Judicial Branch

Beginning this week for the first time ever the Supreme Court is holding oral argument over the phone and allowing the public to listen in live. Today’s argument in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania illustrates the myriad ways live, phone argument is different from the traditional in-person version. 

Other than Justice Thomas asking questions, the Chief Justice’s role is the most...

The Supreme Court is known for its ceaselessness. Government shut downs, snowstorms, anthrax, and vacancies haven’t slowed down the High Court. But it has not been spared by this global pandemic.

This term the Supreme Court is expected to issue about 56 opinions—about...

Delaware’s Constitution requires that three state courts be balanced between the two major political parties. The main question before the Supreme Court in Carney v. Adams is whether this scheme violates the First Amendment. In an amicus brief the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) argues it does not.  

Per Delaware...

Delaware’s Constitution requires that three state courts be balanced between the two major political parties. The main question before the Supreme Court in Carney v. Adams is whether this scheme violates the First Amendment.

Per Delaware’s Constitution no more than half of the members of the Delaware Supreme Court, Superior Court, or Chancery Court may be of the same major political party.

Delaware attorney James Adams wants to be a...

CSG Midwest
After years of trying, Iowa lawmakers and others wanting to tweak or completely replace a decades-old system of selecting state Supreme Court judges were able to proclaim legislative victory in 2019. But as of early October, they still needed some wins in court to ensure the change.
At issue is Iowa’s 57-year-old merit-based selection process: State supreme court justices are appointed by the governor, whose choices are limited to a list of three candidates submitted by a judicial nominating commission. Four other Midwestern states also use some form of merit selection.

Chapter 5 of The Book of the States 2019 contains the following tables:

CSG Midwest
A legislative change in Iowa's process for selecting Supreme Court judges will put more power in the hands of the governor. SF 638, signed into law in May, alters how the 17-member State Judicial Nominating Commission will be appointed.
The governor now has the authority to choose a majority of commission members, nine of the 17. The remaining eight appointments will come from elections held among the state's lawyers.
CSG Midwest
A legal dispute in Indiana over private property rights and the public trust doctrine ended in February when the U.S. Supreme Court chose not to hear the case. In 2018, Indiana’s Supreme Court ruled that public use of the Lake Michigan shoreline extended to the lake’s “natural ordinary high water mark.” Some lakefront property owners argued that the “water’s edge” should instead be used as the legal dividing line. The Indiana justices disagreed: “At a minimum, walking below the natural [ordinary high water mark] along the shores of Lake Michigan is a protected public use.”

CSG Midwest
Today, grand juries are viewed mostly as a tool for prosecutors, a means of gathering evidence and seeking indictments. But they have long had a second important function as well — to control the government and its power to prosecute.
Six states, including Kansas, Nebraska and North Dakota in the Midwest, have laws on the books that put a twist on this government-checking role: Allow local citizens themselves to form grand juries. The target of these state statutes is not overzealous prosecutors, but inactive ones.

The three themes that dominated the third day of Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings were the same three topics discussed at length the day before:  executive power, abortion, and gun rights. Executive power received the most attention.

Making headlines were Senator Booker’s release of “committee confidential” Kavanagh emails discussing abortion and racial-profiling before they were cleared for release to the public, Judge Kavanaugh’s refusal to say whether he thinks Roe v. Wade was decided correctly, and his refusal to condemn President Trump’s attacks on the judiciary.  

Issues related to state and local governments received a little attention, including judicial deference to federal agencies, which was discussed a number of times the day before.

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