Tag Archives: hearings

CorporateCabinet.org tracks Trump nominees

The corporate ties of President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet picks and other top political appointees are exposed at CorporateCabinet.org.

Public Citizen said it unveiled the website to expose corporate ties, corrupting influences and conflicts of interest in Trump’s cabinet.

The site, which will be updated regularly, will eventually include other top officials such as deputy secretaries.

Many of the nominees have connections with corporations whose profit-driven interests are directly at odds with the federal agencies Trump has selected them to lead.

“Donald Trump, the candidate who ran against corruption, cronyism and insider dealmaking, is handing control of the government over to corporate chieftains,” stated Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “Trump’s corporate Cabinet nominees have staggering conflicts of interest, and if confirmed will drive forward policies to advance the interests of Big Business, not the American people. We’re facing the prospect of a government literally of the Exxons, by the Goldman Sachses and for the Kochs.”

The site has key information about:

  • Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who has strong ties to Koch Industries and raked in eye-popping sums from the finance sector, construction industry, pharmaceutical industry and chemical industry.
  • Rex Tillerson, Trump’s secretary of state pick, who made his career at Exxon Mobil.
  • Steven Mnuchin, treasury secretary nominee and longtime Goldman Sachs executive who was steeped in the investment banking industry long before it became a poster child for economy-wrecking, foreclosure-inducing Wall Street greed, and who later helped run a failed bank accused of duplicitous foreclosure practices.
  • Gen. James Mattis, being considered for secretary of defense, who has served on the board of General Dynamics, a multinational military contractor.
  • U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., under consideration for attorney general and a darling of the finance, insurance and real estate industries, among others.
  • Betsy DeVos, named to be education secretary, who is a billionaire scion and whose husband is heir to the Amway fortune.
  • Elaine Chao, up to run the U.S. Department of Transportation, who served on the board of directors of Wells Fargo during the cross-selling scandal.
  • Former Goldman Sachs executive Gary Cohn, slated to head the National Economic Council, who led Goldman Sachs as it profited off the housing market collapse in part by misleading its own clients.
  • Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick to the run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, who has a deep affinity for fossil fuel companies.
  • Steve Bannon, a special adviser to Trump who once ran Breitbart.com, a far-right website, and is a former Goldman Sachs executive.
  • Linda McMahon, picked to run the Small Business Administration, who as World Wrestling Entertainment CEO helped ensure the wrestling industry remained largely unregulated, putting the health and safety of wrestlers at risk.
  • Fast-food mogul Andy Puzder, who is to head the U.S. Department of Labor and whose companies are known for being anti-worker and anti-union.
  • Wilbur Ross, a billionaire whose firm has profited from buying distressed firms and cutting workers’ benefits, who is under consideration for secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

U.S. court backs Native American families in ACLU suit

A federal court has dealt another blow to defendants in an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit over the rights of Native American families in South Dakota.

Chief Judge Jeffrey Viken denied government officials’ motions for reconsideration of his order to them last March to stop violating the rights of Native American parents and tribes in state child custody proceedings.

“Once again the court has ruled that Native American children, their parents, and their tribes are entitled to fair procedures whenever the state seeks to remove children from their homes, as required by federal law,” Stephen Pevar, an attorney with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, said in a news release.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit brought by the ACLU and Rapid City attorney Dana Hanna on behalf of two South Dakota tribes — the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe — and Native American parents who suffered the loss of their children at the hands of the state.

The lawsuit in part charges that Native American children are being removed from their homes in hearings that lasted as little as 60 seconds, and that parents have no chance to present evidence. Last March, the court agreed with seven of the ACLU’s claims, and ordered the state to:

• Provide parents with adequate notice prior to emergency removal hearings.

• Allow parents to testify at those hearings and present evidence.

• Appoint attorneys to assist parents in these removal  proceedings.

• Allow parents to cross-examine the state’s witnesses in the hearings.

• Require state courts to base their decisions on evidence presented during these hearings.

The court also found that the state violated the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law designed to ensure the security and integrity of Native American tribes and families. Late Friday, Viken issued a ruling rejecting defendants’ motions to reconsider; one final outstanding claim concerns whether the state Department of Social Services is returning Native American children in foster care to their homes as quickly as federal law requires.

The defendants are state Judge Jeff Davis, Pennington County prosecutor Mark Vargo, state director of the Department of Social Services Lynne Valenti and Pennington County DSS employee Luann Van Hunnik.

The lawsuit, Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Van Hunnik, was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota in Rapid City.

Supreme Court Justice Kagan officiates at gay couple’s wedding

Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan on Sept. 21 officiated at the wedding of her former law clerk and his husband.

The ceremony for Mitchell Reich and Patrick Pearsall took place in Chevy Chase, Maryland. A spokeswoman for the court said it was the first same-sex wedding at which Kagan officiated.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has officiated at same-sex weddings, as has retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Next week, the Supreme Court justices, in a private conference, are scheduled to take a look at seven marriage-related petitions from five states, including Wisconsin. 

The petitions before the Court — writ of certiorari or requests for review — came from Wisconsin, Indiana, Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia.

The justices could decide to hear all, any or none of the cases, or they could decide to wait for more petitions from other legal challenges to state bans on same-sex marriage.

Interested parties will be watching on Oct. 6, when the court is set to release an orders list that could indicate which — if any — marriage cases the justices might hear in their 2014–15 term.

There have been more than 20 victories for marriage equality in the courts since last summer, when the Supreme Court cleared the way for California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage to fall and removed barriers to the federal government recognizing same-sex marriages. Among those victories are five at the U.S. appeals court level. The most recent wins came from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago on challenges to anti-gay bans in Wisconsin and Indiana.

6th Circuit hears 6 equality cases from 4 states

UPDATED: The outcome of a lengthy session in the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on Aug. 6 could impact the lives of an estimated 52,400 same-sex couples and 18,300 children.

The Williams Institute at the UCLA Law School estimates there are 19,684 same-sex couples residing in Ohio, 14,598 same-sex couples in Michigan, 7,195 same-sex couples in Kentucky and 10,898 same-sex couples in Tennessee.

Many of them will be looking for their federal appeals court to rule for equality in the six cases heard from the four states in one day — the most marriage cases that any federal circuit court has ever heard in a single day.

Oral arguments took place on Aug. 6 in Cincinnati, where a panel of three judges — Martha Craig Daughtrey, Jeffrey S. Sutton and Deborah L. Cook — weighed arguments to decide whether federal district judges made the correct decisions in ruling for marriage equality.

A rally took place outside the courthouse while the hearing was taking place, and another rally took place on the eve of the oral arguments.

Early reports from the hearing indicated that two of the three judges suggested marriage issues should be decided by the democratic process, not the courts.

A ruling against same-sex marriage in the Sixth Circuit would create a division at the federal appeals court level. Already this year, appeals courts in the Fourth and the Tenth circuits have struck down constitutional amendments barring same-sex couples from marrying. Ruling against amendments in Virginia, Utah and Oklahoma, the courts said that same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry.

In the decision that overturned Virginia’s anti-gay ban, Judge Henry F. Floyd said, “Civil marriage is one of the cornerstones of our way of life. It allows individuals to celebrate and publicly declare their intentions to form lifelong partnerships, which provide unparalleled intimacy, companionship, emotional support and security. The choice of whether and whom to marry is an intensely personal decision that alters the course of an individual’s life. Denying same-sex couples this choice prohibits them from participating fully in our society, which is precisely the type of segregation that the Fourteenth Amendment cannot countenance.”

The decision prompted North Carolina’s attorney general to say he would no longer defend the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. North Carolina’s amendment, enacted by voters in 2012, was the last to be approved before the tide of victories for marriage equality.

On Aug. 26, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago is scheduled to hear arguments in the equality cases from Wisconsin and Indiana.

In September, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is set to hear arguments in cases out of Idaho and Nevada.

Any of the appeals court rulings could end up being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015, making a final verdict on marriage equality possibly by next summer, two years after the Court’s landmark ruling against the federal ban on gay marriage in the Defense of Marriage Act.

The high court has been asked to review the decisions overturning Utah’s anti-marriage amendment and also Oklahoma’s ban on marriage equality.

Circuit by circuit

There are some 75-plus marriage equality cases at various levels of consideration in U.S. courts — at federal and state levels.

Wisconsin’s case is before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Illinois and Indiana.

FIRST CIRCUIT: Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico.

SECOND CIRCUIT: Vermont, New York and Connecticut.

THIRD CIRCUIT: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware.

FOURTH CIRCUIT: Maryland, District of Columbia, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina.

FIFTH CIRCUIT: Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

SIXTH CIRCUIT: Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

EIGHTH CIRCUIT: Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota.

NINTH CIRCUIT: Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska and Hawaii.

TENTH CIRCUIT: Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas and Oklahoma.

ELEVENTH CIRCUIT: Alabama, Georgia and Florida.

— L.N.

Class-action suit seeks lawyers for minors facing deportation

Three children who witnessed the killing of their father in El Salvador left the violence seeking refuge in the United States. They now face deportation hearings, and expect to go to court without a lawyer.

A 15-year-old boy abandoned and abused in Guatemala came alone to the United States. He too faces a deportation hearing without a lawyer.

As does a 17-year-old boy who fled gang violence and recruitment in Guatemala to live with his dad in Los Angeles.

These minors are among the plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit charging the federal government with failure to provide thousands of children with legal representation in deportation hearings.

The American Civil Liberties Union, American Immigration Council, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Public Counsel and K&L Gates LLP filed the lawsuit earlier this month, at the same time a surge of tens of thousands of minors coming to the southern border became a central issue in the U.S. capital and in midterm elections across the country.

The plaintiffs came to the United States from Mexico and Central America. Some were seeking refuge from the violence in their homelands and all of them are scheduled for deportation hearings this summer but lack legal representation.

“If we believe in due process for children in our country, then we cannot abandon them when they face deportation in our immigration courts,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California. “The government pays for a trained prosecutor to advocate for the deportation of every child. It is patently unfair to force children to defend themselves alone.”

The Obama administration recently announced a limited program to provide legal assistance to some youth facing deportation hearings, but the attorneys in the case say the proposal does not come close to meeting the need.

“Each day, we are contacted by children in desperate need of lawyers to advocate for them in their deportation proceedings,” said Kristen Jackson, a senior staff attorney with Public Counsel, a nonprofit law firm that works with immigrant children.

She said pro bono efforts have been valiant, but they cannot meet the need.

The complaint charges the U.S. government with violating the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause and the Immigration and Nationality Act’s provisions requiring a “full and fair hearing” before an immigration judge. 

It seeks to require the government to provide children with representation in their hearings.

“Requiring children to fight against deportation without a lawyer is incompatible with American values of due process and justice for all,” said Beth Werlin, deputy legal director for the American Immigration Council.

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Too darn hot: Ben & Jerry’s, Climate Reality partner on environmental campaign

Nothing says summer heat like a melting ice cream cone. That’s why The Climate Reality Project is teaming up with Ben & Jerry’s to turn the celebrated symbol of the season — the ice cream truck — into a rallying point for action against climate disruption.

Climate Reality and Ben & Jerry’s have partnered in the I’m Too Hot Campaign and are bringing ice cream trucks to the four cities hosting Environmental Protection Agency hearings on the Obama administration’s proposed Clean Power Plan.

Hearings will be place July 29-Aug. 1 in Atlanta, Denver, Pittsburgh and Washington D.C.

When the trucks roll in, activists will talk with people about the proposed EPA plan and also serve icy treats.

“We are excited to partner with Ben & Jerry’s to bring both ice cream and information about the EPA’s proposed rule to the people,” said Climate Reality CEO Ken Berlin. “This past May was the hottest in recorded history, and was an example of the kinds of records that will keep being broken as our summers get hotter from climate change driven by carbon pollution. These EPA hearings are a crucial opportunity for people to let the EPA know they support the agency’s efforts to reduce harmful carbon pollution, and we’ll be there to make sure our supporters don’t get too hot.”

The proposed plan would provide the first-ever national standards to limit the amount of carbon pollution existing power plants can produce — aiming to cut emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

The EPA estimates that the rule would provide significant economic and health benefits, including the prevention of 150,000 asthma attacks and 6,600 premature deaths annually by 2030 as well as the creation of 76,000 to 112,000 new jobs in 2025 by expanding the energy efficiency sector alone.

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan is open for public comment until Oct. 16.

“The rule would be a critical step towards holding polluters accountable for the carbon pollution they dump into the atmosphere – but first, it’s up to us – the people – to make sure we support the EPA’s efforts and the rule becomes law,” said Berlin.

The EPA hearings are July 29-30 in Atlanta, July 29-30 in Denver, July 31-Aug. 1 in Pittsburgh and July 29-30 in Washington.

Supporters of the plan can tweet the EPA — @EPA — and use the hashtags #ImTooHot and #ActOnClimate.

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Charlie Crist files legal brief supporting marriage equality in Florida

Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who is again running for the office in November, has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of marriage equality in the state.

Crist filed the brief in Pareto v. Ruvin, which is set for a hearing on July 2 before Judge Sarah Zabel in the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court in Miami. 

Zabel will hear from attorneys who filed a lawsuit in January on behalf of six same-sex couples and Equality Florida Institute. The lawsuit argues that Florida’s laws barring same-sex couples from marriage violate the U.S. Constitution by denying them the legal protections and equal dignity that having the freedom to marry provides.

Crist filed an amicus brief, which is a brief filed by someone who is not a party to the litigation, but who believes that the court’s decision may affect its interest.

“As former governor, and as someone who previously supported this measure, Charlie Crist’s words matter a great deal,” said Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida. “He has taken the same journey the majority of Floridians have taken in realizing that this ban serves no purpose but to disparage and discriminate against gay couples and our children.”

In the brief, Crist stated that as a former governor and attorney general who previously supported the ban, he is in a unique position to provide the court a perspective on why it is wrong, harmful to Florida and harmful to gay couples and children who are denied the protections only marriage provides. 

Crist said in a news release, “In just the last six years, our society has evolved and moved past the prejudices rooted in our past. Further, science has uniformly reached the conclusion that heterosexual marriages are just as valued and revered as they have ever been; and children raised by gay and lesbian parents fare just as well as kids raised in straight families.

“Thus, with the arc of history now, in fact, bending toward justice, this issue of marriage equality will almost certainly not even be an issue for the children and grandchildren of this State. But it is still the duty of those in the present to recognize that the legitimacy of government depends upon its willingness to fairly, transparently, and equitably administer the law. That goal is frustrated by denying an entire class of citizens equality in the institution of marriage simply because of who they are and whom they love.”

Crist is among the fast growing majority of Floridians, 57 percent currently, who have come to support full marriage equality.

In filing, he joins the mayors of Orlando and Miami Beach, who filed amicus briefs earlier this week on behalf of their cities including arguments on how lifting the ban alleviates hardships for same-sex couples and provides numerous benefits for citizens and employees to live in a non-discriminatory environment.

Crist was a Republican when he served as governor. He ran as an independent for the U.S. Senate. He has since become a Democrat.

Tenth Circuit set to hear Utah, Oklahoma marriage cases this month

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit on April 10 will hear arguments in the appeal of a federal ruling overturning Utah’s constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage.

The arguments will be heard by a three-judge panel.

Then, on April 17, the Tenth Circuit will hear arguments on a federal ruling overturning Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The three judges who will hear the Utah case are Paul Kelly Jr, who was nominated by President George H.W. Bush and confirmed in 1992, Carlos Lucero, who was nominated by President Bill Clinton and confirmed in 1995 and Jerome Holmes, who was nominated by President George W. Bush and confirmed in 2006.

Holmes was one of two judges who denied the state of Utah’s request for a stay after the district court judge ruled against the marriage ban.

The Human Rights Campaign, in its latest tally of marriage equality lawsuits, says there are at least 55 cases pending in 28 states — including in Wisconsin — and Puerto Rico. There are 250 plaintiffs challenging the anti-gay laws.

There are seven other cases at the federal appeals court level and they are challenging bans in Nevada, Texas, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan.

The only states with anti-gay marriage laws not facing lawsuits are Alaska, Georgia, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Save the dates from HRC: 

• Kitchen v. Herbert, Utah, Tenth Circuit: April 10
• Bishop v. Smith, Oklahoma, Tenth Circuit: April 17
• Bostic v. Schaefer, Virginia, Fourth Circuit: May 13
• The first filings in Love v. Beshear (Kentucky) and Tanco v. Haslam (Tennessee), both in the sixth circuit, are due on May 7. Oral arguments have not been set yet.