Tag Archives: liberal

Ellison says he’ll resign from Congress if elected DNC head

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison remains the early favorite to become the next leader of the Democratic National Committee, amid resistance to the Minnesota liberal’s bid from key parts of the party’s base.

The contest is evolving into a larger fight over the future of the party.

Backers of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are throwing their support behind Ellison while some Hillary Clinton supporters are searching for an alternative.

Ellison picked up a powerful endorsement recently from the AFL-CIO, which issued a statement calling him a “proven leader.”

But his candidacy remains under siege.

Ellison has faced vocal criticism from prominent Democrats, Jewish groups and some union leaders, who have questioned his comments about Israel, his defense of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and his commitment to his own party.

Earlier this month, a union leader criticized the AFL-CIO for only including Ellison’s name, along with the choices to abstain or “make no endorsement at this time,” on the ballot sent to union members.

A federation faction “seems to want to push our movement further and further to the left,” Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, said in a recent statement. “That is a recipe for disaster as the most recent election results just showed.”

An editorial in an official Nation of Islam publication, “The Final Call,” quoted articles that Ellison wrote in the 1990s praising Farrakhan as a “sincere, tireless and uncompromising advocate.”

The editorial accused Ellison, the first Muslim-American elected to Congress, of being a “hypocrite” for now making a “cowardly and baseless repudiation” of Farrakhan.

Ellison did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

His history with the group has distressed some Jewish organizations. The Anti-Defamation League last week said Ellison’s past remarks about Israel were “disturbing and disqualifying,” and Haim Saban, a party donor deeply involved with Israeli issues, accused Ellison of being an “anti-Semite.”

Hoping to assuage some of the concerns, Ellison said he would resign his seat in Congress if he were picked as chairman by DNC members at the late February elections.

“Whoever wins the DNC chair race faces a lot of work, travel, planning and resource raising,” Ellison said in a statement. “I will be ‘all in’ to meet the challenge.”

The contest has divided Democratic leaders, placing Obama’s team at odds with Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada and his replacement, New York’s Chuck Schumer, whose early support for Ellison was seen as an effort to shore up the liberal flank in Congress.

Part of the issue is personal. Ellison has, at times, broken ranks to criticize Obama, the head of the party he now hopes to lead.

While White House aides say that Obama is unlikely to publicly comment on the race, behind the scenes his backers have been speaking with Democratic donors and potential candidates to see who else might be persuaded to run, according to several Democrats familiar with the discussions. These Democrats were not authorized to publicly discuss those private discussions and spoke on condition of anonymity.

High on the White House’s list of preferred candidates is Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who’s weighing whether to run for the party job or for Maryland governor, said the Democrats.

A vocal contingent is pushing for a Latino leader at the DNC, arguing that the growing demographic group is crucial to the party’s future and should be represented at the highest levels.

Others have been trying to draft Vice President Joe Biden and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, both of whom have ruled out a bid.

South Carolina’s party chairman, Jaime Harrison, and the party head in New Hampshire, Ray Buckley, have announced bids, though they haven’t gotten much traction.

Missouri’s secretary of state, Jason Kander, who attracted attention for running a surprisingly competitive Senate race this year, says he’s gotten calls exploring his interest in the post.

“I’m going to do all that I can for the cause of progress,” Kander said. “If it turns out that my party wants me to serve as chair I’m open to that.”

Ellison backers argue that the party must take a more populist approach after the 2016 losses, saying Democratic leaders did too little to address the economic pain of working-class voters.

“Keith brings a breath of fresh air to the Democratic party,” said DNC member Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “He believes in strengthening the economics for working families across the country.”

But some are more concerned with campaign mechanics than message, saying the party’s outreach, bench and fundraising languished under Wasserman Schultz.

“Ellison talks about vision when we need a fundraiser and organizer,” said Bob Mulholland, a longtime California Democratic operative and DNC member.

Kennedy vote seems key to Supreme Court redistricting cases

Justice Anthony Kennedy appears to hold the decisive vote in two Supreme Court cases involving challenges from African-American voters to electoral districts in North Carolina and Virginia.

The court’s liberal and conservative justices seemed otherwise divided after arguments this week about whether race played too large a role in creation of congressional districts in North Carolina and state legislative districts in Virginia.

The issue of race and redistricting one is a familiar one at the Supreme Court. States have to take race into account when drawing maps for legislative, congressional and a host of municipal political districts. At the same time, race can’t be the predominant factor, under a line of high court cases stretching back 20 years.

Kennedy said he had problems with a lower court’s reasoning in upholding 12 districts in Virginia, suggesting there could be a majority for throwing out that decision. He had less to say about the two North Carolina congressional districts, which were struck down by a lower court.

The arguments demonstrated the difficulty in distinguishing racial and partisan motivations, when African-Americans overwhelmingly vote for Democrats.

The justices soon could be asked to decide whether the Constitution also prohibits electoral maps that are too partisan, in a case from Wisconsin.

Justices on both sides of the divide voiced a certain fatigue with the issue. Justice Samuel Alito suggested states are being held to an impossible standard that is “just an invitation for litigation in every one of these instances.”

Justice Stephen Breyer said he had hoped his majority opinion in a case from Alabama “would end these cases in this court, which it certainly doesn’t seem to have done.” Breyer said lawmakers could not take not a “mechanically numerical” approach to redistricting.

In Virginia, lawmakers in 2011 used the results of the 2010 census to create 12 districts in which African-Americans made up at least 55 percent of the population of eligible voters, saying that level was necessary to ensure they could elect their candidate of choice. Black voters who sued contended lawmakers packed the districts with black voters, making other districts whiter and more Republican. The effect was to dilute black voting strength, they said.

Arguing for the Virginia challengers, attorney Marc Elias said the lower court was wrong to uphold a “one size fits all” standard regardless of the different voting patterns and demographics across the 12 districts.

He drew support from Justice Elena Kagan. “It sort of defies belief you could pick a number and say that applies with respect to every majority-minority district,” Kagan said.

Paul Clement, representing Virginia, said 55 percent actually is a reasonable number for all 12 districts. “So it’s not like this number comes out of thin air,” Clement said.

Nine of the 12 districts had greater black populations under the plan in effect before the 2010 census, and two others were at least 53 percent black.

Chief Justice John Roberts, who appeared to favor the state, questioned whether it is so easy to determine the most important reason for drawing a district a particular way when there are several considerations about its geographic size and shape, as well as the interests that unite its residents. “It’s easy to imagine situations where you cannot say that one dominates over all the others.”

The North Carolina case seemed to present more of a puzzle to the court. The lower court struck down two majority-black congressional districts, finding they relied too heavily on race.

The state, also represented by Clement, conceded the use of race in one district, but only to maintain a black-majority district. In the other, Clement said, race played no role at all in the creation of one district. “This was an avowedly political draw,” he said, meaning that Republicans who controlled the redistricting process wanted to leave the district in Democratic hands, so that the surrounding districts would be safer for Republicans.

Clement also suggested that the challenges in both cases were motivated more by Democratic politics than concerns about race.

Kennedy’s votes in redistricting cases can be hard to predict. He joined Breyer’s opinion in the Alabama case last year. In 2013, Kennedy sided with more conservative justices to effectively block a key component of the landmark Voting Rights Act that led to the election of African-Americans across the South. Its provisions requiring states to create and preserve districts in which minority voting groups can elect their candidate of choice remain in effect.

In North Carolina, the federal court also struck down some state House and Senate districts, and last week, those judges ordered new districts drawn and special elections held next year.

North Carolina Republicans have used the current districts to achieve veto-proof majorities in both chambers. In addition, they hold 10 of the state’s 13 congressional seats. By contrast, statewide contests suggest a narrower gap between the parties. Two Republicans won statewide elections last month, President-elect Donald Trump with just under 50 percent of the vote and Sen. Richard Burr with 51 percent. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory on Monday conceded defeat in his closely fought bid for another term.

Decisions in Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Board of Elections, 15-680, and McCrory v. Harris, 15-1262, are expected by early summer.

With presidential pen, Trump could remake Supreme Court agenda

Even before Donald Trump chooses a Supreme Court nominee, the new president can take steps to make several contentious court cases go away. Legal challenges involving immigration, climate change, cost-free contraceptive care and transgender rights all could be affected, without any help from Congress.

The cases turn on Obama administration policies that rely on the president’s pen, regulations or decisions made by federal agencies.

And what one administration can do, the next can undo.

It is not uncommon for the court’s docket to change when one party replaces the other in the White House. That change in direction is magnified by the high-court seat Trump will get to fill after Senate Republicans refused to consider President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland.

“We were hoping we’d be looking forward to a progressive majority on the Supreme Court. After the election results, there is a new reality,” said Elizabeth Wydra, president of the liberal Constitutional Accountability Center.

The Supreme Court already is set to consider a case involving a transgender teen who wants to use the boys’ bathroom at his Virginia high school. When the federal appeals court in Richmond ruled in student Gavin Grimm’s favor this year, it relied on a determination by the U.S. Education Department that federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education also applies to gender identity.

The new administration could withdraw the department’s guidance, which could cause the justices to return the case to the lower courts to reach their own decision about whether the law requires schools to allow students to use bathrooms and locker rooms based on their gender identity.

“It is possible, maybe even likely, that if the first question went away, then the court would send case back to the 4th circuit” in Richmond, said Steven Shapiro, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents Grimm.

Trump already has pledged to undo Obama’s plan to shield millions of people living in the country without documentation from deportation and to make them eligible for work permits. The Supreme Court, down to eight members after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February, split 4 to 4 in June over the plan. The tie vote effectively killed the plan for Obama’s presidency because lower federal courts had previously blocked it.

But the issue remains a live one in the legal system, and supporters of the Obama plan had hoped that a new Clinton administration would press forward.

Now, though, all Trump has to do is rescind the Obama team’s actions, which would leave the courts with nothing to decide.

A similar fate may be in store for the current administration’s efforts to get cost-free birth control to women who are covered by health plans from religiously-affiliated educational and charitable organizations. The justices issued an unusual order in the spring that directed lower courts across the country to seek a compromise to end the legal dispute. The groups already can opt out of paying for contraception, but they say that option leaves them complicit in providing government-approved contraceptives to women covered by their plans.

The new administration could be more willing to meet the groups’ demands, which would end the controversy.

Women’s contraceptives are among a range of preventive services that the Obama health overhaul requires employers to cover in their health plans. All of that now is at risk, since Trump has called for repeal of the health care law.

Obama’s Clean Power Plan, calling for cuts in carbon emissions from coal-burning power plants, also could be rolled back once Trump is in office.

The federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., is considering a challenge by two-dozen mostly Republican-led states that say Obama overstepped his authority. The Trump team could seek to undo the rules put in place by the Environmental Protection Agency and it could seek a delay in the litigation while doing so, said Sean Donahue, a lawyer for the Environmental Defense Fund. Trump’s EPA would have to propose its own rules, which allow for public comment and legal challenges from those who object, Donahue said.

Environmental groups effectively fought rules that they said eased pollution limits during George W. Bush’s presidency.

As some issues pushed by Obama recede in importance, others that have been important to conservatives may get renewed interest at the court. Among those are efforts to impose new restrictions on public-sector labor unions and to strike down more campaign-finance limits, including the ban on unlimited contributions to political parties.

Meet California’s new US senator, Kamala Harris

Kamala Devi Harris is the first Indian woman elected to a U.S. Senate seat and the second black woman, following Carol Moseley Braun, who served a single term after being elected in 1992.

The daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica gives national Democrats a new face with an appealing resume — a career prosecutor and attorney general in the nation’s most populous state — and a lineage that fits squarely with the party’s goal to mirror a changing country.

By 2050, minorities are projected to be the majority in the U.S., as they are in California, and women are a majority in every state. Harris, who takes a seat in a Senate that remains overwhelmingly white and male, defeated another Democrat, Rep. Loretta Sanchez, in Tuesday’s election.

“Harris will help make the Senate look more like America,” said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. “Slowly, the Senate will catch up with the nation’s demographics, and Harris proves the point.”

She has drawn comparisons to her friend, President Barack Obama, another lawyer and racial groundbreaker.

Her sister, Maya Harris, was a senior policy adviser for Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

“Our diversity is our power,” Harris told fellow Democrats last year.

In picking the 52-year-old Harris to replace retiring Barbara Boxer, voters also looked to a new generation for leadership.

Boxer, who served four terms after being first elected in 1992, will turn 76 this week. California’ senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, is 83. Hillary Clinton will turn 70 next year.

In Harris, Californians are getting a liberal Democrat much in the mold of the senator they are replacing. It’s telling that her first major endorsement came from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a favorite of the party’s liberal wing.

Along with her law-and-order credentials, Harris supports gay rights, reproductive rights and the $15 minimum wage. She want to do more to fight climate change and supports immigration reform with a path to citizenship for people who entered the U.S. illegally.

Born in Oakland, California, Harris calls Thurgood Marshall an inspiration and talks often about growing up with parents deeply involved in the civil rights movement. She married Los Angeles lawyer Douglas Emhoff two years ago, her first marriage.

Her economist father and cancer specialist mother met as graduate students at the University of California, Berkeley, where Harris recalls they “spent full time marching and shouting about this thing called justice.” They later divorced.

She comes to the Senate after twice being elected state attorney general. As a candidate she stressed her fights with big banks during the mortgage crisis, for-profit colleges that were financially exploiting students and environmental wrongdoers.

A central theme for years has been recidivism and criminal justice reform, where she has advocated for a different approach to non-violent crimes that emphasizes rehabilitation and help getting back on track, not severe, one-size-fits-all punishment. She calls it smart on crime.

Harris emerged from the election largely unscathed after facing Sanchez, who suffered from a string of verbal gaffes and saw the party establishment line up behind Harris. Harris never trailed in polling or fundraising.

She was able to overcome a deficit of experience in foreign affairs _ rival Sanchez called her unready for the job _ while fending off criticism about rising crime rates and that she is too often cautious when faced with politically dicey subjects.

Sanchez and some other Democrats, for example, said she was not aggressive enough on prosecutions and investigations related to fatal shootings by police.

At an NAACP convention in Sacramento in October, Harris was describing the steps the state has taken to deter police bias when Jay King jumped to his feet and stalked out of the room.

“Police are killing us,” he shouted. “I can’t listen to this.”

King, a singer and volunteer host on a Sacramento radio station, said afterward that he previously voted for Harris and contributed to her campaign. But he criticized Harris and Obama for not doing more.

Harris took the interruption in stride.

“People are shouting in a room or on the streets because they feel they’re not being heard,” she said later. “We have to give voice to that.”

Thinly tested on the national stage, the next question will be can she deliver in a Congress riven by partisanship.

A glance at her website provides a snapshot of her goals, including free tuition at community colleges and increasing rainwater storage capacity in drought-plagued California.

In a state where millions struggle in poverty, where extremes of wealth and destitution can be witnessed by walking a few blocks in downtown Los Angeles, Harris talks about rebuilding the “ladder of opportunity” for those left behind.

“I wanted to do the work that was about being a voice for the vulnerable,” she has said.

Judge drops riot charge against Democracy Now! journalist Goodman

Democracy Now! reporter Amy Goodman won’t face a riot charge stemming from her coverage of a protest against construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline in North Dakota, with a judge saying Monday that there was no cause for it.

Judge John Grinsteiner refused to sign off on the misdemeanor riot charge, which prosecutor Ladd Erickson had pursued after dismissing a misdemeanor criminal trespass charge against the journalist on Friday. However, authorities would not rule out the possibility Goodman could face other charges.

Erickson has said Goodman was acting like a protester when she reported on a clash between protesters and pipeline security last month. Her defense attorney, Tom Dickson, maintains Goodman was doing her job.

The protests have drawn thousands of people to the area where Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners is trying to wrap up construction on the $3.8 billion, 1,200-mile pipeline from North Dakota to Illinois. Opponents of the pipeline worry about potential effects on drinking water on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and farther downstream, as well as destruction of cultural artifacts.

Goodman is one about 140 people who have been charged in recent weeks with interfering with the pipeline’s construction in North Dakota.

After the judge’s decision Monday, Erickson referred questions to Morton County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Donnell Preskey. Asked whether authorities would pursue other charges, Preskey said, “It’s all under review.” She would not elaborate.

Goodman told reporters outside the courthouse that Grinsteiner’s decision was a “vindication for all journalists and a vindication for everyone.”

Dickson said prosecutors are wrong to continue to pursue charges against Goodman.

“The first charge was frivolous and the second charge was even more frivolous,” Dickson said. “Enough is enough. They need to let it go.”

An arrest warrant was issued for Goodman after she reported on a clash on Sept. 3, when Standing Rock Sioux officials said crews bulldozed several sites of “significant cultural and historic value” on private land. Energy Transfer Partners denies those allegations.

Law enforcement officials said four security guards and two guard dogs received medical treatment. A tribal spokesman said six people were bitten by guard dogs and at least 30 people were pepper-sprayed.

Goodman, who is based in New York, said she “came to North Dakota to cover this epic struggle … what we found was horrifying.”

About 200 protesters gathered outside the county courthouse Monday as Goodman was set to appear for a hearing that never happened. Many held signs that included, “This is not a riot.” About 100 officers in riot gear were stationed outside the courthouse to monitor those protesters.

Morton County sheriff’s spokesman Rob Keller confirmed one man was arrested on charges including disorderly conduct.

Authorities said pipeline protesters earlier Monday briefly blocked a Bismarck-Mandan bridge across the Missouri River. They dispersed when ordered by law officers.

Carlos Lauria, senior Americas coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said any charges against Goodman are an attempt to intimidate reporters from covering protests of “significant public interest.”

Goodman’s show airs daily on hundreds of radio and TV stations and over the internet.

It’s not the first time Goodman has had a brush with the law while covering events. She and two of her producers received $100,000 in a settlement over their arrests during the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota.

St. Paul and Minneapolis agreed to pay a combined $90,000 while the federal government agreed to pay $10,000. The lawsuit named the federal government because a Secret Service agent confiscated the journalists’ press credentials.

Goodman said at the time the money would go “to support independent, unfettered” journalism about such events.

DIVIDED AMERICA: Partisan media, intellectual ghettos?

Meet Peggy Albrecht and John Dearth. Albrecht is a free-lance writer and comedian from Los Angeles who loves Bernie Sanders. Dearth, a retiree from Carmel, Indiana, grew up a Democrat but flipped with Ronald Reagan. He’s a Trump guy.

They live in the same country, but as far as their news consumption goes, they might as well live on different planets.

Abrecht watches MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow each night. She scans left-leaning websites Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo and Down With Tyranny, where recent headlines described Donald Trump as “pathetic” and “temperamentally unfit” to be president. The liberal website Think Progress sends her email alerts.

This story is part of Divided America, AP’s ongoing exploration of the economic, social and political divisions in American society.

Dearth is a fan of Fox Business Network anchors Neil Cavuto and Stuart Varney. He checks the Drudge Report, Town Hall and Heritage Foundation websites, where recent stories talked about Trump supporters being “terrorized” by demonstrators. Because of his search history, he’s bombarded with solicitations to donate to conservative causes.

In a simpler time, Albrecht and Dearth might have gathered at a common television hearth to watch Walter Cronkite deliver the evening news.

But the growth in partisan media over the past two decades has enabled Americans to retreat into tribes of like-minded people who get news filtered through particular world views. Fox News Channel and Talking Points Memo thrive, with audiences that rarely intersect. What’s big news in one world is ignored in another. Conspiracy theories sprout, anger abounds and the truth becomes ever more elusive.

In this world of hundreds of channels and uncounted websites, of exquisitely targeted advertising and unbridled social media, it is easy to construct your own intellectual ghetto, however damaging that might be to the ideal of the free exchange of ideas.

“Right now the left plays to the left and the right plays to the right,” said Glenn Beck, the former Fox News host who started TheBlaze, a conservative network, in 2010. “That’s why we keep ratcheting up the heat. We’re throwing red meat. We’re in a room that is an echo chamber, and everybody’s cheering.”

Albrecht and Dearth don’t rely exclusively on partisan media. Albrecht starts her day with the Los Angeles Times, and Dearth occasionally flips to MSNBC to hear opposing viewpoints, particularly on “Morning Joe.” They do share mirrored misgivings about the major broadcast networks, newspapers and their related websites — the mainstream media — though Dearth thinks it’s too liberal and Albrecht considers it too conservative.

That’s the kind of thinking that inspired Roger Ailes to launch Fox News Channel in 1996. The former GOP operative mixed news during the day with a prime-time lineup that appealed to conservatives.

By 2002, Fox had raced past CNN to become the top-rated news network, beginning the golden age of partisan media.

There wasn’t anything to compare on the left, at least until summer 2006 when Keith Olbermann began a series of commentaries after being angered by a speech where Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld equated Iraq War opponents to pre-World War II appeasers. His show became home for disaffected liberals in the Bush administration’s final years. MSNBC hired Maddow and eventually made the entire network left-leaning, although low ratings forced it back to news during the day.

Fueled by Fox’s primacy and opposition to the war in Iraq, liberals began finding their voice online in the early 2000s.

Writer Josh Marshall began blogging and reporting, developing the Talking Points Memo website. His work forced wider attention to issues like the firing of U.S. attorneys in the Bush administration, Republican voter suppression efforts and the fight against Social Security privatization. TPM has grown to 25 employees with offices in Washington and New York.

Others followed Marshall’s path. Conservatives took advantage of new media, too.

“I don’t think it’s as much a danger to democracy as people think it is,” Olbermann said. “When the business changes to being all conservative media or all liberal media — though I don’t know how that would happen — that’s when it becomes dangerous.”

Yet today’s political media get at least some of the blame for a hardening of attitudes. A generation ago, majorities in each political party described themselves as moderate. Now 62 percent of the Democratic primary electorate identify themselves as liberal, and 76 percent of Republicans say they’re conservative, according to ABC News exit polling.

Marty Baron, executive editor of The Washington Post, spoke with some distress this spring at the commencement of Temple University’s School of Media and Communication.

“Today we are not so much communicating as miscommunicating,” he said. “Or failing to communicate. Or choosing to communicate only with those who think as we do. Or communicating in a manner that is wholly detached from reality. Too often we look only for affirmation of our own ideas rather than opening ourselves to the ideas of others.”

That thought was on Beck’s mind when he had lunch a year ago with Arianna Huffington, founder of the left-leaning news site that bears her name. They talked about the need for an outlet where a conservative can talk about ideas to a liberal audience and vice versa.

But for now, nothing’s come of the idea.

Pro-Palestinian campaign divides Jewish community

As Jewish college students headed home to celebrate Passover with their families on April 21, there was one topic on many of their minds with the potential to disrupt the joyous mood around their Seder tables: the BDS movement.

BDS stands for boycott, divestment and sanctions — against Israel. It’s a growing movement on college campuses, where students are stepping up protests of Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians, as well as the nation’s continued occupation of land that BDS supporters say belongs to Palestinians.

BDS as proxy

The BDS movement — although focused primarily on human rights — has become a proxy for disagreements over a much wider and longer-standing set of issues. As such, the movement has pitted Jews against Jews, pro-Israelis versus anti-Israelis, and pro-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supporters versus Netanyahu critics. It’s also created rifts in the progressive movement, which attracts Jewish followers because of the faith’s culture of tolerance and identification with the underdog.

Reform Judaism — the largest branch of Judaism — was the first major religious denomination to support same-sex marriage, and Israel is the only nation in the Middle East that recognizes same-sex marriages. It also is the most progressive nation in the region by far. Arab countries stone adulterers to death, throw gays off skyscrapers to their deaths and some do not allow women to drive or even show their faces.

Given the human rights abuses of other countries in the region, a lot of Jews believe Israel is singled out due to anti-Semitism, and they’re blaming the BDS movement for anti-Semitic incidents on campuses. While the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks and fights anti-Semitic hate crimes, said it hasn’t seen a dramatic rise in such crimes on campuses, a spokesman said, “The BDS movement does fuel anti-Semitism. We have some serious concerns about BDS.”

He noted that anti-Semitic hate crimes in the United States routinely exceed anti-Muslim hate crimes.

Elana Kahn, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council for the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, said part of the problem she has with BDS is that “when we talk about Israel being grounded on injustice, we’re applying different standards to Israel than every other nation.”

The University of California-Davis held a hearing last month to consider divesting university holdings from companies that do business with Israel. After the meeting, the school’s Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi had its house defaced with swastikas. Fraternity leaders said they believed they had been targeted over their support for Israel. However, the coalition of student groups that supported divestment condemned the vandalism.

Fighting anti-Semitism on campus

The Simon Wiesenthal Center issued a report last year titled “Anti-Semitism on Campus: A clear–and-present danger.” The report called the growing rate of anti-Semitism on campuses “alarming” and “getting worse.” It referenced “grim examples of Jewish students being blocked from participation in student government and being harassed.”

Last month, the University of California’s Board of Regents became the first to adopt a “Principles Against Intolerance” policy in response to a series of high-profile anti-Semitic incidents — including swastikas found on Jewish fraternities and the attempted exclusion of a student government candidate because of her Jewish faith.

The document, which took months to prepare due to the charged political environment, states, “Anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California.”

But to many Jews, especially older ones, anti-Zionism is inherently anti-Semitic. “The well-being of Israel is really a critical part of what it means to be a Jew today,” said Rabbi Mendel Matusof, director of the Rohr Chabad Jewish Student Center at UW-Madison.

The reality is that living in peace in the Middle East is impossible in these times, said Matusof. As WiG was preparing this story, the terrorist bombing of a bus in Jerusalem injured 21 people, two of them critically. And, the same day, an Israeli military court charged a soldier with manslaughter after he was caught on video by an Israeli human rights group fatally shooting a wounded Palestinian attacker.

“Israel doesn’t live in a friendly neighborhood,” Matusof said.

“What frustrates me now is the way we talk about Israel these days in America,” Kahn said. “We eliminate complexity. The problem is that real life is more complex than these really simple reductive narratives that people are drawing. They’re drawing cartoon characters. There’s good on one side and bad on the other. I would challenge people to find a place in their heart to care about Palestinians and Israeli Jews at the same time.”

While Kahn doesn’t believe the BDS movement is inherently anti-Semitic, she believes it’s “a magnet for people who hold Jews in great disdain.”

Jews against Israel

Most Jews, especially older ones, want a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine. But many who support the BDS movement, including members of groups such as Jewish Voices for Peace, want Jews to abdicate their control of Israel. They reject the notion of Zionism, which guarantees a Jewish state in perpetuity.

“Anti-Zionism, non-Zionism is more common in Jewish history than Zionism,” said Rachel Ida Buff, faculty adviser to a recently formed JVP chapter on the UW-Milwaukee campus.

JVP is a pro-Palestinian campus group whose supporters believe the conditions that led to the creation of a Jewish state no longer exist and do not justify what JVP national media coordinator Naomi Dann called a situation that “privileges Jews at the expense of Palestinian lives.”

“The impact of Zionism … has been wide-scale displacement, dispossession of millions of Palestinians and nearly 50 years of a brutal military occupation,” Dann wrote to WiG in an email. She said her group values the fundamental equality of all people and cannot support Zionism because it devalues Palestinian lives.”

“This is a generational issue that I think is reaching the fever pitch that it is because the Zionists are beginning to be scared of it,” Buff said.

Buff said there’s a kind of McCarthyism in the Jewish community that stigmatizes and disavows Jews who speak out against Israeli military and social atrocities, as she does.

She said she’s stepped on the equivalent of a “third rail.” But she said she will not be silenced for her beliefs.

“It is up to me to decide what my government does with its tax dollars,” she said. “Stop arming the occupation. The Zionists are being played by Netanyahu. American Jews are a little bit mistaken if they think the State Department is supportive of Jews. Israel is on the brink of (becoming) a pariah state. American geopolitical involvement is not going to make the world safe for Jews.”

Progressive roots

The BDS movement in the United States is emerging “from the heart of the American left,” according to Cary Nelson, a retired English professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He’s co-editor of the book, The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel.

BDS is the current cause célèbre of the left, and its presence can be seen at rallies and protests for virtually every grievance on the progressive agenda. Advocates for Palestinians have linked divestment to social justice movements against racism, militarization, globalization and other issues that are important to many college students.

Campus divestment advocates often come to student government hearings with the backing of student associations for blacks, South Asians, Mexican-Americans, gays and others. Last year, anti-Israeli protesters unraveled a sign several yards long behind speakers at a Black Lives Matter rally in Milwaukee’s Red Arrow Park. The rally was intended to draw attention to the April 14, 2014, police shooting of Dontre Hamilton, an unarmed black man.

The BDS sign was by far the largest at the rally. Jody Hirsh, a world-renown Jewish educator and WiG contributor who attended the rally, left because of it.

“I went to the rally because I really feel (police shootings) are an American problem that needs to be dealt with and the first thing I saw was a sign that said, “Milwaukee, Ferguson, Palestine. Resistance to occupation is heroism,’” he said.

“I was so upset, because it’s not the same thing at all,” he continued. “I felt that this very important American issue was hijacked by something different and I felt that I couldn’t participate in the rally.”

Nevertheless, the BDS movement is growing on the backs of other issues.

“Drawing these connections cross-struggle has been huge for our movement,” said Tory Smith, a 2012 Earlham College graduate and member of National Students for Justice in Palestine.

UW students’ experience

While BDS activism is taking a toll on Jewish life on some campuses, that’s not happening on campuses in Wisconsin, multiple sources told WiG.

At UW-Madison, which reportedly has the nation’s eighth largest number of Jewish students — a statistic that Matusof questions — BDS is a very visible movement. Nonetheless, Jewish life on campus is thriving.

UW-Madison offers a major in Jewish Studies and it has a number of active Jewish organizations, including fraternities and sororities.

UW-Milwaukee has a small Jewish population of around 200, said Marc Cohen, interim executive director of Hillel Milwaukee. Hillel International supports Jewish life on campuses throughout the world. Cohen described Hillel in Milwaukee as a kind of “Switzerland,” where pro-Israelis and pro-Palestinians can talk freely and openly in a neutral, non-threatening environment.

Hilary Miller, a Milwaukeean enrolled in Jewish Studies at UW-Madison, contrasts the Wisconsin experience with that at other schools. She has attended conferences at UC-Berkeley and UC-Irvine, and she’s felt the tension on those campuses. There, she said, some people in the BDS movement are “absolutely using this as a wedge against Jews. … Sometimes it reminds me of what I’ve studied about anti-Jewish propaganda in Nazi Germany.”

Indeed, critics of Israel often complain that Jews have all the power, money and influence in the region. The re-emergence of what sounds similar to the myth of Jewish wealth and secret control of society frightens older Jews, because it echoes Nazi propaganda.

But Miller said she’s encountered nothing like that sort of extremism at UW-Madison, which she described as a very comfortable environment for Jews. In fact, she’s highly engaged in Jewish activities.

Miller founded the independent group Student Alliance for Israel, which she said is apolitical and promotes understanding of Israel’s traditions and culture. She attends pro-Palestinian events and rallies because she “wants to understand the other side,” she said.

Miller identifies politically with progressives, but she feels almost apologetic at times in progressive circles about her involvement in Jewish activities. She knows Jewish students who are afraid to put such involvements on their resumes out of fear it might affect their job prospects, she said.

And, based on what she witnessed in California, she’s afraid the situation on campus could deteriorate if BDS becomes a stronger force at UW–Madison.

Ongoing internal conflict

There will always be Jews who say that precisely because of their history of persecution, Israel should be more compassionate.

But Jews such as Matusof and Kahn are alarmed “that the Jewish community is not seen anymore as a minority deserving of the same sensitivities that the progressive community really holds strong,” Matusof said. “Jews in America,” he added, “are seen as a white privileged class, while we still are a minority and there still is discrimination.”

At any rate, analyzing and arguing are essential elements in Jewish theology and culture. There’s an old joke that goes, “If you ask 10 Jews for advice, you’ll get 11 opinions.”

The number is probably higher.

Supreme Court pick Merrick Garland fits no easy mold

President Barack Obama’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, has been characterized as a moderate who, if confirmed, would nudge his divided colleagues slightly to the left because he would replace conservative stalwart Antonin Scalia.

But Garland will not necessarily come down with the more liberal justices in every area, particularly on criminal justice issues.

An Associated Press review of Garland’s record on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit — more than 5,000 rulings and 17,000 pages since 1997 — suggests he is a judge who only rarely, and perhaps reluctantly, has found himself at odds with the government agencies that appear before him.

On the Supreme Court, Garland probably would frustrate the political left and right on alternate days.

He is apt to infuriate conservatives as a champion of union rights, his court record indicates, and, as a believer in public access to government records, to annoy those who defend government secrecy.

He is likely to offend liberals with a readiness to turn back constitutional challenges to criminal prosecutions and perhaps claims of workplace discrimination.

He probably would frustrate partisans on both sides, regardless of which party controls the White House, with steadfast deference to the rules and interpretations of government bureaucrats, whatever their impact.

Summaries of Garland’s decisions on critical issues:

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Many of Garland’s rulings in criminal cases reflect his 12 years as a federal prosecutor or a senior official in the Justice Department’s criminal division.

In dozens of decisions, he upheld lower court rulings that denied defendants’ attempts to suppress evidence because of alleged illegal search and seizure by police. He typically upheld prison sentences imposed by lower courts.

In a 1999 decision, for example, Garland wrote for the court’s majority that police in Washington, D.C., were within their rights to search a car after spotting a 6-inch dagger next to a front seat. They then found a loaded .45-caliber handgun. Defendant Morris Christian’s lawyers contended the search was unjustified.

“First, as appellate judges we do not second-guess a street officer’s assessment about the order in which he should secure potential threats,” Garland wrote. “To the contrary, we must defer to his quick decision as to how to protect himself and others from possible danger.”

Garland also found that U.S. Park Police were correct to have searched Warren Turner’s car trunk after they found a pot-filled “blunt” in the passenger compartment. Cocaine base was found in the trunk, leading to Turner’s conviction on drug distribution charges.

Turner claimed the only evidence officers had before the trunk search was marijuana he had for personal use, but Garland found that “too fine” a line. There was “a ‘fair probability’ that Turner may have hidden additional drugs not necessary for his current consumption in areas out of plain sight, including the trunk of his car,” he wrote.

In a 2000 case, Garland wrote that U.S. Customs agents were not required to get a warrant to install a tracking device in a package shipped from Thailand that contained heroin. The man who opened the package in a taxi in Washington, Abdul Gbemisola, claimed the drug evidence was obtained improperly.

Garland found that no warrant was required. “Adding the tracking device did not require any additional intrusion into anyone’s reasonable expectation of privacy,” he wrote. “One cannot have a reasonable expectation of privacy concerning an act performed within the visual range of a complete stranger.”

Sometimes, Garland wrote or joined rulings that sided with defendants.

In a 1999 case, Garland wrote the opinion vacating one of Andre Clark’s two gun-related convictions — one for possessing a gun and the second for the ammunition inside it. Garland reasoned that was two convictions for the same offense.

“Indeed, if the statute were read that way, it might just as readily permit 14 charges against Clark, one for the gun and one for each of its 13 bullets,” he wrote.

In a 2006 case, Garland wrote that prosecutors were wrong to pursue more than $63,000 in restitution from a man convicted of making a false statement to the FBI but acquitted of the main money-laundering charge. The ruling overturned a lower court’s decision that Daniel Dorcely of Washington should have to pay restitution despite the acquittal on the money count.

criminal justiceThe Supreme Court, Garland wrote, “made clear that a defendant charged with multiple offenses but convicted of only one offense cannot be ordered to pay restitution for losses resulting from the other charged offenses.”

A rare dissent in a criminal justice case came in 2007, when the full appeals court overturned the conviction of a D.C. police detective for accepting an illegal gratuity. The detective, Nelson Valdes, had been targeted in a federal sting operation for accepting money to look up license plates in a police database.

The majority found Valdes had not accepted money for an illegal act, so no crime was committed. Garland disagreed.

“A guy walks into a bar,” his dissent opens, referring to the first meeting between Valdes and a man who described himself as a “federal judge.”

“The detective cannot know who the ‘judge’ really is, or why he wants the information. He cannot know whether the ‘judge’ is a loan shark seeking to find and punish his debtors … nonetheless, in the end he takes the cash — repeatedly — and gives the ‘judge’ the information he seeks,” Garland wrote.

The majority’s decision overturning the conviction, he added, “undermines the prosecution of public corruption.”

GUN CASES

Garland’s votes in two gun cases have fueled opposition from gun rights advocates, who have announced they oppose his nomination.

In one, Garland voted to have the entire appeals court review a ruling by a three-judge panel that struck down the ban on handguns in the nation’s capital. Because the entire court declined to review the case, it’s unclear how Garland would have voted on the constitutionality of the gun ban.

The Supreme Court later sided with the three-judge panel, with the 5-4 majority opinion written by Scalia, who died Feb. 13.

In the other case, Garland joined a ruling that upheld a Justice Department rule allowing the federal agency to temporarily save gun buyers’ records. The National Rifle Association had sued, arguing that the Brady Handgun Violence Act required immediate destruction of personal information related to gun purchases.

But the department said it was important to keep some of the information for six months at most to allow audits of the background check system to ensure both accuracy and privacy. A federal district court judge dismissed the NRA’s complaint, and the appeals court affirmed that decision.

GUANTANAMO DETAINEES

Garland played a central role in deciding cases concerning detainees at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for more than a decade. He largely deferred to the government’s arguments in preventing their access to the courts and their release — with one notable exception.

In 2003, Garland joined a majority opinion ruling that those held at Guantanamo could not access lawyers or challenge in federal court the legality of their detentions. The decision was based on Supreme Court precedent that dictated that U.S. civilian courts lacked jurisdiction to hear challenges brought by detainees who were foreigners not present on U.S. soil.

The Supreme Court would overturn that ruling the following year in Rasul v. Bush, finding that detainees were entitled to challenge their detention in federal court under the habeas corpus statute.

images - gun cases“Initially, Judge Garland was overly cautious in the detainee cases in not seeing the broader, fundamental interest at stake,” said Baher Azmy, legal director of the New York-based nonprofit Center for Constitutional Rights, which has represented numerous detainees before the district appeals court. “The D.C. Circuit has been so consistently reflexively pro-government, and overall Garland has not staked out a particularly helpful position there.”

In June 2006, the Supreme Court ruled that the Bush administration’s planned military commissions at Guantanamo violated U.S. and international law, allowing detainees to pursue their cases in federal courts. Congress and the Bush administration came up with new rules for the military trials later that year.

In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that foreigners held at Guantanamo had constitutional rights to challenge their detentions in civilian courts. By June of that year, Garland sat on the three-judge panel that was offered the first civilian judicial review of the government’s evidence for holding the detainees.

Garland wrote majority opinion in that case, brought by Huzaifa Parhat, a detainee who was a member of a Chinese Muslim minority group. Parhat should be released, transferred or be given a new military hearing, Garland wrote, because the government’s intelligence was unreliable.

“The government suggests that several of the assertions in the intelligence documents are reliable because they are made in at least three different documents,” Garland wrote. “We are not persuaded.”

Attorneys for detainees filed a flurry of cases seeking their clients’ release following that ruling, but when government lawyers appealed, the D.C. Circuit typically came down on the side of continued detention.

For example, Garland wrote a majority opinion upholding a lower court’s denial of detainee Shawali Khan’s petition for habeas corpus in 2011, citing “particularly incriminating evidence” that linked Khan to a force associated with al-Qaida and the Taliban.

Three years later, Garland joined a majority opinion upholding a Guantanamo policy that allowed guards to search the genitals of detainees meeting with their lawyers. The opinion said Supreme Court precedent required deference to the government’s view that such policies were “rationally related to security.”

“Garland essentially has been a moderate who applied the law as it existed at the time in a faithful manner,” said David Cole, a law professor at Georgetown. “Some people may not like the law, but that is another story.”

GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS

Garland often shows deference to federal agencies but has ruled against the government in some cases involving government regulations.

He was part of a 2010 decision limiting the Food and Drug Administration’s regulation of electronic cigarettes. The appeals panel ruled that the devices, which create a nicotine vapor inhaled by users, should be regulated as tobacco products rather than as drug delivery devices.

“In the absence of an authoritative agency interpretation, I conclude that, unless a product derived from tobacco is marketed for therapeutic purposes, the FDA may regulate it only under the provisions of the Tobacco Control Act,” Garland wrote in a concurring opinion.

He has joined decisions that struck down a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission increase in rental fees for hydropower projects on federal land; vacated a Federal Communications Commission penalty against AT&T related to long-distance charges; and sided with the United Mine Workers, which alleged that the Mine Safety and Health Administration had withdrawn a proposed air quality rule without explanation.

There’s an occasional glimpse of humor in his regulatory writings for the court.

One came in an opinion that sided with the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board when the agencies determined a pilot was not medically fit to fly due to a history of problems with consciousness and awareness. Garland wrote that the best the pilot’s own medical expert could say about one incident, which occurred on a Boeing 757, was that the pilot “was acting like a teenager.”

“Had the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) believed that expert, it might well have taken away the ‘teenager’s’ jet keys on that ground alone,” he wrote.

In a case involving a transit system providing transportation to professional baseball games, Garland wrote, “This appeal raises the following question: Can Congress constitutionally permit a federally-subsidized transit system to take the residents of Seattle out to the ball game?” The appeals court, citing goals of accommodating disabled fans and restoring affordable service, allowed the transit system to resume services to Seattle Mariners games over the objections of private charter carriers.

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

As an appeals judge, Garland has joined in decisions that protected water from boat sewage, families from lead paint and even an endangered toad from land development.

But he has not sided so much with environmentalists as with government regulators. His rulings have backed federal agencies that allowed mines to pollute the air, swans to be killed, landfill to foul wetlands and storage of hazardous waste without permits.

The AP found at least 19 Garland cases since 1997 that clearly leaned either toward or against environmental controls. Of those, 10 favored stronger regulation while nine did the opposite. Only three went against government agencies that were under challenge.

environmental issuesIn December 2006, Garland joined a ruling that upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s crackdown on power plant pollution that forms haze over natural areas.

In November 2012, he again backed an EPA regulation in a ruling that said it was enough that the agency’s legal interpretation “was not plainly erroneous or inconsistent.” This time, though, the agency had decided against air pollution controls for leach fields and other waste sites at gold mines.

The pattern is the same in water pollution cases. In February 2003, Garland joined the court in letting the EPA impose radioactivity limits for drinking water. The rules had been challenged by industry groups.

Then, in November 2011, Garland was part of a ruling that supported the Army Corps of Engineers and generally sided with developers of a Florida shopping mall. The ruling allowed fill to be dumped into wetlands, despite the heated objections of conservationists, though it left a single question open on potential impact to rare eastern indigo snakes.

In April 2003, Garland wrote an opinion that upheld a Fish and Wildlife Service decision. This time, he unequivocally favored wildlife protection, blocking a plan to build a California housing development that threatened rare arroyo southwestern toads.

In December 2006, though, when conservationists tried to stop the killing of male mute swans to manage the Chesapeake Bay population, Garland backed an opinion approving the plan. As usual, he sided with the regulating agency, in this case the Interior Department.

THE GLOBAL VIEW

In several high-profile cases, Garland sided with victims and their families when they sued foreign governments, terrorist groups and others for war and terrorism-related damages.

In one of Garland’s strongest dissents, he sided with Iraqi nationals who sued two U.S. contractors involved in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison scandal. In a 2-1 decision, the federal appeals court in 2009 dismissed the lawsuit, saying the companies had immunity as government contractors.

But Garland disagreed, saying no act of Congress barred the plaintiffs from suing private contractors “who were neither soldiers nor civilian government employees.”

“The plaintiffs in these cases allege that they were beaten, electrocuted, raped, subjected to attacks by dogs and otherwise abused by private contractors working as interpreters and interrogators at Abu Ghraib prison,” Garland wrote.

Garland said neither Presidents George W. Bush nor Barack Obama suggested the suit would “interfere with the nation’s foreign policy or the Executive’s ability to wage war.”

Four years earlier, Garland wrote an opinion reinstating a suit against al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden filed by Kenyan victims of 1998 U.S. Embassy bombing in Nairobi. The victims sued bin Laden and his terrorist group for orchestrating the bombing that killed 200 people, including 12 Americans.

The district court had dismissed the suit, saying federal courts lacked jurisdiction. Garland disagreed. “The defendants engaged in ‘unabashedly malignant actions directed at (and) felt’ in this country. Bin Laden and al Qaeda should therefore ‘reasonably anticipate being hauled into court’ here by those injured as a result of those actions,” Garland wrote.

In another case, Garland was joined by two other justices, including now-Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, to allow the brother of a slain hostage to sue Libya for his killing.

Peter Kilburn had been an instructor and librarian at American University in Beirut, Lebanon, when he was kidnapped by Hezbollah in 1984. Two years later, in retaliation for a Berlin nightclub bombing that killed two American soldiers, the U.S. bombed Libya — and Libya sought revenge.

A group linked to Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi paid Hezbollah $3 million for Kilburn, then murdered Kilburn and left his body along a roadside near Beirut with the bodies of two British hostages.

Kilburn’s brother, Blake, later sued Libya, and the country tried to have the suit dismissed on grounds of sovereign immunity. A federal court denied Libya’s motion and Garland’s court affirmed that ruling. His opinion held that the suit could go forward because of a terrorism exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

CIVIL RIGHTS

Many of the civil rights cases that have come before Garland are about workplace discrimination, though some have had broader implications.

He was part of a 2004 decision that found a transit authority had waived its immunity from federal lawsuits under the Rehabilitation Act by accepting federal money.

The ruling came in a suit filed by an electrician who said he was fired by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority because of his bipolar disorder. The transit authority countered that he had been fired for insubordination and other behavior.

The authority, created by an interstate compact among Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, argued that it was legally immune to a suit for disability-based discrimination.

The three-judge panel split 2-1, with Garland and Roberts saying the transit authority had waived immunity by accepting the funds. “Congress reasonably can insist that decisions regarding the expenditure of federal funds not be based on irrational discrimination,” Garland wrote.

In 2002, he was part of a panel that reversed a district court that had favored the government in a suit by Catholic prisoners who claimed they were being denied religious rights to drink small amounts of wine during Communion. The panel sent the case back to the lower court to determine whether the prisoners met the threshold of showing a substantial burden on the free exercise of their religion.

In the case of an inmate who sued for sexual harassment at the D.C. jail, Garland ruled to uphold part of her award, but threw out punitive damages. The prisoner said she had been sexually harassed by corrections officers and inmates, including allegations that she was forced by corrections officers to dance naked on a table in front of hundreds of chanting, jeering inmates.

She was awarded $350,000 in compensatory damages in a lower court as well as $5 million in punitive damages. But the punitive damages were reversed because Garland said the district was immune from such damages.

WORKERS’ RIGHTS

When it comes to workers’ rights, many of Garland’s cases originated from the National Labor Relations Board. In a majority of those cases, he sided with labor board rulings, which usually supported pro-labor positions. When Garland dissented from his appeals court colleagues or disagreed with a regulatory ruling, it was usually in support of workers or a union.

His dissent in a 2009 case involving FedEx drivers and the shipping giant is a case in point. Drivers for FedEx’s home-delivery unit filed a complaint with the labor board after the company refused to negotiate with the union they elected to represent them in collective bargaining.

The company argued that the drivers were independent contractors, not employees. As evidence, FedEx showed that home-delivery drivers had the option of selling their routes and hiring helpers.

But the labor board held that the drivers were employees because they were an essential part of FedEx’s home-delivery business and because the company exercised substantial control over them.

In a 2-1 ruling, the appeals court overturned the labor board, finding that FedEx home-delivery drivers were independent contractors because they have “entrepreneurial potential,” can operate multiple routes and sell routes.

Garland disagreed, saying the drivers had little “entrepreneurial opportunity” and noted that FedEx actually put limits on drivers’ ability to sell routes. He said FedEx showed only a rare case or two of “a driver seizing an entrepreneurial opportunity.”

Two years earlier, Garland ruled against a proposed federal rule to increase the driving hours for long-haul truck drivers, citing safety concerns. The consumer group Public Citizen had opposed the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s regulation to increase truck drivers’ daily driving limits from 10 hours to 11 hours as well as a provision to permit an off-duty period of 34 hours to restart the weekly on-duty limits. It said the FMCSA failed to provide an opportunity to comment on the methodology of the crash risk.

images - workers rightsCiting mostly procedural shortcomings, the appeals court granted the group’s petition and vacated the contested portions of the rule. Garland added that the agency’s rules could not be upheld without important aspects of its methodology being fully examined.

In other rulings, Garland:

—Joined a 2004 decision upholding a NLRB finding against a company that refused to recognize its workers’ union after moving them to a different location.

—Upheld a NLRB finding in favor of a woman who handed out fliers at work after hours that expressed concern over how the company was handling layoffs.

—Was part of a 2011 decision that supported an NLRB decision in favor of two employees fired for verbal outbursts against a policy they opposed as unsafe.

OPEN GOVERNMENT

Garland has staked out strong views for keeping government transparent and accountable to the public.

He worried in one of his rare dissents in July 2004 that fellow judges might have given the impression that a Freedom of Information request cannot expose prices paid by federal agencies to contractors. He questioned whether the law really says that and added that, if so, it “should be an exception rather than the rule.”

In September 2009, Garland wrote a powerful defense of the public’s right to know who lobbies Congress. He noted that the Supreme Court long had championed this principle and added that “nothing has transpired in the last half century to suggest that the national interest in the public disclosure of lobbying information is any less vital.”

But he also supported agencies that failed to hand over records. Sometimes, he agreed that they did reasonable searches that simply failed to turn up anything relevant.

In 12 of at least 22 open government cases that came before him since 1997, he has leaned in favor of access, opening the door to release government documents, electronic calendars, audiotapes and other material.

In March 2013, Garland wrote an opinion forcing deeper review of the CIA’s refusal to turn over records on its drone attacks to a civil rights group. Garland said that the intelligence agency could not simply cite national security.

In another case, Garland did not let possible mistakes in records prevent any chance of a full release. In November 2006, he joined in ordering a lower court to reconsider denial of a request for names of people in the U.S. illegally and being held states on behalf of federal authorities. The Justice Department had said releasing such records might embarrass the detainees and unfairly brand misidentified people. But Garland and fellow judges said that risk needed to be formally evaluated — not just asserted.

In November 2005, Garland parted with the court majority in a case involving government scientist Wen Ho Lee, who was largely exonerated of spying accusations in a case that made headlines. Garland urged the court to reconsider a reporter’s effort to protect a confidential source of a leak about Lee, saying the court should be more mindful to the First Amendment and “the importance of a vigorous press.”

In May 2007, Garland voted with the losing side in a ruling in favor of Ohio Republican Rep. John Boehner, who later became speaker of the House. Boehner had sued Rep. Jim McDermott, a Democrat from Washington state, for releasing to reporters an illegal recording of a conference call among Republican politicians. Garland joined with other court dissenters who argued that, though the recording was illegally made, McDermott had not violated the law by accepting it.

But Garland did not always opt for openness in politically charged cases. In October 2001, he joined colleagues in blocking release of thousands of pages of Internal Revenue Service documents. A conservative nonprofit law firm wanted the records to examine claims that the agency had unfairly targeted conservative groups for audits.

Associated Press writers Garance Burke, Gene Johnson, Michael Graczyk and Larry Neumeister contributed to this story along with AP news researcher Rhonda Shafner.

 

Analysis: Obama dares GOP to let Clinton, Trump pick justice

By nominating the uncontroversial 63-year-old Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, President Barack Obama has handed Republicans an unwelcome election-year proposition: Give in or risk letting Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump pick a Supreme Court justice the GOP might like even less.

Obama’s selection of appellate judge Garland landed with a bang the morning after primaries in Florida, Ohio and other key states made clear that Clinton and Trump will be their parties’ presidential candidates, barring extraordinary circumstances. Obama described Garland as an evenhanded consensus-builder, all but daring Republicans to block him and face uncertain consequences from voters.

Republican leaders dug in on their insistence that the next president get to choose the replacement for the late Antonin Scalia, the influential conservative and high court’s most provocative member. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called it “an issue where we can’t agree.”

Yet there’s a glaring wildcard for Republicans: Obama’s successor could be a Democrat.

Republicans loathe Clinton, but they recognize that if she wins the presidency, she could nominate someone far more liberal than Garland, who’s regarded as a centrist. At the same time, the GOP establishment is extremely wary of the unpredictable Trump and desperate for an alternative.

A Democratic victory at the presidential level could be accompanied by a return of the Senate to Democratic control, further complicating Republicans’ ability to prevent Democrats from getting their way. Republicans are fighting their toughest Senate races this year in states like New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Illinois where Democrats are hoping independent-minded voters will be turned off by the GOP’s hardline position.

Not only do many Republicans fear a Trump nomination would spell electoral doom for the GOP up and down the ballot, many conservatives doubt Trump is really one of them. Trump’s suggestion Wednesday that he’s mainly taking policy advice from “myself” fueled further uncertainty about just what kind of justice he would pick.

It’s a theme Democrats are already seizing as they pressure Republicans to relent and use their opposition against them in the election.

Within minutes of Garland’s nomination, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid accused Republicans of “blindly taking their marching orders” from Trump, an argument echoed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Dan Pfeiffer, Obama’s former senior adviser, said the combination of Garland’s profile and a looming Trump nomination had cranked up pressure on Senate Republicans.

“The idea that they are blocking the president’s qualified pick in order to pave the way for Trump’s is going to be a very powerful argument that will be deployed endlessly” in states that Obama won, Pfeiffer said.

Clinton’s string of recent primary wins added another element of intrigue to the Supreme Court fight. If she’s elected and Democrats recapture the Senate, Republicans might see the writing on the wall and opt to confirm Garland during a lame-duck session before Clinton takes office.

“I think that’s self-evident,” said Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, one of the only Republicans agreeing to even meet with Obama’s nominee. “Between him and somebody that a President Clinton might nominate, I think the choice is clear.”

Clinton, in her response to Obama’s nomination, praised Garland as a “brilliant legal mind” and urged senators to confirm him. Neither she nor her campaign would say whether, if she inherits the vacancy, she’d be inclined to re-nominate Garland or choose her own nominee.

No Republican has yet broken with McConnell by calling for Garland to get a vote, though Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine moderate, called for a hearing. A few Republicans facing tough races — including New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte — said they would meet with Garland, in what the White House saw as an early sign of hope.

At 63, Garland may also be an easier sell than had Obama chosen a younger candidate for the lifetime post. Two other federal judges that Obama seriously considered — Sri Srinivasan and Paul Watford — are both under 50.

Yet Obama’s safe-bet pick may have denied Democrats the chance to gin up excitement among liberals whose engagement is critical to Democratic electoral success. Liberal advocacy group CREDO lamented that Garland’s background “does not suggest he will be a progressive champion,” while Democracy for America called it a “deeply disappointing” nomination designed to “appease intransigent Republicans rather than inspire the grassroots.”

“Even if there are some critics on the left, those aren’t the people who are preventing Judge Garland from getting a hearing,” said Ron Klain, a former Obama aide and top White House lawyer under President Bill Clinton. “If this is not going to proceed, it’s not a problem of Democrats’ making.”

Associated Press writers Donna Cassata, Alan Fram and Kathleen Hennessey contributed to this report.

 

Clinton lines up powerful backers in Wisconsin

With less than two months to go before the state’s April 5 primary, powerful Wisconsin Democrats are working behind the scenes to raise money and organize supporters to help Hillary Clinton’s campaign. There are few signs of a similar show of force for her challenger Bernie Sanders.

The dynamic on display in Wisconsin in many ways echoes the fight nationally between Clinton and the independent Vermont senator. Clinton enjoys the support of Democratic Party insiders and activists she’s known and worked with for years, while the lesser-known Sanders is relying on small money donations and an army of younger voters and more liberal backers not as connected with the party.

Neither campaign has any paid staff or an official presence yet in Wisconsin, but a fundraiser for Clinton says it is now “off to the races” to be ready for April 5.

That includes raising money, identifying and contacting supporters and recruiting volunteers, said Clinton backer and longtime Wisconsin-based political activist Heather Colburn.

Clinton has locked up five of the state’s 10 party insiders, known as superdelegates, who will vote for a nominee at the convention in July. Among them are some of the most well-known and powerful Democrats in Wisconsin — U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, of Milwaukee, and longtime Milwaukee-based activist and former state party chairwoman Martha Love.

Their support for Clinton is rock solid.

“I’m in it for Hillary Clinton until the end,” Love said. “Just so you know, as long as you call Martha Love, as long as she’s got breath, she’s in it for Hillary Clinton.”

Four of the other five superdelegates are uncommitted and the fifth, state party chairwoman Martha Laning, said she would support whoever wins the state’s primary.

After the Democratic debate last week in Milwaukee, advocates for Clinton in the spin room had a definite Wisconsin focus and included Baldwin and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. The Sanders team focused on national surrogates, but Wisconsin-based supporters are preparing for him in the upcoming primary as well.

The Working Families Party, a national coalition of labor groups, has endorsed Sanders, and its recently formed Wisconsin chapter is also behind him.

“We think he can win in Wisconsin, and we’ll be getting our members activated in the campaign here,” said the group’s state director, Marina Dimitrijevic, a member of the Milwaukee County Board.

Sanders’ appeal in Wisconsin likely will be centered in liberal hubs like Madison and Milwaukee. Sanders’ only visit to Wisconsin during the campaign was to Madison in July, when he attracted 10,000 people for his largest rally up to that point.

More recently, Sanders’ backers have organized debate-watch parties, volunteer phone banks and other similar activities through social networking sites such as Facebook.

The “Wisconsin for Bernie Sanders” page had about 3,500 “likes,” as WiG headed to press.

Colburn, who also managed Clinton’s Wisconsin campaign in 2008, said Clinton has similar support groups organized regionally across the state. One pro-Clinton group on Facebook had about 3,000 “likes.”

Colburn said the moving of Wisconsin’s primary from mid-February to early April changes the dynamic in the state, and also allows the candidates more time to organize. Clinton lost to Barack Obama in Wisconsin by 17 points in 2008.