Newswire : Civil rights groups oppose fast-tracked Supreme Court nominee:  Nation’s diversity not represented in its courts

By Charlene Crowell


Supreme Court building in Washington, D. C. and Amy Coney Barrett and her family, including two adopted Black children from Haiti
 
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – One of the most consequential decisions that presidents make are lifetime federal judicial appointments at every level: circuit, appellate and the U.S. Supreme Court. The independent federal judiciary is charged with ensuring that the nation’s courts are fair to all people. Even the phrase “equal justice under law” is carved in the stone façade of the Supreme Court building.
 
A recent American Bar Association blog states, “For the nation to continue to have trust in the integrity and independence of the federal judiciary, the process that places judges on the bench must be viewed as fair, unhurried and unbiased.”
 
But for Black America and other communities of color, throughout our history and continuing even today, ‘justice’ is often far from fair, nor is it unbiased. In recent years, the Supreme Court has declared that corporations should be treated like people, and that voting rights no longer need to be protected. In November, the high court is scheduled to revisit the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
 
Other issues that may reach the Supreme Court could include whether federal agencies can preempt state laws protecting consumers from bad actors in the student loan servicer arena, and in payday, auto-title, and high-cost installment loans.  Even the nation’s half-century old Fair Housing Act could be revisited due to the Trump Administration’s roll-back of an Obama-era fair housing rule known as disparate impact. If allowed to stand, the burden of proving discrimination will be shifted to consumers instead of powerful corporations and others alleged to have violated the law.
 
“Over the next several years, the Supreme Court will make important and lasting decisions that affect every facet of our lives, including income inequality, the racial wealth gap, access to health care – including reproductive rights – and many other issues,” states a new CRL policy brief.
 
For these reasons and others, the passing of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg created a significant moment for the future of the court. As the second woman to ever serve as a Supreme Court Justice, the fondly-recalled ‘Notorious RBG’ broke gender barriers throughout her legal career, forging freedom and access for many who were historically marginalized.
 
And the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill that vacancy has triggered a chorus of civil rights organizations expressing their adamant opposition. As a former clerk to Justice Scalia, 1998-1999, Judge Coney Barrett has frequently lauded him as her mentor, and praised his judicial philosophy both as a law school professor and as a judge.
 
At the September 26 White House Rose Garden announcement of her nomination, Judge Coney Barrett said, “I clerked for Justice Scalia more than 20 years ago, but the lessons I learned still resonate. His judicial philosophy is mine too: A judge must apply the law as written. Judges are not policymakers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold.”
 
Despite high praise by conservatives and the Senate Majority’s commitment to ram through her nomination, civil rights organizations and other advocates have expressed strong opposition to Judge Coney Barrett.
 
“We stand opposed to her confirmation to the Court,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Her confirmation would dramatically alter the Supreme Court in ways that would prove devastating for Black communities and other people of color across the country.”
 
Similarly, the head of the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights organization recently advised the Senate Judiciary Committee of the NAACP’s position on the nomination.
 
“Coming in the middle of a presidential election in which over seven million people have already voted, the Barrett nomination is as illegitimate as it is corrupt,” wrote Derrick Johnson, NAACP President and CEO to the Judiciary Committee. “On issue after issue, we have found her to be stunningly hostile to civil rights.”
 
“Early and absentee votes are already being cast for the November election –and nominating a candidate for a lifetime appointment to this nation’s highest court during this electoral period undermines the democratic process and is a disservice to the American public”, said Sherilynn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “Senators must also respect the clear will of the American people, and honor the precedent they set in 2016, by declining to consider any nominee until the winner of the presidential election is inaugurated.”
 
“The Senate majority needs to prioritize COVID-19 relief legislation for the rest of this year and not use the remaining time of this session to confirm judicial nominees, leaving millions of Americans vulnerable to financial hardship”, said Mike Calhoun, President of the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL).
 
With less than three weeks before election day, the Senate began the confirmation process on Monday, October 12 with its Judiciary Committee hearings, chaired by Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina. The committee is expected to vote on the nomination on October 22. As Senate Majority Leader, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell is planning a floor vote for the week of October 26.
 
The rapid review of Judge Coney Barrett is a stark contrast to the lengthy, Senate-engineered delay of President Obama’s 2016 election year Supreme Court nomination.
 
On February 13, 2016, Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed. Weeks later on March 16 that year, President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
Circuit. But the U.S. Senate refused to hold committee hearings or a floor vote for almost a year, and thereby denied President Obama the right to fill the court vacancy.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell publicly boasted in a speech that August, “One of my proudest moments was when I looked Barack Obama in the eye and I said, ‘Mr. President, you will not fill the Supreme Court vacancy.’ “Nearly a year later, the lengthy high court’s vacancy enabled President Trump to nominate Neil Gorsuch on February 1, 2017.The Senate confirmed Gorsuch on Friday, April 7, 2017 and was sworn in the following Monday, April 10. In real time, that nomination process took just two months.
 
 
It is also noteworthy that as the nation is increasingly diverse, the federal bench remains dominated by
White judges.
 
A recent Associated Press analysis of the Trump Administration’s judicial appointments found that White men were nearly 86% of the 206 lifetime appointments made. Similarly, White men were 85% of all Senate-confirmed U.S. Attorneys.
 
A court system that does not reflect the people it is sworn to protect is hard-pressed to ensure diverse backgrounds, experiences and viewpoints in judicial deliberations. Continuing the trend of nominating and confirming White, conservative justices strain — if not ignore — the nation’s pledge of equal justice.
 
In the words of the Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights, “During this pandemic and amid nationwide calls for racial justice, we cannot allow Trump to select a third justice who he has pledged will devastate our hard-fought civil and human rights — including access to health care for millions of people.”
 
The approaching electoral decisions include the future of hard-won civil rights, and whether they will continue to be systematically dismantled. It is in the hands of voters to decide. And the choices should be clear: a return to the multiple ills of bygone years or hopeful future with justice and opportunity for all.
 
 
Charlene Crowell is a senior fellow with the Center for Responsible Lending.
She can be reached at charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.
 

Newswire : Judicial battle looms with Ginsburg passing, Black leaders fear loss of civil rights gains

By Barrington M. Salmon and Hazel Trice Edney

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – Civil rights leaders are alternating between sadness over the death of Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and deep concern about what her death could mean to the composition of the US Supreme Court – and ultimately what it could mean for freedom, justice and equality for Blacks, women and other historically oppressed people.
Ginsburg reportedly told her granddaughter on her deathbed, Sept. 18, that “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” But shortly after news of Ginsburg’s death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced his intention to try to confirm Ginsburg’s replacement before the presidential election in 44 days. And within minutes of learning of the open seat Arizona Sen. Martha McSally jumped out as the first senator to declare that she will vote for whoever McConnell and Trump instruct her to as soon as possible. 
“Justice Ginsburg performed a great sacrifice by not allowing herself to rest and selflessly stay and fighting to the very end,” said Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever, a political commentator, public speaker and author. “Her dying wish was for her seat to not be filled. It was on her mind. What this means largely, is that we’re up the creek without a paddle. We know this because Trump is unscrupulous, has no principle, no integrity.”
She added, “We’re in perfect storm. We have the most unscrupulous president that we’ve known in recent history. The very same things can be said about McConnell who is even more dangerous. These two individuals are in power and have the power to shape the court. I would expect them to go ahead and try to put another conservative Republican on the court.”
As legal minds expressed some of their worst fears, national civil rights representatives recalled the contributions of Ginsburg and what might now be lost.
“Justice Ginsburg’s 27-year tenure on the Supreme Court was marked by a passion for justice and the rule of the law,” said Derrick Johnson, president/CEO of the NAACP in a statement. “Her long, remarkable record includes her legendary opinions involving disability rights in Olmstead v. LC, and gender equality in the military, the United States v. Virginia. She was also known for her powerful dissents, many of which she delivered from the bench. These include dissents in the voting rights decision of Shelby County v. Holder, the gender equity case of Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire Company Co., and the affirmative action case of Ricci v. Stefano…Our nation has lost its north star for justice tonight. As we move forward in the weeks and months ahead, we must honor Justice Ginsburg’s memory and extraordinary contributions and remember that the Supreme Court is the ultimate guardian of all of our civil rights and liberties.”
Melanie Campbell, president/CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and convenor of the Black Women’s Roundtable, pointed out how Ginsburg’s arguments will remain alive and provide groundwork for future civil rights battles.
“Justice Ginsburg’s powerful and foretelling dissent in Shelby County v. Holder laid bare the majority’s flaws in the decision that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was no longer needed as a deterrent to voter suppression,” Campbell wrote in a statement. “In her dissent, Justice Ginsburg warned that ‘Race-based voting discrimination still exists’ and cautioned that gutting the Act’s protections against voting discrimination was like ‘throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.’”
Campbell concludes, “As a result of the Court’s decision, voter suppression tactics have escalated in states across the country. The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation will honor the legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg by continuing the fight for civil rights, social justice and equity for all.”
The National Bar Association (NBA), with its membership of thousands of Black lawyers, called Ginsburg “A truly great American” and “one of the most outstanding, compassionate crusaders for justice to ever sit on the Supreme Court of The United States.”
Florida-based Attorney Kelly Charles-Collins fears that a far-right court which would boast a 6-3 majority is going to tear down established law in the form of Brown v Board and the Voting Rights Act. Civil Rights and LGBTQ issues are not their favorites either, she said; also expressing concern for abortion rights.
“There’s a balancing, a cost-benefit analysis,” Charles-Collins said. “It’s power versus their word. Do you think McConnell cares? They play chess all day long every day. We have to respect them for that.”
The Rev. Graylan Hagler said he thinks it’s not a certainty that McConnell will have the room to execute his plan to get another Republican on the high court. But if McConnell is successful, Hagler theorizes, it will also be “bad news” for immigration and labor unions, which will suffer as will American workers who the Supreme Court already votes against routinely.
Critics say a 6-3 conservative court would further eviscerate voting rights by turning its back on extreme partisan gerrymandering, erasing corporate and environmental regulations and further bolstering the rape of the economy and American lives by plutocrats who are benefiting by the removal of limits to the role of dark money and the avalanche of cash that has overwhelmed campaigns and American politics.
McConnell has earned Democrats’ ire because of the stunt he pulled in March 2016 when he blocked Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee to succeed Justice Antonin Scalia who had died one month earlier. McConnell’s argument then was that he would not allow any of consideration of Obama’s pick because Americans should be allowed to vote and the president choose. So he placed a blockade around the vote but now he’s rushing to push the vote through, a move that some view as the ultimate hypocrisy. 
Attorney Elva Mason of Charlottesville sa“We have lost a warrior and I don’t think a lot of people realize it,” she said. “She had a very shy demeanor but was tough as nails.”
Mason reflected on an what she views as an important scenario outlined by political analyst and pollster Dr. Larry Sabato of UVA. He said if Republicans push this, the best scenario for those who oppose the move is a Biden win. And then Democrats could expand the court by two to offset the far-right members of the Court.
“There are just all kind of ideas. Minds are already running at 100 miles an hour,” Mason said. “The thing that always bothers me is Republicans have always been motivated in terms of elections and who’s on the Supreme Court. It’s always second for Democrats. Now we see consequences. These nine people can make decisions to affect our children and children’s children.”

Newswire : The GOP plan is the biggest tax increase in American history, by far

By: Ryan Grim, The Intercept,

The tax bill moving its way through Congress is routinely referred to as a $1.5 trillion tax cut. And, in some ways, that’s true: on net, it would reduce the amount of taxes collected by the federal treasury by about $1.5 trillion over 10 years.
But that figure masks the eye-popping scale and audacity of the GOP’s rushed restructuring of the economy. Most immediately, the plan will take a large chunk out of state and local revenue that isn’t factored into that total. But more broadly, the bill cuts taxes by a full $6 trillion over a decade.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Friday afternoon before Senate Republicans voted to pass the plan, which gets referred to as only a $1.5 trillion cut because it raises $4.5 trillion in taxes elsewhere. But the key question is who gets a tax hike and who gets a tax cut. Put simply, the bulk of the tax cut is going toward the rich, while the tax increases go to everybody else.
And so the bill, properly described, is two things: the largest tax cut — and also the biggest tax increase — in American history.
Republicans have spent years describing the Affordable Care Act as the largest tax increase in U.S. history, ignoring the fact that the tax increases were balanced out by subsidies to pay for health coverage. In that respect, the ACA was a significant transfer of wealth from the top to the middle and bottom, which earned it the ire of the GOP. But all told, it raised less than $1 trillion in taxes over 10 years to pay for all that. The relative stinginess, in fact, is what fueled its unpopularity, as premiums and deductibles remained too high. But what Republicans lambasted as a historic tax hike represents just one-fifth of the tax increase of the new GOP bill.

WHERE’S THAT MONEY GOING?

The Tax Policy Center estimated that about 80 percent of the benefit of the tax plan will go to the top 1 percent, who will enjoy the following elements of the tax cut:
A full $1.5 trillion alone is going to slash the corporate tax rate. CEOs have said repeatedly they plan to pocket that money rather than invest it or give workers higher wages.
The alternative minimum tax, paid almost exclusively by the rich, is also eliminated. That’s a $700 billion giveaway.
Another $150 billion goes to repealing the estate tax, which currently exempts the first $11 million of the deceased’s estate, so nobody even remotely middle class pays it. The repeal benefits so few people you can practically list them out.
More than $200 billion in cuts goes to a provision that allows a greater deduction for dividends on foreign earnings. That’s not for you.
Roughly $600 billion goes to reducing taxes on “pass-throughs” and other businesses not set up as corporations, which law firms, lobby shops, and doctors’ offices often benefit from. Poor and middle-class people do not tend to set themselves up as pass-throughs.
Under current law, many tax credits phase out at low-income thresholds. The GOP plan changes that by raising the threshold so richer people can also claim the credit. That provision alone is, by definition, a $200 billion tax cut for the wealthy.
Individual and family tax rates are cut by about $1 trillion, and some regular people will indeed see some of that money as a tax cut — but not much. As the New York Times noted, by 2027, people making between $40,000 and $50,000 would see a combined increase of $5.3 billion in taxes. Where would that money go? Folks earning more than $1 million would see their taxes collectively cut by $5.8 billion a year.
The list above brings the total well close to $5 trillion in tax cuts almost exclusively for the wealthy. The last major element of the bill, the doubling of the standard deduction, would benefit a broader range of people, but it comes at the expense of states, cities, and towns.

WHERE DOES THE MONEY TO PAY FOR ALL OF THIS COME FROM?

While Obamacare was a transfer of wealth from the top to the bottom, this bill sends money back the other way.
Even some of the ways the plan “raises” taxes on the rich wind up being a tax cut. Some $300 billion is raised by allowing companies who stashed profits offshore to repatriate it at a much lower rate. That repatriated cash will go straight to dividends for shareholders and stock buybacks — but it gets counted as a tax increase, which then allows the GOP to give an equal $300 billion cut on the other side of the ledger. It’s neat how that works.
The bill raises $1.6 trillion by repealing the personal exemption everybody gets on their tax returns. Getting rid of it across the board is extraordinarily regressive, since it gives the same benefit to the likes of Jared Kushner as it gives to people who have much less money than he does, so they’re hit much harder.
It raises another $1.3 trillion by going after deductions for state and local taxes, mortgage interest, charitable contributions, interest on student loans, medical expenses, teachers’ out-of-pocket expenses for paper and pencils for students, and a bunch of other nickel-and-diming of the middle class. No change drawer in the car, couch cushion, or plastic piggy bank is going untouched in the hunt for money to pay for the tax cut.
(The state and local deduction is effectively a subsidy for state and local spending on things like schools, roads, and police departments. Removing that will pressure states and cities to cut spending, so future teacher layoffs at your neighborhood school will be used to pay for the tax cuts, but because that happens at the state and local level, it isn’t factored into the Congressional Budget Office or Joint Committee on Taxation analyses.)
The plan gradually raises $128 billion in taxes by changing the way inflation is tabulated, so that your taxes slowly creep up over the years as the brackets come down.
And then, of course, the plan adds about $1.5 trillion to the debt over 10 years. That gets you most of the way to $6 trillion, with a handful of smaller tax hikes thrown in, some of which won’t obviously hurt the middle class. The domestic production deduction, a $96 billion boondoggle, is repealed, for instance, and $54 billion is saved by ending the credit for testing cures for rare diseases.”

U. S. Senate voting on health care; voters must keep calling to let their Senators know not to repeal the Affordable Care Act

The U. S. Senate voted Tuesday, July 25, 2017, on a procedural motion to begin debate on the plan to repeal Obamacare outright and replace it within two years – after Vice President Mike Pence voted to break a 50-50 tie and ailing Arizona Sen. John McCain slammed the chamber’s secretive process.
Moderate Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska joined all Democrats to vote against the motion, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky proposed after two previous versions of a healthcare bill failed to attract enough votes.
Several GOP senators switched their positions after saying as recently as last week that they would not support a complete Obamacare repeal without replacement. They were Sens. Shelly Moore Caputo of West Virginia, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Rob Portman of Ohio and Dean Heller of Nevada. While these Republican Senators voted to begin debate, they may not vote for any of the pending proposals to ”repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act.
McCain, 80, who was diagnosed with brain cancer after undergoing surgery 11 days ago, returned to the Senate to vote for the procedural motion. “I voted for the motion to proceed to allow debate to continue and amendments be offered,” McCain said. “I will not vote for this bill as it is today. It’s a shell of a bill right now. We all know that.”
He called for both parties to work together to bring forth legislation that would improve healthcare for all Americans.
“We keep trying to win without help from the other side of the aisle,” McCain said. “We are getting nothing done, my friends, we’re getting nothing done.”
Democratic Senate leaders urged voters to continue to call their Senators, especially Republicans not to vote to destroy coverage for millions of people who need healthcare.
In Alabama, call Senator Richard Shelby at 202/224-5744; and Senator Luther Strange at 202/224-4124. In other states call the central Capitol switchboard at 800-826-3688 and follow the verbal prompts.

 

Elizabeth Warren rebuked for quoting Coretta Scott King while debating Jeff Sessions’ nomination

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Coretta Scott King

By: Paul KaneThe Washington Post

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., led a party-line rebuke Tuesday night of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., for her speech opposing attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions, striking down her words for impugning the Alabama senator’s character.
In an extraordinarily rare move, McConnell interrupted Warren’s speech, in a near-empty chamber as the nomination debate heads toward a Wednesday evening vote, and said that she had breached Senate rules by reading past statements against Sessions from figures such as the late senator Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and the late Coretta Scott King.
“The senator has impugned the motives and conduct of our colleague from Alabama,” McConnell said, then setting up a series of roll-call votes on Warren’s conduct.
It was the latest clash in the increasingly hostile debate over confirming President Donald Trump’s Cabinet, during which Democrats have accused Republicans of trying to force through nominees without proper vetting. Democrats, unable to stop the confirmations that require simple majorities, have countered by using extreme delay tactics that have dragged out the process longer than any in history for a new president’s Cabinet.
The Democratic moves, including a round-the-clock debate Tuesday night before Wednesday’s confirmation of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, reached a boiling point during the debate over Sessions.
McConnell specifically cited portions of a letter that King, the widow of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee in opposition to Sessions’ 1986 nomination to be a federal judge.
“Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens,” King wrote, referencing controversial prosecutions at the time that Sessions served as the U.S. attorney for Alabama. Earlier, Warren read from the 1986 statement of Kennedy, a senior member of the Judiciary Committee who led the opposition then against Sessions, including the Massachusetts Democrat’s concluding line: “He is, I believe, a disgrace to the Justice Department and he should withdraw his nomination and resign his position.”
The Senate voted, 49 to 43, strictly on party lines, to uphold the ruling that Warren violated rules of debate. Warren is now forbidden from speaking during the remainder of the debate on the nomination of Sessions.
“I am surprised that the words of Coretta Scott King are not suitable for debate in the United States Senate,” Warren said after McConnell’s motion.
Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., a freshman, issued a warning to Warren at that point, singling out Kennedy’s “disgrace” comment, and 25 minutes later McConnell came to the floor and set in motion the battle, citing the comments in the King letter as crossing the line.
Other Democrats later came to her defense, but the liberal firebrand’s speech ended with a simple admonition from Daines: “The senator will take her seat.”
Warren, a liberal firebrand who some activists want to run for president, took to social media to attack McConnell and Republicans for shutting down her speech.