California Democratic supremacy tested by crime, inflation

Legal Interview 2022/05/09 09:22   Bookmark and Share
Democrats in many parts of the country are facing a potentially grim political year, but in California no one is talking about the liberal stronghold changing direction.

California’s largely irrelevant Republican Party could field only little-known candidates for governor and U.S. Senate, and the GOP appears to have only isolated chances for upsets even under what should be favorable conditions for the party.

Mail ballots are already going out for the June 7 primary election that will set the stage for November runoffs. The election is taking place within a cauldron of dicey political issues: the possible repeal of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, widespread frustration with a homelessness crisis and with residents suffering pocketbook stress from galloping inflation and soaring home costs — the state’s median price hit a record $849,080 in March.

President Joe Biden’s popularity has sagged — even among some of his fellow Democrats — and the party in the White House typically loses congressional seats in midterm elections. California Democrats showed up in historic numbers in 2020 to defeat then-President Donald Trump in landslide, but turnout next month is expected to tumble with little drama at the top of the ticket: Gov. Gavin Newsom and U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, both Democrats, face only token opposition.

But none of that adds up to a threat to the state’s Democratic supremacy. Republicans haven’t won a statewide election in California since 2006, and Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by nearly 2-to-1 statewide. Democrats are expected to maintain their supermajorities in the Legislature.
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Republicans condemn 'scheme' to undo election for Trump

Legal Interview 2021/01/05 14:29   Bookmark and Share
The unprecedented Republican effort to overturn the presidential election has been condemned by an outpouring of current and former GOP officials warning the effort to sow doubt in Joe Biden's  win and keep President Donald Trump in office is undermining Americans’ faith in democracy.

Trump has enlisted support from a dozen Republican senators and up to 100 House Republicans to challenge the Electoral College  vote when Congress convenes in a joint session to confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s  306-232 win.

With Biden set to be inaugurated Jan. 20, Trump is intensifying efforts to prevent the traditional transfer of power, ripping the party apart.

Despite Trump's claims of voter fraud, state officials have insisted the elections ran smoothly and there was no evidence of fraud or other problems that would change the outcome. The states have certified their results as fair and valid. Of the more than 50 lawsuits the president and his allies have filed challenging election results, nearly all have been dismissed or dropped. He’s also lost twice at the U.S. Supreme Court.

On a call disclosed Sunday, Trump can be heard pressuring Georgia officials  to “find” him more votes.

But some senior lawmakers, including prominent Republicans, are pushing back.

“The 2020 election is over,” said a statement Sunday from a bipartisan group of 10 senators, including Republicans Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Mitt Romney of Utah.

The senators wrote that further attempts to cast doubt on the election are “contrary to the clearly expressed will of the American people and only serve to undermine Americans’ confidence in the already determined election results.”

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland said, “The scheme by members of Congress to reject the certification of the presidential election makes a mockery of our system and who we are as Americans.”

Former House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican, said in a statement that “Biden’s victory is entirely legitimate" and that efforts to sow doubt about the election “strike at the foundation of our republic.”

Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking House Republican, warned in a memo to colleagues that objections to the Electoral College results “set an exceptionally dangerous precedent.”

One of the more outspoken conservatives in Congress, Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton, said he will not oppose the counting of certified electoral votes on Jan. 6. "I’m grateful for what the president accomplished over the past four years, which is why I campaigned vigorously for his reelection. But objecting to certified electoral votes won’t give him a second term?it will only embolden those Democrats who want to erode further our system of constitutional government.”

Cotton said he favors further investigation of any election problems, separate from the counting of the certified Electoral College results.
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Families confront New Zealand mosque shooter at sentencing

Legal Interview 2020/08/22 18:17   Bookmark and Share
Families and survivors had their first chance to confront the white supremacist who slaughtered 51 worshippers in a mass shooting at two New Zealand mosques as his four-day sentencing hearing began Monday.

“You killed your own humanity, and I don’t think the world will forgive you for your horrible crime,” said a tearful Maysoon Salama, the mother of 33-year-old Atta Elayyan, who was killed in March 2019 attacks. “You thought you can break us. You failed miserably.”

The gunman, 29-year-old Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant, pleaded guilty in March to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one count of terrorism ? the first terrorism conviction in New Zealand’s history. He could become the first person in New Zealand to be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, the toughest sentence available.

Tarrant was brought into the Christchurch High Court shackled and wearing a gray prison outfit. In the dock, unshackled and surrounded by five officers, he showed little emotion throughout the hearing. He occasionally looked around the room, tapped his fingers, and watched the survivors as they spoke.

The courtroom was only half full due to coronavirus distancing requirements, while many others watched from adjacent courtrooms where the hearing was streamed. Survivors and family members occasionally wept and comforted each other.

Two dozen victims and family members told the court about the pain of losing husbands, wives, sons and brothers. Some had family members around them for support, others spoke through translators or on pre-recorded videos from abroad.

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No peeking, voters: Court keeps Trump taxes private for now

Legal Interview 2020/07/08 11:58   Bookmark and Share
Rejecting President Donald Trump’s complaints that he’s being harassed, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday in favor of a New York prosecutor’s demands for the billionaire president’s tax records. But in good political news for Trump, his taxes and other financial records almost certainly will be kept out of the public eye at least until after the November election.

In a separate case, the justices kept a hold on banking and other documents about Trump, family members and his businesses that  Congress has been seeking for more than a year. The court said that while Congress has significant power to demand the president’s personal information, it is not limitless.

The court turned away the broadest arguments by Trump’s lawyers and the Justice Department that the president is immune from investigation while he holds office or that a prosecutor must show a greater need than normal to obtain the tax records. But it is unclear when a lower court judge might order the Manhattan district attorney’s subpoena to be enforced.

Trump is the only president in modern times who has refused to make his tax returns public, and before he was elected he promised to release them. He didn’t embrace Thursday’s outcome as a victory even though it is likely to prevent his opponents in Congress from obtaining potentially embarrassing personal and business records ahead of Election Day.

In fact, the increasing likelihood that a grand jury will eventually get to examine the documents drove the president into a public rage. He lashed out declaring that “It’s a pure witch hunt, it’s a hoax” and calling New York, where he has lived most of his life, “a hellhole.”

The documents have the potential to reveal details on everything from possible misdeeds to the true nature of the president’s vaunted wealth ? not to mention uncomfortable disclosures about how he’s spent his money and how much he’s given to charity.

The rejection of Trump’s claims of presidential immunity marked the latest instance where his broad assertion of executive power has been rejected.

Trump’s two high court appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, joined the majority in both cases along with Chief Justice John Roberts and the four liberal justices. Roberts wrote both opinions.

“Congressional subpoenas for information from the President, however, implicate special concerns regarding the separation of powers. The courts below did not take adequate account of those concerns,” Roberts wrote in the congressional case.
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Court approves PG&E’s $23B bankruptcy financing package

Legal Interview 2020/03/16 11:02   Bookmark and Share
Pacific Gas & Electric on Monday won court approval to raise $23 billion to help pay its bills over destructive California wildfires after Gov. Gavin Newsom dropped his opposition to a financing package designed to help the nation’s largest utility get out of bankruptcy.

The milestone reached during an unusual court hearing held by phone moves PG&E closer to its goal of emerging from one of the most complex bankruptcy cases in U.S. history by June 30.

Newsom has said he fears P&E is taking on too much debt to be able to afford an estimated $40 billion in equipment upgrades needed to reduce the chances of its electricity grid igniting destructive wildfires in the future.

The utility’s outdated system triggered a series of catastrophic wildfires in 2017 and 2018 that killed so many people and burned so many homes and businesses that the company had to file for bankruptcy early last year.

But the recent volatility in the financial markets caused by the coronavirus pandemic apparently softened Newsom’s stance after PG&E lined up commitments from investors promising to buy up to $12 billion in company stock.
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Arizona court gear up for reviews of virus outbreak orders

Legal Interview 2020/03/02 11:06   Bookmark and Share
Arizona's state court system is preparing for possible hearings and other proceedings to review any future emergency public health orders stemming from the coronavirus outbreak or other communicable and infectious diseases.

An administrative order signed Wednesday by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Brutinel assigns at least one Superior Court judges in each of the 15 counties to conduct any required judicial reviews of measures taken by public health agencies to prevent and control diseases.

Brutinel's order also authorizes presiding judges in each county to adopt or suspend local court rules and orders and to take other steps. Those could include having courts operate around the clock and for Superior Courts to handle cases originally filed in lower courts.

"Judicial review of these orders and the opportunity for a person affected by an order to secure judicial review of these measures is required by law," Brutinel's order stated. “The courts must be prepared and available to respond effectively and expeditiously.
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