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Trump’s Supreme Court pick blasted by LGBT and choice advocates

Donald Trump promised his Supreme Court picks would be cast in the mold of Antonin Scalia, and he delivered, according to legal experts.

He also delivered a blow to liberals and centrists who had hoped that Trump would make an ideologically neutral choice.

Trump announced this evening that he’d chosen Judge Neil Gorsuch, 49, of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Colorado. According to initial reports, the Trump administration believes he has a sterling legal reputation that will make it harder for Senate Democrats to mount a filibuster to block him, as many have promised they would.

Democrats are angry because Republicans blocked Barack Obama’s pick for the court, Merrick Garland, from even receiving a hearing. Like Gorsuch, Garland has an impeccable reputation among legal scholars.

But Republicans left the court short of a judge for an entire year in the hope that they’d win the presidency and have the chance to pick a conservative judge to maintain the court’s rightward tilt.

And that’s exactly what happened.

Garland is a centrist, but Gorsuch follows a strict or originalist approach to interpreting the Constitution, just as Scalia did. According to that philosophy, the Constitution is a document that is frozen in the time it was written. Originalists take the same approach to the Constitution that religious fundamentalists take to the Bible. They fail to allow for the many changes in society that have occurred since the document was first drafted in 1787.

Immediately following Trump’s choice, the Democratic National Committee released a statement noting that Gorsuch has “a legal history that shows a deep sympathy for corporate interests and an apparent disdain for workers.”
As an attorney, Judge Gorsuch routinely represented big businesses in class action lawsuits,” the statement said. “He upheld a decision that denied long-term insurance benefits to a worker who sustained a work-related injury that required spinal surgery. He even dissented from a ruling in favor of a truck driver whose employer illegally fired him for abandoning a trailer with locked brakes — so he wouldn’t freeze to death.”

Sen. Tammy Baldwin issued a statement blasting Gorsuch as too far out of the mainstream.

“With this Supreme Court nomination, President Trump has made it clear he has no interest in being a president for all Americans and that he is intent on creating more division in our country,” she said. “Instead of putting forward a mainstream nominee for the vacant Supreme Court seat, he has offered someone who will have a hard time earning bipartisan support.”

Gorsuch’s rulings have revealed him to be a jurist who opposes government interference in American life, particularly in matters such as regulation and religion. For instance, he sided in favor of “religious freedom” in the imprtant Hobby Lobby case, ruling that the retail chain’s “Christian” values allowed them to ignore the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that they pay for contraceptive coverage for their employees, according to National Public Radio.

That sort of mindset will be of grave concern to LGBT citizens at a time when far-right lawmakers are pushing so-called “religious freedom” bills that permit discrimination in the name of religious beliefs.

Although Gorsuch’s views on a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy are scant, he published a book in 2006 titled The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia. The book defended the “intrinsic value” of human life in arguing against the practice.

Trump had promised to select anti-choice judges, although the most fervent opponents of reproductive freedom might find his scant (as far as we now know) judicial record in this area alarming.

On their part, advocates of choice are extremely alarmed at Trump’s choice.

“A justice who does not understand what it is like to face an unintended pregnancy, or what it is like to lose an intended pregnancy, threatens the health and safety of women across this country. We should not accept a nominee who believes that the state can place medically unnecessary barriers in the path of women seeking access to safe, legal abortion services,” said Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin in a prepared statement.

For Republicans to survive a filibuster of Gorsuch’s nomination, they’d need eight Democrats to join them in order to get the 60 votes needed. At least one Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, has said he would not join a filibuster.

But Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon circulated a petition yesterday urging his colleagues to block any Trump nominee due to the way Republicans ignored Garland.

“This is a stolen seat. This is the first time a Senate majority has stolen a seat,” Merkley told Politico. “We will use every lever in our power to stop this.”

 

Public sector unions prevail in Supreme Court case

Public sector unions triumphed before the U.S. Supreme Court this week when the justices preserved a vital source of cash for organized labor, splitting 4-4 on a conservative challenge that had seemed destined for success until Justice Antonin Scalia’s death last month.

The case brought by non-union public school teachers in California had targeted fees that many states force such workers to pay unions in lieu of dues to fund collective bargaining and other activities.

A loss in this case would have deprived unions representing teachers, police, transit workers, firefighters and other government employees of millions of dollars annually and diminished their political clout.

The outcome illustrated the impact on the court of the Feb. 13 death of Scalia, the long-serving conservative justice who almost certainly would have cast a decisive vote against the unions. But by virtue of splitting 4-4, the justices affirmed a 2014 lower-court ruling that allowed California to compel non-union workers to pay the fees.

“The death of Justice Scalia has proved a disaster for public sector workers who have their paychecks raided by unions,” said Iain Murray, vice president for strategy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington.

Evenly divided court

The court, evenly divided with four liberals and four conservatives, left intact a 1977 legal precedent that allowed such fees, which conservatives have long abhorred. Conservatives for years have tried to curb the influence of public sector unions, which typically back the Democratic Party and liberal causes.

“The U.S. Supreme Court today rejected a political ploy to silence public employees like teachers, school bus drivers, cafeteria workers, higher education faculty and other educators to work together to shape their profession,” said Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association teachers union.

The case reached the high court after a Washington-based conservative group, the Center for Individual Rights, sued on behalf of lead plaintiff Rebecca Friedrichs, an elementary school teacher in Anaheim, and nine other teachers. They argued the fees infringed upon the free-speech rights of non-union workers under the U.S. Constitution.

‘A DISASTER’

During Jan. 11 oral arguments in the case, Scalia was still on the bench, giving the court a majority of five conservatives. The conservative justices during the arguments voiced support for the non-union teachers.

It is the second case in which the court has split 4-4 since Scalia died, with more likely in the coming months, perhaps including major cases on abortion, voting rights and contraception insurance coverage.

It remains unclear when Scalia will be replaced. Senate Republicans have vowed to block confirmation of President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace Scalia, centrist appellate judge Merrick Garland. Republicans fear Garland’s confirmation would tilt the court to the left for the first time in decades.

At issue in the case decided were so-called agency fees equivalent to union dues, currently mandatory for non-union workers under laws in about half the states including California. The decision means the status quo remains, with the unions able to collect fees from non-union workers.

California’s non-union teachers pay the union, which has 325,000 members, around $600 annually in mandatory fees for collective bargaining.

The non-union teachers’ lawyers said they plan to ask the court to rehear case.

“With the death of Justice Scalia, this outcome was not unexpected,” said Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights.

The split decision means there is “ongoing doubt about the constitutionality of its forcible collection of millions of dollars in dues,” Pell added.

About 5 million public sector employees are subject to union contracts that include mandatory fee provisions, according to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which backed the non-union teachers.

Organized labor had expressed worries that a ruling throwing out the fees would give employees less incentive to join public-sector unions because they would get all the benefits of collective bargaining undertaken by unions without having to pay for it.

The teachers who filed the lawsuit in 2013 asked the justices to overturn the 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education Supreme Court ruling that allowed laws that permitted public sector unions to collect fees from workers who were not members as long as the money was not spent on political activities.

Agency fees are already banned in 25 states that have so-called right-to-work laws. In those states, unions still represent workers but membership rates are lower. Federal employee unions also cannot collect such fees.

The ruling comes as a relief to organized labor because unionized civil servants in states without right-to-work laws comprise its main power base.

The court last week also split 4-4 split in a loan discrimination case.

Last month, Dow Chemical Co opted to settle a class action case pending before the court for $835 million, citing Scalia’s death as a reason. Scalia was seen as a reliable vote for class action defendants.

GOP prepared to fight nominee, regardless of choice

The Supreme Court fight is about to get personal. Republicans prepared this week to unleash a torrent of activity opposing President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

As the president neared an announcement on March 16, he vowed to nominate a “consensus candidate” of Supreme Court caliber with impeccable credentials.

“I’m going to abide by my constitutional duties,” Obama told CNN en Espanol. He said he expects Senate Republicans “to do so as well.”

Task force to fight nominee

The Republican Party launched a task force housed to orchestrate attack ads, petitions and media outreach, party officials said. They want to bolster a strategy that Senate Republicans adopted as soon as Justice Antonin Scalia died last month: refusing to consider an Obama nominee out of hopes that the next president will be a Republican.

The Republican National Committee will contract with America Rising Squared, an outside group targeting Democrats that’s run by a longtime aide to GOP Sen. John McCain. GOP chairman Reince Priebus said it would be the most comprehensive judicial response effort in the party’s history.

Priebus said the RNC would “make sure Democrats have to answer to the American people for why they don’t want voters to have a say in this process.”

Echoing that strategy, the conservative Judicial Crisis Network said it was spending upward of a quarter-million dollars on TV and digital ads targeting three appellate judges Obama has considered for the job: Sri Srinivasan, Merrick Garland and Jane Kelly. The group’s move to attack candidates even before Obama had announced his selection underscored conservatives’ insistence that nobody Obama nominates will be confirmed in an election year.

“This is Exhibit A of Republicans putting political considerations at the RNC ahead of their constitutional duties,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

Obama is expected to announce his pick as early as this week, touching off a heated battle as Obama and Democrats try to pressure Republicans into relenting on hearings and a vote. Longtime Obama allies have been drafted to run a Democratic effort that will involve a bevy of liberal groups that hope an Obama nominee to replace the conservative Scalia could pull the high court’s ideological balance to the left.

Amy Brundage, a former White House aide helping to organize the Democratic communications push, said the effort would target specific states where they believe Republicans will feel political heat for opposing hearings once Obama has a living, breathing nominee to promote. She said Democratic groups would organize events with Democratic lawmakers as well as legal scholars, law school deans, state attorneys general and historians.

“The coordinated grassroots effort that has already proven a powerful tool to put pressure on Republicans will only ramp up,” Brundage said.

In an unusual criticism of a colleague from the same state, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., cited comments that GOP Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson made last week about the nomination process. In a Wisconsin radio interview, Johnson said “there’s a little more accommodation to it” if a conservative president were nominating another conservative to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

“Do Senate Republicans really believe that they need a Republican president simply to do their jobs?” Baldwin asked on the Senate floor Monday.

She did not mention Johnson by name.

RNC officials said that in addition to scouring the nominee’s history for anything that can be used against him or her, the party will also work to portray Democrats as hypocritical, dredging up comments that Vice President Joe Biden and other Democrats made in previous years suggesting presidents shouldn’t ram through nominees to the high court in the midst of an election.

The GOP has already been looking into candidates on Obama’s short-list and will oppose him or her with radio and digital ads, petitions and research documents. The committee is also lining up “surrogates” who will make the case in the media.

Key to the GOP’s strategy will be targeting Democrats facing tough races over their insistence that Obama, in his final months in office, gets to pick a justice that could reshape the court’s ideological balance for decades. In addition to presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the RNC said it would target Democratic Senate candidates in Colorado, Ohio, New Hampshire, Florida and Pennsylvania, among others. The party also plans to target Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Right-wing and liberal groups gear up for Supreme Court fight

Right-wing and liberal groups are only beginning their battle over the Supreme Court vacancy, with a smattering of television ads and behind-the-scenes research serving as warning shots in what’s sure to be an expensive fight that will color November’s elections.

Activity will only ramp up once President Barack Obama names someone to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia — a nomination Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other Republicans promise the chamber will never consider. Many expect Obama to announce his pick next week.

With the court’s 4-4 balance between liberal and conservative justices in play, both parties and their allies are reaching out to rally their memberships, solicit contributions and savage the opposition.

The conservative Judicial Crisis Network has run TV spots backing GOP senators in seven states and digital ads targeting Democrats in four others, while its leader wrote an article criticizing one potential nominee for a case she handled while a public defender a decade ago. On its website, the legislative arm of the National Rifle Association links readers to an article titled “Justice Barack Obama?” suggesting that scenario should Democrat Hillary Clinton become president.

The Senate Majority PAC, backing Democrats, has launched a New Hampshire TV ad accusing GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte, in a competitive re-election race, of “ignoring the Constitution, not doing her job.” End Citizens United, dedicated to overturning the Supreme Court decision that unleashed unlimited campaign spending by corporations and unions, has aired commercials pressing Ayotte and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., to consider a nominee. A group of 21 Democratic attorneys general penned a letter warning Senate leaders not to “undermine the rule of law.” MoveOn.org and other progressive groups plan rallies outside senators’ home-state offices on a March 21 “National Day of Action.”

“A Supreme Court nomination is the No. 1, top priority for almost any conservative group,” said Carrie Severino, the Crisis Network’s policy director, a sentiment shared by liberals, too. “Almost every issue ultimately finds its way to the Supreme Court.”

VOTERS FAVOR HEARINGS

Democrats and liberals have focused on Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and other Republican senators seeking re-election this fall in swing states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Backed by nearly all GOP senators, Grassley has said his panel won’t hold a hearing on Obama’s choice.

Democrats cite recent polls showing majorities of Americans favor hearings, which they say means GOP senators in tight races must change their positions or face defeat this fall. Over half of voters in a February Pew Research Center poll backed hearings and a vote, while an NBC News-Wall Street Journal survey early this month found that more disapprove than approve of Republicans ignoring an Obama nominee by about 2-1.

“Our pollsters say Americans ignore most issues, but they happen to get this one,” said No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Richard Durbin of Illinois.

REPUBLICANS SEE A WINNING ISSUE

Republicans view the politics differently. They see a wash among voters, with the issue strongly energizing both parties’ loyalists but having little impact on those in the middle.

“You can go to every diner in every town in America and you’re not going to find anybody that’s particularly animated about this, unless they’re a base Republican or base Democrat,” said Josh Holmes, a GOP consultant and McConnell adviser.

Both sides say the issue has helped unite party leaders with allied interest groups in what has otherwise been a divisive primary campaign season. That’s particularly unusual for Republicans, with McConnell and ousted House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, favorite targets of grassroots conservative organizations that believe they have been too accommodating of Democrats.

If the GOP ignores any Obama nominee, conservatives have “a really powerful incentive to go out and vote for Republicans,” said Dan Holler, spokesman for Heritage Action for America, a frequent detractor of establishment Republican leaders.

Around 30 representatives of conservative organizations met March 2 with McConnell and Grassley in McConnell’s Capitol office, with GOP leaders urging the groups to activate their members, participants say. The participating groups included the anti-abortion National Right to Life Committee, the NRA and Heritage Action.

Katie Beirne Fallon, Obama’s former legislative affairs chief now helping coordinate liberal organizations’ tactics, met privately with Democratic senators on March 3 to lay out the groups’ plans, said one Democrat.

One virtually certain tactic: Capture the visual of the eventual nominee, trailed by TV cameras, knocking on office doors of GOP senators who have said they won’t meet with the person.

On the conservative side, One Nation — which runs ads and conducts polling and is headed by Steven Law, president of the Republican super PAC American Crossroads — will be “extremely active,” said spokesman Ian Prior.

Conservatives have also started hunting damaging information on potential nominees.

The Judicial Crisis Network’s Severino wrote in The National Review about one of them, federal appeals court Judge Jane Kelly. Severino cited a 2005 newspaper article that said Kelly, then a public defender representing a previously convicted child abuser, argued in court that he was not a threat to society.

Kyle Barry, the liberal Alliance for Justice’s director of justice programs, called Severino’s piece “a smear campaign” for attacking Kelly for doing her job as public defender.

 

Obama considers first Indian American for Supreme Court

Sri Srinivasan, a federal appeals judge who was born in India and grew up in Kansas, would be the first foreign-born justice to serve on the Supreme Court in more than 50 years.

The 49-year-old Srinivasan is one of several people being mentioned prominently as a potential replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last month. A judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Srinivasan would bring to the high court previous experience as an attorney in private practice, a law clerk to two Republican-appointed judges and a high-ranking official in the Obama Justice Department.

First rate intellect

He has a “first-rate intellect, an open-minded approach to the law, a strong work ethic, and an unimpeachable character,” high-ranking Justice Department veterans of Democratic and Republican administrations said in a letter endorsing him for the appeals court. The bipartisan warmth extended to his 97-0 confirmation vote by the Senate in 2013.

Srinivasan told the Senate Judiciary Committee then that he has “a deep respect for the need for strict objectivity and impartiality in the task of judging,” citing both his work for Vice President Al Gore after the 2000 presidential election and his later work in the Justice Department under Solicitor General Theodore Olson, who was the lead lawyer for George W. Bush in the Supreme Court case that decided the 2000 race.

“I think any objection to Sri would have to be based on notions that he’s either not conservative enough or not liberal enough,” said Stephen McAllister, a law professor at the University of Kansas. “It could not be intellectual ability, could not be writing ability, it could not be his general competence in the law,” McAllister said. “He’s just extremely talented in all respects.”

Antonin Scalia
Antonin Scalia

Liberal critics

His nomination to the appeals court did provoke some criticism from liberal interest groups who objected to his work in private practice representing former Enron Corp CEO Jeff Skilling in his successful Supreme Court appeal, and represented Exxon Mobil Corp and mining company Rio Tinto in lawsuits alleging their connection to human rights abuses abroad.

Srinivasan would be the court’s first Indian-American and its first Hindu, on a bench with five Catholics and three Jews. The last justice who was born overseas was Austrian-born Felix Frankfurter, who retired from the court in 1962.

Srinivasan grew up in Lawrence, Kansas, where his parents taught at the University of Kansas and he played high-school basketball. He remains an avid Kansas basketball fan and tries to return for a game once a year, said McAllister.

He received his bachelor’s degree, law degree and MBA from Stanford University. He clerked for U.S. Circuit Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson in Richmond, Virginia, and former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, both appointed by President Ronald Reagan. He also worked in a junior Justice Department position during the Bush administration and as the top political deputy in the Solicitor General’s office in the Obama administration.

‘Generous of spirit’

If nominated and confirmed, Srinivasan would have to step aside from high court consideration of two cases he has been involved with on the federal appeals court. He has been considering challenges to the Obama administration’s plan to address climate change, and “net neutrality” rules that regulate how the Internet is delivered to consumers.

Deanell Tacha, a native Kansan who is now dean of the Pepperdine Law School, calls Srinivasan a “man of great integrity, high intellect and extraordinary qualifications.”

“He cares about other people,” she said. “He’s generous of spirit, and he’s amazingly humble.”

And perhaps a tad superstitious. He regularly carried his twin children’s baby socks to Supreme Court arguments and pulled them from his pocket at his investiture on the appeals court, longtime legal affairs writer Tony Mauro reported in 2013.

 

Scalia’s death increases odds for John Doe appeal

The death of Justice Antonin Scalia increases the chances the decision in John Doe 2 may reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Wisconsin high court’s decision halted the investigation into allegations that Scott Walker illegally coordinated with outside groups during the recall elections of 2011 and 2012. The court held that the First Amendment forbids the state from banning coordination between candidates and issue advocacy groups, even though the U.S. Supreme Court never has reach any such ruling.

There are legal limits on donations to candidates, but contributions to groups that indirectly support specific candidates without naming them can raise unlimited sums of money from anonymous donors. That means in Wisconsin candidates have limitless dollars at their personal disposal — dollars that cannot be traced.

Campaign limits to candidates are intended to rein in the corrupting effect of money in politics. Allowing coordination between outside groups, more commonly known as “dark money” groups, and candidates defeats the purpose of limits on campaigns.

If the district attorneys fighting back against this John Doe decision were concerned that appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court might backfire, because a majority might uphold the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision, they can put that fear to rest.

Scalia represented a problem for the district attorneys and for the liberal justices on the Court. The court now has a 4–4 split between conservative and liberal justices. The four liberal justices have consistently voted in favor of campaign finance regulations and they now essentially hold veto power.

In his concurring opinion in the Citizens United case of 2010, Scalia made a First Amendment argument that echoes that of the John Doe opponents. He wrote: “The individual person’s right to speak includes the right to speak in association with other individual persons. …The Amendment is written in terms of ‘speech,’ not speakers. Its text offers no foothold for excluding any category of speaker, from single individuals to partnerships of individuals, to unincorporated associations of individuals, to incorporated associations of individuals.”

But Scalia’s argument here is only about corporations and associations having free speech rights. It’s not about candidates being allowed to coordinate with issue advocacy groups.

Indeed, Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing the majority opinion in Citizens United, which Scalia signed on to, made this distinction: “By definition, an independent expenditure is political speech presented to the electorate that is not coordinated with a candidate.”

It is precisely that definition the Wisconsin Supreme Court erased in its John Doe decision.

Matt Rothschild is the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.


Scales of justice: Ginsburg No. 1 in opinion poll

Public Policy Polling surveyed the nation’s voters on the favorability of U.S. Supreme Court justices — before the biggest decisions of the term were released.

PPP, a liberal-leaning polling firm, found that voters say Ruth Bader Ginsburg is their favorite justice — as much as they have a favorite. Ginsburg won the top spot with just 19 percent.

Next in line: Sonia Sotomayor and Clarence Thomas at 11 percent, John Roberts and Antonin Scalia at 8 percent, Elena Kagan at 7 percent, Anthony Kennedy at 5 percent and Samuel Alito and Stephen Breyer at 4 percent.

Ginsburg is a clear favorite among Democrats, followed by Sotomayor.

Thomas, meanwhile, finishes first with Republicans at 21 percent, followed by Roberts and Scalia.

Asked to name their least favorite member of the court, 18 percent chose Thomas, 12 percent chose Ginsburg, 10 percent named Scalia, 8 percent went for Kagan and Sotomayor, 5 percent named Alito, 4 percent said Roberts and 3 percent said Kennedy and Breyer.

Thomas is the least favorite member among Democrats and Ginsburg is the least favorite among Republicans.

Overall Americans have a negative view of the Supreme Court — about 59 percent of Republicans think the court is too liberal and 45 of Democrats think the court is too conservative.

Scalia joins torture debate: Hard to rule out extreme measures

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is joining the debate over the Senate’s torture report by saying it’s hard to rule out the use of extreme measures to extract information if millions of lives were threatened.

Scalia told a Swiss broadcast network that American and European liberals who say such tactics may never be used are being self-righteous.

The 78-year-old justice said he doesn’t “think it’s so clear at all,” especially if interrogators were trying to find a ticking nuclear bomb. Scalia has made similar comments in the past, but he renewed his remarks on Wednesday in an interview with Radio Television Suisse, a day after the release of the Senate report detailing the CIA’s harsh interrogation of suspected terrorists. RTS aired the interview on Friday.

“Listen, I think it’s very facile for people to say, `Oh, torture is terrible.’ You posit the situation where a person that you know for sure knows the location of a nuclear bomb that has been planted in Los Angeles and will kill millions of people. You think it’s an easy question? You think it’s clear that you cannot use extreme measures to get that information out of that person?” Scalia said.

Scalia also said that while there are U.S. laws against torture, nothing in the Constitution appears to prohibit harsh treatment of suspected terrorists. “I don’t know what article of the Constitution that would contravene,” he said. Scalia spent a college semester in Switzerland at the University of Fribourg.

The 30-minute interview touched on a range of topics, including the financing of political campaigns, the death penalty and gay marriage, about which Scalia said he should not comment because it is likely the court soon will have the issue before it.

Asked about money and U.S. elections, Scalia scoffed that “women may pay more each year to buy cosmetics” than is spent on local, state and federal elections combined.

His comments about interrogation techniques echoed remarks he also has made to foreign audiences. In 2008, he used the example of the hidden bomb. “It seems to me you have to say, as unlikely as that is, it would be absurd to say you couldn’t, I don’t know, stick something under the fingernail, smack him in the face. It would be absurd to say you couldn’t do that,” he said.

A year earlier, Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper reported that Scalia invoked fictional TV counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer using torture to get terrorism suspects to reveal information that could help authorities foil an imminent attack.

“Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer? I don’t think so,” he said. “So the question is really whether we believe in these absolutes. And ought we believe in these absolutes.”

In January, Scalia seemed less concerned about the safety of residents of Los Angeles when the court heard arguments about whether anonymous tips could justify a traffic stop. Urging the lawyer for two suspects appealing their conviction to stand firm, Scalia suggested that not even information that a carload of terrorists heading to Los Angeles with an atomic bomb would be enough to justify police stopping the car, if the tip came from an anonymous source.

“I want you to say, `Let the car go. Bye-bye, LA,'” Scalia said.

Supreme Court knocks down buffer zone at abortion clinics in Massachusetts

The U.S. Supreme Court on June 26 struck down a 35-foot protest-free zone outside abortion clinics in Massachusetts.

The justices were unanimous in that ban on protests violates the First Amendment.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion, which said there are other ways to deal with protests outside Planned Parenthood centers in Boston, where the case originated.

Roberts wrote that banning protests within 35 feet from clinics throughout the state to deal with a problem at one clinic on one day a week is “hardly a narrowly tailored solution.”

Roberts and four liberal justices struck down the ban on narrow grounds. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a separate opinion that was critical of the Court’s practice of “giving abortion-rights advocates a pass when it comes to suppressing the free-speech rights of their opponents.”

Proponents of the buffer zone have argued that it is necessary to protect the safety of patients and staff. In 1994, a man shot and killed two receptionists and wounded five others at a clinic in Brookline, Massachusetts.