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lawsplainer

North Carolina Judges Piss On GOP's Election Maps Like They're On Fire!

So that's a Nice Time!

The North Carolina GOP really loves them some gerrymandering. Whether it's racial gerrymandering or partisan gerrymandering, they will pretty much do whatever it takes to keep themselves in power, the will of the people be damned. But yesterday's decision in Common Cause v. Lewis thew out their bullshit maps and ordered that the maps be redrawn but fucking now.

Why? Because democracy.

Extreme partisan gerrymandering does not fairly and truthfully ascertain the will of the people. Voters are not freely choosing their representatives. Rather, representatives are choosing their voters. It is not the will of the people that is fairly ascertained through extreme partisan gerrymandering. Rather, it is the will of the map drawers that prevails.

In a massive 357-page decision, a three-judge panel ruled that the GOP has really got to stop ratfucking the people of North Carolina and draw new legislative maps for the 2020 election. A new map is now due in two weeks. And the judges were beautifully, righteously pissed.

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lawsplainer

Appeals Court Says Minnesota Camera Bigots Don't Have To Shoot Gay Weddings, STRAIGHTS ONLY!

Still this in 2019? Yes, still this in 2019.

Carl and Angel Larsen of St. Cloud, Minnesota, don't like gay people, and they REALLY don't like gay weddings. In fact, they hate gay weddings so much they sued to be exempted from a civil rights law, so their business could openly discriminate against same-sex couples. And now, ruling in their favor in Telescope Media Group v. Lucero, a federal court has given them the go-ahead.

The Larsens own Telescope Media Group (TMG) and they want to expand their business to start videotaping weddings. But because their religion apparently requires them to be homophobic, they only want to tape straight weddings. This is prohibited by the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA), which bans discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation. Basically, when a business is open to the public, it isn't allowed to discriminate.

Along with discriminating against same-sex couples, the Larsens want to include a disclaimer about how much they hate gay weddings on their website, saying:

Because of TMG's owners' religious beliefs and expressive purposes, it cannot make films promoting any conception of marriage that contradicts its religious beliefs that marriage is between one man and one woman, including films celebrating same-sex marriages.

Because gay married people don't deserve to celebrate and be happy, obviously.

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Russia

House Judiciary Committee Finally Lighting A Fire Under Don McGahn's Ass

Pony up, fuckers!

It's about damn time! The House Judiciary Committee has finally asked the US District Court in DC to call bullshit on the Trump administration's claim that congressional oversight is ILLEGAL because of some made up claim of "absolute immunity" that White House Counsel Pat Cipollone pulled out of his smarmy, Covington Catholic ass. And if Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson isn't willing to grant summary judgment on this legal question, perhaps she will be willing to order former White House Counsel Don McGahn, who witnessed all the obstruction of justice, to get his behind into the committee for testimony pronto, since it's considering whether to recommend impeachment and needs access to all the evidence to carry out its constitutionally mandated duty.

Yep, the committee is using the "I" word. Again. 44 times in 57 pages. Oh, it's on.

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lawsplainer

We Don't Need No Stinkin' FTC!

JK, actually we do. But oh well.

Earlier this week, the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit gutted the Federal Trade Commission's ability to get monetary damages from companies that screw over consumers. Overturning its own decades-old precedent and breaking with eight other federal courts of appeal, the Seventh Circuit ruled in FTC v. Credit Bureau Center that the FTC can't get restitution damages for people who have been defrauded.

The FTC has returned billions of dollars to consumers who have been swindled. That $575 million Equifax settlement? That was the FTC, working with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and state attorneys general. (PSA: If you haven't done it yet, file your Equifax claim!) In 2018 alone, the FTC helped return over $1.6 billion to consumers. With this Seventh Circuit decision, the FTC's ability to continue to get restitution damages will be severely limited, empowering bad corporate actors and generally screwing over the people.

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lawsplainer

Kim Davis Is Back And Losing All Of The Lawsuits

The ACLU is about to get a $223,000 donation from the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Welp, Kim Davis is back.

Don't worry, she isn't, like, running for public office, or even really doing much of anything. But she's back in the news, which means we had to remember that she exists, and that's never really a good time.

On the other hand, Davis is back in the news because she and the Commonwealth of Kentucky got their asses handed to them, and that actually IS a good time!

Giphy

In a pair of decisions from the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Kim Davis got properly benchslapped for her blatant violation of the US Constitution.

Davis is represented in these cases by the nutjobs over at Liberty Counsel, the "religious liberty" organization that specializes in hate speech and discrimination. And it's always fun to watch them get smacked around a little, too.

Miller v. Davis

In Miller v. Davis, the ACLU represents four couples whose constitutional and civil rights were violated when Davis decided to go full homophobe and refuse to issue marriage licenses after Obergefell made marriage equality the law nationwide.

Back when this all happened, Kentucky's asshole Governor, Matt Bevin, praised Davis and called her bigotry "an inspiration ... to the children of America." And his general counsel said "Bevin doesn't believe Davis acted unconstitutionally and continues to support her actions." Despite that, the commonwealth tried to get out of footing the bill for Davis's indefensible actions, claiming Davis wasn't a state actor when she blatantly violated the law. On Friday, the Sixth Circuit said, "Sorry, Matt, it's time to pony up."

Here's how the court described what happened in Miller:

Under the "American Rule," parties typically pay their own attorney's fees. Congress created an exception, though, for plaintiffs who win cases against government officials over civil-rights violations. Here, plaintiffs applied for marriage licenses only to find that Kim Davis, who oversaw marriage licensing for Rowan County, Kentucky, wouldn't issue them. So they sued her for infringing their constitutional right to marry, and the district court ordered Davis to give them what they wanted. Once they obtained licenses (or chose not to seek them again), they chose not to pursue the lawsuit any further. But they did pursue attorney's fees, which the district court awarded and required the Commonwealth of Kentucky to pay.

The defendants tried to argue that no one should have to pay for the plaintiffs' attorneys fees, but the court shut them down pretty hard. The next issue was who should have to pay -- the commonwealth, the county, or Davis. Because issuing marriage licenses is the responsibility of the commonwealth, the court ruled Kentucky had to pay.

So the ACLU has a nice $222,695 coming its way, courtesy of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Ermold v. Davis

Ermold v. Davis is a second suit related to Davis's fuckery after Obergefell. That case is at a much earlier stage than Miller and the issue here was whether Davis can be sued by two other couples for violating their constitutional rights.

There's a shitty doctrine called qualified immunity that shields government officials from being sued for damages in a lot of circumstances. We could rant about it all day, but because we're here to celebrate Kim Davis being held accountable for her actions, we'll spare you. Suffice it to say, it helps shitty people get away with shitty things all the time.

But it doesn't apply here! As the court put it:

For a reasonable official, Obergefell left no uncertainty [about the law]. For Davis, however, the message apparently didn't get through. And it still doesn't appear to have gotten through: She now argues that Obergefell doesn't even apply to her conduct.

As you can probably tell from that language, the Sixth Circuit was not particularly amused with Davis's arguments, here.

But that's not all! Davis also tried to argue that Obergefell didn't apply to her, because the couples could have gone to other Kentucky counties to exercise their constitutional rights. The court didn't take kindly to that argument, either.

Davis provides no legal authority for that proposition. We can find none. And we know why: that's not how qualified immunity works, and that's not how constitutional rights work.

Giphy

THAT'S NOT HOW THE CONSTITUTION WORKS, KIM!

Nice Times!

It sucks that these cases have to be brought, but it's always great to see hateful assholes get what's coming to them. And the ACLU is about to get a $223,000 donation from the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

[ Miller v. Davis / Ermold v. Davis ]

Trump

Don't Get Assaulted By Nazis Or You Might Lose Your White House Press Pass

When it's Nazis versus journalists, you can guess who Trump is going to side with.

It's a day that ends in "y," and the Trump regime is flouting its disdain for the press, the US Constitution, and the American people. So Playboy White House Correspondent, CNN analyst, and general badass Brian Karem is suing.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in DC federal court, Karem alleges that Our Dear Leader, along with Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, unconstitutionally took away Karem's White House press pass. And let me tell you, Karem's complaint and accompanying documents are a thing of beauty, with lines like this one:

As part of his sustained and unprecedented attack on freedom of press, President Donald J. Trump and his administration have yet again violated the fundamental due process and First Amendment rights of a White House Correspondent by arbitrarily and without fair notice or compelling reason punished him by depriving him of the liberty and property interests that inhere in his "hard pass" press credential that is essential to covering the presidency.
So, how did this all start? Back in July, Trump had a cute little fascist "social media summit" at the White House with a bunch of right-wing nutjobs to complain about journalists and whine about losing Twitter followers. Immediately following, Trump and his Twitter friends went to the Rose Garden so Trump could completely cave on the Census before a live studio audience. After that sad event, Nazi and former White House official Sebastian Gorka ran up to Karem to accost him and scream in his face.

Naturally, there were no consequences for the Nazi. The journalist, however, must be punished. #2019.

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SCOTUS

DOJ <3 Discrimination Against Trans People

And let's also discriminate against all women while we're at it, because why not?

Trump's DOJ is at it again! In a brief filed Friday, the Department of Justice argues to the Supreme Court in Harris Funeral Homes vs. EEOC that trans people deserve to be discriminated against. It also throws in some arguments that would allow all kinds of discrimination against all women, because why not?

Somehow, the DOJ's brief managed to be even worse than I expected.

Their logic seems to rest on two main contentions. First is that a transgender woman is actually a man who can legally be forced to present as male in the workplace. Second is that transgender people, as a class, can legally be discriminated against. They also argue that the court ruling for the woman in this case, who was fired simply for being a transgender woman, "would transform Title VII into a blanket prohibition on all sex-specific workplace practices" -- and that, apparently, is a bad thing.

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Immigrants

Appeals Court: All God's Children Get Soap

Yes, even if they're in cages. And about those cages...

A federal appeals court has rejected the Trump administration's claim that detained immigrant children don't necessarily need little luxuries like soap, toothbrushes, edible food, or even a place to sleep. In a ruling yesterday, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said the government really and truly does have to comply with the 1997 Flores agreement that sets requirements for how the government treats undocumented children in detention.

Flores requires children be held in "safe and sanitary conditions," but in June, DOJ lawyer Sarah Fabian argued that since the consent decree doesn't specifically define "safe and sanitary," then the government can treat detained kids however it wants, as long as it's not actively injuring them too badly. You're alive and not up to your needs in filth? You're safe and sanitary! Next you'll be complaining the water in cells tastes like bleach, even though bleach is very very sanitary indeed.

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Post-Racial America

You Guys, The Fifth Circuit Ruled *For* The Welfare Of Indian Children

We almost don't know what to say, yes we do, here's all of it!

Something weird happened last week: The Fifth Circuit US Court of Appeals did something ... good.

Yeah, it's weird.

Texas Governor-in-Waiting/Attorney General Ken Paxton, joined by the AGs of Louisiana and Indiana, is suing in an attempt to get courts to declare that white people have a right to steal Native American kids from their families and redistribute them amongst themselves. A district court judge obliged. Then, last week, the Fifth Circuit pushed back.

If I think too long about what it means that the Fifth Circuit is the voice of reason, here, I might start to bleed from my ears. So instead I'm just going to raise my glass to this rare Nice Time brought to us courtesy of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

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Elections

Donald Trump REALLY Doesn't Want You To See His Tax Returns

Your lawsplainer update on who Trump is suing this week

At the end of July, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 27, the Presidential Tax Transparency and Accountability Act, which requires candidates for president and governor to release their tax returns to appear on the California primary ballot. So naturally, Trump is suing to keep his skeevy finances private.

As The Root so aptly put it:

President Donald Trump once claimed that if he wasn't being audited he'd have no problem showing his tax returns. While tax-return flashing isn't a requirement to be president, it's been the unspoken norm that all presidents since Richard Nixon have adhered to. As it stands, Trump is the only modern president not to release his tax returns, and most likely that's because he listed Russian prostitute urine as a write-off.

Spurred by Trump's refusal to release his tax returns -- including to the House Ways and Means Committee -- states around the country have sprung into action. New York passed a law that would allow its Department of Taxation and Finance to give Ways and Means an individual's state tax returns upon request. Trump already filed a batshit insane lawsuit to try to stop that one. So add in California, and the president is involved in lawsuits on both coasts to try to stop people from seeing his taxes. Troubling, you say? Pshaw.

But Trump isn't the only one suing. A handful of suits have been filed over SB 27, by Trump, the RNC and California Republican Party, and our buddies over at Judicial Watch. As you might imagine, the complaints are chock full of little gold nuggets.

But with regard to the constitutionality of this new law ... *takes deep breath* ... Donald Trump, the GOP, and Judicial watch might actually have a point, here.

(No, I can't believe I just typed those words, either.)

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Everywhere Else News

The 2019 Puerto Rico Governor Hunger Games Have A Winner! (For Now)

Give it a day.

So Puerto Rico has now had three governors (the equivalent of the president in any other country) in a week. Take that, mainland United States Congress!!!

After the Puerto Rico Supreme Court found that Pedro Pierluisi was unconstitutionally sworn-in as governor and told to him vacate La Fortaleza (The Fortress, the name of the governor's mansion in Old San Juan), Wanda Vazquez Garced became the Governor of Puerto Rico. On his way out, Pierluisi released a taped statement that appeared to be filmed in front of a green screen:

Or on the set of Lex Luthor's library in Richard Donner's Superman.

Even had Otis doing sign language!

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Everywhere Else News

Siri, Who Is The Governor Of Puerto Rico?

Your Mini-Constitutional Crisis Update!

When we last checked in with the United States most ignored favorite colony, Puerto Rico had just forced their governor, Ricardo Rosselló, to announce his resignation effective August 2 after weeks of intense protests. The protests were sparked by years of corruption and 889 pages of leaked chats involving the governor, secretary of state, and other top officials. This forced many in the administration to resign and, after a disastrous Fox News interview, Rosselló soon joined them. But this was not a tidy happy ending.

Because the secretary of state (second in line for the governorship) resigned prior to Rosselló, there was no clear answer who was next in the line of succession. By Article IV of the Constitution of Puerto Rico, Secretary of Justice Wanda Vázquez Garced would have been the next governor until the 2020 elections. But amid protests due to various scandals and controversies outlined by the New York Times (and probably not wanting to be in charge in a shitshow), Ms. Vázquez Garced announced she didn't want the job.

With the deadline bearing down, Rosselló announced July 31 that he had chosen Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia as the new secretary of state to fill the vacancy left by Luis G. Rivera Marín. This effectively made him the next in line and successor as governor, so crisis averted! Just kidding.

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Post-Racial America

Nice Time! Philly DA Breaking Innocent People Out Of Prison!

Bad times: Innocent people are in prison!

Badass Philly District Attorney Larry Krasner is at it again. After spending half of his life in prison for a murder he didn't commit, 44-year old John Miller was released from the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution -- Mahanoy last week.

John Miller isn't alone; wrongful convictions are much more common than most people think. Nearly 2,500 people have been exonerated nationwide since 1989 -- and lost a collective 21,725 years to a flawed criminal justice system.

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Immigrants

Haha Suckers Who Thought Family Separation 'Ended'

We've taken 911 kids from their parents since we 'stopped.' Never forget.

The American Civil Liberties Union advised a federal judge yesterday that the government has continued to take children away from migrant families, often on the flimsiest of pretexts. That's despite the judge's court order last year requiring all children separated from their parents be reunified, and mandating that the only reason the government can separate kids is if there's clear evidence the parent is a danger to the child. Instead, according to the government's own records, parents have had their kids removed because parents had committed minor traffic offenses; they also faced long-past accusations of crimes, spurious accusations of "unfit" parenting, and border agents who simply didn't believe parents' documents showing the kids were really their own. The ACLU is asking US District Judge Dana Sabraw to order an immediate halt to separations for trivial reasons, and to define clear guidelines to limit new separations going forward.

The ACLU filing is long and horrific, detailing the often ridiculous reasons the government has given for taking kids from their parents. It shows that a shocking number of the kids affected are very young -- half are younger than 10 years of age, and 20 percent are under five years old.

Some examples: The government took kids away from parents for very minor offenses like these:

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Courts

Judge Tells Stephen Miller To F*ck Off, Again

Silly judge, Congress doesn't make laws, the president does!

A federal judge has blocked the Trump administration's latest attempt to eliminate asylum for people fleeing Central American countries, hours after a different judge -- a Trump appointee -- said the rule could remain in place. US District Judge Jon S. Tigar ruled that the administration had attempted a "shortcut" around existing asylum law by trying to force asylum seekers to apply for asylum in other countries before they can request asylum in the USA. That's some bullshit, Tigar wrote in his injunction, holding that the new rule was likely to be struck down on further review and putting it on hold for now. Fine, Tigar used law-talking words, not "that's some bullshit," but we know what he meant. He meant "Fuck you, Stephen Miller."

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Post-Racial America

'The President Radicalized Me' Now A Legal Defense For Terrorists

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

We already knew that Trump and Fox News were radicalizing people and spurring them to violence. Now, it has actually become a legal defense. Lawyers for Cesar Sayoc, widely known as the "MAGA bomber" after mailing improvised bombs to CNN and prominent Democrats, have argued in a court filing that Sayoc was radicalized by Trump and Fox News propaganda. But Sayoc is far from the only person to be spurred to violence by the President's bigotry and hate. Let's meet all the president's terrorists.

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