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Supreme Court to review Trump's 'Remain in Mexico' policy
Court Issues | 2020/10/19 16:16
The Supreme Court is agreeing to review a Trump administration policy that makes asylum-seekers wait in Mexico for U.S. court hearings.

As is typical, the court did not comment Monday in announcing it would hear the case. Because the court's calendar is already full through the end of the year, the justices will not hear the case until 2021. If Joe Biden were to win the presidential election and rescind the policy, the case would become largely moot.

Trump's “Migrant Protection Protocols” policy, known informally as “Remain in Mexico,” was introduced in January 2019. It became a key pillar of the administration’s response to an unprecedented surge of asylum-seeking families at the border, drawing criticism for having people wait in highly dangerous Mexican cities.

Lower courts found that the policy is probably illegal. But earlier this year the Supreme Court stepped in to allow the policy to remain in effect while a lawsuit challenging it plays out in the courts.

More than 60,000 asylum-seekers were returned to Mexico under the policy. The Justice Department estimated in late February that there were 25,000 people still waiting in Mexico for hearings in U.S. court. Those hearings were suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.


Justices to weigh Trump census plan to exclude noncitizens
Court Issues | 2020/10/17 23:05
The Supreme Court agreed Friday to take up President Donald Trump’s policy, blocked by a lower court, to exclude people living in the U.S. illegally from the census count that will be used to allocate seats in the House of Representatives. Never in U.S. history have immigrants been excluded from the population count that determines how House seats, and by extension Electoral College votes, are divided among the states, a three-judge federal count said in September when it held Trump’s policy illegal.

The justices put the case on a fast track, setting arguments for Nov. 30. A decision is expected by the end of the year or early in January, when Trump has to report census numbers to the House. Trump’s high court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, could take part in the case if, as seems likely, she is confirmed by then. Last year, the court by a 5-4 vote barred Trump from adding a census question asking people about their citizenship. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last month, was part of that slim majority. Barrett would take Ginsburg’s seat.

“President Trump has repeatedly tried ? and failed ? to weaponize the census for his attacks on immigrant communities. The Supreme Court rejected his attempt last year and should do so again,” said American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Dale Ho, representing a coalition of immigrant advocacy groups that challenged Trump’s plan in court.

Trump left it to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Census Bureau, to figure out how many immigrants are not living legally in each state. The outcome of the census case could affect the distribution of political power for the next 10 years. The census also helps determine the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal funding annually. The administration told the court that the president retains “discretion to exclude illegal aliens from the apportionment based on their immigration status.”

Trump’s violation of federal law is “not particularly close or complicated,” the ACLU said in a court filing arguing that the court shouldn’t hear the case. The Supreme Court separately allowed the administration to end the actual census count this week, blocking a court order that would have kept the count going until the end of the month.

The court did not take action on two other administration appeals of controversial policies on asylum seekers and the border wall that also were ruled illegal by lower courts. Since early last year, the administration has made asylum-seekers wait in Mexico for U.S. court hearings, which has forced tens of thousands of people to return to Mexico.


Barrett bats away tough Democratic confirmation probing
Press Release | 2020/10/15 16:39
Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett batted away Democrats’ skeptical questions Tuesday on abortion, health care and a possible disputed-election fight over transferring presidential power, insisting in a long and lively confirmation hearing she would bring no personal agenda to the court but decide cases “as they come.”

The 48-year-old appellate court judge declared her conservative views with often colloquial language, but refused many specifics. She declined to say whether she would recuse herself from any election-related cases involving President Donald Trump, who nominated her to fill the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and is pressing to have her confirmed before the the Nov. 3 election.

“Judges can’t just wake up one day and say I have an agenda ? I like guns, I hate guns, I like abortion, I hate abortion ? and walk in like a royal queen and impose their will on the world,” Barrett told the Senate Judiciary Committee during its second day of hearings.

“It’s not the law of Amy,” she said. “It’s the law of the American people.”

Barrett returned to a Capitol Hill mostly shut down by COVID-19 protocols, the mood quickly shifting to a more confrontational tone  from opening day. She was grilled by Democrats strongly opposed to Trump’s nominee yet unable to stop her. Excited by the prospect of a judge aligned with the late Antonin Scalia, Trump’s Republican allies are rushing ahead to install a 6-3 conservative court majority for years to come.

The president seemed pleased with her performance. “I think Amy’s doing incredibly well,” he said at the White House departing for a campaign rally.

Trump has said he wants a justice seated for any disputes arising from his heated election with Democrat Joe Biden, but Barrett testified she has not spoken to Trump or his team about election cases. Pressed by panel Democrats, she skipped past questions about ensuring the date of the election or preventing voter intimidation, both set in federal law, and the peaceful transfer of presidential power. She declined to commit to recusing herself from any post-election cases without first consulting the other justices.

“I can’t offer an opinion on recusal without short-circuiting that entire process,” she said.

A frustrated Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the panel, all but implored the nominee to be more specific about how she would handle landmark abortion cases, including Roe v. Wade and the follow-up Pennsylvania case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which confirmed it in large part.



Daines, Bullock clash over pandemic, Supreme Court in debate
Court Watch | 2020/10/11 17:36
Incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and his Democratic opponent, Gov. Steve Bullock, clashed over the response to the pandemic and the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy in the last debate of Montana’s U.S. Senate race.

Bullock accused Daines of stalling on a second federal coronavirus relief package. Bullock said he would not implement stricter measures to limit the spread of the virus, despite a high infection rate in the state, because there was no federal safety net for workers and businesses.

The freshman senator rejected Bullock’s view that Americans must learn to live with the virus, instead hanging the solution to the rampant spread of the virus on therapeutic drugs and vaccinations, which he promised would be distributed free of charge once approved.

The governor was praised for his swift response in the spring, which included a shutdown order that helped keep the virus at bay. But as the state reopened in early summer, the case tally began to climb. A record number of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths were reported in recent days, as the governor delegated responsibility for precautions to local authorities.

Bullock rejected the confirmation process of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying it could put parts of the Affordable Care Act in jeopardy. Daines has expressed support for a court case seeking repeal the health law, which is set to be heard by the court days after the Nov. 3 election.

Bullock said that if Coney Barrett was confirmed, he would be open to measures including adding justices to the bench, a practice critics have dubbed packing the courts. “We need to figure out the ways to actually get the politics out of the court,” Bullock said. “That’s anything from a judicial standards commission, or we’ll look at any other thing that might be suggested, including adding justices.”

Daines, who supports the confirmation of Coney Barrett, said adding justices to the bench would threaten the Second Amendment, which gives people the right to carry guns.  Bullock said he would protect gun access, but that he is open to conversations on new safety measures, including universal background checks.  The debate was recorded remotely and aired Saturday evening on the Montana Television Network, a day after many counties in the state mailed ballots to voters.


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