No, Blocking Traffic Is Not Protected by the First Amendment

“freedom of expression is crucial and central to the American project. It’s also not a force field by which people are shielded from other rules. If I want to get people’s attention by, say, driving 120 miles an hour while sporting a Palestinian flag, I cannot tell the officer who pulls me over for reckless driving that I’m simply exercising my free speech rights. The First Amendment does not give carte blanche to violate the law.”

Trump legal news brief: Supreme Court keeps Michigan sanctions in place for pro-Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Lin Wood

The high court did not offer any comment on its decision, which means Powell, Wood and the other defendants must pay a total of $132,693.75 to the city of Detroit and another $19,639.75 in legal fees to the state of Michigan.

In their unsuccessful effort to overturn the 2020 election results in Michigan, Powell, Wood and their co-defendants made wild claims in a lawsuit brought in the state alleging that Dominion voting machines were involved in fraud.

A district court judge ruled that the lawyers’ court challenges represented a “historic and profound abuse of the judicial process.”

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals later upheld the bulk of the district court judge’s ruling, calling the fraud claims “simply baseless.”

In their appeal to the Supreme Court, the defendants continued to argue that they were simply pursuing “legitimate election challenges.”

Powell has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges stemming from her efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia and has agreed to testify against Trump and 14 others still charged there.

Dominion is suing Powell for $1.3 billion over her false claims that the company rigged the election against Trump.

Wood has been subpoenaed to testify in the Georgia case.”

Federal Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Reform Prosecutor Removed from Office by Ron DeSantis

“A federal appeals court has reinstated a First Amendment lawsuit filed by former Tampa-area reform prosecutor Andrew Warren against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and now the DeSantis administration will have to argue that Warren’s job performance, not his ideology, was the controlling factor behind Warren’s removal from office.”

Who Decides Whether Trump Can Run, and What Sort of Evidence Suffices?

“”The mob was seeking to halt or overturn a core constitutional function at the seat of government, which can reasonably be described as an attempt to replace law with force,” Magliocca wrote. Furthermore, the criminal charges against some of the rioters indicated that they “intended to inflict bodily harm on members of Congress, which can be reasonably understood as a direct attack on the legislative branch itself and, more generally, the existing government.””

What’s the insurrection clause? Here’s what it says.

“Here’s the full text:

“No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”

Quite a mouthful, right? Let’s simplify. Here’s a streamlined version of the clause with only the most relevant parts highlighted:

“No person shall … hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, … who, having previously taken an oath, … as an officer of the United States, … to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same …”

The justices are sure to delve into the precise meaning of those pivotal phrases. For example:

Was the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol an “insurrection”? If not, the insurrection clause doesn’t apply.
Even if Jan. 6 was an insurrection, did Trump “engage” in it? If not, he is eligible to hold office again.
When Trump took his oath of office as president, did he take that oath as “officer of the United States”? If not, the disqualification provision does not apply to him.”

Israel’s Supreme Court just overturned Netanyahu’s pre-war power grab

“The ruling, released on New Year’s Day, annulled the single biggest piece of legislation passed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right coalition. The Court’s reasoning fundamentally changes the balance of power in Israel’s democracy — so fundamentally, in fact, that some members of the elected government have vowed not to abide by it. If that happens, Israel will be thrown into a full-blown constitutional crisis.
About a year ago, Netanyahu proposed a sweeping overhaul to Israel’s judiciary — one that would, in effect, put it under his personal thumb. Mass protests succeeded in blocking most of the overhaul. Only one plank — curtailing the power of the courts to overturn government policy — actually became law, an amendment to Israel’s “Basic Laws,” the closest thing the country has to a constitution. This is the law that was just overturned by the Supreme Court.

In doing so, the Court came to two key conclusions. First, that it has the general power to overturn Basic Laws — a power it had never deployed before. Second, that this new Basic Law was threatening enough to Israeli democracy that the court was justified in overruling it.

In peacetime, a ruling this epochal would transform Israeli politics, reorienting everything around the question of the court’s new claim to power and (plausible) claim to be saving Israeli democracy.

But with the country enmeshed in an existential war in Gaza, the domestic reaction to the court’s ruling is far less explosive than it would be otherwise. Whether this lasts — or whether Israel erupts into a domestic political crisis to match its current international peril — is far from clear.”

The Fifth Circuit just made it even more dangerous to be pregnant in a red state

“a notoriously right-wing federal appeals court attempted to rewrite a federal law that, among other things, requires most US hospitals to provide abortions to patients who are experiencing a medical emergency if a doctor determines that an abortion will stabilize the patient.
The case is Texas v. Becerra, and all three of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit’s judges who joined this opinion were appointed by Republicans. Two, including Kurt Engelhardt, the opinion’s author, were appointed by former President Donald Trump.

The case involves the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), a federal statute requiring hospitals that accept Medicare funds to provide “such treatment as may be required to stabilize the medical condition” of “any individual” who arrives at the hospital’s ER with an “emergency medical condition.” (In limited circumstances, the hospital may transfer the patient to a different facility that will provide this stabilizing treatment.)

EMTALA contains no carve-out for abortion. It simply states that, whenever any patient arrives at a Medicare-funded hospital with a medical emergency, the hospital must offer that patient whatever treatment is necessary to “stabilize the medical condition” that caused the emergency. So, if a patient’s emergency condition can only be stabilized by an abortion, federal law requires nearly all hospitals to provide that treatment. (Hospitals can opt out of EMTALA by not taking Medicare funds but, because Medicare funds health care for elderly Americans, very few hospitals do opt out.)

This federal law, moreover, also states that it overrides (or “preempts,” to use the appropriate legal term) state and local laws “to the extent that the [state law] directly conflicts with a requirement of this section.” So, in states with sweeping abortion bans that prohibit some or all medically necessary abortions, the state law must give way to EMTALA’s requirement that all patients must be offered whatever treatment is necessary to stabilize their condition.”

“when an emergency room patient presents with a life-threatening illness or condition — or, in the words of the EMTALA statute, that patient has a condition that places their health “in serious jeopardy,” that threatens “serious impairment to bodily functions,” or “serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part” — then Medicare-funded hospitals must provide whatever treatment is necessary.

The Texas case, in other words, asks whether a state government can force a woman to die, or suffer lasting injury to her uterus or other reproductive organs, because the state’s lawmakers are so opposed to abortion that they will not permit it, even when such an abortion is required by federal law.

And yet, despite the fact that the EMTALA statute is unambiguous, and despite the fact that this case only involves patients whose life or health is threatened by a pregnancy, three Fifth Circuit judges told those patients that they have no right to potentially lifesaving medical care.”

Was the Capitol Riot an ‘Insurrection,’ and Did Trump ‘Engage in’ It?

“Trump’s misconduct included his refusal to accept Biden’s victory, his persistent peddling of his stolen-election fantasy, his pressure on state and federal officials to embrace that fantasy, the incendiary speech he delivered to his supporters before the riot, and his failure to intervene after a couple thousand of those supporters invaded the Capitol, interrupting the congressional ratification of the election results. All of that was more than enough to conclude that Trump had egregiously violated his oath to “faithfully execute” his office and to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.” It was more than enough to justify his conviction for high crimes and misdemeanors in the Senate, which would have prevented him from running for president again.”

“”At oral argument,” the opinion notes, “President Trump’s counsel, while not providing a specific definition, argued that an insurrection is more than a riot but less than a rebellion. We agree that an insurrection falls along a spectrum of related conduct.” But the court does not offer “a specific definition” either: “It suffices for us to conclude that any definition of ‘insurrection’ for purposes of Section Three would encompass a concerted and public use of force or threat of force by a group of people to hinder or prevent the U.S. government from taking the actions necessary to accomplish a peaceful transfer of power in this country.”
That description suggests a level of intent and coordination that seems at odds with the chaotic reality of the Capitol riot. Some rioters were members of groups, such as the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, that thought the use of force was justified to keep Trump in office. But even in those cases, federal prosecutors had a hard time proving a specific conspiracy to “hinder or prevent the U.S. government from taking the actions necessary to accomplish a peaceful transfer of power” by interrupting the electoral vote tally on January 6. And the vast majority of rioters seem to have acted spontaneously, with no clear goal in mind other than expressing their outrage at an election outcome they believed was the product of massive fraud.

They believed that, of course, because that is what Trump told them. But to the extent that Trump bears moral and political responsibility for riling them up with his phony grievance (which he does), his culpability hinges on the assumption that the rioters acted impulsively and emotionally in the heat of the moment. That understanding is hard to reconcile with the Colorado Supreme Court’s premise that Trump’s hotheaded supporters acted in concert with the intent of forcibly preventing “a peaceful transfer of power.”

Nor is it clear that Trump “engaged in” the “insurrection” that the court perceives. After reviewing dictionary definitions and the views of Henry Stanbery, the U.S. attorney general when the 14th Amendment was debated, the majority concludes that “‘engaged in’ requires ‘an overt and voluntary act, done with the intent of aiding or furthering the common unlawful purpose.'”

Trump’s pre-riot speech was reckless because it was foreseeable that at least some people in his audience would be moved to go beyond peaceful protest. Some 2,000 of the 50,000 or so supporters he addressed that day (around 4 percent) participated in the assault on the Capitol. But that does not necessarily mean Trump intended that result. In concluding that he did, the court interprets Trump’s demand that his supporters “fight like hell” to “save our democracy” literally rather than figuratively. It also notes that he repeatedly urged them to march toward the Capitol. As the court sees it, that means Trump “literally exhorted his supporters to fight at the Capitol.”

The justices eventually concede that Trump, who never explicitly called for violence, said his supporters would be “marching to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” But they discount that phrasing as cover for Trump’s actual intent. Given Trump’s emphasis on the necessity of “fight[ing] like hell” to avert the disaster that would result if Biden were allowed to take office, they say, the implicit message was that the use of force was justified. In support of that conclusion, the court cites Chapman University sociologist Peter Simi, who testified that “Trump’s speech took place in the context of a pattern of Trump’s knowing ‘encouragement and promotion of violence,'” which he accomplished by “develop[ing] and deploy[ing] a shared coded language with his violent supporters.”

That seems like a pretty speculative basis for concluding that Trump intentionally encouraged his supporters to attack the Capitol. Given what we know about Trump, it is perfectly plausible that, unlike any reasonably prudent person, he was heedless of the danger that his words posed in this context.”

“The Colorado Supreme Court’s belief that Trump intentionally caused a riot also figures in its rejection of his argument that his January 6 speech was protected by the First Amendment. The relevant standard here comes from the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1969 decision in Brandenburg v. Ohio, which involved a Klansman who was convicted of promoting terrorism and criminal syndicalism. Under Brandenburg, even advocacy of illegal conduct is constitutionally protected unless it is both “directed” at inciting “imminent lawless action” and “likely” to do so.

The Colorado Supreme Court quotes the 6th Circuit’s elucidation of that test in the 2015 case Bible Believers v. Wayne County: “The Brandenburg test precludes speech from being sanctioned as incitement to riot unless (1) the speech explicitly or implicitly encouraged the use of violence or lawless action, (2) the speaker intends that his speech will result in the use of violence or lawless action, and (3) the imminent use of violence or lawless action is the likely result of his speech.”

It is hard to deny that Trump’s speech satisfies the third prong, which is why it provoked so much well-deserved criticism and rightly figured in his impeachment. But what about the other two prongs?

Applying the first prong, the court cites “the general atmosphere of political violence that President Trump created before January 6” as well as the “coded language” of his speech that day. As evidence of the “specific intent” required by the second prong, it notes that “federal agencies that President Trump oversaw identified threats of violence ahead of January 6.” It also cites what it takes to be the implicit message of Trump’s speech and his reluctance to intervene after the riot started.

“President Trump intended that his speech would result in the use of violence or lawless action on January 6 to prevent the peaceful transfer of power,” the court says. “Despite his knowledge of the anger that he had instigated, his calls to arms, his awareness of the threats of violence that had been made leading up to January 6, and the obvious fact that many in the crowd were angry and armed, President Trump told his riled-up supporters to walk down to the Capitol and fight. He then stood back and let the fighting happen, despite having the ability and authority to stop it (with his words or by calling in the military), thereby confirming that this violence was what he intended.””

The Supreme Court arguments for (and against) removing Trump from the ballot, explained

“The case turns on a previously obscure provision of the 14th Amendment, which provides that anyone who previously held a high office requiring them to swear an oath supporting the Constitution is forbidden from holding a similar office if they “have engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against that Constitution.
The Colorado Supreme Court concluded that Trump engaged in an “insurrection” because he spent months falsely claiming that the 2020 election was “rigged.” He encouraged his supporters to “fight,” suggesting that Democrats would “fight to the death” if the shoe were on the other foot. And Trump named then-Vice President Mike Pence as someone who should be targeted by the pro-Trump mob that invaded the Capitol.

But there is precious little case law laying out what this provision of the Constitution means, or defining key terms like “insurrection” or what it means to “engage in” such an attack on the United States. Since the period immediately following the Civil War, there has not been much litigation involving disloyal public officials who joined an insurrection against the very system of government they swore to defend. So courts asked to interpret the 14th Amendment’s Insurrection Clause — including the Supreme Court — must do so without the ordinary guideposts judges look to when reading the Constitution.”

“In addition to their legal arguments, Colorado Republicans also make a political argument for keeping Trump on the ballot — removing him would deny voters “the ability to choose their Chief Executive through the electoral process.” This purely political argument has garnered sympathy from many observers, including outlets such as the New York Times.

This final argument, if taken seriously by a majority of the justices, could render the 14th Amendment’s Insurrection Clause a dead letter — because it would prevent it from operating in the one circumstance when such a constitutional provision is needed.”

“allowing insurrectionists with significant public support to stand for office would defeat the whole point of the Constitution’s Insurrection Clause.
Unpopular insurrectionists will never get elected to office in the first place because they are unpopular.”

“The Colorado GOP does raise one fairly strong legal argument that supports deferring the question of whether Trump should be removed from the 2024 ballot until, at least, after he is convicted of a crime or otherwise determined to have engaged in insurrection by a federal trial court.

In Ownbey v. Morgan (1921), a case that admittedly had nothing to do with the Insurrection Clause, the Supreme Court said that “it cannot rightly be said that the Fourteenth Amendment furnishes a universal and self-executing remedy.” This means that private litigants ordinarily cannot sue to enforce this amendment, absent some state or federal statute authorizing such lawsuits.”

“the Colorado Supreme Court determined that a state statute permitting voters to challenge candidates’ eligibility to run for office does permit suits seeking to enforce the Insurrection Clause, and states often have the power to pass laws permitting their own courts to enforce the Constitution.”

“as the Colorado GOP warns the justices, the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision also means that “individual litigants, state courts, and secretaries of state in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia have authority” to determine which candidates must be removed from the ballot for violating the 14th Amendment. And, while there is no reason to believe that Colorado’s judges acted in bad faith when they removed Trump, it’s not hard to imagine what could happen in states with less responsible judges if the Colorado decision is allowed to stand.

Imagine, for example, that the Florida Supreme Court — which is made up entirely of Republican appointees, most of whom were appointed by far-right Gov. Ron DeSantis — were to invent some completely fabricated reason to accuse President Joe Biden of engaging in an insurrection, and then imagine that they invoked this pretextual reason to remove Biden from the 2024 ballot.”

“Trump wasn’t exactly denied a trial altogether before he was removed from Colorado’s ballot. But, as Justice Carlos Samour wrote in a dissenting opinion, the process Colorado’s courts used to determine that Trump engaged in an insurrection was unusually truncated. It lacked “basic discovery, the ability to subpoena documents and compel witnesses, [and] workable timeframes to adequately investigate and develop defenses.” And, as Justice Maria Berkenkotter wrote in her dissent, the Colorado courts relied on a process that “up until now has been limited to challenges involving relatively straightforward issues, like whether a candidate meets a residency requirement for a school board election.”

In any event, the Colorado GOP takes its argument that the 14th Amendment is not self-executing too far, suggesting that Trump cannot be disqualified unless he is convicted in a federal court specifically of violating a criminal statute that uses the magic word “insurrection.” But they raise valid points against allowing each state to have the final word on who can run for president, and against allowing Trump to be removed based on the limited process he received in the Colorado system.”

Want To Challenge Your Speed Camera Ticket? That’ll Be $100.

“Motorists caught speeding in Peninsula, Ohio, have options: They can pay with Visa, Mastercard, Discover, or PayPal. But if they want to dispute a ticket, the flexibility ends.
Before vehicle owners can appear in municipal court to defend themselves, they must pay a $100 “filing fee.” No exceptions. No discounts. No deferrals. It’s the cost of admission—roughly the same as a one-day ticket to Disneyland.

Many drivers skip the expense and plead guilty, which works well for Peninsula. In just the first five months after launching a handheld photo radar program in April 2023, this village south of Cleveland generated 8,900 citations and $560,000 in revenue. That’s an average of about 1,800 citations and $110,000 in revenue per month.”