Image 01 Image 03

Author: Jared Samilow

Profile photo

Jared Samilow

A new theater has opened up in the great Pennsylvania Redistricting Battle of 2018, with Republicans filing a federal lawsuit to halt court-ordered redistricting that could cost the GOP four seats in the House this November. On January 22, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declared that the state's Congressional map, which had been in place since 2011, violated the state constitution. The Republican legislature and Democratic governor were directed to agree on a new map. They failed to do so, and on February 19, the court adopted a new Congressional map devised by Stanford professor Nathaniel Persily.

On January 22, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, on a 5—2 party-line vote, struck down the state's congressional map and ordered the legislature to draw a new one by February 9. See my prior post, Bad news for GOP: Pennsylvania Supreme Court tosses state’s congressional maps. Two members of PA's state legislature—its Speaker of the House and president pro tempore of the Senate—quickly asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene and stay the ruling.

U.S. District Judge Mark E. Walker in Tallahassee has ruled that Florida's process for restoring voting rights to convicted felons violates both the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The implications of the ruling, however, may not be so far-reaching since the judge hasn't yet decided on a specific remedy. The Order (pdf.) is embedded at the bottom of this post.

In October 2016, a conservative panel on the D.C. Circuit ruled, 2–1, that too much unilateral power was concentrated in the independent Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, unconstitutionally infringing upon the President's Article II executive powers. In February, the full D.C. Circuit agreed to en banc rehearing of this case—entitled PHH Corporation v. CFPB—meaning that all 11 active judges would decide the case from scratch.

Three days ago, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania struck down the state's congressional map, holding that it "clearly, plainly and palpably violates the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania." Offering no rationale for this decision, which upends districts that have been in place for six years, the State Supreme Court further instructed the legislature to propose a new map by February 9, and get Democratic Governor Tom Wolf's approval before February 15. Otherwise, the court itself will decide the new maps that will be used for the 2018 primaries and midterms.

Last Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced 17 Trump judicial nominees, eight of them along an 11–10 partisan split. And yesterday, the White House announced its 10th wave of judicial nominees. In a January 7 post, I examined Trump's probable impact on the thirteen federal appellate courts. In this post, I'll do the same for the 94 United States district courts—the federal trial courts in which all but a handful of cases originate.

We’re now on day 36 without a 4th Circuit decision on Trump's third travel order. Unveiled as a presidential proclamation on September 24, 2017, the third travel order (we'll call it EO-3) restricts entry by most nationals of Chad, Iran, Libya, Syria, and Yemen, as well as some nationals of North Korea and Venezuela.

Year One of President Trump's much-vaunted "judge story" was far more successful than anyone could have expected. Trump nominated and confirmed more appellate circuit court judges in his first year than any modern president. His judges were, on average, just 50 years old and all of them were well-credentialed conservatives. Several are potential SCOTUS nominees.

It's official: as of 12:00 a.m. January 1, 2018, the U.S. military will be open to transgender recruits—a change in policy that had been set in motion by Former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter in 2016. Last night, the Department of Justice announced that it would not ask the Supreme Court to stay several injunctions requiring the military to go forward with Carter's plan—at least until a "study" that President Trump ordered is completed.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled against President Trump's Third Travel Order on virtually the same grounds it blocked a March iteration of the order. A copy of the Opinion (pdf.) is embedded at the bottom of this post.

A federal judge in Washington D.C. ruled Monday afternoon that, beginning January 1, the U.S. military will be required to allow enlistment of openly transgender recruits. The order issued by Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, a Clinton-appointee on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, is embedded at the bottom of this post. She had already ruled on October 30 that the military could not delay implementing this new policy, which had been finalized under the Obama Administration but not fully put into effect.  The government requested that she stay her ruling pending appellate review. She declined to do so Monday.

Friday night, the Supreme Court issued an Order (pdf.) staying a lower court ruling requiring the government to turn over thousands of documents related to the termination of DACA. The vote was 5 to 4, with Justice Breyer writing a 10-page dissent joined by Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan.

The full Order and Dissent are embedded at the bottom of this post.

With each passing day, it looks more certain that Obama will get his way on Iran. The Republicans in Congress will not persuade enough of their blue colleagues to defy Obama. Not that this comes as a surprise. The President has run circles around Republicans for as long as anyone can remember. Why should now be any different? But even Obama’s luck can run out eventually. A report suggests that a senior French diplomat is having second thoughts; there are whispers that other European leaders may be seeing the light. We can wistfully ponder the possibilities Congress might open up if, by some miracle, that light reaches its Democratic precincts. As it were, the sensible alternative to no deal is actually not war, but no deal. Full stop. John Kerry may hold forth that no deal spells war. But what he really means is that only those who want war could possibly oppose him. It’s a primitive scare-tactic.