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Welcome, Justice Jackson

The Senate today confirmed the nomination of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to the United States Supreme Court.

Hopefully, we will see that even one additional progressive voice on our nation's highest Court can make a difference -- on social and criminal justice and privacy issues.

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Democrats to Unite Behind Jackson Confirmation

What did the Republicans accomplish in their disgraceful public display of aggression during the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson? They ensured that Democrats, to include Sen. Joe Manchin, will unite in support of her.

I only watched a smidgen of the testimony -- when Ted Cruz was leading the charge with his chart of sentencing statistics on her child p*rn cases, but wow, did he make an as* of himself.

The other thing I noticed was the superb coaching Jackson got for the hearings (as do all nominees these days). It must be really hard to sit there poker-faced when some horse's as* is trying to bait you with one absurdly worded question after another.

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How to Wipe Out Trump's Stamp on the Federal Judiciary

Former New York federal court Judge Shira Scheindlin has an op-ed in the Guardian on how Trump took over the federal Judiciary with his abundant lifetime appointments of judges to our federal courts --including district and appellate courts and the Supreme Court.

There are a total of 816 active federal judges comprising the supreme court, the 13 appellate courts, and 91 district courts. In just one term Trump was able to appoint 28% of those judges due to past and continuing vacancies. Most importantly, he appointed 33% of America’s nine supreme court justices and 30% of the appellate judges.

Trump, desperate as always to leave his mark on something he touched, made sure to appoint young (by judicial standards) mostly white males to our nation's courts. [More....]

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Joe Biden's Makes His Mark on the Judiciary

Some good news to report about Joe Biden. He has rapidly been filling the open slots for federal District and Appeals Court judges. So far, 8 of those appointed and confirmed have backgrounds as public defenders.

That is as many as (un)president Donald Trump, and Presidents Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton landed in their first years combined, said Chris Kang, the chief counsel of Demand Justice.

...Set against recent history, [appointing 5 of these judges to the Courts of Appeal] t...is a remarkable statistic. President Barack Obama confirmed five former public defenders to the appeals courts over his entire eight years, according to the progressive judicial group Demand Justice. Biden has matched that in his first nine months.

For decades, federal judicial appointments have favored ex-prosecutors and corporate lawyers, the latter of whom have no criminal experience. [More...]

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Sen. Leahy Won't Vote for Kavenaugh

Sen. Patrick Leahy has an op-ed in the Washington Post today explaining why he won't vote for Brett Kavenaugh.

Time and again, Kavanaugh appears to have misled the Senate under oath.


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Kavenaugh's Rough Week

Democrats gave Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavenaugh a tough time during his confirmation hearings this week.

I have not seen much discussion of where he stands on criminal justice issues: the rights of the accused, sentencing policy, drug law, immigrants and refugees, or the death penalty. I am more interested in his positions on those issues than on whether he would potentially give Trump a legal pass by upholding a refusal by Trump to comply with a subpoena from Mueller. The Federal Defender for the District of Columbia, A.J. Kramer, will be testifying today in support of Kavenaugh (personally, not on behalf of his office). His written remarks are here.

So long as Trump gets to pick the nominee, one will just be worse than the next. That's why elections matter so much. At Vox today, a presidential historian explains Donald Trump in one sentence:

“The fish rots from the head,” he told me, “and the stench of this administration starts at the very top.”

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Justice Kennedy Announces Retirement

Just yesterday I wrote about how important it is to consider that whoever is elected president will decide who serves on the Supreme and other federal courts. Today Justice Kennedy announced his retirement. Unfortunately, since voters in some important states that should have gone blue in 2016 voted for Donald Trump, we are in for a dismal few years of replacement judges.

Hypocritical Republicans of course want the Senate to swiftly confirm whoever Trump picks. Not so fast. Remember when Republicans wouldn't vote on Obama's choice for a Supreme Court justice because it was too close to the election and they wanted the victor in the election to choose? Well, what's good for the goose may be good for the gander. Sen. Schumer is promising there will be no vote on a Trump-selected replacement for Kennedy before the elections.

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Supreme Court Rules Warrant Needed for Cell Site Location Data

Huge, ground-breaking decision from the Supreme Court today! In a 7 to 2 ruling, the Court said a search warrant is needed for cops to obtain cell site location information from phone companies.

The opinion is here.

The case before us involves the Government’s acquisition of wireless carrier cell-site records revealing the location of Carpenter’s cell phone whenever it made orreceived calls. This sort of digital data—personal location information maintained by a third party—does not fit neatly under existing precedents.


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Judge Kozinski Announces Retirement

9th Circuit appeals court judge Alex Kozinski is resigning immediately due to 15 allegations of sexual harassment.

In a statement provided by his lawyer, Kozinski apologized, saying that he “had a broad sense of humor and a candid way of speaking to both male and female law clerks alike” and that, “in doing so, I may not have been mindful enough of the special challenges and pressures that women face in the workplace.”

"It grieves me to learn that I caused any of my clerks to feel uncomfortable; this was never my intent,” he said. “For this I sincerely apologize."

His full statement is here.

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Supreme Court Upholds Grandparent Exemption to Travel Ban

The Supreme Court has dispensed with Trump's appeal of the Hawaii court order on his travel ban in a very short Order, available here.

The Court upheld the 'Grandparent' Exemption To Trump Travel Ban'. It also stayed the Hawaii Court's exemption of refugees, pending resolution by the full 9th Circuit.

The justices, in a brief order, rejected the administration’s request that it clarify the scope of their decision last month temporarily reinstating the ban but allowing people with “a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States” to enter the country. The court said the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, should address the question.

And no surprise here: The judges who would have blocked implementation of the Hawaii Court's order, even on grandparents, as the case winds through the 9th Circuit Appeals Court: Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch.

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Supreme Court Approves Part of Trump's Travel Ban

I knew I should have stayed away from the news entirely today. I just saw this: Supreme Court Okays Part of Trump's Travel Ban:

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to allow a limited version of President Trump’s ban on travelers from six mostly Muslim countries to take effect and will consider in the fall the president’s broad powers in immigration matters in a case that raises fundamental issues of national security and religious discrimination.

The court made an important exception: It said the ban “may not be enforced against foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”


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Trump Nominates 10 Conservatives For Federal Court Judgeships

Donald Trump has nominated ten people to serve as federal judges. All are conservatives.

Not a single criminal defense attorney was nominated. Several are long term prosecutors. A few were law clerks to Justice Clarence Thomas or deceased Justice Anton Scalia. Some only have state court or academic experience. [More..]

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