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Supreme Court denies Democrats’ bid to fast-track ongoing fight for Trump financial records | TheHill – The Hill

The Supreme Court on Monday denied a request by House Democrats to accelerate the timeline of remaining court battles over congressional subpoenas for President TrumpDonald John TrumpKanye West says Harriet Tubman ‘never actually freed the slaves’ at rally Trump-Afghan deal passes key deadline, but peace elusive GOP governors in hardest hit states split over COVID-19 response MORE’s tax returns.

The bid by lawmakers came in response to the court’s landmark 7-2 ruling earlier this month to shield a trove of Trump’s financial records from several Democratic-led House committees and return the dispute to lower courts for further litigation.

Under regular Supreme Court procedure, the ruling would reach the lower courts no earlier than Aug. 3, a delay Democrats sought to avoid by asking the justices to expedite the process.

But the conservative-majority court rejected that request Monday in an unsigned order. Justice Sonia SotomayorSonia SotomayorSupreme Court declines to reinstate vote of nearly 1 million Florida felons Supreme Court clears way for second federal execution Supreme Court lifts stay for second federal execution this week MORE, one of the more liberal justices, said she would have granted it.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court issued a blockbuster split decision that handed a win to New York state prosecutors seeking Trump’s tax returns, but dealt a setback to Democrats who sought a similar financial paper trail.

While the justices settled some of the major legal issues embedded in the disputes, they left it to lower courts to resolve other unanswered questions.

On Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to expedite its order in the New York case, where the justices had ruled 7-2 against Trump’s claim of absolute immunity from a grand jury subpoena for eight years of tax returns. Chief Justice John Roberts ordered the decision to go into effect immediately, which allows the Manhattan district attorney to advance more swiftly in pursuit of Trump’s records.

But Monday’s order means a trio of Democratic-led House committees will have to wait nearly a month from the date of the court’s decision before they can proceed in the lower courts.

The committees have long maintained that four congressional subpoenas issued to Trump’s bankers and accountants for his personal and corporate records were necessary to carry out their legislative and oversight functions.

Before the case reached the Supreme Court, lawmakers had prevailed in every round of battle in federal district and appeals courts.

But the justices’ July 9 decision in Trump v. Mazars USA found that the lower courts had failed to properly consider the weighty separation of powers concerns at hand.

“When Congress seeks information needed for intelligent legislative action, it unquestionably remains the duty of all citizens to cooperate,” Roberts wrote for the majority on July 9, citing prior Supreme Court rulings. “Congressional subpoenas for information from the President, however, implicate special concerns regarding the separation of powers. The courts below did not take adequate account of those concerns.”

While the decision reaffirmed Congress’s subpoena power, it also enumerated some of its constraints when information at issue concerns the president. Specifically, the court laid out parameters for the appropriate scope and relevance of such subpoenas.

The committees may now continue to press their case in the lower federal courts of Washington, D.C., and New York, but only after the Supreme Court decision takes effect early next month.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee claims its subpoena of Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, is needed to inform rules governing ethics, conflicts of interest and presidential financial disclosure.

Another set of subpoenas, from the House Financial Services Committee, requested records from Deutsche Bank and Capital One as a follow-up on press reports that Deutsche Bank staffers had raised concerns that Trump and his son-in-law, White House senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerGraham releases newly declassified documents on Russia probe CREW files ethics complaint against Ivanka Trump over Goya photo The Memo: Can new campaign manager help Trump? MORE, were linked to illicit financial activity.

The House Intelligence Committee also subpoenaed Deutsche Bank, but its focus was on Kremlin efforts to interfere in U.S. elections and whether Russian or other foreign nationals have financial leverage over Trump.

Updated at 11:46 a.m.

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Supreme Court says Trump can weaken Obamacare contraceptive mandate – CNN

(CNN)The Supreme Court on Wednesday cleared the way for the Trump administration to expand exemptions for employers who have religious or moral objections to complying with the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate.

The 7-2 ruling reverses a lower court decision that had blocked Trump’s move nationwide.
The ruling is a win for President Donald Trump, who has vowed to act aggressively to protect what he and other conservatives frame as religious liberty, as well as for the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Roman Catholic religious order for women who, along with the Trump administration, asked the court to step in.
It came the same day the court also sided with religious schools in a different case, ruling that teachers at religious institutions aren’t covered by employment discrimination laws.
The White House called it a “big win for religious freedom and freedom of conscience” in a statement from press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
Trump had complained in recent weeks when the court ruled against him on issues such as abortion, LGBTQ rights and the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. After Chief Justice John Roberts sided with liberals in significant cases in recent weeks, he joined the conservative majority in Wednesday’s two cases.
The Little Sisters case required the justices to balance concerns for women’s health care against claims of religious liberty. The law requires that employer-provided health insurance plans cover birth control as a preventive service at no cost. Wednesday’s ruling means that by the government’s own estimate, thousands of women will have to search elsewhere for coverage.
Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote the majority opinion, wrote that the justices held that the government “had the statutory authority to craft that exemption, as well as the contemporaneously issued moral exemption.” He was joined in full by Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
Thomas commended the Little Sisters of the Poor for their efforts.
“For the past seven years, they — like many other religious objectors who have participated in the litigation and rulemakings leading up to today’s decision — have had to fight for the ability to continue in their noble work without violating their sincerely held religious beliefs,” he wrote.
Thomas continued, “After two decisions from this Court and multiple failed regulatory attempts, the Federal Government has arrived at a solution that exempts the Little Sisters from the source of their complicity-based concerns — the administratively imposed contraceptive mandate.”
Liberal justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan agreed with the court’s judgment but under different rationale. They said that the Trump administration had the authority to issue a rule expanding exemptions from the contraceptive mandate, but suggested that a lower court might still find that the government’s rule was “arbitrary and capricious.”
“That issue remains open for the lower courts to address,” Breyer wrote, opening up the possibility of future challenges — though the rules can go into effect for now.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented from the Court’s opinion, joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
“Today, for the first time, the Court casts totally aside countervailing rights and interests in its zeal to secure religious rights to the nth degree,” Ginsburg wrote.
“This Court leaves women workers to fend for themselves, to seek contraceptive coverage from sources other than their employer’s insurer, and, absent another available source of funding, to pay for contraceptive services out of their own pockets,” she said and noted that the government had acknowledged that the rules would cause thousands of women — “between 70,500 and 126,400 women of childbearing age,” she wrote — to lose coverage.
The dispute — the latest concerning the Affordable Care Act to come before the justices — pit supporters of the contraceptive provision against those who said it violated their religious and moral beliefs.
Churches and some other religious entities could get an exemption and others such as religious universities, hospitals or charities with religious objections get an accommodation. The accommodation means that plan participants could still receive the coverage, but it would be paid for by the insurer or employer’s health insurance administrator.
Over 61.4 million women in the US have birth control coverage with zero out-of-pocket costs, according the National Women’s Law Center.
After Trump took office, the government moved in 2017 to allow exemptions for more employers.
Under the religious exception rule, any private employer, including publicly traded corporations, could receive exemptions based on a “sincerely held religious belief.” A second rule extends the same provision to organizations and small businesses that have objections “on the basis of moral conviction which is not based in any particular religious belief.”
By the government’s own estimate, between 75,000 to 125,000 women would lose coverage. At oral arguments held over the phone because of the coronavirus, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — participating from a hospital bed because of a gall bladder condition — lambasted the government’s position, arguing it would leave women “to hunt for other government programs that might cover them.”
Pennsylvania and other states challenged the federal government move in court, arguing in part that they would have to step in and provide coverage for women seeking coverage.
A federal appeals court blocked the rules nationwide, holding that the states would suffer irreparable harm and “unredressable financial consequences” from subsidizing contraceptive services and “providing funds for medical care associated with unintended pregnancies.” The court said that the states’ financial injury “outweighs any purported injury to religious exercise.”
The Trump administration and the Little Sisters of the Poor asked the Supreme Court to reverse the lower court.
Solicitor General Noel Francisco had argued that the accommodation still made some entities feel complicit in providing contraceptive coverage to their employees. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, designed to prohibit the federal government from “substantially burdening” a person’s exercise of religion, gives agencies discretion to offer an exemption, he said.
But Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, joined by New Jersey’s attorney general, told the Supreme Court that the lower court got it right. He pointed out that an accommodation is already in place that allows certain objecting employers to exclude contraception for the benefit packages and allowing third parties to provide the coverage directly.
“This approach,” Shapiro said, “balances the employers’ sincere religious belief with the health of their female employees.”
He said that such a balance was “disrupted” when the Trump administration moved to allow more people, including publicly traded corporations and large universities, to receive an exemption.
“The existing accommodation respects both the health of women and the religious liberty interests of employers,” he argued.
Shapiro lamented the court’s decision Wednesday, but vowed to continue fighting the administration’s rule in the lower courts.
“While I am disappointed with much of the majority opinion, I am pleased the Court allowed our challenge to the Administration’s overly broad rules to proceed,” he said. “We now return to the lower courts to address whether the exemptions are arbitrary and capricious. This fight is not over.”
Shapiro added that the challenge brought by Pennsylvania and other states against the rule “was never about requiring religious groups to provide contraception — organizations like the Little Sisters are already exempt. Our case is about an overly broad rule that allows the personal beliefs of CEOs to dictate womens’ guaranteed access to contraceptive medicine.”
Twenty states and the District of Columbia supported the states, as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and 185 other members of Congress.
Texas and 19 other states, meanwhile, supported the Trump administration and the Little Sisters, arguing that some employers “believe sincerely that it is incompatible with their religious convictions to provide health insurance when it means contracting with a company that then, because of that relationship, becomes obligated to provide contraceptives that the employers regard as abortifacients.”
The lawyers who brought the challenge indicated they also plan to carry on fighting.
“America deserves better than petty governments harassing nuns. The Court did the right thing by protecting the Little Sisters from an unnecessary mandate that would have gutted their ministry,” said Mark Rienzi, a lawyer behind the challenge and the president of Becket, a law firm that specializes in religious liberty issues.
“Governments don’t need nuns to distribute contraceptives. But they do need religious groups to care for the elderly, heal the sick and feed the hungry,” Rienzi said. “These governments all have real work they ought to be doing rather than dividing people with old and unnecessary culture wars.”
This story has been updated with additional details from the ruling, as well as reaction to it.

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Supreme Court makes it easier for president to fire CFPB head – NBC News

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday made it easier for the president to fire the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The justices struck down restrictions Congress had written on when the president can remove the bureau’s director.

“The agency may … continue to operate, but its Director, in light of our decision, must be removable by the President at will,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.

The court’s five conservative justices agreed that restrictions Congress imposed on when the president can fire the agency’s director violated the Constitution. But they disagreed on what to do as a result. Roberts and fellow conservative justices Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh said the restrictions could be stricken from the law. The court’s four liberals agreed, though they disagreed the restrictions were improper.

The decision doesn’t have a big impact on the current head of the agency. Kathy Kraninger, who was nominated to her current post by the president in 2018, had said she believed the president could fire her at any time.

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Under the Dodd-Frank Act that created the agency in response to the 2008 financial crisis, the CFPB’s director is appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate to a five-year term. The law had said the president could only remove a director for “inefficiency, neglect of duty or malfeasance in office.” That structure could leave a new president with a director chosen by the previous president for some or all of the new president’s time in office. The Trump administration had argued that the restrictions improperly limit the power of the president.

“We hold that the CFPB’s leadership by a single individual removable only for inefficiency, neglect, or malfeasance violates the separation of powers,” Roberts wrote.

Defenders of the law’s removal provision had argued the restrictions insulated the agency’s head from presidential pressure.

Justice Elena Kagan, writing for herself and three liberal colleagues, called the majority opinion simplistic.

“What does the Constitution say about the separation of powers—and particularly about the President’s removal authority? (Spoiler alert: about the latter, nothing at all.) The majority offers the civics class version of separation of powers—call it the Schoolhouse Rock definition of the phrase,” she said, referencing the educational, animated short films.

“Today’s decision wipes out a feature of that agency its creators thought fundamental to its mission—a measure of independence from political pressure. I respectfully dissent,” Kagan wrote.

The CFPB was the brainchild of Massachusetts senator and former Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren.

After the ruling, Warren wrote in a series of tweets that the Supreme Court had “handed over more power to Wall Street’s army of lawyers and lobbyists to push out a director who fights for the American people.” But, she said that even after the ruling the CFPB is “still an independent agency.”

“The director of that agency still works for the American people. Not Donald Trump. Not Congress. Not the banking industry. Nothing in the Supreme Court ruling changes that,” Warren wrote.

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Supreme Court again declines to take up Second Amendment cases – CNN

Washington (CNN)The Supreme Court declined on Monday to take up several cases regarding the scope of the Second Amendment.

Despite a low hurdle for the right-leaning Supreme Court, the justices turned down petitions from 10 challenges to state laws established to limit the availability and accessibility of some firearms and when they can be carried in public.
It’s been over a decade since 2008’s landmark 5-4 ruling in District of Columbia v Heller that held the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms at home for self-defense. Except for a follow-up decision two years later, the court has not weighed in on Second Amendment rights significantly again.
Five of the 10 cases the court declined to look at asked the justices to determine whether the Second Amendment allows the government to restrict the ability of citizens to carry a firearm outside the home to those with “good cause” or “justifiable need” to do so. Two of the cases were high-profile challenges to state laws involving bans on certain semiautomatic firearms and high capacity magazines, one from Illinois and one from Massachusetts. The remaining three cases had a narrower scope, but none of the 10 will be argued before the justices.
Jacob Charles, the executive director of the Center for Firearms Law at Duke Law School, said the court’s decision to deny all of the pending Second Amendment petitions came as a surprise.
“The petitions denied today presented some of the biggest open questions in Second Amendment law, including what types of weapons the Constitution protects and how and whether the right extends outside the home,” Charles said. “For now, it appears that a majority of the Court is content to let these issues be sorted out by the lower courts.”
Three of the nine justices have been vocal in recent years about their desire for the court to take up a Second Amendment case. Last month, Justice Brett Kavanaugh expressed his concern that lower courts have been thumbing their noses at Supreme Court precedent on the Second Amendment, saying the court should “address that issue soon, perhaps in one of the several Second Amendment cases with petitions for certiorari now pending before the Court.”
Justice Clarence Thomas in 2018 complained that the lower courts were treating the Second Amendment right “cavalierly.”
Jonathan Lowy, chief counsel and vice president of pro-gun safety organization Brady: United Against Gun Violence, said the court’s decision not to hear any of the Second Amendment cases is “well-reasoned”
“Today’s decision is welcome, but we are vigilant that there remains a concerted effort to reverse it and undermine our nation’s hard-earned progress in instituting common-sense gun safety measures and that those arguments have found sympathy with several of the Justices,” Lowy said in a statement to CNN.
This story has been updated.

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Supreme Court won’t hear challenge to California sanctuary law – CNN

Washington (CNN)The Supreme Court on Monday left in place a lower court opinion upholding one of California’s so-called sanctuary laws that limits cooperation between law enforcement and federal immigration authorities, a measure that the Trump administration says is meant to “undermine” federal immigration enforcement.

The Trump administration had asked the court to step in and review the law and the court declined to do so.
Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, two of the Court’s conservative members, supported taking up the case.
The law — and others like it — have ignited a firestorm between the federal government, which has made immigration enforcement a top priority, and some states that say they are within their rights to determine how best to use their own resources.
During his State of the Union speech last January, President Donald Trump lamented California’s effort, which he classified as an “outrageous law.”

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Venezuela’s supreme court rules against opposition in vote setback – The Guardian

Venezuela’s government-friendly supreme court has said the opposition-held congress did not name rectors to the South American country’s electoral authority in time, a move denounced by the opposition as an attempt to derail election plans. 

The court declared the national assembly’s decisions null and void shortly after the opposition won control of the body in late 2015. With new legislative elections due by the end of 2020, the decision marked a setback to efforts between the two sides to agree on conditions for the vote. 

Most mainstream opposition parties boycotted the presidential election in 2018, due to concerns President Nicolás Maduro had laid the groundwork to rig the vote. He easily won re-election amid relatively low voter turnout and accusations of irregularities, which he denies. 

The supreme court’s ruling – in a case came brought by parties seen as close to the government – complained that the congress had not named the authorities in time. The court did not give a timeline for hearing the case. 

“Today’s events obstruct the designation of the CNE,” said Juan Pablo Guanipa, an opposition lawmaker and vice president of the National Assembly, using the Spanish abbreviation for the national electoral council. “They are trying to name a CNE that will worsen the problems.” 

A loss of control of the national assembly by the opposition could complicate the standing of Juan Guaido, the national assembly president who is recognised as Venezuela’s legitimate president by dozens of countries, including the United States and most western democracies. Guaido invoked the constitution and claimed the role of interim president in January 2019, based on his position as leader of the legislative body. 

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Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling overturning stay-at-home order highlights widening US debate on pandemic – USA TODAY

, USA TODAY
Published 4:54 p.m. ET May 14, 2020 | Updated 5:46 p.m. ET May 14, 2020

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Protesters took to the streets around the Virginia State Capitol to show support for ending tight restrictions due to coronavirus pandemic

USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – The Wisconsin Supreme Court decision overturning the state’s stay-at-home orders added fuel Thursday to a widening U.S. debate over how and when to lift restrictions put in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

President Donald Trump in a tweet called the Wisconsin ruling a win for the state, adding that “people want to get on with their lives.” But Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, warned that the decision by the court – an elected body that tilts conservative – would put “public health and lives at serious risk.”

Across the country, tensions have flared as people experienced months of restrictions to combat a virus that has infected 1.4 million and killed more than 85,000. Health experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease specialist, have credited the lockdowns with saving lives and have said the death rate could march higher if the restrictions are eased too quickly.

But the stay-at-home orders have walloped the economy and sent the U.S. unemployment rate soaring to 14.7%, the highest level since the Great Depression.

Experts said the decision highlights the balance that officials face between public health and individual rights while grappling with how and when to reopen.

“The only response to the disease is something that grates at Americans’ sensibilities and national identity, which is personal freedom and personal liberty,” said Kent Greenfield, a law professor at Boston College. “The tensions are likely to grow as the summer heats up.”

Public health vs. individual liberties

Elizabeth Goitein, who co-directs the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program, said there have been a number of lawsuits in states exploring how to balance public health orders against individual rights.

“We’ve never seen restrictions imposed by a state for public health reasons as draconian as the ones we’re seeing now,” said Goitein, a former Justice Department lawyer and Senate counsel. “But there’s a reason for that. For many, many decades, we haven’t seen a public health threat as significant as what we’re seeing now. There’s always a balancing between public health and safety on the one hand, and individual liberties on the other hand.”

Activists, including some with rifles, have rallied against restrictions in states such as Michigan, Virginia and Texas.

Trump, who has encouraged protests, has made his call for a faster reopening central to his election-year campaign message.

Experts said the decision highlights the balance that officials face between public health and individual rights while grappling with how and when to reopen.

Until scientists develop a vaccine or better treatment, public health officials have said staying home, keeping at least 6 feet apart in public and avoiding large gatherings are the best ways to prevent the spread of the disease. At least 42 states adopted stay-at-home orders, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service.

AG Barr likens restrictions to house arrests

Attorney General William Barr told radio host Hugh Hewitt on April 22 that the Justice Department would review state restrictions for the virus that he likened to house arrest because “federal constitutional rights don’t go away in an emergency.”

But former Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday that the Wisconsin decision “callously puts lives at risk.”

Traditionally, police powers such as protecting public health and safety take priority over individual rights when the government can demonstrate a compelling reason for restrictions, experts said.

A New Hampshire court denied March 25 an emergency motion to overturn a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court refused April 13 to overturn restrictions from Gov. Tom Wolf in a case from four businesses and an individual who had argued he didn’t have the authority to close the businesses.

“The claims that people are making that their constitutional rights are being violated are not particularly strong, in my view,” Greenfield said. “That doesn’t mean they aren’t strong as a political or a cultural matter – they are quite strong as a cultural and political matter.”

The Wisconsin case was somewhat unusual because it pitted the Republican Legislature against the Democrat administration in a case decided by an elected Supreme Court. The same four justices who overturned the coronavirus restrictions also prevented Evers from postponing the state’s April 7 primary because of concerns about protecting the health of voters.

“These guys have been at loggerheads for a long time,” said Susan Sullivan Lagon, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute. “It’s a weird circumstance.”

Courts may continue to have a role in gauging restrictions as protesters are arrested. But legal experts said decisions will eventually become political for governors and legislatures to resolve.

“I think ultimately the question of when and whether states lift the restrictions will probably be more likely decided by politics than the courts,” Goitein said. “There are going to be plenty of states in which courts uphold these restrictions, but there may still be political pressure on governors to lift them.”

Greenfield said most courts would recognize the compelling interest in upholding restrictions. Polls suggest Americans remain concerned about the health threat, even as restrictions begin to ease.

“This is going to be mostly a political battle,” Greenfield said.

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Supreme Court sidesteps major ruling on 2nd Amendment after New York changes gun law – CNN

Washington (CNN)The Supreme Court on Monday sidestepped issuing a major ruling on a New York handgun law, a blow to gun rights advocates and the Trump administration, who had hoped the conservative majority would expand gun rights as early as this term.

The court’s action means that the Supreme Court has gone a decade without deciding a major 2nd Amendment case.
The case, which was argued in December, concerns a New York City law that regulates where licensed handgun owners can take a locked and unloaded handgun.
Monday’s order is a victory — for now — for supporters of gun regulations who feared the justices would take an idiosyncratic state law and use it as a vehicle to expand upon a landmark opinion by the late Justice Antonin Scalia from 2008 that held for the first time that an individual had a right to keep and bear arms at home for self-defense.
In an unsigned opinion, the court said on Monday that it sent the case back to the lower court because after the justices agreed to hear the dispute, the New York City law at issue was changed. The court directed a lower court to consider remaining claims from the challengers of the law.
Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas dissented.
The case marked the first major gun rights case heard by President Donald Trump’s two nominees. Gorsuch joined the dissent. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, on the other hand, said in a concurring opinion that while the court should sidestep the case at hand, he also agreed with the dissenters’ concerns that lower courts have been thumbing their noses at Supreme Court precedent on the 2nd Amendment and said the court should “address that issue soon.”
When the Supreme Court agreed to take up the case, the law blocked individuals from removing a handgun from the address listed on the license except to travel to nearby authorized small arms ranges or shooting clubs.
New York argued the rule was not a burden on 2nd Amendment rights and that it represented a reasonable means to protect public safety.
The New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, a gun owners group and individual plaintiffs challenged the law arguing that it was too restrictive and that a New Yorker could not transport his handgun to his “second home for the core constitutional purpose of self-defense or to an upstate county to participate in a shooting competition, or even across the bridge to a neighboring city for target practice.”
Lawyers for the Trump administration sided with the challengers, arguing that “few laws in our history have restricted the right to keep and bear arms as severely as this ban does.”
In a twist, after the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, the city allowed licensed owners to take handguns to other locations, including second homes or shooting ranges outside city limits. In addition, the State of New York amended its handgun licensing statute to require localities to allow licensed gun owners to engage in such transport.
As a result, New York argued the justices should dismiss the case.
Lawyers challenging the law countered that the only reason it was amended was supporters of gun regulations feared that the Supreme Court’s new conservative majority might use the idiosyncratic law to render a broad decision cutting back on gun restrictions.

An ‘epiphany of sorts,’ Alito says of New York

In his dissent, Alito expressed frustration that the court had declined to decide whether the city’s law violated the 2nd Amendment.
“Although the city had previously insisted that its ordinance served important public safety purposes, our grant of review apparently led to an epiphany of sorts, and the city quickly changed its ordinance,” Alito wrote.
Alito stressed that even though the law had been changed, those challenging it had not been provided with all the relief they sought.
“Petitioners got most, but not all, of the prospective relief they wanted,” Alito wrote, “and that means that the case is not dead.” He specifically noted their claims for damages.
Alito also took special aim at a “friend of the court” brief filed by Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and others, suggesting the senators had tried to intimidate the court.
“Five United States Senators, four of whom are members of the bar of this Court, filed a brief insisting that the case be dismissed,” Alito wrote.
Whitehouse had suggested that if the court did not dismiss the case, the public would believe the court was motivated by politics. “The Supreme Court is not well,” Whitehouse wrote. “Perhaps the Court can heal itself before the public demands it to be restructured in order to reduce the influence of politics.”
“If a case is on our docket and we have jurisdiction,” Alito retorted, “we have an obligation to decide it.”
Alito said he would have found that the New York City ordinance was unconstitutional and that it burdened the right to bear arms that was recognized in the court’s 2008 decision called District of Columbia v. Heller. He said there is “cause for concern” that lower courts are not abiding by that decision.
“History provides no supporter for a restriction of this type,” Alito said.
The gun-control groups Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund and Moms Demand Action welcomed the court’s decision on Monday, with Everytown President John Feinblatt saying in a statement that the court “just thwarted the gun lobby’s hope for a broad ruling that could slow the gun safety movement’s growing momentum.”
UPDATE: This story has been updated with additional information from the ruling.

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Supreme Court rules government must pay billions to Obamacare insurers – POLITICO

The high court agreed with insurers that the congressional spending restrictions didn’t release the government from its original promise to fund the Obamacare program. The court said Congress had created “a rare money-mandating obligation” that later appropriations language couldn’t repeal.

“These holdings reflect a principle as old as the Nation itself: The Government should honor its obligations,” wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor in the majority opinion.

Justice Samuel Alito, in a dissenting opinion, criticized the ruling as effectively providing a massive bailout for the insurance industry.

“Under the court’s decision, billions of taxpayer dollars will be turned over to insurance companies that bet unsuccessfully on the success of the program in question,” Alito wrote.

The decision will have little impact on Obamacare. The law faces a legal threat in a separate case brought by Republican-led states challenging the law’s constitutionality, which the Supreme Court has agreed to hear, likely later this year. But the ruling represents a loss for the Trump administration, which argued it wasn’t obligated to make the risk corridor payments and is supporting the red states’ lawsuit.

The three-year risk corridors program closed in 2016. Insurance experts said the program’s $12 billion shortfall contributed to turbulence in Obamacare’s early years, as health plans jacked up premiums to cover their losses or abandoned the marketplaces.

The Supreme Court case consolidated lawsuits brought by three small insurers, including one that blamed the risk corridors shortfall for its collapse in 2016. Today’s decision will also benefit insurers who brought dozens of identical lawsuits in lower courts.

The decision was a “resounding win” for health insurers, but it also raised new questions about what comes next, said Katie Keith, a Georgetown University law professor and expert on the health care law. Those questions include when the money will go out and how the federal government will distribute the funds.

The justices tasked the lower courts with figuring out the nuts and bolts of the settlement, which will add to the delay in insurers receiving the money.

There are also ongoing legal fights over federally funded nonprofit insurance start-ups. Many of these insurers, known as co-ops, shuttered in the law’s early years partly because they didn’t receive the risk corridor funds they expected. Some of those defunct health plans turned to hedge funds to help them finance their lawsuits in exchange for a piece of the damages if the Supreme Court ruled in their favor.

Insurers hope the decision will also bolster the industry in another pipeline of litigation challenging President Donald Trump’s elimination of a separate Obamacare subsidy program in 2017.

Insurers have filed numerous lawsuits, including a class action suit involving about 100 Obamacare plans, claiming that the federal government broke its promise to fund these so-called cost-sharing reductions, which helped insurers pay poor customers’ medical bills. Those lawsuits have so far been successful in lower courts, but appellate judges who heard arguments last year appeared skeptical of the insurers’ case.

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