Tag Archives: First Amendment

SCOTUS punts on two gerrymandering cases

The U.S. Supreme Court began the day with 19 argued cases yet to be decided. This included two of the most highly anticipated cases of this term involving political gerrymandering, Gil v. Whitford (Wisconsin) and Benisek v. Lamone (Maryland).

Today the U.S. Supreme Court disappointed everyone by punting on these two cases. It was an anticlimactic end to these gerrymandering cases, which are likely to return in the future with additional cases moving through the appellate courts pipeline.

In Gil v. Whitford (.pdf) Chief Justice Roberts held that “The plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate Article III standing.”

The right to vote is “individual and personal in nature,” Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U. S. 533, 561, and “voters who allege facts showing disad- vantage to themselves as individuals have standing to sue” to remedy that disadvantage, Baker, 369 U. S., at 206. The plaintiffs here al- leged that they suffered such injury from partisan gerrymandering, which works through the “cracking” and “packing” of voters. To the extent that the plaintiffs’ alleged harm is the dilution of their votes, that injury is district specific. An individual voter in Wisconsin is placed in a single district. He votes for a single representative. The boundaries of the district, and the composition of its voters, deter- mine whether and to what extent a particular voter is packed or cracked. A plaintiff who complains of gerrymandering, but who does not live in a gerrymandered district, “assert[s] only a generalized grievance against governmental conduct of which he or she does not approve.” United States v. Hays, 515 U. S. 737, 745.

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Trump’s personal animosity for Jeffrey Bezos results in abuse of power a la Nixon

Included in the Articles of Impeachment for President Richard M. Nixon adopted by the House Judiciary Committee on July 27, 1974 was Article 2 for “abuse of power,” which included ordering the IRS to audit his “political enemies” list.

We are now confronted with a parallel abuse of power by President Donald Trump, albeit by a different federal agency. The Washington Post reports, Trump personally pushed postmaster general to double rates on Amazon, other firms:

President Trump has personally pushed U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double the rate the Postal Service charges Amazon.com and other firms to ship packages, according to three people familiar with their conversations, a dramatic move that probably would cost these companies billions of dollars.

Brennan has so far resisted Trump’s demand, explaining in multiple conversations occurring this year and last that these arrangements are bound by contracts and must be reviewed by a regulatory commission, the three people said. She has told the president that the Amazon relationship is beneficial for the Postal Service and gave him a set of slides that showed the variety of companies, in addition to Amazon, that also partner for deliveries.

The Wall Street Journal  reported last month that White House officials, eager to help the president understand reality, have put together “PowerPoint presentations and briefing papers they believed debunked his concerns.”

Despite these presentations, Trump has continued to level criticism at Amazon. And last month, his critiques culminated in the signing of an executive order mandating a government review of the financially strapped Postal Service that could lead to major changes in the way it charges Amazon and others for package delivery. See, Bloomberg, Trump Orders Post Office Review After Attacks on Amazon.

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Playboy president seeks to profit from porn star – and more!

When last we checked in on the reality TV show “the playboy president and the porn star,” Stormy clouds over the Trump White House: 60 Minutes and a court date, adult film star Stormy Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, had filed a lawsuit (and attached exhibits) (.pdf) to void a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) with Donald Trump, identified by the alias David Dennison in the NDA, drafted and entered into by Michael Cohen, the “top attorney” and “fixer” for the Trump organization.

Last Friday, Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti, in an interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” repeatedly said that his client had been threatened, but wouldn’t disclose by who. He also declined to give details on the nature of the threats. Stormy Daniels’ lawyer says she was threatened with physical harm:

“Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski then asked whether Clifford was “threatened in any way.”

Avenatti responded, “Yes.”

“Was she threatened with physical harm,” Brzezinski then asked.

“Yes,” Avenatti said.

“Was her life threatened?” Brzezinski inquired.

“I’m not going to answer that. People will have to tune in,” he said, referring to an interview Clifford did with CBS’s “60 Minutes” that is scheduled to air March 25.

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National School Walkout today at 10:00 a.m.

Today at 10:00 a.m., students across Arizona will walkout of their classrooms for a 17 minute vigil in remembrance of the 17 victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Philip Boas of The Republic writes, Why every adult should support students’ March 14 walkout:

If you believe young people shouldn’t be walking out of their classrooms on Wednesday to protest gun violence in America, if you believe this is a waste of precious classroom time and only encourages chaos and defiance …

you are wrong.

The kids are right.

These young people are citizens of this country, and every citizen has the right to commit acts of civil disobedience in the face of great wrongs.

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Know your First Amendment rights for student walk outs

With the March For Our Lives and other student walk outs planned in coming weeks, there are two ways for Arizona school districts to respond to this student-led protest movement.

I suggested that “the Arizona Secretary of State’s office and our 15 County Recorder’s offices, along with voter registration organizations such as the League of Women Voters and many others, could coordinate with Arizona’s school districts to make voter registration tables available at every Arizona high school for seniors participating in these extraordinary events to register to vote. High school civics teachers should see this as a golden opportunity to teach their students about civics.” Register high school students to vote at March for Our Lives and #NeverAgain events.

My suggestion is similar to the view expressed by the ACLU of New Jersey in an open letter (PDF) to New Jersey school administrators, educators, and government officials concerning the rights of students to express themselves politically, in school and out. ACLU-NJ OPEN LETTER ON STUDENT WALKOUTS AND SPEECH TO EDUCATORS, ADMINISTRATORS, AND OFFICIALS: “A student movement has arisen in response to the tragic school shooting in Parkland last month, and young New Jerseyans are raising their voices here. The ACLU of New Jersey asks you to support student efforts to engage in the issues of the day and encourage a spirit of civic participation in the various forms it may take.”

It would be great if our political leaders were proactive in their support of political engagement and participation by our high school students.

But I also warned you that “There are more likely to be partisan school boards that will not permit their students to participate in these walkouts — First Amendment rights be damned …” This has now occurred in Arizona. School suspends students after walkout over gun violence:

Dozens of students at a Phoenix-area middle school were suspended for leaving campus during a walkout to protest gun violence and to support victims of the Florida school shooting.

More than 100 students from Ingleside Middle School participated in the Tuesday protest, which lasted 17 minutes — a minute for each person killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last month.

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March For Our Lives: ‘The Arizona Agenda for Our Lives’

Last week, two Arizona teenagers announced they are organizing a march on March 24 to advocate for gun control, in solidarity with survivors of the recent mass shooting in Florida.

This week, they announced their specific agenda, focusing on passing four bills in the Arizona Legislature. Phoenix ‘March For Our Lives’ organizers demand local gun-control measures:

After survivors of the Parkland shooting announced that they are organizing an event in Washington D.C. called March For Our Lives on March 24, Samantha Lekberg, 16, of Surprise, and Jordan Harb, 17, of Mesa, paired up to plan a sister march at the state Capitol.

More than 11,000 people have expressed interested in their “#MarchForOurLives Phoenix, Arizona” event on Facebook. This week, they released a statement through their PHX March For Our Lives page.

“High school students across the State of Arizona are standing in solidarity to say something so simple, even bought and paid for politicians can understand it: It’s time to Save Our Lives.”

Focusing on four Arizona bills

Their proposal, which they called “The Arizona Agenda for Our Lives,” calls on the Legislature and Gov. Doug Ducey to pass four bills this year “or risk the wrath of voters in November:”

  • House Bill 2299 would require a person on probation for a domestic-violence offense to hand all their firearms over to a law-enforcement agency for the duration of their probation.
  • HB 2023 would ban bump stocks and other devices designed to make semi-automatic weapons fire similarly to fully-automatic weapons.
  • HB 2024  would require universal criminal background checks for people buying firearms. It would close the so-called “gun show” or “private sale” loophole by requiring a private person selling or transferring a firearm to go through a licensed firearm dealer, with some exceptions. Licensed dealers are required to run background checks.
  • Senate Bill 1347 (and the identical HB 2140) would create a process where immediate family members or a police officer can petition a judge for an injunction to prohibit someone with mental-health issues from possessing a gun.

They also released a petition for people to sign in support of their demands.

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