Separation of Powers and Federalism

  • September 19, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Dan Froomkin

    One of the most important duties of the Senate has become arguably the most hopeless exercise on Capitol Hill.

    Confirmation hearings for top judicial posts – the primary mechanism by which the Senate exercises its constitutional responsibility to "advise and consent" on the appointment of judges – have become laugh-or-cry charades in which nominees endlessly repeat boilerplate explanations for why they can't answer even the most basic questions about their judicial philosophies.

    And the Senators serve as nothing more than props.

  • September 5, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar and founding director of the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Penn State Law - University Park and Lorella Praeli, Director of Immigration Policy and Campaigns and former Dreamer, American Civil Liberties Union

    *This piece draws from an ACS briefing call on DACA from August 24, 2017

    During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump promised to deport Dreamers, a reference to people who came to the United States as children.

    The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), announced by the Obama Administration in June 2012, allows qualifying young people who were brought to the United States as children to request that any removal action against them be deferred in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and 10 other state attorneys general have written to Attorney General Jeff Sessions indicating their intent to challenge DACA in court unless the administration agrees to rescind the program by September 5, 2017. Against this backdrop, the Trump administration announced the decision to terminate DACA.

  • August 25, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Daniel T. Kobil, Professor, Capital University Law School

    If Donald Trump issues a pardon to Joseph Arpaio he will likely be acting within his enumerated powers as president, but doing so in a manner that could undermine our legal system and the Constitution. 

    Arpaio is the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., who was found guilty in July of criminal contempt for defying a federal court’s order barring the illegal profiling of immigrants and Latinos by his officers. Though he faces potential imprisonment of up to six months, he has not yet been sentenced, nor applied for clemency through the Justice Department process in effect since the Reagan administration that requires applicants to wait five years after completing their sentence and undergo a thorough investigation before they can be pardoned. Nevertheless, Trump has signaled that he plans to pardon Arpaio preemptively because he approves of Arpaio’s harsh treatment of immigrants. 

  • April 10, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This piece is part of the ACSblog symposium: "The Future of the U.S. Constitution

    by William Marshall, ACS Board Member and Kenan Professor of Law, University of North Carolina School of Law

    The subject of this essay may seem nostalgic to some; the constitutional implications of the congressional obstruction that plagued the Obama Administration during six of its eight years in office. After all, we are now living in a period of an ostensible united government under a Trump presidency and a Republican Congress, a phenomenon that, as other writers in the Symposium point out, raises its own set of constitutional concerns.

    Nevertheless, the problem of Congressional obstruction is one that is likely to return to the constitutional landscape. The country’s equally divided electorate, combined with the nation’s intense polarization means that we can fully expect future episodes of divided government and more prolonged periods when the Congress, no matter which party controls it, will be intent upon using whatever tactics may be available to frustrate the agenda of an opposing party’s presidency.   

    President Obama’s response to congressional obstruction was to adopt a “we can’t wait” strategy under which he strived to pursue as much of his agenda as he could unilaterally, without waiting for Congress to assent. That approach, however, generated serious criticism on the grounds that it exacerbated an already dangerous trend of centering too much power in the presidency. Congress, after all, provides the primary bulwark against presidential overreaching; and the argument that the presidency should assume more power because Congress is using its prerogatives to check executive authority seems exactly backward. If Congress is to serve its checking function, it would seem that, at the least, it should have the authority not to accede to executive branch direction. At least at one level, then, Congress has, and should have, the power to do nothing.

  • March 17, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Christopher Kang, ACS Board Member and National Director of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans

    In November 2004, Neil Gorsuch oversaw legal teams in Eastern and Central Ohio for the Bush-Cheney campaign. In an email to President George W. Bush’s Political Director Matt Schlapp, he cheered, “What a magnificent result for the country. For me personally, the experience was invigorating and a great deal of fun.” (The experience for up to 15,000 people unable to vote in Columbus, Ohio because lines stretched for hours was probably less invigorating or fun.)

    Gorsuch continued, “While I’ve spent considerable time trying to help the cause on a volunteer basis in various roles, I concluded that I’d really like to be a full-time member of the team.” 

    His resume describes the various roles in which he was politically active to “help the cause,” with greater specificity than his Senate Judiciary Questionnaire—Co-Director of Virginia Lawyers for Bush-Cheney; Bush-Cheney Marshal; RNC Bronco; and Co-Chairman of the Republican National Lawyers Association Judicial Nominations Task Force—for which the Senate Republican Conference cited his Distinguished Service to the United States Senate for his work in support of President Bush’s judicial nominees.

    As Gorsuch began his effort to “be a full-time member of the team,” the way he started and then advanced his public service career raises troubling concerns regarding his nomination to the Supreme Court.