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LGBT Organizations Respond to Confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to Supreme Court

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“Securing a ‘Political Win’ Was More Important Than Safeguarding the Rights of Millions of Americans”

Judge Neil Gorsuch on Monday will be sworn is as Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch of the U.S. Supreme Court. Republicans in the Senate confirmed the Colorado judge late Friday morning, after changing the 60 vote rule to a simple majority. The final vote was 54-45.

Gorsuch, given his history, is expected to be very bad for LGBT people’s civil rights, for women, and minorities, across a wide spectrum of issues.

Here’s how LGBT organizations are responding to today’s news:

GLAD Executive Director Janson Wu:

“Today, our message to Justice Gorsuch is this: you have accepted a serious responsibility. Your job is to ensure that our laws respect the rights of all Americans – rights that are guaranteed and protected by our Constitution.

“Justice Gorsuch’s confirmation doesn’t change what we do here at GLAD: we will continue to use the law to fight for the rights of LGBTQ people and people living with HIV everywhere. And we will fight any and all attempts to turn back fundamental Constitutional rights, especially for the most vulnerable.

“And we have every right to expect our Supreme Court justices, like all judges, to take their responsibility seriously, and apply the law equally and fairly.

“From protections for people with HIV to queer youth, from transgender rights to marriage equality, from family protections to employment non-discrimination -we know that when our community stands together and makes the case, we win.

“And when we are before the Supreme Court again, we will argue what we know to be true: our U.S. Constitution guarantees equal protection and liberty for all.”

PFLAG Interim Executive Director Elizabeth Kohm:

“We remain concerned that Judge Gorsuch will now have a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. We thank our friend Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) for his heroic efforts to elevate Judge Gorsuch’s longtime opposition to discrimination protections, which are so crucial to the wellbeing and safety of LGBTQ people and other similarly marginalized communities. PFLAGers everywhere will continue to educate about the real impact of decisions made in the judicial branch of government. Additionally, we will continue to participate in amicus briefs to the court to raise the unique and crucial family and ally voice by sharing the real stories of harm done to our LGBTQ loved ones.”

GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis: 

“Republicans in the Senate just destroyed a steadfast American tradition for the purpose of confirming a person to the U.S. Supreme Court who will most certainly vote in opposition to the safety and well-being of the LGBTQ community and many marginalized groups for his entire career on the bench. With his history of siding against transgender Americans and arguing against marriage equality, Neil Gorsuch is yet another reprehensible pawn in the Trump Administration’s goal of erasing the LGBTQ community from the fabric of America.”

National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director Kate Kendell, Esq.:

To change the rules to ram through a Supreme Court nominee too extreme to garner 60 votes undermines the Senate’s historical role as a deliberative body. And with today’s appointment, Senate Republicans have jeopardized the core constitutional rights of millions of Americans.

“As veterans of the marriage equality fight, we understand how profoundly Supreme Court rulings can affect our daily lives. Judge Gorsuch’s record on some of our most fundamental constitutional freedoms—such as the right to privacy, equality under the law, and access to reproductive health care—is dangerous, troubling, and miles behind where we are today. We must not allow these critical freedoms to be lost or undone. In the wake of this disappointment, we join with millions of other Americans in renewing our commitment to a vision of this country and of our Constitution that looks forward, not back, and that promises freedom and equality for all.”

Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur:

“The confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and the vote to eliminate longstanding Senate filibuster rules place the civil rights of every LGBT American at risk.

“Gorsuch’s opinion in the Hobby Lobby case embraced the use of religious exemptions, which opponents of LGBT equality across the country are attempting to use to gut hard-won LGBT civil rights protections. Gorsuch’s legal philosophy is far to the right of most Americans who believe in a woman’s right to vote or to reproductive freedom, a separation of church and state, equal protection, marriage equality for same-sex couples or civil rights protections for vulnerable communities. At a time when the LGBT community is facing a wave of laws across the country making it permissible to discriminate against LGBT people on religious grounds, the stakes are higher than ever.

“In addition, with their invocation yesterday of the so-called ‘nuclear option’ to eliminate filibuster rules that have provided important limits on partisan extremism, Senate Republicans have sacrificed bipartisanship and the checks and balances on which our country was founded. Republican leaders have done away with a 200-year-old Senate institution to place a jurist on the Court who could not win sufficient votes to meet the Senate’s historic standard of 60 votes for confirmation because of his extreme views. We are especially disappointed in moderate and purple-state GOP senators who helped undermine our democracy and LGBT civil rights with their vote, in blind allegiance to Donald Trump’s agenda. These include Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and we plan to work with colleague organizations to hold them accountable to the best of our ability. This is a sad day for the LGBT community and for our country.”

Lambda Legal Director of Strategy Sharon McGowan:

“The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it does not bend itself.

“When Judge Gorsuch was nominated in January, many people predicted that he would easily secure the 60 votes necessary for confirmation. We dispelled the #AlternativeFacts being peddled about Judge Gorsuch by working with progressive allies to expose his antigay, anti-trans, anti-woman, anti-choice and anti-worker agenda.

“While it is disappointing to have lost this particular fight, there is no longer any real debate over what kind of nominee President Trump put forth. And there is no longer any doubt that, to certain folks in Washington, securing a “political win” was more important than safeguarding the rights of millions of Americans.

“So it’s okay to be angry, sad, frustrated and disappointed. I am too. But know this:

“Lambda Legal was there. The voice of our community was heard. We made a difference.

“And we won’t stop. #WeObject

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Image by Ted Eytan via Flickr and a CC license

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News

Santos Campaign Can No Longer Raise or Spend Money After Treasurer Officially Calls It Quits: NYT

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Enmeshed in a web of deceit and possibly under federal criminal investigation, U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-NY) is now apparently unable to lawfully spend money or accept donations via his political campaign, which reportedly now may also be in violation of FEC rules.

On Tuesday the embattled freshman Republican announced he was temporarily stepping down from his committee assignments, reportedly after a conversation with Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Before the end of the day his campaign treasurer filed official paperwork notifying the Federal Election Commission she had resigned.

“Nancy Marks’s resignation effectively leaves the Santos campaign unable to raise or spend money and in seeming violation of federal rules,” The New York Times reports, calling her his “longtime campaign treasurer and trusted aide.”

“Mr. Santos’s financial operations, which are the subject of several complaints filed with the F.E.C. and are being investigated by local, state and federal law enforcement,” The Times adds. “It also leaves the Santos campaign in disarray, effectively rendering it unable to raise or spend money and placing it in seeming violation of F.E.C. rules.”

READ MORE: Another SCOTUS Scandal: Chief Justice’s Spouse Makes Millions Placing Attorneys at Top Law Firms That Argue Before the Court

In fact, FEC rules state: “If a committee’s treasurer is absent, the committee cannot make expenditures or accept contributions unless it has designated an assistant treasurer or designated agent on the committee’s Statement of Organization.”

The resignation comes after last week’s stunning report revealing that Santos, or his campaign, amended FEC filings to indicate the $700,000 he had claimed to have personally loaned his campaign had not actually come from his personal funds.

Unlike political candidates, campaign treasurers are held to an actual standard of truth, and can be personally – and legally – liable if they report false information.

FEC rules also state, “the treasurer can be named and found liable in his or her personal capacity if he or she knowingly and willfully violates the Act, recklessly fails to fulfill duties imposed by the law, or intentionally deprives himself or herself of the operative facts giving rise to the violation.”

READ MORE: Stefanik Was Once ‘Laser Focused on Electing Santos’ – Now She Blames Voters for Electing Him as She Backs Away

Santos may find it difficult to hire a new treasurer: “Even when an enforcement action alleges violations that occurred during the term of a previous treasurer, the Commission usually names the current treasurer as a respondent in the action.”

The Times adds, “The lack of clarity over who, if anyone, is operating as Mr. Santos’s treasurer has already caused confusion. On Tuesday, a joint fund-raising committee associated with Mr. Santos filed paperwork to end its operations. Ms. Marks’s signature was on the paperwork, even though she had resigned as the committee’s treasurer the week before.”

Marks’ resignation also comes after someone affiliated with the Santos campaign falsely listed a well-known Republican treasurer on the official FEC forms as the treasurer for his campaign. As one expert put it, that’s a “big no-no,” and “completely illegal.”

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COMMENTARY

Another SCOTUS Scandal: Chief Justice’s Spouse Makes Millions Placing Attorneys at Top Law Firms That Argue Before the Court

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The highly controversial and highly unpopular U.S. Supreme Court isn’t just facing a historic loss of confidence, it’s now facing yet another ethics scandal that is likely to lower even further public opinion of the far-right institution that in under two decades has seen its approval rating slashed.

Although it will not hear arguments, the issue before the Supreme Court and the American people’s view of it, is, should a Justice’s spouse – in this case the spouse of Chief Justice John Roberts – be able to make millions of dollars recruiting attorneys who are placed into top law firms that argue cases before it?

That’s the latest allegation, and already a spokesperson for the Court has issued a statement denying any ethical violations.

The New York Times reports that “a former colleague of Mrs. Roberts has raised concerns that her recruiting work poses potential ethics issues for the chief justice. Seeking an inquiry, the ex-colleague has provided records to the Justice Department and Congress indicating Mrs. Roberts has been paid millions of dollars in commissions for placing lawyers at firms — some of which have business before the Supreme Court, according to a letter obtained by The New York Times.”

Jane Sullivan Roberts left a law firm where she was a partner after her spouse was confirmed as Chief Justice.

READ MORE: Failed Leak Probe Will ‘Add to Public Distrust’ and ‘Accelerate Partisan Rancor’ Surrounding Supreme Court: Analyst

“Mrs. Roberts, according to a 2015 deposition,” The Times reports, “said that a significant portion of her practice was devoted to helping senior government lawyers land jobs at law firms and that the candidates’ names were almost never disclosed.”

Documents in that case “list six-figure fees credited to Mrs. Roberts for placing partners at law firms — including $690,000 in 2012 for one such match. The documents do not name clients, but Mr. Price recalled her recruitment of one prominent candidate, Ken Salazar, then interior secretary under President Barack Obama, to WilmerHale, a global firm that boasts of arguing more than 125 times before the Supreme Court.”

That case involves “a former colleague of Mrs. Roberts,” Kendal Price, a 66-year-old Boston lawyer, who “has raised concerns that her recruiting work poses potential ethics issues for the chief justice.”

“According to the letter,” sent by Price to DOJ and Congress, which the Times reports it obtained, “Mr. Price was fired in 2013 and sued the firm, as well as Mrs. Roberts and another executive, over his dismissal.”

The Times cites two legal experts, one who sees no ethical concerns with the situation, and one who does.

But critics are expressing great concern over this latest ethics issue, as they have been for years.

Doug Lindner, Advocacy Director for Judiciary & Democracy for the League of Conservation Voters, pointing to the Times’ report,  remarked: “Another day, another ethics concern about another life-tenured conservative justice on the most powerful court in the world, which has no binding ethics rules.”

READ MORE: Marshal ‘Spoke With’ Supreme Court Justices, Excluded Them From Signing Sworn Affidavits in Leak Probe

Indeed, the lack of a Supreme Court code of ethics has been repeatedly condemned for years, including by some of the nation’s top critics.

On Sept. 1, 2022, The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin tweeted out her opinion piece: “Ginni Thomas pressed Wisconsin lawmakers to overturn Biden’s 2020 victory .. just another insurrectionist.”

Norman Ornstein, an emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a contributing editor for the Atlantic, responded:

“Another reminder of how unethical is Justice Clarence Thomas, while Chief Justice Roberts turns a blind eye and continues to resist a code of ethics for a Supreme Court now distrusted by a majority of Americans. This defines the Roberts Court.”

The following month Ornstein slammed the Roberts Court once again.

“It is a stain on the Supreme Court that Chief Justice Roberts refuses to support a Judicial Code of Ethics, and stands by silently while Clarence Thomas flouts ethical standards over and over and over,” Ornstein charged.

Less than one month later he again unleashed on Roberts.

“Roberts is culpable,” he tweeted. “He has resisted over and over applying the Judicial Code of Ethics to the Supreme Court. This is Alito’s court, and it is partisan and corrupt.”

Ornstein is far from the Court’s only critic.

“If Chief Justice Roberts really wanted to address Supreme Court ethics, he would have immediately worked to implement a Code of Conduct after Clarence Thomas failed to recuse from cases involving January 6th despite having a clear conflict of interest,” the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington tweeted a year ago in May. The following month CREW published an analysis titled: “Chief Justice John Roberts is wrong: the American judicial system is facing a major ethics crisis.”

Meanwhile, in late November Politico reported that Democrats in Congress were outraged at the Roberts Court.

“Two senior Democrats in Congress are demanding that Chief Justice John Roberts detail what, if anything, the Supreme Court has done to respond to recent allegations of a leak of the outcome of a major case the high court considered several years ago,” PoliticoJosh Bernstein reported, referring to the leak of the Dobbs decision that overturned the Roe v. Wade decision – itself a massive ethics crisis for the Court.

READ MORE: Revealed: Four Supreme Court Justices Attended Right-Wing Gala — Further Endangering SCOTUS Credibility

“Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) are also interested in examining claims about a concerted effort by religious conservatives to woo the justices through meals and social engagements. They wrote to Roberts on Sunday, making clear that if the court won’t investigate the alleged ethical breaches, lawmakers are likely to launch their own probe.”

Whitehouse and Johnson “also criticized the high court’s response to a letter they sent Roberts in September, seeking information about the court’s reaction to reports in POLITICO and Rolling Stone about a yearslong campaign to encourage favorable decisions from the justices by bolstering their religiosity.”

Nothing has changed.

When the Roberts Court earlier this month announced its lengthy investigation did not find the draft Dobbs decision leaker but also did not include the Justices themselves, Stokes Prof. of Law at NYU Law School Melissa Murray, an MSNBC host, tweeted, “This is a Roberts Court leitmotif–The Chief loves to handle things–even big things–in-house. Ethics issues? No need to get involved, Congress. We’ll sort it out ourselves. Leak needs investigating? No need to call in an actual investigative body, the Marshal will handle it.”

Pulitzer prize winning New York Times  investigative reporter Jodi Kantor, pointing to how the Justices were not thoroughly investigated during the leak probe, in earlier this month said: “Last week the court released statements that confirmed the gap between how the justices and everyone else were treated.”

“The whole situation amplifies a major question about the court: are these nine people, making decisions that affect all of us, accountable to anyone?”

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News

‘Can Be Used Against You’: Trump Took Big Risk Pleading the Fifth 400 Times in Deposition Says Legal Expert

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A newly released video shows Donald Trump pleading the Fifth Amendment hundreds of times in a deposition, and a legal expert explained how that could be used against him in court.

The former president was finally hauled in to testify last year in the $25 million fraud lawsuit filed against the Trump Organization by New York attorney Letitia James, and he exercised his constitutional right against self-incrimination nearly 450 times — but MSNBC legal analyst Andrew Weissmann said the move carried potential risk in a civil case.

“I agree with him on the point of taking the Fifth,” Weissmann said. “It’s important to remember everyone has a right to the Fifth if a truthful answer would tend to incriminate you. In a civil case, it can be used against you, unlike in a criminal case.”

“One other thing I would disagree is when he is saying there’s this witch hunt, he left out jurors,” Weissmann added. “The Trump Organizations went to trial, they had their day in court. They could present all of their evidence, [and] 12 jurors, that’s everyday citizens, found beyond a reasonable doubt that there was a multi-year tax conspiracy that his organizations were involved in, and there was evidence he knew about it as would make sense. That’s one more reason for him to be asserting the Fifth Amendment.”

Watch video below or at this link.

Image via Shutterstock

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