Gavel Grab

4/4/08: The JAS News

U.S. immigration raids violated constitution: suit – Reuters
Reuters reports about a lawsuit against the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s raiding of illegal immigrants and it being constitutionality.

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3/20/08: The News Today…

Grisham’s Judicial Appeal – Wall Street Journal – Online
Editorial about the book, The Appeal by John Grisham. Their is also a less than complimentary mention of your favorite organization

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3/13/08: What the Blogs are Saying Today

More Texas Supreme Court Justices In Hot Water Over Political Expenditures – Capitol Annex
The Texas Supreme Court could not stay quiet for long. New controversy around campaign fund allocation.

Judiciary Proposes $475 Million Budget Increase for ’09 – The Blog of Legal Times
The Federal Judiciary have proposed a huge budget increase for FY 2009 largely dedicated to court staff benefits.

Arkansas Supreme Court Upholds Judicial Supervision of Buddhist Temple Election – Religion Clause
Interesting decision in the Arkansas State Supreme Court involving the separation of Church and State.

FISA Fight: House Judiciary members reject amnesty – Daily KOS
The House says NO to amnesty amendment.

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Removal from Office for Specific Decisions

While threats to remove judges from office over their decisions are nothing new, the last two state legislative cycles have been unprecedented in the actual number of resolutions introduced. Beyond simple rhetorical jousting, the drafting and consideration of articles of impeachment (or in some states bills of address) for judicial decisions has become more widespread and are not necessarily only contending with highly charged political issues.

Divorce/Custody: In Missouri, an order in a divorce dispute lead to draft impeachment articles being sent to the judge in the case by a state representative. Along with the draft was a suggestion the judge remove herself from the proceedings. This is similar to a bill New Hampshire’s legislature considered in 2006 (HA 1), itself an effort to remove a sitting judge for a decision made in a divorce case. The New Hampshire bill was unanimously rejected by a joint House-Senate Address committee.
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When Will Courts Become an Issue in Presidential Politics?

America’s courts have been frequent targets of political attacks in recent years. Surprisingly, I’d argue, they have yet to become much of an issue in the Presidential primaries (with one notable exception), where, you’d think, red-meat politics would be stoked by controversial court rulings. Recently we got two reminders that courts are still relevant in the primaries, because judges can’t dodge tough decisions. First, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that MSNBC could exclude Rep. Dennis Kucinich from a Democratic candidates debate in Las Vegas. The same day, all the way across the country, a federal court in Washington ruled that TV ads promoting a film critical of Sen. Hillary Clinton are subject to federal campaign finance laws. Neither decision is likely to reshape the presidential race, but the decisions do serve as reminders that the U.S. Supreme Court will be ruling on any number of controversial cases in coming weeks and months, and those rulings are likely to become front and center in campaign rhetoric.

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JAS Daily News Monitor 12/7/07

Panel OKs bill to televise open Supreme Court sessions – CNN Washington Bureau
The Senate Judiciary Committee approves a bipartisan bill that would put television cameras in the U.S. Supreme Court. The bill is not going unopposed by some Supreme Court Justices.

Task force to keep judge races in check – The Capital Times, Madison, WI
In the wake of recent highly politicized Supreme Court elections, State Bar President Tom Bastings has announced a new task force designed to monitor campaigns and help restore justice and integrity in the election process.

Commentary: The Supreme Court Must Rebuke Some of Louisiana’s Errant Prosecutors – and Start in Jena – Black America Web
As the U.S. Supreme Court hears Louisiana case on racial bias in the justice system, Judge Greg Mathis argues that greater Supreme Court intervention is needed to dismantle racial prejudices especially in the Jena six case.

Getting to know judges – The Kansas City Community News
The newly formed Kansas Commission on Judicial Performance will help inform voters on the judicial candidates and provide judges with evaluations designed to improve performance.

Click here for more news on fair and impartial courts issues from the Brennan Center for Justice E-lerts.

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JAS Daily News Monitor 12/6/07

Supreme Court Reconsiders Pivotal Louisiana Case on Racial Selection of Juries – The New York Times
The United States Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Snyder v. Louisiana, Allen Snyder’s final appeal for his claim that the jury selection in his death penalty trial was racially biased.

Justices Leery of Bush’s Guantanamo Stance – The Wall Street Journal
The United States Supreme Court hears Boumediene v. Bush. As with many recent cases, Justice Kennedy may hold the deciding vote.

Gitmo Goes to Court: The judiciary has no business managing how we fight wars abroad – The Wall Street Journal Editorial
In this article, David Rivkin and Lee Casey, who both served in the DOJ under Presidents Reagan and Bush Sr., argue that if the U.S. Supreme Court decides to grant Guantanamo Bay detainees habeas rights, they would be expanding judicial power to an unprecedented level and dismissing the CSRT process as an acceptable habeas substitute.

State Supreme Court: A plus for fairness – The Seattle Post-Intelligencer Editorial Board
Washington state Governor Chris Gregoire recently appointed Justice Debra Stephens, a judge representing Eastern Washington, to the State Supreme Court.

Elections still better way to choose judges – The Decatur Daily
This editorial argues that while judicial elections have their setbacks, ultimately campaign contribution transparency is a better solution and keeps the judges accountable to the voters.

Click here for more news on fair and impartial courts issues from the Brennan Center for Justice E-lerts.

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News from Stormy Washington State


Two interesting items out of Washington state today that don’t have to do with flooding or helicopter evacuations.

First, two state judges have an op-ed in the Seattle Times criticizing the recent political spat between Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani over a recent controversial ruling by a Romney appointee in Massachusetts.Judge Steve Leben of Kansas and Judge Kevin Burke of Minnesota argue that “no judge should be judged on the basis of a single opinion or judgment unless that ruling shows an utter disregard for the rights of the parties or the judge’s obligation under the law.So far, there is no reason to believe that Judge Tuttman’s decision fits either category.”

Second, yesterday brought a highly-anticipated appointment to the Washington Supreme Court.Gov. Chris Gregoire has appointed an appeals court judge from Spokane, Judge Debra Stephens, to the seat being vacated by Justice Bobbe Bridge.The appointment was being watched in large part because the new appointee will have to stand for election in less than a year, and judicial campaigns in Washington have been getting rougher and more negative with each passing election cycle.The Olympia desk of the Associated Press notes: “Justice for Washington, an activist group headed by former Sen. Slade Gorton, complained that Stephens has a long history of promoting the views of the state’s trial lawyers. “A more moderate appointment would have been preferable,” Gorton said.

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The Schiavo Primary

Two and a half years ago, with Terri Schiavo’s end-of-life struggle playing out on national television, Congress passed a law transferring it from state to federal court. They gave her parents special authority to bring a lawsuit, and ordered federal judges to ignore previous state decisions. It was political court-tampering of the first rank. Americans across the political spectrum were appalled. Inside-the-Beltway backpedaling ensued.

The backlash hasn’t been lost on the major presidential candidates:

  • “The decision of Congress to get involved was a mistake,” said Mitt Romney. “I think it’s probably best to leave these kinds of matters in the hands of the courts.”
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