Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Last Call For The Road To Gilead, Kentucky Edition

Abortion went before the Supreme Court again today, this time with Kentucky GOP AG Daniel Cameron saying he has the exclusive right to defend the state's abortion ban in court if Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear will not do so, and as far as the Supremes go, they seemed to heavily side with Cameron.

The Supreme Court heard arguments in an abortion case on Tuesday, but the issue for the justices was a procedural one: Could Kentucky’s attorney general, a Republican, defend a state abortion law when the governor, a Democrat, refused to pursue further appeals after a federal appeals court struck down the law?

As the argument progressed through a thicket of technical issues, a majority of the justices seemed inclined to say yes.

“Kentucky maybe ought to be there in some form, and the attorney general is the one that wants to intervene,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said.

More important abortion cases are on the horizon. In December, the court will hear arguments on whether to overrule Roe v. Wade in a case concerning a Mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 weeks. And the justices have been asked to take another look at a Texas law that prohibits most abortions after six weeks, which the court allowed to go into effect last month by a 5-to-4 vote.

Tuesday’s case, Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center, No. 20-601, concerned a Kentucky law that challengers said effectively banned the most common method of abortion in the second trimester of pregnancy, dilation and evacuation. The justices barely discussed the law during Tuesday’s argument.

Rather, they focused on the tangled history of the case and the complicated jurisdictional and procedural questions that arose from it.

The case started in 2018, when the state’s only abortion clinic and two doctors sued various state officials to challenge the law. The state’s attorney general at the time, Andy Beshear, a Democrat, said his office was not responsible for enforcing the law and entered into a stipulation dismissing the case against him, agreeing to abide by the final judgment and reserving the right to appeal.

The state’s health secretary, who had been appointed by a Republican governor, defended the law in court. A federal trial court struck the law down, saying it was at odds with Supreme Court precedent. The health secretary appealed, but the attorney general did not.

While the case was moving forward, Kentucky’s political landscape shifted. Mr. Beshear, who had been attorney general, was elected governor. Daniel Cameron, a Republican, was elected attorney general.

Mr. Beshear appointed a new health secretary, Eric Friedlander, who continued to defend the law on appeal. But after a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, affirmed the trial judge’s ruling, Mr. Friedlander declined to seek review from the full appeals court or the Supreme Court.

Mr. Cameron, the new attorney general, sought to intervene in the appeals court, saying he was entitled to defend the law. The appeals court denied his request, ruling that it had come too late.

On Tuesday, the justices probed the significance of the stipulation and the standards for when appeals courts should allow parties to intervene in the late stages of a case.

Justice Clarence Thomas, who has taken to asking the first questions during arguments, said “there isn’t much law” on the appropriate standards.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the Sixth Circuit was entitled to take account of the fact that the attorney general had failed to file an appeal after losing in the trial court, notwithstanding the later election of a new attorney general.

“Why would we call it an abuse of discretion for a court of appeals, after it’s rendered its judgment, to say we don’t really care what has happened in the political arena?” she asked.

Matthew F. Kuhn, a lawyer for Mr. Cameron, said his client was acting in a different capacity when he sought to intervene. He was now, Mr. Kuhn said, representing the interests of the state.

About 45 minutes into the argument, Justice Stephen G. Breyer described what he said was really going on the case. “First the Republicans are in, then the Democrats are in,” he said, “and they have different views on an abortion statute.”
He described the history of the case, ending with the ruling from the three-judge panel of the appeals court.

“At that point, for the first time, we have an attorney general who thinks it’s a pretty good statute,” Justice Breyer said. “He wants to defend it.”

“Why can’t he just come in and defend the law?” Justice Breyer asked.
At this point it's looking like a 7-2 or even 8-1 decision in favor of Cameron. I know, predicting Supreme Court decisions is a mug's game, but I don't see how he loses if Breyer is asking questions like this.
Besides, it's not going to be Kentucky that gets in the history books for ending abortion next summer, it's Mississippi. Cameron wants it so, so badly though. It would be a guaranteed trip to the Governor's mansion and possibly higher office. 
Either way, it's another mile closer to Gilead.


The Big Lie, Con't

 Georgia Republicans have found their pretext for using new state laws to take over and replace the county election board in Atlanta's Fulton County, leaving elections in the largest county in the state under permanent Republican election rule heading into 2022 midterms.

The elections office in Georgia’s heavily Democratic Fulton County said on Monday that two workers had been fired for shredding voter registration forms, most likely adding fuel to a Republican-led investigation of the office that critics call politically motivated.

The workers, at the Fulton County Board of Elections, were dismissed on Friday after other employees saw them destroying registration forms awaiting processing before local elections in November, the county elections director, Richard Barron, said.

Both the county district attorney and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, the state’s chief elections official, were asked to conduct inquiries into the matter, the chairman of the Fulton County Commission, Robb Pitts, said in a statement.

But it was Mr. Raffensperger who first revealed the allegations of shredded registration forms, issuing a blistering news release demanding that the Justice Department investigate “incompetence and malfeasance” in the agency. “After 20 years of documented failure in Fulton County elections, Georgians are tired of waiting to see what the next embarrassing revelation will be,” he said.

His declaration only underscored the political implications of the document-shredding charges, which would almost certainly have been less freighted in any other election office. Fulton County officials did not say how many forms were shredded, but Mr. Raffensperger put the total at about 300 in a county with 800,000 voters on the rolls.

While the charges of wrongdoing surfaced on Friday, it was unclear when the actual destruction of registration forms might have occurred.

Mr. Raffensperger, who won national attention for rejecting former President Donald J. Trump’s request to “find” enough ballots to overturn President Biden’s narrow win in the state, faces a difficult primary race next spring against a rival endorsed by Mr. Trump. The Fulton County elections office, meanwhile, has become the object of fury by Trump supporters who baselessly claim that Mr. Biden’s win in the state was illegitimate.

Some supporters are suing to conduct yet another review of the presidential vote in Fulton County, which includes a broad swath of metropolitan Atlanta and where 73 percent of voters favored Mr. Biden. The statewide Georgia vote has been counted three times with zero evidence of fraud.

The Republican-dominated State Legislature approved legislation this spring that gives it effective control of the State Election Board, and empowers the board to investigate legislators’ complaints about local election bodies. Fulton County was quickly selected for an inquiry that eventually could replace the elections board with a temporary superintendent who would have sweeping powers to oversee the vote.

Voting rights advocates and Democrats statewide have cast the inquiry as a first step toward a pro-Trump takeover of election machinery in the county most crucial to Democratic hopes in future elections.

“I don’t think there’s another state in the union that has a State Election Board with the power to turn a nonpartisan elections office into a partisan arm of the secretary of state’s office,” Mr. Barron, the Fulton County elections director, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Replacing elected officials with a Republican-appointed superintendent in Fulton County was always the goal of the Georgia GOP "election reform laws", much like Michigan's vile "emergency manager" law used in Flint. That turned into a major federal corruption case when that happened.

Nobody will be prosecuted here when the Republican superintendent mysteriously calls Fulton County for the GOP in 2022 and for Trump in 2024. Trump will need this foul infrastructure in place to steal the election and he's increasingly going to get it.

To do that, he's going to purge every non-loyalist from the party, especially election officials. Even in Red state counties where Trump won, the insufficiently loyal, those who refuse to fix elections so that Democrats can never win even in blood red counties, they are being removed by the dozens, if not hundreds.

An elections administrator in North Texas submitted her resignation Friday, following a monthslong effort by residents and officials loyal to former President Donald Trump to force her out of office.

Michele Carew, who had overseen scores of elections during her 14-year career, had found herself transformed into the public face of an electoral system that many in the heavily Republican Hood County had come to mistrust, which ProPublica and The Texas Tribune covered earlier this month.

Her critics sought to abolish her position and give her duties to an elected county clerk who has used social media to promote baseless allegations of widespread election fraud.

Carew, who was hired to run elections in Hood County two-and-a-half months before the contested presidential race, said in an interview that she worried that the forces that tried to drive her out will spread to other counties in the state.

“When I started out, election administrators were appreciated and highly respected,” she said. “Now we are made out to be the bad guys.”

Critics accused Carew of harboring a secret liberal agenda and of violating a decades-old elections law, despite assurances from the Texas secretary of state that she was complying with Texas election rules.

Carew said she is joining an Austin-based private company and will work to help local elections administrator offices across the country run more efficiently. She will oversee her final election in early November before leaving Nov. 12.

David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, a nonprofit that seeks to increase voter participation and improve the efficiency of elections administration, said Carew’s departure is the latest example of an ominous trend toward independent election administrators being forced out in favor of partisan officials.

“She is not the first and won’t be the last professional election official to have to leave this profession because of the toll it is taking, the bullies and liars who are slandering these professionals,” said Becker, a former Department of Justice lawyer who helped oversee voting rights enforcement under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. “We are losing a generation of professional expertise. We are only beginning to feel the effects.”
No expertise is needed to administer elections in Trumpland. Just loyalty to Dear Leader.

The Vax Of Life, Con't

 President Biden's vaccine mandate rules for companies with more than 100 employees was always headed for the Supreme Court, but in the meantime, Republicans like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott are going to try to kill as many constituents as possible.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Monday prohibiting any entity, including private businesses, from imposing Covid-19 vaccination requirements on employees or customers.

"The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective, and our best defense against the virus, but should remain voluntary and never forced," Abbott said in a statement.

Abbott, a Republican, said in his order that it was prompted by the Biden administration's vaccination mandate, which he said was federal overreach.

President Joe Biden announced a mandate last month requiring companies with 100 or more employees to ensure that their workforces are vaccinated or regularly tested. The Labor Department has yet to release details of the emergency rule, but Biden last week called on companies to act now and not to wait for the requirement to go into effect.

Abbott, who tested positive for Covid in August, has also resisted mask mandates and requiring proof of vaccination. Texas has continued to experience a rise in cases and crowded hospitals, prompting Abbott to invest in monoclonal antibody infusion centers.
Abbott says he'll rescind the order once Republicans in the state legislature put a bill on his desk putting the order into law, raising the specter that Abbott may call yet another special session of the legislature into order.

We'll see where this goes, but I suspect a swift Supreme intervention once the Biden administration lays down those new labor laws.


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