Tag Archives: Supreme

In her re-election campaign, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley calls for throwing politics out of court

Judicial positions are nominally non-partisan, but any illusion that’s the case evaporated long ago. There’s no better illustration than the efforts of right-wing Republicans to oust two-term incumbent Justice Ann Walsh Bradley on April 7.  Her loss would give conservatives a 5–2 advantage on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

 Bradley’s opponent — Rock County Circuit Judge James Daley — denies he has any ideological bias, but he’s sent out tweets using the hashtag #tcot, which stands for “top conservatives on Twitter.” He admits that the Republican Party helped circulate his nominating papers and he’s appeared at GOP gatherings throughout the state, promoting his conservative agenda and asking for help.

Daley told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he’s attended those events simply to speak with voters who are most likely to share his philosophy. He called Bradley an “activist judge,” a criticism that Republicans in the state frequently aim at judges who’ve issued opinions against Gov. Scott Walker’s agenda, including his union-busting Act 10 and his law requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls.

In a conversation with WiG, Bradley blasted Daley for being co-opted by the Republican Party and for having Republican operatives on his campaign staff. She said her campaign did not accept help from the Democratic Party to circulate her nominating papers and that her campaign would not accept contributions from political parties or attorneys and litigants with pending cases.

In fact, Bradley said that maintaining judicial independence is the centerpiece of her retention bid. It’s not only unethical for partisanship and campaign donations to influence application of the law, she said, but it also erodes the public’s perception of a fair justice system.

Knowing that conservatives would probably spend massive amounts of money on advertising and TV commercials that misrepresent her record, Bradley thought long and hard about seeking a third term on the bench.

“I know what is coming in the last few days or weeks of the campaign,” she said.

But it’s that knowledge that ultimately determined her decision to run. “I think it’s time to stop this influx of partisanship in the judiciary,” she said. “My vision of a judiciary is different from what we’ve seen in the recent past.”

According to Bradley, Wisconsin ranks No. 2 in the nation for special interest advertising in judicial races — behind only Pennsylvania.

“It’s not this way in other states, and it doesn’t have to be this way in Wisconsin,” she said.

But, for now, partisanship dominates. Major corporate money, including third-party donations from such lobbying groups as Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and the Koch brothers-backed Wisconsin Club for Growth are expected to flow into the campaign of Bradley’s opponent. Together the two groups spent an estimated $8.3 million for “issue ads” helping to elect conservative Justices Annette Ziegler, Michael Gableman, David Prosser and Patience Roggensack, according to wiconsinwatch.org. That amount dwarfs the $3.2 million spent by those same justices on their own campaigns.

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

See also: page one story about this race that appeared on The New York Times’ cover

Florida AG wants state supreme court to rule on marriage ban

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who is running for re-election on Nov. 4 and courting the Christian right vote, says she wants the state Supreme Court to decide whether a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage is legal.

The Republican office-holder filed a request with the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami, asking the court to immediately send two consolidated cases to the Florida Supreme Court. Judges in both those cases declared the state ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

Bondi has defended the ban but previously said she wanted to halt legal reviews in Florida until the U.S. Supreme Court acted on pending marriage equality cases. Last week, the high court turned away appeals from five states, clearing the way for another wave of marriages.

Bondi reacted, saying she wants the state’s highest court to decide the issue because of “changed circumstances.”

Nadine Smith of Equality Florida, the statewide LGBT civil rights group, said, “While we look forward to having this matter move forward to the Florida Supreme Court and asked for this on July 30, AG Bondi and Gov. Rick Scott continue to waste taxpayer money while same-sex couples throughout the state continue to endure the indignities of being treated like second-class citizens.

“Nearly two-thirds of the country now live in a state that values equality. How much longer must loving couples in Florida wait to protect their families? Now is the time for AG Bondi and Gov. Scott to step on the right side of history and not let Florida go down in history as one of the last states to uphold the principles of fairness.”

3 Colorado counties issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples

A third Colorado county began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples on July 11 even though the legal fight is far from resolved in the state.

Pueblo County joined Denver and Boulder County in allowing gay couples to marry a day after a state judge ruled the Boulder clerk can continue issuing the licenses.

Colorado’s 2006 voter-approved gay marriage ban remains on the books. But District Court Judge Andrew Hartman noted it is “hanging on by a thread” following rulings by another state court and the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In Denver, clerk Debra Johnson began granting marriage licenses to gay couples shortly after Hartman issued his ruling. She gave licenses to 17 gay couples on July 10.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers had sought to block the issuing of licenses, warning of “legal chaos.” In a statement this week, he pledged to go to the state Supreme Court as soon as possible “to prevent a legal patchwork quilt from forming.”

In Boulder County, more than 100 couples have married since its clerk started issuing licenses two weeks ago, when the appeals court found Utah’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional.

The ruling became law in all six 10th Circuit states – including Colorado – but the panel immediately put it on hold while Utah appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On July 9, District Judge C. Scott Crabtree struck down Colorado’s ban, joining multiple other judges who have done the same in other states. Crabtree also placed his ruling on hold while the legal battle plays out.

Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper has asked Suthers, a Republican, not to appeal.

“The decision on marriage by Judge Crabtree puts Colorado on the right side of history,” Hickenlooper said.

In the Boulder case, Hartman found the licenses were harmless and an acceptable form of civil disobedience. But he required that all couples be warned their marriage could lack legal value if a court later upholds Colorado’s ban.

His decision left clerks around the state trying to figure out what to do next.

They must weigh the risk of issuing licenses that might become invalid with violating people’s rights by declining to do so, Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner said. “It’s sort of a rock and a hard place,” she said.

There is no guarantee the nation’s highest court will take the case when it returns in October. But situations like the one in Colorado add to the pressure for a final, definitive ruling on gay marriage in the U.S.

Same-sex marriage is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia, but it’s in limbo in much of the rest of the nation. Seemingly every week, another gay marriage ban is struck down. Sometimes marriages start immediately; other times the rulings are put on hold and nothing happens.

ACLU sues Utah for refusing to recognize gay marriages

Four same-sex couples represented by the American Civil Liberties Union have sued Utah for refusing to recognize their marriages, which took place after a federal court overturned the state’s anti-gay ban in late December.

In a window that opened with the federal court ruling and closed with a stay issued by the U.S. Supreme Court, more than 1,000 same-sex couples married in Utah. The U.S. Justice Department has said the federal government will recognize the marriages but the governor has said Utah will not recognize them.

“These couples were legally married under Utah law and their unions must be treated the same as any other Utah marriage,” said John Mejia, legal director of the ACLU of Utah. “Even our attorney general said that the marriages were entitled to full recognition by the state at the time they were performed. Regardless of what ultimately happens in the federal challenge to Utah’s marriage ban, the marriages that already occurred are valid and must be recognized now.”

The lawsuit argues that once same-sex couples are legally married in Utah, they gain protections that cannot retroactively be taken away under the due process clauses of the Utah and U.S. Constitution.

Some couples not only wanted to get married to demonstrate their commitment to each other, but also to ensure protection for their children. As a married couple, each parent can establish a legal connection to their children even if they’re not the biological parent or previously recognized adoptive parent. Otherwise, Utah law allows single parents to adopt, but forbids an unmarried partner from being recognized as a parent to the other’s biological or already-adopted children, which could have devastating legal implications.

“We acted as soon as we could to make sure our family could stay together in case, heaven forbid, something happens to one of us,” said Matthew Barrazza, who is the adopted father of Jesse, the son he is raising with his husband Tony Milner. Milner currently is not recognized as their son’s parent. “We just want the peace of mind of knowing that whatever happens, Jesse has security of knowing his other parent will take care of and provide for him. Now, because the state refuses to recognize our marriage, this peace of mind is again out of reach.”

Their adoption process is on hold because of the state’s refusal to recognize their marriage. Other couples worry that they will lose the ability to make decisions for each other or care for each other if one of them is hospitalized.

“The state has reduced these unions to second-class marriages,” said Erik Strindberg of the firm Strindberg & Scholnick, LLC, which also represents the couples in the state claim. “It is imperative that these marriages be recognized now, so that these couples and their families can receive the protections given to all other legally married couples in this great state.”

The lawsuit is separate from the original federal case challenging Utah’s marriage ban, which is on appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

Latina lesbian joins Colorado Supreme Court

Telling her colleagues that her allegiance is to the law, not any special interest group, Colorado Deputy Attorney General Monica Marquez was sworn in Dec. 10 as the state’s newest Supreme Court justice.

Marquez is the first Latina and the first openly gay jurist on the state’s high court.

“On the bench, of course, my allegiance is to the law, not to any particular constituency,” she said after she was sworn in by her father, retired Judge Jose D.L. Marquez, who was the first Latino appointed to the Colorado Court of Appeals.

Marquez, 41, is a Grand Junction native who attended Stanford and Yale universities.

Gov. Bill Ritter told the justices that he interviewed Marquez and determined she has a “deep respect for the rule of law.” He said he was reassured she would not show preference.

“It’s important not to do that for any interest group,” he told the court.

At present, there are no major gay rights issues pending before the court, but there could be a court challenge if Colorado Republican lawmakers go ahead with their plan to introduce an Arizona-style immigration law.

Republicans are considering a long list of new immigration requirements, including controversial ones that would require that authorities verify the immigration status of all arrested people before they are released from jail and allow for warrantless arrests.

Damian Arguello, president of the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association, said Marquez has resigned as a board member. Arguello said he believes Marquez will be objective.

Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute, a conservative think tank, said he is more worried about her opinions on Colorado’s constitutional tax and spending limits after she won a state Supreme Court ruling that fees are not taxes requiring voter approval.

Caldara said gay rights are not a legal issue at this time.

Heather Draper, spokeswoman for the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Community Center said Colorado lawmakers have passed five laws in recent years improving gay rights, including laws that allow same sex couples to designate beneficiaries, adopt children and bar discrimination in housing. None of those issues are involved in pending litigation.

High Court lets ‘don’t ask’ stand

The Supreme Court on Nov. 12 allowed the Pentagon to continue preventing openly gay people from serving in the military while a federal appeals court reviews the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

The court did not comment in denying a request from the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay rights group, to step into the ongoing federal court review of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” The Obama administration urged the high court not to get involved at this point.

Last month, a federal judge ruled that the policy violates the civil rights of gay Americans and she issued an injunction barring the Pentagon from applying it. But the San Francisco-based appeals court said the policy could remain in effect while it considers the administration’s appeal.

“Log Cabin Republicans are disappointed that the Supreme Court decided to maintain the status quo with regards to ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ but we are not surprised,” said R. Clarke Cooper, the group’s executive director. “We are committed to pursuing every avenue in the fight against this failed and unconstitutional policy.”

President Barack Obama has pledged to push lawmakers to repeal the law in the lame-duck session before a new Congress is sworn in. But administration lawyers have in the meantime defended “don’t ask, don’t tell” in court.

The policy, which prohibits gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military, was lifted for eight days in October after U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips ruled that it is unconstitutional. The Obama administration asked the appeals court to reinstate the ban until it could hear arguments on the broader constitutional issues next year.

Justice Elena Kagan did not take part in the court’s consideration of the issue. Kagan served as the administration’s chief Supreme Court lawyer before she became a justice in August.