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Japan’s top court says government not responsible for Fukushima damage

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant following a strong earthquake, in Okuma town, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, on March 17, 2022.

TokyoJapan’s government is not liable for damages demanded by people whose lives were devastated by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the country’s top court said on Friday, the first such ruling in a series of similar cases.

The ruling’s effect as a precedent will be closely watched, media said.
A massive tsunami set off by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake off Japan’s northeastern coast on March 11, 2011 struck the Fukushima Daiichi power plant of Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), causing the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl and forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes.
Plaintiffs demanded damages from both Tepco and the country in several class-action lawsuits, and in March the Supreme Court upheld an order for Tepco to pay damages of 1.4 billion yen to about 3,700 people.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno declined direct comment when asked about the ruling at a news conference, though he said he was aware of it.
“Regardless of the ruling, we will stay close to those affected by the disaster and keep on doing our utmost for Fukushima’s reconstruction and revival,” he said.
About 470,000 people were forced to evacuate in the first days after the disaster, and tens of thousands remain unable to return even now.
Lower courts had split over the extent of the government’s responsibility in foreseeing the disaster and ordering Tepco to take steps to prevent it.

Pakistan’s top court rules that blocking a no-confidence vote against Imran Khan was unconstitutional

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during an interview with Reuters in Islamabad, Pakistan June 4, 2021.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court has ruled that a decision to block a vote of no-confidence against Prime Minister Imran Khan was unconstitutional, with legislators now set to vote on Saturday.

The Supreme Court reached the unanimous decision after special proceedings that stretched to four days while Khan and his loyalist President Arif Alvi had steamrolled a process to start early elections. The Supreme Court also red wing shoes quashed Khan’s order to dissolve parliament and call for early elections, calling it of “no legal effect.”
A vote of confidence for Khan will now be held on Saturday at 10:30am local (1:30a ET).
Khan had called the election in a dramatic attempt to cling to power after the deputy speaker of parliament blocked a vote of no-confidence against him last Sunday, which had appeared almost certain to succeed.
Supporters of Prime Minister Imran Khan chant slogans during a protest in Islamabad, Pakistan, Sunday, April 3, 2022.

Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri said that he had acted to prevent a ‘foreign conspiracy’ to unseat Khan’s regime.
That move, and Khan’s subsequent dissolution of parliament, enraged an opposition that for months have been demanding his removal over claims of poor governance and economic mismanagement.
The opposition responded by accusing Khan of treason and asking the country’s highest court to rule on whether the prime minister had breached the constitution.
The court battle is the latest escalation in a crisis that has been smoldering for weeks, with Khan already having lost the backing of key political allies and the country’s powerful military.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan calls for early election after no-confidence vote dismissed
Military spokesperson Maj. Gen. Babar Iftikhar moved to distance the country’s military from developments in a statement Sunday, insisting it was not involved in what is “purely a political situation.”
Pakistan, a nation of 220 million, has struggled with political instability since its formation in 1947 with multiple regime changes and military coups. No prime minister has ever completed a full five-year term under the present constitution of 1973.
The country’s main opposition parties have been rallying for Khan’s dismissal since he rose to power in 2018 after an election mired in coach outlet accusations of vote rigging and foul play.
More recently, he has been dogged by claims of economic mismanagement as his government battles depleting foreign exchange reserves and double-digit inflation, with the cost of basic necessities such as food and fuel skyrocketing.
Khan’s response has been to double down on claims that opposition to him is being fueled by the United States. He has not offered any evidence to support his claims, and the State Department has denied the allegations.

Another testy Supreme Court battle is the last thing America needs — but it’s probably what lies ahead

The last thing an internally estranged America needs is an alienating Supreme Court confirmation battle. But that’s almost certainly what lies ahead following Justice Stephen Breyer’s decision to retire.

President Joe Biden’s first high court pick will create a moment of promise for a struggling administration, offers Senate Democrats a badly needed shot at unity and could shatter another glass ceiling since Biden plans to nominate a Black woman.
And despite the narrowness of their Senate majority, it should be reasonably simple for Democrats to confirm a new justice swiftly, without any Republican votes, before they risk losing the chamber in the midterm elections.
A drama-free Supreme Court process could enhance the tattered image of Congress, help a President whose approval ratings are tumbling and do some good to the tarnished reputation of a court increasingly tangled in politics. And since replacing Breyer, a liberal, will not shift the court’s 6-3 conservative balance, it might seem that the stakes are lower this time.
Inside Biden's calculated silence on Breyer's retirement
But such hopes ignore the corrosive impact of recent nomination fights — which ended with Democrats accusing the GOP of stealing seats and conservatives claiming nominees endured character assassination. Then there are legacy scars of Supreme Court battles deeper in the past, some involving the President himself, which may have some conservatives plotting revenge.
Political fury that has raged through the fight against Covid-19 has meanwhile brewed a fetid political mood hardly conducive to magnanimous hearings. And the midterm elections in November mean that senators have every incentive to play to the most fervent activist voters in each party before the television cameras.
An ideological docket breeds political discord
Another reason why a smooth confirmation process is unlikely is the growing prominence of the court itself in American political life. The idea that the Supreme Court is above politics has always been something of a myth. But hoka shoes dominating the high court has been a fundamental goal of the conservative movement for several decades.
So it’s not surprising that the successful campaign has hurt justices’ reputations for impartiality. And the new majority is being used in nakedly partisan ways, with Republican attorneys general seeking to fast-track cases to its marbled chamber on the most polarizing issues, including on abortion, the government’s powers to fight the pandemic and gun control. Former President Donald Trump tried to drag the court into his delusional claims of election fraud and the investigation into the January 6 insurrection — both subjects that have left it exposed to bitter winds of partisanship.
Here's how long it's taken to confirm past Supreme Court justices
All of this will inject an even more politicized tone into the next justice’s confirmation hearings. It could lead grandstanding senators from both sides to seek politically motivated assurances that could further the impression that the court is now populated by partisans.
Supreme Court nominees these days are highly prepared — and by their nature are adept at dodging leading questions. But still, Republicans are likely to seek answers on issues like firearms laws that the nominee will be wise to avoid. And progressive senators might ask a nominee in a hearing for their positions on abortion with Roe v. Wade, the landmark case affirming a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy, under siege at the Supreme Court. While such exchanges are unlikely to thwart a nomination, they will inevitably drag Biden’s pick onto treacherous ground.
Democrats get a do-over
The coming weeks will test the competence of Democrats to get things done while in control in Washington.
Despite some early wins, a White House that ran on fixing problems and congressional Democrats have developed a propensity for shooting themselves in the foot. There is growing criticism of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s political tactics following the stalling of Biden’s Build Back Better climate and social spending plan and sweeping Democratic voting rights bills. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who were roadblocks on those bills, have never voted against a Biden judicial nominee so it would be a surprise if the Democratic coalition splits. But party leaders have learned the perilous nature of a 50-50 Senate majority. And an ill-timed death or serious illness among the Senate’s aged band of Democrats could seriously delay or even jeopardize the confirmation process.
Joe Biden's 2022 just got a lot better
Biden does have one highly effective weapon in his arsenal as he begins his selection process — his chief of staff Ron Klain, who masterminded Supreme Court nominations in the Clinton and Obama administrations. Klain has faced criticism during Biden’s administration, as the White House has stumbled, including on the pandemic and during the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. So the nomination is an opportunity for him to revive his standing in Washington and to deliver the President a much needed win that could reenergize Democrats as tough midterm elections loom in November.
Republicans can still cause headaches
No Supreme Court nomination struggle would be complete without the looming shadow of Republican leader Mitch McConnell. Since he’s in the minority, McConnell seems to lack the power to derail Biden’s first pick. But mangling Democratic Supreme Court hopes is his vocation and he used all kinds of procedural chicanery to seat a generational conservative majority on the top bench — indisputably the top achievement of Trump’s presidency.
The wily Kentuckian and the conservative legal establishment that built the current court do have the power to make seating a new justice a painful olukai shoes ordeal. In the first taste of the partisan combat to come, Carrie Severino, president of the Judicial Crisis Network, had this first reaction to Wednesday’s Washington bombshell: “The Left bullied Justice Breyer into retirement and now it will demand a justice who rubber stamps its liberal political agenda.”
“And that’s what the Democrats will give them, because they’re beholden to the dark money supporters who helped elect them,” Severino added.
Biden’s past could come back to haunt him
The current Supreme Court nomination process is unusual in that the nominee will be chosen by a President who has been embroiled in controversial Supreme Court nomination battles.
Biden, as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was instrumental in the blocking of President Ronald Reagan’s nominee, Judge Robert Bork, to the court in 1987. Democrats faulted the ultra-conservative for what they saw as prejudiced views toward the rights of Black Americans and women. But conservatives have long reviled Biden for his defeat of the nomination and many of them date the hyper-politicized trend in nomination battles to that moment. Conservatives with long memories, therefore, have every motive to give Biden’s first nominee a hard time in confrontations that will draw right-wing media attention and claims of double standards if liberals complain.
Biden said he'd put a Black woman on the Supreme Court. Here's who he may pick to replace Breyer
That’s the case even if Biden was heavily criticized from the left a few years after the Bork showdown over his treatment of Anita Hill, a law professor who alleged sexual harassment by Clarence Thomas, who has since gone on to be a conservative hero on the court.
Some Republicans may also seek retribution on a Democratic Supreme Court nominee for the treatment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who endured the most searing confirmation fight in decades. Kavanaugh faced allegations of sexual misconduct dating from the 1980s, which he forcibly denied in emotional, angry hearings before the Trump administration and McConnell secured his confirmation.
The refusal of Trump to leave the political scene is also likely to raise political temperatures around the hearings, since the former President is a master at seizing on events that fuel his culture war narratives.
It is a sad commentary on the bitterness of the current era that the nomination of a Black woman, in what promises to be a moving historic moment, could also spark racist and sexist debate. It would not be surprising to hear accusations of tokenism against Biden from the more radical sectors of the conservative media ecosystem as he seeks to make history with his high court appointment. Former President Barack Obama’s first hey dude court pick, Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic woman to reach the top bench, attracted such prejudice despite her distinguished public and legal career. Any Supreme Court nominee in the modern era must expect extraordinary scrutiny of their personal, financial and professional lives. But the cross-examinations of the first Black woman Supreme Court nominee are likely to underscore some of America’s enduring prejudices.
The justice that the new nominee, whoever she is, will replace, is renowned for temperance, moderation, courtliness and a willingness to seek common ground with his ideological opposites.
Breyer is an anachronism in modern Washington, where such qualities are now all but extinct. That is why it’s questionable whether Biden, Congress, the court and America itself will emerge with reputations enhanced from a process that in the end may only worsen the national funk.

House panel asks Supreme Court to say by mid-January whether it’s taking Trump’s January 6 records case

Former President Donald Trump appealed to the Supreme Court on Thursday to block the release of documents from his White House to the House committee investigating the January 6 riot at the Capitol, escalating his effort to keep about 700 pages of records secret.

Hours after Trump’s request was filed, the House olukai shoes committee asked the justices to expedite their consideration of the request, with a proposed schedule that would allow the court to say by the middle of next month whether it was taking up the case.
The committee, which is charged with investigating the US Capitol attack to provide recommendations for preventing such assaults in the future, seeks the documents as it explores Trump’s role in trying to overturn the election. That includes his appearance at a January 6 rally when he directed followers to go to the Capitol where lawmakers were set to certify the election results and “fight” for their county. The documents are currently held by the National Archives.
Then-President Donald Trump walks from Marine One after arriving on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, October 1, 2020, following campaign events in New Jersey.
In filings submitted to the Supreme Court on Thursday, Trump asked the justices to take up a full review of the case and he requested that while they consider his position, they put a hold on the lower court decision permitting the disclosure of his records while they consider taking up the case.
“The limited interest the Committee may have in immediately obtaining the requested records pales in comparison to President Trump’s interest in securing judicial review before he suffers irreparable harm,” Trump’s lawyers wrote in the court filings.

Records could answer longstanding questions about riot

At issue are hundreds of documents including activity logs, schedules, speech notes and three pages of handwritten notes from then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows — paperwork that could reveal goings-on inside the West Wing as Trump supporters gathered in Washington and then overran the US Capitol, disrupting the certification of the 2020 vote. The records could answer some of the most closely guarded facts of what happened hoka shoes for women between Trump and other high-level officials, including those under siege on Capitol Hill on January 6.
Trump is also seeking to keep secret a draft proclamation honoring two police officers who died in the siege and memos and other documents about supposed election fraud and efforts to overturn Trump’s loss of the presidency, the National Archives has said in court documents.
In its expedition request Thursday evening, the House committee said that any delay in the Supreme Court’s consideration would “inflict a serious injury on the Select Committee and the public.”
“The Select Committee needs the requested documents now to help shape the direction of the investigation and allow the Select Committee to timely recommend remedial legislation,” the panel said. It said the committee and the Biden administration would file by December 30 their responses to Trump’s request that the Supreme Court take up the case. The lawmakers are asking the Supreme Court to consider during its January 14 conference whether it will take up the case.
The fight over the documents stems from a lawsuit Trump filed against the Archives as well as the House committee, seeking to stop the records’ disclosure. Trump is arguing that those documents should remain secret under the former President’s own assertions of executive privilege, though so far, lower courts have rejected his arguments.
Thursday’s filing with the Supreme Court marks an escalation of the dispute, in which President Joe Biden has determined that withholding the documents based on executive privilege is not in the interest of the United States. In a letter to the National Archives in October, White House Counsel Dana A. Remus said that the President had declined to assert privilege because Congress has a “compelling need in service of its legislative functions to understand the circumstances that led to these horrific events.”
In their filings with the Supreme Court Thursday, the former President’s lawyers said that the House’s request for the Trump White House documents was “untethered from any valid legislative purpose and exceeds the authority of Congress under the Constitution and the Presidential Records Act.”
Trump told the Supreme Court that the case posed “novel and important questions of law that the Court should resolve.”
“While the protections of executive privilege and restrictions on access to presidential records are qualified, it is critical that future Presidents and their advisers understand the contours and perimeters of that privilege—and its exceptions—after the conclusion of a presidential term,” Trump said in his request that the court take up the case.
Arguments rejected by lower courts
Previously, both a district court judge and the DC US Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Trump’s arguments in decisions that backed the legitimacy of the document requests and the investigation more broadly.
“Former President Trump has given this court no hoka shoes legal reason to cast aside President Biden’s assessment of the Executive Branch interests at stake, or to create a separation of powers conflict that the Political Branches have avoided,” the DC Circuit said in its opinion earlier this month. In its December 9 ruling against Trump, the appeals court gave him 14 days to request a Supreme Court intervention.
In his application with Chief Justice John Roberts — who oversees emergency matters arising from the DC Circuit — to put the appeals court decision on hold, Trump said that allowing for the documents to be released before the Supreme Court considered the case would “detrimentally impact Presidential decisionmaking for all future Presidents.”
“There will not be another Presidential transition for more than three years; Congress has time to allow this Court to consider this expedited appeal,” Trump wrote in the filing.
Left unsaid was that Republicans are expected to take control of the House in next year’s election and would likely end the House select committee’s investigation.

Democrats walk on eggshells around Breyer as GOP plans another blockade for any Biden Supreme Court pick

Senate Republicans are poised to deny President Joe Biden an appointment to the Supreme Court if they take the majority in the 2022 midterm elections.

Five Republican senators raised the stakes around Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement, telling CNN they’d oppose any likely nominee out of this White House.
But Democrats in the Senate and the White House, though they’ve come off the November elections more worried in recent weeks about a potential wipeout in the midterms, are still avoiding calling directly for Breyer to quit, fearing that it would backfire and encourage the 83-year-old to stay on the bench.
Breyer has told several people who’ve made unofficial efforts to push him to retire that he thinks the confirmation process shouldn’t be political, according to people told of those discussions, and Democrats worry he’d remain as an act of resistance to show he’s not bowing to politics.
Still, top Democrats across Washington would like Breyer to announce he’s going even before the end of the court term in June, so they can get moving on confirmation hearings well before the midterms. More than the political calendar is on their minds — with their 50-50 margin and several aging Senate Democrats coming from states with Republican governors, they head into the new year fearing that their control of the chamber could collapse at any moment.
Stephen Breyer says now isn't the time to lose faith in the Supreme Court
Privately, multiple Senate Democrats complain that Breyer seems to have let his ego overtake him and he is not being realistic to how radically Supreme Court confirmation politics has changed in the last five years.
Publicly, they continue to approach Breyer gingerly. Asked if the 50-50 Senate divide, the health of his colleagues and Breyer’s own health should accelerate the justice’s timeline, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse chose his words carefully, noting that he’d deliberately avoided calling for Breyer’s retirement.
“I would hope,” the Rhode Island Democrat finally said, “the choice and its consequences are apparent to the justice.”
And the White House is stuck in the middle, with the President adamant that Breyer should get to make his own decision.
Biden has so far avoided the kind of pressure that Barack Obama tried to exert on Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2013, when the President hosted the aging justice at the White House for lunch to nudge her toward the exit. But in the West Wing and among civil rights leaders, the frustration is about more than just a Supreme Court seat: every day that Breyer remains on the bench is a day that Biden isn’t able to fulfill his campaign pledge to nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court.
Members of the Supreme Court pose for a group photo in April.

There are also the political considerations, with Democrats eager to excite their base ahead of next year’s elections.
“The President made a bold commitment,” said National Urban League President Marc Morial. “I hope it would add to the thinking to make that kind of history.”

Republicans ready for replay of Merrick Garland pick

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans aren’t shy about laying out how they’d handle a nomination from Biden if they take the majority: They wouldn’t.
“You know what the rule is on that,” said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee. “You go back to 1886 and ever since then, when the Senate’s been of one party and the president’s been of another party, you didn’t confirm.”
There is no such rule.
Senate Republicans have invoked a number of what they call “rules” in recent years to explain, for example, refusing to hold confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland, the now-attorney general who was Obama’s choice to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, or their rushing to confirm Justice Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump’s choice to replace Ginsburg.
But the then-Democratic majority Senate voted to confirm President Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Anthony Kennedy in 1988 and President George H.W. Bush’s nomination of David Souter in 1990 and Clarence Thomas in 1991, all while Grassley was in the Senate. Back then, the Judiciary Committee chairman was a senator from Delaware named Joe Biden.
While Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has sought to downplay this talk — “I’m not going to start talking about what might happen if I’m the majority leader,” he said last week when asked about Supreme Court nominations — he was the mastermind of the GOP efforts to upend the confirmation process to seize seats. And many of his members were more willing to discuss where this is headed, particularly if the seat were to come open in 2023 or 2024, when they would use being in a presidential election cycle to make a similar justification for stonewalling a pick as McConnell did in 2016.
Then-President Barack Obama joins then-Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland during his nomination announcement in March 2016.

“Constitutionally, the Senate has an obligation to advise and consent. The Senate can take up nominations when it wants to,” said GOP Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri.
Not that most Republicans could imagine supporting a Biden nominee at any point.
“Given the pattern of judicial nominees he’s put forward so far, he keeps being captive to the radical left in his party. If he nominated a radical leftist justice who would ignore the rule of law and undermine our constitutional rights, I can’t imagine a Republican Senate would confirm an extreme justice,” said Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
Sen. Thom Tillis, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said Republicans would make a choice if they didn’t like a Biden pick: “Either don’t move on him or have him fail in committee.”
“It’s not our intention to rubber stamp nominees,” the North Carolina Republican said.
McConnell's Supreme Court
Sen. John Cornyn, who sits on the committee but also is a member of leadership, said how the GOP would act on a nominee depends on when a vacancy would occur.
“Usually if we are in the majority and Biden is still in office, what that produces is a negotiation,” the Texas Republican said. “I haven’t really thought about filing the vacancy or not, so I think a lot of that has to do when in that two years of time it occurs.”
Cornyn added: “The later it occurs in his term, the less likely it will be; the earlier, more likely.”
Sens. John Kennedy of Louisiana and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, both Judiciary Committee members, declined to comment on whether they’d be willing to consider a Biden nominee for the Supreme Court. When asked if there’s a Biden nominee he could envision supporting, Cotton suppressed a chuckle.

Democrats scramble for a response

Democrats have struggled to respond to Republicans’ escalation of Supreme Court partisan warfare.
Many who presume Breyer will announce that he’s retiring in June also presumed he was going to announce he’d quit this past June. He’s been on the court since 1994, confirmed a few months before the massive Republican wave in that year’s midterms, and is quickly moving up the ranks of the longest serving justices ever (he’s currently at No. 23).
“I’m deeply concerned,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat who’s a member of the Judiciary Committee, said when asked about a Breyer retirement in a GOP majority. “In effect, the threat of Republican control in the Senate is a dagger aimed at the heart of the Supreme Court, which would be potentially out of balance and out of the mainstream if there are more right-wing ideologues appointed.”
Blumenthal said he is not urging Breyer to retire but added: “I’m just hoping he assesses as strategically and intelligently as I know he will do … the potential dangers of a GOP majority.”
Justice Stephen Breyer speaks during an interview on "The David Rubenstein Show" in New York, in September.

In public interviews in recent months, Breyer has also downplayed America’s current divisions, arguing the country has survived other tough times in the past.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, often talks to colleagues about how they’re “a heartbeat” away from the minority with the current 50-50 Senate. Privately, multiple Democratic senators acknowledge that — with seven of their members over age 70 coming from states with Republican governors who’d get to appoint replacements — they worry how right, literally, he’ll turn out to be.
Those senators include Sens. Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy from Vermont, who are both over 80 and have been suddenly hospitalized in recent years — Sanders for his heart attack in October 2019 and Leahy for feeling “unwell” last January.
“Absolutely,” said Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, when asked if it were a real worry when looking around at the number of his aging colleagues from states with Republican governors. “No question about it.”
A spokesman for Leahy, who as the then-Judiciary Committee chairman tried to encourage Ginsburg to step down before Obama invited her to lunch to ramp up the pressure, didn’t respond to an emailed question about whether the senator thinks Breyer should step down now. But Leahy’s announcement last month that he won’t seek another term has only increased anxiety about his health among colleagues.
Not only did Republicans seize the opportunities created by Scalia’s and Ginsburg’s deaths, but Trump’s White House counsel carefully worked Kennedy to retire on their timeline ahead of the 2018 midterms, assuring him that he’d want to guarantee that another conservative took his spot.
The secret Supreme Court: Late nights, courtesy votes and the unwritten 6-vote rule
“Clearly the examples of Justice Ginsburg and Justice Kennedy put in very plain relief what the difference can be for the make-up of the court,” said Whitehouse, the Rhode Island Democrat who’s become a leading voice for changes at the Supreme Court.
“Breyer may pine for a time that never was — a fantasy era when judicial selection wasn’t political,” said Robert Raben, an assistant attorney general in the Clinton administration who has since become an advocate for increasing diversity on the bench. “That’s a chimera, and we on the left need to accept the fact that if you’re assigned a bill number and marked up in a committee, it’s politics.”
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar told CNN over the summer that she hoped Breyer would retire “sooner rather than later.” Those feelings have spread and intensified among her colleagues in the months since, and Senate Democratic leaders have already had preliminary discussions about how they would conduct a confirmation process, according to people involved.

A close eye on Breyer

When Breyer sat for a round of interviews this summer to promote his new book, White House aides carefully parsed his answers about potential retirement, including when he told CNN that both his health and his new position as the court’s senior liberal would weigh on his thinking. Later he expanded further to the New York Times, saying he would factor in who was choosing his successor when making a decision about stepping down.
Justice Breyer says return to in-person Supreme Court arguments is a 'big improvement'
The comments led to rounds of speculation among some Biden advisers of what Breyer’s intentions really were as it became clear the justice would not retire ahead of this year’s term. Some viewed the comments as a sign he was taking into consideration the make up of the Senate.
Asked in October about calls for him to retire while the Democrats were secure in their Senate majority, Breyer told CNN, “That’s their point of view,” adding, “I think I have most of the considerations in mind. I simply have to weigh them and think about them and decide when the proper time is.”
Breyer said he does not want to die on the court. Presented with the history of previous justices giving early word of their retirements to presidents, Breyer said, “I’ve looked through the various practices.” In some years, justices who are planning to retire at the end of the term have told the president several months ahead of time.
Still, among many Democrats close to and inside the White House, Breyer’s decision to remain on the bench this year was a serious disappointment. Inside the White House, the prospect of a Breyer retirement has been simmering underneath the surface since nearly the moment Biden took office.
Among other factors, it’s hard to press an 83-year-old justice to retire when Biden says he’s planning to run for reelection when he will be in his early 80s himself.
Then-Supreme Court Justice nominee Stephen Breyer meets with then-Sen. Joe Biden meet in Biden's office on Capitol Hill in May 1994.

Various candidates to replace Breyer have been suggested to Dana Remus, the White House counsel, by Democrats close to Biden, who are eager to put forward names. Biden allies have also approached Vice President Kamala Harris and members of her team with candidates. There’s even been outside rumor mongering that Biden could appoint Harris.
Among members of Biden’s senior team, at least one maintains a close connection to Breyer: national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who clerked for the justice in the early 2000s. Sullivan’s wife, Maggie Goodlander, also clerked for Breyer three years ago and Breyer attended their wedding on the campus of Yale Law School in 2015.
White House chief of staff Ron Klain, who was a top Senate Judiciary Committee staffer under Biden and has been hyper-focused on judicial nominations since the beginning of this presidency, has a decades-long friendship with Justice Elena Kagan, one Breyer’s few fellow liberals still on the court.
Thinking back on that lunch attempting to nudge Ginsburg in 2013, several Obama aides note that the former President turned out to be justified in his interest in seeing her retire while Democrats had the majority.
Biden has insisted on a more hands-off approach to Breyer.
“The President’s view is that any considerations about potential retirements are solely and entirely up to justices themselves,” said White House spokesman Andrew Bates. Anxiety about potential backfire from pushing Breyer to retire also comes up often in discussions with top West Wing aides, according to several who’ve had those conversation.
Most of the speculation on a potential pick focuses on Ketanji Brown Jackson, confirmed this spring for the DC circuit court of appeals, a traditional feeder for the Supreme Court. A former Breyer clerk, she has already been vetted by the Biden team and interviewed by the President and has been supported in the past by former House Speaker Paul Ryan, a prominent Republican who is related to her by marriage.
California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger is also discussed. She is seen as helped by being well liked among the alumni of the solicitor general’s office, where she was a top official in the Obama administration. She has not, however, been as thoroughly vetted.
Biden Supreme Court commission's draft report details 'profound' disagreement over adding seats to bench
Other names currently circulating: Minnesota district court Judge Mimi Wright, outgoing NAACP Legal Defense Fund President Sherrilyn Ifill, Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Eunice Lee, Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, and J. Michelle Childs, a South Carolina judge who’s been pushed by House Majority Whip James Clyburn and whose nomination is currently pending for a Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals seat. Clyburn, notably, gave Biden the endorsement that helped salvage his campaign in the 2020 primaries after getting him to promise to appoint a Black woman.
Clyburn, who has previously said he didn’t think it was his place to call for Breyer’s retirement (and who’s 81 himself), is sticking by that position, according to an aide.

Process becomes a problem

Even if Breyer announces his retirement in the spring and they’re still in the majority, Democratic senators and top aides on Capitol Hill worry about how long confirmation could take, between the regular order of the process and expected GOP efforts to slow it down.
Republicans “use power maximally especially as it relates to the judiciary, and I think we should expect nothing different going forward,” said Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii.
And, as with everything these days, Democrats worry about securing votes from Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
The current Supreme Court's partisan moment rivals Bush v. Gore
Republicans have also proven much more adept at activating their base voters around Supreme Court confirmations, whether when Scalia’s seat was in the balance in the 2016 elections, when Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings exploded ahead of the 2018 elections or when Barrett was rushed onto the bench ahead of the 2020 elections.
Democrats warn against thinking that they’d be the ones who would benefit politically from a retirement ahead of an election, even with a historic pick and potentially momentous abortion ruling motivating their base. The threat to Roe. v. Wade is another reason why they want Breyer to announce he’s leaving ahead of schedule.
“Securing the seat is more important than trying to be cute about the timing for some midterm impact,” said Brian Fallon, the executive director of Demand Justice, a Democratic group focused on judicial nominations.
In 2016, McConnell’s refusal to at least give confirmation hearings to Obama’s nominee left the seat open for almost a year, enraging Senate Democrats and making several of his own Republican members deeply uncomfortable.
Republicans say they’re now ready to leave a seat open for years, if that’s what it would take to wait out a Democrat in the White House. And the stakes could get even higher, if future election challenges make their way to the Supreme Court, which would have an even number of justices if Breyer is no longer in his spot.
Sen. Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican who doesn’t sit on the committee, believes it’s “unlikely” Republicans would keep a seat vacant for two years.
“I would presume we’d go for the hearings and make a decision,” Romney said. “By the way, we might vote no, but we might as well have a hearing and make a decision.”
Multiple Republican senators say they’d rather avoid the kind of showdown that a retirement would set off in a GOP majority, or in a presidential election year — or both.
“If he’s going to retire, he needs to retire next year,” said South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, the former Judiciary Committee chairman. “It would be a lot easier.”

South Africa’s High Court orders former president Zuma to go back to jail

Jacob Zuma has been ordered to return to prison.

Elizabeth Warren calls for expansion of Supreme Court, saying current court is a threat to democracy

Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts

Supreme Court lets Texas abortion law continue but says providers can sue

The Supreme Court left in place Friday a Texas abortion law that bars the procedure after the first six weeks of pregnancy, but the justices said that abortion providers have the right to challenge the law in federal court.

The court’s action means that the case will return to a district court for further proceedings, but it may still be difficult for providers to open their doors again.
It provides a narrow victory for the abortion clinics, allowing them to get into court. But at the same time, the court limited which state officials could be sued by the providers, which could make it difficult for the providers to resume providing abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy.
Supreme Court lets Texas abortion law continue but says providers can sue
Federal judge overturns California's ban on assault weapons and likens AR-15 to Swiss Army knife
In statements after the decision came down, the abortion advocates who had challenged the law painted the Supreme Court’s decision as a disappointment for how it will hinder the clinics’ ability to continue to fight the ban in court.
“While the Court did not put a complete end to our legal challenge, its failure to stop Texas’s deliberate nullification of the constitutional right to abortion within its borders makes the Court complicit in widespread chaos and harm to Texans, and responsible for giving the green light for other states to circumvent the constitution through copycat laws,” Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.
The question of whom providers’ can sue in the federal court — nfl jerseys while seemingly technical — could be hugely consequential in the abortion advocates’ efforts to block the law in a way that will let abortions resume after six weeks. By limiting whom abortion providers can sue, the Supreme Court left open the possibility that the abortion providers may ultimately win ruling in their favor, but because it only blocks those select officials from enforcing the law, it won’t be enough to allow clinics to reopen their doors.
That is because of the six-week ban’s novel enforcement mechanism. The law allows private citizens — from anywhere in the country — to bring civil suits against anyone who assists a pregnant person seeking an abortion in violation of the law.
If lower courts are only allowed to issue orders blocking the select state officials from enforcing the ban, it is unclear if that will be enough to allow clinics to resume the procedure, as they might still face state court litigation from private citizens seeking to enforce the ban.
“The providers won in the sense that their challenge to SB8 is allowed to go forward against these state licensing officials, but more importantly, they lost in the sense that they can’t sue anyone else — so that even if their suit succeeds, it’s unlikely to provide them with the relief they need to reopen their doors, that is, to prevent future lawsuits against them for performing abortion,” said Steve Vladeck, a CNN legal analyst and a professor of law at the University of Texas School.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, writing for her liberal colleagues, said the court should have gone much further, and blocked the law from going into effect when it had the chance back in September while the appeals process played out.
“The Court should have put an end to this madness months ago, before S. B. 8 first went into effect,” she said.
Sotomayor said it was a good thing that the challengers would be able to go into court to challenge the law and that she hoped that a district court would “act expeditiously” to enter the relief.
But, she said, because the court limited which officials could be sued, it will make the legal challenges more difficult to bring, which in turn, could make it more difficult for the providers to open their doors again.
She claimed that the Supreme Court, by the limits it put on who could be sued in court, “effectively” invited other states to use the law as a model to nullify other federal rights, asserting that, “The Court thus betrays not only the citizens of Texas, but also our constitutional system of government.”
The court’s order came after oral arguments where two of the court’s conservative justices called into question Texas’ argument that the law hoka shoes could not be challenged by either abortion providers or the Biden administration in federal court.
The law has been in effect for more than three months.
On September 1, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, allowed the law to go into effect while the appeals process played out with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the liberals in a dissent. Since then, women in Texas have scrambled across state borders to obtain the procedure and poor women — without the means to travel — were left with few options.
In this latest decision, court said in an 8-1 vote that abortion providers should be allowed to sue in federal court, with only Justice Clarence Thomas saying in a dissent that he would have thrown out the providers’ case.
By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority said that the providers could not sue state court clerks, as clinics had sought to do in their efforts to short-circuit the private state court litigation that could be brought against them for violating the six-week ban. Chief Justice John Roberts said that the Court should have allowed lawsuits to proceed against those and other officials.
“Court clerks, of course, do not ‘usually’ enforce a State’s laws,” Roberts wrote in a dissent joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor. “But by design, the mere threat of even unsuccessful suits brought under S. B. 8 chills constitutionally protected conduct, given the peculiar rules that the State has imposed.” He was deeply critical of the law which he said had a “clear purpose and actual effect” to “nullify this Court’s rulings, as he stressed that other states –inspired by the Texas law—could target other constitutional rights.
“If the legislatures of the several states may, at will, annul the judgments of the courts of the United States, and destroy the rights acquired under those judgments, the constitution itself becomes a solemn mockery,” he wrote.
Writing for the majority, Justice Neil Gorsuch defended the limits that the court put on whom the providers can sue.
“This Court has never recognized an unqualified right to pre-enforcement review of constitutional claims in federal court,” Gorsuch wrote.
He pushed back on warnings from Sotomayor, in her own dissent, that other states may now mimic the states’ approach.
“Doesn’t that possibility justify throwing aside our traditional rules?” Gorsuch asked rhetorically. “It does not. If other States pass similar legislation, pre-enforcement challenges like the one the Court approves today may be available in federal court to test the constitutionality of those laws.”
The court on Friday also issued an unsigned order dismissing a separate lawsuit brought by the Justice Department in its own challenge to Texas’ six-week abortion ban. Justice Sotomayor dissented from that decision.
“The Department of Justice brought suit against Texas Senate Bill 8 because the law was specifically designed to deprive Americans of their constitutional rights while evading judicial review,” Justice Department spokesperson Anthony Coley said in a statement after the decision came down. “The department will continue our efforts in the lower courts to protect the rights of women and uphold the Constitution.”
When oral arguments in both the DOJ’s and providers’ cases were heard last month, lawyers fighting the law called it blatantly unconstitutional and designed with the express intent to make challenges in federal court nearly impossible, therefore nullifying a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.
“Texas designed SB 8 to thwart the supremacy of federal law in open defiance of our constitutional structure,” said Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, arguing for the Justice Department, during oral arguments on November 1. “States are free to ask this court to reconsider its constitutional precedents, but they are not free to place themselves above this court, nullify the court’s decisions in their borders and block the judicial review necessary to vindicate federal rights.”
SB 8, the law in question, bars abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat at around six weeks — often before a woman knows she is pregnant — and is in stark contrast to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision legalizing abortion nationwide prior to viability, which can occur at around 24 weeks of pregnancy.
While both the providers and the Biden administration had won challenges in federal district court, the conservative 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals reversed those decisions and allowed the law to remain in effect.
Anti-abortion activists celebrated the Supreme Court’s salomon boots rejection of the Justice Department’s lawsuit and vowed to continue to defend Texas’ ban as the legal action moved back to lower courts.
“We are grateful that the Supreme Court practiced judicial restraint today and stopped the Biden administration’s pro-abortion campaign against the strongest Pro-Life law being enforced today,” Texas Right to Life Director of Media and Communication Kimberlyn Schwartz said in a statement.
Progressives meanwhile acknowledged that the Supreme Court had not granted abortion rights advocates the sweeping victory they were hoping for.
“The Supreme Court has taken the minimal step of allowing abortion providers to continue their lawsuit against this horrific Texas scheme,” Russ Feingold, the president of the left-leaning legal advocacy group, the American Constitution Society, said in a statement that noted that the Supreme Court had left the ban in effect.
“While we are relieved that some lawsuits may proceed, every day the judiciary fails to uphold well-established constitutional rights compounds the harm to pregnant people, to the legitimacy of our judiciary, and to the credibility of the Supreme Court,” Feingold said.

Britney Spears’ father Jamie Spears spent $2 million of her funds to remain her conservator, new court docs allege

Britney Spears’ father, Jamie Spears, is being called out for allegedly spending more than $2 million of her money on legal fees to remain her conservator.

Jamie, who was named the singer’s conservator in 2008 following Britney’s mental health crisis, stepped down in 2019 while battling skechers outlet health issues. Jodi Montgomery was named Britney’s personal conservator — on a temporary basis — in his place.

In documents filed in a Los Angeles court on July 9 by Montgomery’s lawyer, Lauriann Wright, Montgomery claimed that Britney “has wished her father out of her life for years” and that he had spent “more than $2 million of his daughter’s money” to remain conservator of her estate.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 11: Singer Britney Spears walks the red carpet at the 2017 Pre-GRAMMY Gala And Salute to Industry Icons Honoring Debra Lee at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 11, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA – FEBRUARY 11: Singer Britney Spears walks the red carpet at the 2017 Pre-GRAMMY Gala And Salute to Industry Icons Honoring Debra Lee at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 11, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. 

This news comes months after Lynne Spears, Britney’s mother, demanded some of Jamie’s attorney fees be repaid to the star’s estate.

Though Britney expressed her wishes to end the conservatorship overall in an explosive June 23 hey dude testimony, according to texts presented in the documents, the “Oops! I Did It Again” singer asked Montgomery to remain the conservator of her person so she could help Britney obtain a new lawyer. Sam Ingham III, her court-appointed attorney, resigned earlier this month, as did Bessemer Trust, the wealth management group that was intended to be the co-conservator of Britney’s estate.

Montgomery recently filed a document claiming that she was the subject of threatening messages over her role as Britney’s conservator and that she would need security in place as a safety precaution. Jamie, however, “disagreed and objected” to her request, which would have cost $50,000 per month.

“Mr. Spears, himself, has been the subject of innumerable and ongoing threats as well — not just recently, but for years,” a document filed by Jamie’s attorneys reads. “So. Mr. Spears understands well the challenges inherent in the position he holds and the work he performs on behalf of his daughter.”

Britney Spears’s court-appointed lawyer joins manager in resigning after shocking conservatorship hearing

Singer Britney Spears arrives at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards in New York, U.S., August 28, 2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Britney Spears’ testimony in her conservatorrship case is having ripple effects, but how much closer is she to freedom?

Britney Spears’s court-appointed conservatorship attorney, Samuel Ingham, is requesting to resign one day after longtime manager Larry Rudolph quit. Those are the latest ripple effects following the pop star’s impassioned testimony. A legal expert says Jamie Spears should follow suit, as a good “housecleaning” is overdue.

Ingham, who has represented Spears since she was put in the conservatorship in 2008, filed documents on Tuesday asking to be dismissed “effective upon the appointment of new court-appointed counsel.” The request comes as Ingham faces public scrutiny for his handling of the ecco shoes case, which pays him more than $500,000 annually — a tab Spears must pay.

Ingham has not yet responded to Yahoo Entertainment’s request for comment. While he told the court last year that Spears is a “voluntary” conservatee, she made it clear in her shocking testimony that she’s not. She called the conservatorship “abusive” and claimed her lawyer never told her it was a possibility to petition to end it.

Further, Spears, 39, told the court she wanted the opportunity to “handpick my own lawyer by myself,” instead of being appointed one, noting she had finally “built a relationship” with Ingham — 13 years later — but that he was never her choice. That led Ingham to say that he served at the pleasure of the court, and would step aside if asked.

Ingham’s resignation follows Rudolph, who is not directly involved with the conservatorship, stepping down as her manager on Monday. It’s a job he had off and on since the mid-’90s, with credit for helping make her a star.

“It has been over 2 1/2 years since Britney and I last communicated, at which time she informed me she wanted to take an indefinite work hiatus,” Rudolph wrote in a letter sent to conservators Jamie Spears, Britney’s father, and Jodi Montgomery and obtained by Deadline. “Earlier today, I became aware that Britney had been voicing her intention to officially retire.”

The letter continued, “As you know, I have never been a part of the conservatorship nor its operations, so I am not privy to many of these details. I was originally hired at Britney’s request to help manage and assist her with her career,” in the mid-’90s, a role he’s had on and off since. “And as her manager, I believe it is in Britney’s best interest for me to resign from her team as my professional services are no longer needed.”

Rudolph said the letter served as “my formal resignation,” and noted before signing off, “I will always be incredibly proud of what we accomplished over our 25 years together. I wish Britney all the health and happiness in the world, and I’ll be there for her if she ever needs me again, just as I always have been.”

Per Rudolph’s timeline, he last spoke to Britney Spears — who has not directly said she plans to retire, only that she has no immediate hey dude shoes plans to perform — around the time she called off her Las Vegas residency in January 2019. Around that time, Rudolph gave an interview saying Britney Spears’s “meds stopped working and she was distraught over” Jamie Spears’s near-fatal colon rupture in late 2018. He said the singer was excited to tour, but then stopped returning his calls. She “clearly doesn’t want to perform now… From what I have gathered it’s clear to me she should not be going back to do this Vegas residency, not in the near future and possibly never again.”

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 07: Britney Spears and Larry Rudolph in the audience at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards at Paramount Pictures Studios on September 7, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
Britney Spears and Larry Rudolph in the audience at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards. 

It was later revealed that Britney had been involuntary hospitalized in a psychiatric facility in early 2019 as all this played out.

In Britney Spears’s court testimony, she claimed “my manager” called her therapist while she was prepping for her tour and said “I wasn’t cooperating or following the guidelines in rehearsals,” which she said was untrue. “And he also said I wasn’t taking my medication, which is so dumb, because I’ve had the same lady every morning for the past eight years give me my same medication.”

She also claimed her “management” threatened, “If I don’t do this tour, I will have to find an attorney” ecco shoes because she would be sued.

Additional fallout from Britney’s testimony was that Bessemer Trust — a wealth management group which serves as a co-conservator of the stars’s estate alongside Jamie — requested that Judge Brenda Penny remove it from its role. In the paperwork, it was stated the company thought the conservatorship was voluntary and that the star wanted the company to be her co-conservator.

So major change is afoot within the conservatorship in the wake of Britney speaking out. Also, Montgomery, who serves as conservator of Britney’s person, overseeing the star’s health care and day to day needs, said in a statement Friday that her goal in the wake of Spear’s testimony is to “assist and encourage Britney in her path to no longer needing a conservatorship of the person.”

However, Jamie Spears’s position hasn’t appeared to change. Last week, the judge denied a previous petition to remove him a conservator— and he seems steadfast in his belief that the conservatorship should continue. As for the issues raised by Britney Spears in her testimony, he said they should be investigated, but punted it to Montgomery and Ingham, saying he’s “simply not involved in any decisions related to Ms. Spears’s personal care of medical or reproductive issues.” He didn’t address the fact that his daughter said she wanted to sue him over his role as her conservator.

A rep for Jamie Spears hasn’t responded to Yahoo Entertainment’s latest inquiry as to whether he plans to step down as conservator. A conservatorship insider previously told Yahoo Entertainment that they don’t expect him to ever voluntarily step down. He’s long viewed the situation as this: Britney is his daughter and he’s looking out for her because no one else is.

All of these conservatorship changes are not likely to help #FreeBritney any earlier. As it stands, if Britney filed to end her conservatorship today, it could take into next year for that petition to be filed, for her to undergo an evaluation and a hearing to take place with testimony for and against ending it. Now, there are additional measures for the judge to consider — the approval of Ingham to step down, new counsel to be approved for the star and the judge to consider Bessemer’s resignation.

“Everyone wants to see something happen July 14 — the next hearing date — but we have to remember this is a court process,” California-based family law attorney Christopher C. Melcher of Walzer Melcher tells Yahoo Entertainment. “Nothing moves quickly in court.”

First, Britney needs new, independent counsel, whether or not Ingham’s resignation is accepted, and that person “needs to get up to speed, which is not easy to do when we’re talking about 13 years of litigation history to learn about,” says Melcher, who represents Kanye West in his divorce from Kim Kardashian. Then, the petition to terminate must be filed. “That also will take time to prepare,” before the evaluation and hearing. “Technically, the court could make orders without a hearing,” after giving notice to everyone involved, but “mostly that doesn’t happen. The court system relies on attorneys making arguments to a court, presenting evidence for those arguments and then the court making a decision. It’s an orderly process.”

Melcher says he hopes the court “acts with urgency” after what he’s seen to date. “This is not the regular type of legal dispute,” he notes. “This is not a fight over money. This is a fight over liberty. We have now Britney saying her liberty is been taken from her” — which, by definition, a conservatorship does, but in this case it’s “against her will and in a way that’s harmful to her. And that that there’s not been proper oversight of this case. That needs to be handled immediately. Every day and moment that goes by potentially is doing damage to her that can not be undone. The court needs to act with speed and not let this thing go on and on and continue it and investigate endlessly.”

Looking ahead to the July 14 hearing, Melcher says the judge could OK Bessemer Trust’s resignation on that date — but he hopes that Jamie Spears, who shares the job as co-conservator of Britney’s money, is removed at the same time.

“Jamie should do the right thing: Step aside and resign right now,” Melcher says. “He’s not speaking to his daughter,” since last year, “and his daughter has made it clear she does not want him in control. He is doing more damage than good. He needs to leave that post. By holding on, he’s just making it worse. If he wanted to really help his daughter, he would let somebody take that role, even temporarily, while a petition to terminate is resolved.”

Melcher goes on to call it a “good thing there is housecleaning” of the conservator parties. “This is a house that needed to be clean. With all the allegations out there, inconsistent statements, now the finger-pointing,” of Jamie at Montgomery and Ingham. “This group of folks need to be replaced.” Even just on a temporary basis “until the court hears the request to terminate.”