Tag Archives: SCOTUS

First Circuit Nominee Makes SCOTUS Farm Team List

The New Yorker examines the list of potential nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Their includes a nominee to the First Circuit Court of Appeals: David Barron.

David Barron, age forty-six, nominated to the First Circuit. Barron served as acting assistant attorney general during the first two years of the Obama Administration and is now a professor at Harvard Law School. His clerkships were with Stephen Reinhardt (a liberal favorite on the Ninth Circuit) and Justice John Paul Stevens; he has many fans in the White House, though the appointment of a white male would offer few political benefits. Barron’s nomination to the First Circuit has been approved by the Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote, and he has apparently been promised a vote in the full Senate before the mid-term elections. The invocation of the nuclear option—confirmation via a simple majority rather than the three-fifths vote formerly required to overcome a filibuster—should guarantee his appointment, which is obligatory if he is to be a Supreme Court nominee down the line.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has also been mentioned as a potential nominee to the highest Court in the land.

Rhode Island seeks Good Neighbors on Air Pollution at the U.S. Supreme Court

Last week, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) heard oral argument in two cases about what it means to be a good neighbor… if you are a state.

The two cases – EPA v. EME Homer City Generation and American Lung Association v. EME Homer City Generation will likely determine the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to prevent one state’s air pollution from reaching the air of a neighboring state.

The state of Rhode Island joined 8 other states, the District of Columbia, and five cities in urging the SCOTUS to uphold the Clean Air Act’s requirement that “upwind” states have an independent obligation to fix the impact they have on “downwind” states.  Read the brief that Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin filed here.

More background on the case and prospects for SCOTUS’ ruling can be found here on the SCOTUS blog.

In related news, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin joined a coalition of other state attorneys general in submitting comments to the EPA this week arguing that the EPA must combat power plant pollution by both setting strong emission limits and giving states flexibility on how they choose to meet the limits. More details here.

US Senators to Watch in Kagan Confirmation

Via Chris Cillizza at the Fix:

1. With a sedate day one of Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court confirmation behind us, today is expected to be a bit more lively as the question and answer phase begins.Here’s six Senators on the Judiciary Committee to keep an eye on during today’s proceedings:

* Orrin Hatch: The Utah Republican voted to confirm Kagan as Solicitor General in 2009. But, he has also watched his Beehive State colleague Bob Bennett swept out of office last month by conservatives unhappy with some votes they deemed less than acceptable. With Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R) waiting in the wings to challenge Hatch in 2012, can the incumbent afford to be anything but tough on Kagan and then vote against her? And, if he doesn’t, might that be an early indication that a retirement is in the offing?

* Lindsey Graham: Graham is the Republican Democrats have come to love — viewing him as fair-minded and not overly partisan. But Graham is a very savvy politician and understands that he can only venture so far from his conservative base without getting into real trouble. Having already voted to confirm Sonia Sotomayor to the Court, will Graham poke his base in the eye again with a “yes” vote on Kagan? He seemed to be undecided during his opening statement on Monday, telling the nominee that her hearing would be “probative and meaningful”.

* Arlen Specter: Long a titan of the Judiciary Committee as a Republican, Specter, was a, well, specter, of his former self during the Sotomayor confirmation hearings as he used the event to prove to Democrats that he was one of them after switching parties earlier in year. It didn’t work as he lost his primary fight to Rep. Joe Sestak. Now that Specter is unencumbered by electoral concerns and calculations for the first time in decades, how will he treat Kagan?

* Dick Durbin/Chuck Schumer: Durbin, of Illinois, and Schumer, of New York, are competing in a behind-the-scenes battle to become the next Democratic leader of the Senate if Harry Reid (Nev.) loses his re-election fight this fall. Rarely will you get a better chance to see their differing approaches and rate their overall effectiveness than today as the two men will question the nominee within 30 minutes (or so) of one another. You can bet their colleagues will be watching to see which one performs better as the caucus weighs its options if Reid comes up short.

* Al Franken: The Sotomayor hearings amounted to a public debut of sorts for the comedian turned Minnesota Democratic Senator. And, while Franken did occasionally crack wise, he was generally a low-profile presence on the committee. With another year of Senate service under his belt, does Franken take a different approach to this confirmation? With liberals expressing some concerns about Kagan’s past policy positions (or, more accurately, her lack of past policy positions) will Franken take the mantle as liberal champion on the committee and try to draw her out?

Profiles of Potential Supreme Court Justice Nominees

The Alliance for Justice has assembled a useful set of profiles of the likely nominees to replace Justice Stevens on the SCOTUS.

All eyes are on President Obama’s pick for the SCOTUS as AFJ’s recently released report, “Unprecedented Injustice: The Political Agenda of the Roberts Court” shows a frighteningly clear pattern: the current court has repeatedly gone out of its way to place corporate interests first and the rights of individuals second.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse Condemns Citizens United in Politico

Writing in Politico, Rhode Island’s junior Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, passionately criticizes the recent SCOTUS decision in Citizens United.

The Supreme Court’s recent slim majority decision in Citizens United has opened floodgates that long prevented corporate cash from drowning out the voices of American citizens in election campaigns. Those who care about the integrity of the American political process view this decision with concern and astonishment.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing about this misguided decision Wednesday. The ruling continues an increasingly clear pattern of the court’s activist conservative bloc. First, decisions are by a narrow 5-4 majority. Second, decisions overrule well-established law and well-settled precedent. Third, the outcome favors corporations, the rich and the powerful.

The Constitution has long been understood to allow Congress to protect elections from the corrupting influence of corporate cash. As President Barack Obama has observed, the principle embodied in the 1907 Tillman Act — that inanimate business corporations, creatures of our laws, are not free to spend unlimited dollars to influence election campaigns — has been an established cornerstone of our political system for more than 100 years.

The five-justice conservative bloc of the Supreme Court tossed that principle aside, baldly denying any risk of election corruption, despite numerous congressional findings to the contrary. As my colleague Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said: “The Supreme Court [has] predetermined the winners of next November’s elections. It won’t be Republicans. It won’t be Democrats. It will be corporate America.”

I look forward to working with Schumer to limit the harmful effects of the Citizens United opinion: to prevent foreign corporations from influencing U.S. elections; to ban pay-to-play spending by government contractors; to strengthen disclosure laws that ensure voters know who is funding the ads they see; and to enhance corporate disclosure of election spending.


Elections are the lifeblood of democracy. The U.S. Constitution is established by and for “We the People of the United States.” Humans are clearly different from artificial corporations. And nothing in the Constitution gives CEOs the right to amplify their voices over all of ours through the corporations they control.

The activist conservative bloc, currently driving the court to the right, does not seem to appreciate this foundational, common-sense principle of our republic — at least not when corporate interests are concerned.

The court should return to its proper role of providing justice to all Americans, not just the privileged few.

Well done, Senator.  Well done.

Sen. Whitehouse Condemns SCOTUS Decision on Corporate Political Spending

Kudos to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse for standing up and speaking out on the Senate floor against the 5-4 SCOTUS ruling in Citizens United (whose local impact I analyzed here):



SCOTUS Ruling in Citizens United Could Open Door for Corporate Spending in RI Elections

Today’s Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission could have a tumultuous effect on Rhode Island politics and allow Republicans to lean on corporate support to become competitive in state races.

In a divided 5-4 ruling, Justice Anthony Kennedy sided with the conservatives in ruling that corporations have a First Amendment right to spend without limits for or against a candidate’s election.

Without having read the entire 183 pages of the decision and the dissents, it appears to me that this decision overturns Rhode Island’s current ban on the use of corporate dollars in a state election.

In other words, the decision appears to make plausible the following scenario.

Textron could spend $500,000 on television ads that urge voters to vote for John Robitaille for Governor.

I agree with Justice Stevens who writes, in relevant part:

The conceit that corporations must be treated identically to natural persons in the politicalsphere is not only inaccurate but also inadequate to justify the Court’s disposition of this case.

In the context of election to public office, the distinction between corporate and human speakers is significant.Although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it. They cannot vote or run for office. Because they may be managed and controlled by nonresidents, their interests may conflict in fundamental respects with the interests of eligible voters. The financial resources, legal structure,and instrumental orientation of corporations raise legitimate concerns about their role in the electoral process. Our lawmakers have a compelling constitutional basis, if not also a democratic duty, to take measures designed to guard against the potentially deleterious effects of corporate spending in local and national races.