Not Just Clueless But Lawless Too

In a 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court has granted the application to vacate the stay in enforcing the lower court’s order terminating the CDC’s eviction moratorium. (Alabama Assn. of Realtors v. Department of Health and Human Servs.)

In a per curium order the Court states:

It is indisputable that the public has a strong interest in combating the spread of the COVID–19 Delta variant. But our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends. Cf. Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U. S. 579, 582, 585–586 (1952) (concluding that even the Government’s belief that its action “was necessary to avert a national catastrophe” could not overcome a lack of congressional authorization). It is up to Congress, not the CDC, to decide whether the public interest merits further action here.

***

If a federally imposed eviction moratorium is to continue, Congress must specifically authorize it. The application to vacate stay presented to THE CHIEF JUSTICE and by him referred to the Court is granted.

So ordered.

The three dissenters were Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan.

Not Just Clueless But Lawless Too

The Supreme Court has denied a request for a stay pending appeal of the injunction requiring the Xiden Administration to reimplement the remain-in-Mexico requirement for asylum seekers entering the country at the southern border. A U.S. District Court found that the Xiden Administration broke law in promulgating its preferred policy. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s finding.

A Supreme Bench Slap

The Supreme Court has struck down California’s covid regulations limiting home Bible studies and prayer meetings. The per curium opinion closes with these words—

This is the fifth time the Court has summarily rejected the Ninth Circuit’s analysis of California’s COVID restrictions on religious exercise. … And historically, strict scrutiny requires the State to further “interests of the highest order” by means “narrowly tailored in pursuit of those interests.” Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. Hialeah, 508 U. S. 520, 546 (1993) (internal quotation marks omitted). That standard “is not watered down”; it “really means what it says.”

The decision was 5-4, with Roberts in the minority.

Texas Replies

Texas has filed a reply to the oppositions filed by Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia.

UPDATE—The Texas reply concludes—

Although Defendant States dispute that the Court should hear this action in its discretion and dispute the laws and facts, Defendant States offer no reason against deciding this action summarily if the Court rules for Texas on the facts and law.

UPDATE 2—Texas has also filed a reply in support of its motion for a preliminary injunction.

UPDATE 3—126 Congresscritters file in support of the Texas motion for a preliminary injunction.

Ohio Asks the Supremes to Rule

Ohio has asked for leave to file a brief in support of neither party in the Texas v. Pennsylvania, et al. suit. While Ohio does not support the remedies sought by Texas, it asks the court to take the case and settle the meaning of the Electors Clause so that future elections will not be plagued with similar issues.

Who’s On First

I told you that it would be interesting to see who files amicus briefs in support of which side of the Texas v. Pennsylvania, et al. lawsuit in the Supreme Court. The following states have filed a joint brief in support of the Texas motion for leave to file a Bill of Complaint: Missouri, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia. In addition, Arizona has filed a motion for leave to file a brief asking the court to hear the case and to hear it quickly “to give the Nation certainty.” While Arizona argues that the court does not have discretion as to whether to hear the case or not, it does not necessarily support Texas’ position in the case.

A group of law professors along with Roy Moore (yes, that Roy Moore) have filed a motion to file an amicus brief in support of Texas.

Donald Trump, in his personal capacity, has filed a motion to intervene in the case.

A group of individuals (including “Carter Phillips, former Acting Attorney General Stuart Gerson, former Senator John Danforth, former Governor Christine Todd Whitman, former Senator and Governor Lowell Weicker, conservative legal scholars, and others who have worked in Republican federal administrations”) have filed a motion for leave to file an amicus brief is support of the defendant states. They argue that the Texas case violates the principle of federalism and the separation of powers between the states and the federal government, a states’ rights argument.

Stay tuned.

Texas, et al.

Thus far, it’s reported that the Attorneys General of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Tennessee have announced support for Texas either as amici or possibly co-plaintiffs in the Texas v. Pennsylvania, et al. lawsuit.

I am unaware of any state signing on in support of the defendant states in the case.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE—Missouri and 16 other states have filed an amicus brief in support of Texas.

Civil Rights News

There are a couple of big civil rights lawsuits to comment on today.

The one that appears to be getting the most attention today is the Supreme Court’s grant of a preliminary injunction against further enforcement of Governor Cuomo’s arbitrary limits on attendance at houses of worship. Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, New York v. Cuomo. This is a significant First Amendment victory. The injunction also applies in Agudath Israel of America v. Cuomo.

The other case worth talking about is C. J. Pearson, et al. v. Kemp, et al. This case is filed in the U.S. District Court in Atlanta, and it alleges that this month’s election was conducted fraudulently in Georgia. The federal causes of action are based in 42 U.S.C § 1983. Section 1983 is a Reconstruction Era law which authorizes civil actions against officials acting under color of state law deprive a citizen of any of his rights, privileges, or immunities guaranteed under the Constitution. C. J. Pearson is not the first black voter to sue the State of Georgia. Sidney Powell and L. Lin Wood are among the lawyers who signed the complaint.

The next few weeks will be interesting.

I’m Listening to the Barrett Confirmation Hearing

So far, it’s just Senators making statements with Judge Barrett sitting there listening.

The Democrats are making the main issue preserving the remains of Obamacare. Roe v. Wade is taking a back seat along with gun control.

The committee is about to take a lunch break.

UPDATE—It looks as if the talking points memo has been fully distributed. In Ohio this morning, Joe Biden responded to a question about the confirmation hearing by saying that issue was about millions of Americans losing their health care. The Roe v. Wade angle must not be polling well, and the Democrats may have notice that 2020 has generated a large number of voters who care about their Second Amendment rights.

A Job Opening

There’s a vacancy on the Supreme Court because of the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I could join in the analysis, but while I was getting a good night’s sleep, Bookworm Room put up a post that says pretty much what I think about the situation. I’ll add these few thoughts:

I believe that the President should nominate a new justice to the court quickly and that the Senate should confirm the new justice expeditiously, before the election. The court should be intact in case it is called upon to handle election recount issues similar to Bush v. Gore. Joe Biden could try to take that issue off the table by promising not to engage in the kind of vote harvesting and election theft the Democrats are obviously planning for this November, but it would be foolish for President Trump and Senator McConnell to trust such a promise. The President and the Senate should act to eliminate the possibility of a 4-4 decision by the Court.

Or maybe not. The court is now 5-3. The Chief Justice might be a reliable vote if he is concerned about the Democrats’ threats to engage in court packing.

Things are about to get interesting.

Don’t Know Much Biology

Yesterday, the Supreme Court held in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that  federal employment law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of “sex” protects gay and transgender employees.

Are the Majority of the Supreme Court science deniers? Or do words no longer have meaning?

Humpty Dumpty was unavailable for comment.

A Troubling Remark

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, Inc. v. City of New York. The case challenges the constitutionality of a city gun control regulation which forbade persons with a so-called premises licenses to transport their firearms any place other than on of seven approved firing ranges within the city. They could not even be removed from their licensed premises to be taken out of town.

New York City prevailed in the case in District Court and in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, but when the Supreme Court took the case, the City and the State of New York changed their laws and regulations in an attempt to moot the case. Under the new regime, firearms could be transported out of town for certain purpose as long as the trip was “continuous and direct.” No allowance was made for stops for fuel, meals, or overnight rest.

Both the petitioners and the United States argued that the case was not moot because the regulation was still unreasonable, and a couple of the justices seemed to favorably consider the idea that there was still a live controversy and that the City should not be able to dodge having its gun control regime tested against the standard set by D.C. v. Heller. The petitioners argued that allowing a government to moot a case after the Supreme Court accepts it for review would be a bad precedent. Speaking for the United States, the Deputy Solicitor General argued that the case was not moot because the petitioners could still seek money damages and because the text and history of the Second Amendment “condemn” New York City’s transport ban.

There was push back from the liberal justices—the most disturbing to me was a remark by Justice Sotomayor characterizing Heller as a “made-up new standard.” IANAL, but it seems to me that Antonin Scalia’s opinion clearly lays out what the Second Amendment has meant since it was enacted. Moreover, her comment seems to show a certain intellectual dishonesty. She is certainly not strict constructionist, so new standards of interpretation shouldn’t be a problem per se. I suspect that she would be all for the application of stare decisis to Rove v. Wade, so why not to Heller?

The court has been dodging Second Amendment cases recently. The justices may use mootness to punt this one. We shall see.

Meanwhile, there are more 2A cases in the pipeline.

Nice Court You’ve Got There—It’d Be A Shame If Something Happened To It

Senator Whitehouse (D-RI) has filed a brief with the Supreme Court in case of New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. City of New York. In his brief he warns the court not to take up the case, lest it find itself ruling in favor of the Second Amendment claim made by the petitioner.

The Supreme Court is not well. And the people know it. Perhaps the Court can heal itself before the public demands it be “restructured in order to reduce the influence of politics,”

FDR’s threat of court packing worked 80-some-odd years ago. I hope the justices ignore this one.

BTW, Dick Durbin, Kirsten Gillibrand, Richard Blumenthal, and Mazie Hirono all signed on to Whitehouse’s threat to the court.

First Amendment News

Following along the course set in Matal v. Tam, the Supreme Court has ruled in Iancu v. Brunetti that the Lanham Act’s prohibition on registration of immoral or scandalous trademarks violates the First Amendment.

Justice Kagan wrote the decision which was joined by Thomas, Ginsburg, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh. Alito wrote a concurring opinion. Roberts and Breyer filed opinions concurring in part and dissenting in part. Sotomayor filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part which Breyer joined.

UPDATE—From today’s opinion:

The government may not discriminate against speech based on the ideas or opinions it conveys.

UPDATE 2—Justice Alito, concurring:

But in many countries with constitutions or legal traditions that claim to protect freedom of speech, serious viewpoint discrimination is now tolerated, and such discrimination has become increasingly prevalent in this country. At a time when free speech is under attack, it is especially important for this Court to remain firm on the principle that the First Amendment does not tolerate viewpoint discrimination.

Congress, the Supreme Court, and Impeachment

President Trump has remarked that if the House were to pass articles of impeachment against him that did not properly charge him with a crime (Orange Man Bad isn’t even a misdemeanor), he might go to the Supreme Court seeking to have the impeachment quashed. Various pundits and academics have tut-tut-ed and stated that the President doesn’t understand how impeachment works. Do they?

Alan Dershowitz has a piece over at The Hill suggesting that the President may not be too far off base.

Were Congress to try to impeach and remove a president without alleging and proving any such crime, and were the president to refuse to leave office on the ground that Congress had acted unconstitutionally, there would indeed be such a constitutional crisis. And Supreme Court precedent going back to Marbury v. Madison empowers the justices to resolve conflicts between the executive and legislative branches by applying the Constitution as the supreme law of the land.

Recall that when a president has been impeached by the House, the Supreme Court’s chief justice presides at his Senate trial and the senators take a special oath. This special oath requires each senator to swear or affirm that “in all things pertaining to the trial … [to] do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the law” (italics added).

If the House were to impeach for a non-crime, the president’s lawyer could make a motion to the chief justice to dismiss the case, just as a lawyer for an ordinary defendant can make a motion to dismiss an indictment that did not charge a crime. The chief justice would be asked to enforce the senatorial oath by dismissing an impeachment that violated the words of the Constitution. There is no assurance that the chief justice would rule on such a motion, but it is certainly possible.

No one should criticize President Trump for raising the possibility of Supreme Court review, especially following Bush v. Gore, the case that ended the 2000 election. Many of the same academics ridiculed the notion that the justices would enter the political thicket of vote-counting. But they did and, in the process, weakened the “political question” doctrine. The case for applying the explicit constitutional criteria governing impeachment is far more compelling than was the case for stopping the Florida recount.

So no one should express partisan certainty regarding President Trump’s suggestion that the Supreme Court might well decide that impeaching a president without evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors is unconstitutional.

Read the whole thing.

Meanwhile, at the Supreme Court …

… there will be a oral argument in a case in which I have more than a passing interest. After the 2010 census, Maryland’s 6th Congressional District was gerrymandered to eliminate any chance of a Republican being elected. All of Carroll County had been in the old 6th District along with all the other Western Maryland counties, Frederick, Washington, Allegany and Garret. Part of the rural west of Montgomery Count was also in the district in order to get the population up to match the other districts in the state. Bits of Carroll County are now in two districts (1 and 8). I’m now in District 8 which extends down to the DC suburbs. I have neighbors just west of me who are in District 1 which stretches across the top of the state and onto the Eastern Shore all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.

Last year, a three judge panel of the U. S. District Court found the gerrymander unconstitutional under the First Amendment. The State has appealed to the Supreme Court (Lamone v. Benisek). Amy Howe has an excellent synopsis of the case thus far over at ScotusBlog.

UPDATE—Corrected a typo.