April 29, 2013

What's Next for the Boston Bombing Suspect?

The capture of Dzhokar Tsarnaev has opened a few legal questions about what is to be done. Some senators including Judiciary Committee member Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have called for the suspect to be treated as an enemy combatant. An article in Politico analyzes five important legal questions from the case.
1) Why does the Miranda issue matter?
2) How does the public safety exception work?
3) Will prosecutors seek the death penalty - and will Tsarnaev get it?
4) What kind of court will Tsarnaev be tried in and how soon will he get there?
5) The FBI says Tsarnaev is a naturalized citizen - what difference will that make? 

A Question of Discretion

The Obama administration's immigration policy has been one of prosecutorial discretion. After failing to pass the DREAM Act, the administration acted unilaterally to choose not to deport certain individuals who would have received amnesty had the DREAM Act become law. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are charged with deporting all those individuals who immigrated here illegally. The union of ICE workers has filed a lawsuit against the DHS. A recent article in the Washington Examiner details the case.    
During the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on comprehensive immigration reform, Senator Sessions said of the ICE union, 
“They weren’t complaining about pay, benefits, working conditions — they were saying their very oath they took to enforce the law is being blocked by rules and regulations and policies established from on high, and that this is undermining their ability to do what they are sworn to do.”

April 27, 2013

Weekly News Highlights

Perez Approval Stalled
"Before considering Perez’s nomination further, committee Republicans want access to two witnesses involved in the quid pro quo case and copies of e-mails about government affairs that Perez sent from his personal e-mail account. They also want transcripts of conversations used for a Department of Justice inspector-general report on how the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division’s voting section, which Perez headed, behaved on certain cases. Perez’s record on voting laws during his tenure at DOJ has come under fire from both senators David Vitter (R., Louisiana) and Tim Scott (R., S.C.)."
Read Full Article 

Gun Registry Fails to Gain Traction
The Legislation championed by Senators Manchin (D-W.VA.) and Toomey (R-PA) failed to gain the necessary votes to clear the Senate, further illustrating President Obama's inability to pass his agenda. 
"Maureen Dowd, meanwhile, believes Heitkamp’s vote is the president’s fault. “Even House Republicans who had no intention of voting for the gun bill marveled privately that the president could not muster 60 votes in a Senate that his party controls,” she confides."
Read Full Article 
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)

Senator Mike Lee, Mr. Conservative
"We conservatives are not against government. The free market and civil society depend on a just, transparent, and accountable government to enforce the rule of law."
Read Full Article 

Obama Administration Avoids Drone Hearing 
"Senators expressed disappointment that, even after the hearing was postponed for one week to accommodate the administration it refused to send someone."

April 21, 2013

What If?

After hearing oral arguments for the case Hollingsworth v. Perry it has been speculated by many that the court will find that the proponents of Prop 8 do not have standing to bring the case. Vikram Amar's recent column in Verdict explores what might happen.
But if the Court finds no sponsor standing, what happens next? ...For starters, if sponsor standing is found to be lacking, everyone agrees (or certainly ought to agree) that the Ninth Circuit opinion invalidating Proposition 8 on the merits and creating law of the Ninth Circuit that could conceivably affect other states and also other issues in the Circuit would be vacated, that is, figuratively erased.  Beyond that, there is also broad agreement that the two named same-sex couples in the Hollingsworth case who sought marriage licenses from the county clerks in Alameda and Los Angeles counties, respectively, should get their licenses.  But exactly why and how these two named couples would get the relief they seek is where commentators seem to diverge.  
Vikram Amar plans to release a follow up column on April 26th

Senator Grassley Introduces New Legislation to Relieve the Burden on Circuit Courts

On April 11th the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee introduced new legislation to add judges where they are badly needed. The 2nd and 11th Circuit Courts of Appeals would be the direct beneficiaries. Senator Grassley stated,
Sen. Grassley (R-IA)
"This bill is a step towards rectifying the great workload disparities between the circuit courts.  It’s a common sense bill and moves judges to where they are needed.  It saves the taxpayers’ money."
The bill has been co-sponsored by Republican members of the Judiciary Committee: Senators Orrin Hatch, Jeff Sessions, Lindsey Graham, John Cornyn, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz and Jeff Flake.  
You can read Senator Grassley's full statement HERE

April 18, 2013

Weekly News Highlights

Will Senate Republicans Approve Perez Nomination?
Mr. Perez
According to Senator Grassley (R-IA), “Mr. Perez will have a lot of questions to answer this week as the Senate considers his nomination, Not only was he the ringleader of the quid pro quo deal that ensured the taxpayer would not be able to recover hundreds of millions of dollars, but he has been misleading and less than forthcoming with our committees and the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.” 
Read Full Article 

Joe Manchin, Pat Toomey and the Gun Registry 
As reported by the Heritage Foundation, Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) have rushed to cobble together some gun control legislation, providing another chance that Senate Democrat Leader Harry Reid can jam it through the Senate before anybody can read and decipher it. Due to the sloppy drafting of the Schumer-Toomey-Manchin (“STM”) legislation, and hopefully not to the intent of the Senators, the legislation could lead to starting a federal gun registry.
Read Full Article 

Setting the Record Straight on Judicial Nominations 
A press release from Senator Barrasso (R-WY): President Obama and his political allies are again falsely charging obstructionism on the confirmation of judicial nominations. Some have gone so far as to suggest the purported stall in confirmation rates warrants changes to long standing Senate rules. The facts simply do not support the allegations.
Read Full Article 

The Nuclear Option
Roll Call reports that, [Harry Reid (D-NV)] said that while he was “happy” with the modest rules changes adopted in January on a bipartisan basis, the number of pending judicial nominations led him to warn his colleagues of the potential for the chamber’s rules to be modified at any point in the year, not just at the opening of a new Congress
Read Full Article 

The Other Side of the Argument

In the wake of voter registration fiascoes that occurred during the 2012 election and the push towards voter identification laws, many have argued for universal automatic voter registration. A new paper published by the Heritage Foundation makes the case against mandatory universal registration. The abstract reads, 
There is no question that the U.S. voter registration system could be improved. However, the answer to America’s voter registration problems is not federal mandates or federal interference in election administration. Indeed, the federal government has almost no experience administering elections; states administer elections in the laboratories of democracy. As a result of this exercise in federalism, states are implementing numerous improvements to the voter registration system—and they are doing it at less cost to our treasury, our Constitution, and the integrity of our elections than mandatory universal registration. 
A federal fix is a solution in search of a problem, 
Lack of registration is not the reason people do not vote. Ideological organizations such as FairVote and the Brennan Center for Justice are proposing that states automatically register all individuals to vote using existing government databases. Such proposals are based on the false premise that large numbers of Americans do not vote “for no other reason than they are not registered to vote.” Yet after every federal election, the U.S. Census Bureau publishes reports on the levels of registration and voting, including surveys of individuals who do not vote, that disprove the claims that the major reason individuals do not vote is a lack of registration opportunities.
Furthermore there are numerous concerns over practicality, 
-Use existing state and federal government databases to automatically (and permanently) register all citizens to vote.
-Create an overriding policy to ensure that voters left off the rolls can register and vote on Election Day.
-Require state or local governments to send every residence a notice of those registered at that location; residents could then make changes as needed and return the updated form.
-Provide every U.S. citizen upon birth or naturalization a voter registration number similar to a Social Security number, to be used in all elections and activated when a voter turns 18

Senate Rejects UN Small Arms Treaty

During the "vote-a-rama" for budget amendments the Senate included one amendment that would prevent the United States from signing the UN Small Arms Treaty. As reported by The Hill Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) introduced the successful amendment preserving 2nd amendment rights. This represents a major victory for safeguarding the sovereignty of the United States and upholding the right to bear arms. Senator Inhofe said of the Treaty,
“We’re negotiating a treaty that cedes our authority to have trade agreements with our allies in terms of trading arms... This is probably the last time this year that you’ll be able to vote for your Second Amendment rights.”
The amendment passed 53-46

Relaxing Federal Sentencing Laws

As reported by RollCall a recent collaboration between Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has produced new legislation that would enable judges to hand down lesser sentences. These penalties would be below the federally required minimum punishments. Senator Paul said,
Rand Paul (en.wikipedia.org)
“[mandatory minimum sentencing laws] reflect a Washington-knows-best, one-size-fits-all approach, which undermines the constitutional separation of powers, violates the bedrock principle that people should be treated as individuals, and costs the taxpayers money without making them any safer.”
This collaboration between a libertarian Republican and a liberal Democrat illustrates a potential divided between libertarians and conservatives when it comes to the rule of law.