Trump Hopes To Nix Tax Returns Going Public

It was a good day for lawyers working for Donald Trump as they will be busy due to the attempt they are making at keeping Donald Trump’s tax returns from being made public.  Many have stated, with this blogger doing so since 2015, that some interesting answers will be discovered to some national issues when they become available.

What every other presidential nominee has done for decades when releasing tax returns was the very thing Trump refused to do.  Today Trump’s lawyers asked the Supreme Court to stop a prosecutor’s investigation of his personal finances, a bold assertion of presidential power that seeks a landmark decision from the nation’s highest court.

The Roberts Court does not want to become embroiled in what would be a historical moment that would test the court’s independence.  Or bungle into the Constitution’s separation-of-powers design.  Trump may not have read his civics books over the years, and care not a wit about his lasting image for the history books.  But each justice on the high court has studied at length constitutional law, and Roberts cares about the legacy of his stewardship of the court, and how it will be viewed by history.

If the court needs to interject itself it will be with the most narrow of rulings. Roberts does not wish to go down this road and look like a partisan institution.

For the republic’s well-being, when dealing with a president’s personal conduct and illegal behavior, we must not allow presidential immunity from criminal investigations to be placed above law and order.

Remington Arms Lawsuit Can Proceed, Marketing Of Deadly Weapons Needs Curtailing

9960ed34-2501-4f83-a6da-6786a5beac1d-large16x9_remingtonlawsuit

There is good news to report for those who know it is important to hold gun manufacturers accountable for the deadly weapons they produce and market to the nation.

Today the Supreme Court let it be known they will not block a lawsuit against Remington Arms, the company that manufactured the Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle that a gunman used to slaughter 20 kids and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012.   What the court actually did was opt not to hear the gun-maker’s appeal.  The justices did not include any comment about the case, Remington Arms Co. v. Soto, as they simply turned it away.

Like so many other Americans I was simply horrified at the shooting of those children, and then frustrated and saddened that no national movement was made with gun control as a result.   The news about this lawsuit may be the last opportunity to not allow those young boys and girls to have died in such fashion with no meaningful changes to our gun laws.

The suit, filed in Connecticut state court by a survivor and relatives of nine victims, says Remington never should have sold such a dangerous weapon to the public. The suit also claims that Remington deliberately marketed the rifle to young, at-risk males, including by placing it in violent video games.  Pretending that there is such immunity to gun-makers and dealers from prosecution over crimes committed with their weapons of public slaughter that no lawsuit can challenge them must not continue.

Therefore the news of the Court not limiting progress with the lawsuit is good news, indeed.

One of the side issues about our society that intrigues me at times, and frustrates me at other moments is how masculinity is perceived, and in relation to this case, how it is marketed.

One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit is David Wheeler, whose 6-year-old son, Ben, was shot and killed in the school.  Wheeler told NPR earlier this year in an interview that he recalled one of Remington’s ads for a gun that carried the tagline, “Consider your man card reissued.”

“What kind of society allows manhood to be defined in this way?” Wheeler asked.  I know there is a tremendous amount of educating and social training required to move the needle when it comes to how masculinity is defined.  One of the ways we can start, and have a major impact on limiting violence in this nation, is to constrict how gun manufacturers are allowed to operate.

This is not the first time I have called attention to the truly sick element in our nation who have a fetish for guns.  I raised the issue in 2009 when pink rifles were being sold for young girls.

Thankfully’ we now have manufacturers that pump out children’s weapons designed for that young person who wants to go wild boar hunting, or who needs to slay someone.  We all know a kid would not want to have just any old run-of-the-mill style rifle to kill the beast or commit the murder.  I mean how embarrassing to talk trash with your buddies about what ‘went down’, and need to admit it all happened with just a ‘plain jane’ of a weapon.  What any fashionable and trendy kid needs are a designer model.  How ’bout pink!

There is no end to the avenues the makers of deadly weapons will take to prey on those most suspectable to their ads, marketing, and fear-mongering.  Therefore, it is most important that reasonable men and women, such as those who are pursuing this lawsuit, be allowed to move forward.

I am pleased that the Supreme Court allowed that to happen today.

Freedom Of The Press And The Death Of Ray Jenkins

An obituary that carries with it a slice of American history that resonates over the decades.

Ray Jenkins, the city editor of The Alabama Journal, was eating a bologna sandwich at his desk on April 5, 1960, and thumbing through a week-old copy of The New York Times when a full-page ad caught his eye.

Prominent liberals, including Eleanor Roosevelt and Jackie Robinson, were appealing for money for a legal-defense fund for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was facing a trial in Alabama on perjury charges — a good local angle for The Journal.

The ad, titled “Heed Their Rising Voices,” castigated Alabama officials for what it called “an unprecedented wave of terror” against leaders of the civil rights movement.

Within minutes, Mr. Jenkins tapped out 13 paragraphs about the ad; his article appeared in the paper that afternoon.

Apparently, no one else had noticed the ad until then — The Times sold 394 papers a day in Alabama in 1960. And so Alabama officials were startled and enraged after reading Mr. Jenkins’s report, which pointed out that the ad contained some factual errors.

They filed a libel suit against The Times, which ended four years later in a landmark ruling by the United States Supreme Court in the paper’s favor. The case, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, made it harder for public officials to sue for defamation and remains a bedrock legal principle upholding freedom of the press.

Trump Gets Bad News Early Monday–Long Week Ahead For Abuser Of Office

Donald Trump’s week has started out with a federal appeals court ruling that will make for nasty tweets and loud bombastic behavior when he lumbers up to the press at White House driveway.

The court ruled Trump’s tax returns must be turned over to a local grand jury in Manhattan.  The sting must be felt deep in his flabby gut as the three-judge panel ruled unanimously Trump is not immune from state prosecutors’ investigative steps, such as a grand jury subpoena, particularly for records that don’t pertain to his official duties.

With the ruling today Trump’s accounting firm must turn over eight years of his personal and corporate tax returns to Manhattan prosecutors.  It should be noted that this court did not take a position on Trump’s argument that he was immune from all criminal investigations.  A lower court, you may recall,  had called that argument “repugnant to the nation’s governmental structure and constitutional values.”

This blog has long contended many of the answers to Trump’s actions on the international stage would be revealed with the tax forms.  The citizens of this nation have to ask why Trump attempts so vigorously to hide his tax returns?   Put this matter into historical terms.  No other president in the last 50 years has felt that they needed to keep all their tax returns secret.  One has to laugh at Republicans who cheer Trump on over his had behavior as both President Clinton and his wife, along with President Obama have released decades of tax returns. Yet Trump fights in court, appeals to ever-higher levels, determined to keep his tax returns secret.

There will be more legal maneuvers as Trump will appeal to the Supreme Court.  The court must act with honor.  Our republic needs to recover from the sickness that has been injected into our national system.  The callous disregard for norms and common sense must be restored.  The legal system is making every effort to allow for checks and balances to proceed as a safeguard during these years of chaos.  The better angels of truth and justice need to be heard when this case is heard and ruled on in the Supreme Court.

And so it goes.

Gay And Transgender Cases Before Supreme Court, Roberts Might Be Key

gay-coworker

The Supreme Court this session has some powerfully important cases which impact our families, friends, and communities.  And it kicks off today with arguments whether federal discrimination laws protect gay and transgender workers.  To the average reasoned person looking at the cases, they seem to have a very tell-tale need for court action so to right a wrong or take the next step in the long national story of setting judicially mandated legal stones in place for social maturity.

And let me make the point even more clear in terms of numbers of Americans to be impacted with legal action taking place over the coming months.

Over 10 million adults in this country will continue to be unfairly vulnerable to discrimination as they largely have been to date, or they will be swept under an umbrella that provides important employment protections.  So yes, what happens will impact someone you know!

The issue for the court is the reach of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which, besides protecting against workplace discrimination because of race, religion and other characteristics, also prohibits discrimination ‘because of sex.’  

The court combined two cases to consider whether gay workers are covered. Gerald Bostock claims he was fired from his job as a social worker in Clayton County, Ga., after he became more open about being gay, including joining a gay softball league.  Donald Zarda said he was fired as skydiving instructor after joking with a female client to whom he was strapped for a tandem dive that he was gay. (Zarda died in 2014.)

The transgender case involves Aimee Stephens, who worked for years at a Michigan funeral home before being fired after informing the owners and colleagues of her gender transition.

The court will hand down highly important rulings about discrimination for gay and transgender people–in a presidential election year.  It will be nothing short of a barometer reading concerning how this newly formed set of conservative justices view the rights of gay Americans.  But therein lies the problem, which will need a political fix in Congress.

For 50 years, courts read the 1964 law to mean only that women could not be treated worse than men, and vice versa, not that discrimination on the basis of sex included LGBTQ individuals.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has said the 1964 act does guarantee protections for gay people.  My readers will not be surprised that the Trump administration has pushed for the Act to be viewed as not applying to sexual orientation or transgender status.

So bring in the justices to weigh in on the law of the land.   And also bring up the stress level for gay Americans who seek equality and protection under the law.

The cases come down to a central general concept.  Anyone is free to have an opinion, but that person is not free to discriminate on the basis of it.  That seems a very basic and easy to digest summation.

How we are still doing battle for the rights of people over sexual persuasion and identity is, on the one hand baffling, while on the other hand offensive.  As the cases are now heard this session, and in 2020 when the cases are ruled should already be a time when it is most clear that such discrimination is not only illegal, but also immoral and inhumane.   What is wrong with people who think their bigotry should rule?

From a legal perspective I do find credibility with the argument that trying to interpret Title VII, a law passed some 55 years ago, might be problematic when dealing with the issues at hand today–such as with transgender people.   I understand the legal and political jockeying that such a line of thinking takes us.   Because with that line of reasoning comes the need for another new law to prohibit anti-gay discrimination.

That would be a long political chapter to watch unfold.  But it would be far better, in the long run, to do the hard work and pass legislation than to allow for bigots to discriminate against gay and transgender people and do so in a ‘legal’ fashion based on some tortured ruling from this conservative court.  Because in the end as the rulings are handed down, sadly saying, I think the gay and transgender community will come up short.

The unknown that I have written about at times when discussing the Supreme Court is the degree to which Chief Justice Roberts’s concern for the Court’s legacy is enough to stand up to the overtly partisan conservative majority.  Roberts, like any court leader, wants the era to reflect a positive trajectory.  That will not happen with corn-pone rulings aimed for the lowest common denominators in the land.

And so it goes.

Audio Of Supreme Court Oral Arguments Since 1955

Alert.

You are now entering a nerd zone. 

I became aware of an online site which is most amazing.  Oyez is without doubt the best resource imaginable when it comes gathering information about the Supreme Court and members who have served on that august bench.

A joint project of Cornell’s Legal Information Institute and the Chicago-Kent College of Law, Oyez provides the audio for all Supreme Court oral arguments and opinion announcements available since the court’s recording system was installed in 1955, along with transcripts of those arguments synchronized to the audio.

So as one listens to the audio the transcript advances on the screen with the name of the speaker noted along with a yellow highlight over the paragraph being heard.

So very useful and also so very nicely presented.

Superb to the point that one not be a nerd to learn from it.  Those who seek to know more about the high court, and know more about certain cases have a treasure trove with this site.

Consider this 1957 case.

In this suit under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, a section foreman of a railroad was awarded damages for injuries sustained while operating a gasoline-powered motor track car pulling a hand car hauling material, tools, and equipment. Each car had only four wheels. The cars were fastened together by a pin, not a coupler. The motor track car had only hand brakes, and the hand car had no brakes. There was evidence that the accident resulted from want of adequate brakes for the use to which the cars were being put. The sole issue before this Court was whether such vehicles, when used in the manner here involved, are within the coverage of the Safety Appliance Acts.

Now hear the oral arguments via Oyez.

One More Time For John Paul Stevens Book

In April 2018 I blogged about a book I much enjoyed by former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.   

This is how I started that post.

I have been enjoying the fast read from former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens as he writes about the five Chief Justices that he knew.  While moving along today in the book I came across the following and had to read it twice—–Lord times have changed.  Thankfully!

….I had also written an opinion arguing that an airlines’ policy of hiring only unmarried flight attendants did not unlawfully discriminate against women because the airline had another rule making men ineligible for the position.

I much enjoy reading books about the court and the justices who have served.  One book shelf is devoted to this interest of mine.  I am proud to have this volume behind the desk where I write my blog posts.

41cbusbomnl

Liberal Giant Of Supreme Court Recalled With Affection

Many stories were told and recalled today about Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

Justice Stevens was known around the court for treating others with sensitivity and respect. One former law clerk, Christopher L. Eisgruber, described in a 1993 essay an incident at a party for new clerks: Before Justice Stevens arrived, an older male justice had instructed one of the few female clerks present to serve coffee. When Justice Stevens entered, he quickly grasped the situation, walked up to the young woman and said: ‘Thank you for taking your turn with the coffee. I think it’s my turn now.’ He took over the job.