Fair Courts E-lert: Op-Ed: GOP Must Address President's Comments; Merit Selection Plan Gets Mixed Response

February 10, 2017


Op-Ed: GOP Must Address the President’s Comments on the Court

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct.) authored an op-ed in the Hartford Courant calling on Republican legislators to address Donald Trump’s recent comments on the judiciary. Blumenthal writes that “[a]fter a federal judge temporarily blocked President Trump’s ban on immigration from a number of Muslim majority nations, he responded with intimidating and threatening missives attacking the judiciary, and his personal invective and insults raise core constitutional dangers.” He continued that these attacks “reflect profound disrespect for an independent judiciary and the Constitution” and that they “are an attempt to destroy the courts’ credibility and capacity to serve as a check on lawless executive action.” Blumenthal says that “[r]espect for these [judicial] opinions is fundamental — without it, our democracy cannot function.” He writes that “Republican leaders…must join a bipartisan effort to push back against the president’s bullying.” Blumenthal closes by stating democracy depends on his “colleagues across the aisle choosing to put down their partisan rhetoric and taking their oversight responsibility seriously.”

Bills in AZ and ID Seeking to Allow State Legislatures to Invalidate Federal Court Decisions

Bills introduced in Arizona and Idaho would give the state legislatures the power to “invalidate” federal court decisions and would prohibit state judges from following those decisions, writes Bill Raftery for Gavel to Gavel. HB 2097, introduced in Arizona, holds that “‘the sovereign authority’ of Arizona allows the legislature to call a halt to any ‘commandeering’ ‘action’ by the federal government,” including rulings by federal courts. Raftery explains that HB 65, recently introduced in Idaho, states that “the legislature had the power to ‘invalidate’ ‘federal court or U.S. supreme court decisions’ as ‘not constitutional compared to the original intent of the United States constitution.’” The bill continues that “[s]uch…court cases shall not be recognized by the State of Idaho and are null and void and of no effect in this state.” The Arizona House passed HB 2097, which is now before the state senate. In Idaho, HB 65 is currently before the State Affairs Committee. When commenting on an early draft, the Idaho Attorney General’s office, according to Raftery, responded that “the bill as drafted likely violated the U.S. Constitution.”


Marion County Merit Selection Bill Receives Mixed Response

A bill instituting a merit selection system for judges in Marion County, Indiana has received mixed reviews, including criticism by black legislative leaders who think the bill will disenfranchise voters and limit diversity, writes Fatima Hussein for Indianapolis Star. Rep. Cherrish Pryor (D-Indianapolis), a member of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus, voiced her concern that the bill “takes away the ability of Marion County taxpayers to pick who will serve on the bench, pure and simple.” According to Hussein, “[s]upporters of House Bill 1036 say it’s a well-balanced approach that gives voters, party leaders and members of the legal community some control over the judicial selection process.” Joel Schumm, a professor at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law highlighted that “[u]nlike the statutes for some other selection processes, it expressly requires the committee to consider ‘whether the candidate reflects the diversity and makeup of Marion County.’” Julia Vaughn, policy director for Common Cause Indiana, added that while she supports the bill she is “disappointed that the bill isn’t stronger in ensuring that the selection committee itself should be diverse.”


MD High Court Reforms State’s Bail System

On Tuesday, the Maryland’s highest court voted to change the state’s bail policies for criminal defendants, writes Ovetta Wiggins and Ann E. Marimow for The Washington Post. According to the authors, “[t]he rule change, which takes effect July 1, requires judges to impose the ‘least onerous’ conditions when setting bail for a defendant who is not considered a danger or a flight risk.” They write that this “essentially abolish[es] a system in which poor people could languish behind bars for weeks or months before trial because they could not post bond.” Vinnie Magliano, president of East Coast Bailbonds, criticized the decision saying “the court was ‘moving one million miles an hour in the wrong direction.’” However, Maryland’s Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) said the change is a “‘huge step forward’ that will lead to ‘more justice in Maryland.’” He added: “If you’re poor, you’re not going to be held in jail just because you can’t make bail.” The rules, he concluded, will “‘keep dangerous people behind bars’ and ‘let the vast majority who are not a threat out’ before trial.”