High Court Marshal Seeks Enforcement of Anti-Picketing Laws

The marshal of the U.S. Supreme Court has asked Maryland and Virginia officials to enforce laws she says prohibit picketing outside the homes of the justices who live in the two states.

“For weeks on end, large groups of protesters chanting slogans, using bullhorns, and banging drums have picketed Justices’ homes,” Marshal Gail Curley wrote in the Friday letters to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and two local elected officials.

Curley wrote that Virginia and Maryland laws and a Montgomery County, Maryland, ordinance prohibit picketing at justices’ homes, and she asked the officials to direct police to enforce those provisions.

Justices’ homes have been the target of abortion rights protests since May, when a leaked draft opinion suggested the court was poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide.

The protests and threatening activities have “increased since May,” Curley wrote in a letter, and have continued since the court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade was issued last week.

“Earlier this week, for example, 75 protesters loudly picketed at one Justice’s home in Montgomery County for 20-30 minutes in the evening, then proceeded to picket at another Justice’s home for 30 minutes, where the crowd grew to 100, and finally returned to the first Justice’s home to picket for another 20 minutes,” Curley wrote in her letter to Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich. “This is exactly the kind of conduct that the Maryland and Montgomery County laws prohibit.”

In her letter to Jeffrey McKay, chairman of the Fairfax County board of supervisors, she said one recent protest outside an unspecified justice’s home involved dozens of people chanting, “no privacy for us, no peace for you!”

The letters from Curley were dated Friday and shared with reporters by a spokesperson for the Supreme Court on Saturday.

Curley’s request came about a month after a California man was found with a gun, knife and pepper spray near the Maryland home of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh after telling police he was planning to kill the justice. The man, Nicholas John Roske, 26, of Simi Valley, Calif., has been charged with attempting to murder a justice of the United States and has pleaded not guilty.

Youngkin and Hogan, both Republicans, have both previously expressed concerns about the protests. In May, they sent a joint letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland asking for federal law enforcement resources to keep the justices safe and enforce a federal law they said prohibits picketing with the intent to influence a judge.

Hogan spokesperson Michael Ricci said in a statement Saturday that the governor had directed state police to “further review enforcement options that respect the First Amendment and the Constitution.” He also said that “had the marshal taken time to explore the matter,” she would have learned that the constitutionality of the Maryland statute she cited has been questioned by the state Attorney General’s Office.

Elrich said he had no recording of having received the letter addressed to him and questioned why it was released to the press. He said he would review it and was willing to discuss it with Curley but defended the job Montgomery County Police have done so far.

“In Montgomery County we are following the law that provides security and respects the First Amendment rights of protestors. That is what we do, regardless of the subject of the protests,” he said.

Youngkin spokesperson Christian Martinez said the Virginia governor welcomed the marshal’s request and said Youngkin had made the same request of McKay in recent weeks.

“The Governor remains in regular contact with the justices themselves and holds their safety as an utmost priority. He is in contact with state and local officials on the Marshal’s request for assistance and will continue to engage on the issue of the Justice’s safety,” Martinez said.

Youngkin in May pushed for a security perimeter around the homes of justices living in Fairfax County, but McKay rebuffed that request, saying it would infringe on First Amendment protest rights. Youngkin also attempted to create a new felony penalty for certain actions during demonstrations aimed at judges or other officers of a court, which state lawmakers rejected.

A spokesperson for McKay said he was working on a response to the letter.

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US Capitol Riot Panel Hints at Criminal Referrals for Witness Tampering 

Lawmakers investigating the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol last year are signaling they could send referrals to the Justice Department for prosecution of illegal tampering with witnesses who have testified to the panel.

Representative Liz Cheney, vice chairperson of the House of Representatives investigative panel, displayed Tuesday two messages from notes sent to hearing witnesses saying that former President Donald Trump was keeping a close eye on the hearings and was counting on continued loyalty. The senders of the notes weren’t identified.

The panel is probing how the insurrection unfolded and Trump’s role in trying to upend his 2020 reelection defeat.

Cheney’s disclosure of the notes came after two hours of explosive testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, the former top assistant to Mark Meadows, who was Trump’s last White House chief of staff.

Hutchinson described in detail how Trump became angry and volatile in the last weeks of his presidency as the reality of his loss to Democrat Joe Biden sank in and his own associates dismissed his repeated claims that he had been cheated out of reelection.

CNN quoted unidentified sources Thursday saying Hutchinson was one of the witnesses who had been contacted by someone attempting to influence her testimony.

In an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” show Thursday, Cheney said the attempted influencing of witnesses is “very serious. It really goes to the heart of our legal system. And it’s something the committee will certainly be reviewing.”

She added, “It gives us a real insight into how people around the former president are operating, into the extent to which they believe that they can affect the testimony of witnesses before the committee. And it’s something we take very seriously, and it’s something that people should be aware of. It’s a very serious issue, and I would imagine the Department of Justice would be very interested in, and would take that very seriously, as well.”

At Tuesday’s hearing, Cheney did not say which of the committee’s witnesses had been contacted but displayed two text messages on a large television screen.

One said, “What they said to me is as long as I continue to be a team player, they know I’m on the team, I’m doing the right thing, I’m protecting who I need to protect, you know, I’ll continue to stay in good graces in Trump World.”

“And they have reminded me a couple of times that Trump does read transcripts and just to keep that in mind as I proceed through my depositions and interviews with the committee,” that witness continued.

In another example, a second witness said, “[A person] let me know you have your deposition tomorrow. He wants me to let you know that he’s thinking about you. He knows you’re loyal, and you’re going to do the right thing when you go in for your deposition.”

Representative Zoe Lofgren, another member of the investigative panel, told CNN, “It’s a concern, and anyone who is trying to dissuade or tamper with witnesses should be on notice that that’s a crime, and we are perfectly prepared to provide any evidence we have to the proper authorities.”

A third committee member, Representative Jamie Raskin, said after the hearing, “It’s a crime to tamper with witnesses. It’s a form of obstructing justice. The committee won’t tolerate it. And we haven’t had a chance to fully investigate or fully discuss it, but it’s something we want to look into.”

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Native Americans Bristle at Suggestions They Offer Abortions on Tribal Land

Shortly after the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion to end women’s constitutional right to abortion, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt appeared on Fox News suggesting Native American tribes in his state, looking to get around Oklahoma’s tough new abortion ban, might “set up abortion on demand” on any of the 39 Indian reservations in that state.

“You know, the tribes in Oklahoma are super liberal,” Stitt said, “They go to Washington, D.C. They talk to President (Joe) Biden at the White House. They kind of adopt those strategies.”

The U.S. government recognizes tribes as sovereign nations, and as such, have the right to pass their own laws regulating abortion on tribal land, subject to certain limitations.

Stitt’s comments set off wide speculation in the press and in social media about whether abortion seekers could turn to Indian tribes for abortion services in states where the procedure is or soon will be banned now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned.

 

Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have called on the White House to open up federal land and resources to provide reproductive health services. Neither lawmaker referenced Indian reservations, nor have tribes suggested any interest in opening abortion havens.

“It’s been journalists. It’s been activists looking for some sort of a solution,” said Stacy Leeds, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma and a law professor at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law in Arizona. “And now in the last couple of days, it has started to escalate, with politicians almost warning tribes that they better not do this.”

Tuesday, the White House ruled out the possibility of using federal lands for abortion services.

But that hasn’t stopped the conversation in social media.

 

 

It is a conversation, however, that most Native Americans find problematic, if not downright offensive.

“Any time there’s a call for tribes to do something that is not originating in their own thought processes, it very much just reeks of further colonization,” said Leeds. “You know, the outsider trying to tell a local tribal government what their law and policy ought to be.”

Native Americans find the conversation particularly upsetting given a well-documented history of sexual violence against Indigenous women that ranged from rape and trafficking to forced sterilizations in the 1970s.

“And you also have this history of the wholesale removal of Native children away from their families and communities to boarding schools or being adopted out to other communities. It’s just traumatic for a lot of people,” Leeds said.

 

In its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the Supreme Court decriminalized abortion, but that didn’t guarantee all women had access. The 1976 Hyde Amendment, which was amended several times in later years, prohibits federal money being used to pay for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or endangerment to the woman’s life. The Indian Health Service relies on federal funds and is the only health care provider available for many Native communities.

To look to tribes for abortion services is to assume Native Americans are a left-leaning monolith, Leeds said.

“Politically, (Native) people are all over the place. You know, it’s a large leap to just automatically presume that everybody would want this,” she said. “And a lot of tribal spiritual traditions hold life as sacred from beginning to the end.”

In 2010, for example, the Navajo Nation Supreme Court ruled on a case involving the death of an unborn fetus in a highway collision, saying, “We take judicial notice that the child, even the unborn child, occupies a space in Navajo culture that can best be described as holy or sacred, although neither of these words convey the child’s status accurately. The child is awę́ę́ t’áá’íídą́ą́’hiną́, alive at conception, and develops perfectly in the care of the mother.”

Native Americans have been given few opportunities to voice their opinions on abortion. One exception is a 2020 study by the Southwest Women’s Law Center and the nonprofit Forward Together that surveyed Native American women on and off reservations in New Mexico — a state where abortions remain legal and available, even after the recent Supreme Court ruling.

When asked whether they would support or oppose a law that would criminalize doctors performing abortions, 45% of respondents said they would oppose it; 25% said they would support it, and 27% said they did not have a strong opinion one way or the other.

“Most of the Native women who are speaking out nationally are upset about the Supreme Court’s latest decision,” Leeds said. “But I don’t see any of them advocating that their communities then become the saviors of everyone else’s communities.”

 

Tribes are sovereign nations and have the right to pass their own laws regulating abortion on tribal land territories. But criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country is complex; whether tribal governments, state governments or the federal government has jurisdiction depends on the nature of the crime, the identity of the perpetrator and victim, and where the crime takes place.

In theory, tribes could perform abortions, said Leeds, but only in tribally funded facilities on Native patients by Native practitioners. Anyone else could be subject to state or federal law.

“And that’s the galling piece of this whole conversation,” Leeds said. “You want tribes to take this risk for you that might negatively impact their whole world indefinitely? People just don’t understand what they are truly asking.”

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Oklahoma will be allowed to prosecute non-Native Americans for crimes committed on reservations when the victim is Native, a decision that cuts back on the court’s 2020 ruling that a large chunk of eastern Oklahoma — about 43% of the state — remains an Indian reservation.

 

Stitt celebrated the decision.

“Today, our efforts proved worthwhile, and the court upheld that Indian country is part of a state, not separate from it,” Stitt said.

Oklahoma in May passed the Nation’s toughest abortion ban. Wednesday’s ruling reduces the likelihood of any tribal abortion haven in that state.

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Jackson to be Sworn in as Breyer Retires From Supreme Court

Nearly three months after she won confirmation to the Supreme Court, Ketanji Brown Jackson is officially becoming a justice.

Jackson, 51, will be sworn as the court’s 116th justice Thursday, just as the man she is replacing, Justice Stephen Breyer, retires.

The judicial pas de deux is set to take place at noon, the moment Breyer said in a letter to President Joe Biden on Wednesday that his retirement will take effect after nearly 28 years on the nation’s highest court.

The court is expected to issue its final opinions earlier Thursday in a momentous and rancorous term that included overturning Roe v. Wade’s guarantee of the right to an abortion. The remaining cases are a challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate climate-warming emissions from power plants, and Biden’s bid to end the Trump-era “remain in Mexico” asylum program.

In a ceremony the court said it will stream live on its website, Jackson will recite two oaths required of Supreme Court justices, one administered by Breyer and the other by Chief Justice John Roberts.

Jackson, a federal judge since 2013, will be the first Black woman to serve as a justice. She will be joining three women, Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Amy Coney Barrett — the first time four women will serve together on the nine-member court.

Biden nominated Jackson in February, a month after Breyer, 83, announced he would retire at the end of the court’s term, assuming his successor had been confirmed. Breyer’s earlier-than-usual announcement and the condition he attached was a recognition of the Democrats’ tenuous hold on the Senate in an era of hyper-partisanship, especially surrounding federal judgeships.

The Senate confirmed Jackson’s nomination in early April, by a 53-47 mostly party-line vote that included support from three Republicans.

She has been in a sort of judicial limbo ever since, remaining a judge on the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., but not hearing any cases. Biden elevated her to that court from the district judgeship to which she was appointed by President Barack Obama.

Jackson will be able to begin work immediately, but the court will have just finished the bulk of its work until the fall, apart from emergency appeals that occasionally arise. That will give her time to settle in and familiarize herself with the roughly two dozen cases the court already has agreed to hear starting in October as well as hundreds of appeals that will pile up over the summer.

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January 6 Panel Subpoenas Former White House Counsel

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection issued a subpoena Wednesday to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who is said to have stridently warned against former President Donald Trump’s efforts to try to overturn his election loss.

It’s the first public step the committee has taken since receiving the public testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson, the onetime junior aide who accused Trump of knowing his supporters were armed on Jan. 6 and demanding that he be taken to the U.S. Capitol that day.

Cipollone, who was Trump’s top White House lawyer, is said to have raised concerns about the former president’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat and at one point threatened to resign. The committee said he could have information about several efforts by Trump allies to subvert the Electoral College, from organizing so-called alternate electors in states Biden won to trying to appoint as attorney general a loyalist who pushed false theories of voter fraud.

Cipollone has been placed in key moments after the election by Hutchinson as well as by former Justice Department lawyers who appeared for a hearing the week before.

Hutchinson said Cipollone warned before Jan. 6 that there would be “serious legal concerns” if Trump went to the Capitol with the protesters expected to rally outside.

The morning of Jan. 6, she testified, Cipollone restated his concerns that if Trump did go to the Capitol to try to intervene in the certification of the election, “we’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable.”

And as the insurrection went on, she says she heard Meadows tell Cipollone that Trump was sympathetic to rioters wanting to hang then-Vice President Mike Pence.

“You heard it,” Meadows told Cipollone, in her recollection. “He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.”

Reps. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat, and Liz Cheney, a Republican, the chairman and vice chairman of the committee, said in their letter to Cipollone that while he had given the committee an “informal interview” on April 13, his refusal to provide on-the-record testimony made their subpoena necessary.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican who sits on the committee, said last week that Cipollone told the committee he tried to intervene when he heard Trump was being advised by Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official who wanted to push false claims of voter fraud. Federal agents recently seized Clark’s cell phone and conducted a search of his Virginia home.

Clark had drafted a letter for key swing states that was never sent but would have falsely claimed the department had discovered troubling irregularities in the election. Cipollone was quoted by one witness as having told Trump the letter was a “murder-suicide pact.”

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