Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Federal Courts' Category

State Abortion Rulings Could Lead to Supreme Court Action

Contradictory rulings by federal courts over abortion rights in states may mean the topic could end up in the Supreme Court.

Politico reports that legislators have enacted numerous new abortion laws and that has led to “growing inconsistency nationally on the central legal argument of whether a state has created an “undue burden” for a woman seeking an abortion.”

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In Courts, a Big Year Ahead for Policy Decisions Affecting Millions

Republican leaders and their allies are banking on efforts in the courts, not Congress, to turn back key executive actions of President Obama’s and to deflate his second-term agenda, according to the New York Times. A Times article depicts an extremely important role for our courts:

“In 2015, major policy decisions affecting millions of Americans will be debated and decided in courtrooms, not legislatures.”

Because many Republicans have in the past criticized what they called judicial activism, the court-based strategies summon up catcalls from some Democrats. “What they cannot win in the legislative body, they now seek and hope to achieve through judicial activism,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va. “That is such delicious irony, it makes one’s head spin.”

But conservative academics and Republican officials disagreed, the article says. “They argue that urging the courts to restrain the president’s authority is legally different from a liberal judge’s using rulings to invent new rights under the Constitution.” Read more

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Fight Over Marriage Shows Courts are Part of Democratic Process

For a New Yorker commentary about legal battles in the Deep South over state prohibitions on marriage for same-sex couples, writer Amy Davidson takes a moment to reflect not on the win-loss column, but the role of America’s courts.

In a Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals opinion that upheld such bans in four states, Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote, “Who decides?” Davidson elaborates, “He meant the courts or the states, acting through their legislatures or ballot initiatives, which he called, echoing old states-rights arguments, ‘less expedient, but usually reliable.’” Read more

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Face-Off in Court Over Release of Ex-Judge’s Emails

The results of an investigation into the emails of a then-federal judge in Montana are shielded from public disclosure, attorneys for the U.S. judiciary contend.

The Great Falls (Mt.) Tribune reported the latest development in a longterm controversy involving former Judge Richard Cebull. He got in hot water after forwarding a racist and sexist email about President Obama from his courthouse computer (see Gavel Grab), and Indian petitioners asked another federal judge to locate and preserve Cebull’s emails as evidence.

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of Oakland, California already has rejected the petition once, but she permitted the filing of an amended petition, and the plaintiffs added new details. 

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Group Urges Kansas to Say No to Court’s Marriage Ruling

The Supreme Court issued an order this week allowing marriages for same-sex couples to proceed in Kansas. In response, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) urged Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback to “reject the idea that Kansas must abandon marriage because out of control federal judges say so.”

The nation’s highest court issued its order after a federal judge had struck down a Kansas ban on marriage for same-sex couples, in following an earlier ruling by the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

According to a NOM press release, the group called on Brownback “to order local clerks to refuse to issue marriage licenses that violate Kansas law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” Read more

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Lawmaker Asks Impeachment Investigation of Judge

Rep. Terri Sewell of Alabama is asking the House Judiciary Committee to launch an impeachment investigation of a federal judge, Judge Mark Fuller of Alabama, who is accused of assaulting his wife.

“The integrity of the federal court has already been severely compromised and I no longer have confidence in Judge Fuller’s ability to sit in the judgment of others,” Sewell said in a statement, according to Fox6.

Judge Fuller has been temporarily relieved of his caseload and has said he hopes to return to “full, active status” (see Gavel Grab).

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Court Says Candidate for KY Judge Can Campaign as Republican

In Kentucky, U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar said a candidate for a state district judgeship can say in campaign materials that he’s a conservative Republican.

The ruling in the case of candidate Cameron Blau invalidated a judicial ethics canon barring judicial candidates from stumping for election as a member of a political party, but it was not clear, the Associated Press said, whether the court’s order applied to every judicial candidate.

It also was not clear whether the Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission would appeal the new ruling. Jeffrey Mando, a lawyer representing the commission, said, “I think that the canon is important because it supports the (state’s) compelling interest in diminishing the reliance on political parties in the selection of judges and it promotes the nonpartisan nature of judicial elections in Kentucky.”

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Ninth Circuit Strikes Down Marriage Bans From Two States

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday struck down state bans from Idaho and Nevada on marriage for same-sex couples.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Ninth Circuit’s ruling — if upheld — would expand from 30 to 35 the number of states where marriage will be permitted for same-sex couples. That’s because it would apply to all the states covered by the Ninth Circuit, and it would invalidate the bans in Alaska, Arizona, and Montana, the newspaper said; action by the Supreme Court earlier this week invalidated bans in five other states (see Gavel Grab). Read more

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Legislator Wants Term Limits or Elections for U.S. Judges

Republican state Rep. John Becker of Ohio, who earlier this year called for impeachment of a federal judge over a single ruling (see Gavel Grab), now is voicing unhappiness over another U.S. judge’s ruling and saying federal judges should be subject to term limits or elections.

According to a Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch blog, Becker was critical of U.S. District Judge Peter Economus, who last month ordered Ohio to undo cuts to early voting because the cuts discriminated against the poor and minorities. Becker also said that in this legal dispute, the U.S. Supreme Court has “stepped in to (at least temporarily) restore sanity and the rule of law.”

He called Judge Economus “one of our local best examples of why federal judges should be term limited and/or elected. There are far too many judges, especially at the federal level, who believe it their mission to make the law Read more

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Essay: Court Battles Over Voting Rights Have High Stakes

There are high stakes for this year’s midterm elections, for the 2016 presidential elections and for the longer-term protection of citizens’ voting rights in a series of battles in the courts over how hard or easy it is to cast a vote, election law scholar Rick Hasen writes at Slate.

Hasen casts a spotlight on legal disputes, court rulings, and options for U.S. Supreme Court action in his essay, entitled “The Voting Wars Heat Up: Will the Supreme Court allow states to restrict voting for partisan advantage?” Read more

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