservatives in the majority.”

“The court’s decision, a major statement on presidential power, marked the conclusion of a long-running dispute over Mr. Trump’s authority to make good on his campaign promises to secure the nation’s borders.”

Court Strikes Down Law On Anti-Abortion Centers

The U.S. Supreme Court “struck down a California law requiring clinics that counsel women against abortion to notify clients of the availability of abortions paid for by the state, ruling it violated the free speech rights of these Christian-based facilities,” Reuters reports.

The ruling represented a significant victory for abortion opponents who operate crisis pregnancy centers around the country.

Supreme Court Punts on Gerrymandering Case

The Supreme Court said it is declining to wade into a dispute over a North Carolina redistricting plan that a lower court had found violated the Constitution by overly favoring Republicans, the Washington Post reports.

Politico: “The justices had already passed up chances to issue sweeping decisions in cases from Wisconsin and Maryland involving claims of partisan gerrymandering. Instead, the high court ruled on narrow, technical grounds that steered clear of the central issue of when legislative districts are so skewed to favor one party that they violate voters’ constitutional rights.”

West Virginia Justice Indicted on 22 Counts

West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry “was indicted on 22 counts, U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart announced this morning. Stuart said that if Loughry were convicted on each of the counts, the sentence would amount to almost 400 years,” West Virginia Metro News reports.

“The charges include fraud, false statement and witness tampering offenses.”

Loughry is the author of a political ethics book: Don’t Buy Another Vote, I Won’t Pay for a Landslide: The Sordid and Continuing History of Political Corruption in West Virginia.

Supreme Court Sidesteps Ruling on Gerrymandering

“The Supreme Court on Monday sidestepped a decision on when partisan gerrymandering goes too far, ruling against the challengers of a Republican-drawn map in Wisconsin, and a Democratic redistricting in Maryland,” the Washington Post reports.

“The decisions in the separate cases once again puts off a decision on when courts can find that partisan efforts to keep parties in power goes so far as to be unconstitutional.”

Blacks Get Longer Sentences From GOP Judges

“Judges appointed by Republican presidents gave longer sentences to black defendants and shorter ones to women than judges appointed by Democrats, according to a new study that analyzed data on more than half a million defendants,” the New York Times reports.

“The study was conducted by two professors at Harvard Law School, Alma Cohen and Crystal S. Yang. They examined the sentencing practices of about 1,400 federal trial judges over more than 15 years.”

Big Supreme Court Decisions Loom

“The Supreme Court is heading into the final month of its term, facing decisions on gerrymandering, unions, gay rights, abortion and President Trump’s travel ban,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

“This term’s best-known case is a culture wars clash that pits equal rights for gay customers against a claim of religious liberty from a Christian store owner. It is one of three major cases that feature a ‘compelled speech’ claim from conservatives who object to liberal state laws. The others involve union fees and California’s required disclosures for crisis pregnancy centers.”

“The justices are expected to announce decisions on the first day of every work week between now and the end of June, and then adjourn for the summer.”

Kennedy Retirement Rumors Swirl Once Again

The Hill: “All eyes are on Justice Anthony Kennedy, 81, who reportedly considered calling it quits last spring. As the court’s current term winds to a close, speculation about his plans has again swept the capital, with court watchers searching for clues.”

“Those who say Kennedy is here to stay — at least for now — point to the fact that he’s already hired his law clerks for the next term, as Above the Law reported.”

Conservative Activists Behind Mystery $1 Million Gift

“One of the largest contributions to President Trump’s inaugural committee in 2016 appears to have been orchestrated by a set of powerful conservative legal activists who have since been put in the driver’s seat of the administration’s push to select and nominate federal judges,” McClatchy reports.

“The $1 million inaugural gift came from a Northern Virginia company called BH Group, LLC. Unlike other generous corporate inaugural donors, like Bank of America and Dow Chemical, though, BH Group was a cipher, and likely was set up solely to prevent disclosure of the actual donor’s name.”

“While the source of the money used to make the gift was masked from the public, a trail of clues puts the contribution at the doorstep of some of the same actors — most notably Leonard Leo, an executive vice president at the conservative Federalist Society — who have helped promote Trump’s mission, and that of his White House counsel, Don McGahn, to fill judicial vacancies as quickly as he can with staunchly conservative, preferably young jurists.”

Supreme Court Strikes Down Ban on Sports Betting

“The U.S. Supreme Court acted Monday to bust Nevada’s monopoly on legal sports betting, allowing more states to get in on the action and reap the tax benefits,” NBC News reports.

USA Today: “The justices ruled 7-2 that a 25-year-old federal law that has effectively prohibited sports betting outside Nevada cannot block states such as New Jersey that want to set up sports books. The ruling could set the stage for other states to expand legalized gambling as a source of government revenue.”

Oldest Appellate Vacancy Filled Over Objections of Senator

“Milwaukee lawyer Michael Brennan was confirmed for a key federal judgeship, filling the oldest appellate vacancy in the country but deepening a partisan schism in the U.S. Senate over judges,” the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports.

“He was confirmed 49-46 with only Republican votes, over the objections of Democrat Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin’s junior senator.”

“That has typically been enough to sink a nomination in recent years, because senators from both parties have enjoyed an effective veto over the selection of federal judges from their home states, a tradition known as the ‘blue slip.'”

“Baldwin’s GOP colleague from Wisconsin, Ron Johnson, used his blue slip power to block one of Democratic President Barack Obama’s nominees for the same 7th Circuit seat that his party filled Thursday.”