Posts tagged with "Chief Justice John Roberts"

Supreme Court tosses Nevada church’s challenge to COVID-19 orders

July 28, 2020

The Supreme Court voted 5-4 on Friday, July 24,  to reject a Nevada church’s plea to overturn state public-health orders limiting attendance at services—marking the second time Chief Justice John Roberts has joined the liberal justices to uphold emergency measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley, located east of Reno in Lyon County, Nevada, argued that public-health orders issued by Governor Steve Sisolak (D) allowed casinos and other secular businesses greater leeway than houses of worship—which were capped at 50 people for indoor services, The New York Times reported.

Calvary Chapel sought to conduct services for up to 90 congregants, but pledged to implement various social-distancing rules and other measures to contain COVID-19’s spread.

Governor Sisolak said his order placed fewer restrictions on houses of worship than on movie theaters, museums and zoos. While casinos could admit up to 50% of their capacity, the governor argued that pervasive state regulation of the gambling industry, including on-premises enforcement officers, disqualified them for comparison to unregulated churches.

Lower courts declined to suspend the public-health orders during the church’s lawsuit, prompting the high court appeal, the Times said.

The Supreme Court denied the appeal without comment. Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan comprised the majority.

Four of the more conservative justices dissented, as they did in May when the same majority declined to block similar California orders capping attendance at religious services.

“The Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion. It says nothing about the freedom to play craps or black-jack, to feed tokens into a slot machine, or to engage in any other game of chance,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the principal dissent, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh.

Justice Alito said that at the outbreak of the pandemic, officials should have broad discretion over emergency measures, adding that several months into the health crisis, greater court oversight was called for.

He said it was “hard to swallow” the state’s claim that casino regulators would keep a firm grip on contagion within well-attended gambling palaces while public health required holding the church to a lower limit.

Justice Kavanaugh filed a separate opinion laying out his own views of the case.

Although the majority didn’t elaborate on Friday’s order, in May, Chief Justice Roberts filed an opinion explaining why he voted to uphold Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom’s order capping attendance at indoor church services.

“The precise question of when restrictions on particular social activities should be lifted during the pandemic is a dynamic and fact-intensive matter subject to reasonable disagreement,” the chief justice wrote then, adding that the Constitution principally assigns such judgments “to the politically accountable officials of the States.”

Research contact:  @nytimes

Living the dream: Supreme Court blocks Trump repeal of DACA immigration program

June 19, 2020

In a 5-4 ruling that affects more than 600,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, the Supreme Court ruled on June 18 that the Trump Administration did not provide sufficient reasons for canceling the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA); which was first announced by former President Barack Obama in June 2012.

In an opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the SCOTUS rejected the White House’s decision to cancel the program, which has provided legal protections and work authorizations to undocumented immigrants, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“The dispute before the Court is not whether [the Department of Homeland Security] may rescind DACA. All parties agree that it may. The dispute is instead primarily about the procedure the agency followed in doing so,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote, joined in full or part by liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.

He added that the decision didn’t address “whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” which wasn’t the court’s concern. But the government failed its duty under the Administrative Procedure Act to “provide a reasoned explanation for its action,” including “what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients.”

Indeed, the Journal opines, “The ruling hands President Trump one of the biggest legal defeats of his presidency, and in the middle of an election year in which immigration is again a top political topic. The decision effectively provides relief to more than 600,000 DACA recipients, often referred to as Dreamers, who have been in limbo since Mr. Trump in 2017 decided to wind down the program.”

“Today’s decision must be recognized for what it is: an effort to avoid a politically controversial but legally correct decision,” Justice Thomas wrote. Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote a separate dissent, the Journal noted.

The court’s ruling doesn’t mean the White House can never cancel DACA, but it will have to come up with new supporting reasons if it tries again to end the program.

The president and his advisers maintained that DACA wasn’t lawful because Congress hadn’t authorized any such policy. The White House and Congress have been unable to reach agreement on how to tackle the issue, or immigration policy more broadly.

According to the Journal, the cancellation of the program was scheduled to begin in March 2018, but lower courts issued rulings that blocked the administration from ending DACA. Judges previously found that the administration offered little explanation or support for its decision, in violation of a federal administrative law that requires government agencies to explain their decision-making to the public and offer sound reasons for adopting a new policy.

Research contact: @WSJ

Senate passes Midnight Mitch’s impeachment rules at nearly 2 a.m.

January 23, 2020

The Senate voted along party lines to pass Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s game plan for President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in the early hours of Wednesday morning—following nearly 13 hours of contentious debate between House prosecutors and attorneys for the White House.

According to a report by NBC News, the Republican majority had voted down several amendments proposed by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer that would have required the Senate to subpoena documents and call witnesses.

The vote came just before 2 a.m. Wednesday—after Representative Jerry Nadler (D-New York), one of the House impeachment managers, suggested that senators were voting for a “cover-up;” which drew sharp responses from the president’s legal counsel.

Indeed, the mood in the chamber and the language became so vile that Chief Justice John Roberts admonished House managers and Trump’s counsel “in equal terms to remember that they are addressing the world’s greatest deliberative body.”

Robert said, “I do think those addressing the Senate should remember where they are.”

Under the terms of the organizing resolution, NBC News said, the House case managers will have 24 hours over three days—up from the 24 hours over two days that McConnell originally had proposed—to make their arguments to remove the president from office on charges of abuse of power and obstructing Congress. Attorneys for the White House likewise will have 24 hours over three days to state their case for acquittal.

Senators will then have 16 hours to submit questions to both sides before they decide whether to call witnesses or subpoena documents.

The plan proposed by the Majority Leader—nicknamed “Midnight Mitch” for his preference for trying the president in a slot later than TV’s prime time—had been opposed by Democrats, who wanted a guarantee that they would be able to call witnesses and demand documents that the administration withheld during the House impeachment inquiry. 202006:28

The vote wasn’t a total loss for Democrats, however. Not only did McConnell change the two-day rule for arguments; but he also rescinded another that could have barred evidence gathered by the House.

Democrats complained that the two-day limit would have meant that they would be making arguments until 1 a.m. or later, depriving much of the public of the chance to watch the proceedings.

The other provision could have barred entering all of the evidence House Democrats gathered against Trump into the Senate record. The evidence now will be admitted automatically unless there’s an objection, rather than depend on a proactive vote to

The House case managers were expected to begin their opening arguments Wednesday afternoon, NBC News said.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Worthy of contempt: House retaliates against Barr and Ross for refusing to deliver census documents

July 19, 2019

The House may not be getting much satisfaction from the Executive Branch these days, but its Democratic Caucus finally has exacted retribution.

On July 17, members of the House voted 230-193 to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt of Congress for their refusal to turn over key documents related to the Trump administration’s intention to add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. Census, The New York Times reported.

Democrats investigating the issue believe that the documents and testimony that Barr and Ross have shielded from public view would confirm what they have long suspected—that the question was being added to the Census for politically motivated reasons; and not to better enforce the Voting Rights Act, as the Trump administration claims.

The Supreme Court hinted at that theory in late June in a ruling about the citizenship question, when Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, said the explanation offered by the Trump administration for adding the question “appears to have been contrived.”

And in an unusual twist, President Trump himself all but confirmed those suspicions this month when he said of the citizenship question, “You need it for Congress, for districting.”

Democrats said Wednesday that their investigation would continue regardless, in an effort to vindicate Congress’s oversight authority and potentially head off future attempts to discourage participation by noncitizens in the census.

“It is bigger than the census. It is about protecting the integrity of the Congress of the United States of America,” Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the Oversight and Reform Committee chairman, said as he whipped up support on the House floor. “We need to understand how and why the Trump administration tried to add a question based on pretext so that we can consider reforms to ensure that this never happens again.”

Wednesday’s contempt vote formally authorized the oversight panel to take AG Barr and Secretary Ross to federal court to seek judicial enforcement of subpoenas for the material in question. A lawsuit is expected in the coming weeks, and the administration has maintained it is on firm legal footing in its position.

Research contact: @nytimes