# Supreme Court

For one who didn't make it out

AJ Jones is a writer. She is a creator of art and expresses herself across different mediums. She embraces her neurodivergence as a unique way to view the world and create a better future.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month is always difficult and one of remembrance. I remember the last conversation I had with Linda, a friend from work. She told me how her husband had tied her up and locked her in the downstairs bathroom of the house for several hours. How he had threatened her with a knife and how he had previously threatened her with a gun. 

You can imagine how that conversation went. I often wonder if my advice was sound.  

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Church and state: Where's the wall?

Dan Piller was a business reporter for more than four decades, working for the Des Moines Register and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He covered the oil and gas industry while in Texas and was the Register’s agriculture reporter before his retirement in 2013. He lives in Ankeny.

Senator John F. Kennedy rose to a lectern at the Rice Hotel in Houston on September 12, 1960 to face the toughest audience of his presidential campaign; a roomful of Southern Baptist ministers who reflected the longstanding antipathy of the evangelicals toward Kennedy’s Roman Catholic religion.

JFK was just the second Roman Catholic nominee of a major political party, and older Americans remembered the fate of the first. New York Governor Al Smith lost to the lackluster Herbert Hoover in 1928, amidst charges that Smith’s Catholicism would put him—and the nation—under the control of the Pope in Rome.

If Kennedy didn’t win over the skeptical Texans, his sixteen-minute address at least neutralized their hostility by avowing his support for the longstanding doctrine of separation of church and state.

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Today's SCOTUS controversy would be deja vu to Gil Cranberg

Herb Strentz was dean of the Drake School of Journalism from 1975 to 1988 and professor there until retirement in 2004. He was executive secretary of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council from its founding in 1976 to 2000.

A timely editorial on the U.S. Supreme Court and judicial ethics—“Injudicious investments”—began as follows: “The U.S. Supreme Court sits on a ticking time bomb. The high court’s integrity and prestige will be damaged severely when the bomb goes off.”

The Supreme Court is the nation’s only judicial body without a code of ethics or standards to guide the justices on when, among other things, a justice should not take part in deciding a case. Randy Evans covered such issues well in a recent column. His points are underscored in an Iowa Supreme Court website devoted to the Iowa Judicial Qualifications Commission. The commission deals with allegations of misconduct by Iowa judges, magistrates and court employees.

So the editorial quoted above is timely and provocative.

That’s because the Des Moines Register published the “ticking time bomb” editorial, written by Gil Cranberg, more than 43 years ago — on June 11, 1980. It focused on how to avoid having a justice’s stock portfolio influence court decisions.

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Judicial ethics in Iowa differ from Washington ethics

Randy Evans is executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and can be reached at DMRevans2810@gmail.com

There were more disclosures in recent days in the ongoing saga involving the ethical standards of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court—or, more accurately, the lack of ethical standards.

With each new disclosure about our nation’s highest court, the reputations of Iowa Supreme Court justices take on more luster—and deservedly so.

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Iowa AG warns Fortune 100 companies over race-based policies

Sam Stockard and Anita Wadhwani report for the Tennessee Lookout, which is is part of the States Newsroom network. This article first appeared at Iowa Capital Dispatch.

Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird is among a coalition warning the nation’s largest companies—many of which have diversity and equity programs—they could face legal action for using race-based policies.

A July 13 letter from Bird and twelve other attorneys general put Fortune 100 companies on notice they could be hit with legal action for violating the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Students for Fair Admissions v. President & Fellows of Harvard College, which put an end to using race as a basis for admitting students to college. The attorneys general are targeting hiring and contracting too.

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Consequences of the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision

Steve Corbin is emeritus professor of marketing at the University of Northern Iowa and a freelance writer who receives no remuneration, funding, or endorsement from any for-profit business, nonprofit organization, political action committee, or political party.    

More than a year has passed since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Roe v Wade and Casey precedents, stripping women of a right they’d had for nearly 50 years to make their own reproductive health-care decisions. The Dobbs v. Jackson decision has affected American lives in many ways, and had some surprising consequences.

For the first time ever, a majority of Americans say abortion is morally acceptable and recent abortion laws are too strict.

For the first time in two decades, more people identify as “pro-choice” versus pro-life.”

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Grassley again scores high on HUH?-meter

Herb Strentz was dean of the Drake School of Journalism from 1975 to 1988 and professor there until retirement in 2004. He was executive secretary of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council from its founding in 1976 to 2000.

Iowa’s U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley continues to baffle and befuddle his critics—and others—with his questionable comments on important issues of the day. Most recently, as noted in a Bleeding Heartland commentary by Laura Belin, Grassley declined to even read the historic indictment of former President Donald Trump.


Grassley told a Congressional reporter he had not (and I guess will not) read the indictment because he is “not a legal analyst.”

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Supreme Court compounds WOTUS woes

Wally Taylor is the Legal Chair of the Sierra Club Iowa chapter.

In a May 25 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court greatly restricted the jurisdiction of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to protect wetlands under the Clean Water Act.

The Clean Water Act gives the agencies authority to protect “waters of the United States,” known as WOTUS. Constitutionally, the EPA and the Corps have jurisdiction over waters that affect interstate commerce. Certainly, interstate rivers like the Mississippi and the Missouri affect interstate commerce. And no one seriously argues that rivers and streams that flow into interstate rivers are not within the EPA’s and the Corps’ jurisdiction. But what about wetlands?

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The Supreme Court needs guardrails

Rick Morain is the former publisher and owner of the Jefferson Herald, for which he writes a regular column.

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”—Lord Acton, 1887

We usually hear this statement when someone wants to make a point about someone else, someone in power. I’m doing just that. And those to whom I want to point in this case are the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Supreme Court case could become slippery slope

Randy Evans can be reached at DMRevans2810@gmail.com

Few people like being told what they must do. Lorie Smith is one of them.

The suburban Denver, Colorado business owner, a devout Christian, builds websites for customers. She wants to expand her business and begin building websites for couples who are planning weddings.

But she is adamant that she does not want to be forced to build websites for same-sex couples. Doing so, she says, would violate her faith, which does not allow her to celebrate same-sex marriages.

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An open letter to coaches in Iowa public schools

To the Iowans who coach student athletes or lead other public school-based activities:

As a new academic year begins this week, you may feel more emboldened to bring your religion into practices, games, or other school group gatherings. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that high school football coach Joseph Kennedy was wrongly disciplined over his post-game prayers on the field.

Writing for a 6-3 majority in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, Justice Neil Gorsuch mischaracterized Kennedy’s actions as a “short, private, personal prayer.” In fact, the coach sought public acclaim and extensive media coverage for giving thanks to God at the 50-yard line, sometimes surrounded by players.

No doubt the coaches who copy Kennedy will be celebrated in many Iowa communities.

I’ve been thinking about how coaches like him will change the school sports experience for students like me.

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Supreme Court overthrow of Roe would change motherhood

Sue Dinsdale leads Health Care For America NOW in Iowa.

Mother’s Day was a reminder that motherhood can be both challenging and rewarding, but the right support systems can help make things easier and give mothers and their families healthier, happier lives. Our country’s mothers deserve to have resources, rights, and opportunities to stay healthy, take care of their families, and ensure they can determine their own destinies—whether that’s what zip code to live in or when to expand their families. 

leaked draft Supreme Court decision indicates that the court is ready to overturn Roe v. Wade, which established a constitutional right to abortion. For nearly 50 years, the precedent enabled people to decide for themselves if and when to become mothers.

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Regulating health care

Sondra Feldstein is a farmer and business owner in Polk County.

It’s conventional wisdom that Roe v Wade was a poorly written judicial decision. Not the first, nor the last.

I’m not a constitutional law scholar and I can’t say whether the weight of precedent should counteract the weakness of a poorly reasoned opinion. But each and every one of the conservative justices who can be expected to concur with the draft opinion overturning Roe assured senators during their confirmation hearing that the 1973 precedent was settled law, and that the principle of stare decisis carries such grave weight that the prospect of overturning “settled law” was unlikely.

But then, for anyone who believed what those potential justices said, I have the proverbial bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. It just isn’t relevant to ask whether future justices lied under oath, because everyone knew they were lying. It’s a game we play.

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Why Iowa's senators voted against historic SCOTUS confirmation

The U.S. Senate made history on April 7 by confirming the first Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court, with the country’s first Black vice president presiding. Three Republicans joined all 50 members of the Senate Democratic caucus to confirm Appeals Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, prompting loud applause in the chamber.

There was never any doubt that Iowa’s two Republicans would vote against this confirmation. However, Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst laid out their reasons for opposing Judge Brown Jackson only this week.

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Health care reform anniversary news roundup (updated)

Friday marked the second anniversary of President Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as health care reform or “Obamacare.” After the jump I enclose lots of news related to the milestone, including comments from Iowa elected officials and statistics on how certain provisions affect Iowans.

This morning the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to start hearing oral arguments regarding the constitutionality of the health care reform law. Governor Terry Branstad signed Iowa on to one of the lawsuits challenging the Affordable Care Act last year. Near the end of this post I’ve included some speculation about how the justices may rule (or punt).

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Kagan confirmed to Supreme Court; Grassley votes no

The U.S. Senate confirmed Elana Kagan as associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court today on a 63-37 vote. As he did on the Judiciary Committee, Senator Chuck Grassley voted against confirmation. He explained his reasoning in more detail this week, and I’ve posted his prepared floor statement after the jump. It amuses me to see Grassley question Kagan’s “commitment to the Constitution and rule of law” when he is open to revising the clear, unambiguous meaning of the 14th Amendment because of current Republican views on immigration.

Last summer Grassley voted against confirming President Obama’s first Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor. Before that, Grassley had never opposed confirming a president’s nominee for the high court.

Five Senate Republicans voted to confirm Kagan: Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Richard Lugar of Indiana and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire. Ben Nelson of Nebraska was the only Democrat to vote no. In fact, NPR reported that Nelson just became the first Democrat to vote against a Democratic president’s Supreme Court nominee since Lyndon Johnson nominated Thurgood Marshall in 1967.

UPDATE: Senator Tom Harkin’s statement on the Kagan confirmation is after the jump.

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Branstad wants to punish children for parents' mistakes

How low will Terry Branstad go in his efforts to score political points on the immigration issue? Before the primary election, he exaggerated how much undocumented immigrants cost the state budget and said he wouldn’t offer their children in-state college tuition. Earlier this month, he called for new enforcement that would copy Arizona’s “show your papers” approach but (magic pony style) wouldn’t leave Iowa taxpayers footing the bill for immigrants jailed.

Now Branstad is grandstanding against the U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows children of undocumented immigrants to attend public schools. Speaking on Jan Mickelson’s conservative talk radio show on July 27, the Republican nominee for governor said, “I believe that we need to see that [ruling] overturned.”

Branstad is taking a fairly extreme position here. The Plyler v. Doe decision, which struck down a Texas statute denying public education to children of undocumented immigrants, has been settled law for nearly 30 years. (Not that I’d put it past the current activist right-wing Supreme Court majority to overturn longstanding precedent.)

I haven’t seen any Branstad campaign press release declaring that he wants to take public education away from illegal immigrants, so maybe he was cynically throwing a bone to Mickelson’s listening audience. Governor Chet Culver’s campaign manager Donn Stanley pointed out that during the 16 years Branstad was governor after Plyler v Doe took effect, “He never had the state Department of Education oppose that ruling.”

But what an indictment of Branstad’s “family values” if he was speaking sincerely on Mickelson’s show. He would tell children no, we’re not going to educate you, because your parents did something bad. Stanley told the Des Moines Register, “It also just seems that having these kids in school instead of on the street would be better for society […] Speaking generally, punishing children for what their parents do illegally is not a value the governor has.”

Branstad should answer two follow-up questions. First, if elected governor, would he try to pass a law denying education benefits to children of undocumented immigrants? Such a law would be challenged in court, perhaps creating an opportunity for the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit the issue.

Second, would Branstad take any other steps to restrict education opportunities for immigrant children? Republican attorney general candidate Brenna Findley recently told Mickelson that while Plyler v Doe applies to Iowa, she favored trying to “work with the Department of Education” to find ways our state could address this issue. Branstad talks up Findley everywhere he campaigns; would he work with her toward this end? Incidentally, even Findley didn’t go so far as to say that Plyler v Doe was wrongly decided and should be overturned.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention this part of the Des Moines Register article:

“Gov. Branstad believes that people who are here illegally should not receive taxpayer-funded benefits because it drains our budget and is an added expense to taxpayers,” Branstad campaign spokesman Tim Albrecht said. “We’re talking about those children here illegally. We’re not talking about those born here.”

I haven’t seen any statistics on the estimated number of children in Iowa who were brought to this country illegally, as opposed to native-born Iowa children of undocumented immigrants. Even if Branstad got his wish and the Supreme Court revised its thinking on this issue, it would be difficult to implement the kind of distinction Albrecht is talking about. Theoretically, you could have school district denying enrollment to older siblings while educating younger siblings who were born in Iowa.  

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Grassley will vote against confirming Kagan to Supreme Court

Chuck Grassley will vote no when the Senate Judiciary Committee takes up Elana Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court today, he announced today. In a statement, Grassley said Kagan “failed to answer directly” many questions asked during her confirmation hearings. Supreme Court nominees proposed by Republican presidents have likewise declined to answer certain questions in committee, but Grassley said “candid answers” were needed from Kagan because “she has no previous judicial experience.” I posted the full text of Grassley’s statement below. He also told Radio Iowa that Kagan won’t exercise “judicial restraint” and will “let her own private views enter in” as opposed to interpreting the law. (No word on whether he found Kagan to be “aggressive” or “obnoxious.”)

It’s rich to hear Republicans talk about judicial restraint when judicial activism has “become a defining feature of the Roberts Court’s unfolding legacy” (see also here).

Click here to watch a YouTube video of Grassley questioning Kagan during Judiciary Committee hearings in late June. Radio Iowa and Blog for Iowa summarized the exchanges between Grassley and Kagan, which covered guns rights and gay marriage, among other issues.

Grassley voted to confirm both of President Bill Clinton’s nominees for the Supreme Court as well as all judges nominated by Republican presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush. Some Iowa conservatives have been grumbling about Grassley in recent years, so perhaps that explains his opposition to confirming Sonia Sotomayor last year and now Kagan.

UPDATE: Media Matters compiled a list of “45 myths and falsehoods” about Kagan’s nomination.

SECOND UPDATE: The Judiciary Committee voted 13-6 to confirm Kagan. All committee Democrats and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina voted yes.

“No one spent more time trying to beat President Obama than I did, except maybe Senator McCain,” Mr. Graham said Tuesday, referring to the 2008 presidential election and Senator John McCain  of Arizona, Mr. Obama’s Republican rival. “I missed my own election – I voted absentee. But I understood: we lost, President Obama won. The Constitution, in my view, puts a requirement on me not to replace my judgment for his.”

Mr. Graham said there were “100 reasons” he could vote against Ms. Kagan if he based his vote on her philosophy, which is at odds with his. But he said she met a time-honored standard for judicial nominees: whether they are qualified and of good character.

As a senator, Mr. Obama adopted a different standard, saying it was permissible to vote against a nominee based on judicial philosophy, not just qualifications. Mr. Graham said that approach undermined the judicial confirmation process, by making it more partisan.

“Something’s changing when it comes to the advice and consent clause,” he said. “Senator Obama was part of the problem, not part of the solution.”

THIRD UPDATE: The reaction from Grassley’s Democratic challenger Roxanne Conlin is after the jump.

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Obama seeks to move Supreme Court to the right

Numerous media reported tonight that Monday morning, President Barack Obama will nominate his solicitor general, Elana Kagan, to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Above the Law blog saw several “clues” over the last few days that the president would pick Kagan.

I always expected Obama to choose corporate-friendly pro-choice moderate judges like President Bill Clinton’s appointees, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. Instead, Obama is choosing a corporate-friendly pro-choice “blank slate.” Kagan is a lot less qualified than Sonia Sotomayor, whom Obama named to the high court last year. She probably will turn out to be more conservative than Justice John Paul Stevens, whom she will replace if confirmed.

Constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald laid out a devastating case against Kagan last month, and he supplemented that on Sunday with more links and commentary.

As far as I can tell, Obama gets two things out of this nomination: a chance to show off how “moderate” he is by enraging liberals, and a Supreme Court justice who will support any expansion of executive power begun under President George W. Bush and continued during the current administration.

If tonight’s reports are true, Obama is on the verge of making one of the biggest mistakes of his presidency. We may all pay for that decades into the future.

UPDATE: To be clear, I’m not advocating a progressive fight against confirming Kagan. That would be pointless and doomed to fail. I wish the president had named someone who would be a counter-weight to the four right-wing ideologues on the court, but not surprisingly, he chose a different course. I guess we’ll all have to hope that Lawrence Lessig is right about Kagan. Incidentally, I didn’t find Walter Dellinger’s case for her convincing; Greenwald decimated that piece here.

Meanwhile, we can count on conservatives to make idiotic arguments against Kagan. Media Matters previews and rebuts 15 “myths” about her nomination we’re likely to hear in the coming weeks.

SECOND UPDATE: Right on cue, the conservative National Review Online blog attacks Kagan’s “remoteness” from the average American because she did not learn to drive until her late 20s.

THIRD UPDATE: Democratic Senate candidate Tom Fiegen released the following statement regarding Kagan’s nomination:

“The President’s nomination of Ms. Kagan is an opportunity for our senior senator Chuck Grassley to either objectively advise and consent to the nomination or to bow to right wing forces in his party which took down Utah U.S. Senator Bob Bennett. Iowans will be watching to see whether Senator Grassley represents us or the most extreme wing of his own party.”

My money’s on “most extreme wing of his own party.” But at least this time Grassley will be able to remember why he voted against the president’s nominee.

FOURTH UPDATE: Oops, I forgot to post Grassley’s statement:

“A lifetime appointment requires a thorough vetting and I expect Elena Kagan to receive fair, respectful and deliberative consideration.  The Constitution gives the Senate a tremendous responsibility to carefully review the President’s nominees to the Supreme Court.   The Judiciary Committee must take time to ensure that the nominee will be true to the Constitution and apply the law, not personal politics, feelings or preferences.  With no judicial experience, it becomes even more important that we ask thorough questions to determine that Ms. Kagan truly understands the constitutional role of a Supreme Court justice.”

Senator Tom Harkin released this statement:

“Elena Kagan is extremely qualified.  She has the intellect and experience necessary to serve on our nation’s highest Court and her stellar legal credentials have been recognized by liberal and conservative lawyers alike.  She clerked for two judges for whom I have enormous respect – Judge Abner Mikva and Justice Thurgood Marshall.  I am also encouraged that in this nomination, the President selected a candidate from outside of the Judiciary.  Elena Kagan is recognized as one of the leading legal educators in our country.  

“I am confident that, if confirmed, she will be an important voice on our Court for the rule of law and constitutional rights and values.  She will ensure equality and give proper effect to our most important statutes, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and Civil Rights Act, so our most vulnerable citizens receive the fullest protections of the law.

“Elena Kagan’s nomination comes after a series of firsts in her career – first female Dean of Harvard Law School and first female Solicitor General – setting the stage for what may be only the fourth woman to serve on the Court in our history.”

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New Supreme Court nominee speculation thread

MSNBC’s First Read reported today:

Per NBC’s Pete Williams and Savannah Guthrie, administration officials say at least eight names are on President Obama’s list of potential Supreme Court nominees. Six are women and two men. The names: U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Diane Wood of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Merrick Garland of the DC Court of Appeals, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, former George Supreme Court Chief Judge Leah Ward Sears, Sidney Thomas of the 9th Circuit, and Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow. Of these names, people outside the government but familiar with White House thinking say the serious contenders are Kagan, Wood, Garland, Napolitano, and Granholm. Guthrie adds that Obama is likely to meet next week with key senators to discuss the vacancy. Many of the new additions are about interest group appeasement. And note the growing concern in the liberal/progressive blogosphere about Kagan.

One person who doesn’t sound concerned about Kagan is Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina:

“I like her,” he said, quickly adding, “and that might hurt her chances.”

Graham, whose support for Justice Sonia Sotomayor last summer was a turning point in her confirmation process, said he liked Kagan’s answers about national security and the president’s broad authority to detain enemy combatants when she was going through her own Senate confirmation.

Both of President Bill Clinton’s Supreme Court nominees had received a private stamp of approval from key Republican Senator Orrin Hatch. My hunch is that Graham’s kind words for Kagan help her chances with President Obama. He loves to position himself as a moderate between the left and the right.

What do you think?

UPDATE: Chris Bowers made the case for Sears here.

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Justice Stevens confirms plan to retire this year

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has confirmed that he will retire this June, as court observers have anticipated for some time. According to the Washington Post,

Aides and Democrats close to the process named three people as likely front-runners for the job: Solicitor General Elena Kagan, whom Obama appointed as the first woman to hold the post, and two appellate court judges, Diane Wood of Chicago and Merrick Garland of Washington.

I’m relieved to know that the Senate will be able to confirm Stevens’ successor while Democrats still have a sizable majority. We are likely to lose 3-8 Senate seats this November.

Whomever Obama appoints will probably get a lecture from Senator Chuck Grassley during confirmation hearings this summer. With any luck the person will turn out not to be “aggressive” and “obnoxious.”

Any comments or predictions about the upcoming Supreme Court nomination are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: Chris Bowers makes the case for former Georgia Supreme Court Justice Leah Ward Sears.

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Iowa Republicans, make up your minds about "activist judges"

Next week will mark the first anniversary of the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling in Varnum v Brien. Seven justices unanimously concluded that the section of the Iowa Code enacted through our state’s Defense of Marriage Act violates the equal protection provision of the Iowa Constitution. Since the day that decision was announced, many Iowa Republicans have called for overturning the court’s ruling. Some have denied that county recorders were obliged to implement the ruling, or insisted that government officials may ignore a court’s opinion about the constitutionality of a law. Others have called on Iowans to vote against retaining justices who supposedly overreached their authority. For example, gubernatorial candidate Rod Roberts said last November,

“We need to send a message to the Iowa Supreme Court that they are accountable to the people of Iowa,” said Roberts, who has made restoring the role of the people in state government a centerpiece of his campaign. “The problem with judicial activism is that it thwarts the will of the legislature and of the people of Iowa.”

Now that Congress has approved a health insurance reform bill Republicans don’t like, some GOP politicians have decided judicial activism isn’t so bad after all. Gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats pledged to “invoke the Constitution’s 10th Amendment to protect Iowans from new federal mandates” on health care. Rod Roberts followed Vander Plaats’ lead:

Roberts said that if the federal government passes a nationalized health care plan that conflicts with the Roberts Amendment, as governor he will file a lawsuit in federal court against President Obama to have the plan struck down as a violation of Iowans’ Tenth Amendment rights. The Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that powers not delegated to the federal government (such as the regulation of health insurance) are reserved for the states.

Gubernatorial candidate Terry Branstad also supported the idea of using the courts to nullify the will of Congress: “Given the massive scope and effect of this [health insurance reform] bill, it is likely that various provisions will be challenged in the courts. Those challenges are both timely and appropriate.”

Any constitutional lawyer can tell you that the U.S. Supreme Court has long affirmed the power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce. Law professor Mark Hall explains in detail here why constitutional arguments against an individual mandate to purchase health insurance are wrong. As for the broader 10th amendment claim that the constitution doesn’t empower the federal government to regulate health insurance, Hall notes, “Congress has ample power and precedent through the Constitution’s ‘Commerce Clause’ to regulate just about any aspect of the national economy.”

Conservative legal scholar Eugene Volokh likewise does not find the constitutional arguments against health insurance reform convincing:

While I agree that the recent commerce clause cases hold that Congress may not regulate noneconomic activity, as such, they also state that Congress may reach otherwise unregulable conduct as part of an overarching regulatory scheme, where the regulation of such conduct is necessary and proper to the success of such scheme. In this case, the overall scheme would involve the regulation of “commerce” as the Supreme Court has defined it for several decades, as it would involve the regulation of health care markets. And the success of such a regulatory scheme would depend upon requiring all to participate. (Among other things, if health care reform requires insurers to issue insurance to all comers, and prohibits refusals for pre-existing conditions, then a mandate is necessary to prevent opportunistic behavior by individuals who simply wait to purchase insurance until they get sick.)

The U.S. Supreme Court could overrule the will of Congress on health insurance reform only by reversing several decades of precedent about the definition of commerce. That’s textbook “judicial activism,” but it’s ok with some Iowa Republicans if it achieves the political end they are seeking.

By the way, Vander Plaats claims that as governor, he could issue an executive order halting same-sex marriages in Iowa. I wonder if he also thinks President Barack Obama could issue an executive order overturning a possible Supreme Court ruling against health insurance reform.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum considers prospects for a lawsuit challenging the individual mandate to buy health insurance. He makes the same point about Congressional authority to regulate interstate commerce and adds,

What’s more, the penalties for not buying insurance are tax penalties, and if anything, Congress has even wider scope in the tax area than in the commerce area. The Supreme Court has frequently ruled that Congress can pass tax laws that essentially force people to do things that Congress doesn’t have the direct power to require.

[…]here’s the thing: if the Supreme Court decided to overturn decades of precedent and strike down the mandate even though Kevin Drum says they shouldn’t (hard to imagine, I know), the insurance industry will go ballistic. If they’re required to cover all comers, even those with expensive pre-existing conditions, then they have to have a mandate in order to get all the healthy people into the insurance pool too. So they would argue very persuasively that unless Congress figures out a fix, they’ll drive private insurers out of business in short order. And that, in turn, will almost certainly be enough incentive for both Democrats and Republicans to find a way to enforce a mandate by other means. If necessary, there are ways to rewrite the rules so that people aren’t literally required to get insurance, but are incentivized so strongly that nearly everyone will do it. As an example, Congress might pass a law making state Medicaid funding dependent on states passing laws requiring residents to buy insurance. Dependent funding is something Congress does routinely, and states don’t have any constitutional issues when it comes to requiring residents to buy insurance. They all do it with auto insurance and Massachusetts does it with health insurance.

Like Drum, I view these proposed legal challenges as Republican posturing rather than a serious threat to nullify the law Obama signed this morning.

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Third district voters support campaign finance reform

About 70 percent of voters in Iowa’s third district disagree with the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling on corporate spending in election campaigns, according a poll of 548 registered voters conducted by SurveyUSA in IA-03 between March 10 and March 14. Common Cause, Public Campaign Action Fund and MoveOn.org Political Action commissioned the survey. The whole polling memo is here (pdf file). Full results and cross-tabs are here.

Asked, “Should corporations be able to spend money to support or oppose candidates for public office?” 70 percent of respondents said no, while just 21 percent said yes.

Two-thirds of respondents said Democrats have “not done enough to reduce the influence of special-interest money in politics,” while only 30 percent agreed that “Democrats have made a serious attempt to reduce the influence of special-interest money in politics.”

Respondents were asked about two different proposed laws in response to the Supreme Court ruling. One would require corporations to disclose the money they are spending in elections and would force the corporate CEO to appear in political advertising. A plurality of respondents said that would limit the influence of special interests “a little.”

The poll also asked about a law that would create a voluntary public financing system for elections, in which candidates could receive public matching funds if they reject special interest money and individual contributions exceeding $100. A plurality of respondents said that approach would limit the influence of special interests “a lot.” 40 percent said they would be more likely to vote for a member of Congress who supports that law, and only 22 percent said they would be less likely to re-elect a member of Congress who supports the law.

Representative Leonard Boswell sharply criticized the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case. I hope this poll receives his attention and prompts him to join the co-sponsors of the Fair Elections Now act. Click here for more information about that approach to campaign finance reform.

We're in for it now

Corporations already have too much control over American political discourse, and that problem will only get worse thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case. Adam B posted excerpts from the decision and the dissents.

The SCOTUS blog posted the complete text of the ruling and linked to many reactions and commentaries.

Election law expert Richard Hasen concludes that the court just killed campaign finance reform:

It is time for everyone to drop all the talk about the Roberts court’s “judicial minimalism,” with Chief Justice Roberts as an “umpire” who just calls balls and strikes. Make no mistake, this is an activist court that is well on its way to recrafting constitutional law in its image. The best example of that is this morning’s transformative opinion in Citizens United v. FEC. Today the court struck down decades-old limits on corporate and union spending in elections (including judicial elections) and opened up our political system to a money free-for-all.

The Des Moines Register assessed the impact on Iowa law, suggesting that our state may not be able to continue to ban corporate campaign contributions. (I thought this ruling pertained to independent expenditures by corporations, not direct corporate donations to candidates.) Kathie Obradovich collected some comments from Iowa politicians. Democrats slammed the ruling–not that they’ve accomplished anything on campaign finance reform since taking power.

All in all, a depressing day for our sorry excuse for a democracy. Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: Representative Leonard Boswell has introduced a constitutional amendment to overturn this ruling:

“I have introduced this important legislation because the Supreme Court’s ruling strikes at the very core of democracy in the United States by inflating the speech rights of large, faceless corporations to the same level of hard-working, every day Americans,” Boswell said in a statement. “The court’s elevation of corporate speech inevitably overpowers the speech and interests of human citizens who do not have the coffers to speak as loudly.”

Boswell said House Joint Resolution 68 would disallow a corporation or labor organization from using any operating funds or any other funds from its general treasury to pay for an advertisement in connection with a federal election campaign, regardless of whether or not the advertisement expressly advocates the election or defeat of a specified candidate.

“Corporations already have an active role in American political discourse through million-dollar political action committees and personal donations to campaigns,” Boswell said. “The legislation I introduced will prevent the Wall Street corporations that received billions in taxpayer bailout dollars from turning around and pouring that same money into candidates that will prevent financial regulation on their industry. No American should have to turn on the TV and see AIG telling them how to vote.”

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Take Action on Water Quality in Iowa

(Thanks for this important diary. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Iowa's waters are dangerously polluted. The problem is caused by big industries (e.g. coal plants, meat processing facilities) which dump straight into our waterways toxic chemicals that cause cancer and reproductive and developmental disorders (see our 10/2009 report). Large-scale farming operations are also implicated.

The results are devastating for the health of human and natural communities across the state. The Iowa River, an important recreational resource and supplier of the Iowa City area's drinking water, has been listed as “endangered.” In Des Moines, the water works had to stop drawing drinking water from the Raccoon River in September because of the growth of pollution-fed algae.

Whether in Iowa City or Des Moines, we all are near some body of water and these waters are where we smim, fish, canoe, and indeed where many of us get our drinking water. It is imperative that we protect them.

Many Iowans know that the DNR has recently nominated certain waters in the state as “outstanding waters,” sparing them from further pollution. This process, known as the “anti-degradation” rule-making process, is required by federal law under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

Yet what many Iowans may not know is that, like the Iowa River, the CWA is itself fast becoming endangered.

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Year in review: national politics in 2009 (part 1)

It took me a week longer than I anticipated, but I finally finished compiling links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage from last year. This post and part 2, coming later today, include stories on national politics, mostly relating to Congress and Barack Obama’s administration. Diaries reviewing Iowa politics in 2009 will come soon.

One thing struck me while compiling this post: on all of the House bills I covered here during 2009, Democrats Leonard Boswell, Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack voted the same way. That was a big change from 2007 and 2008, when Blue Dog Boswell voted with Republicans and against the majority of the Democratic caucus on many key bills.

No federal policy issue inspired more posts last year than health care reform. Rereading my earlier, guardedly hopeful pieces was depressing in light of the mess the health care reform bill has become. I was never optimistic about getting a strong public health insurance option through Congress, but I thought we had a chance to pass a very good bill. If I had anticipated the magnitude of the Democratic sellout on so many aspects of reform in addition to the public option, I wouldn’t have spent so many hours writing about this issue. I can’t say I wasn’t warned (and warned), though.

Links to stories from January through June 2009 are after the jump. Any thoughts about last year’s political events are welcome in this thread.

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Congratulations to Justice Sonia Sotomayor

The Senate confirmed Sonia Sotomayor as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court today by a vote of 68 to 31. As expected, Iowa’s senators split, with Tom Harkin voting yes and Chuck Grassley voting no.

Nine Republicans voted to confirm Sotomayor: Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Mel Martinez of Florida, George Voinovich of Ohio, and Kit Bond of Missouri. Bond, Gregg, Martinez and Voinovich have already announced plans to retire in 2010.

Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey warned yesterday that the GOP will pay a political price for opposing Sotomayor.

The two independents who caucus with Democrats (Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont) supported Sotomayor, as did all Senate Democrats who were present today (Ted Kennedy was absent). That’s a blow to Republicans, who had hoped that getting the National Rifle Association to make Sotomayor’s confirmation a scorecard issue would frighten a few gun-friendly Democrats into voting no. That would have changed the media narrative into “Democrats and Republicans divided over Sotomayor as she joins the Supreme Court.”

Although Max Baucus of Montana flirted with voting no on Sotomayor, he came around fairly quickly. I liked this comment from pro-gun Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia:

“I’m very disappointed. [NRA seems] to be going beyond their Second Amendment issues, particularly when I think the judge’s positions on those issues are still fairly open,” Warner said. “I trust in her judgment and temperament. I think the NRA at some point has gone beyond its mission, and are perhaps allowing themselves to get hijacked by those who are in the extreme.”

That hijacking occurred long ago.

Share any thoughts about Justice Sotomayor or the Supreme Court in this thread. I want to again express my gratitude to Justice John Paul Stevens for staying healthy all these years and to Justice David Souter for sticking it out long after he wanted to retire.

Now that Republicans have shown that they will largely oppose even a moderate, corporate-friendly judge like Sotomayor, I would like to see Obama nominate a fire-breathing liberal the next time a Supreme Court vacancy comes up.

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Grassley will vote no on Sotomayor

Senator Chuck Grassley’s office announced today that he will vote against confirming Judge Sonia Sotomayor as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. I’ve posted Grassley’s statement after the jump. The gist is, he acknowledges Sotomayor’s “credentials on paper” but has unanswered questions about her judicial philosophy. He doesn’t trust her to apply the law without regard for her “personal biases and prejudices.” He also disliked “her lack of clear and direct answers to simple questions regarding the Constitution” during her confirmation hearings. For the last 20 years, Supreme Court nominees have tried to avoid answering specific questions about issues that are likely to come before the court.

Grassley’s opening statement during Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings expressed concern about some of her speeches, including the infamous “wise Latina” remark. He had some contentious exchanges with the judge in subsequent days.

Grassley voted against confirming Judge Sotomayor for the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1998, but he said last month that he could not remember why.

Most Senate Republicans plan to vote against Sotomayor, but at least five have said they will support her confirmation: Richard Lugar of Indiana, Mel Martinez of Florida, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

UPDATE: Iowa Democratic Party chairman Michael Kiernan’s statement is also after the jump.

LATE UPDATE: The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13-6 on Tuesday to confirm Sotomayor, sending her nomination to the full Senate.

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New thread on Sotomayor confirmation hearings

Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings ended today. I hardly watched any of it on tv, but I got the highlights from David Waldman’s liveblogging at Congress Matters: Wednesday morning session, Wednesday afternoon session, Thursday morning session, and Thursday afternoon session.

On Wednesday Senator Chuck Grassley had a contentious exchange with Judge Sotomayor regarding a 1972 case on same-sex marriage. Tom Beaumont posted the transcript at the Des Moines Register site. Sotomayor read the case last night and answered more questions from Grassley about it today. I posted an excerpt from the transcript after the jump.

According to MSNBC reporter Norah O’Donnell, Grassley told her today that his constituents are “pretty unanimous against her,” referring to Sotomayor. On what basis can he make that claim? I don’t doubt that wingnuts have been working his phone lines, but I hope he doesn’t expect anyone to believe that Iowans overwhelmingly oppose the confirmation of this extremely intelligent and qualified judge.

Questioning of Sotomayor concluded this morning, and outside witnesses testified this afternoon. Republicans brought in New Haven firefighter Frank Ricci. His story has become a focal point for opponents of Sotomayor, because the Supreme Court recently found in his favor in a 5-4 decision that overruled a 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals decision involving Sotomayor. (Of course, Sotomayor’s critics don’t acknowledge the bigger picture of her rulings in race-related cases.)

It turns out that Ricci’s quite the veteran of employment lawsuits. He sued the city of New Haven in 1995, claiming that he was discriminated against because of his dyslexia, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Ricci also went to court to fight his 1998 dismissal from Middletown’s South Fire District. TPM-DC’s Brian Beutler observed,

[Ricci’s] views on jurisprudence seem to begin and end with the proposition that legal protections against discrimination are great when they work in his favor, and unconscionable when they don’t.

I don’t have a problem with people defending their rights in court, but Ricci was hardly the reluctant litigant some conservatives have made him out to be. Also, it’s worth noting that whether or not Ricci was treated unfairly, the position Sotomayor took in the Ricci case

is an act of judicial restraint. The Second Circuit panel, which included Judge Sonia Sotomayor, deferred to a decision of the elected officials of the City of New Haven. Whether the decision was correct or incorrect, it was decidedly the opposite of judicial activism.

In fact, the five conservative Supreme Court judges who overturned the lower court ruling in Ricci were engaging in judicial activism.

Share any thoughts about the confirmation process in this thread. How many Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote to confirm Sotomayor?

UPDATE: MyDD user bruh3 has a good response to Grassley’s line of questioning on that 1972 decision. and it’s just a guess, is that Grassley has been hearing from a lot of evangelicals about gay marriage in recent months. They were already mad at him last year for questioning the tax-exempt status of some televangelists. Then Grassley’s reaction to the Varnum v Brien decision was found wanting by many Iowa social conservatives. I suspect he wanted to make a show of grilling Judge Sotomayor on this issue.

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Sotomayor confirmation hearings thread

I only watched a small part of Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings today. I lost patience after 10 or 15 minutes of Senator Orrin Hatch asking the same questions over and over, even though she’d answered them the first time.

David Waldman liveblogged the hearings for Congress Matters. Click here for the morning session and here for the afternoon session. Waldman provided a bonus post with video of one low point: “Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, complete with his best Foghorn Leghorn stammer, reaches astonishing new levels of asshattery.”

Talking Points Memo compared Senator Lindsey Graham’s aggressive questioning today with his “obsequious” use of his time for questioning Judge Sam Alito. In 2006,

[Graham] took his allotted time as an opportunity to apologize to Mrs. Alito, who was upset by what was perceived to be overly tough questioning of her husband […].

Click here for video clips of Graham.

I read that Senator Chuck Grassley got a laugh out of the room in a strange way. An anti-abortion heckler disrupted the hearings during Grassley’s questioning time. After the man had been escorted from the room, Grassley said, “People always say I have the ability to turn people on.” It reminded me of Grassley’s somewhat off-color remark to Senator Kent Conrad during a Budget Committee meeting in March.

This thread is for any comments about Tuesday’s hearings or Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation in general.

UPDATE: Hilarious diary by Daily Kos user Upper West on “Sotomayor’s Woody Allen/Marshall McLuhan Moment.”

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Grassley lectures Sotomayor on judge's role

UPDATE: Sotomayor discussed her judicial philosophy in her opening statement to the committee. Talking Points Memo posted excerpts from all the senators’ opening statements.

The Senate Judiciary Committee began Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings today, and Radio Iowa has Senator Chuck Grassley’s opening statement. He gave quite the lecture about “judicial restraint” as opposed to “President Obama’s ’empathy’ standard.”

An excerpt is after the jump, along with some analysis of Grassley’s selective concern about empathy and so-called activist judges.

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Grassley: Sotomayor not as "aggressive" and "obnoxious" as he expected

I found some unintentional comedy in this AP story on Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s one-on-one meetings with senators:

Sotomayor has managed to disarm even senators who came prepared not to like her. Sen. Charles E. Grassley, an Iowa Republican, went in thinking “she would be aggressive and maybe even a little obnoxious.”

“I would classify her as kind of much friendlier … more reserved, less aggressive,” than he expected, Grassley told reporters later.

I wonder why Grassley thought Sotomayor would be “aggressive and maybe even a little obnoxious.” Would he expect that of any high-achieving Puerto Rican woman from New York, or only one who had been on the receiving end of a hatchet job in The New Republic? Or maybe he was taken in by right-wing commentators’ caricatures of Sotomayor.

Anyway, it’s safe to say that Sotomayor’s personality wasn’t the reason Grassley voted against her confirmation to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. He’ll have to keep trying to remember why he cast that vote in 1998.

By the way, the Democrat who’s running against Grassley next year, Bob Krause, has his campaign website up and is on Twitter @KrauseForIowa. He plans to campaign hard against Grassley’s opposition to universal health care with a public option.

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Don't pass up historic opportunities

A few thoughts came to mind when I read about the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Caperton v. Massey this week. The case involved a West Virginia Supreme Court judge who refused to recuse himself from a trial, even though the chief executive of one of the litigants had spent $3 million to help the judge get elected. In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court found that due process requires a judge to recuse himself if large campaign contributions create the appearance of partiality.

Like Scarecrow at the Oxdown Gazette, I found the hackery of Chief Justice John Roberts’ dissenting opinion revealing.

Mostly I was shocked to learn from this New York Times article that judges are still elected in 39 states. It’s bad enough that money corrupts our elections for the legislative and executive branches. Judicial elections create opportunities for “legalized bribery” as well as incentives for judges to let public opinion unduly shape their interpretation of the law in high-profile cases.  

I agree with the Des Moines Register’s editorial board:

The fact that it is difficult, if not impossible, to draw an ethical distinction between a bribe and a campaign contribution is a strong argument for why judges should not be elected. Period.

Iowa voters did away with judicial elections by approving an amendment to the state constitution in 1962. The governor appoints judges at all levels. The public has input through nominating commissions that evaluate potential appointees before forwarding a short list to the governor. In addition, judges can be removed either by the Iowa Supreme Court for disability or good cause, or by the voters through periodic retention elections.

We are fortunate that Iowans recognized the wisdom of scrapping judicial elections when the constitutional amendment was on the ballot. This page on the website of the American Judicature Society lists failed judicial reform efforts in numerous other states. As you can see, state legislators and voters have rejected similar proposals despite years of hard work by reform advocates.

Let this be a lesson for policy-makers at all levels to seize the chance to make big changes for the better, such as the currently favorable environment for health care reform. Opportunities to ditch deeply flawed but entrenched systems don’t come around every year, every election cycle or even every decade.

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Now *that* was mindless obstruction

I got a chuckle out of Thomas Beaumont’s article in today’s Des Moines Register, “Reason for vote against judge still eludes Grassley”:

Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley said Wednesday he still cannot recall why he opposed Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation to a federal appeals court judgeship 11 years ago, even after searching the Congressional Record for answers. […]

“I want to know why myself. I probably want to know why more than you want to know why,” Grassley told reporters Wednesday when pressed to explain his past votes against Sotomayor.

“But we’ve looked in the record of the committee and the Congressional Record and there’s no statement by me. So, I don’t know why,” he added.

Grassley was one of three Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee and 29 in the Senate to vote against Sotomayor’s confirmation to the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals in New York.

Grassley’s memory lapse prompted me to search for reports on the reasons some Senate Republicans opposed Sotomayor in 1998. I could not find any articles discussing controversial decisions she had made as a district court judge.

I also learned that Sotomayor gave a speech in 1994 containing a statement about a “wise woman” that is similar to her 2001 remark that conservative commentators have been flogging. Greg Sargent reported that “though the 1994 speech was disclosed to Republican Senators as part of her confirmation for Court of Appeals in 1998, there’s no sign that anyone objected to it in any way.”

So, why did Grassley and 28 other Republican Senators vote against Sotomayor in 1998? My hunch is that the reason Grassley didn’t enter a speech into the Congressional Record at the time is the same reason I can’t find any reporting on the grounds for opposition to her: Republicans had no legitimate beef with her qualifications or her judicial rulings.

An article by Paul West of the Baltimore Sun supports my hypothesis:

President Bill Clinton’s 1997 nomination of Sotomayor to the nation’s second highest court was held up for a year by Senate Republican blocking tactics. At the time, analysts said that Republicans did not want her confirmation to go forward because it would put her in line for a Supreme Court seat.

That’s the kind of reason I’d want to forget too if I were Grassley.

Senate Republicans used similar blocking tactics against many of Clinton’s nominees, hoping to run out the clock on his presidency. They later complained about Democratic “obstruction” of judicial appointments, but at least Democrats gave reasons for opposing the worst George W. Bush nominees (for instance, judicial philosophy or specific decisions as lower-court judges).

To his credit, Grassley told reporters on yesterday’s call that he is going into Judge Sotomayor’s upcoming confirmation hearings with an open mind. Not that it matters, because Senate Republicans already know that they don’t have the votes to block her elevation to the Supreme Court.

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Republican fantasy vs. reality on Sotomayor

If all you knew about 2nd Circuit U.S. Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor came from conservative commentators, you would think Barack Obama had nominated a far-left reverse racist for the Supreme Court. A typically unhinged assessment by Iowa’s own Ted Sporer, chairman of the Polk County Republican Party, is titled “The Supreme Court pick: Justice denied, racism and sexism exalted.” Like most conservatives who are freaking out, Sporer is reacting to one quotation from a speech Sotomayor gave in 2001:

“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

Conservative commentator Rod Dreher read the whole speech and concluded on Wednesday, “seeing her controversial comment in its larger context makes it look a lot less provocative and troubling.” However, the right-wing noise machine continues to sound the alarm about Sotomayor’s alleged radical, racist agenda.

You won’t be surprised to learn that people who have examined her judicial record (as opposed to one sentence from one speech) have reached substantially different conclusions. Some reality-based links are after the jump.

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Obama makes more history with Sotomayor nomination

The big news of the day is that President Barack Obama nominated U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. If confirmed, she would be the third woman to serve on the high court and the first Hispanic justice of either gender.

Sotomayor reportedly sealed the deal during her interview with the president last Thursday.

Deoliver47 has more background and video clips in this post.

Senate Republicans will try to drag out the confirmation process, but there will be no long-term vacancy on the high court. Justice David Souter has made clear that he will retire once his replacement is confirmed.

I don’t know a lot about Sotomayor, but I look forward to learning more. She has the qualities I wanted to see in a Supreme Court nominee, even if she is not as progressive as I would like. Tom Goldstein of the SCOTUS blog previewed arguments for and against her nomination. Excerpt:

Objectively, her qualifications are overwhelming from the perspective of ordinary Americans.  She has been a prosecutor, private litigator, trial judge, and appellate judge.  No one currently on the Court has that complete package of experience.

On the other hand, this criminal defense attorney who has argued cases before her court isn’t too impressed.

On principle, I am glad that a hit piece on Sotomayor filled with anonymous quotes did not derail her nomination. More on that hit piece is here.

Before I open the floor for comments, here’s some Supreme Court-related humor from The Onion.

What do you think of Obama’s choice?

UPDATE: Greg Sargent points out that “Seven Republicans currently in the Senate voted for the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor in 1998 as U.S. Circuit Court judge[…].” That’s not counting Arlen Specter, who also voted to confirm her in 1998 but is no longer a Republican.

SECOND UPDATE: Sports fans may remember that as a U.S. district court judge, Sotomayor ended the baseball strike in 1995.

THIRD UPDATE: Senator Chuck Grassley released this statement:

“A lifetime appointment requires a thorough vetting, and I expect Judge Sotomayor to receive fair and deliberative consideration.  The United States Senate has a responsibility to carefully review nominees to the Supreme Court.   The Judiciary Committee should take time to ensure that the nominee will be true to the Constitution and apply the law, not personal politics, feelings or preferences.  We need to ask tough questions to learn how this individual views the role of a Supreme Court justice.  The last 25 years of Senate review of nominees has been entirely different than the first 200 years, and today the Senate can’t just be a rubber stamp for President Obama’s nominees.”

Grassley is incorrect to imply that the Senate has been a rubber stamp of Supreme Court nominees for most of this country’s history. During the 19th century, the Senate rejected approximately one fourth of the presidential nominees for this office.

Here’s a list of failed nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Who should replace Justice Souter?

President Barack Obama will get his first chance to appoint a Supreme Court justice this year because of Justice David Souter’s plans to retire. Here is my wish list:

1. Obama should leave no opening to question whether his nominee is qualified for the Supreme Court. The easiest way to accomplish this would be for Obama to elevate one of the many good judges Bill Clinton appointed, who now have a decade or more of experience in the federal court sytem.

2. Among the highly qualified candidates, Obama should pick someone who is not a white male. Normally I detest identity politics, but this is the exception that proves the rule. Only two white women have ever served on the U.S. Supreme Court. Only two black men have ever served on the court. No Latino or Asian men or women have served on the court. It’s not a question of picking someone less qualified. I assume that approximately 200 Americans are qualified for this job, and many people with superb credentials are not white males. Some of them are mentioned here.

3. I don’t want Obama to use this opportunity to prove how bipartisan he is by nominating some middle-of-the-road judge. George Bush’s extreme right-wing nominees, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, need to be balanced. I am not saying Obama should pick a radical left-winger, but he should pick someone better than “centrist.”

4. On a related note, I would like to see someone to help move the Supreme Court away from its current pro-corporate bias. Clinton’s appointees were quite corporate-friendly, especially Steven Breyer. Bush’s appointees were extremely hostile to the rights of workers and environmental concers. I want someone who will bring some balance to the court.

5. Mr. desmoinesdem adds that Obama should pick someone with expertise in criminal law. None of the current justices had that background when they were appointed, but the Supreme Court hears many criminal law cases. I would assume that any judge with a decade of experience in the federal court system would be sufficiently familiar with criminal law.

I am confident that Obama will pick someone qualified. I am reasonably confident he will pick someone who is not a white male. I am less optimistic about whether he will pick a liberal. Given the economic team Obama has assembled, I am pessimistic about the chances for him to pick someone with less of a pro-corporate bias.

What do you think?

Todd Beeton spoke for many when he wrote last night,

Dear Justice Souter,

Thank you for waiting.

Thank you.

I’m grateful to Justice John Paul Stevens, but in some ways Souter deserves our thanks more, because for the last eight years he put his own preferences aside for the sake of the public interest.  

After the jump I’ve posted an excerpt Mr. desmoinesdem showed me from Jeffrey Toobin’s book The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court. It describes how Souter was “shattered” by the majority’s ruling in Bush v. Gore.

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If you were Grassley, what would you do?

Iowa Independent reports that Senator Arlen Specter’s decision to become a Democrat leaves Iowa’s own Chuck Grassley with a difficult choice. He is currently the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, but with Specter’s departure he appears to be first in line to become ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee instead. According to Iowa Independent,

GOP conference rules forbid him from serving as ranking member of both panels at the same time, a Senate aide said Tuesday. Theoretically, he could get a waiver to serve on both, but that’s unlikely, the aide said.

So very shortly, Grassley has a tough choice to make: Either he can remain the senior Republican on Finance – a powerful spot this year with comprehensive health reforms looming, but also a position he’ll have to give up at the end of 2010 because of GOP term-limit rules – or he can accept the top GOP spot on Judiciary.

Judiciary will consider many important matters this year and next, possibly including a Supreme Court nominee. However, if I were Grassley I would stay at Finance for sure.

President Barack Obama wants health care reform to happen this year and is willing to use the budget reconciliation process to make it happen. The health care reform bill may become one of the most important pieces of legislation this decade. By all accounts Grassley has a strong working relationship with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus.

I don’t think Judiciary will consider anything of comparable importance this year, and I doubt Grassley and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy would quickly develop the same kind of rapport Grassley has with Baucus.

At the end of 2010, Grassley’s term as ranking member of Finance will be up, and he can choose whether to become the ranking member of Judiciary or Budget. He has expressed a preference for Judiciary in the past.

If you were Grassley, would you take the chance to become the ranking member at Judiciary this year? If Grassley did give up his current position, it appears that Orrin Hatch would become the ranking member at Finance.

By the way, David Waldman reported yesterday at Congress Matters that Specter’s switch throws off the Judiciary Committee’s ratio of Democrats and Republicans. A new Senate organizing resolution will have to be adopted, and Democrats may use that opportunity to secure more seats on the Senate committees.

UPDATE: Grassley’s press secretary Beth Pellett Levine told me on Wednesday that the senator has not made any statement about whether he would consider becoming the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee.

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Early reaction from Iowa Republicans to the Varnum v Brien ruling

Oliver Willis concisely summarized the religious right’s reaction to the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling in Varnum v Brien:

People getting married: clearly the worst thing in the world. If they’re gay.

I laughed, but in truth it’s not that simple. The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza sees the case as “one of those critical moments in the making of the next Republican presidential nominee.” He quotes likely repeat candidates Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee reacting negatively to the ruling.

I’m more interested in how the battle over marriage equality will affect the balance of forces within the Republican Party of Iowa as its leaders attempt to climb out of the very deep hole they’re in.

Join me after the jump for more on the conservative Republican response to Friday’s events. I didn’t see any Republican moderates speaking out in support of the unanimous ruling. Please correct me if I am wrong, because I would like to give credit to such brave souls if they are out there. It’s worth noting that Republican Governor Terry Branstad appointed two of the seven current Supreme Court justices, including the author of the Varnum v Brien decision, Mark Cady.

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Varnum v Brien decision on same-sex marriage expected Friday

I received an e-mail from One Iowa announcing that the Iowa Supreme Court will hand down its ruling in the Varnum v. Brien same-sex marriage case tomorrow (April 3). The court heard oral arguments in the case in December. Frankly, I was hoping the ruling would come out after the legislature had adjourned, but no matter what the court decides or when it announces the ruling, the political battle over gay marriage will continue in Iowa.

Bleeding Heartland user jpmassar went over the legal issues concerning Varnum v Brien here. Daily Kos user Osorio also wrote a good legal primer on this case.

Click here to read my summary of the main points from the oral arguments, along with some analysis of the hearing.

I’ll put up a post as soon as I can tomorrow once the ruling becomes public.

Win or lose, One Iowa is planning to hold rallies in the following cities: Ames, Cedar Falls/Waterloo, Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Decorah, Des Moines, Iowa City, Grinnell/Newton, Mason City, Quad Cities and Sioux City. Go here to sign up to attend one of these rallies.

UPDATE: I posted a press release from I’M for Iowa after the jump. Ed Fallon voted against Iowa’s Defense of Marriage Act when he served in the Iowa House.  

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Thank you, Justice Stevens

While Joe Biden was taking the oath of office this morning, I was struck by how healthy Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens looked and sounded. The man is 88 years old, and not only does he look 15 years younger, he is still able to do an intellectually demanding job well.

Even though luck has a lot to do with longevity (Mr. desmoinesdem tells me that Justice Stevens has an older brother who still practices law in Florida), I still feel grateful for whatever Stevens has done throughout his life to stay in such fine health.

Imagine the harm that could have been done if George Bush had been able to name another justice of the Scalia, Thomas, Roberts or Alito variety.

President Gerald Ford nominated Stevens for the Supreme Court in 1975. That has to be one of the best things Ford ever did for this country.

Apparently Stevens has no immediate plans to step down and has hired clerks for the Supreme Court’s 2009 session. I learned from his wikipedia entry that if Stevens continues to serve through February 2011, he will become the oldest justice in the history of the Supreme Court (Oliver Wendell Holmes currently holds the record). If Stevens serves until July 15, 2012, he would become the justice to have served on the high court for the longest time (surpassing William O. Douglas).

New thread on Varnum v Brien and gay marriage

It’s been a week since the Iowa Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Varnum v Brien. You can view the video of the proceedings here (scroll down the page). For three different analyses of the legal issues in this case, see the legal primers that jpmassar and Osorio wrote before the Supreme Court hearing, or this piece Chase Martyn published today.

Grant Schulte of the Des Moines Register summarized the key points raised by each side in this article. Assistant Polk County Attorney Roger Kuhle argued that:

*the district court judge erroneously threw out expert testimony;

*the Polk County recorder being sued had no choice but to follow the Defense of Marriage Act;

*allowing same-sex marriage could lead to polygamy becoming legal;

*allowing same-sex marriage could hurt children being raised by heterosexual parents;

*allowing same-sex marriage could hurt the institution of marriage, because future generations would know marriage is no longer about procreation;

*the Iowa legislature (not courts) should decide this matter.

Dennis Johnson, the attorney for the six couples seeking marriage rights, argued that:

*Iowa’s Defense of Marriage Act violates the equal protection and due process provisions of Iowa’s Constitution;

*arguments about potential damage to the institution of marriage are “highly speculative”;

*the district court judge was right to reject the expert testimony concerning the benefits of having a mother and a father;

*marriage is not about procreation, because Iowa issues marriage licenses to many people who cannot have children or who would be bad parents (e.g. sex offenders);

*Iowa already permits same-sex couples to be foster parents and adopt children;

*gay marriage would not lead to legalizing marriages between more than two people.

Drake University Law Professor Sally Frank wrote a brief play-by-play of the arguments, which she observed from the courtroom. (Side note: Iowans may not be aware that Frank is well-known for filing the lawsuit that ended gender discrimination at Princeton University’s eating clubs.) I agree with Frank’s comments about the weakest point for plaintiffs’ attorney Johnson:

The lawyer for the Plaintiffs’ (six couples seeking marriage) […] had a little trouble distinguishing his argument that marriage was a fundamental right that could not be limited to heterosexuals from the question of polygamists also having a fundamental right to marry. At one point though, he pointed out that no other Iowa laws that deal with marriage in any way would need to be changed if same sex couples were allowed to marry. This would not be the case with polygamy.

When questioned about whether Iowa would be forced to permit polygamy if the court allowed gay marriage, Johnson’s first response was to say that marriage had always been about two individuals–not strong turf when the rest of your case holds that the tradition of marriage being between a man and a woman is not sufficient grounds to deny same-sex couples those rights. He was correct to point out shortly thereafter that certain laws (e.g. related to custody or inheritance) would have to be changed if Iowa allowed polygamy.

Several people I’ve spoken with felt that Kuhle, who is an excellent attorney, was not at the top of his game last Tuesday while being questioned by the judges. They speculated that either he did not prepare enough or did not believe all of the arguments he was making.

The Iowa City Press-Citizen editorial board said watching the arguments made them

even more confused as to what compelling interest the state has in denying otherwise qualifying same-sex partners from applying for and receiving a state marriage license.

The Des Moines Register editorial board also felt many of Kuhle’s arguments were weak:

If the Iowa Supreme Court ultimately upholds Iowa’s law limiting marriage to a man and a woman, it will have to have a better reason than the one offered by defenders of the law at Tuesday’s oral argument.

Legal experts quoted in this article by Jason Hancock said they could not tell how the court will rule on this case from observing the oral arguments.

As a non-lawyer, I found it difficult to follow some of the discussion during the hearing. At Iowa Independent, Lynda Waddington wrote a good piece explaining the significance of all that talk over whether the court should apply a “rational basis” or a “strict scrutiny” standard in this case. She interviewed former Iowa Supreme Court judge Mark McCormick:

“The Court has decided quite a number of equal protection clause cases,” said McCormick. “A good deal of what the court does in [those] cases depends on what the test or standard is.”

When a case involves a routine economic issue, the court typically applies a rational basis test, he said. That means the judges seek to decide if the Legislature could have had any reasonable basis for making the classification that it did. If the judges conclude that the state had a rational reason for the law, the court won’t interfere with it, but will defer to the Legislature.

“Strict scrutiny” is a more demanding standard, he said.

“Where you are dealing with an issue like race or citizenship or something that is considered a fundamental constitutional right, the burden is on the government to prove a compelling need for the classification,” he explained.

Some prominent social conservatives in Iowa expect the court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, clearing a path to same-sex marriage in this state.

University of Iowa law professor Angela Onwuachi-Willig told the Iowa City Press-Citizen that she also expects the state law to be overturned. The same article noted that while the legal arguments made in this case resemble those made in other states, the attorneys for the plaintiffs also relied on legal precedents specific to Iowa:

Camilla Taylor, a senior staff attorney with Lambda Legal and lead counsel for the plaintiffs, foresees several possible outcomes of the hearing.

She said there could be an outright win or loss, the case could be remanded back to trial court to hear from more witnesses, or the court could duplicate rulings on similar cases in New Jersey and Vermont.

In those states, the courts granted civil unions but did not rule on the issue of gay marriage. Taylor said she expected the Legislatures in Vermont and New Jersey to draft legislation supporting same-sex marriage, thus taking it out of the court’s hands.

Taylor said she doubted the Iowa Supreme Court would use the last two options.

“Most likely it will be an outright win because of constitutional precedent. The cases we are relying on are very strong,” she said. “I don’t want to sound presumptuous, but I am optimistic because of the Iowa cases we are relying on.”

Meanwhile, Kate and Trish Varnum, whose name has become famous because of this case, just want to get married.

Whatever the state Supreme Court decides, gay marriage is not going away as a political issue anytime soon in Iowa.

Yesterday the Sioux City Council tabled a resolution that would have defined marriage as being between a man and a woman:

Instead, the council will seek an attorney general’s opinion about whether a city council can legally pass such a resolution and whether doing so would open the city up to litigation.

The Iowa branch of the American Civil Liberties Union has already come out against the Sioux City proposal, so the idea of litigation against the city is not far-fetched.

Arguments about gay parenting and whether homosexuality should be “normalized” in public schools will likely be prominent in next year’s school board elections. By a 6-1 vote on Monday, the Ankeny school board

denied a request by parents who said “And Tango Makes Three,” a children’s book about two male penguins that raise a chick together, should be off-limits to elementary school students.

Looking beyond Iowa, I imagine that Newsweek’s mailroom is having a busy week after the magazine published a cover story on gay marriage by religion editor Lisa Miller. The opening passage is sure to anger many:

Let’s try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does. Shall we look to Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel-all these fathers and heroes were polygamists. The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments-especially family. The apostle Paul (also single) regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. “It is better to marry than to burn with passion,” says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered. Would any contemporary heterosexual married couple-who likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic love-turn to the Bible as a how-to script?

Of course not, yet the religious opponents of gay marriage would have it be so.

This is an open thread for any comments about the politics or the legal issues surrounding the marriage equality debate.

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Events coming up this week

As always, post a comment or drop me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if I’ve left anything out.

Monday, December 15:

One Iowa and Lambda Legal are organizing a townhall forum to celebrate and discuss the oral arguments before the Iowa Supreme Court in the landmark Varnum v. Brien case. RSVP not required for townhall forums.

Council Bluffs Townhall Forum

Monday, Dec. 15, 2008 – 6:30-7:30 PM

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 22 Dillman

For more information, contact One Iowa at organize@oneiowa.org or 515-288-4019

From the Iowa Environmental Council’s e-mail bulletin:

Missouri River Group Meeting

December 15-18, Omaha

The new Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee, also known as MRRIC, has scheduled another meeting. The Committee is made up of Federal, State, and Tribal Representatives as well as stakeholders, with an interest in the river, from throughout the basin. The purpose of MRRIC is to offer guidance to the Army Corps of Engineers and the Fish and Wildlife Service on future management of the Missouri River. The Committee will offer advice on the recovery process for the three Endangered Species on the river. Those include; the interior least tern, piping plover and the pallid sturgeon. MRRIC will also look at possible social, cultural and economic impacts of the recovery process on people in the basin. The next meeting of MRRIC will be December 15th to the 18th in Omaha. To learn more and to get involved, go to: www.mrric.org

Tuesday, December 16:

Reservations are due for the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa’s Crossroads luncheon on Friday (see below).

From the Center on Sustainable Communities:

Eco-Friendly Home Product Showcase

DATE: Tuesday, December 16, 2008

TIME: 11:30am – 1:30pm


Meredith Corporation

1716 Locust St.

Des Moines, IA

Meredith Corporation is inviting all COSC members to a showcase of

the latest and greatest environmentally friendly home products.

Join us at a green trade show on

December 16th from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

at Meredith Corporation, 1716 Locust St.

Be sure to stop by to learn about what’s new in green building.  If you plan to attend,

please RSVP to Jenny McCoy at Jennifer.mccoy@meredith.com.  She can

provide more information about the event location and parking.

Center On Sustainable Communities

219 1/2 Fifth Street, Suite A

Historic Valley Junction

West Des Moines, Iowa 50265

(515) 277-6222

1000 Friends of Iowa is presenting the 2008 Best Development Awards:

   * New Residential: Upper Mississippi Valley Redevelopment Company, 1820 East Thirteenth Street, Village of East Davenport Development in Davenport, Iowa

   * Renovated Residential: The HEART Program’s Washington Street Project in Dubuque, Iowa

   * Renovated Commercial/Civic: M+ Architects, ISU Design West development in Sioux City, Iowa

   * New Commercial/Civic: RDG Planning & Design, Marion Arts and Environmental Center at Lowe Park in Marion, Iowa

   * Mixed Use: LADCO Development, Village of Ponderosa in West Des Moines, Iowa

   * Leadership: City of Iowa City, Iowa City Subdivision Code in Iowa City, Iowa

The awards ceremony will be held on December 16, 2008 at 6:30 p.m., at RDG Planning & Design, 301 Grand Avenue, 2nd floor in downtown Des Moines, IA 50309. Parking is available behind the building.

One Iowa and Lambda Legal have another townhall forum scheduled:

Sioux City Townhall Forum

Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2008 – 6:30-7:30 PM

Public Library, Glesson Room, 529 Pierce St.

RSVP not required, but for more information, contact One Iowa at organize@oneiowa.org or 515-288-4019

Wednesday, December 17:

It’s the last day to submit nominations for Talking Points Memo’s “Golden Duke Awards.” For more information, click here:


Friday, December 19:

From the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa:

Migration, Marriage, and Much More!

Making a Difference

Judie Hoffman , TIA Iowa Action Fund Lobbyist

Brad Clark, One Iowa

Brenda Kole, Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa

Judie Hoffman and Friends will discuss the 2009 Legislative Agenda of The Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Action Fund and other progressive ally organizations.  Learn about the issues and how you can join with other progressive voices of faith & goodwill from across the state and make a difference.

The Crossroads monthly luncheon is Friday, December 19 from 11:45 am – 1 pm at Plymouth Congregational Church, 42nd & Ingersoll Avenue, Des Moines.

Reservations are required to attend Crossroads and must be received by noon on Tuesday, December 16.  Cost is $8 and is payable at the door. If you make a reservation and are unable to attend, payment for the reservation is appreciated.

For more information or to make a reservation, call (515) 279-8715 or email tiaiowa@dwx.com.

Sunday, December 21:

From the Iowa Renewable Energy Association:

Join I-Renew to Celebrate Renewable Energy on Winter Solstice. Festivities include: Live Music! Free Giveaways! Silent Auction with great renewable holiday gifts! Discussion and fun with like-minded folks interested in renewable energy! The event is on Sunday December 21 at 6:00 PM at the Mill Restaurant, 120 E. Burlington St. Iowa City. The funds raised at the event will go toward I-Renew’s work educating Iowans about sustainable energy production and use. If you would like to donate silent auction items, help promote the event, get more information about sponsorship opportunities, or have any questions, please contact the I-Renew office at:(319) 643-3160 or by emailing irenew@irenew.org.

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Where to watch Varnum v. Brien oral arguments in the Iowa Supreme Court

The Iowa Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments at 10 am on December 9 in Varnum v. Brien, a case that will test the constitutionality of Iowa’s “Defense of Marriage Act.”

The Interfaith Alliance of Iowa sent out an e-mail listing the ways people can watch the proceedings live:

Iowa Supreme  Court – www.iowacourts.gov/Supreme_Court/Varnum_v_Brien/index.asp

Des Moines Register –  www.dmregister.com

KCCI TV – www.kcci.com and Digital Channel 8.2

WHO TV – www.whotv.com

Mediacom Channel 247 (Central Iowa)

Mediacom Channel 102 (Eastern Iowa)

One Iowa has also organized “Oral Arguments Watch Parties” from 10 am to 11:30 am at the following locations:

Des Moines Watch Party – Des Moines Public Library, 1000 Grand Avenue

Ames Watch Party – Iowa State Memorial Union, Gallery Room (3rd Floor), 2229 Lincoln Way

Iowa City Watch Party – Iowa City Public Library, 123 South Linn

I’ll have a longer post up later on why marriage equality is important.  

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Supreme Court gives Republicans what they want on gun rights

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

For generations, the Supreme Court has interpreted this to mean there is a right to keep and bear arms in the context of a “well-regulated” militia.

Today in a 5-4 ruling, Republican-appointed Supreme Court judges finally gave the National Rifle Association and other gun advocates what they’ve been seeking for decades: an opinion that says the Second Amendment implies an individual right to keep and bear arms.

In the process, they invalidated a Washington, DC statute banning handguns and requiring trigger-locks on other guns.

There’s a lot of legal commentary on this ruling at the SCOTUSblog and at The Volokh Conspiracy blog.

Here are some other posts on the ruling:

Jeralyn at Talk Left (an attorney)

Adam B at Daily Kos (also an attorney)

Dahlia Lithwick at Slate (this includes an observation that Justice Scalia, who wrote today’s ruling, recently dissented to a court ruling on the rights of Guantanamo detainees by saying it “will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed.”)

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Your laugh for the day

Mr. desmoinesdem is reading Jan Crawford Greenburg’s book Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court. (It was reviewed here at the Volokh conspiracy blog.)

When Justice William Brennan left the court at the beginning of Poppy Bush’s presidency, Kenneth Starr was the early favorite to get the nomination, but Bush’s Attorney General Richard Thornburgh rejected him as “unacceptable” because he was not reliably conservative enough.

So Bush’s chief of staff John Sununu (a former governor of New Hampshire) and New Hampshire Senator Warren Rudman prevailed upon the White House to nominate David Souter instead. Oops!

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley was among the Senate Republicans who were deeply concerned by the answers Souter gave during his confirmation hearings. But according to Greenburg, Republicans

could not abandon a man the White House had assured them was a reliable conservative. Some assumed Souter was simply pandering to Democrats to get through the committee, and they refused to believe he meant what he said.

Souter was the last “stealth conservative” you’ll ever see a Republican president nominate for the Supreme Court. If John McCain gets elected, expect more like Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Samuel Alito.

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Ten more reasons not to vote for John McCain

Tom Harkin has right-wing bloggers in a tizzy because he recently suggested that the military tradition in McCain’s family has given him a dangerously imbalanced worldview:

“I think one of the problems that John McCain has is that his grandfather was an admiral, his father was an admiral,” Harkin said on a conference call with Iowa Independent and other media. “He comes from a long line of just military people. I think his whole world view, his life view, has been shaped from a military viewpoint and he has a hard time of thinking beyond that. And I think he’s trapped in that, so everything is looked at sort of from his life experiences as always having been in the military and I think that can be pretty dangerous.”

I see what Harkin is getting at–McCain’s background makes him unlikely to get us out of Iraq and perhaps more likely to get us involved in other wars. Still, I don’t think this is good messaging against McCain. Americans are not going to reject his candidacy because he comes from too military of a family.

Harkin was on more solid ground when he talked about McCain’s “scary” temper. McCain has a long history of losing it that suggests he lacks the temperament to be president. This is a huge mark in Barack Obama’s favor, because Obama is much more even-tempered.

But for those who are tired of talking about McCain’s anger management problem, I offer ten more reasons not to support the GOP nominee:

1. Mr. Straight Talk can’t keep his story straight when it comes to Iraq, the economy, tax cuts or other issues. Brave New Films shows you the evidence in “The Real McCain 2”:

2. McCain has employed senior campaign workers with a history of lobbying for foreign corporations or brutal foreign regimes. In fact, the man McCain chose to run this summer’s Republican National Convention is a lobbyist whose firm represented the Burmese junta.

McCain’s campaign has fired at least six employees this month because of their lobbying ties, including his national finance co-chairman Tom Loeffler, whose firm collected millions from Saudi Arabia and other foreign governments.

Even so, McCain is still employing Senior Political Adviser Charlie Black, who has lobbied for:

   * Ahmed Chalabi, the smooth talking Iraqi exile who helped manufacture the WMD charges against Saddam Hussien that led the U.S. to invade.

   * Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, found guilty of torture, executions, disappearances, and human rights violations, who hired Black to “improve” his image in the U.S.

   * Somali dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, who’s army massacred between 40,000 and 50,000 civilians in two years.

   * Dictator Mobuto Sese Seko of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), who amassed a vast personal fortune and repressed rival political parties while his country’s children starved.

   * Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi of UNITA, an ally of apartheid-era South Africa, who started a civil war which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and ordered the torture and murder of countless opponents.

   * Nigerian Dictator Ibrahim Babangida ran a one-party regime, who arrested his opponents, and murdered journalists.

3. McCain has only released two years of his own tax returns and none of his wife Cindy’s tax returns, despite a growing consensus that the public has a right to know about McCain’s personal finances.

Why should you care? Because in the past Cindy McCain had business dealings with a crook whom Senator McCain helped bail out. We need to know if similar conflicts of interest exist today.

4. McCain’s campaign has underpaid for the use of his wife’s corporate jet, even though the self-styled campaign finance reformer has backed legislation that would require candidates to pay the real costs of using corporate jets.

Even after his hypocrisy on this issue was exposed, McCain continues to use his wife’s corporate jet for campaign purposes.

5. McCain’s foreign policy in in all meaningful ways the same as George Bush’s.

6. McCain is running for president on his “vast experience,” but he keeps confusing Sunnis with Shiites, even after being corrected by his buddy Joe Lieberman.

7. McCain says a lot of the problems in the U.S. economy are just “psychological.”

8. McCain’s judicial appointments would likely be the same kind of extreme conservatives George Bush has favored:

The Senator has long touted his opposition to Roe, and has voted for every one of Bush’s judicial appointments; the rhetoric of his speech shows that he is getting his advice on the Court from the most extreme elements of the conservative movement.

9. McCain’s campaign has been bashing Obama for supposedly being willing to negotiate with the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, but McCain said two years ago that the U.S. would have to engage Hamas if that group were running the Palestinian government.

10. McCain’s campaign blog misleadingly portrays the GOP candidate as a progressive, even though his voting record and stands on the issues are hard-line conservative.

For more on McCain’s record, see the Democratic National Committee’s new clearinghouse for research about him and MoveOn.org’s list of Ten Things You Should Know about John McCain.

By the way, McCain’s continuing problem with fundraising suggests that a lot of Republicans have their own reasons for not supporting the GOP nominee.

It’s incredible to think that even after a campaign that dragged on for months longer than the Republican nominating battle, the Democratic nominee is likely to have a financial edge over McCain this fall.

Feel free to post comments about other reasons not to support McCain that I’ve left out.

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John Edwards will stand up for the Constitution!

With the nomination of Michael Mukasey for attorney general, to replace the Alberto Gonzales, being in the News lately, the issue of Constitutional Rights has once again moved to the front burner of American Politics. Senator Christopher Dodd, much to his credit has been an out-spoken defender of Constitutional Rights:

much of the focus has been on Mukasey's non-answer to if he considers waterboarding torture and thus unconstitutional

“No, I was the first senator among the presidential candidates to say no,” said Dodd in response to a question if he would support Mukasey's nomination.

Way to go Senator Dodd! We need more Senators fighting to protect the Constitution, like you have!  You have my respect Sir.

Since my Candidate of choice is John Edwards however, this made me wonder, “What does Edwards think about Protecting the Constitution?”

To see what I found out, read on please …

(BTW, I think an Edwards/Dodd Ticket would be an excellent combination to restore a broken America, too)

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Bill Richardson: Visit to Iowa and Week in Review

Last week was a significant one in Bill Richardson's campaign for President, with a major address in Washington, D.C. on climate change and how to end the bloodshed in Iraq, along with a visit to Iowa. 

It was also a significant week for peace and stability in Korea and Asia – which highlights Richardson's expertise in foreign affairs and his diplomatic skills. With Richardson as President we get two for the price of one – a can-do leader on domestic issues and an experienced diplomat that knows how to bring people and nations together.


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