ACSBlog

  • February 6, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This piece originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

    by Lara Schwartz, Former ACS Director of Strategic Engagement and Professorial Lecturer, SPA Honors Program Director and Adjunct Professor, Washington College of Law at American University

    After Judge James Robart of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington issued an order halting enforcement of President Trump’s executive order on immigration, Trump took to Twitter, stating “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” Opponents rightly sounded the alarm about this extraordinary disrespect for the judicial function and our Constitution. Sen. Chuck Schumer tweeted that it “shows a disdain for an ind. Judiciary that does not bend to his wishes & lack of respect for the Constitution.”

    This is not simply one more example of Trump’s thin-skinned attitude or his intolerance for dissent. It casts doubt on his capacity to fulfill his constitutional duty to nominate fair-minded, independent judges. Everything we know about Trump should lead us to believe he wants to nominate judges who will put loyalty to him above faithfulness to the law. This means any potential justice whom Trump would consider a satisfactory choice to fill the late Justice Scalia’s seat would be presumptively unfit.

    Trump introduced his nominee, 10th Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch, to America just days after the executive order that “so-called” federal judges have halted. It is now incumbent upon Gorsuch to demonstrate that in spite of having earned Trump’s approval, he is an independent thinker who can keep his oath to uphold our Constitution and not, in the words of Molly Ivins, to “dance with them what brung” him.

  • February 3, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This post updates the Aug. 6, 2015 piece, State Constitutions: The Next Frontier in Voting Rights Protection.

    by Joshua A. Douglas, the Robert G. Lawson & William H. Fortune Associate Professor of Law, University of Kentucky College of Law

    On the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, in August 2015, I wrote that "A renewed, independent focus on state constitutions and their explicit grant of the right to vote would restore the importance of the most foundational right in our democracy." In the Trump era -- with false claims of widespread voter fraud and likely calls for new restrictive voting rules -- that reliance on robust state constitutional protection is more vital than ever.

    Reformers who care about protecting the right to vote face an uphill battle in the current political environment. The Trump White House, the Republican-led Congress, and even many conservative-controlled state legislatures are unlikely to enact meaningful voting rights reform in the near future. The Supreme Court, especially with a new conservative justice, is unlikely to alter its crabbed interpretation of U.S. constitutional protection of the right to vote. State courts are therefore even more important in vindicating the most fundamental right in our democracy by checking partisan abuses and attempts at entrenchment. They must recognize the robust right to vote that all state constitutions confer and construe them as providing stronger protection than the Constitution.

  • February 3, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Carolyn Shapiro, Associate Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Institute on the Supreme Court of the United States, IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law

    Now that President Trump has nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit to the Supreme Court, we will be hearing a lot about the proper role of a Supreme Court justice. In introducing Judge Gorsuch, for example, Trump said that he had sought a nominee who would “interpret [the Constitution and laws] as written.” Praising Trump’s choice, Sean Hannity noted that Trump was fulfilling his promise to appoint someone who would “strictly adhere to the original meaning of the words of the Constitution” and claimed that Gorsuch is not someone who will “legislate from the bench.” Other conservatives have hailed him as a “textualist” and one who “espouses judicial restraint.”

    All of these statements are wrong. They are wrong not necessarily because they misdescribe Gorsuch’s jurisprudence, but because they misdescribe the job. The job of the judge – and especially the job of a Supreme Court justice – is much more complex and nuanced than catchphrases like “applying the law as written” suggest.

    The statements are also code. They are code for a particular type of judge – and make no mistake, it is a judge who conservatives believe will produce results that, by and large, they like. This is not to say that a judge has to do something illegitimate to reach those results. Rather, it is to say that such a judge is – like all judges addressing hard and indeterminate questions of law – making judgments, considering facts, weighing competing principles and taking account of precedent, history, and societal norms and expectations.

  • February 2, 2017
    Guest Post

    *Disclosure: The author is the Legal Director for Free Speech For People.  On Jan. 20, 2017, Free Speech for People jointly launched with RootsAction the national impeachment campaign at ImpeachDonaldTrumpNow.org.

    by Ron Fein, Legal Director, Free Speech for People

    Recently, President Trump’s ongoing violation of the Foreign Emoluments Clause has received significant attention. There is no need to repeat here the case-in-chief that President Trump is in violation of the Foreign Emoluments Clause. That argument has been made in careful detail in a December 2016 Brookings Institution white paper by Norman Eisen, Richard Painter and Laurence Tribe, amplified by a January 2017 essay by Joshua Matz and Laurence Tribe posted on the ACS web site, as well as in the federal court litigation by the nonprofit organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

    Let us take as given that President Trump has violated, and continues to violate, the Foreign Emoluments Clause. (We can reserve for another time the Domestic Emoluments Clause, as well as any potential violations arising from the executive order on immigration and possible defiance of federal court orders.) The present question is: is this an impeachable offense? The answer is clearly yes.  

  • February 2, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This piece originally appeared on the Microsoft Blog.

    by Brad Smith, President and Chief Legal Officer, Microsoft

    Proposal calls for case-by-case exception process for law-abiding visa holders with pressing needs

    In last Friday’s executive order, the president expressly gave to the secretaries of state and Homeland Security the authority to grant exceptions on a case-by-case basis, consistent with the national interest, to issue visas and other immigration benefits. Today Microsoft is filing a formal request asking these cabinet officers to create a process to grant exceptions that will permit “Responsible Known Travelers with Pressing Needs” to re-enter the country while protecting the nation’s security. The important details for this proposal are included in our formal request and are outlined below.

    At the outset, we recognize that this proposal will not and should not end the broader debate and deliberations regarding last week’s executive order. Our company is one among many that has expressed its views, and we will continue to participate energetically and constructively in the public discussions that help define our democratic processes.

    But even amidst these debates, there is an opportunity under the executive order to address the pressing needs of real people. There currently are law-abiding visa holders who are parents that were outside the United States last Friday and therefore cannot re-enter the country. These parents are stranded and separated from their children. Other individuals are confronting genuine family emergencies such as the need to visit a critically ill parent.