Fair and Just Courts

GOP Obstruction of the DC Circuit: Infographics

Share these infographics to help set the record straight on the DC Circuit.

The Critically Important DC Circuit Court

Despite progressive victories in 2012, the Right’s outsized influence on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit gives it the power to undermine progressive laws and thwart the agenda that Americans elected President Obama to pursue.

Steve King: Impeach Ginsburg & Kagan Over Gay Marriage Decision

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said yesterday that he would support impeaching Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan over their participation in the Supreme Court’s marriage equality case whenever “the public is ready” for such proceedings.

King, a guest on Iowa talk radio host Jan Mickelson’s program, took a call from a listener who said of the justices who voted to strike down same-sex marriage bans, “I submit that these are rogue justices and they can be impeached and removed by Congress.”

King told the caller that he agreed with him, but “impeachment itself,, we have learned throughout history, is a political decision” and the timing is “up to the will of the people.”

“That provision does exist, and let’s hear what the public has to say,” he added. “If that were put up before me today, and I think I mentioned Ginsburg and Kagan as being two that had been conducting same-sex marriages on their spare time and did not recuse themselves, I would put up the vote to remove them from office. And I’d like to see that case heard again and it would come down four-to-three and it in the end it would come back to the states for that decision, where it should be. But I don’t know if the public is ready for that.”

Mickelson then asked King about Sen. Ted Cruz’s idea of establishing retention elections for Supreme Court justices — similar to those in Iowa in 2010 that resulted in three state supreme court justices losing their jobs in retribution for marriage equality votes — which King said he thought was “a pretty good idea.”

But in the near term, King said, the nation must turn to “nationwide civil disobedience” in defiance of the marriage decision. He also repeated his plan for states to “abolish civil marriage” in order to deny the benefits and responsibilities of marriage to gay and lesbian couples.

“By doing so we can avoid the litigation that’s coming at every one of our churches,” he said, claiming that gay rights advocates “will not stop until they can force a priest to conduct a same-sex marriage at the altar of a Catholic church.”

Earlier in the program, King went on a long tangent linking the U.S. Constitution not only to the Magna Carta and to Greek and Roman law, but also to the New Testament.

“You can go piece by piece of this all the way through the history of the foundation of western civilization to get to the underpinnings of the pillars of American exceptionalism,” he said. “And we seem to have forgotten about those underpinnings and now we’re at this place where there is no right and wrong and the rule of tyranny of whoever can get leverage in whatever form and five justices in the Supreme Court setting a policy that turns over thousands of years of human experience.”

“This Constitution is rendered an artifact of history if we let this stand,” he warned.

A Liberal Supreme Court Term? Hardly.

Progressives breathed a sigh of relief after several Supreme Court cases this term, but it was hardly a liberal term.
PFAW Foundation

Alabama Official: Courts That Recognize Gay Rights 'A Bigger Threat To The United States Than ISIS'

UPDATE: We've posted some video clips of the press conference's highlights.

The mood was apparently apoplectic at a press conference held by gay-rights opponents in front of the Alabama state judicial building yesterday, as one Republican state official called the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision “an assault on God, on Christian heritage and on our culture” and warned that the “runaway judiciary is a bigger threat to the United States than ISIS” and “liberal judges have done [more] harm to our country and our Constitution than Al Qaeda.”

Public Service Commissioner Chip Beeker, who made the ISIS remarks, was joined by Joe Godfrey of the Alabama Citizens Action Project, who warned that Christians will soon be fired from their jobs just for attending church and by John Eidsmoe, the influential Christian Reconstructionist thinker and Michele Bachmann mentor, who said that the Supreme Court’s decision is moot because two justices who had performed legal same-sex weddings should have recused themselves.

Eidsmoe is the senior counsel at the Foundation for Moral Law, the organization started by Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who has been clashing with the federal courts over marriage equality. The group, which is now led by Moore’s wife, Kayla, has questioned the “validity” of the decision and vowed to keep on fighting it.

The Montgomery Advertiser was on the scene of the press conference:

Public Service Commissioner Chip Beeker told the crowd that "five unelected and unaccountable justices imposed their will on the people of Alabama and the United States."

"This was not an interpretation of the Constitution. It was an assault on God, on Christian heritage and on our culture," Beeker said.

"The runaway judiciary is a bigger threat to the United States than Isis. Liberal judges have done harm to our country and our constitution than Al Qaeda."

Joe Godfrey, executive director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program, which lobbies the Legislature on behalf of churches, said people who attend churches that oppose same-sex marriage could be threatened with losing their jobs.

"I predict it's going to happen when big corporations, CEOs, tell people that work as their employees, ''You know, if you keep going to that church that teaches against homosexuality, teaches what the Bible says, we're going to have to let you go.'

"So they're going to be forced to make a choice between a church that they attend and have been attending for years, and their job."

[John] Eidsmoe also said the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision was illegitimate because two of the justices who supported it -- Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan -- had performed same-sex marriages.

The foundation had filed a motion for Ginsburg and Kagan to recuse themselves from the case.

"They were incapable of considering this question objectively," Eidsmore said. "And therefore, they had every duty to recuse."

Three Final 5-4 Rulings Show Importance of Supreme Court in 2016 Elections

With so many vital issues decided by a tightly divided Supreme Court, the Court is a major issue in 2016.
PFAW

A Historic Day for Liberty, Equality, and America

Today's victory for marriage equality is a profoundly American story.
PFAW Foundation

Obamacare Comes Out Stronger Than Before

A strong majority rejects conservative activists' attack on Obamacare, but this case should never have made it this far.
PFAW Foundation

PFAW Foundation Statement on Fair Housing and Obamacare Wins at the Supreme Court

In a 5-4 decision today, the Supreme Court upheld the use of disparate impact analysis under the Fair Housing Act, which allows fair housing and Civil Rights advocates to show that government actions disproportionately harm affected communities instead of being required to find a “smoking gun” proving that intentional discrimination occurred. The Court also upheld the clear intent of Congress in allocating subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, dismissing a partisan attempt to undermine the law.

“Today’s ruling in the Fair Housing Act case is an important win for fair housing and for equality under the law,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way Foundation. “The Fair Housing Act was passed into law just days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King and it stands as a tribute to his work and legacy. As last week’s murders in Charleston make perfectly clear, our nation’s long struggle with racism is far from over. But not all racism is so easily identified. Today’s decision means we still have a powerful tool to advocate for justice in one of the most critical areas of our nation’s public policy.

“The Court’s ruling in King v. Burwell is unquestionably the correct one, but in a sane court system, there’s no way this case would have made it to the Court, let alone received the support of three Justices. This decision should be a reminder of how much is at stake in our nation’s highest Court, and how critical it is that Americans consider the Supreme Court as we choose our next president.”

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No One is Tying Pat Toomey's Hands Except Himself

Pat Toomey has a really lame excuse for not asking Chuck Grassley to hold a committee vote this week for Phil Restrepo.
PFAW

If Judiciary Committee Delays Restrepo Vote, Blame Pat Toomey

Pat Toomey can stop Republicans from needlessly delaying a committee vote on Phil Restrepo by two weeks. Will he even try?
PFAW

Fifth Circuit Upholds Extreme Abortion Restrictions in Texas

On Tuesday the Fifth Circuit federal appeals court upheld most of Texas’ stringent anti-abortion law, which could leave as few as seven clinics open in the nation’s second largest state. The U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked these restrictions in October; however, the Fifth Circuit’s ruling allows the law to stand, ushering in a likely wave of clinic closings for the Lone Star State.

The Associated Press explains how the law works:

 The decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allows Texas to enforce Republican-backed restrictions that require abortion clinics to meet hospital-level operating standards, a checklist that includes rules on minimum room sizes, staffing levels and air ventilation systems.

This decision represents an endorsement of a long series of right-wing initiatives to chip away at the rights protected by Roe v. Wade. By pushing unnecessary laws targeting abortion facilities, the Right can mandate costly renovations that create a needless economic strain on clinics. For example, the Texas law requires abortion clinics to abide by the same standards as hospital surgical centers, despite the fact that many clinics solely provide medical abortions, which do not involve surgery. The Supreme Court has said that states may not pass laws with the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion. But the court yesterday turned a blind eye to the obvious in order to further the Right’s anti-choice agenda.

A panel of three judges, all appointed by George W. Bush, delivered the decision, which will force facilities across the state to shut their doors and leave women hundreds of miles away from a licensed abortion provider. Verdicts from the ultra-conservative Fifth Circuit bench, like the decision in October letting Texas enforce strict voter ID laws, highlight the importance of who sits on our nation’s courts.  Although Fifth Circuit has two longstanding vacancies, Republican obstruction has prevented the filling of these seats. Tuesday’s decision further exemplifies the critical need for fair and just courts, particularly as right-wing legislators continue their relentless attack on the rights established by Roe.

PFAW

What’s at Stake in the Supreme Court’s Fair Housing Case?

Although the case hasn’t gotten as much mainstream press attention as the forthcoming blockbuster rulings on marriage and on the ACA, the Supreme Court will be issuing a crucial decision on fair housing in the next few weeks in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project. A bad decision would reverse decades of positive decisions and progress in  fair housing.

As our nation learned during the riots of the 1960s, and is tragically re-learning today, segregation in housing is both a major cause and effect of our urban problems and inequality. Partly in response, Congress enacted the Fair Housing Act in 1968, with the explicit purpose to “provide, within constitutional limitations, for fair housing throughout the United States.” For almost four decades, every appellate court that has considered the issue and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under both Republican and Democratic administrations have interpreted the Act to prohibit conduct that has a discriminatory effect based on race, color, religion, gender, disability, or familial status without a good justification. The issue in Texas Department is whether the Court will overturn that standard and rule that you don’t have a case under the Fair Housing Act unless you can prove specific intent to discriminate.

Why is this important? On a practical level, requiring proof of intent will make fair housing enforcement much more difficult; as one court noted, “clever men may easily conceal their motivations.” More broadly, discrimination and segregation often result from policies that may not be motivated by specific bad intent but that build on historic and systemic patterns of discrimination and lock out racial and other minorities. The “disparate impact” test, which is the legal term for the standard based on unjustified discriminatory effects, has helped combat that problem.

For example, in one case a building policy that imposed a limit of two people per bedroom resulted in the effective eviction from a one-bedroom apartment of a young couple who had just had a child. The policy was challenged based on disparate impact. It turned out there was no good business justification for the policy, and 150 units were opened up for families with children as a result. Similar challenges to policies that excluded disabled veterans by requiring residents to have full-time jobs or zoning restrictions that excluded racial minorities by requiring large lot sizes have helped break down long-entrenched problems of discrimination and exclusion.

All eleven federal courts of appeal that have considered this issue since the 1970s have approved the disparate impact standard. As explained in a brief to the Supreme Court by former Republican and Democratic HUD appointees, HUD has also followed this standard for decades. As a former HUD official and career-long civil rights attorney, I know the importance of the disparate impact test. As I wrote in a law review article more than 35 years ago, “only by concentrating on effect can the issue of discrimination be realistically addressed at all.”

If the Supreme Court overturns the long-accepted disparate impact standard, the continuing problems of discrimination and segregation in our country will only get worse in the years to come. The outcome of this case will have an enormous impact on millions of people throughout America, and on the nature of who we are as a nation.

PFAW Foundation

On Circuit Courts, An Opportunity for McConnell to Show He Can Govern

Mitch McConnell should allow a vote on Kara Stoll, to dispel the fears he generated that he won't allow votes on any circuit court nominees.
PFAW

We're Finally Talking About 2016's Most Consequential Issue: The Future of the Supreme Court

Yesterday, in a speech in Texas on the importance of voting rights, Hillary Clinton made one of the most important remarks of her campaign so far: "We need a Supreme Court who cares more about the right to vote of a person than the right to buy an election of a corporation."
PFAW

Money in Politics Survey Shows the Toxic Legacy of the Roberts Court

Overwhelming majorities recognize the corrosive impact money in politics has on our democracy. Why doesn't the Roberts Court?
PFAW Foundation

Roy Moore: Gay Marriage Will 'Literally Cause The Destruction Of Our Country'

In an interview with CNS News published over the weekend, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore warned that a Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality would “literally cause the destruction of our country”:

“What [the court is] doing is they’re toying with something that’s like dynamite and will destroy our country,” Justice Roy Moore told CNSNews.com in an exclusive interview last week during the Family Research Council’s annual pastor’s retreat in Washington, D.C.

Moore said a favorable ruling would mean Americans would be forced to accept homosexual marriage and support it through goods and services for those ceremonies.

“I think there’s an attempt to destroy the institution of marriage and I think it will cause, literally cause the destruction of our country or lead to the destruction of our country over the long run,” Moore said. “And I think there are people who would like to see this country destroyed.”

“I’m not saying that everyone who’s homosexual wants to see the country destroyed,” Moore said. “I’m not saying that. I’m saying there’s a push for it.”

CNS News posted an audio clip of part of the interview:


 

Cornyn and Cruz Are Devastating Texas Courts

Waiting 15 months after learning of a planned vacancy before even beginning the process to fill it is hardly a sign of deep commitment to the federal courts in Texas.
PFAW
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