FROM Robert Barnes
Can President Trump 'pack' the federal court system? Judge Neil Gorsuch is likely to be confirmed to the US Supreme Court, and there may be other vacancies in the next four years. In addition, 124 judicial benches are open in federal appellate and district courts all over the country, and more retirements are inevitable. As long as Republicans dominate the Senate, there's a real chance that Mr. Trump could push the system to the Right for generations. That's been the goal of so-called "dark money" spent by shadowy billionaires to make American institutions more to their liking.
Trump denounces judge's ruling over travel ban President Trump took a shot at the federal judiciary today in a speech to the police chiefs of major cities . He addressed threats of crime -- and Judge James Robart's temporary restraining order against his ban on refugees and immigrants from seven mostly-Muslim countries. "I don't ever want to call a court biased so I won't call him biased and we haven't had a decision yet but courts seem to be so political and it would be so great if our justice system would be able to read a statement and do what's right and that has to do with the security of our country which is so important." A three-judge appellate panel is now considering Trump's appeal of Judge Robert's restraining order. Robert Barnes, Supreme Court reporter for the Washington Post , has more on trump's reaction and his speech today to law enforcement.
Will the US Supreme Court Shift into Neutral? Blockbuster decisions expected this year could end up instead with opinions divided between four conservatives and four liberals. Since Congress hasn't replaced the late Antonin Scalia, majorities have already been hard to come by, and some predict deadlock for as much as another year, although a decision that came down today may be an exception to what's on the agenda between now and next Monday. We hear about the possible options for race-based college admissions , deportation of undocumented immigrants and unwanted pregnancies .
Undocumented Parents and the Supreme Court Today the Supreme Court heard a case that could determine the fate of President Obama's most sweeping executive action on deportation. It would also drastically change the lives of some four million undocumented immigrants in the US. The President's 2014 plan would delay the deportation of parents of children who are US citizens or permanent legal residents, and offer them temporary work permits. But it's been on hold since it was announced 18 months ago because of court challenges, leaving immigrants across the nation in limbo -- the majority of whom have been in the country for ten years or more. The case lands in a presidential campaign already swirling with talk of a wall on the Mexican border. Will the shorthanded high court end in a 44 deadlock?
North Carolina’s Election Law Tests Voting Rights in a New Era In a federal court in North Carolina, arguments are wrapping up in a case with potential significance for the voting rights of minorities and young people. Two years ago, the US Supreme Court freed mainly Southern states from having to get federal approval before changing their voting laws. Photo: David Sachs/SEIU North Carolina Republicans immediately passed limits on some voting procedures. The NAACP and the ACLU are among those suing to restore federal oversight under the Voting Rights Act — and they’re joined by the Obama Administration. Robert Barnes is Supreme Court reporter for the Washington Post .
Four Words and Seven Million Americans The Supreme Court found Obamacare to be constitutional two years ago. Today it was asked to decide a legal challenge . Does the law provide that subsidies for low-income people apply only where health insurance markets have been "established by the state?" The Court's interpretation of those four words could determine if subsidies are valid for seven million people who signed up where the federal government established the markets. It's a case deeply rooted in partisan politics. Four liberal court members and two conservatives made clear what they think. Chief Justice John Roberts could be the decider — but he was hardly heard from.
The Cases that Could Settle Gay Marriage at the Supreme Court When the US Supreme Court declined to hear same-sex marriage cases earlier this year, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg said there was no rush — because there was no disagreement among the lower courts. Now there is. In Cincinnati yesterday, the 6 th federal Circuit Court of Appeals upheld bans on same-sex marriage in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky. Robert Barnes covers the Supreme Court for the Washington Post .
Nearing an End-Game on Same-Sex Marriage? It's been almost a year since the Supreme Court tossed the issue of same-sex marriage back to state legislatures and lower courts. Now lawsuits are pending in all but five states. This month, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals heard cases regarding same-sex marriage in Utah and Oklahoma, both of which struck down bans. Next month a circuit court in Virginia will consider the constitutionality of that state's ban. Michigan and Texas also have appeals in the works. Polls show that support for gay marriage is at an all time-high. The fight over Prop 8, California's ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage, has played a large role in accelerating this shift in attitudes. Why are people changing their minds? How will appellate judges rule on the welter of challenges to gay marriage bans? Might the Supreme Court make a final call next year?
Supreme Court Upholds Michigan's Ban on Affirmative Action By a vote of six to two, the US Supreme Court today upheld the voters of Michigan, who banned the use of race as a factor in admission to public colleges and universities. In dissent, read aloud from the bench, Justice Sonya Sotomayor said her colleagues, "ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society." Bob Barnes covers the court for the Washington Post .
Corporations, the Right to Religion and Gender Discrimination Corporations have long been considered "persons" under American law, to protect their shareholders from liability when things go wrong. The US Supreme court has ruled they can spend money on politics because "personhood" includes the right to free speech. Do corporations also have the right to religion? That was one of the questions before the court today in the case of a chain of craft stores. Hobby Lobby's owners want to deny female employees coverage for some kinds of contraception — as required by the Affordable Care Act -- claiming religious objections. ( Conestoga Wood Specialties , a corporation owned by Mennonites is also a party.) Do corporations have religious rights? Could other companies refuse coverage for blood transfusions, vaccinations or psychiatric care on religious grounds? Is Hobby Lobby asking to discriminate against female employees? We hear today's arguments and what the justices wanted to know.
Another Split Decision, Another Political Firestorm The President says he is "deeply disappointed" with today's decision by a divided US Supreme Court, this time over the voting rights of blacks and other minority citizens. Writing for a 5-to-4 majority of the court, Chief Justice John Roberts declared that Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act -- a major achievement of the civil rights movement -- is out of date and therefore, unconstitutional. Roberts said federal guidelines for oversight of minority voting don't reflect present reality. Nine mostly Southern states and parts of others will no longer have to ask Washington to approve changes in their voting laws. Is voting discrimination against blacks and other minorities a thing of the past? We hear the dispute that's already raging.
The Voting Rights Act Gets Another Day in Court Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act covers all of nine states and localities in seven others whose histories of racial discrimination in voting led Congress to require them to get federal permission whenever they change voting laws. First passed in 1965, after voting-rights marchers were attacked by sheriff's deputies in Selma, Alabama, it's been extended several times, most recently in 2006 , with huge majorities in the House and the Senate and the signature of President George W. Bush. Today it was lawyers for Shelby County, Alabama whose lawyers told the court the Act is not just out of date, but unconstitutional. During arguments today, the US Supreme Court was sharply divided. Justice Scalia called Section 5 a "racial entitlement." Supporters called it as relevant now as when it was enacted. We hear about the arguments, how they were received and the prospects for a decision in June.
Health Care Reform Will Go to the Supreme Court President Obama's Affordable Health Care Act has received mixed reviews from appellate courts, and the US Supreme Court has agreed to pass judgment by June of next year. That's before either Republicans or Democrats will have nominated their presidential candidates, and two individual Supreme Court justices are now the subjects of political scrutiny. What are the possible consequences for the White House, Congress and insurance coverage for tens of millions of Americans? We look at the range of potential options.
Healthcare Reform Will Go to the Supreme Court President Obama's Affordable Health Care Act has received mixed reviews from appellate courts, and the US Supreme Court has agreed to pass judgment by June of next year. Democrats and Republicans are braced for the impact. From the Right and the Left, pressure is building for liberal Justice Elena Kagan and conservative Clarence Thomas to step aside. The stakes could include next year's presidential election and the make-up of Congress, not to mention health coverage for many millions of Americans. We hear about federal power and states' rights, the mandate to buy insurance and the consequences of possible court decisions.
Super-Sized WalMart Class Action Case before Supreme Court Crowds began to form outside the US Supreme Court building at two this morning Washington time, in hopes of getting into the courtroom for arguments about the rules for class-action lawsuits. The issue involves as many as one million women who have worked for America's largest retailer. A federal appeals court has ruled that WalMart's female employees can sue as a class, and that's the issue the Supreme Court has agreed to decide. Robert Barnes covers the court for the Washington Post .
The US Supreme Court and the Safety of Vaccines Hannah Bruesewitz is now 19 years old, but she'll need special care for developmental impairments caused by a vaccination, when she was 6-months old. By a vote of 6 to 2, the US Supreme Court today sided with the drug-maker Pfizer and the Obama Administration and ruled that she's not entitled to monetary compensation -- even though a safer vaccine was available.
Replacing Obamacare: Now you see it… now you don’t As the Senate deliberates replacing Obmacare, health coverage for millions of people is at stake. There've been no public hearings, and a draft measure won't be made public. Is the House version so unpopular that that Senate is hiding a version that looks much the same?
Ex-FBI Director Comey tells his side of the story Today, former FBI Director James Comey came close to calling the President who fired him a liar. The White House denied the claim and called it insulting, but Republican Senators did not challenge Comey’s truthfulness. Many questions remain: did the President try to obstruct a federal investigation? Later, we’ll go behind the “velvet rope” for a look at 5-Star health care for the richest Americans.
The longest US war: Will Trump send more troops to Afghanistan? The Trump White House is divided over the Pentagon's request for more troops in Afghanistan—where the US has been fighting for the past 16 years. Is there a formula -- either for "victory" or a political settlement? Is there an end in sight for America's longest war?
Human Rights in the era of Donald Trump President Trump’s UN Ambassador, Nikki Haley, said today the US might pull out of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council. Serious violators of human rights are members of the Council itself–and a US resignation could make things worse. Later on today’s show, now that he’s into his second term, comedian turned US Senator Al Franken is telling jokes again.