The Supreme Court:
Abortion: Chief Justice Roberts sided with the left to strike down a Louisiana law regulating abortion clinics. The law was similar to a Texas law Roberts had voted to uphold in 2016.
Blaine Amendments: The Supreme Court struck down Montana's 'Blaine Amendment', which banned government aid to religious (but not secular) private schools. Blaine amendments, named after Speaker of the House (1869-75) James Blaine (from the state of Maine), exist in 37 states. They are widely acknowledged to be motivated by anti-Catholic sentiment at a time when public schools were de-facto Protestant schools. The Supreme Court did not forbid states from banning all aid to private schools, as is the case in Michigan.
Death Penalty: Federal executions were finally resumed on July 16. Various attempts to stop them by activists and lower court judges were thwarted by a 5-4 ruling by the Supreme Court.
Religious Liberty: The Supreme Court issued three rulings protecting religious liberty this term. This continues a string of positive rulings over the past decade.
Roberts: Joan Biskupic claims inside sources on John Roberts' maneuvering on the court. Notably, the court has not taken any Second Amendment cases because Roberts has signaled that he could not be counted on to protect gun rights. Ed Whelan believes that at least one Supreme Court justice leaked to Biskupic for the article.
Supreme Court: Ed Whelan ponders why conservative judges are more likely to defect to join liberal decisions than the reverse.
Nominations, Hearings, Confirmations:
Trump list: President Trump's announcement that he would release an updated list of Supreme Court candidates has led to behind-the-scenes wrangling about who should be on the new list. Some people want to omit younger Trump appointees with limited records. Some older judges are likely to be removed from the list.
Feinstein: Progressives are upset with Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA), the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, for not doing enough to oppose President Trump's judicial nominees. It isn't clear who they think should have the job.
Senate Judiciary Committee hearings:
The Federal Judiciary:
Federalist Society: The Committee on Codes of Conduct of the Judicial Conference of the United States has abandoned its attempt to ban judges from membership in the Federalist Society.
11th Circuit: Clinton-appointed judge Robert Hinkle (ND-FL) recently ruled against a Florida law requiring criminals to pay fines before being restored voting rights. The 11th Circuit agreed to hear the case en banc, bypassing a three-judge panel. Senate Judiciary Committee Ds sent a letter to three Trump-appointed judges demanding that they recuse themselves from the case, which would give liberals the majority. Judge Andrew Brasher (AL) had already done so shortly before the letter was sent. Judges Robert Luck and Barbara Lagoa had previously heard, but not ruled on, a different case on the same issue as justices on the Florida Supreme Court. They denied the request to recuse themselves.
SD-FL: Judge Federico Moreno took senior status on July 17. He is the only Hispanic on President Trump's Supreme Court appointment list. He was nominated to the 11th Circuit in 1992, but Joe Biden denied him a hearing.
ED-WI: Clinton-appointed Judge Lynn Adelman was admonished by the 7th Circuit Judicial Council, which handles ethics complaints in that circuit. He wrote a law review article entitled "The Roberts Court's Assault on Democracy", an angry screed against President Trump, Chief Justice John Roberts, and the R-appointed majority on the Supreme Court. Before appointment to the bench, Adelman was a D state senator and three-time congressional candidate.
State Supreme Courts:
Alaska: Governor Mike Dunleavy name Dario Borghesan to the Alaska Supreme Court, replacing retired conservative Craig Stowers. Borghesan was chief assistant attorney general under AG Kevin Clarkson. He seemed to be the only candidate with conservative bonafides. The other candidates were Superior Court Judges Dani Crosby, Jennifer Stuart Henderson and Yvonne Lamoureux, all appointed to the Superior Court by left-leaning independent Gov. Bill Walker. Three of the five judges on the left-leaning court must retire no later than 2025.
Connecticut: Governor Ned Lamont nominated Christine Keller to the Connecticut Supreme Court to succeed Justice Richard Palmer. Keller is less than 3 years below the mandatory retirement age of 70.
Florida: A lawsuit is challenging the appointment of black conservative Renatha Francis to the Florida Supreme Court. Francis will not achieve the minimum 10 years of membership in the Florida bar until September 24. Governor DeSantis announced that he would appoint her then. He was supposed to make the appointment by March 23, but delayed the announcement due to the pandemic. The suit was filed by state rep Geraldine Thompson, a black D who wanted one of the more liberal black applicants screened out by the Judicial Nominating Commission to be appointed.
Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania state senate approved a bill to elect Supreme Court judges by district rather than statewide. The court currently has a 5-2 D majority, and most justices are from Philadelphia or Pittsburgh.
Texas: Republican Justice Paul W. Green will retire in August. He is 68 and was first elected in 2004. His replacement will be appointed by Governor Greg Abbott. This will be Abbott's fourth appointment to the all-Republican court.
Numbers and Trivia:
Trump Appointees: Pew Research compares the number of Trump appointees to previous presidents at the same point in their terms.
Federalist Society: John Doe (@fedjudges) has analyzed the signatories of the letter from mostly conservative judges opposing the proposal by the Judicial Conference of the United States Committee on Codes of Conduct to ban judges from membership in the Federalist Society. I did some analysis of my own in June.
Two districts, D-ND and MD-AL, have only Trump appointees. The first district court to have a Trump-appointed chief judge is D-ID, where the other judge is a Clinton appointee whose term as chief expired after 20 years.
Lame Duck Appointments: There have been many election-year Supreme Court appointments in the past, but none recently. Not surprisingly, they are much more likely to be confirmed when the Presidency and Senate are controlled by the same party.
Bench Memos (National Review)
The Vetting Room
Senate Cloakroom (Twitter)
Senate Judiciary Committee
ABA Judicial Ratings
Wikipedia-US Appeals Courts
Senior Status Spreadsheet
Future Judicial Vacancies
BostonPatriot diaries: History Trump DC-5 6-11 9th
Ballotpedia-State Supreme Court Vacancies
The Supreme Courts
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