Monday Reads: It’s a New Day and a New Dawn

BN-OR109_0627wa_P_20160627110845Good Afternoon!

Hope you’re not going to get tired of me posting Nina Simone songs because I just had to do it again.  I woke up and feel optimistic for a nice change.  I would like to say that my life is on the up  and up but this is much less specific than that.  I feel better about being a woman in the USA and that’s a big deal.

Two really great SCOTUS decisions  came down today that protect women’s right to choose and the victims of domestic abuse who are overwhelmingly women and children. The Supremes have thrown out the Texas Trap Law and refused to water down  gun bans for domestic abusers. Then, there was some campaign excitement! Senator Elizabeth Warren tore up the stage with a Donald Burning and an enthusiastic Hillary support speech in Cincinnati.  Women on the Supreme Court made a huge difference!  Can you imagine the difference a woman President may make?

Dahlia Lithwick–writing for Slate—argued that the women took over and the voices of the three women resound through out the important decisions.  Here’s the Lithwick lede: “In oral arguments for the Texas abortion case, the three female justices upend the Supreme Court’s balance of power.”  The Texas restrictions were stuck down vehemently.

It felt as if, for the first time in history, the gender playing field at the high court was finally leveled, and as a consequence the court’s female justices were emboldened to just ignore the rules. Time limits were flouted to such a degree that Chief Justice John Roberts pretty much gave up enforcing them. I counted two instances in which Roberts tried to get advocates to wrap up as Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor simply blew past him with more questions. There was something wonderful and symbolic about Roberts losing almost complete control over the court’s indignant women, who are just not inclined to play nice anymore.

The case involves a crucial constitutional challenge to two provisions in Texas’ HB 2, the state’s omnibus abortion bill from 2013. The first requires doctors to obtain admitting privileges from a hospital 30 miles from the clinic where they perform abortions; the second requires abortion clinics to be elaborately retrofitted to comply with building regulations that would make them “ambulatory surgical centers.” If these provisions go into full effect, Texas would see a 75 percent reduction in the number of clinics serving 5.4 million women of childbearing age. The constitutional question is whether having 10 clinics to serve all these women, including many who would live 200 miles away from the nearest facility, represents an “undue burden” on the right to abortion deemed impermissible after the Casey decision. Each of the female justices takes a whacking stick to the very notion that abortion—one of the safest procedures on record—requires rural women to haul ass across land masses larger than the whole state of California in order to take a pill, in the presence of a doctor, in a surgical theater.

The morning starts with an arcane and technical debate that eats up most of Stephanie Toti’s time. Toti, arguing on behalf on the Texas clinics, first has to answer an argument—raised by Ginsburg—that the clinics were precluded from even bringing some of their claims. Between this and factual challenges from Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito as to whether there was any evidence on the record to show that the law itself triggered the closings of Texas clinics, she doesn’t have much time to get to the merits. So frustrated is Justice Elena Kagan by the conservatives’ repeated insistence that perhaps the clinics just coincidentally all closed within days of HB 2’s passage that she finally has to intervene. “Is it right,” she asks Toti, “that in the two­-week period that the ASC requirement was in effect, that over a dozen facilities shut their doors, and then when that was stayed, when that was lifted, they reopened again immediately?” Toti agrees. “It’s almost like the perfect controlled experiment,” continues Kagan, “as to the effect of the law, isn’t it? It’s like you put the law into effect, 12 clinics closed. You take the law out of effect, they reopen?”

rbgI am so relieved that the Trap Law creep has been put down.  Signing such a bill in Louisiana was one of the last things the dread pirate 2016-06-27T125240Z_01_WAS203_RTRIDSP_3_USA-COURT-ABORTIONBobby Jindal did to us.  There are women celebrating all over the south.  Wendy Davis won in the long run.

The Supreme Court on Monday struck down Texas abortion restrictions that have been widely duplicated in other states, a resounding win for abortion rights advocates in the court’s most important consideration of the controversial issue in 25 years.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy joined the court’s liberals in the 5 to 3 decision, which said Texas’s arguments that the clinic restrictions were to protect women’s health were cover for making it more difficult to obtain an abortion.

The challenged Texas provisions required doctors who perform abortions at clinics to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and said that clinics must meet hospital-like standards of surgical centers.

Similar restrictions have been passed in other states, and officials say they protect patients. But the court’s majority sided with abortion providers and medical associations who said the rules are unnecessary and so expensive or hard to satisfy that they force clinics to close.

As I wrote last week, it was a clear cut case of undue burden and that principle was upheld.  The other clear victory was for sensible gun access control.  They ruled that Domestic Abusers cannot have guns refusing to open the window to all infractions.

 In a 6-2 decision, the Supreme Court on Monday ruled that reckless domestic assaults can be considered misdemeanor crimes to restrict gun ownership. The decision comes as a major victory for women’s rights and domestic violence advocacy groups.

This was an interesting case involving a man in Maine.

The Supreme Court ruled Monday against a Maine resident who argued he should not have been stripped of his ability to possess a firearm despite a prior domestic violence charge in state court.

Stephen Voisine pled guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge in 2004 against a girlfriend. Five years later, he was investigated for shooting a bald eagle and as part of the investigation he turned over a firearm to authorities.

After reviewing his criminal record, Voisine was then charged with unlawful possession of a firearm pursuant to a federal law which makes it unlawful for a person who has been convicted of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” to possess a firearm or ammunition.

Lawyers for Voisine argued that his misdemeanor offense did not rise to the level to trigger the federal law.

The justices agreed to take the case to interpret the reach of a federal statute. But Justice Clarence Thomas during oral arguments was also interested in the 2nd Amendment implications, breaking in to ask a series of questions for the first time in 10 years during oral arguments.

The three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Voisine and another defendant, holding that the “question before us is a narrow one.”

Congress recognized that “guns and domestic violence are a lethal combination,” the panel said.

Is it really possible that we may see a woman President and Vice President next year?  The rally in Cincinnati this morning with Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren held out that tantalizing option.

BB caught me in bed with a cup of coffee this morning. Turn on the TV! There they were and there it was. No more Texas Trap Laws! Two Powerful women thrashing a Republican Bully while the world and Cincinnati cheered them on! It’s a new day! It’s a new dawn! Warren definitely put the B in the Trump Burn. She was amazing and you could see that Hillary loved every minute of it.

Donald Trump is “a small, insecure money-grubber who fights for no one but himself,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said Monday morning at the Cincinnati’s Union Terminal, as the possible vice presidential candidate lit up the crowd in her first appearance with Hillary Clinton.

“What kind of a man?” Warren said of the presumptive GOP nominee, with whom she has had drawn out Twitter battles. “A nasty man who will never become president of the United States, because Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States.”

Warren, who is popular with many progressives who backed Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont in the primary, lobbed attacks at Trump as she stood below the terminal lobby’s large mosaic of of iron-workers, railroad men and farmers. Clinton stood beside her, grinning and clapping.

The joint appearance, and Warren’s enthusiasm for attacking Trump, added to speculation about her likelihood of receiving the nod to join Clinton as the vice presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket. Clinton and her supporters have touted Warren’s endorsement as the former first lady seeks to unite Democrats after a long primary battle with Sanders.

At Union Terminal, Warren punctuated her criticisms of Trump and praise of Clinton by raising her fist and shouting “Yes!” Drawing applause and supportive laughter, Warren turned and clapped wildly for Clinton, then joined the crowd in shouts of “Hillary! Hillary!” and a “Woo!”

“Donald Trump thinks poor, sad little Wall Street brokers need to be free to defraud everyone they want,” said Warren, known for her anti-Wall Street stances. “Hillary fights for us.”

“You know I could do this all day. I really could,” Warren said of attacking Trump. “But I won’t. OK, one more.”

“You just saw why she is considered so terrific, so formidable, because she tells it like it is,” Clinton said of Warren. “I just love how she gets under Donald Trump’s skin.”

These two are a great tag team.  I can’t wait to watch the thin, orange-skinned one’s twitter feed.  He hates it when women put him in his place.

Hillary Clinton after being introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren at a campaign rally in Cincinnati, Ohio. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk

Hillary Clinton after being introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren at a campaign rally in Cincinnati, Ohio. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk

Warren and Clinton both share a desire to do everything they can to “stop Donald Trump” from becoming president, and, according to a campaign aide, they will both warn of the risks Trump would have on the economy during their event today, according to HASKELL and KREUTZ. “The Republicans underestimated and underestimated and underestimated Donald Trump. Look where that got them. They kept saying, no, no, no, that’s not going to happen, we don’t have to worry about that,” Warren said when she endorsed Clinton. “Donald Trump is a genuine threat to this country. He is a threat economically to this country. But he is a threat to who we are as a people. There is an ugly side to Donald Trump that we all have to stop and think about what’s going on here.” As Clinton and Warren’s relationship continues to evolve and Warren’s stock grows as a possible choice for vice president, it appears the senator is diving head first into helping elect Clinton. She even stopped by Clinton’s Brooklyn presidential campaign headquarters 10 days ago to give staffers a pep talk telling them “Don’t screw this up.”

They didn’t screw it up. It was marvelous, darlin’!

So, there’s some good news!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: The Supremes Speak

Good Afternoon!

I’m in an absolute haze from a summer cold that popped up yesterday and sent me directly to bed. I’m trying to write and work right nowows_145558192527968 but it’s not easy at all.  I want to try to discuss a lot of upcoming things that will be important including the SCOTUS decision on the Texas Trap laws regarding abortion and abortion clinics.  These law certainly create an undue burden and they reflect specific religious view rather than medical or biological science.  Here’s a few reads to prepare us all because it’s important for all of us to understand this basic constitutional right.

Abortion opponents regularly talk as though no restriction is off the table when it comes to stripping away reproductive rights. And supporters of abortion rights don’t always set them straight. If we don’t know what our established rights are, we can’t defend them. Pro-choicers need to know why abortion is a constitutional right and what boundaries the U.S. Supreme Court has set out to protect it.

1. Abortion is protected by the rights to bodily integrity and to make decisions about family. The Court explained that decades ago.

The 14th Amendment prohibits states from depriving a person of liberty without due process of law. A person has the right to end a pregnancy without undue interference from the government because that right to liberty includes (1) the right to make decisions about family and (2) the right to bodily integrity.

However, in order to portray abortion rights as illegitimate, conservatives like to argue—inaccurately—that the Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade by inventing a right to privacy that is not grounded in the Constitution’s actual text.

In the pre-Roe contraception case Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), the Court did hold that “penumbras, formed by emanations” or various interpretations of the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Ninth Amendments protect a right to privacy. But in deciding Roe, the Warren court located the right to privacy in the 14th Amendment’s explicit protection of the right to liberty. Regardless, the Court’s understanding of the rights that protect reproductive freedom expanded beyond just privacy decades ago.

Privacy is barely mentioned in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which established the current law governing abortion rights more than 20 years ago. “The controlling word in the cases before us is ‘liberty,’” the decision explained. It was settled law prior to Roe that liberty includes “the right to make family decisions and the right to physical autonomy.”

Privacy is also a constitutional right, and it was indeed violated by the laws at issue in Roe and its companion case,Doe v. Bolton. Those laws required a woman seeking an abortion to share her reasons for wanting the procedure with legal or medical authorities to have any hope of receiving legal abortion care. However, the law and discourse around privacy at the time of Roe implied a woman should be permitted to use contraception or end a pregnancy because the state should not interfere in decisions made in secret with the permission of her doctor, husband, father, pastor, or others. Casey instead properly recognized that the 14th Amendment protects a person’s right to control her body and destiny.

So why has the idea persisted that all we’ve got is a privacy right made up out of thin air? A counterintuitive and less textually based right serves abortion opponents, but abortion rights advocates also have a history of telling us abortion restrictions are primarily a threat to privacy. As William Saletan documented in Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the War on Abortion, in the run-up to Casey, pro-choice leaders emphasized privacy on the advice of pollsters and political consultants to appeal to anti-government, anti-welfare, anti-tax, and anti-integration sentiments. While reproductive rights lawyers argued to the Supreme Court that the Constitution’s protection of autonomy, bodily integrity, and equality protected abortion access, outside of court pro-choice leaders told the public the right at stake was privacy. But, ultimately, the Casey decision provided a much fuller discussion of why abortion is constitutionally protected by rights beyond privacy.

Abortion is protected by the due process clauses of the Fifth Amendment (which restricts the federal government) and the 14th Amendment (which was added to the Constitution to restrict the states). As Casey explained, “It is a promise of the Constitution that there is a realm of personal liberty which the government may not enter.” Using the force of law to compel a person to use her body against her will to bring a pregnancy to term is a violation of her physical autonomy and decisional freedom—which the Constitution does not allow.

 

7B2d881c8a-a777-42dc-8c89-37944494cFollow the link to read about the other two basic rights that include:” 2. Any pre-viability ban is unconstitutional. Period.” and “3. Casey‘s “undue burden” standard is a meaningful protection of abortion rights when courts apply it properly.”

There’s no doubt that the Texas Trap Law creates an “undue” burden.  Clinic closures have left the few remaining clinics overwhelmed.

The war on abortion access in Texas has already fundamentally shifted the landscape of women’s lives in the state. Now, the fallout continues: The closure of Planned Parenthood (PP) clinics in the state—which once served as primary sources of reproductive health care for women there—has left the few clinics remaining in west Texas underfunded, understaffed, and overwhelmed by demand.

According to new research, 60 percent of women receiving a low salary who were of reproductive age accessed health care through PP before the cuts and defunding which took place in 2013. The majority of those patients have since been directed to Texas Tech University and Midland County Health Services (MCHS) after PP’s clinics in west Texas closed—increasing demand at an overwhelming rate for their capacity to provide services.

“There are women [who] need these services but can’t afford them and we see as many as we can,” Michael Austin, director of MCHS, told Women’s Health Policy Report. “But the state program to help these folks along has basically evaporated. So I’m afraid there are probably a lot of folks flying under the radar who need care and aren’t getting it.” Austin pointed to the challenges of seeking funding in a state that has “eliminated or severely messed up” many of their programs which provide reproductive health care to women.

In 2011, the Texas State Assembly passed legislation which blocked funding to women’s health clinics, including Planned Parenthood, and cut the state’s family planning budget by two-thirds. Two years later, the draconian anti-abortion bill known as HB2 was signed into law by Governor Rick Perry, putting in place numerous obstacles meant to shutter clinics and restrict women’s access to safe and legal abortion. HB2 requires that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a local hospital and clinics are licensed ambulatory centers. It also bans surgical abortion after 20 weeks and medication abortion after seven. (Medication abortion is the most cost- and time-effective abortion procedure.)

HB2’s impact was immediate and drastic. 82 percent of family planning clinics closed. The number of abortion practitioners decreased by over 75 percent. Over half of the clinics performing abortion closed, which in turn drastically increased the time it would take for women to make an appointment to 28 days— essentially rendering the option of medication abortion moot. When it comes to clinics, Texas is in crisis.

The Supreme Court has declined to hear the Connecticut law banning assault weapon as well as the challenge to other state laws.  Thisimages (15) leaves the bans in place.

SCOTUS will look at certain key rights of jailed inmates that have illegal immigration status.

The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will take up a case exploring when immigrants detained solely for immigration violations have the right to be released from jail.

The justices agreed to consider a federal appeals court decision that essentially found detained immigrants were entitled to a bond hearing after six months in custody and every six months thereafter.

The high court’s announcement comes as immigrant rights advocates are awaiting a Supreme Court decision on the legality of President Barack Obama’s executive actions granting quasi-legal status and work permits to millions of immigrants who entered or stayed in the U.S. illegally.

In that case, the Obama administration is aligned with most immigrants rights groups. However, in the case the court said Monday that it would take up, the Obama administration is pressing for fewer rights for detained immigrants. In fact, the administration is asking the justices to overturn the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that found immigrants have the right to regular review of their detention.

The newly-accepted case, Jennings v. Rodriguez, could also explore when immigrants accused of ties to terrorism have to be released if authorities are having difficulty deporting them.

9beaac6d2a9b369f60b838f47dbde993SCOTUS blog has some basic information on the remaining cases in the docket.  Here’s a few of the remaining 13.

Between tomorrow morning, when the Justices will take the bench at ten o’clock, and the end of June, the Court is expected to issue thirteen rulings in cases involving everything from tribal-court jurisdiction to abortion, immigration, and the scope of federal laws prohibiting political corruption.  Here are summaries of each pending case:

Dollar General Stores v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (argued December 7, 2015).  This case stems from accusations by a thirteen-year-old member of the tribe that a manager at a Dollar General store within the tribe’s reservation had sexually molested him while the boy was interning at the store.  The child and his parents filed a lawsuit against the manager and the store in tribal court, arguing that the store was liable for the manager’s conduct.  The issue before the Court is whether the tribal court has jurisdiction over tort claims against defendants, like Dollar General, who are not members of the tribe.

Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (argued December 9, 2015).  This case, a challenge to the university’s consideration of race in its undergraduate admissions process, is on its second trip to the Court.  In 2013, the Court sent the case back to the lower courts for a more critical look at whether the university really needed to consider race to achieve a diverse student body.  After the Fifth Circuit once again upheld the policy, the Court agreed to weigh in.  Unlike some of the Court’s other high-profile cases this Term, no one expects the Court to deadlock:  Justice Elena Kagan is not participating, which in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death leaves the Court with just seven Justices to decide the case.

Utah v. Strieff (argued February 22, 2016).  When a police officer stops a pedestrian in violation of the law, asks him for identification, discovers that there is a traffic warrant for his arrest, arrests him, and in the process of searching him discovers drug paraphernalia and methamphetamines, can the evidence found in the search of the pedestrian be used against him?  Edward Strieff argues that it cannot:  because the police officer’s stop was illegal, then anything obtained as a result of the stop is also tainted.  The state, on the other hand, contends that the evidence should be admitted because it resulted from the lawful warrant for his arrest, rather than the illegal stop.

Taylor v. United States (argued February 23, 2016).  The petitioner in this case, David Taylor, was part of a Virginia gang that robbed drug dealers.  The two robberies that led to this case, however, did not yield any drugs – only cellphones, jewelry, and a small amount of money.  Taylor was indicted on federal charges that he had violated the Hobbs Act, which punishes robberies and extortion but applies only when the defendant “obstructs, delays, or affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce.”  The question before the Court is whether the federal government is required to prove facts to show that the defendant’s conduct actually affects commerce.

Voisine v. United States (argued February 29, 2016).  Stephen Voisine and William Armstrong, the other petitioner in this case, both pleaded guilty in state court to misdemeanor assaults on their respective domestic partners. Several years later, each man was charged with violating a federal law that prohibits the possession of firearms and ammunition by individuals who have previously been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.  Voisine and Armstrong contend their state convictions do not automatically qualify as misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence because the state-law provisions can be violated by conduct that is merely reckless, rather than intentional.

Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (argued March 2, 2016).  This is a challenge to the constitutionality of two provisions of a Texas law regulating abortion in that state.  One provision requires doctors who perform abortions to have privileges to admit patients to a local hospital; the other requires abortion clinics to have facilities that are comparable to outpatient surgical centers.  Texas contends that these new laws are constitutional because they were intended to protect women’s health, while the challengers argue that the law was actually intended to close most clinics and therefore limit women’s access to abortions.

RJR Nabisco v. The European Community (argued March 21, 2016).  The issue in this case is whether and to what extent the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), a 1970 law that was originally enacted to target organized crime, applies outside the United States.  The European Community filed a lawsuit in the United States, seeking to hold RJR liable for what it says is the company’s role in an international money-laundering plot that harmed European countries.  RJR counters that nothing in the law suggests that Congress intended it to apply to a situation like this.  Justice Samuel Alito is almost certainly writing the Court’s opinion in this case, because he is the only Justice who has not yet written for the Court’s March sitting; based on the oral argument, that could bode well for RJR.

United States v. Texas (argued April 18, 2016).  This case is a challenge to an Obama administration policy, announced in November 2014, that would allow some undocumented immigrants to apply to stay in the country and work legally for three years.  Before the policy could go into effect, Texas and a large group of other states went to court to block its implementation, arguing that the administration lacks the authority to issue a policy like this.  But before the Supreme Court can weigh in on that question, it will also have to agree that the states have the legal right, known as “standing,” to challenge the policy at all; the lower courts ruled that they did, because at least Texas would incur additional costs from the undocumented immigrants who would become eligible for driver’s licenses if the policy goes into effect.

Birchfield v. North Dakota (argued April 20, 2016).  Twelve states and the National Park Service impose criminal penalties on suspected drunk drivers who refuse to submit to testing to measure their blood-alcohol levels.  The question before the Court is whether those penalties violate the Fourth Amendment, which only allows police to “search” someone if they have a warrant or one of a handful of exceptions to the warrant requirement applies.  Three drivers from North Dakota and Minnesota argue that neither of those conditions is met, and so the laws must fall.

Encino Motorcars v. Navarro (argued April 20, 2016).  This case requires the Court to weigh in on the interpretation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which generally requires employers to pay overtime to employees who work for more than forty hours in a week but also contains a variety of exceptions – including for a salesman whose primary job is selling or servicing cars.  The respondents in this case are service advisors at a car dealership, who argue that they are not included in the exemption and are therefore entitled to overtime.

You can check out the rest on the link to SCOTUS blog. So, there’s a lot of interesting things coming down the pipe.  We’ll definitely be  following a lot of them.

There’s one piece of SCOTUS gossip that you might be interested in today. Check out this lede by David Badash:  “DC Insider Report SCOTUS Justice Clarence Thomas Thinking of Retiring Throws Twitter Into Frenzy.”

The Washington Examiner Sunday afternoon posted a piece by DC insider columnist Paul Bedard that claims uber-conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas “is mulling retirement after the presidential election, according to court watchers.” Those “court watchers” of course are unnamed, so the actual source of the claim is unknown.

It could be true, it could be false, but the implications of course are tremendous. Assuming Republicans in the Senate successfully keeps their vow to not confirm any SCOTUS justice nominated by President Obama, and wait until the next president takes office, this would mean the next president would automatically nominate not one but two justices to the nation’s top court, controlling its destiny for decades.

So naturally, Clarence Thomas began trending on Twitter.

Follow the link for the Twitter Frenzy.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

 

h/t to Delphyne