Trump high court pick Kavanaugh may face contentious cases soon

With the U.S. Supreme Court building in the background, Supreme Court nominee judge Brett Kavanaugh arrives prior to meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 10, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

By Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee may not have to wait too long for controversial cases if he is confirmed to the job, with disputes involving abortion, immigration, gay rights, voting rights and transgender troops possibly heading toward the justices soon.

Republicans are hoping Brett Kavanaugh, the conservative U.S. appeals court judge selected on Monday by Trump to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, will be confirmed by the Senate before the next Supreme Court term opens in October.

There are no blockbusters among the 38 cases already on the docket for the justices, but they could add disputes on controversial issues being appealed from lower courts.

Legal battles are developing over state laws restricting abortion including one in Arkansas that effectively bans medication-induced abortions. The justices in May opted not to intervene in a case challenging that law, waiting instead for lower courts to rule, but it could return to them in the future.

Other abortion-related cases could reach the court within two years.

These involve laws banning abortions at early stages of pregnancies, including Iowa’s prohibition after a fetal heartbeat is detected. There is litigation arising from plans by certain states including Louisiana and Kansas to stop reimbursements under the Medicaid insurance program for the poor for Planned Parenthood, a national abortion provider.

There also are challenges to state laws imposing difficult-to-meet regulations on abortion providers such as having formal ties, called admitting privileges, at a local hospital.

Kavanaugh’s judicial record on abortion is thin, although last year he was on a panel of judges that issued an order preventing a 17-year-old illegal immigrant detained in Texas by U.S. authorities from immediately obtaining an abortion.

GAY RIGHTS

Another issue expected to return to the court is whether certain types of businesses can refuse service to gay couples because of religious objections to same-sex marriage.

The high court in June sided, on narrow legal grounds, with a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for two men because of his Christian beliefs, but sidestepped the larger question of whether to allow broad religious-based exemptions to anti-discrimination laws.

That issue could be back before the justices as soon as the court’s next term in a case involving a Washington state Christian florist who similarly spurned a gay couple.

Kennedy, who wrote the baker ruling, cast decisive votes backing gay rights four times, most notably in 2015 when the court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. It is not known how Kavanaugh would vote on those issues as he has not been involved in any gay rights cases during his 12 years as a judge.

Trump’s bid to ban transgender people from the military has been challenged in lower courts. That issue could make its way to the Supreme Court.

After lower courts blocked Trump’s ban last year, he announced in March he would endorse Defense Secretary James Mattis’ plan to restrict the military service of transgender people who have a condition called gender dysphoria. Trump’s administration has asked courts to allow that policy to go into effect, but so far to no avail.

Sharon McGowan, a lawyer with gay rights group Lambda Legal, said she saw no evidence Kavanaugh would be any less conservative on gay and transgender rights than Trump’s other appointee to the court, Neil Gorsuch.

On immigration, litigation is continuing over Trump’s plan to rescind a program created under Democratic former President Barack Obama that protected from deportation hundreds of thousands of young immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children.

Lower courts blocked Trump’s plan to scrap the program. Congress has failed to agree on a plan to replace it.

Kavanaugh could have to deal with cases involving a practice called partisan gerrymandering in which state legislators redraw electoral maps to try to cement their own party in power. In June, the justices avoided a broad ruling on whether partisan gerrymandering violates the constitutional rights of voters and whether federal judges can intervene to rectify it.

Democrats have said Republican gerrymandering has helped Trump’s party keep control of the U.S. House of Representatives and various state legislatures.

Kennedy previously kept his conservative colleagues from closing the door to litigation in federal court challenging partisan gerrymandering.

The partisan gerrymandering case most likely to return to the Supreme Court involves claims that Republican legislators in North Carolina manipulated the boundaries of the state’s 13 U.S. House districts to ensure lopsided wins for the party.

Attorney Paul Smith of the Campaign Legal Center, which represents the North Carolina plaintiffs, said they had been focused on trying to convince Kennedy to rule in their favor, and now will try to convince Chief Justice John Roberts, seen as the next-most-moderate of the conservative justices. Smith viewed Kavanaugh as likely voting with the court’s most conservative justices to reject gerrymandering challenges.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)

Indian court upholds death for 2012 Delhi gang rape convicts

FILE PHOTO: A television journalist sets his camera inside the premises of the Supreme Court in New Delhi February 18, 2014. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee/File pho

By Sai Sachin Ravikumar and Suchitra Mohanty

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s Supreme Court on Monday upheld the death penalty for three men convicted in the gang rape of a young woman in Delhi in 2012, a landmark case that brought an unprecedented level of attention to violence against women in the country.

The brutal rape of the 23-year-old medical student, who died of her injuries, had sparked nationwide outrage and forced changes in the law. But six years later, there are few signs that sexual violence against women is abating.

In 2016, there were around 40,000 rapes reported in India – up 60 percent from 2012, according to government data, and more cases go unreported, activists say.

“Crimes against women will keep on rising unless the criminals are sent to the gallows,” the father of the victim, who cannot be named under Indian law, told reporters after the Supreme Court ruling.

A three-member bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra dismissed petitions filed by the men to review a 2017 order by the top court, which had confirmed the death penalty given to them by the Delhi High Court.

“There is no merit in the petitions,” said Justice Ashok Bhushan, who read out the judgment.

The three men – Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma and Mukesh Singh – had asked the Supreme Court to consider less severe punishment. A fourth man, Akshay Thakur, did not petition the court to review his death sentence.

Following the 2012 case, India launched fast-track courts and a tougher rape law in April this year that included the death penalty for rape of girls below 12.

Nevertheless, more rape cases have come to light since then, and it remains hard for victims to receive timely justice.

The conviction rate of people arrested for rape was 25 percent in 2016, while the backlog of rape cases pending trial stood at more than 133,000 by the end of that year, up from about 100,000 in 2012.

(Reporting by Suchitra Mohanty and Sai Sachin Ravikumar; Editing by Darren Schuettler)

Top Supreme Court candidates’ views on abortion under scrutiny

FILE PHOTO: Trees cast shadows outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, U.S., June 25, 2018. REUTERS/Toya Sarno Jordan/File Photo

By Andrew Chung

NEW YORK (Reuters) – From the moment Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the U.S. Supreme Court last week, speculation has centered on whether his replacement would vote to overturn a woman’s right to abortion.

But the individuals considered top contenders for Kennedy’s seat have produced a sparse record of legal rulings and writings on the subject, which makes it hard to predict how they might rule in abortion-related cases.

President Donald Trump promised during his campaign to appoint “pro-life justices” who would overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. In recent days, however, the president has said he will not ask candidates about their views on the subject. Trump has said he will announce his nominee on July 9 and that he will make his selection from a list of candidates compiled by conservative legal activists.

On Friday, the president said he had narrowed the field to about five, and sources familiar with the president’s thinking say the top contenders are Brett Kavanaugh, a judge on the District of Columbia U.S. Court of Appeals; Amy Coney Barrett, who was named by Trump to the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Thomas Hardiman, who serves on the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Raymond Kethledge of the Cincinnati, Ohio-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; and Amul Thapar, whom Trump named to the 6th Circuit.

Of that group, Barrett, a professor at Notre Dame Law School before Trump appointed her to the appeals court, has attracted the most attention on abortion.

She has spoken publicly about her conviction that life begins at conception, and in a 2003 law journal article, she argued that courts could be more flexible in overturning prior “errors” in precedent. She noted that courts have struggled over when to keep “an erroneous decision” on the books, citing as an example Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a major 1992 Supreme Court ruling that upheld Roe.

Some progressive groups have pointed to the article as evidence of Barrett’s willingness to overturn Roe. But she has also raised doubts about whether the high court would ever overturn Roe, according to a 2013 article in Notre Dame Magazine.

Her traditional Catholic beliefs became a flashpoint last September during her confirmation hearing in the Senate. “The dogma lives loudly within you,” Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said to Barrett during the hearing. Barrett told the senators that her faith would not affect her decisions as a judge.

While little is known about Kavanaugh’s personal views on abortion, last October he was part of a panel of judges that issued an unsigned order preventing an illegal immigrant teenager detained by the government from immediately obtaining an abortion. That decision was overturned by the full appeals court a few days later.

Dissenting from that decision, Kavanaugh warned that the court was embracing “a new right for unlawful immigrant minors in U.S. government detention to obtain immediate abortion on demand.” Litigation over the issue is continuing.

Hardiman joined an opinion in 2010 that overturned the conviction of an anti-abortion protester arrested outside the Liberty Bell Center in Philadelphia. Though the court said park rangers had violated his free speech rights, the case was not about the right to abortion itself.

In April, Hardiman allowed the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic order of nuns, to intervene in a lawsuit against Trump’s plan to expand employer exemptions from an Obamacare birth control insurance requirement. For years, the organization has been at the forefront in challenging the mandate’s legality. Though the case was not directly about abortion, groups favoring abortion rights worry that Hardiman’s ruling signals his sympathies on the issue.

Democratic politicians and liberal groups have said they assume that all those on Trump’s list of potential candidates would overturn Roe v. Wade, given that Trump has said he will only consider such candidates.

“I take the president at his word,” said Daniel Goldberg, legal director for Alliance For Justice, a liberal legal advocacy group that has researched Trump’s judicial nominees.

Leonard Leo, a conservative legal activist on leave from the Federalist Society, is advising Trump on judicial selections, and he said no one asked the candidates about their views on abortion before they were placed on the list.

“These people weren’t even talked to when they were put on the list,” said Leo. “No one was asked these questions and as far as I know no one has been asked these questions if they were brought into the process in the White House.”

Republicans control the Senate by only a slim majority, making it important for Trump’s nominee to win the support of all Republican members, including moderates.

On Sunday, Republican Senator Susan Collins said on CNN that she would not support a nominee who “demonstrated hostility” to Roe.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Sue Horton)

Kennedy’s departure puts abortion, gay rights in play at high court

FILE PHOTO: Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy speaks during a swearing in ceremony for Judge Neil Gorsuch as an associate justice of the Supreme Court in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, U.S., April 10, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, announced on Wednesday, could put some of his signature rulings in jeopardy, including ones that expanded or preserved gay rights and abortion rights.

Kennedy is a conservative, but he joined the court’s four liberals to cast deciding votes on several key social issues, most notably on gay marriage.

His successor will be picked by President Donald Trump from a White House list of 25 names recommended by conservative legal activists, and the new justice is likely to take a less liberal tack than Kennedy did on at least some issues. If so, he or she will provide a fifth vote for the court’s conservatives rather than its liberals – and over time reshape the U.S. legal landscape.

“It’s extremely likely President Trump is going to appoint someone who is not going to follow Justice Kennedy’s lead in those cases and will go even further in undermining constitutional rights and degrading the rule of law,” said Elizabeth Wydra, president of the liberal leaning Constitutional Accountability Center.

Without Kennedy, she said, the court would have overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case establishing a woman’s right to abortion. It would also have prevented gay people from marrying and ended university admissions programs that take race into account, she said.

New cases on gay rights and abortion could reach the high court in short order.

Legal battles are already developing over newly enacted laws restricting abortion, including one in Arkansas that effectively bans medication abortions. The Supreme Court opted not to intervene in a case challenging that law in May, saying it would wait for lower courts to rule, but the issue is likely to return to the court in coming years.

Anti-abortion activists celebrated Kennedy’s announcement.

“Justice Kennedy’s retirement from the Supreme Court marks a pivotal moment for the fight to ensure every unborn child is welcomed and protected,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List.

She noted that Trump has previously pledged “to nominate only pro-life judges to the Supreme Court.”

Another live issue expected to come back to the court is whether people who run businesses can refuse service to gay couples because of religious objections to same-sex marriage.

In an opinion this year by Kennedy in a case involving a Colorado bakery, the court on a 7-2 vote ruled narrowly on the issue, but it punted on the larger question of whether to allow religious-based exemptions to anti-discrimination laws. That issue could be back before the justices as soon as the court’s next term, which starts in October, in a case involving a Christian florist

Kennedy cast decisive votes backing gay rights on four occasions, most notably in 2015 when the court legalized same-sex marriage.

Gay rights activists, while praising Kennedy’s votes, expressed alarm about his departure from the bench.

“The Supreme Court has done a lot to change the position of LGBT people in America, but there are big open questions the court may well weigh in on in the future, so there’s a lot at stake,” said James Esseks, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union who works on gay rights cases.

Esseks said he is hopeful the new justice will embrace recent legal victories in gay rights battles and urged senators to press the nominee on the issue during the confirmation process after Trump announces his pick.

Liberal advocacy groups had long feared Kennedy’s retirement, and his announcement provoked instant anxiety. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a nationwide abortion provider, said it was bracing for Trump to appoint a justice to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“The significance of today’s news cannot be overstated: The right to access abortion in this country is on the line,” said Dawn Laguens, the group’s executive vice president.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Sue Horton)

Retiring Justice Kennedy left his mark on American society

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy arrives for the funeral of fellow justice Antonin Scalia at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, February 20, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

By Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Anthony Kennedy left an indelible mark on American society in his three decades as a mild-mannered and professorial justice on the U.S. Supreme Court in areas as varied as gay rights, abortion, the death penalty and political spending.

Kennedy, who announced his retirement on Wednesday at age 81, became the swing vote on the ideologically divided court after fellow traditional conservative Justice Sandra Day O’Connor retired in 2006. He was the most centrist of the five conservatives currently on the court and was willing to join the liberal justices in major cases, although he delivered strongly conservative opinions in others.

“His jurisprudence prominently features an abiding commitment to liberty and the personal dignity of every person. Justice Kennedy taught collegiality and civil discourse by example,” conservative Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement.

“His work has made an impressive contribution to the development of the law in many fields, and he will surely be remembered as one of the most important justices in the history of the court,” added conservative Justice Samuel Alito.

Nominated by Republican President Ronald Reagan, Kennedy joined the court in 1988 and followed a deliberative, middle-of-the-road approach. During arguments, Kennedy leaned forward in his black leather chair, looking earnest and wearing wire-rimmed glasses, often asking probing questions of the lawyers.

He authored the 2015 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, in one of several cases in which he voted to expand gay rights. Kennedy wrote that the hope of gay people intending to marry “is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

Although championing gay rights, Kennedy authored a ruling this month that handed a victory on narrow legal grounds to a Colorado baker who, citing his Christian beliefs, refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

Kennedy joined the liberals in upholding abortion rights, including a 2016 ruling that struck down a Texas abortion law imposing strict regulations on doctors and facilities. The decision was the strongest endorsement of abortion rights in the United States in more than two decades.

In latter years, Kennedy appeared to evolve on race issues, inching toward his liberal colleagues over policies intended to tackle historic racial discrimination. In 2016, he wrote a ruling that upheld the consideration of race in college admissions in policies designed to boost the enrollment of minority students.

Kennedy also backed limitations on the application of the death penalty, agreeing with liberal colleagues that juveniles and the mentally ill should not be eligible for execution.

‘MODERATING FORCE’

“Justice Kennedy was a critical moderating force on the Supreme Court for decades,” American Civil Liberties Union legal director David Cole said.

“He cast deciding votes to protect freedom of speech, to prevent the overturning of abortion rights, to limit state anti-immigration laws, to stop the execution of children, and to preserve affirmative action. His greatest legacy may rest with his decisions recognizing the dignity and rights of lesbians, gay, and bisexual people. His attention to human dignity and individual rights will be missed,” Cole added.

Kennedy also has heartened conservatives. He authored a 2010 ruling that lifted restrictions on corporate and union-funded independent expenditures during political campaigns. The ruling, based on free-speech rights, prompted considerable criticism, including from then-President Barack Obama.

He joined his fellow conservatives in the 2000 ruling that effectively gave the U.S. presidency to Republican George W. Bush, rather than Democrat Al Gore, by preventing any more vote recounts in Florida.

This week, Kennedy joined the other conservative justices in rulings that upheld the legality of Republican President Donald Trump’s travel ban targeting several Muslim-majority nations, shut down a key source of revenue for labor unions and blocked a California law regulating Christian-based clinics that counsel women against abortion.

Michael Farris, general counsel of the Christian conservative legal group, Alliance Defending Freedom, took issue with “decisions where Justice Kennedy created ‘rights’ not found in or intended by the United States Constitution. He deeply disappointed many Americans with his constitutional jurisprudence favoring abortion and same-sex marriage.”

But Farris praised Kennedy’s protection of freedom of speech including in Tuesday’s decision striking down California’s law that required the anti-abortion centers to notify clients of the availability of state-subsidized abortions.

Kennedy, previously a federal appeals court judge in California, was actually Reagan’s third choice for the job.

After the Senate defeated Reagan’s first choice, conservative firebrand Robert Bork, and his second choice, Douglas Ginsburg, withdrew his nomination after the disclosure he had previously smoked marijuana, Kennedy was nominated. He was confirmed by a 97-0 Senate vote.

Kennedy relished the role of teacher and intellectual. He has an avid interest in English literature, particularly Shakespeare, and in court history.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Firefighter Prophet Mark Taylor’s Prophecy On Supreme Court One Step Closer To Reality

Mark Taylor, Co-Author of "The Trump Prophecies"

By Kami Klein

There is a saying, “When God calls; you answer.”  Mark Taylor, co-author of “The Trump Prophecies”, is very familiar with this concept.  Becoming a Prophet was not high on his ‘to do’ list but this third generation firefighter began an incredible journey when God gave him the prophecy that Donald Trump would become President of the United States.  In an article from Charisma Magazine, Mark explains ‘what happened’ in the November 2016 election when the electoral map began turning from blue to red and the world watched this prophecy come to pass.

“God intervened. He did so by raising an unlikely person, even someone most Christians would not have chosen. Yet there was a miraculous aspect to this election that can only be explained—for those of us who love Jesus and believe the Bible—as though it were somehow God’s will.”

On February 16. 2016, Mark received another prophecy regarding the Supreme Court.  In the document entitled “Do Not Fear America” God reveals his plans for the Highest Court in the United States.  Here is an excerpt of this prophecy.

The Spirit of God says, “Do not fear that my servant Justice Scalia has been taken, for some are crying out, why have I forsaken. For I will show myself strong to prove that the so called wise are wrong. For some will say that this is a miracle, for I am just getting started, this is not even close to the pinnacle, for what I am going to do with My America. For do not my people have eyes to see and ears to hear the two signs I gave, when they carried my servant’s body up the steps of the courthouse where to rest he was laid? Read the signs! Read the signs that were for all to see, and understand the words in this prophecy.”

The Spirit of God says, “5, that’s right, 5 Supreme Court Justices will be appointed by my new president, my anointed. I will choose 5 through my anointed to keep those alive.

I will stack the court with those that I choose, to send a clear message to the enemy, that you lose! This is the miracle that I will perform, so that MY COURT will be reformed.”

Today the announcement was made that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy plans to retire after three decades as an influential vote on the highest U.S. judicial court.  Kennedy who turns 82 in July is the second oldest justice on the nine member court. His retirement will take effect on July 31, 2018.

Justice Kennedy’s retirement gives President Donald Trump another opportunity to appoint a new Supreme Court Judge. This will be the second appointment since the President took office in January, 2017.  

This latest vacancy now found within the Supreme Court brings Mark Taylor’s prophecy one step closer.

 We highly recommend reading the prophecies of this gifted man of God. Jim and Lori Bakker have interviewed Mark Taylor several times on The Jim Bakker Show and you can find his prophecies including a video on his book ”The Trump Prophecies” on his website Sordrescue.com.   You can also find episodes of The Jim Bakker show featuring Mark Taylor ‘On Demand’ at our website. 

For the full story of  Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s announcement, please follow this link.  

Justice Kennedy, U.S. Supreme Court’s pivotal vote, to retire

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said on Wednesday he plans to retire after three decades as a pivotal vote on the highest U.S. judicial body, giving President Donald Trump an opportunity to make the court more firmly conservative.

The conservative Kennedy, who turns 82 in July and is the second-oldest justice on the nine-member court, has become one of the most consequential American jurists since joining the court in 1988 as an appointee of Republican President Ronald Reagan. He proved instrumental in advancing gay rights, buttressing abortion rights and erasing political spending limits. His retirement takes effect on July 31, the court said.

“It has been the greatest honor and privilege to serve our nation in the federal judiciary for 43 years, 30 of those years on the Supreme Court,” Kennedy said in a statement.

The statement issued by the court said that Kennedy’s decision was motivated by his decision to spend more time with his family.

Kennedy is a traditional conservative who sometimes joined the liberal justices on key rulings, earning a reputation as the court’s “swing” vote who heartened conservatives and liberals alike, depending on the issue. Kennedy on Tuesday joined the court’s four other conservatives in giving Trump a huge legal victory by upholding the Republican president’s travel ban targeting people from several Muslim-majority countries.

Kennedy’s decision was disclosed on the final day of the court’s current term, which began in October. On Wednesday, he joined his fellow conservative justices in a 5-4 ruling that dealt a major setback to organized labor by shutting off a key union revenue source.

Trump on Wednesday said Kennedy had great vision and heart. The president said he will begin a search immediately for a new justice, with a list of 25 candidates. The Republican-led Senate can be expected to push to have the new nominee confirmed and on the court before the justices begin their next term in October.

Trump already has left an imprint on the court, restoring its 5-4 conservative majority with the appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch last year after the president’s fellow Republicans in the Senate in 2016 refused to consider Democratic former President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland.

While Kennedy’s replacement will not change the numerical ideological balance on the court, Trump could appoint a justice who would be more staunchly conservative than Kennedy and less likely to occasionally side with the court’s liberal wing.

MAJOR SOCIAL ISSUES

Without Kennedy on the bench, the high court could move to the right on major social issues including abortion and gay rights. Kennedy wrote the landmark 2015 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

Conservative activists have long dreamed of building a firmly conservative majority on the court that would push to overturn the landmark 1973 ruling in the case Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion nationwide.

Kennedy disappointed conservatives by joining Supreme Court decisions that affirmed the Roe decision, including a landmark 1992 ruling in the case Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Gorsuch already has demonstrated that he is one of the most conservative members of the court, aligning himself with Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. [nL1N1OE2GT]

The U.S. Senate, which must confirm nominees before they can join the court, is controlled 51-49 by Trump’s fellow Republicans, meaning that if they remain unified they can overcome any Democratic opposition like that mounted against Gorsuch. Senate Republicans changed the chamber’s rules during the Gorsuch nomination battle to prevent Democrats from insisting on a 60-vote super-majority, allowing court nominees to win confirmation by a simple majority vote.

Kennedy personally delivered his retirement letter to the White House on Wednesday afternoon, after he told his fellow justices of his plans at their afternoon conference.

Trump picked Gorsuch from a list of names, mostly conservative federal appeals court judges, he circulated during his 2016 election campaign. The White House last November issued an expanded list that includes other prominent conservatives, including Judge Brett Kavanagh, a former Kennedy law clerk who serves on the U.S. appeals court in Washington.

While Kennedy sided with conservative colleagues on many issues and authored the landmark 2010 ruling that allowed unlimited corporate spending in political campaigns, his tenure also included strong support for the liberal cause of gay rights.

Kennedy, mild-mannered and professorial, followed a thoughtful, middle-of-the-road approach and often posed probing, intellectual questions of lawyers arguing cases. He became the swing vote on the ideologically divided court after fellow centrist conservative Justice Sandra Day O’Connor retired in 2006.

Kennedy was Reagan’s third choice to fill the court seat left open by the retirement of Lewis Powell in 1987. The Senate rejected Reagan’s first nominee, outspoken conservative Robert Bork, in a fierce partisan fight and second choice Douglas Ginsburg withdrew after admitting to past marijuana use.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

Supreme court strikes down California law on anti-abortion centers

Anti-abortion activists (L-R) Terrisa Bukovinac, Megan Lott and Peter Hinman stand outside of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, U.S., June 26, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

By Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down a California law requiring clinics that counsel women against abortion to notify clients of the availability of abortions paid for by the state, ruling it violated the free speech rights of these Christian-based facilities.

The Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, and while the broader issue of abortion rights was not at issue in the case, the 5-4 ruling represented a significant victory for abortion opponents who operate these kinds of clinics – called crisis pregnancy centers – around the country.

The court’s five conservative justices were in the majority in the ruling authored by Justice Clarence Thomas, with the four liberals dissenting.

Crisis pregnancy centers have said they offer legitimate health services but that it is their mission to steer women with unplanned pregnancies away from abortion.

There are roughly 2,700 crisis pregnancy centers in the United States, including around 200 in California, according to abortion rights advocates, vastly outnumbering abortion clinics. California officials said some of the centers mislead women by presenting themselves as full-service reproductive healthcare facilities, going so far as to resemble medical clinics, down to lab coats worn by staff.

California’s Reproductive FACT Act, passed by a Democratic-led legislature and signed by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown in 2015, required centers licensed by the state as family planning facilities to post or distribute notices that the state has programs offering free or low-cost birth control, prenatal care and abortion services. The law also mandated unlicensed centers that may have no medical provider on staff to disclose that fact.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)

Supreme court backs Trump on travel ban targeting Muslim-majority nations

Trees cast shadows outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, U.S., June 25, 2018. REUTERS/Toya Sarno Jordan

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday handed Donald Trump one of the biggest victories of his presidency, upholding his travel ban targeting several Muslim-majority countries.

The 5-4 ruling, with the court’s five conservatives in the majority, ends for now a fierce fight in the courts over whether the policy represented an unlawful Muslim ban. Trump can now claim vindication after lower courts had blocked his travel ban announced in September, as well as two prior versions, in legal challenges brought by the state of Hawaii and others.

The court held that the challengers had failed to show that the ban violates either U.S. immigration law or the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment prohibition on the government favoring one religion over another.

Writing for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts said that the government “has set forth a sufficient national security justification” to prevail.

“We express no view on the soundness of the policy,” Roberts added.

The ruling affirmed broad presidential discretion over who is allowed to enter the United States. It means that the current ban can remain in effect and that Trump could potentially add more countries. Trump has said the policy is needed to protect the country against attacks by Islamic militants.

The current ban, announced in September, prohibits entry into the United States of most people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. The Supreme Court allowed it to go largely into effect in December while the legal challenge continued.

The challengers have argued the policy was motivated by Trump’s enmity toward Muslims and urged courts to take into account his inflammatory comments during the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump as a candidate called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

The travel ban was one of Trump’s signature hardline immigration policies that have been a central part of his presidency and “America First” approach. Trump issued his first version just a week after taking office, though it was quickly halted by the courts.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

U.S. states set to gain billions in sales taxes after court ruling

FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Supreme Court is seen as the court nears the end of its term in Washington, U.S., June 11, 2018. REUTERS/Erin Schaff

By Hilary Russ

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. states could reap billions in online sales tax revenue and buttress their budgets after the nation’s top court ruled on Thursday that e-commerce companies could be forced to collect the money, even if they have no physical presence in a state.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of South Dakota and against Wayfair Inc and two other online retailers was a victory for state governments, and a boost for brick-and-mortar stores.

The effect is expected to be positive and widespread because 45 states impose sales taxes and until now were barred from requiring those companies to collect remote sales taxes.

That meant state and local governments lost as much as $13 billion of revenue in 2017, according to a federal report.

Now, states can push ahead with legislation requiring companies to collect and remit sales taxes for goods bought online elsewhere.

States that rely more heavily on sales tax – as opposed to personal income tax, for instance – “are the big winners here and could see real budget gains if they follow South Dakota’s example,” said Fitch Ratings analyst Stephen Walsh.

As many as 24 states and their local governments could see tax revenue gains of at least 1 percent, according to Fitch’s research.

For a large state like Texas, the combined state and local revenue growth could be as high as $1.2 billion per year and will likely grow over time, Walsh said.

Washington, Florida, South Dakota, Nevada and Tennessee get more than half of their total revenues from sales taxes, meaning big gains could be in store.

An analysis by Barclays found that Louisiana would get an estimated 3 percent bump in total tax receipts if it begins forcing out-of-state online retailers to collect sales taxes. Oklahoma could also see a sizeable 2.7 percent gain, Barclays found.

But the party does not extend to places that do not charge sales taxes: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon.

“New Hampshire’s lack of a sales tax is a competitive advantage for our state, and this decision will unfairly punish small businesses that are the backbone of our economy,” U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan said in a statement.

STATE MOVES NOT CERTAIN

The decision “will remake the landscape for state tax collection in the U.S.,” said Harley Duncan of the auditing firm KPMG.

However, the path is not clear. The court left room for future legal challenges, so state legislation could still face delays and backlash from the e-commerce industry.

The ruling “definitely goes out of its way to suggest there may have to be future litigation to decide ultimately where things will shake out,” said lawyer Paul Clement, who filed a brief backing Wayfair.

“You will certainly see, absent congressional action, significant litigation as states try to push the envelope on this,” said Mike Dabbs, eBay’s senior director of government relations.

Even so, most states may look to pass bills similar to Washington state’s, said Max Behlke of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Its law was effective even before the court ruling, Behlke said, by expanding sales tax collections to third-party marketplaces – a category that in most places has so far gone untaxed.

That led Amazon.com to start collecting taxes on its entire platform, including third-party merchants, in Washington starting in January.

Amazon then added Pennsylvania to that list after a similar law there went into effect April 1.

Even before that change, Pennsylvania got $202 million of online sales tax revenue in 2017 – 2-1/2 times as much as it did in 2014, when it received just $81.2 million, according to information the Pennsylvania Treasury provided to Reuters.

Minnesota and Rhode Island passed similar “marketplace laws” last year.

Ahead of the court ruling, Illinois enacted a budget that counts on $150 million in new tax revenue – to come from out-of-state internet retailers – for fiscal 2019, which begins July 1.

A new Connecticut law goes into effect at the end of this year to collect taxes from some online retailers. Now the legislature should consider going back into session to broaden that law and “eliminate the disadvantage retailers with physical locations in Connecticut have long struggled to overcome,” said Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano.

In total, 38 states have considered and 15 enacted, measures aimed at collecting remote sales taxes since 2016.

“There has been pushback against these new laws but the new ruling gives states more support for these positions,” said Fitch’s Walsh. “I expect we will see both new legislation and additional legal challenges over the next few years.”

(Reporting by Hilary Russ in New York; Additional reporting by Karen Pierog in Chicago and Lawrence Hurly in Washington; Editing by Daniel Bases and Cynthia Osterman)