5 surprising facts about the U.S. Supreme Court

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIVIA GENIUS)

 

5 surprising facts about the U.S. Supreme Court

Founded in 1789 as part of the United States Constitution, the U.S. Supreme Court is the highest court of the nation’s federal judiciary system. In its 230 years of existence it has been responsible for landmark court decisions such as the Loving v Virginia ban on interracial marriage, New York Times Co. v United States freedom of the press case, and Bush v Gore presidential election dispute. Here’s some curious facts about the highest court in the land that are sure to impress your friends, family, and colleagues.

The court hasn’t always had a permanent home

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Despite the court being among the most distinguished governmental institutions, it has led somewhat of a nomadic life. The first court meetings were held in the Merchants Exchange Building in New York City, after which it moved with the National Capitol in 1790 to Philadelphia. When the Federal Government relocated to Washington, D.C., the court followed and used several chambers inside the United States Capitol. Chief Justice William Howard Taft proposed a plan for the court to have its own home in 1929 in order for it to create a distance from the United States Congress. Construction of the classical Corinthian-style landmark began in 1932 and became operational in 1935.

Only one president has sat on the court

Credit: Everett Historical / Shutterstock.com

To date, William Howard Taft is the only President of the United States that has sat on the U.S. Supreme Court. He became the 27th president in 1909 and served one term. In 1921 he was appointed the 10th Chief Justice of the United States and held the post until shortly before his death in 1930. Charles Evans Hughes, who was Taft’s successor in 1930, came close to repeating the achievement. In 1916, Hughes had resigned from his position as Associate Justice to run for the presidency against Woodrow Wilson.

You can attend an official court meeting

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Ever wondered what the chief and associate justices do on a daily basis? The courtroom has seating capacity for 300 members of the public to attend oral arguments of between 70 and 80 annual cases. You’ll have the chance to listen as justices pose questions to the case attorneys and the attorneys present information that they deem vital to a case. It is free to attend an oral argument and entry is on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you don’t have the time to listen to an entire argument then you can opt for a three-minute brief session. Here’s the lowdown on the days, etiquette, and what you need to show for entry to an oral argument.

The building has its own art collection

Credit: Attila Barabas / iStock

In 1973, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger established the Office of the Curator to preserve works of art that had been acquired since the 1830s. Today, you can see valuable objects from the collection via rotating exhibitions. Among them are decorative, fine and graphic arts, archives, memorabilia, and ephemera. There’s 19th-century judicial portraits by Cornelia Adele Fassett, such as The Florida Case before the Electoral Commission, busts of Chief Justices, the clock of lawyer Joseph Story, and records of notable women in the court’s history. Here’s a schedule of the current exhibition program.

There’s a basketball court on the building’s upper floor

Credit: BahadirTanriover / iStock

While visiting the court you might hear the squeaking of shoes and bouncing of balls coming from above. That’s because on the upper floor of the building there’s a basketball court. This former storeroom is available for Supreme Court employees and off-duty police offices. Notable court employees Byron White and William H. Rehnquist have showcased their alley-oop, dribbling, and slam dunking talents on this court over the years.

Supreme Court upholds ‘double jeopardy’ standard that could blunt impact of potential Trump pardons

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWS PAPER)

 

Supreme Court upholds ‘double jeopardy’ standard that could blunt impact of potential Trump pardons

A federal judge has sentenced former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to more than 3 1/2 additional years in prison. (March 13) AP

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WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court upheld Monday the ability of federal and state governments to prosecute defendants twice for the same crime – a form of double jeopardy that could come into play if President Donald Trump pardons former associates caught up in the Russian election-meddling scandal.

The case, which was heard in early December, had appeared to be an opportunity for challengers to block second prosecutions. But during oral argument, it became clear that a majority of justices were wary of letting criminals go free, possibly including some of those previously sentenced.

Associate Justice Samuel Alito wrote the 7-2 opinion, joined by three conservative and three liberal colleagues. Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Neil Gorsuch dissented.

The case had gained attention largely because of the possibility that Trump could pardon one or more of his former associates convicted in federal court by special counsel Robert Mueller as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

More: Mueller report: Why so many of President Donald Trump’s aides lied to protect him in Russia investigations

If former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was pardoned, he still could face state prosecutions for the same crimes under the court’s precedents. That rule applies because state and federal governments are separate sovereigns.

Alito defended the court’s ruling on the basis of the Fifth Amendment, historical evidence and “170 years of precedent.”

He noted that federal and state governments often have overlapping powers that allow for two layers of regulation. Examples include taxation and rules regarding gambling, alcohol and marijuana, he said.

Ginsburg disagreed. “Different parts of the ‘WHOLE’ United States should not be positioned to prosecute a defendant a second time for the same offense,” she said.

Gorsuch, who has taken up the late Associate Justice Antonin Scalia’s penchant for protecting the rights of criminal defendants, said, “A free society does not allow its government to try the same individual for the same crime until it’s happy with the result.”

The Justice Department and a coalition of 36 states had vehemently defended the status quo, which has led to successful second prosecutions after acquittals or hung juries.

It enabled Mississippi to convict Edgar Ray Killen of murdering three civil rights workers in 1964 after federal charges didn’t stick. It helped the federal government convict two Los Angeles police officers for the notorious 1991 beating of Rodney King after a county jury acquitted four officers of nearly all charges. And it helped federal officials win a guilty plea from a South Carolina police officer for the 2015 shooting death of Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, after a state jury deadlocked.

If the court were to revert to a strict rule against double jeopardy, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer said when the case was debated: “Look at the door we’re opening up.”

Two years ago, the court ruled 6-2 that Puerto Rico could not prosecute a suspect after his federal conviction because the territory, unlike states, derived its power from the United States. At the time, Ginsburg and Associate Justice Clarence Thomas suggested that the court consider a similar approach for all levels of government.

The case was brought on behalf of Terance Gamble, who received a one-year prison sentence in Alabama but nearly four years in federal court for the same firearms offense in 2015. Two lower courts upheld the sentences, citing Supreme Court precedent.

Although the terms are running concurrently, Gamble won’t be released until next year. Had the federal government been barred from a second prosecution, he would be free.

Groups on Gamble’s side argued that the double jeopardy clause prevents abuse by prosecutors. They said it helps in obtaining plea bargains, because defendants cannot hope for a second trial.

Nearly half the states already have bars against double jeopardy. That means state prosecutors would need to cite different charges to try Manafort or other former Trump associates already convicted in federal court.

Just My Chatter For The Day About Court Judges

Just My Chatter For The Day About Court Judges

 

My first thought is, damn what a job, no thank you! I noticed in the news a few moments ago about Our Newest United States Supreme Court Justice Mr. Kavanaugh. The article was from ‘The Hill’ about Mr. Kavanaugh having issued his first Decision while on The Bench.

First I would like to say Howdy Judge to this Very Honorable Position you find yourself in. Now this note is to all of you folks who find yourself sitting on a position where you are required to sit in Judgement.  I am thankful that I sit on no judgement seats. I pray that I will never be forced to toward another.

 

Well, what do you think about a person who is a Judge or aspires to become a Judge? I think that this is a Hugely difficult job to be put in charge of, or even a job anyone would want. I would not want to be anyones judge. What I honestly care less about is if a Judge carries an (R) or a (D) with their name as it seems it is a necessary evil at this moment. What I want from a Sitting Judge is for them to be honest to their Constitutional Beliefs. I just want Judge Kavanaugh to be Pro U.S. Constitution.

Again, I am so glad that I do not have to be a Judge.

Trump Once Again Has Ass In Mouth Disease Concerning U.S. Supreme Court?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HUFFINGTON POST)

 

President Donald Trump lashed out at Chief Justice John Roberts Wednesday after the Supreme Court leader rebuked the president for suggesting a U.S. judge was biased.

“Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have ‘Obama judges,’ and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country,” Trump said over Twitter.

He added: “We need protection and security ― these rulings are making our country unsafe! Very dangerous and unwise!”

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have “Obama judges,” and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country. It would be great if the 9th Circuit was indeed an “independent judiciary,” but if it is why……

26.4K people are talking about this

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

…..are so many opposing view (on Border and Safety) cases filed there, and why are a vast number of those cases overturned. Please study the numbers, they are shocking. We need protection and security – these rulings are making our country unsafe! Very dangerous and unwise!

19.1K people are talking about this

Trump dismissed a ruling against his administration on Tuesday because it came from an “Obama judge.”

In his first public criticism of the president, Roberts said in a statement, “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges.”

Roberts added, one day before Thanksgiving, that an “independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”

The president’s “Obama judge” comment came after U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar, of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, put a stop on Monday to the Trump administration’s ban on refugees seeking asylum outside official points of entry along the U.S. border.

“You cannot win, when you’re us, in the 9th Circuit,” Trump said outside the White House when asked about the ruling.

The president complained that “they” file suits in the left-leaning 9th Circuit purposefully so that “we get beaten, and then we end up having to go to the Supreme Court.” In the case of the asylum ban, “they” refers to the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

“This was an Obama judge. And I tell you what, it’s not going to happen like this anymore,” the president threatened Tuesday.

The 9th Circuit also ruled against the Trump administration’s third attempt to enact a travel ban for people from several Muslim-majority countries last year.

Over Twitter on Wednesday, the president once again suggested the 9th Circuit was not an “independent judiciary” by claiming “so many opposing view” cases are filed there.

Prior to that, Trump sneered at a “so-called judge” who cracked down on a related travel ban.

The squabble between the heads of the executive and judicial branches comes more than a month after a nasty partisan battle to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh left some justices concerned about the Supreme Court’s reputation as an impartial arbiter of justice.

Following Kavanaugh’s confirmation last month, Roberts stressed the importance of maintaining the judicial system’s independence from what he called the “political branches” of government. The Supreme Court, he said, “would be very different without that sort of independence.”

The Senate strikes back with the Flake flip

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘HILL’ NEWS)

 

The Senate strikes back with the Flake flip

Defending the Senate is not exactly the popular take these days. It’s easy to beat up on the upper house of Congress.

Many of those are fair indictments of the institution that George Washington once dubbed, “the cooling saucer of democracy.” But let’s give the ultimate institution of all the Beltway institutions it’s due. This week, notwithstanding the public spectacle of a hearing featuring Supreme Court hopeful Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the Senate worked.

Republicans wanted to shove Brett Kavanaugh through a rushed committee process with scant vetting of the credible allegations against Kavanaugh and force-feed him onto the Supreme Court. Another notch in the belt for President Trump and Senate Republicans going into the midterm elections.

And, to be clear, they still may do that. But the world’s greatest deliberative body did what it was supposed to do. What it was designed to do. It’s slowed the process down. And the process wasn’t slowed down by a powerful committee chair or a 2020 hopeful or any member of leadership. It was slowed down by Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). A retiring, unpopular, and often unremarkable Senator who will leave Congress next January without much of a discernible legacy.

But the Senate makes that possible. Arcane rules and customs that are hard for even the most experienced Senate alumni to explain allow someone like Jeff Flake to gum up the works. The idea that Flake can pull together a small gang of moderates to flip the emergency brake at the last-minute is exactly what the body is set up to do. In the Senate, change is supposed to be slow and deliberate and difficult. That’s the whole point. If you don’t get that, you don’t get the Senate.

Also, the fact that it was Flake is notable. His relationship with someone like Chris Coons (D-Del.), another member from the other party who lives in relative anonymity, was also critical here. Not every member of the Senate should be running for or posturing for a higher office. The sequence of events amplify why the Jeff Flakes and Chris Coons’ are essential to the effectiveness of the Senate. Two Senators who can get in a room and make an imperfect, but nevertheless important deal.

Some people may think it just delays the inevitable for a week. That’s certainly possible. Most of the betting odds would probably still suggest that Senate Republicans are determined to put Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court.

But as somebody who was raised by the Senate and worked for former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) from 2009-2011 during the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), I can speak with firsthand experience about the unpredictability of time inside those chambers. When pursuing a legislative priority, time can be your biggest enemy.

The biggest complication with the passage of the ACA was the extra time that was forced upon Senate Democratic leadership in 2009 and 2010. That extra time allowed public opinion to work its way against the bill, allowed the bill itself to be weakened and watered down and created unforeseen circumstances like the passing of Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and the unlikely special election of Scott Brown (R-Mass.) to fill his seat which significantly weakened the leverage of the Democratic majority. All resulting in a slow roll-out of the bill and ultimately igniting Republicans ability to recapturing control of Congress.

Let’s be clear. The “Profiles in Courage” being written up for Sen. Flake are a bit overdone. Especially because despite his outspokenness against President Trump, the now-senior senator from Arizona votes with the president more than 83 percent of the time according to FiveThirtyEight.com. And he still likely intends to support the Kavanaugh nomination after the one-week delay he negotiated for a FBI investigation into the Kavanaugh accusations to be completed.

But regardless, a reliable conservative stepped in the way to at least slow down a conservative coronation of a second Trump Supreme Court nominee. And yes, we should all give a shout out to the brave protesters, Ana Maria Archila and Maria Gallagher, who inspired the Flake Flip. They exemplify why no American should underestimate their role or take a backseat in our democracy.

But I think we would also be mistaken to withhold another shout out for the United States Senate. In an era where our institutions are being challenged and questioned daily, the Senate proved durable and helped to validate its unique role in our democracy.

Joel Payne is a former deputy press secretary for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and former director of African-American advertising for the Hillary for America 2016 campaign. He is currently a vice president with MWWPR.

GOP Aide Involved In Kavanaugh Nomination Resigns Because Of Sexual Harassment

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HILL NEWS)

 

Aide for GOP involved in Kavanaugh nomination resigns after past sexual harassment allegation surfaces

Aide for GOP involved in Kavanaugh nomination resigns after past sexual harassment allegation surfaces
© Anna Moneymaker

A spokesman for the Senate Judiciary Committee who was involved in Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court has abruptly resigned after allegations surfaced that he was dismissed from a previous job following a claim of sexual misconduct.

Garrett Ventry had been working as a communications official for the committee and focusing on messaging for the GOP amid Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation of sexual assault against Kavanaugh.

“Garrett was one of several temporary staff brought on to assist in the committee’s consideration of the Supreme Court nomination, a team that has done outstanding work,” a Judiciary Committee spokesperson told The Hill on Saturday.

“While he strongly denies allegations of wrongdoing, he decided to resign to avoid causing any distraction from the work of the committee,” they added.

Ventry denied any “allegations of misconduct” in a statement to NBC News, which first reported his dismissal on Saturday.

Ventry had previously worked for the conservative firm CRC Public Relations. A company spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill that Ventry had been on a leave of absence.

“We were not aware of these allegations, which he denies. As of this morning we have accepted his resignation,” a company spokesman said.

Politico had reported this week that CRC assisted lawyer and activist Ed Whelan in promoting an unfounded theory about the sexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh, which Whelan later removed from Twitter.

NBC News reported Saturday that Republicans were concerned Ventry could no longer lead messaging surrounding the Kavanaugh allegation because of the allegation made in his past.

The allegation was reportedly made by a female employee of the North Carolina GOP General Assembly. Ventry worked as a social media adviser in North Carolina House Majority Leader John Bell’s office last year.

Bell fired Ventry after a few months. The North Carolina leader told NBC News that Ventry had worked in his office and “moved on,” but declined to discuss specifics surrounding the dismissal.

Ventry’s departure comes as the GOP-led Senate Judiciary Committee negotiates with Ford’s lawyers over her appearing before the panel next week.

Grassley has given Ford until 2:30 p.m. on Saturday to decided whether to testify about the allegations.

– Jordain Carney contributed reporting

This post was last updated at 11:41 a.m.

I Am A Conservative Christian And The Evangelical Leaders Do Not Speak For Me

 

I was already planning to write an article today about the so-called Christian Right and Republican Politics and I was just putting the pieces together in my mind on how to write it. Then just before I clicked over to this platform I checked in once more to the Google news site that I read every day and found the embers on which to start my fire.  The top Google News story a few moments ago was from a Writer from the New York Times named Mike Cohen. The story line was “Evangelical Leaders Are Frustrated At G.O.P. Caution On Kavanaugh Allegation.” There was a picture of a man named Ralph Reed whom the article calls “the Social Conservative Leader”, okay, lets stop right there for a moment. Personally I consider myself to be a social conservative Christian and I personally have never heard of Mr. Reed and after reading some of his opinions I am fully sure that he does not represent me at all. I have often wondered how people here in the U.S. who call themselves Christians can possibly throw their support behind either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. I realize that many do lean toward one Party or the other simply because our system only gives us two real choices here in the U.S. and both are obviously saturated in evil. I still believe that we voters must dump both of these evils and give the voters several more choices. For us Christians to condone the evil that is both Parties is to greatly diminish the love and the teachings of Christ whom we say we are followers of. Back in November of 2016 we all witnessed pure evil at the top of both of the Republican and the Democratic Tickets, we the people had a no win situation, many people were simply voting for what they felt was the least of the two evils. If we Christians condone that which is evil then we are and we will be counted among the evil, we must separate ourselves from them.

 

According to Mr. Reed “the Senate Republicans and the White House are not (PROTECTING) Judge Kavanaugh forcefully enough from a sexual assault allegation.” Mr. Reed goes on to say “if Republicans were to fail to defend and confirm such a (obvious and eminently qualified and decent nominee) that it will be difficult to energize the (faith-based) conservatives in November.” I have a few questions about having Mr. Kavanaugh sitting on the Supreme Court of our Country other than “just” this sexual assault case from when he was 17 years old though, but I will start my thoughts to you with this assault allegation. It appears that the events of that night became quite well-known in the school that the girl attended so it is not some just now made up story. There is a letter that has popped up now about 65 girls that Mr. Kavanaugh went to school with that are saying that he was a great guy who showed no signs of this type of behavior. My question on this is that MR. Kavanaugh went to an all boys prep school and the girl who said she was attacked by him went to an all girls prep high school. So, none of these 65 girls went to school with him, it would be a bit odd that they could have known him so well unless he was quite the ‘party animal.’

 

When Mr. Kavanaugh got his first job on the Bench his boss had a very bad reputation for sexual misconduct and in fact he resigned from the Bench because of all of the allegations against him. Mr. Kavanaugh said this past week that he was unaware of his Bosses reputation even though it was well know where he worked at. So, even now, is Mr. Cavanaugh just oblivious to the reality going on around him, is he just ignorant, or is he a liar? The New York Times also reports about how Court Clerk’s (the women) who wanted to get a job under Mr. Kavanaugh needed to have that certain “Model” look as he wanted all his female Clerks to be very good-looking. So, talent and knowledge didn’t seem to mean as much with him as a tight butt and a short skirt does seem to.

 

Now, another very important issue that is being swept under the table by the Republicans in the Senate concerning Mr. Kavanaugh is his finances and his financial records. Bank records show that he has never had more than $60,000 in the bank at any time of his adult life yet he came up with a 20% down payment on a house note of 1.25 million dollars and $107,000 entrance fee for a local Country Club. His finances do not match up with his expenses and his tax records do not match up with where he got the money for his life style. When a person is being considered for a position on the Supreme Court it is normal for the FBI to do a thorough investigation into the person, this has not been done with Mr. Kavanaugh and the Republicans who control the Senate and Mr. Trump do not want to wait long enough for the FBI to run an investigation before they want to vote him onto the Court, why? There are other hypocrisies in Mr. Kavanaugh’s writings like his opinions on the impeachment of President Bill Clinton because of his low character and how he is now willing to over look President Trumps Plethora of examples of no morals.

 

Here is what I am getting at concerning Judge Kavanaugh and concerning the so-called Christian right. First, sexual assault is something that must be taken seriously and should be investigated by the FBI being that this man is seeking a job in which he will sit in judgement of you, me, our children and grandchildren. For a so-called religious leader to act like even the possibility of such an event is something that doesn’t matter, I beg to differ with you on calling such a person a ‘Religious Leader.’ The White House and the Senate are totally treating the Supreme Court as a Political Toy when it is supposed to be totally independent of Politics all together. Procedures need to be followed, including a full FBI investigation into Judge Kavanaugh morals and sexual assault does fall into this category. Also, the FBI needs to do a full investigation into the financial back ground of Judge Kavanaugh to find out who it is that has been funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to him and why it is that there is no record of this money on his tax reports. We the people need honesty from our government, it is obvious that there is little to no honesty in either the Congress or in the White House so it is very important for we the people to at least have some honest people sitting on the Court Benches and for them to be more than just political monkeys.

The Many Mysteries of Brett Kavanaugh’s Finances

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘MOTHER JONES’)

 

The Many Mysteries of Brett Kavanaugh’s Finances

Who made the down payment on his house? How did he come up with $92,000 in country club fees?

President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, listens to a question during the third round of questioning on the third day of his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing.Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo

Before President Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, he had a lot of debt. In May 2017, he reported owing between $60,004 and $200,000 on three credit cards and a loan against his retirement account. By the time Trump nominated him to the high court in July 2018, those debts had vanished. Overall, his reported income and assets didn’t seem sufficient to pay off all that debt while maintaining his upper-class lifestyle: an expensive house in an exclusive suburban neighborhood, two kids in a $10,500-a-year private school, and a membership in a posh country club reported to charge $92,000 in initiation fees. His financial disclosure forms have raised more questions than they’ve answered, leading to speculation about whether he’s had a private benefactor and what sorts of conflicts that relationship might entail.

No other recent Supreme Court nominee has come before the Senate with so many unanswered questions regarding finances. That’s partly because many of Kavanaugh’s predecessors were a lot richer than he is. Chief Justice John Roberts, for instance, had been making $1 million a year in private practice before joining the DC Circuit as a judge. The poorer nominees had debts, but explainable ones, such as the $15,000 Sonia Sotomayor owed to her dentist. Neil Gorsuch came the closest to financial scandal when he disclosed that he owned a mountain fishing lodge in Colorado with two men who are top deputies to the billionaire Philip F. Anschutz, who had championed Gorsuch’s nomination.

Kavanaugh’s finances are far more mysterious. During his confirmation hearing last week, he escaped a public discussion of his spending habits because no senator asked about it. But on Tuesday, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent Kavanaugh 14 pages of post-hearing follow-up questions, many of which involved his finances. On Thursday, Kavanaugh supplied answers, but he dodged some of the questions and left much of his financial situation unexplained.

A number of the questions Whitehouse sent Kavanaugh dealt with the house he bought in tony Chevy Chase, Maryland, in 2006 for $1.225 million. Kavanaugh would have needed $245,000 in cash for the traditional 20 percent down payment on the house. But in 2005, when his nomination to the DC Circuit was pending, Kavanaugh reported a total net worth to the Senate of about $91,000, which reflected a mere $10,000 in the bank and $25,000 in credit card debt. According to his financial disclosure forms before and after the purchase of his house in 2006, Kavanaugh’s liquid assets and bank balances never totaled more than $65,000, and those balances didn’t decline after the purchase of the house.

Whitehouse wanted to know why. He wrote, “The value of assets reportedly maintained in your ‘Bank of America Accounts’ in the years before, during, and after this purchase never decreased, indicating that funds used to pay the down payment and secure this home did not come from these accounts. Did you receive financial assistance in order to purchase this home?”

In his responses, Kavanaugh didn’t answer the question directly. He indicated that he took out a loan against his retirement fund to help make the down payment. But the year before he bought the house, he indicated on his financial disclosure form that the total value of that account was only $70,000. Loans through the Thrift Savings Program, the federal government retirement plan against which Kavanaugh borrowed money, are capped at the value of the account or 50 percent of the vested balance. For Kavanaugh, that wouldn’t have been nearly enough to cover the down payment on his house, even if he’d put down only 10 percent. (He also noted that he paid back the loan with paycheck deductions.)

Other questions from Whitehouse addressed Kavanaugh’s unusual debt history. Not long after Trump nominated him, the Washington Postreported that since joining the DC Circuit Court of Appeals as a judge in 2006, Kavanaugh had run up a significant amount of debt that often appeared to exceed the value of his cash and investment assets. His debts on three credit cards, as well as a loan against his retirement account, totaled between $60,000 and $200,000 in 2016, according to his financial disclosure forms. The next year, his debts vanished. When he appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week for his confirmation hearing, his financial disclosure form listed no liabilities aside from his $815,000 mortgage. His disclosures don’t show any large financial gifts, outside income, or even a gambling windfall, as Sotomayor’s had when she hit the jackpot at a Florida casino in 2008 and won $8,283.

The White House didn’t fully address how Kavanaugh managed to incur all that debt and pay it off in a matter of months on his federal judge’s salary of $220,600 a year. (His wife left the workforce in 2010 and returned in 2015, when she took a part-time, $66,000-a-year job as the town manager in their village of 225 homes.) A spokesman told the Post in July that Kavanaugh had used his credit cards to purchase Washington Nationals season tickets and playoff game tickets for himself and friends, who later paid him back. The White House also said some of the debt came from home improvements.

Sen. Whitehouse was looking for a better answer as to how a man who has spent most of his professional life working in public service managed to pay off so much debt so quickly without draining his other savings accounts. (Kavanaugh worked in private practice for only about three years, in between stints at the office of the independent counsel during the Clinton administration.) In his written questions to Kavanaugh, Whitehouse asked how many seasons’ worth of Nationals tickets he’d purchased, which friends he’d bought them for, what sort of home improvements he’d made, and where the debt repayment money came from.

Kavanaugh elaborated on some of those answers in his response to Whitehouse this week. Of the large credit-card debts, he explained:

I am a huge sports fan. When the Nationals came to D.C. in 2005, I purchased four season tickets in my name every season from 2005 through 2017. I also purchased playoff packages for the four years that the Nationals made the playoffs (2012, 2014, 2016 and 2017.) I have attended all 11 Nationals’ home playoff games in their history. (We are 3-8 in those games.) I have attended a couple of hundred regular season games. As is typical with baseball season tickets, I had a group of old friends who would split games with me. We would usually divide the tickets in a “ticket draft” at my house. Everyone in the group paid me for their tickets based on the cost of the tickets, to the dollar. No one overpaid or underpaid me for tickets. No loans were given in either direction.

He also told Whitehouse that the $1.225 million house he’d bought in 2006 was basically a fixer-upper. He included a long list of repairs he’d made on it—everything from replacing the HVAC system to mold removal—that accounted for the bulk of the rest of his debt. “Maintaining a house, especially an old house like ours, can be expensive,” he wrote.

Whitehouse also asked about Kavanaugh’s membership in the Chevy Chase Club, which he joined in 2016. In his responses to a Senate questionnaire before his confirmation hearing, Kavanaugh made the club sound like a basic rec center, writing, “The Chevy Chase Club is a recreational club. We joined because the club has an outdoor hockey rink and a girls ice hockey program, and because of its gym and sports facilities.”

But the Chevy Chase Club is a lot more than a gym. Whitehouse noted in his questions that the club’s initiation fee is reportedly $92,000, plus more than $9,000 in annual dues. The private country club founded in 1892 is so elite that a neighborhood realtor once told the Guardian that “you can be a CEO, a billionaire, but you can’t get in.” Its website offers no insight as to how someone might go about joining—it’s by invitation only. But the website does outline the dress code: no jeans, no collarless shirts, and hats must be worn “visor forward.” Any guest hoping to play tennis with a member must appear on the court dressed only in white.  

As recently as 1976, the club refused to admit Jewish and African American members. In 2011, a reporter from the Telegraph wrote of the club, “Order a cocktail at the Chevy Chase country-club and you’ll step back into ante-bellum Savannah. The blacks wait on Wasps, showing all the deference expected of them. You won’t find many Cohens either, lounging on the well-kept lawn.”

Whitehouse wanted to know how someone with less than $65,000 in the bank came up with the initiation fee to join the club. Did someone help him? And if so, who? Kavanaugh wrote in his response that he paid the full price to join the club, as well as the annual dues, with no discounts. Befitting a club member, he declined to say exactly how much that initiation fee was.

As part of the document dump leading up to Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, a lawyer for the Bush administration released an email from Kavanaugh’s time working in the White House. It appeared to be part of a conversation with some school buddies discussing a weekend reunion in Annapolis. Kavanaugh wrote, “Apologies to all for missing Friday (good excuse), arriving late Saturday (weak excuse), and growing aggressive after blowing still another game of dice (don’t recall). Reminders to everyone to be very, very vigilant w/r/t confidentiality on all issues and all fronts, including with spouses.”

The email prompted Whitehouse to ask Kavanaugh whether some of his debts might relate to a gambling addiction. He asked whether Kavanaugh participates in a regular poker or dice game, and even whether he ever ran up any gambling debts in the state of New Jersey, former home to casinos owned by Trump. “Have you ever sought treatment for a gambling addiction?” he also asked.

Aside from a few low-stakes blackjack hands played in his twenties, Kavanaugh responded that he’s not a gambler and never has been.

His answers leave many questions as to where the nominee found the cash to buy his house and to pay off his debts last year. He acknowledged that in 2014, he received a lump-sum payment—which Whitehouse estimated at $150,000—as part of a settlement in a class action filed by federal judges seeking back pay for cost-of-living increases denied by Congress. The payment wasn’t included on his financial disclosure form because, he wrote, the instructions exempt reporting pay from the federal government. Kavanaugh also indicated that his income had increased from teaching gigs at Harvard, his wife’s return to the workforce after many years at home, and a pay raise.

But reading between the lines of his answers to Whitehouse, it’s clear that Kavanaugh has gotten a substantial amount of financial help from his parents, in-laws, or other family members. (Kavanaugh had a privileged, private-school upbringing as the son of a Washington lobbyist for the cosmetics industry and a state prosecutor.) “We have not received financial gifts other than from our family which are excluded from disclosure in judicial financial disclosure reports,” he wrote.

Kavanaugh wouldn’t be the first Supreme Court nominee or justice to receive a windfall from his parents.  Both Justice Samuel Alito and Justice Elena Kagan inherited money from parents who had died, but unlike Kavanaugh, they disclosed the estate transfer on their federal forms. The White House has worked hard to frame Kavanaugh as a mainstream fellow who, just like ordinary American dads, loves sports and drives the carpool. Publicly disclosing the extent to which his parents or in-laws may be subsidizing his high-end lifestyle could probably undermine that portrayal.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination on September 20.

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Sen. Booker Releases Judge Kavanaugh Doc’s Republicans Trying To Hide From Public

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HUFFINGTON POST)

 

Cory Booker Releases Confidential Documents During Kavanaugh Hearing

Hawaii’s Sen. Mazie Hirono followed Booker’s threat to publish formerly confidential documents with her own release during the third day of hearings.
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Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) released formerly confidential emails from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh about racial profiling and racial discrimination at the start of the third day of confirmation hearings on Thursday, around an hour after threatening to do so.

The dramatic move appeared to defy Republicans who had shielded the documents from public view, and it seemed to risk breaking Senate rules. Senate Judiciary Committee staffers for Republican and Democratic officials told The Washington Post, however, that the committee cleared the documents for public viewing before either senator posted them to their websites. A spokesman for Bill Burck, the Republican lawyer overseeing the approvals, also told the publication that the emails Booker released were cleared last night.

The precise timing is not yet clear.

A spokesman for Booker said in a statement that the senator and unnamed Democratic colleagues “were able to shame the committee” into releasing the documents. Yet a spokeswoman for Hirono told HuffPost the senator did not ask the committee to release the emails that she made public around 10:30 a.m. before she published them online. Hirono did not know they would be cleared for public release, the spokeswoman said.

Booker was the first to threaten to make the documents public, saying he would “knowingly violate” the rules and accept any punishment for his action, which he considered to be civil disobedience. Booker said the emails, taken from Kavanaugh’s time in the Bush White House, do not pose a threat to national security.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) asks Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh a question during a confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

THE WASHINGTON POST VIA GETTY IMAGES
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) asks Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh a question during a confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said the emails Booker referenced had, in fact, just been deemed non-confidential, saying “the process worked.” Lee offered to work with Democrats in the committee to make other confidential documents public, too.

When Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) reminded Booker that he could lose his seat for breaking Senate rules, prior to the documents’ release, Booker responded: “Bring it.”

At the hearing, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) argued that all the committee confidential documents should be publicly released, saying, “We are literally trying to get at the truth here.”

Booker’s documents, released Thursday afternoon, reveal that while Kavanaugh “generally” supports “race-neutral” security measures, the nominee also believed there was an “interim” question on whether to use racial profiling before neutral security measures are deployed. The emails between White House staffers were sent from mid-2001 and early 2002.

Messages released by Hirono reference unspecified government programs. Kavanaugh said in June 2002 that any such programs “targeting” native Hawaiians “as a group” are “subject to strict scrutiny” and “of questionable validity under the Constitution.” Hirono said in the hearing that her “colleagues from Alaska should be deeply troubled” by the nominee’s views because they would also apply to native Alaskans. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski from Alaska is seen as a possible swing vote in the confirmation process.

Booker’s colleagues Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Hirono also rallied around him, pledging their support in the event Booker faced “retribution,” as Durbin put it. Hirono said she would “defy anyone.”

“You want everything to be made public? All your emails? I don’t think you do,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) responded at the hearing.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) jumped in to argue that the process of categorizing documents as committee confidential was far from transparent and perhaps unfair.

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“There is no process for ‘committee confidential,’” she said, adding that Democrats were not consulted in the decision to make certain documents private.

The release was in line with what progressive groups urged Democratic senators to do Wednesday: Go around Grassley and release the 141,000 pages of documents from Kavanaugh’s record that are not permitted for public release or public discussion. Members of the committee can read and discuss the documents among themselves, but they cannot question Kavanaugh on their contents in the hearings.

Read the documents that Booker released below. Hirono also uploaded documents, which are now on her website.

Supreme Court lets California gun control laws stand

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Supreme Court lets California gun control laws stand

Washington (CNN)The Supreme Court declined Tuesday to take up two gun-related cases out of California, maintaining its reluctance to dive back into the debate concerning the scope of the 2nd Amendment.

In an unsigned order, the court let stand a ruling upholding California’s law mandating a 10-day waiting period and another imposing fees on firearm transactions to fund background checks.
The court’s order comes at a sensitive time as the country is reeling from the latest school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
The denials also signal the court remains unwilling to take another look at several lower court rulings 10 years after its landmark opinion that found for the first time that the 2nd Amendment protects an individual has a right to own a firearm in the house, drawing a scathing dissent from conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, who accused the court of sidestepping the issue.
The California law requiring a 10-day waiting period was challenged by a firearm owner and the gun-rights group Second Amendment Foundation, who argued it was unfair for people who already owned firearms to have to wait the same amount of time as first-time purchasers who were undergoing background checks during that time.
While a lower court sided against the firearm owners, the 9th US Circuit of Appeals upheld the state law, and Tuesday’s Supreme Court action means it will remain in effect.
The second case involves gun owners and the National Rifle Association challenging a California law that imposes fees on all firearms transactions in order to pay for background checks. When there is a surplus of funds, the money is diverted to fund law enforcement programs dedicated to tracking down individuals who unlawfully possess firearms.
Lawyers for the challengers argued in court papers, “while constitutionally protected conduct may be subject to generally applicable taxes and fees, it may not be singled out for special monetary extractions designed to profit from, or worse still, discourage the exercise of the constitutional right.”
The 9th Circuit upheld the fees, and the Supreme Court allows them to remain in place.

Will court address Heller?

The NRA conservatives have been urging justices in recent years to expand upon the 2008 decision in Heller v. United States and a second ruling two years later.
Thomas issued a lengthy dissent in the 10-day waiting period case to criticize some lower courts for treating 2nd Amendment rights “cavalierly.”
“The right to keep and bear arms is apparently this court’s constitutional orphan,” Thomas wrote. “And the lower courts seem to have gotten the message.”
It’s been “nearly eight years” since the court issued an opinion declaring that the Second Amendment is not a “second class right,” Thomas wrote, saying that by refusing to take up the issue the justices “undermine that declaration.”
As a result, he said, lower courts are “failing to protect the Second Amendment to the same extent that they protect other constitutional rights.”
Moreover, Thomas said he suspected that four members of the court would vote to review a 10 day waiting period for abortions, or a 10-day waiting period on the publication of racist speech, or a 10 minute delay of a traffic stop because “abortion, speech and the Fourth Amendment are three of its favored rights.”
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