CategoryFederal

Senate confirms Justin Walker to U.S. District Court seat

The U.S. Senate confirmed nominee Justin Walker to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. Overall, the Senate has confirmed 157 of President Trump’s Article III judicial nominees—two Supreme Court justices, 43 appellate court judges, 110 district court judges, and two U.S. Court of International Trade judges—since January 2017. At the end of the 115th Congress in January 2019, the Senate had confirmed 85 of the president’s judicial nominees.
 
The Senate confirmed Walker with a vote of 50-41, with only Republican senators voting “yea.” Forty Democratic senators and independent Sen. Angus King of Maine voted against Walker’s nomination. Nine senators did not vote.
 
The American Bar Association (ABA) rated Walker not qualified by a majority and qualified by a minority for the position. The ABA’s Committee on the Federal Judiciary conducts a background check of potential federal judicial nominees and provides a not qualified, qualified, or well qualified rating. Historically, the president has consulted with the ABA on judicial nominee prospects.
 
In a letter to Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.), the ABA said Walker did not “have the requisite trial or litigation experience or its equivalent” for the position. The letter said the committee did “not have any questions about Mr. Walker’s temperament or integrity.”
 
In a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 31, Sens. Graham and Feinstein asked Walker about the rating. Walker said, “I can analyze the kind of complex legal questions judges do. I would encourage you not to just take my word for it but the word of 200 litigators from my local community that I have the temperament, background and experience.”
 
Utah Sen. Mike Lee (R) said Walker would “come to the federal district court well prepared to deal with in many ways the most difficult part of the job—dealing with dispositive motions.”
 
The United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky is one of 94 U.S. District Courts. They are the general trial courts of the United States federal court system. After Walker receives his judicial commission and takes his oath, the court will have no vacancies, three Republican-appointed judges, and two Democrat-appointed judges.
 


New SCOTUS case scheduled for argument in October 2019-2020 term

The case of Nasrallah v. Barr has been scheduled for argument before the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) during the court’s October 2019-2020 term. The case came to the court on a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
 
A Lebanese citizen, Nidal Khalid Nasrallah, pleaded guilty to two counts of receiving stolen property via interstate commerce. A U.S. immigration judge determined that one of the convictions involved moral turpitude and was a crime that made Nasrallah subject to deportation from the United States. However, the judge granted Nasrallah a deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture. On appeal, the Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed the immigration judge’s conclusion that Nasrallah’s conviction was a crime that involved moral turpitude, but reversed the immigration judge’s deferral and ordered Nasrallah’s removal.
 
Nasrallah filed a petition for review with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. On February 14, 2019, the 11th Circuit denied in part and dismissed in part Nasrallah’s petition for review. On May 14, 2019, Nasrallah filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court. On October 18, 2019, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.
 
The question presented before the Supreme Court is, “Whether, notwithstanding Section 1252(a)(2)(C), the courts of appeals possess jurisdiction to review factual findings underlying denials of withholding (and deferral) of removal relief.”
 
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest judicial body in the country and leads the judicial branch of the federal government. The Supreme Court is the only court established by the United States Constitution (in Article III); all other federal courts are created by Congress.
 
The Supreme Court meets in Washington, D.C., and its yearly term begins on the first Monday in October and lasts until the first Monday in October the following year. The court generally releases the majority of its decisions in mid-June.
 


SCOTUS to determine constitutionality of CFPB structure

On Oct. 18, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Seila Law v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a case challenging the constitutionality of the bureau’s structure.
 
The CFPB is an independent agency created by the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010. Unlike other independent agencies of the federal government, which are generally headed by multi-member commissions, the CFPB is led by a single director who is only removable by the president for cause. The Supreme Court upheld cause removal protections for the multi-member commissions of independent agencies in the 1935 case Humphrey’s Executor v. United States, but the ruling did not apply to single agency heads. 
 
Seila Law, a national law firm, challenged the constitutionality of the bureau’s structure because the CFPB’s single director is only removable for cause. The firm contended that the director’s cause removal protections unconstitutionally prevent the president from unilaterally firing the agency’s head. The firm said in its petition, “the importance of the [separation of powers] question presented [by this case] cannot be overstated.”
 
On May 6, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the bureau’s structure was constitutional, concluding that the for-cause removal protections are similar to those of the Federal Trade Commission (upheld in Humphrey’s Executor v. United States).
 
In a brief filed with the court on Sept. 17, Solicitor General Noel Francisco on behalf of the CFPB agreed with Seila Law, claiming that the bureau’s structure violates the separation of powers doctrine because it prevents the president from unilaterally firing the agency’s single director.
 
This case is not the first time that the constitutionality of the CFPB’s structure has been challenged. In October 2016, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled 2-1 that the organizational structure of the CFPB was unconstitutional. The full D.C. Circuit—with then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh dissenting—went on to uphold the bureau’s constitutionality in January 2018. In June 2018, Judge Loretta Preska of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York also found the structure of the CFPB to be unconstitutional. Judge Preska’s ruling is pending appeal before the United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.
 
Additional reading:


U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney (R) announces 2020 retirement

On October 19, Rep. Francis Rooney (R) announced that he would not seek re-election in Florida’s 19th Congressional District in 2020. He was first elected to Congress in 2016; he won an open-seat race to replace Rep. Curt Clawson (R). Rooney won his second term in 2018 with 62.3% of the general election vote.
 
Rooney’s announcement was made on the Fox News television channel. He said, “I’ve done what I came to do. And I want to be a model for term limits. […] I thought the idea was you came and did your public service and left, you accomplish what you want to accomplish and you left. And that’s what I want to be an example to do. And I’m also really tired of the intense partisanship that seems to stop us from solving the big questions that America needs solved.”
 
His retirement creates an open-seat race in the district. The candidate filing deadline to run is June 12, 2020. The primary is scheduled for August 18, and the general election is on November 3, 2020.
 
Rooney is the 18th Republican member of the U.S. House to announce he would not seek re-election in 2020. Six Democratic members of the U.S. House have also announced their intention not to seek re-election.
 
Democrats hold a 234-197 majority in the U.S. House with three vacancies and one independent member of the chamber. In November 2020, all 435 seats will be up for election. Ballotpedia has identified 71 U.S. House races as general election battlegrounds. Of the 71 seats, 42 are held by Democrats and 29 are held by Republicans.
 


Williamson is first 2020 presidential candidate to complete Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey

Author Marianne Williamson is the first 2020 presidential candidate to complete Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey, answering questions about her personal beliefs, professional background, and political priorities.
 
Williamson describes the effect A Course in Miracles had on her life and why she thinks the United States needs “a season of moral repair.” She also discusses reparations, money in politics, and the quality Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump have in common.
 
We will continue to highlight noteworthy responses to the Candidate Connection survey in the Brew. Up next in Monday’s edition, Beto O’Rourke shares his vision for a 28th, 29th, and 30th Amendment.
 
Highlights from Williamson’s responses:
 
What legacy would you like to leave?
 
“A legacy of love that transforms politics and government to benefit We the People.”
 
What should a 28th Amendment to the Constitution say?
 
“Overturn Citizens United. Limit money in politics.”
 
What do you support that the majority of your party opposes?
 
“I am the first presidential candidate to advocate for reparations, and the only one with a plan for how to do it.
 
In many ways, America has continued the process of racial reconciliation begun in the 1960’s. Yet in other ways, we have actually slipped backward. Yes, there are no more colored bathrooms and separate drinking fountains. But we now have mass incarceration; racial disparity in criminal sentencing; lost voting rights; outright voter suppression; and police brutality often focused on black populations.
 
Tepid solutions are not enough for the times in which we live; we need huge, strategized acts of righteousness, now. Just as Germany has paid $89 Billion in reparations to Jewish organizations since WW2, the United States should pay reparations for slavery. A debt unpaid is still a debt unpaid, even if it’s 150 years later. The legacy of that injustice lives on, with racist policies infused into our systems even to this day. From employment and housing discrimination, to equal access to quality education in underserved communities, to police brutality/prejudice, to lack of fair lending practices, to lack of access to quality healthcare, to insecure voting rights, America has not yet completed the task of healing our racial divide.
 
For that reason, I propose a $200 billion – $500 billion plan of reparations for slavery, the money to be disbursed over a period of twenty years. An esteemed council of African-American leaders would determine the educational and economic projects to which the money would be given.”
 


Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) dies

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) died October 17 due to complications from longstanding health challenges, according to a statement from his congressional office. He was first elected to Congress in 1996. Before that, Cummings served 14 terms in the Maryland House of Delegates and was the first African American in Maryland to be named Speaker Pro Tempore. He was the Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
 
Cummings won re-election in 2018 with 76% of the vote. He received 91.5% of the vote in the 2018 Democratic primary for the 7th District in a five-candidate field.
 
Democrats currently hold a 234-197 majority in the House of Representatives, with one independent member and three vacancies. In November 2020, all 435 seats will be up for election.


U.S. Senate confirms four U.S. District Court nominees

The U.S. Senate has confirmed four nominees to U.S. District Court judgeships. Overall, the Senate has confirmed 156 of President Trump’s Article III judicial nominees—two Supreme Court justices, 43 appellate court judges, 109 district court judges, and two U.S. Court of International Trade judges—since January 2017. At the end of the 115th Congress in January 2019, the Senate had confirmed 85 of the president’s judicial nominees.
 
The confirmed nominees were:
 
  • David Novak, confirmed to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. After he receives his judicial commission and takes his oath, the court will have one vacancy, five Republican-appointed judges, and five Democrat-appointed judges.
  • Frank Volk, confirmed to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. After he receives his judicial commission and takes his oath, the court will have no vacancies, two Republican-appointed judges, and three Democrat-appointed judges.
  • Charles Eskridge III, confirmed to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. After he receives his judicial commission and takes his oath, the court will have one vacancy, 10 Republican-appointed judges, and eight Democrat-appointed judges.
  • Rachel Kovner, confirmed to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. After she receives her judicial commission and takes her oath, the court will have four vacancies, five Republican-appointed judges, and six Democrat-appointed judges.
 
Three of the nominees—Kovner, Novak, and Volk—were confirmed nearly unanimously with the Senate voting 88-3, 89-3, and 92-0, respectively. The Senate vote to confirm Eskridge was closer at 61-31.
 
There are 94 U.S. District Courts. They are the general trial courts of the United States federal court system.
 


New federal court vacancy after judge assumes senior status

On October 15, U.S. District Court Judge Joan Ericksen assumed senior status in the District of Minnesota, which created a vacancy on that court. Ericksen had first joined the court in 2002 after being nominated by President George W. Bush (R).
 
As of October 18, there were 98 Article III vacancies in the federal judiciary out of 870 total Article III judgeships, and there were 37 presidential nominees awaiting a hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee. Another 15 nominees were awaiting a committee vote, and 23 other nominees were awaiting a confirmation vote in the full U.S. Senate.
 
The United States District Court for the District of Minnesota now has six active Article III judges:
 
  • John Tunheim – nominated by President William J. Clinton (D)
  • Patrick Schiltz – nominated by President George W. Bush (R)
  • Susan Richard Nelson – nominated by President Barack Obama (D)
  • Wilhelmina M. Wright – nominated by President Barack Obama (D)
  • Nancy E. Brasel – nominated by President Donald J. Trump (R)
  • Eric Tostrud – nominated by President Donald J. Trump (R)
 
The court has eight judges on senior status, including Ericksen. The other seven judges on senior status are:
 
  • Michael James Davis – nominated by President William J. Clinton (D)
  • Richard Kyle – nominated by President George H.W. Bush (R)
  • David Doty – nominated by President Ronald Reagan (R)
  • Paul Magnuson – nominated by President Ronald Reagan (R)
  • Donovan Frank – nominated by President William J. Clinton (D)
  • Ann Montgomery – nominated by President William J. Clinton (D)
  • Donald Alsop – nominated by President Richard Nixon (R)
 
The United States District Court for the District of Minnesota is one of 94 United States district courts, which are the general trial courts of the nation’s federal court system and where both civil and criminal cases are filed. The District of Minnesota’s main courthouse is based in Minneapolis.
 


O’Rourke is second 2020 presidential candidate to respond to Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke is the second 2020 presidential candidate to complete Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey, answering questions about his personal beliefs, professional background, and political priorities.
 
In his response, O’Rourke lists the first actions he would take in the Oval Office and explains his policy focus on strict gun regulations. He also describes why his family, the community of El Paso, and President Abraham Lincoln are his heroes.
 
Here are some highlights from his survey:
 
What should a 28th Amendment to the Constitution say?
 
“Beto believes that the 28th Amendment to the Constitution should be the Equal Rights Amendment. He believes the 29th Amendment should overturn Citizens’ United. The 30th Amendment should place term limits on Justices of the Supreme Court.”
 
What was your very first job? How long did you have it?
 
“Beto worked in his mother’s furniture store, a small business in El Paso. He would later work in the library during college and at a furniture moving business. Beto later started his own small technology business that brought high-skill, high-wage jobs to El Paso.”
 
What is the most important policy issue none of your competitors are talking about?
 
“The Democrat field all recognizes the urgency in enacting comprehensive gun control reform, and Beto appreciates the conversation that all of the candidates are having around this issue. But Beto has proposed going farther than any of the other candidates. Along with his plan to implement universal background checks, close every loophole, pass Extreme Risk Protection Orders, increase trauma support, and keep weapons of war off our streets by not only banning the sale of assault weapons but implementing a mandatory buyback of every single one of them, he has directly called on credit card companies to take steps to help prevent mass shootings. This includes calling on them to refuse to provide their services for the sale of assault weapons; refuse to provide their services for the sale of firearms online or at gun shows, where background checks are not required; and to stop doing business with gun or ammunition manufacturers who produce or sell assault weapons. He is the first, and so far the only candidate to directly call out credit card companies for their role in mass shootings and gun sales.”


Federal district judges issue injunctions blocking public charge rule

Three federal district judges in New York, California, and Washington issued temporary injunctions on October 11 blocking the Trump administration’s public charge rule from taking effect on October 15. A fourth federal judge in Chicago issued a similar injunction on October 14.
 
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the final version of the new public charge rule on August 12. The rule changes how the federal government screens immigrants who might become dependent on government services, or “public charges.” Agencies may deny immigrants a visa or a green card under the rule if they have used food stamps, Medicaid, housing subsidies, or other public benefits.
 
The rule amends a guidance document issued in 1999 stipulating that only public cash assistance or long-term institutionalization at government expense qualified as evidence that an immigrant was at risk of being a public charge and could be denied legal status. The new rule expands the factors agencies may consider when deciding those cases.
 
Twenty-one states, the District of Columbia, New York City, the Cook County government, and immigrant aid organizations formed coalitions that filed four separate lawsuits aiming to prevent the implementation of the rule.
 
The judges—Judge George Daniels of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Judge Phyllis Hamilton of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, and Judge Gary Feinerman of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois—argued that the rule was arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act, failed to consider potential costs to state and local governments, and constituted an unsupported congressional delegation of authority to DHS, among other claims.
 
The White House and USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli issued separate statements on October 11 expressing disappointment with the decisions. “An objective judiciary will see that this rule lies squarely within long-held existing law,” Cuccinelli stated.
 
 


Bitnami