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“Orrin Hatch Gives Away The Game”: Perfect Illustration Of GOP Obstruction The President Has Faced

This is priceless:

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) hasn’t yet met with Supreme Court nominee Merrick B. Garland for what has been a long anticipated encounter between the former Judiciary Committee chairman and the federal appeals court judge he has long praised.

But when the meeting does happen, don’t expect Garland to succeed in convincing Hatch to support his nomination, because Hatch has already declared that it won’t.

“Like many of my Senate colleagues, I recently met with Chief Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court. … Our meeting, however, does not change my conviction that the Senate should consider a Supreme Court nominee after this presidential election cycle,” Hatch wrote in an op-ed published on the website of the Deseret News early Thursday morning and later removed. It remains available in a Google database.

This is the same Orrin Hatch who recommended that President Obama nominate Merrick Garland to replace John Paul Stevens when he retired back in 2010.

This is the same Orrin Hatch who said this less than one week before President Obama actually did nominate Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court:

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) told Newsmax on Friday that President Obama wouldn’t nominate a “moderate” like Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. On Wednesday, the Utah senator was proven wrong.

“The President told me several times he’s going to name a moderate, but I don’t believe him,” Hatch told the conservative news site on Friday.

“[Obama] could easily name Merrick Garland, who is a fine man,” he continued. “He probably won’t do that because this appointment is about the election. So I’m pretty sure he’ll name someone the [liberal Democratic base] wants.”

Now he’s decided he won’t support a hearing for Garland and has actually written an opinion piece to rationalize his decision, and he’s done it before meeting with the judge.

This is a perfect illustration of the kind of obstruction the president has faced from the Republicans. I’m not sure I could ever find a more apt demonstration.

 

By: Martin Longman, Web Editor, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 26, 2017

May 27, 2016 Posted by | GOP Obstructionism, Merrick Garland, Orrin Hatch, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , | 1 Comment

“Currying Favor To Conservatives”: Be Afraid Of How Much Donald Trump’s Supreme Court Could Change America

It’s now been well over a month since the expiration of Donald Trump’s self-imposed deadline for coming up with a list of candidates from which he would choose Supreme Court nominees, including the one he would name right away to fill the seat of the late Antonin Scalia. When asked about the list, Trump said he thought it would be ready to be released before the convention.

This is not a promise conservatives are going to let him ignore perpetually, and conversely, there’s no particular evidence he cares enough about constitutional law to make this a serious bone of contention.

But, in fact, conservative fears about Trump’s lack of fidelity to their supreme value of limited government could lead to demands for truly radical Court nominees who embrace the idea that right-wing judicial activism is needed to restrain the executive and legislative branches alike.

We are already hearing arguments from conservative legal circles that an atmosphere of lawlessness associated with the Court’s failure to kill Obamacare has contributed to the frustration and extremism reflected in Trump’s successful drive for the GOP presidential nomination. And some of the same critics point accusingly at Trump’s long-standing support for widespread use of the power of eminent domain as showing his contempt for property rights and willingness to use government aggressively.

So it’s not enough to say that conservative legal activists don’t trust Donald Trump any more than other conservatives do: They actually believe he’s a prime example of a politician that judges need to restrain without the deference to the political branches of government that conservatives used to believe in (and that Chief Justice John Roberts exhibited in allowing Obamacare to survive).

And thus: Regular old-school “judicial deference” conservatives like Roberts will not be acceptable to a lot of conservative opinion leaders, particularly coming from Trump. You can expect more and more demands for Justices who share the “constitutional conservative” belief  in absolute property rights that permanently debar Congress and the president alike from enacting or administering social-welfare programs or business regulation. This was the philosophy supported by the Court during the early-20th-century period when a chain of decisions begun by Lochner v. United States stymied progressive legislation until FDR’s threat of court-packing and then turnover in justices forced its abandonment.

There’s now a powerful movement in conservative legal circles to bring back Lochner, and there’s probably no quicker route to its restoration than a Trump administration trying to buy favor with those on the right who fear the Donald’s tyrannical tendencies.

If and when Trump releases his SCOTUS prospect list — which he’s promised he will prepare in consultation with the Heritage Foundation — there are a couple of names to look for in particular. One is Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willet, an outspoken neo-Lochner advocate. Another is Utah Senator Mike Lee, who makes no bones about his belief that the New Deal was and is unconstitutional. And still another might be Lee’s best friend in the Senate, Ted Cruz, if he patches things up with Trump and decides the bench rather than the White House is his destiny.

For progressives, the thing to comprehend is that there are worse things that could come from Trump Supreme Court nominations than the expected fifth vote to restrict or overturn Roe v. Wade or to cripple public-sector unions, terrible as either of those things would be. Precisely because Trump is a loose cannon, he may be convinced to promise his new conservative friends what they really want on the Court: Justices who want to turn the clock back not just to 1972, when abortion was illegal in most states, but to the early 1930s when what we think of as the social safety net was considered a radical and unconstitutional idea.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 8, 2016

May 9, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Donald Trump, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Chuck Grassley’s Supreme Court Coup”: To Protect The Court From Politics, Seat Nine Chuck Grassleys And Go Home

Sen. Chuck Grassley is in a tough spot. The Republican from Iowa, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, has to decide whether or not to grant Judge Merrick Garland a hearing or to continue the unprecedented obstruction of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. When a guy dressed like Ben Franklin is trolling you through town halls in Iowa, you know you’re in trouble.

But Grassley’s bigger problem is that he has indicated in the past that he knows better than to take a torch to the Supreme Court for the sake of partisanship. Like most court-watchers, Grassley is well aware that the institution is often political, and that it always has been. But like most court-watchers, he is also aware that the continued viability of the institution rests on the jagged myth that the court can transcend politics and those moments when the court actually lives up to that ideal.

Grassley surely knows better than most that the court has only the public’s esteem to shore it up—and he knows better than anyone that the public trust demands at least some confidence the judicial project is about more than brute power and party loyalty.

Grassley knows all that, but as pressure on him has ramped up to hold hearings—and a vote—on a seat that remains empty, he’s apparently decided it doesn’t matter anymore. On Tuesday, Grassley gave a speech that went after the Supreme Court as a purely political institution, pantsing the entire high court, and Chief Justice John Roberts by name, on the floor of the United States Senate. In so doing, he not only damaged the Senate’s relationship with the court in a way he may not be able to repair, but also exposed his own hypocrisy as chairman of a judiciary committee tasked with ensuring that the court can function.

Grassley went after Roberts specifically for having the temerity to give a speech before Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, where he noted that “the [nomination] process is not functioning very well” and that well-qualified nominees—including current Justices Samuel Alito, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor—should have been confirmed along bipartisan lines.

No way, said Grassley. If politics have overtaken the nomination process, it’s the court’s fault. “What’s troubling is that a large segment of the population views the justices as political,” Grassley said. And whose fault is that? “The justices themselves have gotten political,” he declared. “And because the justices’ decisions are often political and transgress their constitutional role the process becomes more political.” In fact, Grassley added, (apolitically) his own constituents believe that Roberts “is part of this problem.”

“They believe that the number of his votes have reflected political considerations, not legal ones,” Grassley continued, adding with a flourish “so, physician, heal thyself.” To add a little mob flair, he then warned the chief not to insert himself into Garland’s nomination fight.

To be fair to Grassley here, we should consider: Isn’t he just telling the truth about politics influencing court opinions?

The problem with this defense is that the judiciary chair’s double-helix of hypocrisy gives him no standing to call out Roberts or any member of the court. Grassley has—at various times in his career—argued that the court is different from the other two patently political branches. For instance: In January 2006, with Alito having just been appointed to the high court, Grassley argued that the politics had nothing to do with the nomination process, nor the court. “The Senate’s tradition has been to confirm individuals who are well qualified to interpret and to apply the law and who understand the proper role of the judiciary to dispense justice,” he said. This coming from the man who is now arguing that politics is the reason we can’t have a hearing.

But the extra special hypocrisy sauce here is that Grassley now says that the only way to depoliticize the court would be to appoint nominees who conform their political views to those of the Republican Party. “Justices appointed by Republicans are generally committed to following the law,” he said. And then he argued that the court is too political because Republican nominees don’t act sufficiently politically. “There are justices who frequently vote in a conservative way,” he said. “But some of the justices appointed even by Republicans often don’t vote in a way that advances conservative policy.”

Wait, what? So the problem for Grassley isn’t “political” justices—it’s justices appointed by Republicans who don’t advance “conservative policy” 100 percent of the time. And with that, he revealed his real issue. His Senate floor attack isn’t about depoliticizing the court at all. It’s about calling out Roberts for being insufficiently loyal to the Tea Party agenda when he voted not to strike down Obamacare.

What is really being said here is that there is only one way to interpret the Constitution and that is in the way that “advances conservative policy.” According to Grassley’s thinking, a justice who fails to do that in every single case before him or her is “political” and damaging the court. By this insane logic, the only way to protect the court from politics is to seat nine Chuck Grassleys and go home. And to achieve this type of court he will stop at nothing, including trash talking the entire institution from the Senate floor and threatening the chief justice who will, because he is chief justice, decline to respond.

Again, remember back at the time of the fight over Alito when the same Sen. Grassley warned, “the Supreme Court does not have seats reserved for one philosophy or another. That kind of reasoning is completely antithetical to the proper role of the judiciary in our system of government.” What that seems to have meant in retrospect: There is only a single judicial philosophy and if I don’t get a nominee who shares that philosophy, I’ll happily slander the whole court.

Grassley’s aides like to claim that he believes in his heart that this unexpected election-year vacancy offers the country a rare opportunity for a national debate about the role of the Supreme Court. We have a forum for just such a debate. It’s called a confirmation hearing. But Grassley doesn’t want a debate. He wants a coup.

Speaking Thursday afternoon at the University of Chicago Law School on the court’s role, President Obama warned against exactly this form of dangerous and destructive politics. When people “just view the courts as an extension of our political parties—polarized political parties” he warned, public confidence in the justice system is eroded. “If confidence in the courts consistently breaks down, then you see our attitudes about democracy generally start to break down, and legitimacy breaking down in ways that are very dangerous.”

Sen. Grassley has made the choice to hold no hearings and have no vote for an eminently qualified jurist because—as he has now openly stated—there are only two legitimate justices on the Supreme Court, the two who agree with his viewpoint 100 percent of the time. Grassley, and the rest of his Republican colleagues who continue to refuse hearings and a vote on Merrick Garland, have seamlessly and shamelessly turned the entire judicial branch into their own, private constitutional snowglobe.

 

By: Dahlia Lithwick, Slate , April 7, 2016

April 11, 2016 Posted by | Chuck Grassley, Conservatives, Judiciary, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Force The Senate To Do Its Job”: Obama Can Appoint Merrick Garland To The Supreme Court If The Senate Does Nothing

On Nov. 12, 1975, while I was serving as a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Justice William O. Douglas resigned. On Nov. 28, President Gerald R. Ford nominated John Paul Stevens for the vacant seat. Nineteen days after receiving the nomination, the Senate voted 98 to 0 to confirm the president’s choice. Two days later, I had the pleasure of seeing Ford present Stevens to the court for his swearing-in. The business of the court continued unabated. There were no 4-to-4 decisions that term.

Today, the system seems to be broken. Both parties are at fault, seemingly locked in a death spiral to outdo the other in outrageous behavior. Now, the Senate has simply refused to consider President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, dozens of nominations to federal judgeships and executive offices are pending before the Senate, many for more than a year. Our system prides itself on its checks and balances, but there seems to be no balance to the Senate’s refusal to perform its constitutional duty.

The Constitution glories in its ambiguities, however, and it is possible to read its language to deny the Senate the right to pocket veto the president’s nominations. Start with the appointments clause of the Constitution. It provides that the president “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint . . . Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States.” Note that the president has two powers: the power to “nominate” and the separate power to “appoint.” In between the nomination and the appointment, the president must seek the “Advice and Consent of the Senate.” What does that mean, and what happens when the Senate does nothing?

In most respects, the meaning of the “Advice and Consent” clause is obvious. The Senate can always grant or withhold consent by voting on the nominee. The narrower question, starkly presented by the Garland nomination, is what to make of things when the Senate simply fails to perform its constitutional duty.

It is altogether proper to view a decision by the Senate not to act as a waiver of its right to provide advice and consent. A waiver is an intentional relinquishment or abandonment of a known right or privilege. As the Supreme Court has said, “ ‘No procedural principle is more familiar to this Court than that a constitutional right,’ or a right of any other sort, ‘may be forfeited in criminal as well as civil cases by the failure to make timely assertion of the right before a tribunal having jurisdiction to determine it.’ ”

It is in full accord with traditional notions of waiver to say that the Senate, having been given a reasonable opportunity to provide advice and consent to the president with respect to the nomination of Garland, and having failed to do so, can fairly be deemed to have waived its right.

Here’s how that would work. The president has nominated Garland and submitted his nomination to the Senate. The president should advise the Senate that he will deem its failure to act by a specified reasonable date in the future to constitute a deliberate waiver of its right to give advice and consent. What date? The historical average between nomination and confirmation is 25 days; the longest wait has been 125 days. That suggests that 90 days is a perfectly reasonable amount of time for the Senate to consider Garland’s nomination. If the Senate fails to act by the assigned date, Obama could conclude that it has waived its right to participate in the process, and he could exercise his appointment power by naming Garland to the Supreme Court.

Presumably the Senate would then bring suit challenging the appointment. This should not be viewed as a constitutional crisis but rather as a healthy dispute between the president and the Senate about the meaning of the Constitution. This kind of thing has happened before. In 1932, the Supreme Court ruled that the Senate did not have the power to rescind a confirmation vote after the nominee had already taken office. More recently, the court determined that recess appointments by the president were no longer proper because the Senate no longer took recesses.

It would break the logjam in our system to have this dispute decided by the Supreme Court (presumably with Garland recusing himself). We could restore a sensible system of government if it were accepted that the Senate has an obligation to act on nominations in a reasonable period of time. The threat that the president could proceed with an appointment if the Senate failed to do so would force the Senate to do its job — providing its advice and consent on a timely basis so that our government can function.

 

By: Gregory L. Diskant, Senior Partner at the law firm of Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler, Member of the National Governing Board of Common Cause; Opinion Pages, The Washington Post, April8, 2016

April 10, 2016 Posted by | Merrick Garland, Senate Republicans, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Scarier Than His Friend Ted Cruz”: Why Right-Wingers Want Sen. Mike Lee On SCOTUS

The Republican battle to make Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland go away, and the efforts to pin down GOP presidential candidates on pre-vetted lists of potential Supremes, have all led to increased speculation about the next justice. At present, there’s a major boom among conservatives for Senator Mike Lee of Utah.

Today the Washington Post‘s James Hohmann offers a rundown on all the reasons Lee is enjoying this attention. For one thing, the Utah senator has long been considered Ted Cruz’s best friend in the upper chamber, so if Cruz is elected, it’s a bit of a no-brainer if Lee wants a robe. For another, Lee would probably have an easier time getting confirmed by his colleagues in the clubby Senate than some law professor or circuit-court judge, and might even avoid a Democratic filibuster (assuming Republicans haven’t already killed the SCOTUS filibuster via the “nuclear option”).

But one of the two most important reasons for the Lee boom is buried pretty far down in the story:

Lee is just 44. That means he could squeeze four or more decades out of a lifetime appointment.

Yep. If nominated next year for the Scalia seat, Lee would be the youngest nominee since Clarence Thomas, who has now been on the Court for nearly a quarter of a century, with many years of extremism probably still ahead of him. Before Thomas, you have to go all the way back to Bill Richardson’s favorite justice, Whizzer White, in 1962, to find a nominee as young as Lee would be. As you may have noticed, life expectancy has been going up for Americans in recent decades. For conservatives seeking a permanent grip on the Court and on constitutional law, someone Lee’s age is money.

But the second reason Lee would be significant is only hinted at by Hohmann in the praise lavished on the solon by the Heritage Foundation and longtime right-wing legal thinker Senator Jeff Sessions (the two most likely sources for SCOTUS advice for Donald Trump, as it happens). Lee’s not just any old “constitutional conservative”; he’s a leading exponent of what is called the Lochner school of constitutional theory, named after the early-twentieth-century decision that was the basis for SCOTUS invalidation of New Deal legislation until the threat of court-packing and a strategic flip-flop resolved what had become a major constitutional crisis.

Lee has, on occasion, suggested that child labor laws, Social Security, and Medicare are unconstitutional, because they breach the eternal limits on federal power sketched out by the Founders. Like most Lochnerians, he views the constitution and the courts as designed to keep democratic majorities from stepping on the God-given personal and property rights of individuals and corporations alike. So it’s no surprise he’s been a bitter critic of the deferential view towards Congress expressed by Chief Justice Roberts in the decision that saved Obamacare.

In effect, Mike Lee could become a more influential successor to Clarence Thomas — after overlapping with Thomas on the Court for a decade or two. If Democratic senators have a problem with that possibility, they might want to begin making noises about it so that at least the supposition that Lee is pretty easily confirmable may be called into question.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, April 7, 2016

April 8, 2016 Posted by | Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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