*One of the most consequential decisions that presidents make are lifetime federal judicial appointments at every level: circuit, appellate and the U.S. Supreme Court. The independent federal judiciary is charged with ensuring that the nation’s courts are fair to all people. Even the phrase “equal justice under law” is carved in the stone façade of the Supreme Court building.
A recent American Bar Association blog states, “For the nation to continue to have trust in the integrity and independence of the federal judiciary, the process that places judges on the bench must be viewed as fair, unhurried and unbiased.”
But for Black America and other communities of color, throughout our history and continuing even today, ‘justice’ is often far from fair, nor is it unbiased. In recent years, the Supreme Court has declared that corporations should be treated like people, and that voting rights no longer need to be protected. In November, the high court is scheduled to revisit the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Other issues that may reach the Supreme Court could include whether federal agencies can preempt state laws protecting consumers from bad actors in the student loan servicer arena, and in payday, auto-title, and high-cost installment loans. Even the nation’s half-century old Fair Housing Act could be revisited due to the Trump Administration’s roll-back of an Obama-era fair housing rule known as disparate impact. If allowed to stand, the burden of proving discrimination will be shifted to consumers instead of powerful corporations and others alleged to have violated the law.
“Over the next several years, the Supreme Court will make important and lasting decisions that affect every facet of our lives, including income inequality, the racial wealth gap, access to health care – including reproductive rights – and many other issues,” states a new CRL policy brief.
For these reasons and others, the passing of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg created a significant moment for the future of the court. As the second woman to ever serve as a Supreme Court Justice, the fondly-recalled ‘Notorious RBG’ broke gender barriers throughout her legal career, forging freedom and access for many who were historically marginalized.
And the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill that vacancy has triggered a chorus of civil rights organizations expressing their adamant opposition. As a former clerk to Justice Scalia, 1998-1999, Judge Coney Barrett has frequently lauded him as her mentor, and praised his judicial philosophy both as a law school professor and as a judge.
At the September 26 White House Rose Garden announcement of her nomination, Judge Coney Barrett said, “I clerked for Justice Scalia more than 20 years ago, but the lessons I learned still resonate. His judicial philosophy is mine too: A judge must apply the law as written. Judges are not policymakers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold.”
Despite high praise by conservatives and the Senate Majority’s commitment to ram through her nomination, civil rights organizations and other advocates have expressed strong opposition to Judge Coney Barrett.
“We stand opposed to her confirmation to the Court,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Her confirmation would dramatically alter the Supreme Court in ways that would prove devastating for Black communities and other people of color across the country.”
Similarly, the head of the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights organization recently advised the Senate Judiciary Committee of the NAACP’s position on the nomination.
“Coming in the middle of a presidential election in which over seven million people have already voted, the Barrett nomination is as illegitimate as it is corrupt,” wrote Derrick Johnson, NAACP President and CEO to the Judiciary Committee. “On issue after issue, we have found her to be stunningly hostile to civil rights.”
“Early and absentee votes are already being cast for the November election –and nominating a candidate for a lifetime appointment to this nation’s highest court during this electoral period undermines the democratic process and is a disservice to the American public”, said Sherilynn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “Senators must also respect the clear will of the American people, and honor the precedent they set in 2016, by declining to consider any nominee until the winner of the presidential election is inaugurated.”
“The Senate majority needs to prioritize COVID-19 relief legislation for the rest of this year and not use the remaining time of this session to confirm judicial nominees, leaving millions of Americans vulnerable to financial hardship”, said Mike Calhoun, President of the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL).
With less than three weeks before election day, the Senate began the confirmation process on Monday, October 12 with its Judiciary Committee hearings, chaired by Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina. The committee is expected to vote on the nomination on October 22. As Senate Majority Leader, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell is planning a floor vote for the week of October 26.
The rapid review of Judge Coney Barrett is a stark contrast to the lengthy, Senate-engineered delay of President Obama’s 2016 election year Supreme Court nomination.
On February 13, 2016, Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed. Weeks later on March 16 that year, President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
But the U.S. Senate refused to hold committee hearings or a floor vote for almost a year, and thereby denied President Obama the right to fill the court vacancy.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell publicly boasted in a speech that August, “One of my proudest moments was when I looked Barack Obama in the eye and I said, ‘Mr. President, you will not fill the Supreme Court vacancy.’ ”
Nearly a year later, the lengthy high court’s vacancy enabled President Trump to nominate Neil Gorsuch on February 1, 2017.The Senate confirmed Gorsuch on Friday, April 7, 2017 and was sworn in the following Monday, April 10. In real time, that nomination process took just two months.
It is also noteworthy that as the nation is increasingly diverse, the federal bench remains dominated by White judges.
A recent Associated Press analysis of the Trump Administration’s judicial appointments found that White men were nearly 86% of the 206 lifetime appointments made. Similarly, White men were 85% of all Senate-confirmed U.S. Attorneys.
A court system that does not reflect the people it is sworn to protect is hard-pressed to ensure diverse backgrounds, experiences and viewpoints in judicial deliberations. Continuing the trend of nominating and confirming White, conservative justices strain — if not ignore — the nation’s pledge of equal justice.
In the words of the Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights, “During this pandemic and amid nationwide calls for racial justice, we cannot allow Trump to select a third justice who he has pledged will devastate our hard-fought civil and human rights — including access to health care for millions of people.”
The approaching electoral decisions include the future of hard-won civil rights, and whether they will continue to be systematically dismantled. It is in the hands of voters to decide. And the choices should be clear: a return to the multiple ills of bygone years or hopeful future with justice and opportunity for all.
Choose wisely, America.
Charlene Crowell is a senior fellow with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at [email protected].
Wiz Khalifa and Michael Strahan Hit with Lawsuit Over Khalifa Kush Cannabis Brand
*Rapper Wiz Khalifa and Michael Strahan have been hit with a lawsuit by one of the business partners of their cannabis brand Khalifa Kush.
According to court documents provided by The Blast, the director and managing agent for Cuzzi Consulting, Inc., Carlos Arias, claims that Wiz and Strahan “pilfered more than $100,000,000 in assets from Nominal Defendants.”
Arias’ lawsuit also claims a “breach of fiduciary duty, aiding and abetting fiduciary breaches, conversion, corporate waste, tortious breach of an express or implied agreement, unjust enrichment, money had and received, professional negligence, civil conspiracy, and declaratory judgment arising out of Defendants’ wrongful conduct concerning the usurpation and misappropriation of assets from Nominal Defendants KKE USA and the Khalifa Kush Joint Venture.”
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Arias’ lawsuit accuses Wiz of concocting the scheme with help from “his entourage who conspired with the illicit assistance of outside counsel Pryor Cashman” in order to “funnel the proceeds from to themselves and certain third party beneficiaries.”
The suit also alleges that Wiz and Strahan engaged in “wrongful conduct concerning the usurpation and misappropriation of assets” regarding Khalifa Kush.
The lawsuit comes after Wiz launched his delivery-only restaurant, HotBox By Wiz, a partnership with Nextbite. The company serves comfort food to customers in Los Angeles, San Diego, and other cities, through Uber Eats, DoorDash, Postmates, and Grubhub.
All the Ways NY Attorney General Letitia James Will Prosecute Trump Once He’s Out of Office (Watch)
*Although it’s been a longstanding Justice Department policy not to indict a sitting president, Donald Trump will be out of the White House come January 20th, and New York Attorney General Letitia James has her ears pinned back ready to pounce.
Trump could attempt to pardon himself, or he could step down prior to January 20 and allow Vice President Mike Pence to pardon him. But a pardon only pertains to federal crimes, and won’t protect Trump from AG James and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.
Vance has been seeking Trump’s tax returns in connection to a criminal case that is widely believed to involve tax fraud. Trump fought the effort all the way to the Supreme Court, where he lost. Now, the Supreme Court is set to rule on Trump’s last attempt at an appeal. A win for Vance would accelerate any potential prosecution.
James, meanwhile, is investigating the Trump Organization’s financial dealings, including the inflation of assets. Just last month, her office deposed Eric Trump.
So how likely will James or Vance be able to successfully “lock him up?”
James spoke about her game plan, as well as the nearly 70 lawsuits she’s already filed against the Trump administration, on last week’s “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.”
Ex-Husband of Naya Rivera Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit on Behalf of Their Son
*Naya Rivera’s ex-husband Ryan Dorsey has filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of their 5-year-old son Josey, following the boating accident that claimed her life four months ago.
Rivera was found dead in July, nearly a week after she disappeared during a boating outing in Ventura County, California, with her son. She was 33.
According to the investigative report, Josey said they counted “1, 2, 3” and jumped off the pontoon boat together at Lake Piru in Ventura County, California. Once in the water, the child said his mother told him to get back on the boat.
“She helped him onto the boat and then he then heard [Naya] yell ‘help’ and she put her arm in the air. She then disappeared into the water,” the investigative report states, per PEOPLE.
According to court documents obtained by PEOPLE, Dorey is suing Ventura County, the county’s Parks and Recreation Management, and the United Water Conservation District for wrongful death and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
The lawsuit claims the boat Rivera rented did comply with U.S. Coast Guard safety standards.
“[The boat] was not equipped with a safely accessible ladder, adequate rope, an anchor, a radio or any security mechanisms to prevent swimmers from being separated from their boats,” the complaint states. “Disturbingly, later inspection revealed that the boat was not even equipped with any flotation or lifesaving devices, in direct violation of California law, which requires that all pontoons longer than 16 feet be equipped with flotation devices.”
The court documents also cite the lake’s “deadly history” and notes that there wasn’t “a single sign anywhere — not at the entrance, at the dock, at the popular swimming area of Diablo Cove, not anywhere — warning of the lake’s strong currents, low visibility, high winds, changing water depths, underwater caves, ledges and drop offs, or the trees, brush and other debris that congest its waters due to the vastly changing water levels and winds.”
Rivera was reportedly in good health at the time of her death, but she had a history of vertigo “that would get worse when she was in the water.”
“The decedent would have vertigo to the point of vomiting, but she learned to control the symptoms with antihistamines,” the investigative report states.
According to the report, the “Glee” star had been treated at Cedars Sinai hospital for vertigo prior to her death.
She also had “no known history of suicidal ideation or attempt,” according to the report.
Riveria’s cause of death remains an accidental drowning.
The actress and Dorsey, 37, were married from 2014 to 2018.
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