Tag Archives: unconstitutional

Hundreds of thousands of petitioners call for Trump’s impeachment

More than half a million people have joined the campaign and signed the petition at ImpeachDonaldTrumpNow.orgwhich calls on the Congress to initiate an impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump.

The petitioners cite constitutional violations of the Foreign Emoluments Clause and Domestic Emoluments Clause, as well as violations of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012 — also known as the STOCK Act.

“On Inauguration Day, we issued the call for Congress to investigate whether President Trump should be impeached for violating the Constitution by holding onto his business interests,” said Ron Fein, legal director of Free Speech For People. “In just 11 days, over half a million people joined the campaign and the movement grows with every new revelation. Donald Trump is profiting from the presidency at public expense — and people are suffering as a result.”

Norman Solomon, co-founder and coordinator of RootsAction.org, added, “A groundswell for impeachment is underway at the grassroots. In districts around the country, House members will face escalating calls from constituents who believe that the president must not be above the supreme law of the land. This historic movement is just getting started.”

The petitioners say Trump’s personal and business holdings in the United States and abroad present unprecedented conflicts of interest and place him in direct violation of the Constitution.

The Foreign Emoluments Clause reads says: No person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under (the United States), shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” The purpose of this provision is to prevent foreign influence or corruption. “Emoluments” from foreign governments include “any conferral of a benefit or advantage, whether through money, objects, titles, offices, or economically valuable waivers or relaxations of otherwise applicable requirements,” even including “ordinary, fair market value transactions that result in any economic profit or benefit to the federal officeholder.

The Domestic Emoluments Clause says: The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be encreased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.

This provision, which Congress cannot waive, intended to prevent corruption.

The petitioners say there is sufficient basis to investigate other potentially impeachable violations. For example, the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012 is a federal ethics statute that specifically includes the president. Among other provisions, it prohibits the president from using nonpublic information for private profit and from intentionally influencing an employment decision or practice of a private entity solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation.

Action alert

Impeach Donald Trump Now is a nonpartisan campaign led by Free Speech For People and RootsAction.org. To join the campaign, read the proposed impeachment resolution or to learn more, go to www.ImpeachDonaldTrumpNow.org.


Michigan appeals court finds 2014 wolf hunt unconstitutional

A Michigan appeals court has found that the state’s 2014 wolf hunt was unconstitutional and the law allowing it should be struck down.

A three-judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals made the unanimous ruling in an opinion released this week, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The judges found that a provision of the law that allows for free military hunting, fishing and trapping licenses isn’t connected to the object of the law, which is providing for scientific management of wildlife habitats.

That violates the “title-object clause” in the Michigan Constitution that says the object of a law must be expressed in its title, the judges ruled.

The entire law must be struck down because it’s not clear if the measure would have been approved if that provision wasn’t included, the judges said.

The ruling is in favor of the group Keep Michigan Wolves Protected and overturns an earlier ruling from the Michigan Court of Claims.

The Michigan Legislature in 2014 adopted a voter initiative giving the Michigan Natural Resources Commission and the Legislature joint responsibility to name new game animals.

The initiative came after earlier failed efforts to add wolves to the definition of “game” in Michigan. Keep Michigan Wolves Protected challenged the law.

In the appeals court ruling, judges said the group viewed the law as “a Trojan Horse, within which the ability to hunt wolves was cleverly hidden.” The judges said though that their decision wasn’t based on policy but “on an analysis of the dictates of Michigan’s constitution.”

In December 2014, a federal judge threw out an Obama administration decision to remove gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region from the endangered species list — a decision that banned further wolf hunting and trapping in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Animal welfare activists spar with Utah over ‘ag-gag’ law

Utah’s law banning secret filming of agricultural facilities is unconstitutional and should be struck down just as Idaho’s measure was last year, argue animal welfare activists in a new court filing.

The so-called “ag-gag” law, passed in 2012, has a chilling effect on groups trying to expose unsafe and illegal practices at slaughterhouses and factory farms, said attorneys for a group of plaintiffs that include the Animal Legal Defense Team and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Utah state officials defend the ag-gag law in their own filing, saying it doesn’t violate any constitutional protections and still allows for filming from public places and for whistleblowers to report abuses. The state argues that ag-gag promotes workplace safety by barring unskilled undercover operatives from slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants.

“These illegal acts cannot be justified by the plaintiffs’ bare desire to get a story they want to tell,” wrote Kyle Kaiser of the Utah attorney general’s office.

The dueling court filings come 10 months after a federal judge ruled that Idaho’s similar law was unconstitutional, giving animal rights activists across the country hope that the decision will pave the way to overturn similar laws in other states.

U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill found that the Idaho law violated the First Amendment, writing in the August 2015 ruling that audio and visual can vindicate a whistleblower who otherwise might not be believed.

Utah’s ag-gag law was passed amid a wave of such laws being considered around the country. Eight other states have passed some sort of law against such surreptitious filming.

No ruling is expected anytime soon in Utah’s case, which was filed nearly three years ago.

One of the plaintiffs, Amy Meyer, was arrested under the misdemeanor statute for filming a front-end loader dumping a sick cow outside a Draper slaughterhouse in 2013. Charges against her were dropped because she recorded the scene from a public street.

Society needs people like Meyer because relying on slaughterhouses and meatpacking plant employees turning whistleblowers isn’t reliable, said PETA attorney Matthew Strugar writing the brief on behalf of the plaintiffs. “Many of these workers are undocumented or otherwise disenfranchised and are not aware of whistleblower protections,” he wrote.

Strugar argues that the measure was motivated by animosity, saying Utah’s “legislative history oozes with disdain for animal protection groups.”

The state said legislators aren’t concerned with the animal welfare groups, but rather people who go onto private property and risking the safety and security of operations underway.

“There is no broad-reaching right to enter private property illegally or under false pretenses, even if the interloper has (in his mind) a noble pursuit of doing so,” wrote Kaisel for the state.

Media groups have also joined the lawsuit, saying the law violates the First Amendment. The plaintiffs say they have three journalism experts who can testify that undercover investigations are part of the country’s “rich and celebrated journalistic history.”

“Much valuable journalism has emerged from investigations that employed subterfuge to expose wrong,” Strugar writes.


Appeals court: Wisconsin abortion law is unconstitutional

In a ruling that Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin called “an important victory for Wisconsin women,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit yesterday rejected a Wisconsin law requiring abortion providers to get admitting privileges at nearby hospitals is unconstitutional.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel’s 2–1 decision doesn’t put the question to rest. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed earlier this month to hear a challenge to a similar Texas law in a case that could settle the issue nationally.

The Wisconsin case centers on a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood and Affiliated Medical Services. The groups argue that the 2013 Republican-backed law amounts to an unconstitutional restriction on abortion.

The law’s supporters counter it ensures continuity of care if a woman developed complications from an abortion and needed to be hospitalized. But the lawsuit said the statute would force AMS’s clinic in Milwaukee to close because its doctors couldn’t get admitting privileges. That in turn would lead to longer waits at Planned Parenthood clinics. Therefore, the lawsuit maintained, the law amounts to an illegal restriction on abortions.

U.S. District Judge William Conley sided with the abortion providers in March, saying the law served no legitimate health interest. The Wisconsin Department of Justice later appealed to the 7th Circuit.

Writing for the 7th Circuit majority, Judge Richard Posner called the contention that the law would protect women’s health “nonexistent.” He said the law would put more women in danger by increasing the waiting times for abortions, which could push some procedures into the second trimester.

“What makes no sense is to abridge the constitutional right to abortion on the basis of spurious contentions regarding women’s health — and the abridgement challenged in this case would actually endanger women’s health,” he wrote.

Posner added that the law was obviously designed to close down abortion clinics, had nothing to do with women’s health and was a “clear flouting of Roe vs. Wade.”

He also said that a woman who experiences complications from an abortion will go to the nearest hospital, which will treat her regardless of whether her abortion doctor has admitting privileges there.

The medical community agrees that requiring admitting privileges does not increase patient safety, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin said in a statement to the press. Legal abortion is one of the safest medical procedures in the United States (and) admitting privileges do not hasten a patient’s care and are not required for any other medical procedure in Wisconsin, the group added.

The Wisconsin Medical Society joined the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association in a friend of the court brief explaining why admitting privileges do not enhance patient safety. The Wisconsin Hospital Association, the Wisconsin Public Health Association, the Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians, the Wisconsin Association of Local Health Departments and Boards, and the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health all oppose Wisconsin’s admitting privileges statute.

“At Planned Parenthood, our top priority is patient safety. As the court affirmed, this law does nothing to enhance the health and safety of patients,” said Teri Huyck, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin. “The intention of this law was to put obstacles in the path of women seeking safe, legal abortion care in Wisconsin.”

In his ruling, Posner noted that the law required providers to obtain privileges within two days of Gov. Scott Walker signing it, even though the process typically takes months. If Conley hadn’t imposed a preliminary injunction, AMS’ Milwaukee clinic as well as Planned Parenthood’s Appleton facility would have had to close immediately because providers at both facilities lacked privileges without

“The legislature’s intention to impose the two-day deadline … is difficult to explain save as a method of preventing abortions that women have a constitutional right to obtain,” Posner wrote.

Judge David Manion was the lone dissenter, saying the law protects women’s health and doesn’t amount to an undue constitutional burden.

Eleven states have imposed similar admitting privilege requirements on abortion providers; courts have blocked the requirements in six states, including Wisconsin, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports legal access to abortion.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice, run by Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel, defended the law.

Federal judge strikes down restrictive Wisconsin abortion law

UPDATED: A federal judge on March 20 struck down a Wisconsin law requiring doctors performing abortions to get hospital admitting privileges, ruling that any benefits to women’s health from the requirement are “substantially outweighed” by its restricting access to abortion.

U.S. District Judge William Conley, who earlier had put the law on hold, said the 2013 law is unconstitutional. He issued a permanent injunction blocking enforcement.

Planned Parenthood and Affiliated Medical Services had sued the state, arguing the requirement will force AMS’s Milwaukee clinic to close because its doctors can’t get admitting privileges. The groups argued that would amount to restricting access to abortions.

State attorneys contended the mandate would ensure continuity of care for women hospitalized with abortion complications.

“While the court agrees with the State that sometimes it is necessary to reduce access to ensure safety, this is decidedly not one of those instances,” Conley wrote. “In particular, the State has failed to meet its burden of demonstrating through credible evidence a link between the admitting privileges requirement and a legitimate health interest.”

In a statement, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union noted that only four health centers provide abortions in Wisconsin. If the law took effect, the largest of those centers would be forced to close immediately and the remaining three “will not be able to absorb the unmet need.”

“Politicians, not doctors, crafted this law for the sole purpose of shutting down women’s health care centers and preventing women from getting safe, legal abortions,” ACLU deputy legal director Louise Melling stated.

“With an over 99 percent safety record, abortion is very safe,” Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin said in an email. “Politically-motivated restrictions like this make it harder for a woman to access safe and legal abortion in Wisconsin.”

Conley said at the hearing on the lawsuit that he was worried the law was too rigid. He noted that the law required providers to get privileges within three days of its enactment. Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed the law on July 5, 2013, and it required providers to have privileges in place by July 8, 2013.

In his ruling, Conley noted that the “sudden adoption” of the permitting requirements, without giving enough time for compliance, “compels a finding that its purpose was to impose a substantial obstacle on women’s right to abortions in Wisconsin.”

Fourteen states require doctors performing abortions to either have hospital admitting privileges or some sort of alternative agreement, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights. Five other states have passed such restrictions but courts have put them on hold.

The ruling did not strike down Wisconsin’s controversial policy of forcing pregnant women to undergo invasive ultrasound procedures to view their fetuses prior to obtaining abortions. The lawsuit did not seek judgment on that facet of the restrictive abortion laws adopted in Wisconsin under Republican leadership.

Judge strikes down Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban

Deep in the Bible Belt, same-sex couples can begin marrying on Monday following a U.S. district court judge’s decision today striking down Alabama’s same-sex marriage bans.

U.S. District Callie V.S. Granade ruled in favor of two women who challenged Alabama’s refusal to recognize their California marriage, making the hard-right Southern state the latest to have its same-sex marriage ban overturned. Alabama was among only 14 U.S. states left where gay and lesbian couples were still barred from legally marrying.

The ruling today came as the issue heads to the U.S. Supreme Court for a decision that equality advocates hope will settle the issue once and for all.

Alabama plaintiffs Cari Searcy and Kimberly McKeand said that they’ve been together for more than a decade and had a child with the help of a sperm donor. They sued after an Alabama court refused to recognize Searcy as the child’s adoptive parent, because state law did not recognize the couple as spouses.

 Granade overturned that decision and said an Alabama statute and 2006 amendment to the Alabama Constitution banning gay marriage violated the U.S. Constitution’s equal-protection clause.

Judges recently have struck down same-sex marriage bans in several other Southern states, including the Carolinas, Florida, and Virginia. The bans have been upheld in Kentucky and Tennessee, two of the cases that will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in April.

A spokesman for Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange issued a statement expressing disappointment in the decision and saying the state will seek to put a hold on it.

“We expect to ask for a stay of the court’s judgment pending the outcome of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling which will ultimately decide this case,” Strange spokesman Mike Lewis said.

But, as has happened in other states, Granade refused to stay the decision, meaning same-sex couples can begin applying for marriage licenses on Monday.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear cases asking it to overturn gay-marriage bans that lower courts have upheld in Kentucky, Tennessee, Michigan and Ohio. The appeals from gay and lesbian plaintiffs are also asking the high court to declare that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry everywhere in the United States.

In Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, South Dakota and Texas, judges have struck down anti-gay marriage laws, but they remain in effect pending appeals.

Federal judge strikes down South Dakota’s ban on same-sex marriage

A federal judge on Jan. 12 declared South Dakota’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, but marriage licenses won’t be immediately issued because the ruling was put on hold pending a potential appeal.

U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier sided in favor of the six couples who filed the lawsuit in May in Sioux Falls. The lawsuit challenges a 1996 state law and a voter-approved 2006 constitutional amendment that ban gay marriage.

“Plaintiffs have a fundamental right to marry,” Schreier wrote. “South Dakota law deprives them of that right solely because they are same-sex couples and without sufficient justification.”

Attorney General Marty Jackley on Jan. 12 said the state will appeal the case to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a conservative-leaning federal appeals court that in 2006 affirmed Nebraska’s right to ban same-sex marriages.

“It remains the state’s position that the institution of marriage should be defined by the voters of South Dakota and not the federal courts,” Jackley said.

He said he’s obligated by law to defend both the state constitution and state statutes.

At the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group, legal director Sarah Warbelow said, “According to Judge Schreier’s ruling and two dozen others over the last year, there is no justifiable reason to keep these discriminatory marriage bans on the books. The truth is, laws prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying serve no purpose other than to harm Americans who simply want to protect and provide for themselves and their families. Ultimately the U.S. Constitution does not allow states to continue discriminating against committed and loving gay and lesbian couples.  It’s only a matter of time before the U.S. Supreme Court decides the issue once and for all.”

Two other states – Arkansas and Missouri – already have appealed similar federal district court rulings to the 8th Circuit. This court is generally considered more conservative than others, said Adam Romero, senior counsel in the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. However, Romero warned, judges “from all ideological perspectives” have tended to agree that state marriage bans are unconstitutional since the U.S. Supreme Court decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.

“While it is impossible to predict what the court will ultimately do, given the large number of judges who have struck down same-sex marriage bans, we can assume that the 8th Circuit will give the marriage bans in this circuit a very, very close scrutiny,” Romero said.

The U.S. Supreme Court again is considering whether to hear a gay marriage case, and more appeals court rulings — especially if they conflict — could increase the likelihood the justices will do so.

In November, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in Cincinnati became the first appellate court to recently uphold state bans on same-sex marriage. Plaintiffs from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee are asking the Supreme Court to reverse that decision. Four other appeals courts — based in Chicago, Denver, San Francisco and Richmond, Virginia — have ruled in favor of gay and lesbian couples. Arguments over bans in three Southern states were held last week before a New Orleans-based appellate court.

Romero said that the more cases that are pending at the 8th Circuit will only increase the pressure on that court to issue its ruling. But the court could put the cases on hold if the Supreme Court decides to take on the issue.

Presently, 36 states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex couples to marry, nearly twice as many as just three months ago. 

The South Dakota couples’ attorney, Josh Newville, said this week’s developments represent the last opportunity for the state’s “elected officials to be on the right side of history” by not appealing Schreier’s decision.

“I would say that Attorney General Jackley needs to consider very seriously the amount of money that he’s pouring into this lawsuit on behalf of the state to keep a discriminatory law in place,” Newville said.

Five of the couples have already married in either Iowa, Connecticut or Minnesota. Nancy Rosenbrahn, of Rapid City, married her longtime partner in April in Minneapolis.

“On one hand, this is like the best present ever,” Rosenbrahn said of the decision Monday. “On the other hand, you go back and you say `Well, yeah, it should be a yes,’ because we are no different than anybody else. There is no reason to say we can’t get married. There is no valid reason to do that anymore.”

Russia says transgender people unfit to drive

New Russian road safety regulations bar transgender people and others with sexual “disorders” from driving.

The new regulations have been denounced by human rights activists, who see them as unconstitutional and part of Russia’s crackdown on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.

The government resolution, dated Dec. 29, lists numerous medical conditions that make someone ineligible for a driving license, including “mental and behavioral disorders” as defined by the World Health Organization.

The WHO classification includes “gender identity disorders” such as transsexualism and “disorders of sexual preference,” including fetishism and voyeurism.

Human Rights First called it an “alarming violation of the rights of the transgender community” and “just another example of the Russian regime’s methodical rollback of basic human rights for its citizens.”

At the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT civil rights group in the United States, HRC Global deputy director Jean Freedberg said, “Restricting transgender people from obtaining drivers licenses is simply another example of the Russian government’s increased campaign of persecution and discrimination against its LGBT population.”

North Carolina attorney general will stop defending his state’s gay marriage ban

About two hours after the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said he will no longer defend his state’s voter-approved constitutional amendment prohibiting marriage equality.

Cooper said the appeals court ruling made it highly likely that North Carolina’s ban also will be overturned, rendering “futile” further opposition to the four federal lawsuits challenging it.

“Our attorneys have vigorously defended North Carolina marriage law, which is their job,” said Cooper, a Democrat. “But today we know our law almost surely will be overturned as well. Simply put, it is time to stop making arguments we will lose and instead move forward, knowing that the ultimate resolution will likely come from the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Cooper had previously stated his personal opposition to the marriage ban, but said it was his duty to defend the state constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2012. He said his decision doesn’t mean same-sex marriages in North Carolina can begin immediately. That would take a judge’s ruling. But since the 4th Circuit includes North Carolina, he said any federal judge in the state would be bound by the ruling out of Virginia.

Gay marriage proponents have won more than 24 legal decisions around the country since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriages.

The U.S. Supreme Court could have at least five appellate decisions to consider if it takes up gay marriage again in its next term, beginning in October.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina represents same-sex plaintiffs in two lawsuits challenging the North Carolina law now pending before a federal judge in Greensboro. Chris Brook, the group’s legal director, agreed that the new ruling means the state’s ban is likely to be overturned.

Cooper’s decision was quickly condemned by Republican officials and groups that campaigned for the amendment approved two years ago. Cooper is widely expected to seek the Democratic nomination to challenge GOP Gov. Pat McCrory in 2016.

Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the pro-ban North Carolina Values Coalition, strongly disagreed that it is a forgone conclusion that the law would be overturned.

“It is outrageous that federal judges put themselves in the place of God by seeking to redefine the very institution that He created,” Fitzgerald said. “Anyone who believes that this decision in Virginia somehow strikes down North Carolina’s Marriage Amendment is wrong. North Carolina’s Marriage Amendment still stands, and no judge has found it unconstitutional.”

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.