Archive for the ‘Courts’ Category

Court upholds Atlanta’s rights to Lake Lanier’s water, overturns part of AZ immigration law; Obamacare on hold

UPDATE at 1:55 p.m.: Here’s my longer take on the Arizona ruling.

UPDATE at 11 a.m.: A quick clarification: I erred in writing that the court said the opinion will come out Thursday. What it said is Thursday will be the last day for issuing opinions this term; there is a slight possibility it will hold the case over until the next term.


The U.S. Supreme Court did not rule on the constitutionality of Obamacare today and said the opinion will come out Thursday. In very big local news, however, the justices declined to hear an appeal by Alabama and Florida of the 11th Circuit’s ruling in the long-running “water wars,” meaning metro Atlanta can still take drinking water from Lake Lanier. And it overruled substantial portions of Arizona’s highly controversial immigration law — while leaving intact the most scrutinized part, which allows local law enforcement to check the immigration status of people who have been arrested.

More analysis coming as I make it through …

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Texas bank sues to overturn key element of Dodd-Frank

It’ll be at least Monday — and quite possibly later next week — before we get the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obamacare. In the meantime, a Texas bank filed a federal lawsuit today seeking to overturn a key provision of the other major legislative achievement of the Obama era: the Dodd-Frank banking law. From The Hill:

A Texas community bank is filing suit in U.S. District Court to challenge the constitutionality of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

In particular, the suit will contend that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), created by the law, lacks sufficient checks and balances and, in the words of the CEO of State National Bank, is “simply unconstitutional.”

“No other federal agency or commission operates in such a way that one person can essentially determine who gets a home loan, who can get a credit card and who can get a loan for college,” said Jim Purcell, head of the Big Spring, Texas, bank. “Dodd-Frank effectively gives unlimited regulatory power to …

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2012 Tuesday: After the Obamacare ruling

The Supreme Court is due to rule on the constitutionality of the individual mandate in Obamacare before the end of the month. If the mandate stands, the rest of the law will, too. If it falls, however, there will also be the question of how much of the rest of the law must go with it — and, of course, what to do next.

Along the way, the issue will have an impact on the re-election chances of the man for whom the law was nicknamed. But what kind of impact, and how much?

Up to a point, I think the results have been baked into existing opinion about President Obama and Mitt Romney. The law’s supporters are largely on Obama’s side, and most of its critics are on Romney’s side. There may be some crossover voting for Obama by independents who dislike the law, and vice versa, but if so they’ll be making their decisions for reasons beyond Obamacare — which means the court’s ruling is unlikely to sway them. There may be some change in enthusiasm, but I wouldn’t expect it to be very …

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Report: Former ethics director sues, claims wrongful firing

As we’ve talked about possible ethics reform in Georgia on this blog, some state leaders have suggested the better option is to empower the agency formerly known as the State Ethics Commission with more independence and better funding. While I don’t believe the two are mutually exclusive, they do have a point about the need for shoring up the ethics commission (excuse me, the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission).

That discussion is about to get much more interesting with a reported lawsuit filed by the commission’s former executive director, Stacey Kalberman, claiming she was wrongfully fired for investigating ethics complaints against Gov. Nathan Deal.

According to legal documents posted at (h/t: Peach Pundit), Kalberman claims that in spring 2011 she was forced into a position to resign by the commission’s chairman at the time, Patrick Millsaps, who had made public statements that she already had resigned. The specific events …

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Catholic groups sue to overturn Obama’s contraception mandate

If you thought the Catholic Church and universities affiliated with it would quietly accept the Obama administration’s “compromise” for the contraception mandate, well, think again. From Fox News:

Some of the most influential Catholic institutions in the country filed suit in federal district court Monday against the so-called contraception mandate, in one of the biggest coordinated legal challenges to the rule to date.

Claiming their “fundamental rights hang in the balance,” a total of 43 plaintiffs filed a dozen separate lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the requirement. Among the organizations filing were the University of Notre Dame, the Archdiocese of New York and The Catholic University of America.

The groups are objecting to the requirement from the federal health care overhaul that employers provide access to contraceptive care. The Obama administration several months back softened its position on the mandate, but some religious organizations complained the …

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Poll Position: Should marijuana be legalized?

Today is considered “Weed Day” by marijuana smokers because the date, 4/20, corresponds with the numbers they use to refer to the drug. The actual origins of the term “420″ are not as widely known, but you can count on thousands of college students gathering — in some cases, together, and in very public locations — to celebrate doing something that’s illegal.

For now, anyway.

Should marijuana be legalized?

  • Yes (1,088 Votes)
  • No (40 Votes)
  • I don’t know (15 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,143

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There is a growing shift in public opinion about whether marijuana should be legalized, even in the South, with as unlikely a proponent as Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson arguing that particular drug shouldn’t be treated any differently than alcohol. Gary Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico and erstwhile GOP presidential candidate now seeking the Libertarian Party’s 2012 nomination, has called for legalizing and regulating marijuana, citing the ineffectiveness and …

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However court rules, Price ready with alternative to Obamacare

When the Supreme Court last week heard arguments in the 26-state legal challenge to Obamacare, Georgia was well-represented. There was Sam Olens, who as our attorney general is one of the plaintiffs. And there was Tom Price, a leader in the effort to repeal and/or replace the law, however the justices rule.

“It was really uplifting, actually,” Price, a fourth-term congressman from Roswell and the fifth-ranking Republican in the House, said in a phone interview. “I think [the justices] were giving it the serious consideration that it warrants.”

Price, who previously practiced medicine, not law, stopped just short of predicting the outcome: “My suspicion is this will be ruled unconstitutional, but I’m not a court watcher so that may be more hope than fact.” Either way, he’s ready.

As he did months before Obamacare was passed, Price has introduced the Empowering Patients First Act. It’s a more market-oriented approach to fixing what ails American health care.

Price’s updated bill …

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Obama’s unprecedented definition of ‘unprecedented’

“I am confident the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”

That was President Obama earlier today, talking about the legal challenge to Obamacare the court heard last week — and demonstrating once again he doesn’t have a very firm grasp on the meaning of “unprecedented.”

After all, the Supreme Court has been overturning laws — which necessarily have been passed by a majority of a democratically elected Congress — since 1803’s Marbury v. Madison decision. By this count citing the Government Printing Office, the court declared 158 acts of Congress unconstitutional between 1789 and 2002, which works out to one about every 16 months. Which strikes me as “precedented.”

Or perhaps the operative word in Obama’s was “strong,” and only laws passed by “weak” majorities are worthy of being overturned? I would not grant that the size of the congressional …

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Poll Position: If Obamacare mandate falls, what goes with it?

During three days of oral arguments about Obamacare at the Supreme Court this week, legal analysts were at pains to predict which way each justice was leaning based on his or her line of questioning. For all but the most experienced court watchers, this seems like an exercise in futility: Justices may be just as likely to question an attorney’s point in the hopes of eliciting a stronger case for it as they are to seek to poke holes in it. I’ll just stick to the prediction I, like many others, made when the first legal challenges were filed: This case will come down to Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court’s most frequent swing vote, in what most likely will be a 5-4 decision.

If the mandate is struck down, how much of the rest of Obamacare should go with it?

  • All of it (232 Votes)
  • Nothing else (109 Votes)
  • Only those parts the administration argued for (e.g., community rating and pre-existing conditions) (28 Votes)

Total Voters: 369

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Much of the analysis …

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Charter schools amendment can fix our court-made mess

House Speaker David Ralston has said he “didn’t know if we were living in an era of two-thirds votes anymore.” We’ll soon find out.

Last week, Ralston’s House rejected a constitutional amendment restoring the state’s authority to establish charter schools. The measure needed 120 votes but received 110. (It would also need a two-thirds majority in the Senate and a simple majority in a referendum this fall.)

A day later, the House voted to give the measure another chance, as soon as today. Two chief objections stand in the way of at least 10 lawmakers changing their minds.

The first is that the General Assembly should favor local control. This is a familiar refrain, particularly among Republicans. While seven Democrats voted for the amendment, other Democrats like to throw that phrase back in the GOP’s collective face when it departs from that orthodoxy.

But no control is more local than that exercised by parents and students. And this issue is chiefly about them.

Yes, a school …

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