Supreme Court Throws Out Gender Biased Immigration Law

A new Supreme Court ruling rejects gender bias in determining citizenship for children born to Americans overseas. The ruling threw out an immigration law that treated mothers and fathers differently when it comes to determining the citizenship of their children. The ruling in the Morales-Santana case said that immigration laws must treat both mothers and fathers the same.

The Supreme Court challenge was brought by a man born outside of the United States. Even though he wasn’t born in the United States, he moved to the United States soon after his birth. Later he committed a series of crimes. Because of his criminal convictions, U.S. officials tried to deport him. He replied that they couldn’t deport him, because he’s an American citizen. He argued he was a citizen even though his father didn’t meet the residency requirement.

The law said that in order for a child to receive American citizenship because of their American father, the father must have lived in the United States for at least 10 years. At least 5 of those years have to be after age 14. Mothers, on the other hand, could transmit American citizenship to their child by living in the United States for only one year. Thus, the law treats mothers and fathers differently.

If that rule applied, Morales-Santana wouldn’t have had American citizenship. His father hadn’t met the requirement for living in the United States for 10 years. However, his father had lived in the United States for more than 1 year.

The Supreme Court agreed that the rule was unfair. They ruled that the law treating mothers and fathers differently is sexist. Justice Ginsburg wrote that the law assumes that fathers are generally strangers to their children, while mothers are not. That kind of assumption is unconstitutional and unacceptable, the justices said.

They talked about a scenario where a father acknowledges paternity and raises the child in the United States from birth. Under the law as it was written, that child wouldn’t be an American citizen. They believed that this was unfair. The Supreme Court said that the United States must rewrite the law so that it’s equal to all groups. That includes married parents, unwed fathers and unwed mothers.

Although this law change may help children of unwed fathers born abroad, the ruling didn’t spare Morales-Santana from deportation. The court declined to extend citizenship to Morales-Santana. Instead, they’re applying a five-year residency requirement for all parents going forward. The U.S. government can still pursue deportation for Morales-Santana. The ruling overturns a Court of Appeals opinion that declared Morales-Santana a U.S. citizen.

Read More: https://www.jacksonlewis.com/publication/supreme-court-gender-based-distinctions-immigration-law-violate-equal-protection

Supreme Court Finds Ban on Offensive Trademarks Unconstitutional

On July 31st, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a federal rule that had prohibited any trademarks deemed to be “disparaging.” The court’s ruling was 8-0 in favor of throwing out the prohibition.

The court case, which is being heralded by proponents as a strong win for free speech, originally focused on a Portland, Oregon based band called The Slants. The Asian-American band had been denied a trademark on its name on the basis that the government believed their name to be disparaging towards Asian individuals. In order to challenge that ruling, The Slants’ band members argued that the prohibition against their name was a violation of their guaranteed constitutional rights to free speech under the First Amendment. In their ruling, the Supreme Court agreed.

It is not only The Slants who stand to benefit from the court’s ruling. The ruling will likely prove beneficial for the Redskins, a National Football League team who took their name in the 1930s but have been recently under criticism by Native American activists due to the racial associations of the word “redskins.” In 2014, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office cancelled the team’s trademarks, citing that they were disparaging to Native Americans. The team’s dispute against the ruling had been put on hold while The Slants’ case was taking place.

Many individuals had comments to offer based on the ruling. The Redskins’ lawyer, Lisa Blatt, commented to Reuters that the ruling would put an end to the “long-standing dispute with the government” that the team had. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) were instrumental in filing the legal papers for The Slants, and they cited the ruling as a true victory for The First Amendment. The ACLU was quick to point out that the government was attempting to protect minorities, but had in fact hurt the Asian-American members of the band.

As for the band, frontman Simon Tam has argued that the name was chosen in order to reclaim slurs often given to Asian people by other races. Moreover, Tam has said that the band wore their name as a “badge of pride” against others’ racial hatred. In a released statement, the band has acknowledge that the ruling has bigger consequences far beyond the band, and they encourage the government to recognize the ability of marginalized communities to determine what’s best for their own lives without government interference.

Resource:
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-court-band-idUSKBN19A1YP

Utah Passes Lowest Legal Limit in the United States

The legal limit used to be a .08 in the vast majority of states. That is, a driver is presumed to be a drunk driver if their bodily alcohol content is at or above a .08 per 210 liters of breath. The move to lower the legal limit to a .08 across the country began in the 1980s and continued until nearly all states enacted the limit by the early 2000s.

Now, the State of Utah is taking it a step further. They’ve enacted the lowest legal limit in the country. The .05 legal limit is set to take effect in 2018. Authorities say that a person can be over the legal limit after as few as just two drinks.

Utah lawmakers say that they’re basing the change on recommendations from federal traffic safety experts. They say that data shows a person’s ability to drive is influenced at as low as a .05. Others say that severe alcoholics that can drink to very high bodily alcohol levels are the drivers who cause most of the actual crashes and fatalities, so the law change is inappropriate.

Consumer groups say that they worry about what the law might do for tourism. They worry that large conference groups are likely to look for other locations because of the law. They worry that families and solo travelers might choose other places for personal vacations because of the change.

Lawmakers are reviewing the changes again to see if they want to make any changes before the law goes into effect. One of the things on the table is the possibility of reduced penalties for lower alcohol levels. Lawmakers also say they want to make sure that collateral consequences such as a driver’s license suspension that typically accompanies a conviction are proportional to the crime.

Utah Highway Patrol Capt. Steve Winward says that there are some that benefit from the new law. He says that ride-sharing services have seen a spike in traffic because many already believe the law is in place. He says that this is a sign that the law is helping drivers make responsible choices.

Legislators say the end goal is to reduce the number of drunk drivers on the road. They hope to do that in a way that doesn’t unfairly restrict freedoms or unnecessarily punish drivers. However, they say they’re serious about taking steps to make the roads as safe as possible. If there aren’t any changes, the law goes into effect as written in 2018.

Tony Blair Won’t Have To Fear Prosecution Over Iraq War

Officials in the London High Court ruled that Tony Blair shouldn’t be subjected to war crime charges over actions taken in the 2003 Iraq War. Previously, Iraqi general Abdulwaheed al-Rabbat sought to initiate a private war crimes prosecution against Mr. Blair, but that action has now been blocked.

High Court Justices Say Tony Blair Hasn’t Broken Any Laws

Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, who serves as the lord chief justice of the high court and senior judge, Justice Ouseley, have declared that there was no applicable law under which Tony Blair could be charged. The justices sought a crime of aggression in compliance with Rabbat’s allegations, but nothing could be found.
In their statement, the two justices acknowledged the recent addition of a crime of aggression to international law, but added that there was no clause to allow for applying the law retroactively.

A Chilcot inquiry determined that the 2003 attack on Iraq was unprovoked and undermined the authority of the United Nations. As a result, the inquiry concluded Tony Blair should be prosecuted.

The purpose of that finding was to force former Prime Minister Tony Blair, former foreign secretary Jack Straw, and former attorney general Lord Goldsmith to answer for their actions in a court of law.

Michael Mansfield QC argues that a law against waging a war of aggression has been implied into English law since the 1940s. He explained that the law had been accepted, when then UK attorney general Sir Hartley Shawcross QC used the concept to prosecute Nazi war criminals at the Nuremberg trials.
In response, Attorney General Jeremy Wright QC argued that, until recently, the people of England and Wales were unfamiliar with the concept of a war of aggression law. In effect, Mr. Wright says that makes the desire to prosecute Mr. Blair a “hopeless” claim.

While the high court justices did admit that there should be an allowance for the prosecution of the crime of aggression, there currently isn’t a domestic law of that nature. Instead, the high court left it up to the parliament to establish such a law.

Upon hearing this judgment, Imran Khan, solicitor for Abdulwaheed al-Rabbat, said the high court has indirectly granted immunity to English officials.
“As long as it fails to enact legislation which makes the crime of aggression a domestic criminal offense, any leader can act as he/she chooses knowing that whatever action they take, it can be taken with complete impunity,” said Khan.
Meanwhile, other countries, including Kosovo, Germany, and Serbia, have enacted domestic laws governing war of aggression crimes.

Does President Trump Have Complete Power to Pardon?

On Saturday, President Donald Trump, through his twitter handle, stated that he had the absolute power to pardon. The tweet came hot on the heels of a Washington Post alleging that Trump had inquired from his advisers whether he had the authority to pardon aides, his own family, or himself. However, Trump’s lawyers dismissed the story on pardons as untrue. This story has spurred a huge debate among legal experts on the question of whether the president has the power to pardon himself. Some argue that the president cannot fight his own impeachment while others argue there is no legal provision to back this claim.

Different Opinions on The President’s Power to Pardon

Norman Eisen, former white house ethics lawyer, wrote an oped for the Washington Post disputing the power of the president to pardon himself. Eisen states the argument of the Justice Department that no one can be a judge in their own case. The constitution forbids the president from exploiting the pardon power to prevent his removal and impeachment. Additionally, the constitution states that any one removed through an impeachment is fully subject to criminal prosecution. This provision would be senseless if the president was allowed to pardon himself.

According to Jonathan Turley, a law professor at the George Washington University, the Constitution does not specifically forbid self pardons. In an article for the Hill, Turley argues that Article II of the constitution allows the president to grant pardons and reprieves for offenses against the U.S. except in circumstances involving impeachment. The constitution does not state who is not subject to a pardon. The president basically has the power to pardon federal crimes.

Some scholars refer to Article 1 of the constitution which says that impeached individuals are subject to an indictment, trial, judgment, and punishment. However, some law experts argue that if the president were to pardon himself, he could claim to be doing so in accordance with the constitution.

In the case of Schick v. Reed, the court stated that the pardoning power is provided for in the constitution and that its limitations should also be derived in the constitution.

Summing It Up

It is not clear what Trump meant when he stated that he had the absolute power to pardon. Although the constitution allows the president to issue pardons, the limitations of this law are not clear. However, one thing is for sure, no one is above the law. Therefore, no president can pardon themselves from an impeachment.

Prosecutors Shift Tactics in Response to Heroin Epidemic

There has been a drastic increase in heroin use in the United States in the last decade. According to a CNN report, more than 52,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2015, and heroin was responsible for about 25 percent of those deaths. News stories about heroin overdoses are getting more and more common, and as the death toll rises, prosecutors are under immense pressure to intervene. As a result, some prosecutors are opting to bring criminal charges against the drug dealers in overdose cases.

Although it is well within the authority of prosecutors to charge drug dealers with negligent homicide or manslaughter for knowingly providing someone with lethal drugs, whether they have the ability to secure a conviction is less clear. Charging drug dealers in overdose cases comes with significant legal hurdles, and there are some good legal defenses that are difficult to nullify.

Charging people with the distribution of drugs resulting in death is also controversial, mostly because it is difficult to determine where the drug addict ends and the malicious dealer begins. Defense attorneys will argue, many successfully, that their clients are simply drug addicts and did not know that the drugs would lead to an overdose. To obtain a conviction, prosecutors must prove that the drugs were the cause of death, that the dealers knew the risks and that they sold the drugs regardless.

Though this may sound like an impossible feat, some prosecutors are up to the task. Recently, in Richmond County, New York, police arrested Stephen Cummings, a Staten-Island barber, for supplying the fentanyl-laced heroin that led to the death of his father’s friend, 51-year-old Richard Zeifert. According to the New York Post, this is the first case of its kind in Staten Island’s history. Many defendants enjoy the benefit of the doubt in a case like this, but Cummings will not be so fortunate; he allegedly bragged about both the potency of the drug and Mr. Zeifert’s death to an undercover police officer, according to The New York Times.

America’s drug problem never seems to slow down, and a lot of people contest that the War on Drugs was lost long ago. Many question whether charging dealers in overdose cases is ethical or even effective. These types of cases will undoubtedly be difficult, but they will hopefully send a message to drug dealers that the wanton disregard of human life will not be tolerated.

Constitutional Law Authority Sujit Choudhry Attends Workshop in Ukraine

Despite the controversy that swirled around the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the transition of power unfolded smoothly on Inauguration Day. This reflects the ongoing power and resiliency of the United States Constitution, which is regarded by many to be among the finest documents of its type ever produced. In fact, it is so highly regarded that countries around the world turn to it when seeking to transition to democratic governments. That is the case regarding the Ukraine, which since the fall of communism has famously struggled to strike an even keel with the balance of power in its government. Recently, comparative constitutional law expert Sujit Choudhry attended a workshop in Kiev, Ukraine, to discuss the challenges that the country is facing.

The workshop took place in Kiev, Ukraine, on July 10. In addition to Sujit Choudhry, numerous constitutional scholars were there to assist. The main topic of interest was the semi-presidential system of government of the Ukraine and the resulting constitutional challenges that are faced by the fledgling democracy. Ultimately, the discussion revolved around finding ways to improve governmental processes in Ukraine. With so many renowned minds in one room, it is safe to say that a lot of headway was made.

The attendance list for the Kiev workshop is a veritable who’s-who of constitutional law expertise. In attendance were Sergyi Holovatyi, who is a member of the Constitutional Commission of Ukraine as well as the Venice Commission; Sumit Bisarya of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, or International IDEA; Vladimir Vasilenko, who represents Ukraine on the United Nations Human Rights council; Viktor Musiaka, who is a representative of the president in Supreme Council 1996; and Thomas Sidelius of Dalarna University. The workshop was hosted by the Center of Policy and Legal Reform, which is a major Ukraine think tank, as well as International IDEA, which supports sustainable democracy around the world.

A variety of topics were discussed during the workshop, which was regarded as being highly productive. More than anything else, discussion focused on the ongoing instability of democratization in Ukraine, which has mostly been an issue because of the concentration of power in the presidency. Unlike the U.S., then, the country doesn’t have a balanced system of checks and balances, so democratic policies are more difficult to implement.

The scholars and experts, including Sujit Choudhry, also discussed the separation of powers within the dual executive branch. The government of Ukraine does not have just a president; it has a prime minister as well, so that is another way in which the government of this country differs from that of the United States. Another issue that was discussed to a great extent was the fact that the political parties of Ukraine are very weak. As a result, it is difficult for citizens to know parties’ stances on issues, and many other problems arise. The electoral system for the legislature of the country is also a major issue, and the experts focused on this one for a while as well.

As founding director of the Center for Constitutional Transitions, Sujit Choudhry has a unique understanding of the issues that are currently being faced by the Ukraine. The Center for Constitutional Transitions is currently conducting research into semi-presidentialism and constitutional instability in Ukraine. Ever since communism fell, the country has struggled to implement an effective democratic government. The legislature has overwhelmingly been far too weak, and the president has had far too much power. The organization hopes that its research will provide much-needed guidance to the country to help it establish a strong democratic government.

Ultimately, the goal of both the Center for Constitutional Transitions and those who gathered in Kiev on July 10 is to help Ukraine to develop a strong semi-presidential system of government. The work will not be easy to achieve, however, as the process has been underway for more than two decades already and very little real progress has been made. With so many great minds working on the issue, however, it is hoped that some real progress will be made in the very near future.

Scholars and researchers who have been working on this issue, both at the workshop in Kiev and at the Center for Constitutional Transitions, which is helmed by Sujit Choudhry, have identified many potential options that could help to establish a secure semi-presidential system in the country. This is an important and even crucial goal for a number of reasons, including:

  • To produce a strong, effective legislature that can exercise oversight over the president and the government as a whole. This will help to strike a better balance of power, which will facilitate the process of building a strong democratic government.
  • To facilitate an effective sharing of power between the president and the prime minister of the country. Up until now, far too much power has been concentrated in the office of the president, and this is one of the many reasons why Ukraine has struggled so much.
  • To ensure limited presidential power. When the president has an excessive amount of power, true democracy is impossible, and the country suffers.
  • To develop a government that is strengthened by presidential leadership during crises. Otherwise, the country flounders when major catastrophes occur, and the democratization process is weakened and threatened.

Sujit Choudhry was a welcome addition to the special workshop that was held in Kiev on July 10. An expert on comparative constitutional law, Choudhry holds law degrees from the University of Toronto, Oxford University and Harvard University. He also served as law clerk to Chief Justice Antonio Lamer of the Supreme Court of Canada. As the founder of the Center for Constitutional Transitions, Sujit Choudhry has played an instrumental role in constitution building processes of countries around the world. The organization has more than 50 experts in more than 25 nations. Right now, it is co-leading three collaborative global research projects, including the one about semi-presidentialism in Ukraine.

Throughout his storied career, Sujit Choudhry has published nearly 100 book chapters, reports, articles and papers. Today, he serves as the I. Michael Heyman Professor of Law at the University of California and Berkeley School of Law. Choudhry is currently a member of the scientific advisory board of the International Journal of Constitutional Law; the executive committee of the International Society of Public Law, or ICONS; the editorial board of Constitutional Court Review; the international advisory council of the Institute for Integrated Transitions, or IFIT; and the editorial advisory board of Cambridge Studies in Constitutional Law. Without question, Choudhry will continue to play an active role in the ongoing situation in Ukraine.

Continue reading Constitutional Law Authority Sujit Choudhry Attends Workshop in Ukraine

Arizona’s Ban On Ethnic Studies Heads For The Courts

Immigration laws have been a source of contention for many decades. Some people argue in favor of laws that are more lax. They say the country needs more people and that all should be allowed to come here. Others argue that the country should have laws that stricter and focus primarily on skills and education rather than merely inviting any given able bodied person to America. In Arizona, this issue has been of particular concern. As a state bordering Mexico, many residents fear being swallowed up by the large neighbor just to the south. In response to this issues, efforts have been put forth to urge those settling in the state from Mexico to assimilate into the broader American culture.

A New Law

In 2010, the Arizona governor and other state officials decided to take action against the perception that perhaps more needs to be done in order to encourage unity. Jan Brewer, a highly popular governor, signed a bill called HB 2281 into law. This law mandates what can and cannot be taught in the local public schools in Arizona. The law states that all state public school districts are not allowed to offer what has been deemed ethnic studies classes to their students. The aim of the law is to prevent teachers from teaching children classes that state officials feel promotes ethnic solidarity rather than suggesting that all pupils are individuals with widely differing needs. The law is actually aimed at a specific part of the curriculum that has been in place in one specific school district.

Tucson School District

The subject of the lawsuit is one that is based on Mexican-American studies program. This program has been taught many Tucson public schools for over two decades without comments. Many of those who are in favor of this program have argued that it enables students in the area to improve their self-esteem and do far better in school. They have also argued that this program should be retained. However, in the last seven years the program has been a source of contention for legislators who feel that it does not help students or the overall goal of the state in regards to assimilation into the broader culture.

Back In The Court System

Since that time, the court system has taken the issue in question under consideration. The issue is back in the court system right now. Federal courts in Arizona have taken up this case and expected to issue a ruling soon. Many Republicans support the legislation as they feel this law is a source of problems in the Hispanic community and teaches Latinos to view those who are not Latinos as their enemies. Others feel that it helps students by linking them to a culture that many find familiar and comforting. They argue that those students who take it have better test scores and a lower high school drop out rate. They also argue that the law is not constitutional and will not stand up in court.

Senator Sends Letter To DOJ About Trump Administration

Senator Amy Klobuchar has sent a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) asking them to reject any push by the White House to get politics involved in mergers. She apparently felt the need to bring this up because there have been rumors that the White House has been considering using politics against television network CNN.

The White House has long been battling against CNN because they believe that the network has been a propaganda wing against the White House. They claim that the network makes up stores out them or otherwise creates falsehoods that need to be addressed. As such, people in the Trump Administration have considered pulling some strings in a merger between AT&T and Time Warner. This matters because Time Warner is the parent network of CNN. If the White House were to use the DOJ to reject the merger of those two companies, they could literally punish CNN for not playing ball.

The Department of Justice is the organization that reviews all potential mergers. They are supposed to consider the benefit of the public with these types of things. It is their role to try to break up monopolies and avoid having any one company become too powerful. Now, the White House is considering asking the DOJ to move forward with considerations about these mergers with politics in mind.

An interesting element in this story is that Senator Klobuchar has actually expressed concerns about the merger between AT&T and Time Warner because it is such a large deal. She is worried that it might in fact be the definition of a monopoly. That is what the DOJ is supposed to break up, so Klobuchar had her concerns to begin with. Now, she is just making the point that she does not want to see politics injected into the mix.

Both the White House and the Department Of Justice have declined to comment on the story. Trump has not made any comments to the public about this particular deal so it is unclear what his position may be. Some more Senators are sure to make a big deal out of this if nothing changes going forward, but the politics of how this all plays out is yet to be seen.

Despite International Pressure, Virginia Man Executed

Supporters who tried to convince Terry McAuliffe, the governor of Virginia, that a man sentenced to die suffered from mental illness failed in their attempts as the convicted double murderer was put to death last Thursday. Governor McAuliffe did not grant clemency to William Morva, a Hungarian national convicted of killing a sheriff’s deputy and a security guard in 2008.

According to Jurist.org, a psychiatrist appointed by the courts diagnosed Morva with a delusional disorder. Supporters who wanted the governor to grant clemency said Morva was not mentally fit when he committed his crimes. The psychiatrist stated that Morva may have been suffering from delusions at the time the murders occurred.

Human rights workers from the UN pleaded with Governor McAuliffe to grant clemency, stating Morva did not receive the “proper accommodations” during trial, and that the courts nor the prosecution did not notify the jury Morva was mentally ill. Although McAuliffe opposes the death penalty, he released a statement saying Morva was given a fair trial and there was substantial evidence presented to the jury regarding Morva’s mental health issues. The governor concluded by saying in the statement that there was not enough evidence to justify overturning the decision of the jury. Dozens of members of Virginia’s General Assembly and three house representatives from the state opposed the execution of Morva.

The death penalty remains a hot topic of conversation nationwide. The governor of Florida, Rick Scott, recently scheduled the execution of a man convicted of murder, which will be state’s first execution in over 18 months. The state had halted the death penalty when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the way Florida handed down death sentences was unconstitutional. A new Florida law took effect in March that only allows judges to sentence defendants to the death penalty if there is unanimous consent by the jury.

What you should know about Abortion Law in Northern Ireland

The court of appeal in Belfast, Northern Ireland has made the decision that abortion law should be determined by Stormont Assembly and not the courts. In a recent case, the high court ruled that there was a flaw in the current abortion laws in Northern Ireland. The country’s abortion laws breached the European Convention on Human rights, the court determined. In an explanation that followed, the high court explained that the law didn’t give direction on sexual crimes pregnancies as well as fatal foetal abnormality that would require abortion to save the life of the mother. However, the ruling was later challenged by Northern Ireland attorney general and the country’s justice department. Compared to other countries in the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland has much stricter laws concerning the issue of abortion.

The court of appeal decision was made by three judges who decided to overturn the lower court’s ruling. They instead found out that the current laws in Northern Ireland were not in line with UK’s Human Rights Act Obligations. Things didn’t end there as the Court mentioned that the case could be heard in the Supreme Court if legal submissions are made on time. In a layman’s language, the ruling determined that the issue of abortion should not be determined by courts or the local governments. Instead, the judges ruled that there are other issues that should be used in determining the case such as religious beliefs and complex moral issues.

After the ruling, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission criticized the decision saying that the court should have done better. To better understand the ruling, it’s good to know what the law says in Northern Ireland. For a woman to be allowed to abort, the pregnancy must be posing serious risks to her life. This could be physical health or mental health. Anyone caught to have breached this law is punished by life imprisonment.

This case had been presented to the court of appeal by the NI Human Rights Commission. The commission had introduced other grounds for abortion that were quashed by the court hence the disappointment. A woman known as Sarah Ewart revealed that she had to travel to England to take care of the fatal foetal abnormality. With this condition, her child would not have survived and yet, the law in Northern Ireland didn’t allow termination. She explicitly said that she had been devastated by the ruling and they would appeal.

Changing The U.S. Tax Code Is A Challenge For Lawmakers

One of Donald Trump’s campaign promises was to throw out the old tax system and replace it with a simpler system that reduces individual and corporate tax payments. But revamping a tax code that is out of control and totally confusing is not a simple task. The Republican effort to overhaul the tax system has hit a wall in the House of Representatives, and the wall is full of spending cut battles and infighting.
The House Budget Committee is not sending a budget resolution to the floor because conservation Republicans are adding billions of dollars in spending cuts to the basic blueprint of the budget. Trump needs House and Senate approval of a budget, so Republicans can avoid Democratic opposition in the Senate. But the proposed spending cuts on food stamps and Medicaid are not helping matters, and a stalemate could be “the political blue plate special of the day.” A stalemate means no movement on tax reform.

The fly in the political ointment seems to be gaining strength, according to Washington insiders who say “no budget, no tax reform.” The conservation House Freedom Caucus wants to cut $400 billion from programs that help the poor. And the chairman of that committee wants another $295 billion in spending cuts. There is a Republican agreement in place that will top spending levels for defense and nondefense programs, but other spending cuts are necessary so the national deficit doesn’t increase when a new tax system becomes a reality.

But cutting programs for the poor to fund tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations is not the answer, according to many Democrats. And the initial Trump plan to cut tax rates from seven to three would not help average Americans if some of the itemized deductions go away. And there is talk of a reduction in itemized deductions, especially interest deductions.

There are House and Senate members who want a consumer-driven tax system or a consumption tax. A consumption system would eliminate all the complex paperwork and most of the daily functions of the IRS. But a consumption tax system is not in the cards on Capitol Hill this year. And if the infighting continues in Congress, any new tax system is out of the question. But one way or another Trump will get a new tax code. But just putting any tax code in place may not help solve the long-term tax system debacle.

Two Attorneys General Sue President Trump

Two attorney generals have decided to sue President Trump for violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause. The emoluments clause was put into the Constitution by the founding fathers to prohibit representatives of the federal government from granting titles of nobility or receiving gifts and emoluments in exchange for preferential treatment.

The aim behind the clause tucked into section nine of the U.S. Constitution is to prevent foreign powers from exercising undue influence on the national interests of the United States and its people. Founding fathers like Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton positioned their opposition to attempts at foreign gifts and bribery in history. Both England and France in the late 19th century had fallen victim to corruption from foreign governments, and the founding fathers didn’t want to see that happen to the United States.

Bringing things back to today’s politics, District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh suspect that President Trump may be unconstitutionally profiting from his time in office. Both attorneys general sued the president earlier this month for violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution and failing to divest himself fully from his family-operated business.

Technically, the two attorneys general are suing for President Trump’s alleged violation of the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clause. (An emolument is an antiquated term for a profit or a fee that one collects while serving in office.) In the language of the original emoluments clause, a sitting president must have the expressed consent of Congress before taking any kind of inducement or gift from a foreign power.

Attorney General Racine opined that President Trump has rode roughshod of the anti-corruption laws included in the U.S. Constitution. Both attorneys general suing the president are doing so partly to show that nobody is above the law. Each also believes that the state’s attorneys general have a binding duty to ensure that there are safeguards along the way to thwart federal politicians from bending the rules for material advantage.

Both Attorney General Racine and Attorney General Frosh have sought an injunction to prevent President Trump from continuing to violate the emoluments clause of the Constitution. Many from around the country forcefully assert that the president’s duty is foremost to the American people; personal economic advantage should not enter into the picture. Attorney General Frosh concedes that he is spearheading the lawsuit partly to prevent this behavior from becoming more normalized.

Trump’s Attorney General May Go After Medical Pot Providers

Jeff Sessions, the former Alabama senator, and the current Attorney General of the United States is shaking the political trees and what is falling from those trees isn’t pretty. Sessions is a hard-nosed politician with extremely conservative views when it comes to criminal activity and the legalization of marijuana.


Session’s performance in front of Congress recently wasn’t as forthright as some lawmakers wanted it to be. But his performance did show a man who is not afraid to protect himself, and his reputation, at all costs. Some Washington insiders say Sessions is pushing hard to seek the maximum penalty in all criminal cases and to battle legalizing cannabis in order to protect his reputation as a narrow-minded lawmaker with antiquated beliefs.

The new attorney general sent a letter to Congress recently. Sessions wants the lawmakers to help him override state marijuana laws. Members of Congress could do that by not renewing the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which stops the Justice Department from interfering with state medical marijuana decisions. Sessions believes marijuana is the primary cause of the current drug epidemic in the United States. But the facts show opioid addiction, not marijuana use, is the catalyst for the drug epidemic. According to a Washington Post article, there are fewer cases of opioid addiction and abuse in states where marijuana use is legal.

And Jeff Sessions didn’t stop shaking the trees when he stopped federal prosecutors from using their discretion in fitting the punishment to the crime. Sessions wants the maximum penalty possible in all criminal cases. Sessions wants to stop the recent crime surge in America. But statistics show between 2004 and 2014 crime fell in spite of the fact that prosecutors were treating crime with a sense of understanding.

The truth is, the minimum sentencing procedures put in place by former Attorney General Eric Holder, did not jeopardize the American public. In fact, for the first time in four decades’ crime fell. The severely over-populated prisons in the U.S. were less crowded between 2013 and 2016 because low-level drug offenders did not serve long prison terms.

But Jeff Sessions is on a mission to increase the prison population problem. U.S. attorneys must throw the book at all defendants even though some prosecutors think that is a bad idea. Throwing the book at low-level criminals is an attack on American taxpayers, according to the Washington Post and other news agencies.

Google Sued Record $2.7 Billion in Landmark Antitrust Case

The tech giant Google has recently been sued a staggering $2.7 billion by European antitrust officials. Announcement of the fine came on June 27th. Margaret Vestager, the European Union’s antitrust chief, fined Google 2.4 billion euros on Tuesday. The move to fine Google so heavily provides a stark counterpoint to the lax attitudes taken by regulatory authorities in the United States.

The European Union’s antitrust officials grabbed headlines by forcing Apple to pay over $14 billion in back taxes that the antitrust commission felt was Ireland’s due. The more recent judgment with Google goes one step further. To date, the fine levied against Google is more than twice the amount paid out by the second-highest fined corporation.

Margaret Vestager claimed in a press conference that Google violated market competitiveness when Google favored its own products over those of its competitors. European Union antitrust authorities made the claim that Google seized advantage of its monopoly-like clout in online searches to steer customers towards Google’s proprietary shopping business.

This is a serious charge with serious implications. Google has 90 days to pay the fine of $2.7 billion or face more serious fines that could have an impact on Google’s business. Although Google pulls in approximately $90 billion in annual revenue, the future looks somewhat bleak for the tech giant if they put off paying the fine levied by the European Union’s chief antitrust authority.

Executives at Google are taking the European Union at its word when it says that it plans on fining the parent company of Google, Alphabet Incorporated, as much as five percent of its daily revenue if the fine is not paid on time and in full. The European Commission is the official agency making these threats, and it alleges that Google flagrantly violated competitive laws in Europe.

How does Google do that exactly? Some claim that Google bolstered the search results of company-affiliated products when other products may have been better for consumers. Margaret Vestager informed reporters after her news conference exactly what had happened. She claimed that European consumers were denied real choice and effectively limited from taking advantage of recent innovations in the tech industry.

Astute macroeconomic observers believe that the European authority’s throwing down the gauntlet by singling out Google represents a more assertive posture in regulating the brave new world of online sales. In the meantime, Google is disputing the fine amid stock downturns.