Posts tagged with "Supreme Court"

NBC News: Chances are slim that Supreme Court will halt handover of Trump’s tax returns

November 6, 2019

President Donald Trump will face strong pushback when he asks the Supreme Court to stop New York prosecutors from getting his tax returns, according to a report by NBC News.

During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump claimed that he would be willing to hand over his business’ tax returns, but that he was unable to do so, because they were then “under audit.” Now, the explanation for suppressing the filings has changed, but the basic message is the same: Hands off!

Trump’s lawyers have fought back, according to NBC News, arguing that because a sitting president cannot be indicted, he likewise cannot be subject to any steps in a criminal investigation (including evidence collection and documentation).

In rejecting that claim, a three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said Monday that presidential immunity “does not bar the enforcement of a state grand jury subpoena directing a third party to produce nonprivileged material, even when the subject matter under investigation pertains to the president.”

Past Supreme Court rulings have upheld subpoenas directed at presidents, and this time the local prosecutors are seeking documents from the Trump Organization and Trump’s accountants—not directly from the president himself.

For those reasons, among others, NBC says,the Supreme Court might simply decline to hear the president’s appeal—which would leave the appeals court ruling intact and require the tax filings to be turned over.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance is investigating whether any state laws were broken in the payment of hush money to two women who claimed they had a sexual relationship with Trump—allegations that the president denied. The prosecutors also are looking into the claim by Trumps former personal attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen that Trump sometimes misstated his financial situation in order to pay lower taxes.

No court has ever ruled that a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime, but that has been the consistent position of the Justice Department under both Republican and Democratic administrations. The logic behind that position can be summarized simply: The president can’t run the country from jail.

The Supreme Court has never ruled that sitting presidents are beyond the reach of criminal investigations, though. In 1974, the court ruled that President Richard Nixon was required to comply with a subpoena directing him to turn over tape recordings of conversations in the White House. In 1975, President Gerald Ford complied with an order to give a deposition in the trial of a woman charged with trying to shoot him. In 1996, President Bill Clinton gave videotaped testimony in two criminal trials.

The Justice Department’s own position is consistent with these rulings, the network news outlet says. A 2000 memo from the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel concluded that while sitting presidents cannot be prosecuted, they can still be investigated. Even if a president is immune from indictment, “a grand jury could continue to gather evidence throughout the period of immunity, even passing this task down to subsequently impaneled grand juries if necessary.”

A further problem for Trump is that Vance is not seeking any material involving official presidential duties, even though some of it overlaps with the time he’s been in office. For that reason, the president is not making any claim that the material sought by the grand jury is protected by executive privilege.

According to NBC News, the president’s lawyers’ best hope for getting the Supreme Court to take the case may be to argue two points. First, they will likely say that the 1974 ruling in the Nixon case doesn’t apply because that was a subpoena issued for material to be used in a criminal trial of former White House aides. A grand jury subpoena, they might say, is a lower level of need.

And second, they may say that Vance’s request is politically driven. His prosecutors admit that they lifted the wording of the subpoenas directly from subpoenas issued by two House committees controlled by Democrats. Trump’s refusal to make public his tax returns has been a consistent gripe of critics on the left.

At least four justices must vote to hear a case in order for the Supreme Court to grant review. And those four would be reluctant to plunge ahead unless they were reasonably confident they’d get a fifth vote when the case is decided. From the perspective of Trump, and presidential authority in general, it would be better to leave the Second Circuit ruling intact than to have the Supreme Court definitively rule that presidents must comply with such subpoenas.

The lawyers for both Trump and Vance have agreed to submit their court filings promptly. There’s no deadline for the justices to act, but both sides are hoping the court will say by mid-January whether it will take the case.

Research contact: @NBCNews

DoJ argues businesses can legally discriminate against transgender workers

October 26. 2018

The Department of Justice argued in the Supreme Court on October 24 that businesses can discriminate against employees based on their gender identity without violating federal sex discrimination laws, Bloomberg Law reported.

“The court of appeals misread the statute and this Court’s decisions in concluding that Title VII encompasses discrimination on the basis of gender identity,” Solicitor General Noel Francisco wrote in a brief regarding a case against a Michigan funeral home. R&G Harris and G&R Harris Funeral Homes, a family-owned business in the Detroit area, is accused of violating federal employment laws when it fired transgender worker Aimee Stephens in 2013.

Specifically, after Stephens said she was transitioning, her boss—a devout Christian, according to CNN—told her the situation was “not going to work out,” according to court documents. She was offered a severance package, but she declined to accept it—instead filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which sued the funeral home.

The EEOC, which enforces civil rights law in the workplace, successfully sued on Stephens’ behalf in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. But the Michigan funeral home has appealed the case to the Supreme Court, where the Justice Department represents the government.

The Justice Department’s argument that federal civil rights law does not apply to transgender workers comes after The New York Times reported on October 21  that the Department of Health and Human Services was moving ahead with efforts to limit the definition of gender—saying that gender can only be defined by the genitals a person had at birth.

A leading transgender advocate called the government’s reported action a “super aggressive, dismissive, dangerous move,” according to the Times.

“They are saying we don’t exist,” said Mara Keisling, director of the National Center for Transgender Rights, in an interview.

What’s more, this is not the first time that the rights of transgender people have been challenged by the current administration. The Trump administration also has attempted to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military — a move that was blocked by the courts in November 2017.

Research contact: copfer@bloomberglaw.com

Citing doubts about temperament and partisanship, ABA reopens evaluation of Kavanaugh

October 8, 2018

The American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary sent a letter to the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee on October 5—one day before the floor vote that confirmed SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh—announcing that it was reopening its evaluation into the judge’s “temperament” to sit on the court, The Hill reported.

The ABA—which is the nation’s largest legal organization, with more than 400,000 members—said in the letter to Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-California), “New information of a material nature regarding temperament during the September 27th hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee has prompted a reopening of the Standing Committee’s evaluation,”

Chair Paul T. Moxley   wrote, “The committee does not expect to complete a process and re-vote prior to the scheduled Senate vote [on October 6]. Our original report must be read in conjunction with the foregoing. Our original rating stands.”

Indeed, during Kavanaugh’s hearing before the Judiciary Committee on September 27 about allegations of sexual assault brought by Dr. Christine Blaséy Ford, the judge touted his “well-qualified” rating from the ABA— its highest rating; attributing it to his “judicial temperament” while serving as a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court for 12 years.

Democratic lawmakers criticized Kavanaugh’s conduct during the heated hearing, where he repeatedly questioned Democratic senators about their drinking habits when they asked him about his behavior during high school and college, The Hill said.

In addition, at the hearing, Kavanaugh injected partisan language into his argument regarding the accusations lodged against him. “This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit,” he said, “fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.”

In a first for the nation’s highest court, The New York Times reported that Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens on October 4 said that he does not believe that Kavanaugh should be confirmed to the high court—commenting that there was “merit” to criticism of the judge’s temperament after his heated testimony last week.

What’s more, the ABA called on the Judiciary Committee to postpone a vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court until the FBI could investigate accusations of sexual misconduct against him.

That investigation was characterized by most familiar with it as “incomplete,” however, multiple GOP senators on expressed satisfaction with the probe.

Reopening a judicial candidate’s evaluation process when new information comes to light is part of the standing committee’s routine process, explained in this 33-page backgrounder. The ABA Journal ran an in-depth article about the standing committee’s judicial evaluations in January.

Research contact: @ArisFolley

64% of Americans support Roe v. Wade

July 13, 2018

As the U.S. Senate prepares to hold confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the public is strongly opposed to any attempts to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that made abortion legal nationwide. Currently, 64% of Americans believe the decision should stand, while 28% would like to see it overturned, based on findings of a poll released by Gallup on July 12.

The poll was conducted July 2-8, just before President Donald Trump announced Kavanaugh as his nominee to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. Many Democratic senators quickly voiced their opposition to the conservative 53-year-old judge—whom, they say is pro-life and against indicting a sitting president. While nominees to the high court often do not openly share their personal views on issues, their past public statements are scrutinized.

Partisans’ opinions are sharply polarized, with 81% of Democrats, 70% of Independents and 41% of Republicans saying they do not want Roe v. Wade overturned. In contrast, 51% of Republicans, 22% of Independents and 13% of Democrats want it reversed.

While Democrats’ opinions have been consistent over time, Republicans’ views have been less so. For example, a majority of Republicans—albeit a slim majority, at 52%—said in 2006 that the case should not be overturned.

However, one Republican is holding firm, according to a report by CNN. Vice President Mike Pence  told the news outlet on July that he still wants to see the judgment overturned—but wouldn’t say whether Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh would be the guy to make it happen.

When asked in an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash about wanting to outlaw abortion, Pence responded, “Well, I do.

“But,” he continued, “I haven’t been nominated to the Supreme Court.”

Pence denied that either he or President Donald Trump had asked Kavanaugh about his views on abortion. “What the American people ought to know is, as the president said today, this is not an issue that he discussed with Judge Kavanaugh, I didn’t discuss it with him either.”

Research contact: datainquiry@gallup.com

65% of small business owners would serve LGBT customers

November 17, 2017

A new opinion poll from the Small Business Majority—a national advocacy organization—has found that 65% of entrepreneurs strongly believe business owners should not be able to deny goods and services to LGBT customers based on their religious beliefs or because of their right to free speech or free artistic expression—and that nondiscrimination policies are good for their state’s business climate and their own business’s bottom line.

The poll was released on November 1, just as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments in the Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case, addressing the rights of business owners to deny services to LGBT individuals.

Conducted on behalf of Small Business Majority by Chesapeake Beach Consulting from October 4 through October 23, the poll found that 50% of small business owners believe that business owners should not be able to deny goods or service to someone who is LGBT based on the claim that service violates their right to free speech; compared to just 34% of respondents, who said a business owner should be allowed to deny services for this reason.

Similarly, 55% of small business owners don’t believe that a business owner should be able to claim an exemption to nondiscrimination laws, if they believe serving a customer goes against their right to free artistic expression.

Additionally, a majority of small business owners (55%) agree that nondiscrimination laws improve the business bottom line by attracting the best and brightest employees, regardless of whether the employee is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Finally, 59% of respondents said that denying services to LGBT clients via statewide or national legislation would hurt the business climate in their own states.

Research contact: Simon Brown (202-535-3229)