Today the Supreme Court will hear Hernandez v. Mesa, a case with potentially significant impact on the current immigration debate. The case involves the shooting and killing of Sergio A. Hernandez Guereca, 15, at the border on June 7, 2010. The family argues that Hernandez was simply playing a game with his friends in running to touch the U.S. border fence when Border Patrol agent Jesus Mesa, Jr. shot and killed him. The agents insist that Hernandez was a known illegal alien smuggler with two prior arrests and was throwing rocks at the agents. Since the government prevailed below before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the Court will only consider the facts asserted by the family in determining if dismissal was appropriate. At issue will be the right of a foreign national to assert constitutional rights — an issue that could have bearing on the ongoing debate over the Trump immigration executive order.
We previously discussed the controversy over a painting by a constituent of Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay that depicted police as pigs in Ferguson, Missouri. As we discussed, the House had a right to remove the art and eventually did precisely that. However, before that decision from the House, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R., Cal.) took down the painting. Clay called for criminal charges. When the painting was rehung, another Republican member removed it. At the time, Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said “We may just have to kick somebody’s ass and stop them. Then the architect stepped in and barred the hanging of the picture. Now Clay has announced that he will file a lawsuit challenging the actions of the House of Representatives. It is hard to see a strong legal basis for such a challenge. The odds heavily favor the House of Representatives in the action.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has declined a demand for an immediate reinstatement of the Executive Order on immigration but has scheduled expedited arguments and filings in the case for Monday. The decision is not surprising in such a case. Courts need to hear from the other side in the dispute, particularly when the Washington Attorney General prevailed in the trial court. Moreover, a temporary restraining order is very difficult to reverse on an interlocutory appeal. Normally, appellate courts will wait for a final decision and opinion from the lower court before agreeing to review the controversy. Of course, nothing is “normal” about this controversy in terms of procedure or policy. With a major executive order stayed, the Ninth Circuit is clearly moving with dispatch but deliberation. The Justice Department team was not helped by President Trump’s tweets casting aspersations on Judge James Robart of Federal District Court in Seattle as a “so called judge.” Such comments undermine the credibility of the claims. It is less compelling to demand respect for the executive branch if you are viewed as denigrating the judicial branch. While there is ample reason to question the ruling of Judge Robart, but he is a respected judge who made a good-faith decision on a tough legal question. He is not a “so-called judge” but a real judge and has the Senate confirmation to prove it. Having said that, media playing up the “rejection” by the Ninth Circuit are not being entirely accurate. The Ninth Circuit wants more argument and has not reached the merits. There is still question whether it will reach the merits on a TRO appeal. I still believe that President Trump has the advantage legally and we could see this order stayed. The question is when and how since this remains a temporary restraining order without a written opinion from Judge Robart.
I recently published a column in the Los Angeles Times on reforming the Supreme Court with three fundamental changes that could be accomplished without a constitutional amendment. Below is a longer version of that column on the three reforms and their implications.
Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on the nomination of Tenth Circuit Neil Gorsuch. If President Trump sought to change the subject from immigration, I doubt this will do it. However, as I discuss in the column, if he sought to quiet restless Republicans over a truly dreadful performance of the Administration in the first week, the nomination should do so. He is a jurist with impeccable credentials and will be very impressive in the upcoming hearings. He is, to put it simply, a game changer.
The Los Angeles Times has published my column on reforming the Supreme Court. If President Trump truly wants to leave a legacy on the Court, he should focus not on changing the membership but changing the institutional itself. Continue reading
President Donald Trump has made his choice for the Supreme Court and it is Tenth Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch, 49. With the selection, President Trump would be submitting a jurist with unassailable credentials and proven intellect. He is also someone with a proven conservative record, though there are a few blind spots for those who want a nominee vaccinated against what conservatives view as the David Souter virus — a creeping condition where a conservative gravitates to the left of the Court with time. Last night, The Hill newspaper ran my column on Gorsuch and his unquestioned qualifications.