There is only one substantive case left in litigation with the ability to bring tangible accountability for the illegal and unconstitutional acts of the Bush/Cheney Administration’s warrantless wiretapping and surveillance program. That case is Al-Haramain v. Bush/Obama. Yes, there is still Clapper v. Amnesty International, but that is a prospective case of a different nature, and was never designed to attack the substantive crimes of the previous Administration.
A little over a couple of hours ago, late morning here in the 9th, the vaunted “most liberal of all Circuit Courts of Appeal”, the Ninth Circuit, drove what may be the final stake in the heart of Al-Haramain by declining to conduct an en banc review of its August 7, 2012 opinion. The notice from the court today is brief:
The opinion filed on August 7, 2012, and appearing at 690 F.3d 1089, is hereby amended. An amended opinion is filed concurrently with this order.
With these amendments, the panel has voted to deny the petition for panel rehearing and the petition for rehearing en banc.
The full court has been advised of the petition for rehearing and rehearing en banc and no judge has requested a vote on whether to rehear the matter en banc. Fed. R. App. P. 35.
The petition for panel rehearing and petition for rehearing en banc are DENIED. No further petitions for en banc or panel rehearing shall be permitted.
Before going further with analysis, a word about the “amendments” to the opinion. The “Amended Opinion” is here. You can compare for yourself to the August 7 original opinion linked above, but the difference is pretty slight.
It appears all the court did is delete a few sentences here and there about 18 USC 2712(b). The court did not address, nor change, their erroneous assertion that plaintiffs’ Al-Haramain could have sued under 1806(a), or restore the misleadingly-omitted (by elipsis) language from 1806(a). Nor did the →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
As you know from my report Monday when the three member appellate panel in the 9th Circuit was announce for the Prop 8 case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, one of the judges assigned was Judge Stephen Reinhardt. Steve Reinhardt is one of the finest judges you will find anywhere, and he is an old school principled and unabashed liberal whose veins carry the lifeblood of social justice, fundamental fairness and equal protection for all citizens.
So, of course the hating bigots that comprise the pro-Proposition 8 Defendant-Intervenors filed a motion last night to disqualify Reinhardt. Here is the full motion to disqualify brief, it is only 18 pages (10 of text) long and gives a very good glimpse of just how the haters tried to attack Reinhardt here because – gasp! – his wife has spent her career at the ACLU who -gasp! – actually is in favor of marriage equality. In a nutshell, D-Is argue:
Judge Reinhardt is married to Ramona Ripston, the long-time Executive Director of the ACLU of Southern California (hereinafter, “ACLU/SC”). As Executive Director, Ms. Ripston is “responsible for all phases of the organization’s programs, including litigation, lobbying and education.” Under Ms. Ripston’s leadership, “ACLU/SC has taken a lead role” in what it calls “the fight to end marriage discrimination” in California.
The facts of this case would plainly lead a reasonable person to conclude that Judge Reinhardt’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned. His wife and the organization she leads have not only been active in seeking to redefine marriage in California and active in opposition to Proposition 8, but they have been active participants in this very lawsuit…
It is thus plain that Ms. Ripston has an avowed interest in seeing Proposition 8 invalidated, an interest that unquestionably will be substantially affected by the outcome of this proceeding.
The D-I argument is, of course, ginned up baloney. Reinhardt’s wife, Ramona Ripston, was never an →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Hot on the heels of a pretty spirited discussion of the Obama Administration treatment of progressive nominees, both in the blog post here at Emptywheel and yesterday on Twitter, comes the reminder by Main Justice that there are no appointed, nor confirmed, US Attorneys in all of Texas:
Career prosecutors have run the four U.S. Attorney’s offices in Texas for more than a year. Obama has made one U.S. Attorney nomination in Texas thus far: state Judge John B. Stevens Jr., who withdrew from consideration for Eastern District of Texas U.S. Attorney.
The Senate has confirmed 66 of Obama’s U.S. Attorney nominees. There are 93 U.S. Attorney posts.
Now the framing of the report is a complaint by John Cornyn, which I have little sympathy for, and who has undoubtedly contributed somewhat to the impasse; but that said, the facts are pretty astounding.
Over a year and a half into the Obama Presidency, and still over 30% of the US Attorney positions remain unfilled or, even worse, still under the control of Bush/Cheney appointees. The percentage is only that low due to a recent surge in investitures of US Attorneys; for most of the current Administration’s term, the situation was even far worse than it is as of today.
Which led me to wonder exactly what the corresponding status was for federal judicial nominations. It is fairly bleak. There are 103 Federal judicial vacancies and, shockingly, on 48 of them even have so much as a nominee pending. 12% of the 876 total Federal judgeships are sitting vacant. In my own little nook of the world, the 9th Circuit, there are 13 total judicial seats vacant, and only three of them have even putative nominees.
The critical importance of filling judicial vacancies is explained very nicely in a current post by Gaius Publius at AmericaBlog that expands on my Progressive Nominations/Goodwin Liu post yesterday:
This matters for several reasons. One is that the current judiciary is overwhelmingly Republican-appointed and conservative (including Movement-Conservative):
Over the last three decades, Republicans have put the appointment of conservative judges at the top of their agenda. And controlling the White House 20 of the last 30 years has allowed them to carry out their plan. By the time George W. Bush left office, 60.2 percent of the judges, including two-thirds of the Supreme Court, had been appointed by Republican presidents. The younger Bush appointed nearly 40 percent of all federal judges.
Yet Obama has been cautious to the point of weird about reversing this trend. While news stories on this subject headline his lack of judicial confirmations, stories like this one also contain tales of his caution; Bloomberg:
A lot of groups are still waiting for this president to nominate someone who will really reshape the bench,” said Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights in Washington. The group supports expanding legal protection for blacks and other minorities.
Gaius Publius is exactly right. In fact, reshaping the Federal judiciary away from the hard conservative Federalist society bent that has been installed and →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
As you may have heard (See here and here), the Supreme Court has entered a last minute stay to put a hold on the video feed of the seminal Prop 8 trial in the Norther District of California (NDCA) to select other Federal courthouses in the country as well as the delayed release of video clips of the proceedings via YouTube.
This is the full text of the order issued by the Supremes:
Upon consideration of the application for stay presented to Justice Kennedy and by him referred to the Court, it is ordered that the order of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, case No. 3:09-cv-02292, permitting real-time streaming is stayed except as it permits streaming to other rooms within the confines of the courthouse in which the trial is to be held. Any additional order permitting broadcast of the proceedings is also stayed pending further order of this Court. To permit further consideration in this Court, this order will remain in effect until Wednesday, January 13, 2010, at 4 p.m. eastern time.
Justice Breyer, dissenting.
I agree with the Court that further consideration is warranted, and I am pleased that the stay is time limited. However, I would undertake that consideration without a temporary stay in place. This stay prohibits the transmission of proceedings to other federal courthouses. In my view, the Court’s standard for granting a stay is not met. See Conkright v. Frommert, 556 U. S. ___, ___ (2009) (slip op., at 1–2) (Ginsburg, J., in chambers). In particular, the papers filed, in my view, do not show a likelihood of “irreparable harm.” With respect, I dissent.
This is, to say the least, a disappointing ruling. It had been my guess that Anthony Kennedy would field the issue, which went directly to him as the hot judge for emergency matters from the 9th Circuit, and see it as a matter within the discretion of the 9 Circuit and let them make the call, which they had done in favor of video dissemination. For those not aware, this idea of video from the courtroom was not germinated from the Prop 8 trial, even though that has been the focal point. Instead, the pilot program was the brainchild of the 9th circuit Judicial Conference, as described in this LA Times article from late last year:
Federal courts in California and eight other Western states will allow video camera coverage of civil proceedings in an experiment aimed at increasing public understanding of the work of the courts, the chief judge of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said Thursday.
The decision by the court’s judicial council, headed by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, is in response to recommendations made to the court two years ago and ends a 1996 ban on the taking of photographs or transmitting of radio or video broadcasts.
“We hope that being able to see and hear what transpires in the courtroom will lead to a →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
I have had several people ask me off blog about the “opinions” on the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) that have surfaced recently in the 9th Circuit. I may write more later; but for now I want to lay out the sequence of facts and actions and start the discussion.
The current issue really took flight last month when 9th Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski entered an order dated November 19, 2009 on the matter of Karen Golinski, a staff attorney for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Judicial branch employees such as Golinski are Federal employees and therefore have their benefits administered by the Office of Personnel Management (the same folks Obama and Harry Reid want to administer their poor excuse of a substitute for the Public Option). Based upon the OPM’s stated position, the contracted benefits carrier (Blue Cross/Blue Shield) refused to provide health benefits for her same sex legal spouse, Amy Cunninghis.
From Judge Kosinski’s November 19 Order:
Karen Golinski has been denied a benefit of federal employment because she married a woman rather than a man. I previously determined that violates this court’s guarantee of equal employment opportunity. To avoid a difficult constitutional problem, I harmonized the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), 1 USC §7; the statutes creating the benefit program at issue, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), 5 USC §8901 et seq.; and this court’s commitment to equal employment opportunity.
I then entered [an] order
No “party or individual aggrieved” by my decision appealed it.
The Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AO) complied with my order and submitted Ms. Golinski’s form 2089 to the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Servie Benefit Plan, Ms. Golinski’s health insurance carrier. That’s as it should be; the AO is subject to the “supervision and direction” of the Judicial Conference of the United States, 28 USC §604(a), and I exercised authority delegated by the Judicial Conference when I ordered relief. After the AO submitted Ms. golinski’s form, I thought this matter had concluded.
The Executive Branch, acting through the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), thought otherwise. It directed the insurance carrier not to process Ms. Golinski’s form 2089, thwarting the relief I had ordered. (citations omitted)
That is the basic tale of Golinski and Kozinski. Since the November 19 Order the above language was taken from, the situation has become even more exacerbated by the intransigence of the Obama Administration and its OPM which, either comically or tragically depending on one’s view, is headed by John Berry who the Administration made a big show of touting as its highest ranking openly gay official.
The irony just oozes. After further refusal and contempt of his clear order, which the Administration never appealed, →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
As Fatster noticed, the Ninth Circuit has ruled against Brandon Mayfield on his attempt to hold the PATRIOT Act declared unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment.
Mayfield was a former suspect in the 2004 Madrid train bombings. After the Madrid bombings, the Spanish National Police (“SNP”) recovered fingerprints from a plastic bag containing explosive detonators. The SNP submitted digital photographs of the fingerprints to Interpol Madrid, which subsequently transmitted them to the FBI in Quantico, Virginia. The FBI searched fingerprints in its system and, among other possibilities, produced Mayfield, an US citizen and lawyer from the Portland Oregon area, as an alleged match. FBI surveillance agents began to watch Mayfield and follow him and members of his family when they traveled to and from the mosque, Mayfield’s law office, the children’s schools, and other family activities. The FBI also applied to the Foreign Intelligence Security Court (“FISC”) for authorization to surreptitiously place electronic listening devices in the Mayfield family home; searched the home while nobody was there; obtained private and protected information about the Mayfields from third parties; searched Mayfield’s law offices; and placed wiretaps on his office and home phones. The application for the FISC order was personally approved by John Ashcroft, then the Attorney General of the United States.
The Spanish SNP, however, looked at the FBI evidence and found it lacking evidentiary credibility. In spite of this fact, the FBI submitted an affidavit to a US Federal court, stating that experts considered the identification of Mayfield 100% positive, intentionally failing to advise that the SNP had reached a diametrically opposite conclusion. As a result, Mayfield was arrested and held on a material witness warrant, and the public informed of his identity and supposed involvement in the bombings. Over two weeks later, the SNP conclusively matched the fingerprint to an unrelated Algerian citizen and Mayfield was absolved. Mayfield sued the US Government under numerous theories including that the PATRIOT Act was unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment. The government, being in an egregiously bad position, settled with Mayfield and even allowed the unusual provision that he could maintain the Fourth Amendment challenge to PATRIOT, but could only obtain declaratory relief, not monetary damages.
Mayfield pressed his complaint seeking a declaration that PATRIOT was unconstitutional under his stipulated facts, and the District Court of Oregon, in denying the government’s motion to dismiss and granting Mayfield’s motion for summary judgment, agreed with Mayfield and ruled in his favor. The government appealed to the 9th Circuit arguing that the trial court had no jurisdiction because Mayfield had already been compensated, that the court erred in finding PATRIOT unconstitutional and that other matters, in totality, placed the matter outside of the court’s power to award redress. These arguments were proffered by the government in spite of it having knowingly and specifically agreeing that Mayfield intended to raise and argue said issues and agreeing in their unusual settlement agreement to let him do so.
The usually enlightened 9th Circuit, this time took it upon itself to contrive and contort a way →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
In what can only be described as a curious filing, the US Government, through the DOJ has submitted a pleading to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in the previously terminated al-Haramain appeal originally filed in 2006. In this appeal, on November 16, 2007, the 9th generally upheld the government’s state secrets assertion, but remanded the case to Judge Walker “to consider whether FISA preempts the state secrets privilege and for any proceedings collateral to that determination.” (Walker has so ruled and those proceedings are indeed ongoing and awaiting the Court’s decision of Plaintiffs’ Motion For Summary Judgment). The 9th Circuit’s mandate issued on January 16, 2008.
The new submission filed in the 9th Circuit is nothing short of a brazen attempt to subvert Judge Walker’s trial court authority and jurisdiction by an end run, and is entitled “NOTICE OF LODGING OF IN CAMERA, EX PARTE DECLARATION OF DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE”
The Government hereby respectfully notifies the Court and counsel that it is lodging today with the Court Security Officer copies of an in camera, ex parte classified declaration, dated November 8, 2009, of the Director of National Intelligence, Dennis C. Blair.
We are making the lodging because an issue arose regarding an inaccuracy in an earlier Government submission in the district court that was part of the record before this Court in an interlocutory appeal in this matter bearing the above caption. The case has been remanded to the district court and an appeal is no longer pending before this Court. The lodging does not call for any action by this Court but is intended to ensure that this Court is informed of the earlier inaccuracy and has available to it classified details with respect to the issue. The Government has informed the district court of the issue, has offered to make available to that court additional classified details in camera, ex parte, and is informing that court that the Government is making the lodging in this Court.
Here is the document. Now the government had just submitted an unclassified declaration of ODNI Blair to the trial court in September, and references said declaration in their new little filing, but does not seem to attach it. Instead, they submit a new classified ex parte declaration from Blair.
Because the inaccuracy was in an earlier Government submission that was part of the record when the case came before this Court on interlocutory appeal, we are today lodging with the Court Security Officer copies of an in camera, ex parte classified declaration, dated November 8, 2009, of Director of National Intelligence Blair. That declaration provides additional classified information regarding the matter. As noted, the lodging ensures that this Court is informed of the issue and has available to it classified details concerning the issue.
Well now, it would seem that Jon Eisenberg has struck a raw nerve with his putative entry into the Horn v. Huddle case as an amicicus urging Royce Lamberth to leave his opinions in place and in force. After having been blistered by →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading