House Judiciary Committee

  • May 8, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    His colleagues did not want to hear it, but the House Judiciary Committee’s Ranking Member Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) blasted the Republican’s reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act as wholly inadequate and a “flat-out attack on women,” as The Huffington Post’s Laura Bassett reports.

    Bassett writes that Conyers’ comment sparked “audible sighs and one ‘Come on!’" from Republicans on the panel. Conyers, however, was reacting to the House version, which strays remarkably from the one the Senate passed in late April. The Senate’s reauthorization bill approved despite Republican opposition includes extensions of services to low-income victims of domestic violence, to undocumented immigrants, as well as more help for Native American women and lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender victims of domestic abuse. The House version, H.R. 4970, does not include those extensions of services.

    In statement from House Judiciary Committee Democrats, the measure is described as rolling back “important protections for immigrant victims – putting them in a worse position than under the current law, and excludes other vulnerable populations such as tribal women, college students experiencing abuse …. In short, this legislation seeks to fight domestic violence, but only if the sponsors agree with the race, immigration status, sexual orientation, or gender identity of the victims.”

    Those extensions spurred Republican opposition in the Senate, causing the reauthorization to languish for months. VAWA was passed in 1994 with strong bipartisan support and reauthorized twice since then. But this time around, conservative lawmakers have chaffed at extending services to more people. The obstructionism caught the attention of The New York Times, which said in a February editorial that the opposition was “drive largely by an antigay, anti-immigrant agenda.”

    During the Senate’s struggle to pass VAWA, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told The Times that the opposition was part of an overarching effort “to cut back on the rights and services to women.”

  • December 13, 2011

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Renowned constitutional scholar Laurence H. Tribe is weighing in on the House’s consideration of the so-called Stop Online Piracy Act.

    CNET’s Declan McCullagh reports that Tribe, the Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard Law School, has detailed why SOPA is unconstitutional. McCullagh also notes that the measure, which the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider on Dec. 15, is garnering opposition from companies, such as Facebook, Twitter, Mozilla, eBay, and Google. The Motion Picture Association, Bloomberg reports, “is mounting its own counterattack in support of the legislation, through White House visits and a national advertising campaign.”

    The bill, in part, would allow the Department of Justice to seek court orders requiring Internet-service providers, search engines, among other entities, to block or stop doing business with non-U.S. websites allegedly linked to piracy.

    In a 23-page legislative memorandum, Tribe explains the numerous reasons why the measure rests on wobbly constitutional ground.

  • June 23, 2011

    Rep. Chris Murphy has urged leaders of the House Judiciary Committee to conduct a hearing consider a measure that “would end the Supreme Court’s immunity to judicial ethics laws,” Think Progress’s Ian Millhiser reports.

    Murphy’s letter follows a recent report in The New York Times about Justice Clarence Thomas’s connections to Harlan Crow, “a major contributor to conservative causes,” including allegedly providing $500,000 to Thomas’s wife, Virginia, to launch a Tea Party group that worked to scuttle the landmark health care reform law. Thomas, The Times reported, has received other gifts from Crow, who has also donated $175,000 to a museum being constructed in the justice’s birthplace of Pin Point, Ga., which undoubtedly celebrate Thomas.

    Common Cause, last year called on the Justice Department to look into other political connections of Thomas, as well as Justice Antonin Scalia.

    In a press statement following The Times story, Common Cause President Bob Edgar asked, “Has Justice Thomas been traveling on a developer’s private jet and yacht, on the developer’s dime, while reporting that his expenses were borne by someone else? Do Supreme Court justices get a pass on the ethical standards that every other judge must meet?”

    In his letter, obtained by Think Progress, to the House Judiciary Committee leadership, Rep. Murphy states:

    Recent revelations about Justice Thomas accepting tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of gifts from individuals and organizations who often have an interest in matters before the courts calls into question the Court’s impartiality. Canon 4D of the Code of Conduct incorporates regulations providing that ‘[a] judicial officer or employee shall not accept a gift from anyone who is seeking official action from or doing business with the court.’ Yet Justice Thomas received a gift valued at $15,000 from an organization that had a brief pending before his Court at the very moment they gave him the gift. Incidents such as these undermine the integrity of the entire judiciary, and they should not be allowed to continue.

    At the moment the high court justices are not bound by the code of conduct for federal judges, though they claim to adhere to it.

    In an editorial dubbed “Cloud Over the Court,” The Times said it appears that Thomas doesn’t “believe that he needs to adhere to those rules.”

    The editorial concluded:

    This case is the latest evidence that the Supreme Court’s voluntary compliance with the judges’ conduct code isn’t enough to protect impartiality and credibility. Justice Thomas seems utterly unconcerned with those rules. In January, he acknowledged that, over the last six years, he had failed to disclose his wife’s employment with conservative organizations, in violation of the 1978 Ethics in Government Act. The Supreme Court must adopt the rigorous code of conduct that applies to all other parts of the federal judiciary.

    Millhiser has more on the high court judicial ethics here.