Tagfederal government

SCOTUS decides case concerning Armed Career Criminal Act in 5-4 opinion

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued an opinion in one case on June 10, Borden v. United States, which involved the use-of-force clause in the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). The case was argued during the November argument sitting.

Charles Borden Jr. pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm as a felon. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, relying on the 6th Circuit Court’s decision in United States v. Verwiebe (2017), sentenced Borden to nine years and seven months of imprisonment under the ACCA. Borden objected to his sentence, arguing the district court’s application of Verwiebe to his case violated due process protections. On appeal, the 6th Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. Borden petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review.

In a 5-4 opinion, the court reversed the 6th Circuit’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that a reckless offense cannot qualify as a “violent felony” if it only requires a mens rea of recklessness—a less culpable mental state than purpose or knowledge.

Justice Elena Kagan delivered the court’s majority opinion, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Neil Gorsuch. Justice Clarence Thomas filed a concurring opinion. Justice Brett Kavanaugh filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Amy Coney Barrett.

To date, the U.S. Supreme Court has issued 44 opinions during the 2020-2021 term. Seven cases were decided without argument.

Additional reading:



Federal Register weekly update: 87 new final rules

Image of the south facade of the White House.

The Federal Register is a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s overall regulatory activity, accounting for both regulatory and deregulatory actions.

From June 7 through June 11, the Federal Register grew by 1,296 pages for a year-to-date total of 31,426 pages.

The Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 543 documents:

• 406 notices

• 13 presidential documents

• 37 proposed rules

• 87 final rules

One proposed rule concerning hazardous air pollutants and two final rules regarding the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) pilot records database and grants authorized under the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act were deemed significant under E.O. 12866—defined by the potential to have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. Significant actions may also conflict with presidential priorities or other agency rules. The Biden administration has issued 20 significant proposed rules and 12 significant final rules as of June 11.

Ballotpedia maintains page counts and other information about the Federal Register as part of its Administrative State Project. The project is a neutral, nonpartisan encyclopedic resource that defines and analyzes the administrative state, including its philosophical origins, legal and judicial precedents, and scholarly examinations of its consequences. The project also monitors and reports on measures of federal government activity.

Click here to find more information about weekly additions to the Federal Register in 2020, 2019, 2018, and 2017: Changes to the Federal Register 

Additional reading:

Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2018: Historical additions to the Federal Register, 1936-2018



Exploring the history of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996

You may have heard about Section 230, but what exactly is it? Section 230 is a federal law passed as part of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA) which contains two provisions that prevent internet service providers and website companies from being held liable for most content created by users of their services, including content that could be considered false or defamatory.

At the time of the bill’s passage, household internet usage was limited but rapidly growing. Societal concerns over access to pornography and sexually explicit materials by minors accompanied the rapid growth of internet usage and became notable political issues in the 1980s and 1990s. Congress sought to address concerns over pornography through legislation, including the passage of the Communications Decency Act, which became Title V of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Shortly after passage, the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the constitutionality of the CDA on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment and Fifth Amendment. In a unanimous decision in 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Reno v. ACLU that the Act violated the First Amendment. The decision invalidated much of the CDA with the exception of the language of Section 230, which was not the subject of the ACLU’s legal challenge, thus Section 230 was left intact and remained federal law.

The legal and social relevance of Section 230 has grown in the 21st century as internet use has expanded, causing the provision to attract both critics and defenders. Critics have argued that the law has exempted online companies from a legal responsibility to moderate what they view as harmful content and that it has protected companies that discriminate or censor content. Supporters of Section 230 have argued that it serves to promote and protect free speech and user choice on the internet.

On May 28, 2020, President Donald Trump (R) signed Executive Order 13925: Preventing Online Censorship which included a provision asking the Secretary of Commerce and Attorney General to, acting through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), file a petition for rulemaking with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requesting that the FCC clarify certain rules for the application of Section 230. The Department of Justice, on September 23, 2020, sent a letter to Congress proposing four areas for amendments to Section 230. One month later, on October 15, the FCC Chairman announced the Commission would work on clarifying the meaning of Section 230. On May 19, 2021, President Biden (D) signed Executive Order 14029: Revocation of Certain Presidential Actions and Technical Amendment, which included a provision to revoke Executive Order 13925. In addition to these actions, multiple bills have been proposed since the beginning of 2020 in Congress to amend Section 230.

Additional reading:



Federal Register weekly update: Year-to-date total tops 30,000 pages

Photo of the White House in Washington, D.C.

The Federal Register is a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s overall regulatory activity, accounting for both regulatory and deregulatory actions.

From May 31 through June 4, the Federal Register grew by 958 pages for a year-to-date total of 30,130 pages.

The Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 389 documents:

• 299 notices

• four presidential documents

• 32 proposed rules

• 54 final rules

One final rule from the Bureau of Industry and Security implementing a court ruling on jurisdictional changes to certain software and technology products was deemed significant under E.O. 12866—defined by the potential to have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. Significant actions may also conflict with presidential priorities or other agency rules. The Biden administration has issued 19 significant proposed rules and 10 significant final rules as of June 4.

Ballotpedia maintains page counts and other information about the Federal Register as part of its Administrative State Project. The project is a neutral, nonpartisan encyclopedic resource that defines and analyzes the administrative state, including its philosophical origins, legal and judicial precedents, and scholarly examinations of its consequences. The project also monitors and reports on measures of federal government activity.

Click here to find more information about weekly additions to the Federal Register in 2020, 2019, 2018, and 2017: Changes to the Federal Register 

Additional reading:

Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2018: Historical additions to the Federal Register, 1936-2018



Ballotpedia releases federal judicial vacancy count for May 2021

In this month’s federal judicial vacancy count, Ballotpedia tracked nominations, confirmations, and vacancies in Article III courts from May 1 to June 1. Ballotpedia publishes the federal judicial vacancy count at the start of each month.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Vacancies: There have been six new judicial vacancies since the April 2021 report. There are 81 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions on courts covered in this report. Including the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and the U.S. territorial courts, 85 of 890 active federal judicial positions are vacant.

• Nominations: There were six new nominations since the April 2021 report.

• Confirmations: There have been no new confirmations since the April 2021 report.

Six judges left active status, creating Article III life-term judicial vacancies, since the previous vacancy count. As Article III judicial positions, vacancies must be filled by a nomination from the president. Nominations are subject to confirmation on the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate.

• Judge Ursula Ungaro assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

• Judge Thomas Thrash assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

• Judge Evan Wallach assumed senior status on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

• Judge Anthony Trenga assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

• Judge Petrese Tucker assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

• Judge Denny Chin assumed senior status on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

U.S. Court of Appeals vacancies

The following chart tracks the number of vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals from the inauguration of President Joe Biden (D) to the date indicated on the chart.

File:BKYS4-u-s-court-of-appeals-vacancies(6-1-21).png

The following maps show the number of vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals at the inauguration of President Joe Biden (D) and as of June 1.

File:UUbHy-court-of-appeals-vacancies-biden-inauguration-.png
File:T7YhD-court-of-appeals-vacancies-june-1-2021-.png

New nominations

President Joe Biden (D) has announced six new nominations since the April 2021 report.

• Gustavo Gelpí, to the United States Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit

• Eunice Lee, to the United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit

• Veronica Rossman, to the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit

• Angel Kelley, to the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts

• Karen Williams, to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey

• Lauren King, to the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington

New confirmations

As of June 1, there have been no federal judicial confirmations during the Biden administration.

Additional reading:



Federal Register weekly update: No significant rules issued

Image of the south facade of the White House.

The Federal Register is a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s overall regulatory activity, accounting for both regulatory and deregulatory actions.

From May 24 through May 28, the Federal Register grew by 1,376 pages for a year-to-date total of 29,172 pages.

The Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 570 documents:

• 467 notices

• five presidential documents

• 36 proposed rules

• 62 final rules

No proposed or final rules were deemed significant under E.O. 12866—defined by the potential to have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. Significant actions may also conflict with presidential priorities or other agency rules. The Biden administration has issued 19 significant proposed rules and nine significant final rules as of May 28.

Ballotpedia maintains page counts and other information about the Federal Register as part of its Administrative State Project. The project is a neutral, nonpartisan encyclopedic resource that defines and analyzes the administrative state, including its philosophical origins, legal and judicial precedents, and scholarly examinations of its consequences. The project also monitors and reports on measures of federal government activity.

Click here to find more information about weekly additions to the Federal Register in 2020, 2019, 2018, and 2017: https://ballotpedia.org/Changes_to_the_Federal_Register 

Additional reading:

Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2018: https://ballotpedia.org/Historical_additions_to_the_Federal_Register,_1936-2018



Senate Commerce Committee advances Lander nomination for OSTP director

On May 20, 2021, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation favorably reported by voice vote the nomination of Eric Lander for director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Lander advances to the Senate for a confirmation vote.

President Joe Biden (D) elevated the office of the OSTP director to his Cabinet, marking the first time this position was made Cabinet-level. 

Lander, a geneticist, molecular biologist, and mathematician, served on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2017. He is the final announced Biden Cabinet nominee awaiting confirmation. 

One other Cabinet position—director of the Office of Management and Budget—currently remains unfilled. Neera Tanden, Biden’s original nominee for the position, withdrew from consideration on Mar. 2 following bipartisan opposition to her nomination. Biden has not yet named a replacement nominee.

Additional reading:



Federal Register weekly update: Tops 26,000 pages

Image of the south facade of the White House.

The Federal Register is a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s overall regulatory activity, accounting for both regulatory and deregulatory actions.

From May 10 through May 14, the Federal Register grew by 1,936 pages for a year-to-date total of 26,632 pages.

The Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 528 documents:

• 408 notices

• 12 presidential documents

• 48 proposed rules

• 60 final rules

One proposed rule from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security related to the removal of the international entrepreneur parole program and one proposed rule from the U.S. Department of Energy concerning the potential coverage of commercial and industrial fans under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act were deemed significant under E.O. 12866—defined by the potential to have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. Significant actions may also conflict with presidential priorities or other agency rules. The Biden administration has issued 17 significant proposed rules and nine significant final rules as of May 14.

Ballotpedia maintains page counts and other information about the Federal Register as part of its Administrative State Project. The project is a neutral, nonpartisan encyclopedic resource that defines and analyzes the administrative state, including its philosophical origins, legal and judicial precedents, and scholarly examinations of its consequences. The project also monitors and reports on measures of federal government activity.

Click here to find more information about weekly additions to the Federal Register in 2020, 2019, 2018, and 2017:

Changes to the Federal Register 

Additional reading:

Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2018:

Historical additions to the Federal Register, 1936-2018



Federal Register weekly update: 639 new documents issued

Image of the south facade of the White House.

The Federal Register is a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s overall regulatory activity, accounting for both regulatory and deregulatory actions.

From May 3 through May 7, the Federal Register grew by 1,460 pages for a year-to-date total of 24,696 pages.

The Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 639 documents:

• 534 notices

• 15 presidential documents

• 35 proposed rules

• 55 final rules

One proposed rule from the Agricultural Marketing Service on lamb promotion and research practices as well as one final rule from the Transportation Security Administration concerning employee security training were deemed significant under E.O. 12866—defined by the potential to have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. Significant actions may also conflict with presidential priorities or other agency rules. The Biden administration has issued 15 significant proposed rules and nine significant final rules as of May 7.

Ballotpedia maintains page counts and other information about the Federal Register as part of its Administrative State Project. The project is a neutral, nonpartisan encyclopedic resource that defines and analyzes the administrative state, including its philosophical origins, legal and judicial precedents, and scholarly examinations of its consequences. The project also monitors and reports on measures of federal government activity.

Click here to find more information about weekly additions to the Federal Register in 2020, 2019, 2018, and 2017: https://ballotpedia.org/Changes_to_the_Federal_Register 

Additional reading:

Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2018: https://ballotpedia.org/Historical_additions_to_the_Federal_Register,_1936-2018



Federal Register weekly update: New significant proposed rule from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

The Federal Register is a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s overall regulatory activity, accounting for both regulatory and deregulatory actions.

From April 26 through April 30, the Federal Register grew by 1,320 pages for a year-to-date total of 23,236 pages.

The Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

Last week’s Federal Register featured the following 530 documents:

• 437 notices

• five presidential documents

• 28 proposed rules

• 60 final rules

One proposed rule concerning the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) administration of the Housing Trust Fund program was deemed significant under E.O. 12866—defined by the potential to have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. Significant actions may also conflict with presidential priorities or other agency rules. The Biden administration has issued 14 significant proposed rules and eight significant final rules as of April 30.

Ballotpedia maintains page counts and other information about the Federal Register as part of its Administrative State Project. The project is a neutral, nonpartisan encyclopedic resource that defines and analyzes the administrative state, including its philosophical origins, legal and judicial precedents, and scholarly examinations of its consequences. The project also monitors and reports on measures of federal government activity.

Click here to find more information about weekly additions to the Federal Register in 2020, 2019, 2018, and 2017: https://ballotpedia.org/Changes_to_the_Federal_Register 

Additional reading:

Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2018: https://ballotpedia.org/Historical_additions_to_the_Federal_Register,_1936-2018