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Articles Posted in Antonin Scalia

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Today the Supreme Court of the United States dealt a strong blow to President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration issuing a single one-line decision on the ruling “the judgment of the lower court is affirmed by an equally divided court.” Nearly two years ago, President Obama announced a series of executive actions on immigration after the Republican controlled House of Representatives refused to tackle the issue of comprehensive immigration reform. As part of his executive actions on immigration, President Obama announced the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and introduced a new program known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, (DAPA) designed to shield nearly five million undocumented immigrants from deportation. Following these initiatives, USCIS announced that applications for expanded DACA and the new DAPA program would begin to be accepted on February 18, 2015.

The DACA program would have expanded the population eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to people of any current age who entered the United States before the age of 16 and lived in the United States continuously since January 1, 2010, and extending the period of DACA and work authorization from two years to three years. The new DAPA program would have granted parents of U.S. Citizens and lawful permanent residents the opportunity to request deferred action and employment authorization for a three year period, on the condition that they have lived in the United States continuously since January 1, 2010 and pass required background checks.

On February 16, 2015 just two days before the programs were scheduled to go into effect, Texas along with 25 other states, filed a temporary court injunction ultimately suspending both programs from going into effect. This action prompted the Obama administration to intervene. For months, the federal government and the State of Texas battled one another in federal court. The court ultimately determined that Texas and at least 25 other status had sufficient ‘standing’ to challenge these programs. In response, the federal government filed an emergency motion to stay, however the motion was eventually denied by the court. This led the government to file a writ of certiorari before the Supreme Court. The fate of Obama’s executive actions grew all the more uncertain with the sudden death of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on February 13th.  President Obama made desperate attempts to fill the vacated seat by nominating Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, the Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Efforts to fill the seat were unsuccessful as Republicans vowed to keep Garland from sitting on the bench. Thus, Scalia’s death left behind an eight-person bench, and with no one to fill his seat, the growing possibility of a deadlock within the Supreme Court.

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This morning, President Obama announced his nominee to fill the vacant seat of Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. Contrary to what was believed, President Obama chose the most experienced and respected nominee among his top contenders, as opposed to the most progressive choice. The final decision came down to Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Merrick B. Garland. The President’s choice reflects political concerns to seat a Justice in time for oral arguments to begin in the case, United States v. Texas, a case that challenges the President’s modified Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program. In the coming weeks, Judge Garland will need to face the Republicans in the Senate, who have vowed to block him from sitting on the Supreme Court. In order to be confirmed, he must receive votes from Republicans in the Senate.  It is expected that Republicans will vote in Garland’s favor since he is not inclined to take leading positions on ideological questions such as DACA/DAPA. If appointed, Garland is unlikely to take a progressive approach on the bench. Throughout his career, Garland has taken a centrist or neutral view of the law. The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments for United States v. Texas in April. For more on DACA/DAPA please click here.

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In this photo taken May 1, 2008, Judge Merrick B. Garland is seen at the federal courthouse in Washington, Thursday, May 1, 2008. Garland has been in this position before. The last time a seat opened up on the U.S. Supreme Court, in 2010, he was widely considered a top candidate for the job and interviewed with President Barack Obama. But the slot ultimately went to Justice Elena Kagan. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Chief Judge Garland was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals in April 1997 and became Chief Judge on February 12, 2013. He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College in 1974 and magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1977. Following graduation, he served as law clerk to Judge Henry J. Friendly of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and to U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. From 1979 to 1981, he was Special Assistant to the Attorney General of the United States. He then joined the law firm of Arnold & Porter, where he was a partner from 1985 to 1989 and from 1992 to 1993. He served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia from 1989 to 1992, and as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice from 1993 to 1994. From 1994 until his appointment as U.S. Circuit Judge, he served as Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General, where his responsibilities included supervising the Oklahoma City bombing and UNABOM prosecutions.

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The fate of the President’s executive actions on immigration now rests in the hands of eight justices on the Supreme Court, absent Justice Antonin Scalia. The Supreme Court will begin to hear oral arguments for the case, United States v. Texas on April 18th of this year, with a final ruling expected by summertime. Nearly a year and a half ago, President Obama announced a series of executive actions on immigration including the expanded Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program, and other measures to enhance border security, prioritize deportations, and modernize the immigration system. USCIS was expected to begin accepting applications for the expanded DACA and DAPA program on February 18th. The excitement surrounding the expanded DACA and DAPA program however was very short lived. A federal court order filed by Texas and other states on February 16th temporarily suspended these programs from going into effect.

Since then, the federal government and the State of Texas have been battling one another in court. The Fifth Circuit court determined that Texas and at least 25 other states had sufficient ‘standing’ to challenge both programs from being implemented. The state of Texas along with other states, argue that these programs are not only outside the purview of the President’s constitutional power, but that the States would be substantially burdened, should the programs go into effect. Texas states that as a result of these programs, the State would suffer increased health-care, law enforcement, and educational costs which would come out of the State budget and more importantly the pockets of Texas residents, who do not take kindly to these programs. Additionally, Texas claims that it would suffer additional financial burden in having to issue more drivers’ licenses to individuals qualifying for expanded DACA and DAPA, a state-subsidized benefit. If the Supreme Court decides in favor of the federal government, nearly 5 million immigrants residing in the United States unlawfully will be shielded from deportation, and States will be forced to bear the costs to accommodate their new ‘deferred’ status. Deferred status will grant individuals the right to legally obtain employment, obtain a social security number, a driver’s license, and an education, but it is not a path to citizenship. As it stands, it is unlikely that a new Supreme Court Justice will be appointed before oral arguments begin in this case, especially with mounting political pressure from Republicans seeking to block the President from making a nomination.

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“He was a jurist of captivating brilliance and wit, with a rare talent to make even the most sober judge laugh. The press referred to his “energetic fervor,” “astringent intellect,” “peppery prose,” “acumen,” and “affability,” all apt descriptions. He was eminently quotable, his pungent opinions so clearly stated that his words never slipped from the reader’s grasp” -Ruth Bader Ginsburg

When news broke of the passing of the longest serving Justice on the Supreme Court, Antonin Scalia, a cloud of uncertainty lifted above the heads of Republican frontrunners vying for the Republican nomination for President of the United States. Indeed, the topic of conversation during the February 13th Republican Presidential Debate, which occurred on the day of Justice Scalia’s passing, focused on whether or not the current President should nominate the next Supreme Court Justice. Justice Antonin Scalia, nominated to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, was the most outspoken conservative on the bench, and not very well liked by liberal politicians and intellectuals, primarily due to the philosophy behind his jurisprudence. Scalia’s jurisprudence during his 29 years on the bench belonged to the Originalist school of thought. An Originalist’s interpretation of the Constitution denies the contention that the Constitution should be interpreted by the Court as a living, breathing document, a view that is typically shared by liberal Constructivist Justices like Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Instead, Originalists believe that the Constitution should be interpreted according to the original intent or meaning shared by the founders as it was written. This would require an Originalist to adhere to the spirit of the law as it was intended by the founders of our country, as well as an understanding of what was meant when the Constitution was originally drafted.

During his time on the bench, Scalia tenaciously criticized the liberal Constructivist view, calling this interpretation of the Constitution, judicial activism, which he viewed as inappropriate. In his view the Supreme Court must be insulated and not be swayed by the social concerns of the public. Throughout his trajectory, Scalia has gone down in history for handing down the most controversial dissents in the history of the Supreme Court, avidly supporting the right to bear arms, challenging the right to abortion, affirmative action, gay rights, and was ultimately instrumental in securing the Presidential nomination of George W. Bush in the 2000 case Bush V. Gore. Up until his untimely death, the Supreme Court held a conservative majority. The conservatives on the bench include Chief Justice, John G. Roberts Jr. nominated by President George W. Bush in 2005, Justice Clarence Thomas nominated by President George W. Bush in 1991, Justice Samuel Anthony Alito Jr nominated by President George W. Bush in 2006, Justice Anthony Kennedy, a moderate conservative swing vote nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1988, and up until recently Antonin Scalia nominated by Ronald Reagan in 1986. Together, these conservative Justices established a 5-4 majority against liberal Justices: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, and recently appointed Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Antonin Scalia’s sudden death has now upset the conservative majority, creating a balance of power between conservative and liberal minds on the bench. With the death of Scalia, the bench is now evenly split ideologically 4-4 with a vacant seat ready to be filled by a liberal Justice, thereby creating a Liberal majority. This of course will not be easy, since the Senate is dominated by the Republican party, and the Senate will be in charge of vetting the President’s nominee.

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