Court rebukes President Trump for blocking followers on Twitter

Photo Credit: Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times as reported in The New York Times on 7/9/19.

Photo Credit: Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times as reported in The New York Times on 7/9/19.

How the First Amendment functions in the social media age gained further clarity this week when a federal appeals court ruled that President Trump violated the Constitution by blocking people from following his Twitter account.

“Because Mr. Trump uses Twitter to conduct government business, he cannot exclude some Americans from reading his posts — and engaging in conversations in the replies to them — because he does not like their views, a three-judge panel on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, ruled unanimously,” The New York Times reports.

Tuesday’s ruling may be appealed.

“Mr. Trump’s legal team argued, among other things, that he operated the account merely in a personal capacity, and so had the right to block whomever he wanted for any reason — including because users annoyed him by criticizing or mocking him,” The New York Times reports.

“Courts have increasingly been grappling with how to apply the First Amendment, written in the 18th century, to the social-media era,” The Times continues. “In 2017, for example, the Supreme Court unanimously struck down a North Carolina law that had made it a crime for registered sex offenders to use websites like Facebook.”

The bleak state of the immigration court system

markus-spiske-1475927-unsplashA recent article by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) outlines the current state of the immigration court system and it is bleak: “In a report released earlier this year, the American Bar Association described the U.S. immigration court system as facing an ‘existential crisis,’ an ‘irredeemably dysfunctional’ system ‘on the brink of collapse.'”

The report notes a backlog of 900,000 cases quoting The Economist: “People will die of old age in America before they ever acquire the legal right to live in America. This is an extraordinary failure to govern.”

According to the article, Trump’s new regulations have just exacerbated the problem, comparing the complexity of the immigration courts system to the tax code. They also note that the massive backlog of cases “have led to judges rushing to complete cases, compromising their ethical obligations and violating immigrants’ due process rights…”

Deportation order for 11-year-old draws attention to courts’ woes

Laura Maradiaga-Alvarado, 11, was ordered deported without her family. Photo credit: Fiel Houston as reported by NBC News.

Laura Maradiaga-Alvarado, 11, was ordered deported without her family. Photo credit: Fiel Houston as reported by NBC News.

The near-deportation of a solitary 11-year-old child earlier this year highlights, critics say, the backlogs and turmoil surrounding federal immigration courts.

“A federal immigration judge in Houston signed a deportation order for Laura Maradiaga-Alvarado, originally from El Salvador, on March 12,” explains an NBC News article.

In the wake of publicity about the child’s plight, the judge ordered a new hearing scheduled for May 20, officials said.

“The deportation order has been attributed to a mistake made after a hearing scheduled in February for the girl, her mother and her sister was delayed by the government shutdown,” the article notes.

A March report by the American Bar Association indicated “that since its 2010 review of the court system, things had worsened ‘considerably,’” NBC News reports.

“The same issues identified then persist nearly a decade later: inadequate staffing, training and hiring; growing backlogs; inconsistent decision patterns among judges, particularly in asylum cases, and adoption of video-conference technology that impedes fair hearings. The situation, it said, has been exacerbated by years of congressional inaction while enforcement has increased under the Trump administration,” the article notes.

Anonymous Alfalfa

by Sara Corcoran, Courts Monitor Publisher
(Originally published in CityWatch LA on 2/14/19)

 You can use the attached image with the caption: Senator John Kerry steps down as Alfalfa president (Photo originally published in CityWatch LA)


Senator John Kerry steps down as Alfalfa president (Photo originally published in CityWatch LA)

Every 3rd week in January, the “.02%” take over Washington DC to host their annual dinner at the Capital Hilton. Established in 1913, the Alfalfa Club cultivates its membership of elite powerbrokers from all over the United States. 

With a membership of 200– including Fortune 500 executives, politicians, and Presidents.— members invite guests to attend the DC dinner. This is a seldom refused invitation. However, breaking with long-standing tradition, the ever-insecure Trump declined the invite for 2018 and 2019. 

So, if you weren’t one of the lucky few invited to attend the passing of the gavel from former Senator John Kerry to newly elected Alfalfa President, Senator Mitt Romney, you can still be a spectator from the basement of the Hay Adams Hotel. If there is an optimal time to catch a glimpse of the accomplished and well-heeled crowd, it’s the weekend of January 25th. 

Read more here.

Health care law in limbo during government shutdown

 The appointment of acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker may be delayed to the government shutdown. Photo Credit: Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call file photo as reported by Roll Call, 1/11/19.

The appointment of acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker may be delayed to the government shutdown. Photo Credit: Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call file photo as reported by Roll Call, 1/11/19.

In December, a federal judge in Texas struck down the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but under appeal, the status of the health care law remains in limbo during a partial government shutdown.

“The partial government shutdown halted a major challenge to the 2010 health care law among other civil litigation on Friday, as Justice Department lawyers sought the same in a challenge from three Senate Democrats to the appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general,” reports Rollcall.com.

“The federal court system will start feeling the crunch of the shutdown on Jan. 18 when the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts estimates it will run out of the court fee balances and other non-appropriated funds that so far allowed for regular operations,” notes an article by Roll Call.

“Courts have been asked to delay or defer non-mission critical expenses, such as new hires, non-case related travel, and certain contracts to stretch funds to that date. Criminal cases are expected to proceed uninterrupted.”

California federal judge blocks Trump birth control coverage rules in 13 states

Photo credit: AP File Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, as reported by AP on 1/13/19.

Photo credit: AP File Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, as reported by AP on 1/13/19.

According to the AP, on Sunday, 1/13/19, Judge Haywood Gilliam of California granted a request for a preliminary injunction by California, 12 other states and Washington, D.C.,  to block Trump administration rules, which would allow more employers to opt out of providing women with no-cost birth control. According to the report, “The plaintiffs sought to prevent the rules from taking effect as scheduled today while a lawsuit against them moved forward… But Gilliam limited the scope of the ruling to the plaintiffs, rejecting their request that he block the rules nationwide.”

DACA program, upheld by 9th Circuit, faces its day in Supreme Court

Photo Credit: Darin Moriki/Bay Area News Group as reported by The Mercury News, 11/8/18.

Photo Credit: Darin Moriki/Bay Area News Group as reported by The Mercury News, 11/8/18.

The subject of continued court battles, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program could see its fate decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“An Obama-era program granting hundreds of thousands of so-called Dreamers protection from deportation will live on, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday, dealing the Trump administration a significant blow and setting the stage for a showdown in the Supreme Court next year,” The Mercury News reported on Nov. 8.

“The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a nationwide injunction blocking the White House from rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has protected about 700,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children, including 200,000 in California,” The Mercury News reported.

The Atlantic speculated about how the legal battle could play out at the nation’s highest court.

“The Court could do a number of things. It could grant a stay, which would temporarily stop further legal proceedings or the enforcement of orders. If a stay isn’t granted, confusion could reign, with DACA continued in some states and not in others. In any case, at least five justices would have to agree on next steps, and with a split Court a consensus would be difficult to achieve,” The Atlantic noted.

Commerce secretary ordered to testify about Census citizenship question

Photo credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images as reported by NPR on 9/21/18.

Photo credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images as reported by NPR on 9/21/18.

A Trump administration official will testify out of court about a controversial Census citizenship question, due to a judge’s order.

“A federal judge has ordered the Trump administration to make its main official behind the 2020 census citizenship question — Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross — available to testify out of court for the lawsuits over the hotly contested question,” National Public Radio reports.

Ross will sit for a deposition, per the order of U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan federal court.

“Furman has limited questioning of Ross by the plaintiffs’ attorneys to four hours, noting that the commerce secretary has already testified in Congress and the administration has released a record of internal documents about his decision to add the citizenship question,” according to NPR.

California shields public sector unions from Supreme Court ruling

Photo credit: Jacquelyn Martin Associated Press file photo, 2016, as reported by the Fresno Bee.

Photo credit: Jacquelyn Martin Associated Press file photo, 2016, as reported by the Fresno Bee.

California has found itself in a legal standoff against the federal government and Trump administration over a variety of issues, but one could affect union workers who want to decline union membership.

“California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a law that aims to give public employee unions legal cover from potentially expensive lawsuits demanding that they repay certain fees to workers that the Supreme Court in June determined were unconstitutional,” reports The Fresno Bee.

“The law, which takes effect immediately, says unions and public agencies cannot be held liable for fees that unions collected before the Supreme Court ruling in Janus vs. AFSCME on June 27 of this year.”

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision ended a 41-year precedent that allowed public sector unions to collect “fair share” fees from workers who declined to join a labor organization but were still represented, according to the newspaper.

Court rejects Department of Defense policy banning transgenders in military

In this March 27, 2018, file photo, plaintiffs Cathrine Schmid, second left, and Conner Callahan, second right, listen with supporters during a news conference in front of a federal courthouse following a hearing in Seattle.  Photo credit: Elaine Thompson/AP as reported in the Military Times on 8/24/18.

In this March 27, 2018, file photo, plaintiffs Cathrine Schmid, second left, and Conner Callahan, second right, listen with supporters during a news conference in front of a federal courthouse following a hearing in Seattle. Photo credit: Elaine Thompson/AP as reported in the Military Times on 8/24/18.

In Doe v. Trump, a federal court has ruled that the government “failed to show what deliberative process it undertook to decide some transgender personnel should not be allowed to serve,” according to Military Times.

“In the lawsuit, Doe v. Trump, transgender service members and recruits are challenging the Pentagon’s new policy on transgender service members, which forbids any recruit or service member experiencing ‘gender dysphoria’ from serving, and implements additional restrictions on those transgender personnel already serving,” the publication reported.

“Since last fall, attorneys have filed four federal cases challenging the ban: Doe v. Trump in Washington, D.C.; Karnoski v. Trump in Washington State; Stockman v. Trump in California and Stone V. Trump in Maryland,” Military Times reported.

According to the New York Times, the Obama administration announced in 2016 its plan for the armed services to begin accepting transgender recruits at the start of this year. President Trump “abruptly reversed course, announcing on Twitter in July 2017 that the military would ‘no longer accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity. …”