SCOTUS: Courts can’t rule on partisan gerrymandering

By a vote of 5-4, along ideological lines, the Supreme Court held that partisan gerrymandering—the practice of rigging electoral districts to favor a political party—is beyond the reach of the courts. Chief Justice Roberts, invoking a longstanding Court doctrine, said that the issue is a “political question” rather than the type of case that courts can decide. The decision is a massive setback for voting-rights activists.

SCOTUS gives gerrymandering reform a win

The Supreme Court has ruled against the Virginia House of Delegates in a racial gerrymandering case that represents a victory for Democrats in the state. In the 5-4 ruling, the justices found that the House didn’t have the standing to appeal a lower court ruling that found that the new district maps must be used ahead of the 2020 elections. Those new maps are already in use.

Steve & Cokie Roberts: The gerrymandering threat

“In coming weeks, the Supreme Court is due to rule on cases from Maryland and North Carolina that could provide some answers. During oral arguments in April, Justice Brett Kavanaugh bluntly admitted: ‘Extreme partisan gerrymandering is a real problem for our democracy. I’m not going to dispute that.’ It’s possible that the high court will do what it did in a case from Wisconsin last year and avoid a definitive ruling. But even if that happens, there is clearly a rising demand—among judges, voters, and even some politicians—to change a system that is doing enormous damage to the country’s political climate.”

John Roberts is about to show his hand

For the first time in Chief Justice John Roberts’ 14 years at the helm of the Supreme Court, he will likely be the deciding vote on several momentous cases, revealing whether he’ll take over the ideological center of the court from retired swing-voter Justice Anthony Kennedy. With nearly 30 cases addressing such weighty issues as religion, gerrymandering, and the 2020 Census pending, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, said to expect many 5-4 rulings to come, as Kennedy’s retirement will be “of greatest consequence.”

VA votes on Tuesday, but will it count?

Virginians head to the polls for a primary election on Tuesday using a new district map after federal judges found the old map to be racially gerrymandered. The new map tilts six of the 26 districts involved more Democratic than they previously were. Republicans have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has heard arguments but not ruled in the case. If the court were to throw out the new map, Tuesday’s primary process could be wholly or partially discarded, casting the election into chaos.

Nancy Martorano Miller: Is gerrymandering reform here to stay?

“The Supreme Court’s upcoming decision will determine whether citizens can ask the federal courts to resolve partisan gerrymanders or if they need to ask their state courts. A federal standard would apply to all 50 states. If the court rules that this is a state matter, that would leave decisions up to state constitutions and state law. This could mean that what is considered partisan gerrymandering in one state is not considered partisan gerrymandering in another. The practice of drawing maps that unfairly advantage one political party over another could continue in some states but be banned in others.”

Hypocrite McConnell says he’d confirm SCOTUS justice in 2020

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday if a Supreme Court vacancy occurs during next year’s presidential election, he would work to confirm a nominee appointed by Donald Trump. That’s exactly the opposite position he held in the last presidential election year, 2016, when he refused to consider former President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

SCOTUS blocks state gerrymandering rulings

The Supreme Court on Friday set aside two lower court rulings tossing out congressional maps in Michigan and Ohio, putting the process of redrawing district lines on hold while it prepares to rule on whether or not partisan gerrymandering is constitutional. Republicans in both Midwestern states had appealed lower-court rulings that their congressional maps had been drawn so egregiously to favor the GOP that they violated the constitutional rights of voters.

Alabama gov signs bill, setting up possible SCOTUS battle

On Tuesday, the Alabama state Senate approved a bill essentially banning abortion in the state, a move aimed at challenging more than 40 years of federal abortion protection under Roe v. Wade. The bill would make it a felony for a doctor to perform or attempt an abortion during any stage of pregnancy, even in cases of rape or incest. Gov. Kay Ivey signed the bill on Wednesday.

WaPo: Missouri’s GOP wants to undo voters’ redistricting wishes

“Missouri was one of a handful of states in which voters decided to limit politicians’ power over redistricting, the decennial process in which political boundaries are drawn, because allowing politicians to choose their own voters has become an increasingly corrupt exercise. Now, Missouri Republicans, who have a lock on the state’s legislature and stand to lose some control under the new system, are trying to roll back the reform, insisting that voters were tricked into approving it.”

Cristian Farias: Citizenship question could be one of Trump’s biggest political victories

“That sounds a lot like what Chief Justice Roberts wrote last summer in his 5-to-4 majority upholding President Trump’s travel ban, despite it dripping with anti-Muslim sentiment. Federal law, Chief Justice Roberts wrote, ‘grants the president broad discretion to suspend the entry of aliens into the United States.’ So it may come to pass that, no matter how ugly the underlying evidence or how antithetical this change is to an ‘actual enumeration’ of everyone in the United States, the justices will once again let the administration have its way.”

Trump thinks SCOTUS will save him from impeachment

The president of the United States is a little confused about the Constitution. On Wednesday, Donald Trump tweeted, “If the partisan Dems ever tried to Impeach, I would first head to the U.S. Supreme Court.” The Constitution makes it clear that the power of impeachment belongs to Congress, and the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in 1993 that authority for impeachment trials resides in Congress and “nowhere else.” Someone better tell Trump.

Conservative Supreme Court justices signal they’ll allow Trump’s controversial census question

If the court rules in favor of the Trump administration, it will be another major win for the president at the Supreme Court. While several of his more contentious policies have been blocked or held up in lower courts, the justices have upheld Trump’s Muslim travel ban and the transgender military ban, often citing the authority of the executive branch.

Supreme Court hears case over Trump census citizenship question

The Supreme Court, in one of the most consequential cases of its current term, will deliberate over the Trump administration’s bid to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. Critics of the question say it would scare non-citizens into avoiding the census altogether, harming localities with large immigrant populations, both politically and financially.

Bernie proposes modified term limits for SCOTUS justices

Sanders said he would consider proposals that created term limits for Supreme Court justices or would rotate judges between the highest court and the lower-level appeals courts. He stopped short of supporting calls to add justices to the court, a strategy gaining steam with a new generation of left-wing activists, saying that “The next time the Republicans are in power they will do the same thing,” so that would not be the ultimate solution to solving the problem of “court-packing.”

Bump stocks still banned

The Supreme Court denied another request to halt the bump stock ban, leaving the ban in effect. Some gun rights activists have criticized the Trump administration for supporting the ban.

David H. Gans: Will SCOTUS stand up for democracy?

“The reason why state partisan gerrymanders offend the First Amendment is pretty basic, drawing on deeply rooted First Amendment principles that have been reaffirmed by the Supreme Court time and again. First, the First Amendment protects the right of individuals to associate with the political party of their choice. This reflects that the First Amendment helps to safeguard our democracy. Second, efforts by the government to subordinate persons on account of their political affiliation — such as by diluting their votes — violate the First Amendment’s core guarantee. That’s viewpoint discrimination, pure and simple.”

Bump stock ban takes effect

After Chief Justice John Roberts declined to hear an appeal from gunmakers on Tuesday, bump stocks are now officially illegal in the U.S. The ban put into place by the Trump administration requires any bump stocks to be destroyed or turned in to law enforcement authorities, and would impose 10 years in federal prison or a $250,000 fine on anyone selling or owning the gun add-ons.

Supreme Court to hear historic gerrymandering cases

In two cases that could reverberate through U.S. politics for decades to come, the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments over the practice of manipulating electoral district boundaries to keep one party in power. The cases are challenging North Carolina’s Republican-drawn statewide U.S. House of Representatives map and a single Democratic-drawn House district in Maryland.

SCOTUS won’t hear mystery company appeal

The Supreme Court on Monday said it would not review a lower-court order requiring an unnamed foreign-owned corporation to comply with a subpoena that is part of the Mueller Investigation. As is customary, the court did not give a reason for turning down the company’s appeal, nor were there noted dissents. The appeals court’s conclusion that the foreign company is not immune from the reach of a U.S. grand jury will stand.

Whoa! Justice Thomas speaks

The famously silent Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas shocked spectators in court on Wednesday when he asked a question during arguments in a dispute over racial discrimination in jury selection. Thomas’s question, which marks the second time in a decade he has spoken during arguments, came in the case of a Mississippi man who has been tried six times for the 1996 murders of four people. The prosecutor in the case is accused of striking black jurists on the basis of race.

SCOTUS says gov’t can detain immigrants

The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the government may detain — without a hearing — legal immigrants long after they have served the sentences for crimes they committed. The 5-4 decision, which reverses a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, is viewed as a victory for the Trump administration, which, like the Obama administration, argued that the government has the authority to pick up and detain immigrants for deportation at any time.

Jennifer Rubin: The case against court-packing

On the plan of some Democrats to expand the Supreme Court to “make up” for President Trump’s appointed judges, Jennifer Rubin writes: “Rather than go down the road of court-packing or supermajorities, Democrats would be wise to put all efforts into winning presidential and Senate elections. [Larry] Tribe also has a more practical reform: Enact ‘nonrenewable 18-year terms for Supreme Court Justices, after which they’d serve on federal circuit courts except when needed to fill in for a recused sitting Justice.’ He explains, ‘In my view, the Constitution guarantees life tenure as an Article III Federal Judge, not lifetime service on the Supreme Court. If I’m right about that, then only an Act of Congress would be needed, not an Amendment to the Constitution.'”

SCOTUS takes on racial gerrymander claim in VA

The Supreme Court appeared split Monday about a Republican-drawn plan for legislative districts in Virginia that a lower court said discriminated against black voters. It’s the second time the justices have reviewed the case. Two terms ago, the justices upheld one district but asked the lower court to reconsider whether race was used improperly in the remaining 11.

DeVos tweaks education policy

In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Education Sec. Betsy DeVos said her agency will no longer enforce a federal provision that prohibits religious organizations from giving private schools federally funded services. The decision is in response to a 2017 Supreme Court verdict that found that Missouri unconstitutionally denied a church-run preschool publicly-funded tire scraps for its playground. House Democrats are reviewing the policy.

SCOTUS limits civil forfeiture

The Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that the Constitution places limits on the ability of states and localities to take and keep cash, cars, houses, and other private property used to commit crimes. Known as civil forfeiture, the practice raises revenue, but is also easily abused. The court’s decision will open the door to new legal arguments when the value of the property seized was out of proportion to the crimes involved.

Thomas wants SCOTUS to reconsider libel ruling

Justice Clarence Thomas on Tuesday called for the Supreme Court to reconsider New York Times v. Sullivan, the 1964 First Amendment ruling that makes it difficult for public officials to prevail in libel suits. Donald Trump has publicly complained that libel laws make it too hard for public officials to win libel suits. “I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money,” Trump said on the campaign trail.

Will mystery company finally be revealed?

Maybe. The Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the way for potentially unsealing more information in the case involving Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury. The case, concerning an unnamed foreign government-owned corporation that is fighting a grand jury subpoena, has been one of the most guarded secrets among Mueller’s work. The ruling makes it more likely that information about the case will eventually become public.

RBG returns to work

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg returned to the Supreme Court on Friday to participate in a private conference at which the justices considered adding cases to the court’s docket, a court spokeswoman said. It was Justice Ginsburg’s first appearance at the court since undergoing cancer surgery in December. She is expected to be on the bench on Tuesday when the court returns from its four-week midwinter break.

SCOTUS will hear census case

The Supreme Court agreed on Friday to decide whether the Trump administration may add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census questionnaire, something that hasn’t been done since 1950. Last month, a federal trial judge blocked the Commerce Department from adding the question, and the Supreme Court stepped in before any appeals court had ruled on the matter. The fast track is likely due to a looming deadline — the census forms are set to be printed in June.

Whitehouse promises action on SCOTUS seat

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse hinted on Twitter that there will be an investigation into a donor who gifted the Judicial Network with $18 million to ‘steal’ the Supreme Court seat for which Merrick Garland was nominated by President Obama. “Wait til we start digging out who the $18 Million donor was to the @judicialnetwork to stop Garland and get Gorsuch on the Court,” he wrote before adding the warning: “Follow the money…This ain’t over.”

David French: First Amendment betrayed in AL execution

“I have no sympathy for Domineque Ray. The man was convicted of raping and murdering a 15-year-old girl, an act so heinous that the death penalty is appropriate and just. But Ray, no matter his crimes, still enjoyed the protections of the United States Constitution. Yet last night the state of Alabama and the Supreme Court failed to respect those protections at the most crucial of moments — they denied him access to an imam at the moment of his death. He could receive solace in the execution chamber from a Christian cleric, but his imam had to watch behind glass.”

Mystery company docs to be unsealed

Solicitor General Noel Francisco filed a memo to the Supreme Court Friday dropping any objection to releasing publicly redacted court documents in a grand jury dispute involving a mystery foreign-state-owned corporation, noting it can be done “without compromising grand jury secrecy.” The documents had previously been filed under seal until a press freedom group demanded they be unsealed. The case is linked to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Supreme Court to hear first gun case in nearly a decade

The New York State Rifle & Pistol Association is arguing against a current law that bans transporting permitted handguns outside city lines. The case could have wide ramifications for gun rights and gun restrictions across the country, depending on how broadly the court rules.

Filing reveals little about ‘mystery company’

The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted a foreign government’s request to file an appeal — censored to keep the country’s identity hidden — in its fight against a grand jury subpoena and a $50,000-a-day fine for non-compliance. The subpoena is widely believed to be related to the Mueller Investigation. The appeal says the justices should make clear that a federal law that generally protects foreign governments from civil lawsuits in the U.S. also shields them in criminal cases.

SCOTUS passes on DACA

The Supreme Court on Tuesday took no action on whether it will hear disputes over the Trump administration’s decision to wind down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. No action from the court may mean protections for 700,000 young people brought to the country illegally as children may remain in place for several more months. Donald Trump has offered a three-year extension of the program as part of his proposal to secure border wall funding and open the government.

Kavanaugh to be investigated for perjury?

Rep. Joe Neguse, a freshman member of the House Judiciary Committee, said the panel will “likely” investigate perjury claims against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and may move to impeach him, depending on their findings. “There’s no question [Kavanaugh] committed perjury during the confirmation hearings and so forth,” Neguse said, but he did not indicate which which specific statement of Kavanaugh’s he believes constituted perjury.