Posts tagged with "Justice Brett Kavanaugh"

Supreme Court blocks Biden’s vaccine-or-test rule for large employers

January 17, 2022

On Thursday, January13, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Biden Administration from enforcing its emergency rule mandating that workers at large businesses get vaccinated or undergo regular testing for COVID-19—a major setback for the president’s national vaccination effort, reports the HuffPost.

However, the court decided to allow the administration to proceed with a vaccine mandate for health care workers at federally funded facilities.

The justices’ decision to intervene and halt one of the vaccine regulations has major public health implications amid a surge in coronavirus cases due to the omicron variant. The White House hoped the rule, issued through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), would protect workers against COVID-19 transmission and encourage holdouts to get vaccinated.

The justices ruled 6-3 in favor of halting OSHA’s vaccine-or-test rule, with the court’s six conservatives in the majority and the three liberals dissenting. They ruled 5-4 in favor of letting the healthcare rule proceed, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh breaking with their conservative colleagues to join the liberals.

The OSHA regulation requires that employers with at least 100 workers implement programs in which those workers show proof of vaccination or provide a negative COVID-19 test each week. The administration estimates it would cover 84 million workers, mostly in the private sector.

Enforcement of the testing provision was slated to begin on Febrary 9.

Business groups and state GOP officials filed lawsuits aimed at blocking the rule, arguing that it went beyond OSHA’s legal power and would hurt the economy by prompting workers to quit their jobs. Lower courts disagreed on whether the rule was within OSHA’s authority.

In their ruling, the majority said the opponents of the OSHA rule were likely to prevail in court, and so the justices’ decision prevents the rule from going into effect while the litigation plays out. In an opinion joined by justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote that “Congress has nowhere clearly assigned so much power to OSHA” to institute such a requirement for employers.

“Yet that is precisely what the agency seeks to do now—regulate not just what happens inside the workplace but induce individuals to undertake a medical procedure that affects their lives outside the workplace,” Gorsuch wrote.

In their dissenting opinion, Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan said the court should leave such policies to the experts. By acting “outside of its competence and without legal basis,” they argued, the court was substituting its own judgment for that of the government officials tasked with responding to a crisis.

“If OSHA’s Standard is far-reaching—applying to many millions of American workers—it no more than reflects the scope of the crisis,” the justices wrote. “The Standard responds to a workplace health emergency unprecedented in the agency’s history: an infectious disease that has already killed hundreds of thousands and sickened millions.”

The court held a special session to hear oral arguments on the matter on January 7-—expediting the case as enforcement of the rule was about to begin. While the court’s three liberal justices seemed loath to undermine a public health regulation as COVID-19 cases were soaring, most of the conservative justices voiced skepticism of the rule, suggesting it should necessitate an act of Congress.

Alito wondered whether OSHA was trying to legally “squeeze an elephant through a mouse hole” by issuing the rule. Chief Justice John Roberts asked “why Congress doesn’t have a say in this.”

The Biden administration has argued that OSHA has the authority to issue the vaccine-or-test rule under its emergency powers, and that a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic necessitates such a sweeping regulation.

such as hepatitis B, influenza, and measles, mumps, and rubella,” they wrote.

Biden said in a statement Thursday that the ruling upholding the health care rule “will save lives,” including those of patients, nurses and doctors. He also said he was “disappointed” that the court blocked the OSHA regulation, saying it included “common-sense life-saving requirements” for employers.

Research contact: @HuffPost

Live at SCOTUS: Sotomayor and Kagan rebuke Texas for ban that ‘sets precedent to attack other rights’

November 2, 2021

On Monday, November 1, Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor pushed back against a Texas law that enables private citizens to enforce abortion restrictions. Both ripped the Texas abortion ban for how it would create a model for states to attack other constitutionally protected rights, CNN reports.

Sotomayor grilled Texas Solicitor General Judd Stone on Texas’ argument that Congress could step in and write legislation that would prevent states from passing such laws.

“Can I give you examples where Congress hasn’t?” Sotomayor said, ticking off decisions the Supreme Court has made on gun rights, same-sex marriage, birth control, sodomy, and other contentious issues.

What’s more, in a move that surprised many legal observers, during oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson (Texas law S.B.8), Justice Brett Kavanaugh expressed concern that Second Amendment rights could also be at risk if the Texas abortion law is allowed to stand,  Raw Story reports.

Kavanaugh suggested that new laws could make gun shops liable for millions of dollars if they sell assault-style rifles.

Texas Solicitor General Judd Stone agreed that “all constitutional rights” could be curtailed in the same fashion as abortion rights if Congress allows it.

Kagan interrupted to point out that constitutional rights cannot be blocked by legislation.

“Your answer to Justice Kavanaugh, which is go ask Congress, I mean, isn’t the point of a right that you don’t have to ask Congress?” Kagan asked. “Isn’t the point of a right that it doesn’t really matter what Congress thinks or what the majority of the American people think as to that right?”

Stone insisted that state court judges are expected to “faithfully apply the Constitution.”

But Kagan was not convinced.

“Within the state court process, it may be many years from now and with a chilling effect that basically deprives people who want to exercise the [abortion] right from the opportunity to do so,” the justice explained.

The outcome is still touch and go. The court is providing live audio, as it now does in all arguments.

Research contact: @CNN

Democrats blast FBI as new details of ‘sham’ Kavanaugh inquiry emerge

July 26, 2021

A group of Democratic senators is demanding more answers from the FBI after the agency revealed new details about the limited scope of its supplemental investigation into Brett Kavanaugh‘s background when he was a nominee for the Supreme Court in 2018, NBC News reports.

In a letter sent on Wednesday, June 30 to Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) and Chris Coons (D-Delaware)—but only made public on Thursday, July 22Jill Tyson, assistant director of the FBI’s Congressional Affairs Office acknowledged that the department conducted only 10 additional interviews in its supplemental investigation, even though it had received over 4,500 tips.

Tyson said “relevant tips” from phone calls and messages were forwarded to the White House counsel’s office. It’s unclear what became of the tips after that.

Whitehouse, who had written then-FBI Director Christopher Wray asking for details about the inquiry, said, “This long-delayed answer confirms how badly we were spun by Director Wray and the FBI in the Kavanaugh background investigation and hearing.”

While Wray has said the FBI followed tip line procedures, “he meant the ‘procedure’ of doing whatever Trump White House counsel told them to do,” Whitehouse tweeted, adding, “That’s misleading as hell.”

A spokesperson for the FBI declined to comment. Former White House Counsel Don McGahn did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

Then-President Donald Trump tasked the FBI with conducting a supplemental background investigation into Kavanaugh at the urging of some Republican senators after his nomination to the high court in 2018 was endangered by sexual misconduct allegations dating to his high school and college years. Kavanaugh repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

“As the Senate has requested, this update must be limited in scope and completed in less than one week,” Trump said at the time.

Republicans said the subsequent FBI report vindicated Kavanaugh, while Democrats maintained that it was incomplete. NBC News reported at the time that the FBI hadn’t contacted over 40 people with potential information about the sexual misconduct allegations.

The Senate confirmed the nomination in a narrow 50-48 vote.

Attorneys for the accuser who testified at Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, Christine Blasey Ford, said in a statement that the FBI letter confirmed that the agency’s investigation was “a sham and a major institutional failure.”

“Because the FBI and Trump’s White House Counsel hid the ball on this, we do not know how many of those 4,500 tips were consequential, how many of those tips supported Dr. Ford’s testimony, or how many showed that Kavanaugh perjured himself during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee,” said the lawyers, Debra S. Katz and Lisa J. Banks. “Our nation deserved better.”

Research contact: @NBCNews

Supreme Court to take up major Second Amendment concealed-carry handgun case

April 27, 2021

The Supreme Court announced on Monday, April 26, that it will consider a case that ultimately could determine how much protection the Second Amendment provides for carrying a gun outside the home, NBC News reports..

The case represents the first time in more than a decade that the court has agreed to take up a central issue of the gun rights debate—something it has consistently ducked since issuing a landmark ruling (5-4) in District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008 that that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to possess firearms, independent of service in a state militia —and to use firearms for traditionally lawful purposes, including self-defense within the home.

The court agreed to hear a challenge to a New York state law that allows residents to carry a concealed handgun only if they can demonstrate a special need beyond a general desire for self-protection. The law “makes it virtually impossible for the ordinary law-abiding citizen” to get the necessary license, Paul Clement, a lawyer representing the challengers, said.

One of them, Robert Nash, said he wanted to carry a gun in response to a string of robberies in his neighborhood. Another, Brendan Koch, also cited a desire to carry a gun for protection. Both men said they had completed gun safety courses but were turned down when they applied for permits. They joined a lawsuit challenging the law brought by the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association.

New York bans carrying a handgun openly. The state law says anyone seeking a license to carry a concealed weapon must demonstrate “a special need for self protection distinguishable from that of the general community or of persons engaged in the same profession.”

The law is so restrictive, Clement said, that it cannot be reconciled with the Supreme Court’s “affirmation of the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.”

Federal courts have split on the meaning of the Second Amendment’s declaration of a right to keep “and bear” arms. New York Attorney General Letitia James urged the Supreme Court not to take up this case.

James said that, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit upheld the state’s concealed carry law, it assumed a right to carry firearms outside the home. But the right is not unlimited and can be subject to state regulation, she said. New York’s law was a response to an increase in homicides and suicides committed with concealed firearms early in the 20th century, she told the Supreme Court in a written brief.

In late March, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld a Hawaii law similar to New York’s. The appeals court had ruled earlier that individuals do not have a Second Amendment right to carry concealed weapons in public. Its latest decision concluded that there is no general right to openly carry weapons in public

Justice Clarence Thomas has repeatedly criticized his colleagues for turning down similar cases in the past. “The right to keep and bear arms is apparently this Court’s constitutional orphan,” Thomas wrote in one dissent.

According to NBC News, last year, the court dismissed a challenge to another New York law that said residents with a permit to keep a gun at home could not take the weapon beyond city limits for use at a second home or a shooting range. The case was tossed out after the city repealed the law.

Justices Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch said the court should have decided that case and declared the restriction unconstitutional. Another of the court’s conservatives, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, said then that the court should address the larger Second Amendment issue by taking up other challenges to gun restrictions, such as on carrying guns outside the home.

The court’s conservatives may have been reluctant to take up the gun rights issue in the past because they couldn’t be certain of finding a fifth vote in their favor. But the addition of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, providing a solid 6-3 majority, likely gave them confidence to take this latest case.

It will be argued early in the fall, during the court’s next term.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Pressure group led by Steve Bannon spends $3 million on ads ahead of midterms

October 16, 2018

Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon‘s political arm is spending $3 million on digital ads targeted at getting out the Republican vote ahead of the midterms, he told ABCNews.Go on October 14.

The new push, just three weeks before the election, is funded by Bannon’s new outside political group, a 501(c) 4, called Citizens of the American Republic, which he founded in August “in order to advance the ideals of Economic Nationalism and American Sovereignty.”

Groups under 501 (c) 4 are social welfare organizations that must not be organized for profit and “must be operated exclusively to promote social welfare,” according to the IRS.

Bannon will be out on the campaign trail stumping for Republican candidates who are considered vulnerable to what is being called the Blue Wave of Democratic victories in the November midterm elections. His message: Although President Donald Trump isn’t on the ballot in 2018, the midterm election is a referendum on his presidency.

He says he will travel to 10 states—Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Michigan, Arizona, Iowa, Minnesota, Texas,and Florida—to spread the message that the president is at war with the Democrats, and that the Supreme Court nomination hearings for Justice Brett Kavanaugh was a preview to impeachment hearings that the Democrats will try to hold against Trump.

“Trump has delivered the goods. Now it’s time for the deplorables to deliver the votes,” Steve Bannon told ABC on October 14.

Bannon’s political strategist Sam Nunberg told the network news outlet, “If the president continues to communicate that the ‘Democrat [Nancy] Pelosi Mob’ will impeach him if they are in power, we are highly confident we can hold them at the gates and keep the House in Republican hands. A red wave is rising.”

Research contact: @CitizensAR