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Senate Democrats demand end to rightwing ‘judge shopping’ but move draws immediate attack from Republicans – live


Senate Democrats demand end to rightwing ‘judge shopping’

Senate Democrats including majority leader Chuck Schumer have today called for the federal courts’ policymaking body to stand firm against conservative attacks on its new rule intended to curb the practice of “judge shopping”.

The term is a reference to the practice of litigants suing over government policies in certain jurisdictions where federal judges may be sympathetic to their cause. An example of this may be seen in the lawsuit by a conservative group attempting to remove the abortion medication mifepristone from pharmacies, which was first filed before a Donald Trump-appointed federal judge in Texas who previously worked for a rightwing Christian law firm.

Earlier this month, the Judicial Conference of the United States announced a new policy that “addresses all civil actions that seek to bar or mandate state or federal actions, ‘whether by declaratory judgment and/or any form of injunctive relief.’ In such cases, judges would be assigned through a district-wide random selection process.”

The policy drew attacks from Republicans including Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, who described it as “half-baked”.

In a letter sent today to the Judicial Conference’s secretary, Schumer and eight other Democratic senators specifically singled out the mifepristone case, and wrote:

This judge-shopping tactic is more pernicious than it might appear. Even though there are only a few courts subject to this issue, single district judges can issue rulings that thwart congressional statutes and stymie agency actions on a nationwide basis. That means certain plaintiffs are motivated to file their cases in divisions where they know the judge hearing the case is aligned with their goals.

The anti-democratic practice of judge shopping erodes the rule of law and the public’s trust in the judiciary. Your new policy rebalances our court system and will help to restore Americans’ confidence in judicial rulings. We encourage you to defend it as courts across the country implement it.

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Key events

The Biden administration’s decision to supply Israel with more weapons comes as the state department said famine conditions “quite possibly” are present in parts of northern Gaza. Here’s more about that, from the Guardian’s Peter Beaumont:

Famine is already probably present in at least some areas of northern Gaza, while other areas are in danger of falling into conditions of starvation, the US state department said on Friday a day after the world’s top court ordered Israel to admit food aid into the territory.

“While we can say with confidence that famine is a significant risk in the south and centre but not present, in the north, it is both a risk and quite possibly is present in at least some areas,” a state department official told Reuters.

The US comments add to a growing and powerful consensus that Israel’s military offensive in the Palestinian coastal territory has triggered a famine.

The number of trucks distributing aid in south and central Gaza had nearly reached 200 a day, an increase on a month ago, but more were needed, the state department official said.

“You need to address the full nutrition needs of the population of Gaza of all ages. That means more than just that minimal survival level feeding,” the official said, adding that malnutrition, and infant and young-child mortality was a significant, growing problem.

“It has to be addressed by additional assistance coming and the right kind of assistance coming in,” he said.

Biden administration approves another shipment of bombs, military jets to Israel despite concerns over death toll – report

Joe Biden signed off on another transfer to Israel of military jets and bombs, including 2,000-pound munitions linked to devastating strikes in Gaza, despite growing concerns among Democrats of the civilian toll in the country’s campaign against Hamas, the Washington Post reports.

The Biden administration has repeatedly sent arms to Israel following Hamas’s 7 October attack, and continues to press Congress to approve legislation authorizing $14bn in military aid. The support has sparked a backlash towards the president from protesters concerned over the death toll in Gaza, where 32,000 people have died following Israel’s invasion.

Here’s more on the weapons transfer, from the Post:

The new arms packages include more than 1,800 MK84 2,000-pound bombs and 500 MK82 500-pound bombs, according to Pentagon and State Department officials familiar with the matter. The 2,000 pound bombs have been linked to previous mass-casualty events throughout Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. These officials, like some others, spoke to The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity because recent authorizations have not been disclosed publicly.

The development underscores that while rifts have emerged between the United States and Israel over the war’s conduct, the Biden administration views weapons transfers as off-limits when considering how to influence the actions of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“We have continued to support Israel’s right to defend itself,” said a White House official. “Conditioning aid has not been our policy.”

Some Democrats, including allies of President Biden, say the U.S. government has a responsibility to withhold weapons in the absence of an Israeli commitment to limit civilian casualties during a planned operation in Rafah, a final Hamas stronghold, and ease restrictions on humanitarian aid into the enclave, which is on the brink of famine.

“The Biden administration needs to use their leverage effectively and, in my view, they should receive these basic commitments before greenlighting more bombs for Gaza,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said in an interview. “We need to back up what we say with what we do.”

The Israeli government declined to comment on the authorizations.

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Georgia state legislators have changed laws that will make it easier to challenge a voter’s registration.

The Guardian’s George Chidi reports:

Georgia legislators changed state election laws in the midnight hours of Friday, widening the criteria to challenge a voter’s registration, removing bar codes from printed ballots and increasing the documentation local elections officials must produce to certify elections.

The proposals will take effect 1 July, assuming the Georgia governor, Brian Kemp, signs the legislation into law.

Voting rights groups expressed their highest concern about how Senate Bill 189 potentially expands challenges to voter registrations. Conservative advocates have been issuing large-scale systematic challenges to voters – dozens or hundreds at a time in some districts, like Atlanta’s Fulton and DeKalb counties.

Each challenge under existing law has to be considered on its individual merits under current law, which can exhaust the resources of local election officials, voting rights advocates argue.

For the full story, click here:

Joe Biden to visit Baltimore following bridge collapse

Joe Biden said on Friday that he will visit Baltimore next week, Reuters reports.

Biden’s expected visit follows the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge earlier this week after the Singaporean-flagged cargo ship Dali crashed into it.

Six men, who were filling potholes on the bridge, are presumed dead. The bodies of two of the men who were trapped in their vehicle were recovered from the Patapsco River on Wednesday.

The authorities identified the men as Alejandro Hernández Fuentes, a 35-year-old originally from Mexico who was living in Baltimore, and Dorlian Ronial Castillo Cabrera, 26, who was from Guatemala and was living in Dundalk, Maryland.

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Democratic National Committee rapid response director Alex Floyd issued the following statement on Friday in response to Michael Whatley’s appointment as the new chair of the Republican National Committee:

Donald Trump hand picked Michael Whatley to take over the RNC because he parroted Trump’s baseless lies about the 2020 election, and Whatley is returning the favor by making election denialism a key litmus test to join the GOP.

Putting an election denying extremist like Whatley in charge of the RNC makes it clear that the future of our democracy is on the ballot in this election – and the American people will once again reject Trump and his MAGA allies this November.

Michael Whatley, left, and co-chair Lara Trump, right, greet attendees at the Republican National Committee spring meeting on 8 March in Houston. Photograph: Michael Wyke/AP
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The day so far

Senate Democrats are feuding with their Republican counterparts over the practice of “judge shopping”, which critics say a conservative group used to get their challenge to abortion medication mifepristone before the supreme court, which nonetheless sounded skeptical. In a letter sent today to the body overseeing federal courts, Democratic majority leader Chuck Schumer and eight colleagues urged them to stand firm against Republican attacks on a new policy to cut down on the practice. But there is one thing the top lawmakers in Congress agree on: Russia’s imperative to free jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested one year ago today. Joe Biden joined the call for his release, while the Journal made a renewed push to raise public awareness of his plight.

Here’s what else has happened today:

  • Biden raised big bucks at a fundraiser in New York City last night, but faced familiar disruptions from pro-Palestine protesters.

  • Donald Trump also has plans to rake in money with an event scheduled for next week in Florida.

  • A proposal to free jailed Americans, Gershkovich included, and Alexei Navalny fell apart after the Russian dissident’s death last month, the Journal reports.

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Top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell squabbles with Democrats over ‘restoring trust’ in federal judges

The Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, is not happy with Democrats or the Judicial Conference for the attempt to limit “judge shopping”.

McConnell has been transformative when it comes to the federal courts. As Senate leader in 2016, he famously blocked Barack Obama from filling a supreme court vacancy, giving Donald Trump the opportunity to appoint three justices – all of whom have generally signed on to conservative decisions, including the overturning of Roe v Wade.

The Judicial Conference’s new rule does not specifically deal with the supreme court, but rather the path that lawsuits take to get there. But in a floor speech earlier this month, before the Senate departed for its ongoing recess, McConnell criticized Democratic majority leader Chuck Schumer for supporting the new policy.

“Democrats are salivating at the possibility of shutting down access to justice in the venues favored by conservatives,” he said. McConnell went on:

If Republicans see a federal judiciary that is using its procedural independence to wade into political disputes, any incentive we may have to defend that procedural independence will vanish, as well.

This was an unforced error by the Judicial Conference. I hope they will reconsider. And I hope district courts throughout the country will instead weigh what is best for their jurisdictions, not half-baked “guidance” that just does Washington Democrats’ bidding.

While Democrats are upset over how a conservative group used “judge shopping” to pursue a lawsuit against abortion medication mifepristone, the Guardian’s Carter Sherman reports that most supreme court justices did not appear ready to decide the case in their favor during arguments earlier this week:

The supreme court on Tuesday seemed skeptical of arguments made by anti-abortion doctors asking it to roll back the availability of mifepristone, a drug typically used in US medication abortion. The arguments were part of the first major abortion case to reach the justices since a 6-3 majority ruled in 2022 to overturn Roe v Wade and end the national right to abortion.

The rightwing groups that brought the case argued that the justices should roll back measures taken since 2016 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to expand the drug’s availability. A decision in the anti-abortion doctors’ favor would apply nationwide, including in states that protect abortion access, and would probably make the drug more difficult to acquire.

Medication abortion now accounts for almost two-thirds of abortions performed in the US.

Much of Tuesday’s arguments focused on whether the anti-abortion doctors who sued the FDA, a coalition known as the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, have standing, or the right to bring the case in the first place. The doctors claim they will suffer harm if they have to treat women who experience complications from mifepristone, an argument the Biden administration, which appealed the case to the court, has rejected as too speculative.

Senate Democrats demand end to rightwing ‘judge shopping’

Senate Democrats including majority leader Chuck Schumer have today called for the federal courts’ policymaking body to stand firm against conservative attacks on its new rule intended to curb the practice of “judge shopping”.

The term is a reference to the practice of litigants suing over government policies in certain jurisdictions where federal judges may be sympathetic to their cause. An example of this may be seen in the lawsuit by a conservative group attempting to remove the abortion medication mifepristone from pharmacies, which was first filed before a Donald Trump-appointed federal judge in Texas who previously worked for a rightwing Christian law firm.

Earlier this month, the Judicial Conference of the United States announced a new policy that “addresses all civil actions that seek to bar or mandate state or federal actions, ‘whether by declaratory judgment and/or any form of injunctive relief.’ In such cases, judges would be assigned through a district-wide random selection process.”

The policy drew attacks from Republicans including Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, who described it as “half-baked”.

In a letter sent today to the Judicial Conference’s secretary, Schumer and eight other Democratic senators specifically singled out the mifepristone case, and wrote:

This judge-shopping tactic is more pernicious than it might appear. Even though there are only a few courts subject to this issue, single district judges can issue rulings that thwart congressional statutes and stymie agency actions on a nationwide basis. That means certain plaintiffs are motivated to file their cases in divisions where they know the judge hearing the case is aligned with their goals.

The anti-democratic practice of judge shopping erodes the rule of law and the public’s trust in the judiciary. Your new policy rebalances our court system and will help to restore Americans’ confidence in judicial rulings. We encourage you to defend it as courts across the country implement it.

Share

Updated at 

Joe Biden may have had a big night of fundraising in New York yesterday, but Donald Trump is looking to outdo him next week, the Guardian’s Joanna Walters and Martin Pengelly report:

Joe Biden and Donald Trump are in a new phase of a heavyweight fundraising smackdown as the US president raised a record $25m at a glitzy event with Barack Obama and Bill Clinton on Thursday night, while Trump’s Republican campaign claimed it would outdo Biden next week with a $33m event in Florida, according to reports.

Biden and his Democratic predecessor headlined a star-studded fundraiser with Clinton at the Radio City Music Hall event, hosted by Mindy Kaling and featuring Lizzo, Queen Latifah and Stephen Colbert.

Obama and Biden flew to the city on Air Force One together in a show of unity and Democratic campaign heft as the 2024 election enters an important phase between the main primary season and the summer nominating conventions, which are expected to anoint Biden and Trump as their parties’ candidates.

The glittering Democratic fundraiser was punctuated by protests not just outside but also inside the auditorium, as attendees rose at several different moments to shout over the discussion, referencing Biden’s backing of Israel’s war in Gaza.

“Shame on you, Joe Biden,” one yelled, according to Reuters.



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