On today's BradCast, the world and the U.S. Congress respond to Trump's bombing of Syria earlier this morning, even as Republicans in the Senate complete their unprecedented theft of the U.S. Supreme Court. In a related matter, an appellate court issues a landmark expansion of the Civil Rights Act. [Audio link to show is posted below.]
While many in the corporate media are joining a number of world leaders and members of Congress in celebrating Donald Trump's cruise missile attack on a Syrian air base days after an horrific chemical attack in the country, Russia is citing the action as a "significant blow" to U.S.-Russia relations and an act of "aggression" in violation of international law. Moreover, a number of Congress members, both Republican and Democratic from both chambers, are similarly citing Trump's attack as "an act of war" that is unlawful under the U.S. Constitution, as well as ill-considered and dangerous on several levels. Congress itself has now scuttled away for a two-week holiday recess, after refusing to even debate U.S. action in Syria more than 4 years, in the wake of some 400,000 deaths in the war-torn country.
At the same time, before heading home for the holidays, as the nation, the media and world were otherwise distracted today, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans finalized their historic judicial coup by confirming "Justice" Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court with a simple majority after unilaterally changing Senate rules to kill the right to filibuster SCOTUS nominees in the wake of their year-long refusal to hold a hearing or a vote for Barack Obama's nominee Judge Merrick Garland.
Then, following a landmark 8 to 3 bi-partisan Civil Rights Act ruling this week by the full 7th Circuit Court of Appeals (where most of the judges were appointed by Republicans and are considered quite conservative), Mark Joseph Stern, legal reporter for Slate, joins us to explain why he sees the decision as a precedent-setting "thunderbolt" for civil rights and the LGBTQ community.
The case involves a community college which was found sued for having discriminated against a woman in its employment practices on the basis that she was gay. The ruling, as Stern details, is the first time an appellate court has extended the Civil Rights Act to include protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in addition to simply race and gender.
"What the 7th Circuit majority said was, look, it is logically incoherent to remove sexual orientation discrimination from the concept of sex discrimination. When an employer discriminates against a woman for dating another woman, he is discriminating against her explicitly on the basis of her sex. If she were a man dating a woman, then she would not face discrimination. If she were a woman dating a man, then she would not face discrimination. It is only because she is a woman and she is associating intimately with other women that she faces this kind of discrimination," Stern explains.
The case is likely to have broad national implications and will be "impossible to ignore" at the Supreme Court, says Stern. It's also important thanks to Reagan-appointed conservative Judge Richard Posner's opinion in which he argues that courts, as Stern short-hands it, "should interpret statutes in a manner that 'infuses' them 'with vitality and significance today' rather than relying on their original meaning. Posner contrasted this theory with the conservative 'originalism' championed by Justice Antonin Scalia." That is no small matter as it's being sung out by Posner, the Supreme Court's most cited federal jurist of the 20th century. (And, incredibly enough, even the far-right activist Judge Frank Easterbrook joined the majority in this case!)
Stern also discusses what we should expect when and if the case is heard by what he also considers to be a "stolen" Supreme Court in the wake of the GOP's illegitimate confirmation today of Gorsuch.
Finally, Desi Doyen joins us with the latest Green News Report with an unconscionable corporate media failure, and as the GOP-controlled U.S. House Science Committee shamefully uses McCarthy-esque tactics to put science itself on trial...
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The plaintiffs in One Wisconsin Institute v. Thomsen, one of several long-running court challenges to Wisconsin Republicans' strict Photo ID voting restriction, have filed an emergency petition with the full en banc U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeal, asking that it overturn its previous photo ID decision in Frank v. Walker.
The still pending Frank case as well as the One Wisconsin challenge have, to say the least, undergone a circuitous recent history in a number of federal courts that oversee Badger State election law.
In April 2014, after a lengthy trial, U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Adelman struck down and permanently enjoined Wisconsin's photo ID law after finding it in violation of both the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as well as the Voting Rights Act (VRA).
Republicans in control of the state naturally appealed that detailed and blistering ruling. The federal appeal was assigned to an all-Republican three-judge 7th Circuit panel, headed by Judge Frank H. Easterbrook. Easterbrook is a member of the radical right wing Robert Bork-founded, Koch Brothers-funded "Federalist Society". The ensuing decision to reinstate Wisconsin's photo ID law, despite Adelman's meticulous ruling in the lower court, was so extraordinarily partisan, factually deficient, riddled with errors and legally flawed that it prompted the ordinarily staid U.C. Irvine election law Prof. Rick Hasen to tweet: "I rarely just rant in my blog posts. But Judge Easterbrook caused me to blow a gasket."
Other members of the 7th Circuit were so troubled by Easterbrook's flawed opinion that they took the unusual move of granting a rehearing en banc on their own motion. Because of prior refusals by Congressional Republicans to fill a vacancy on the 7th Circuit with an Obama nominee, at that time of the court's motion there were only ten (10) jurists serving on the full 7th Circuit --- as opposed to the allotted eleven (11) judges. The ensuing 5-5 en banc ruling --- now referred to as Frank I --- left Easterbrook's horribly flawed ruling in place, effectively disenfranchising nearly 10% of Wisconsin's electorate who did not possess or have easy access to the very specific types of Photo ID now required by state Republicans to cast a vote. .
Last April, however, after a disastrous Presidential primary in Wisconsin, where, most visibly, student voters were forced into hours long lines on Election Day in hopes of obtaining a state approved photo ID that would allow them to vote under the GOP law, the Easterbrook panel handed down a decision that appeared designed to ameliorate the widespread disenfranchisement. The ruling --- now referred to as Frank II --- suggested that disenfranchised voters who lack the ability "to obtain a qualifying photo ID with reasonable effort" should be permitted to cast a regular ballot nonetheless.
On July 19, 2016, in what was thought to be compliant with the Frank II directive, the District Court issued a remedial injunction that mandated Wisconsin afford the right to cast a regular ballot to "those who cannot with reasonable effort obtain a qualifying ID", so long as they signed an affidavit to that effect at the polling place. Many, like The Nation's Ari Berman, celebrated, believing that the voting rights of Wisconsin's disenfranchised electorate had finally been restored.
That celebration, it now appears, proved both premature and an underestimate of the level partisan duplicity on the part of the three "radicals in robes" on the Easterbrook 7th Circuit panel...