Did Dem Senators Send the SCOTUS a Warning?

by Daveda Gruber:

A few rather prominent Democratic Senators have sent a warning to the Supreme Court that it could face restructuring.

The SCOTUS got a message that was in the terms of a warning that was delivered as part of a brief that was filed on Monday to heal the court or face restructuring.

The brief was related to a New York City gun law.

Senators Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., brought up rulings by the court’s conservative majority. They implied that the problem must be remedied.

The brief states, “The Supreme Court is not well. And the people know it. Perhaps the Court can heal itself before the public demands it be ‘restructured in order to reduce the influence of politics.”

“Court packing” is a term that is widely used. A president who is picking judges, can in fact, change the way the court rules by picking justices who’s political status is preferred.

For this reason, the 2020 Democratic candidates have shown that they would be open to changing the number of justices on the Supreme Court.

In favor of this option are:

Former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas

Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts

Senator Kamala Harris of California

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York

Mayor of Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., proposed a plan to expand the court by have some justices appointed by the president and others selected by the other justices in order to “depoliticize” the court.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has said that he is against court-packing.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has suggested rotating judges to other courts.

The brief in question that the Democrat senators have filed was in the case of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. City of New York, which dealt with legal limitations on where gun owners could transport their licensed, locked, and unloaded firearms.

New York City recently changed the law to ease restrictions. Now  would be the time to get the conservative majority in the SCOTUS to rule in favor of gun owners.

The Democratic senators are urging the court to stay out of the case brought by the NRA-backed group. But if the court still decides to hear the case, a ruling against New York City could prevent other cities and states from passing similar gun control laws.

The entire brief can be seen here:


The Supreme Court has, at this time, five Conservative judges and four Liberal judges. We can thank President Trump for that.

If the numbers change under a Democrat president, the scales would never tilt in our favor.

If the judges are rotated, I’m not sure what that would bring, but it would not be consistent, that’s for sure.

Personally I’d like to see Trump get one or two more judges, who he has picked, onto the highest court in the land.


Dead Men Tell No Tales

by Daveda Gruber:

On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a man from Missouri can be executed. The highest court in the land decided that Russell Bucklew, a man who was convicted of a brutal rape and murder, can be executed by lethal injection.

In a ruling of 5 to 4, the SCOTUS decided that Bucklew is not guaranteed “painless death” even though he attempted to avoid the needle because of his rare medical condition.

Missouri now has the right to proceed with execution protocol in carrying out the sentence.

Bucklew was sentenced to death for the 1996 murder of Michael Sanders. Sanders was dating Bucklew’s ex-girlfriend when he was murdered.

Bucklew had assaulted the couple and stalked his ex-lover to find out the location of where she lived. Bucklew shot and killed Sanders and then fired his gun at his former girlfriend’s 6-year-old child.

He missed and kidnapped the woman and raped her several times. He was eventually arrested after a car chase and police shootout.

Justice Neil Gorsuch said, in summarizing his majority opinion, “Today we bring this case to a close at last because we agree with the courts below that Mr. Bucklew’s claim isn’t supported by either the law or the evidence.”

The court had previously ruled that inmates who challenged the method a state plans to use to execute them must have to show there’s an alternative that is likely to be less painful.

The Constitution does not guarantee a painless death. Missouri can execute Bucklew.

Bucklew had argued that death by lethal injection would be extremely painful because he had a blood-filled tumor in his throat. The tumor was caused by a rare medical condition that could most likely burst during the execution. That could cause him to choke on his own blood and cut off oxygen to his body for up to four minutes.

He called this cruel and unusual punishment that would violate the Constitution. Bucklew had stated that he wanted to die by inhaling pure nitrogen gas through a mask. This method has never been used in an execution.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch are the five justices in the majority who rejected Bucklew’s argument.

The ruling said that the inmate failed to show that the alternative method “would significantly reduce his risk of pain.”

Gorsuch noted that Bucklew failed to show that the state would carry out the alternative execution.

Gorsuch wrote, “The Eighth Amendment does not guarantee a prisoner a painless death — something that, of course, isn’t guaranteed to many people, including most victims of capital crimes.”

Bucklew was granted a stay of execution by the Supreme Court hours before he was scheduled to die last year. Another stay of execution was granted in 2014 in the 11th hour.

Chris Nuelle is a spokesman for the Missouri Attorney General’s Office. He said in a statement that Monday’s ruling put the state and Bucklew’s victims “one step closer to justice.”

Do you believe in the death penalty? How humane should it be? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter in the comments below.

Trump Administration Gets Good News from the SCOTUS

by Daveda Gruber:

On Tuesday the Supreme Court ruled, with conservative judges in the majority, on an immigration issue. The decision makes it easier to detain immigrants with criminal records.

The ruling was clearly a victory for the Trump administration. It was authored by conservative Justice Samuel Alito and left open the possibility that some individual immigrants could challenge their detention.

A group of mostly green card holders argued that unless immigrants were picked up immediately after finishing their prison sentence, they should get a hearing to argue for their release while deportation proceedings go forward.

The law states the government can detain convicted immigrants “when the alien is released” from criminal detention. Civil rights lawyers argued the point that the language of the law shows that it applies only immediately after immigrants are released. On the other hand, the Trump administration said the government should have the power to detain such immigrants anytime.

The Tuesday decision was 5-4 ruling that federal immigration officials can detain undocumented immigrants at any time after their release from local or state custody.

The court also ruled that the government maintains broad discretion to decide who would represent a danger to the community in deciding who to release or detain.

Back in October, the Trump administration had argued that given the limited money and manpower available, it was almost impossible for the federal government to detain every immigrant immediately upon their release from custody.

Alito wrote that “neither the statute’s text nor its structure” supported the immigrants’ argument.

The court’s four more liberal justices differed in opinion from the conservative ones. Justice Stephen Breyer took the rare step of reading an oral disagreement from the bench.

RBG Returns to the Bench for Ruling on Excessive Seizure of Property by States

by Daveda Gruber:

On Wednesday the Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous decision that marked the first time the court has applied the Constitution’s ban on excessive fines at the state level.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the court’s opinion and read a summary of her opinion in the courtroom.

The 85-year-old justice missed arguments last month following lung cancer surgery, but returned to the bench on Tuesday.

The outcome could help efforts to rein in police seizure of property from criminal suspects.

Ginsburg’s opinion piece was in favor of Tyson Timbs, of Marion, Indiana. Police seized Timbs’ $40,000 Land Rover when they arrested him for selling about $400 worth of heroin.

Ginsburg noted that governments employ fines “out of accord with the penal goals of retribution and deterrence” because fines are a source of revenue.

Ginsburg wrote, “Protection against excessive fines has been a constant shield throughout Anglo-American history for good reason: Such fines undermine other liberties. They can be used, e.g., to retaliate against or chill the speech of political enemies. They can also be employed, not in service of penal purposes, but as a source of revenue.”

Timbs had twice previously sold drugs to undercover officers. The Land Rover was purchased with money Timbs received from his father’s life insurance policy after his death in 2012.

After his arrest, Timbs pleaded guilty to one count of dealing in a controlled substance. He was sentenced to one year of home detention and five years of probation, and had to pay court fees and fines totaling $1,200.

A trial court in Indiana and the Indiana Court of Appeals found that taking the Land Rover would be “grossly disproportional to the gravity” of Timbs’ offense and unconstitutional under the Constitution’s excessive fines clause.

The trial judge noted Timbs’ vehicle was worth roughly four times the maximum monetary fine of $10,000 the state could have levied against him for his crimes.

The Indiana Supreme Court disagreed, and said the Supreme Court “has never held that the states are subject to the Excessive Fines Clause.”

The SCOTUS ruling was unanimous and Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a separate opinion outlining different reasons for reaching the same conclusion. He wrote that “the right to be free from excessive fines is one of the ‘privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States’ protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.”

Ginsburg’s opinion was based on the due process clause of the same amendment.

The Supreme Court sent the case of Tyson Timbs back to a lower court to decide if Indiana officials went too far in seizing Timbs’ Land Rover.

The high court’s ruling could now limit the ability for states and cities to carry out an increasingly common practice of imposing steep fines and seizing property.