Todd Ruger

Supreme Court Dials Up Privacy Rights on Cellphone Records
Government must get a warrant to access a cellphone user’s location data

The Supreme Court on Friday boosted protections for cellphone records that reveal a user’s location and movements over extended periods of time, in a major privacy decision for the internet age.

The majority, in a 5-4 opinion, required the government in most cases to obtain a warrant to get a cellphone user’s location data from phone providers because it is a search under the Fourth Amendment. The decision highlights modern-day concerns about how much personal information can be gleaned from such data.

Supreme Court Overturns 1992 Sales Tax Ruling
Decision will ripple through the economy, lawmakers and business groups say

A divided Supreme Court on Thursday accomplished something that Congress couldn’t in the past 26 years — overturn a 1992 ruling that barred states from collecting sales tax from out-of-state vendors.

Business groups and lawmakers expect the decision to reverberate throughout the economy, affecting online retail giants, small businesses and brick-and-mortar stores, and that could build pressure for congressional action.

Justice Department Puts Judge in Hot Seat on Migrant Families
‘Are we going to be able to detain alien families together, or are we not?’

A federal judge will determine the fate of a key part of President Donald Trump’s executive order on keeping together migrant families who are detained at the U.S.-Mexico border, a Justice Department official said Wednesday.

Gene Hamilton, counselor to the attorney general, said Judge Dolly Gee of the Central District of California has a “simple decision” when it comes to the Trump administration asking to modify her previous ruling about how the government can detain children.

Flake Holds Up Judicial Nominee, Won’t Say Why
‘Oh, it’s just something I’m working out’

Arizona Republican Jeff Flake halted an appeals court nominee last week and he’s not publicly saying why, a behind-the-scenes move that takes aim at one of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s top priorities this year.

The Senate Judiciary Committee scuttled a planned vote June 14 on the nomination of Britt Grant, a pick from Georgia for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. Flake’s hold throws a wrench in what has been the Senate GOP’s smoothly operating judicial confirmation machine.

Immigration Debate Steps on Hearing About FBI Report
‘These children are not animals, they are not bargaining chips, they are not leverage to help President Trump build his wall’

House Democrats used a Tuesday hearing about the Justice Department’s report on the probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails amid the 2016 campaign to turn the spotlight on the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Republicans spent the joint hearing of the Justice and Oversight and Government Reform committees putting the spotlight on the findings of DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report centered on Clinton including politically tinged text messages between agents. 

Congress’ Move to Leave Obamacare Mostly Intact May Save Law
Supporters, opponents of health care law unite on new brief

Congress killed off a key penalty in the 2010 health care law last year but left the rest of the law intact — and that might prove pivotal to a lawsuit in which the Justice Department and 20 Republican-led states argue that the law’s other major provisions must now be struck down.

That’s because the federal courts will look at what Congress intended to accomplish regardless of what individual lawmakers wanted to do, according to a group of five law professors with deep experience in litigation over the health care law.

High Court Leaves Partisan Gerrymandering Issue for Another Day
Justices turn aside case dealing with Wisconsin maps, ruled narrowly on Maryland case

 

Updated 12:50 p.m. | The Supreme Court sidestepped a major ruling on partisan gerrymandering on Monday, leaving open the question of whether federal courts can decide if congressional or statehouse maps give one political party an advantage over another.

DOJ Watchdog Report on Comey Stirs Politics on Hill
Sessions calls report an opportunity to learn from past mistakes

Even before the results of an internal Justice Department probe were released Thursday, that report into former FBI Director James Comey’s actions during the 2016 presidential campaign had reopened deep political divisions and fueled fresh questions about congressional oversight of the agency’s work.

That’s unlikely to change during the upcoming week of hearings and headlines on Capitol Hill about the watchdog’s report, starting with a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing slated for Monday and another before the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees set for Tuesday.

Supreme Court Strikes Down State Ban on Polling Place Apparel
Century-old Minnesota law is similar to those in about nine other states

The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down Minnesota’s ban on political apparel worn by voters when they cast ballots as a violation of the First Amendment, ruling that the state’s definition of what can’t be worn at the polling place is too vague.

In a 7-2 opinion, the majority found that while the state’s election judges can strive to enforce the statute in an evenhanded manner when they decide what is political when they screen individuals at the entrance to polls, there are no “objective, workable standards.”

Advocates: More Women Judges Would Curb Harassment in Judiciary
‘If 85 percent of the nominees are white men, it’s not going to create a lot of positive change’

Senators can help address sexual harassment in the judicial branch by paying attention to the lack of women that President Donald Trump has appointed to be federal judges, two witnesses told the Judiciary Committee at a hearing Wednesday.

Jamie Santos, a former federal law clerk now in private practice who has compiled stories about the prevalence of harassment such as getting sexual questions at job interviews or being groped or kissed, made the comment in response to a question from Sen. John Kennedy, R-La.

Supreme Court Sides With Ohio’s Voter-Purge Law
Liberals cry voter suppression

A divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that Ohio’s law for removing voters from registration rolls does not violate federal laws to protect people who simply choose not to vote, a decision that voter rights advocates say could lead to disenfranchisement across the country.

A 5-4 opinion, written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. and joined by the court’s conservative wing, could pave the way for other states to use a similar system for keeping their voter rolls up to date.

Podcast: Cake Case Leaves Gay Rights Questions Unanswered
CQ on Congress, Episode 106

CQ Supreme Court Reporter Todd Ruger and University of Colorado Law Professor Craig Konnoth say that the Supreme Court victory of a Colorado baker, who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple, could be short-lived, given the court's narrow decision in his favor.

"Indeed, if the couple...go back to that same baker tomorrow and suffered discrimination...they could file another suit and that might lead to a completely different outcome,'' says Konnoth.

Democrats Irked by Latest Judicial Confirmation Hearing
Senate committee moves forward without a blue slip from Pennsylvania Democrat Bob Casey

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a confirmation hearing Wednesday for a fourth federal appeals court pick who didn’t get approval from one of his home-state senators, causing more consternation from Democrats that the White House was cutting them out of the nomination process.

This time, Sen. Bob Casey did not give his approval for the confirmation hearing. The Pennsylvania Democrat opposes the nomination of David Porter for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit based in Philadelphia.

Lawmakers’ Challenge to Trump Finances Faces Court Test
‘We cannot approve, we cannot consent to, what we don’t know’

A federal district judge will hear arguments Thursday about whether Democratic lawmakers can pursue a lawsuit over President Donald Trump’s vast business interests and whether he must get congressional approval before accepting payments or gifts from foreign governments.

More than 200 Democrats filed the lawsuit a year ago, in the first months of Trump’s presidency, when their concerns included payments from governments at the Trump International Hotel in Washington and trademarks issued by the Chinese to Trump and his companies. 

Court Rules for Baker in Same-Sex Wedding Cake Case, Avoids Key Issue
Colorado failed to apply law with neutrality toward religion, 7-2 court decision finds

Updated 1:50 p.m. | The Supreme Court on Monday sided with a Colorado baker who declined to make a cake for a same-sex wedding because of his religious views, ruling that the state’s civil rights commission violated his rights when it did not decide the matter with religious neutrality.

The justices, in a 7-2 opinion, took a narrow approach that avoided the big question — where to draw a line between religious liberty and anti-discrimination laws — that had made it a potentially landmark case on a hotly contested social issue.

Senators Ponder: How Forthcoming Should Judicial Candidates Be?
Republicans push back on Democratic concerns over responses to school desegregation question

The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced two judicial nominees Thursday amid an ongoing debate over how forthcoming candidates should be about their views on established Supreme Court decisions, particularly the landmark school desegregation ruling from 64 years ago.

All Democrats on the committee voted against Andrew Oldham to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit based in New Orleans, and Wendy Vitter to be a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Among their objections: They say the nominees did not clearly endorse the high court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education during their confirmation hearings.

Voters Challenge Ohio Congressional Map as Partisan Gerrymander
Supreme Court expected to rule on similar cases before term ends in June

Civil rights groups and Ohio voters filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging the state’s congressional districts as unconstitutional, as the Supreme Court readies decisions in similar cases about whether maps can be rejected if they entrench an advantage for one party.

The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati, seeks a new congressional map for Ohio. But it almost certainly comes too late in the 2018 election cycle to affect districts ahead of the November vote. Ohio already held its primary election under the current map on May 8.

Court Sides With Employers Over Workers in Arbitration Case
Gorsuch: Court not free to substitute economic policies for those chosen by people’s representatives

A sharply divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that arbitration clauses in employment contracts can prevent workers from pursuing class-action lawsuits on minimum wage and overtime disputes, prompting some justices to call for congressional action to protect workers’ rights.

In the 5-4 opinion, the conservative justices sided with corporate interests to find that Congress, in a 1925 law, instructed federal courts to enforce arbitration agreements according to their own terms. That includes terms that require individual — and not class — proceedings.

FBI Director Raises Concerns about Chinese Tech Giant Trump Wants to Help
Wray defends agency, responding to political attacks from Congress and White House

FBI Director Christopher Wray on Wednesday reaffirmed concerns about Chinese telecommunications company ZTE that President Donald Trump wants to help — and defended the agency from political attacks coming from the White House and Congress. 

At a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing about the FBI’s fiscal 2019 budget request, Wray used a question about the agency’s responsiveness to congressional oversight to highlight the importance of protecting people who provide agents information.

Supreme Court Strikes Down Law Banning Sports Gambling
The 1992 law violates the 10th Amendment, justices find

Updated 4:20 p.m. | The Supreme Court ruled Monday that Congress took the wrong path when it effectively banned sports gambling, in an opinion that appears to open the door for New Jersey and other states to get in on the action unless Washington steps in again.

In a 6-3 opinion, the justices struck down key provisions of a 1992 federal law, known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, finding that it violates the 10th Amendment’s delegation of regulatory power to the states.