Trump Travel Ban Proves Difficult to Defend

A controversial Executive Order signed by United States President Donald Trump is proving to be a very difficult challenge for the legal teams assembled by the White House and the Department of Justice. According to news reports coming from Supreme Court chambers, White House attorneys filed an impassioned, 84-page brief defending the so-called “Muslim ban” in the name of national security.

The Justice Department is playing all available cards as it prepares for Supreme Court hearings that will take place in a couple of months. The Supreme Court allowed the Executive Order to be enacted before heading into recess and returning to hear the case; some legal analysts considered this temporary authorization a Solomonic decision by the highest court in the U.S. since it bolstered the spirits of an embattled President while promising to take time to consider legal options.

By the time the Supreme Court reconvenes, the travel ban will have been in effect long enough to appease Trump. The first attempt at implementing the travel ban ended up in a nationwide kerfuffle at international airports and legal challenges that effectively halted the ban based upon rulings issued by federal and appellate courts.

One of the most significant problems faced by the U.S. Justice Department is that President Trump ran a political campaign that focused on discrimination of immigrants and foreigners; the federal and appellate judges who have thus far sided with plaintiffs truly believe that the first and second versions of the travel ban are in fact “Muslim bans,” and thus can be easily considered to be unconstitutional.

Checks and Balances

Lawyers representing the U.S. government have quite the herculean effort ahead of them if they hope to convince the Supreme Court that President Trump is not the same person he was as a presidential candidate; nonetheless, that is precisely what the brief filed ahead of the hearings aims to convey.

Some legal analysts have already spotted weaknesses in the brief, which claims that appellate courts should not question decisions made by a sitting President with regard to national security. The problem with this specific claim is that this is precisely the way that American democracy is supposed to work insofar as separation of powers and checks and balances. In other words, the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches should look after each other and make sure that they uphold the Constitution, particularly when the American people bring matters to court as plaintiffs.

Ref: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39044403

Gorsuch Shows Conservative Tendencies by Voting 100 Percent with Fellow Conservatives

The U.S. Supreme Court wrapped up its most recent term this week, and it is fair to say Justice Anthony Kennedy is probably not ready to retire. However, it is a reach to say that Kennedy will remain on the bench for the full four years of Trump’s tenure as president, according to NPR.org. In cases where the outcome is divided, Justice Kennedy is often the tie-breaking vote.

However, with each day that passes, it is becoming abundantly clear that the new Supreme Court justice, Neil Gorsuch, is a hardline conservative. Some legal experts say that Gorsuch is more conservative than the late Justice Anthony Scalia. The Scotus.org blog states that Gorsuch voted with his conservative counterparts 100 percent of the time. Experts who follow the court say it is unusual for a new justice to immediately show their ideological footprints.

Most new Supreme Court justices are hesitant at first to leave an immediate footprint. Other new justices understood that any ruling the Supreme Court makes is final and understood the lasting implications of their decisions. Unlike past new inductees to the court, Gorsuch has painted a clear picture of how far right he plans to go in both his opinions and his votes.

An example is the modified version of Trump’s travel ban that recently went into effect. If Justice Alito, Thomas and Gorsuch had their way, the full version of the travel ban would have taken effect. Instead, Chief Justice Kennedy and the other five justices comprised on a revised version of the modified travel ban. The compromised version of the travel ban is now in effect.

Another example of Gorsuch’s far right views is an Arkansas law banning same-sex married couples from putting both their names on birth certificates. When the Supreme Court voted to strike down the law, Gorsuch, Alito and Thomas dissented.

Utah Signs Lowest Drunk Driving Limit in the United States

Americans know Utah for its beautiful mountains and its famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and now it’s famous for having the toughest drunk driving laws in the United States. On March 24, 2017, Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed legislation that lowers Utah’s drunk driving legal limit to .05. The state is the first in the country to move the legal limit down to .05 from the .08 limit that exists currently in the rest of the country. The new law doesn’t take effect immediately but instead begins on December 31, 2018.

Tourist and hospitality groups oppose the measure, worried that tourists may take their dollars elsewhere because of the change. Tourism and commerce groups say that they expect a decline in revenue as the new measures may prompt people to avoid alcohol completely. Herbert says that the law isn’t about drinking but rather road safety. Herbert says that the law is simply good public policy. He believes the law is going to save lives.

Legislators expect more fine tuning before the law goes into effect. Among the topics for discussion are what the penalties should be when a person has a blood alcohol level of at least a .05 but lower than a .08. Some say reduced penalties are appropriate in a case like that. Commerce groups want to see the state completely delay implementation of the law until other states follow suit. Both sides say now that the law is official they’re interested to work together to tweak the law’s finer points.

The National Transportation Safety Board has advocated for lowering legal limits for several years. They say that the evidence shows that a person’s ability to drive becomes impaired by alcohol long before they reach .08. They say that by the time a person’s blood alcohol content reaches a .08, their risk of a fatal crash has already doubled.

In the rest of the United States, the legal limit remains .08. However, commercial drivers in most states face a lower drunk driving limit. For these drivers, stiffer penalties for drunk driving and a lower legal limit are already the norm.

Governor Herbert dismisses those who call the measure religiously motivated. He points to Rome as another location that uses a legal limit lower than .08. Herbert says that Rome doesn’t have a large Mormon population, and their legal limit is similar to Utah’s new legal limit.

Sources: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/mar/24/utah-governor-signs-bill-lowering-blood-alcohol-li/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/utah-adopts-stricter-drunk-driving-law-us_us_58d4220de4b02d33b749d400

What is the Purpose of an Estate Planning Attorney?

When you think of an estate planning attorney, your mind likely jumps to the drafting of a will. While it is true that estate planning attorneys draft wills, their responsibilities are much broader in scope. Aside from advising clients about how to plan the distribution of their assets, estate planning attorneys also offer advice to a decedent’s personal representatives and estate beneficiaries.  He’ll provide unique insight on how to properly resolve the decedent’s affairs. These matters are typically referred to as the probate process.

Wills and Trusts

When crafting a will for a client, an estate planning attorney will offer valuable advice regarding the tax ramifications of the client’s desired arrangements. Once the client considers the estate planning attorney’s advice, he will modify the disposition of his properties and assets in a more economically efficient manner. If a will is not written with the proper language, there is the possibility that the decedent’s assets will not be distributed as he instructed.

Each jurisdiction has unique rules about the disposition of property. These rules carry significant tax consequences for the client and his benefactors. The attorney must write wills with carefully crafted language that minimizes the amount of tax dollars  paid to the government, while maximizing the money that is to be distributed to the benefactors.

Along with writing wills, estate planning attorneys will also establish trusts on behalf of the client. Some trusts are straightforward while others are more complex. Many clients will benefit from a testamentary trust. This style of trust contains stipulations designed to release money to benefactors at a certain point in time for specifically identified purposes. For example, an estate planning attorney can establish a testamentary trust for a client who desires that her grandchild receives money that is to be used toward college expenses.  The release of this money is conditional on his successful completion of high school and his enrollment in college.

Managing the Probate Process

The probate process requires an estate planning attorney’s knowledge of complex inheritance and tax laws. Estate planning attorneys re-title assets to beneficiaries, coordinate the collection of life insurance, resolve income tax issues, identify and securing the decedent’s assets, determine the value of any properties owned by the decedent and calculate and pay the decedent’s remaining bills. He’ll also calculate and pay both gift and real estate taxes and offer advice regarding the sale of estate property.

Formalities

Aside from the rather complex issues listed above, estate planning attorneys also handle much more simple matters. He’ll be charged with filing documents required by the probate court and requesting court permission for various actions.  He’ll also manage client retirement accounts as well as the estate checking account.

Conflict Resolution

Oftentimes, disputes arise between beneficiaries and personal representatives of the decedent. The estate planning attorney is responsible to act as a mediator between the parties and settle the conflict to the satisfaction of both parties. These are delicate matters that require both the client and his beneficiaries to place a high level of trust in the estate planning attorney.