Monday, October 26, 2015

Last Monday in October

And my last post of the day. 

By many accounts, Sunday night has become the new Monday morning

Okay then:

"Abortion, birth control, race top Supreme Court’s agenda" by Mark Sherman Associated Press  October 03, 2015

WASHINGTON — Abortion, birth control, and race are among the most divisive issues the Supreme Court will confront over the next nine months, amid a presidential campaign in which some candidates are talking pointedly about the justices and the prospect of replacing some of them in the next few years.

The justices are returning to the bench on Monday for the start of their new term and their first public appearance together since a number of high-profile decisions in June that displayed passionate, sometimes barbed, disagreements and suggested some bruised feelings among the nine judges.

The three-month break probably is a good thing, Justice Samuel Alito noted in a speech at the University of Kentucky last month. By late June, ‘‘We tend to be kind of angry with each other,’’ Alito said.

No single case before the justices in the new term holds the significance of the court’s 5-to-4 decision in June that extended the right to marriage to gay and lesbian couples nationwide.

Commentators across the political spectrum say the lineup of cases suggests that conservatives will win more often than they will lose over the next few months, in contrast to the liberal side’s success last term in gay marriage, health care, and housing discrimination, among other issues.

The court’s slate is expected to include:


If they are not impeachment hearings, war-criminal trials, torture or spying cases I'm really not interested.

RelatedSupreme Court opens term quietly, but divisive social issues lie ahead

No one will be allowed to protest (no cameras, either). 

Now excuse as they go circle among their rich friends.

"A federal appeals court ordered the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday to relax some limits it set on smokestack emissions that cross state lines and taint downwind areas with air pollution from power plants. The ruling follows a Supreme Court decision last year upholding the so-called Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which blocks states from adding to air pollution in other states. The April 2014 ruling was an important victory for the Obama administration and capped a decades-long effort by the EPA to ensure that states are good neighbors and don’t contribute to pollution problems elsewhere."

"The Supreme Court on Monday blocked one of the Obama administration’s most ambitious environmental initiatives: an Environmental Protection Agency regulation meant to limit emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants from coal-fired power plants. Industry groups and some 20 states had challenged the EPA’s decision to regulate the emissions, saying the agency had failed to take into account the punishing costs its rule would impose. Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote: “It is not rational, never mind ‘appropriate,’ to impose billions of dollars in economic costs in return for a few dollars in health or environmental benefits. Statutory context supports this reading.”

Supreme Court wrong to give coal industry a reprieve

Supreme Court appears divided over EPA limits on mercury emissions from power plants

Regardless of cost, that's the end of the road.

More stuff that stinks:

Supreme court to hear case on voter-approved redistricting
Justices seem skeptical of independent electoral map boards
Supreme Court rejects challenge to Wisconsin voter ID law
Supreme Court rules against Alabama in redistricting case
Supreme Court rejects North Carolina appeal on election law
Arguments continue on Texas voter ID law
Supreme Court to weigh ‘1 person, 1 vote’ case

This is the same crew that put Citizens United through.

Justices uphold limits on judges’ appeals for campaign cash

Judiciary above others.

Texas voter ID law is biased, violates 1965 act, court rules
Record number of Americans can register online, vote early

Isn't there enough vote fraud already?

High court quashes N.C. appeal on preabortion ultrasounds
Supreme Court could review Texas abortion law
The power to regulate is the power to destroy
The Supreme Court should learn from a pool party in Texas

US appeals court upholds tighter gun laws in 2 states

The stopwatch on Sandy Hook continues to run, and when guns are illegal only illegals will have guns.

Supreme Court hears arguments for, against execution drug
Supreme Court backs states’ use of execution drug
Ohio delays executions until 2017 over lack of lethal injection drugs
Judge orders Ark. to disclose source of execution drugs
Justices to decide on sentences for young prison ‘lifers’
High court hears case on life sentences for teenagers

The tragic sequence took place more than a half-century ago, nine days before the Kennedy assassination in 1963.

Supreme Court to hear Confederate flag dispute 

I don't know when was the last time the Globe waived that in our faces.

"Supreme Court weighs license plate case; Implications worry justices" by Adam Liptak New York Times   March 24, 2015

WASHINGTON — The question for the Supreme Court on Monday was whether Texas had violated the First Amendment by rejecting a specialty license plate bearing the Confederate battle flag. As the argument progressed, it became clear that many of the justices were not happy with either possible answer.

Only Justice Antonin Scalia seemed attracted to the main argument advanced by the state’s solicitor general, Scott A. Keller. Keller said that all 438 specialty license plates available to Texas drivers, including one promoting a hamburger chain, are the government’s speech and thus immune from First Amendment scrutiny.

The plates feature universities and sports teams. Some send messages like “Choose Life,” “God Bless Texas,” and “Fight Terrorism.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. was skeptical.

“Texas will put its name on anything,” he said. “The only thing that unifies it is they get money from it.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg focused on the burger shops.

“Is it government speech to say ‘Mighty Fine Burgers’ to advertise a product?” she asked.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said the vast assortment of available license plates suggested that the state should not be allowed to discriminate among potential messages, just as the government may not censor only certain speakers in a public park.

“Why isn’t this a new public forum in a new era?” he asked, adding that “people don’t go to parks anymore — they drive.”

In 2011, the board of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles rejected a license plate honoring the Sons of Confederate Veterans and including a Confederate flag. The board justified its decision by saying that many people found the flag offensive.

“A significant portion of the public,” the board explained, “associates the Confederate flag with organizations advocating expressions of hate directed toward people or groups that is demeaning to those people or groups.”

Ginsburg seemed troubled by the board’s criteria. “It’s a nebulous standard,” she said.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer, joined by Kennedy, pressed Keller for the standard the state uses to allow some plates but not others.

“I just think you have to have some kind of legitimate reason,” Breyer said. “It doesn’t have to be much. It could be just a little.”

But neither justice seemed satisfied with Keller’s responses, which were vague and abstract.

The veterans’ heritage group won in the Fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals, in New Orleans. The court said the proposed message on the license plate was private speech and that Texas had discriminated against the group’s view that “the Confederate flag is a symbol of sacrifice, independence, and Southern heritage.”

In the early part of Monday’s argument, the group seemed likely to prevail. But some justices seemed to grow uncomfortable with the implications of a ruling in its favor, which could make states choose between having any specialty license plates and allowing all sorts of vile and vulgar speech.

Scalia asked about “dirty words” on personalized vanity plates. Keller said a ruling against Texas would require it to allow such plates along with specialty plates celebrating Al Qaeda and the Nazi party.

Roberts proposed a solution.

“There is an easy answer to that,” he said, “which is they don’t have to get in the business of selling space on their license plates to begin with.”


"Justices revive hiring lawsuit; Muslim attire deterred retailer" by Adam Liptak New York Times  June 02, 2015

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday revived an employment discrimination lawsuit against Abercrombie & Fitch, which had refused to hire a Muslim woman because she wore a head scarf.

“This is really easy,” Justice Antonin Scalia said in announcing the decision.

The company at least suspected that the woman, Samantha Elauf, wore the head scarf for religious reasons, Scalia said, and its decision not to hire her was motivated by a desire to avoid accommodating her religious practice. That was enough, he said, to allow her to sue under federal employment discrimination law. The vote was 8 to 1, with Justice Clarence Thomas dissenting....

In a separate case Monday, the Supreme Court made it harder to prosecute people for threats made on Facebook and other social media, reversing the conviction of a Pennsylvania man who directed brutally violent language against his estranged wife. 

Free speech matters, too.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, said that prosecutors must do more than prove that reasonable people would view statements as threats. The defendant’s state of mind matters, Roberts wrote.

The case concerned threatening rap lyrics that arose from domestic troubles. Anthony Elonis, a Pennsylvania man who had adopted the rap persona Tone Dougie, posted long tirades in the form of rap lyrics on Facebook.

The Supreme Court has said that “true threats” are not protected by the First Amendment but said prosecutors had not done enough to prove Elonis’s intent. Prosecutors had argued that the words and their context were enough.


What's next, changing around church chapels and signs for them?

Supreme Court’s chance to do the right thing on Obamacare

So says a Tribe member.

Supreme Court appears divided over health care law subsidies
Health care ruling could be a blow to Maine, N.H.
New health law doesn't infringe on religious freedom
Ruling backs contraceptive coverage
Justices order new look at Notre Dame birth control case

In other action Monday, the high court said it will not hear, rejected without comment, agreed to review, and declined to block other things.

"Supreme Court rejects challenge to Wisconsin voter ID law; Measure won’t affect April vote; Court hears ADA compliance case" by Adam Liptak New York Times  March 24, 2015

WASHINGTON — In a separate case Monday, the Supreme Court seemed skeptical that the nation’s disabilities law requires police to take special precautions when arresting armed and violent suspects who are mentally ill. Most justices expressed doubts about second-guessing police who are trying to protect public safety.

No protection from police brutality under their robes.

The justices heard arguments in a dispute about how San Francisco police in 2008 dealt with a woman with schizophrenia who had threatened to kill her social worker. Police ultimately forced their way into Teresa Sheehan’s room at a group home, then shot her after she came at them with a knife.

Sheehan survived and later sued the city, alleging that police had a duty under the Americans with Disabilities Act to consider her mental illness and take more steps to avoid a violent confrontation.

Is that why they kill you now? The San Francisco effect?

The case comes as police have been criticized for a series of high-profile incidents where suspects with mental illness have been shot and killed — most recently an unarmed, naked man in an apartment complex outside Atlanta....

Also Monday, the Supreme Court said it wouldn’t hear an appeal from two former Louisiana inmates who were wrongly convicted of murder and wanted to sue prosecutors for damages after spending 28 years in prison.

The justices let stand a federal appeals court ruling that said Earl Truvia and Gregory Bright couldn’t hold the New Orleans district attorney’s office liable for the conduct of prosecutors who violated their constitutional rights.

No one is to be held responsible, I gue$$.

Truvia and Bright were convicted of murder in 1976 but exonerated in 2002 after a judge ruled prosecutors withheld key evidence.

All that time in prison after being framed for a crime they didn't commit. That has unfortunately become the rule regarding AmeriKan JU$TU$.


"Court weighs excessive force against inmates awaiting trial" by Sam Hananel Associated Press  April 28, 2015

WASHINGTON — Amid a growing national debate over police use of force, the Supreme Court struggled Monday with a related question concerning possible use of excessive force by officials against people held in jail awaiting charges or trial.

The case involves Michael Kingsley, a Wisconsin man who was in jail pending a trial on drug charges. Kingsley claims that two jail officers used excessive force when they transferred him to another cell after he refused to remove a piece of paper covering the light over his bed.

Kingsley sued for civil rights violations, but a jury sided with the jail officers. The jury was instructed that for Kingsley to prove his case, he must show that the jail officers recklessly disregarded his safety.

A federal appeals court rejected Kingsley's argument that he needed only to show the actions were unreasonable.

At issue is whether people awaiting trial who sue jail guards over claims of mistreatment must show the use of force was intentional — or at least reckless — as opposed to simply unreasonable.

Whatever happened to "To Protect and Serve?"


In other matters Monday:

The Supreme Court said it would decide whether websites and other firms that collect personal data can be sued for publishing inaccurate information even if the mistakes don’t cause any actual harm.

The justices will hear an appeal from, an Internet search engine that compiles publicly available data on people and lets subscribers view the information, including address, age, marital status, and economic health. Thomas Robins, a Virginia resident, sued Spokeo after viewing a profile on him that had many errors....

The justices declined to hear an appeal from a man who was convicted of protesting outside a military base in California. They let stand an appeals court ruling that said officials did not violate the First Amendment rights of John Dennis Apel when they banned him from protesting near Vandenberg Air Force Base.

It's in their DNA.


RelatedRuling guts limit on DNA retesting

But they will need a warrant to search your hotel room:

"Justices rule police must obtain warrant to search hotel registries" by Adam Liptak New York Times   June 23, 2015

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday struck down a Los Angeles ordinance that allowed the police to inspect hotel and motel guest registries without permission from a judge.

In a second decision, the court clarified standards for excessive force claims against correctional officers from people awaiting trial. Both cases were decided by 5-to-4 votes, with the court’s more liberal members in the majority.

The case concerning hotel registries is most likely to have a broad impact, as dozens of cities allow such warrantless searches, which police say help them catch fugitives and fight prostitution and drug dealing.

A group of motel owners challenged the Los Angeles law. They said they were not troubled by its requirement that they keep records about guests. But they objected to a second part of the ordinance, which allowed the police to look at the registries at any time without the owners’ consent or a search warrant.

Those are in Burlington.

In dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia called that approach “equal parts 1984 and Alice in Wonderland.” He added that the majority had struck a needless blow against a valuable and barely intrusive practice.

The excessive-force case concerned a lawsuit against Wisconsin jail officials who used a stun gun on a detainee after he was handcuffed and taken from his cell for refusing to remove a piece of paper covering a light fixture in his cell. The detainee, Michael B. Kingsley, was awaiting trial on a drug charge. The question for the justices was whether Kingsley had to prove that the officials subjectively believed that they had crossed a line in using too much force or that, as Breyer put it for the majority, “a pretrial detainee must show only that the force purposely or knowingly used against him was objectively unreasonable.” The second showing was enough, Breyer wrote in an opinion joined by Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan.


Of course, no warrant is need to search your cellphone records.

And they want to let the perverts run loose?

"Justices order GPS monitor review" Associated Press  March 31, 2015

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a North Carolina sex offender should have another chance to challenge an order that he wear a GPS monitoring bracelet around the clock for the rest of his life.

The justices said the state’s highest court must reconsider whether North Carolina violated Torrey Dale Grady’s constitutional rights when it ordered him to wear the ankle bracelet beginning in 2013.

North Carolina is among at least eight states that have a system for lifetime monitoring for convicted sex offenders. More than 40 states require at least some period of monitoring as a condition of probation or release from prison.

Grady was convicted of a second-degree sex offense in 1997 and then again of taking indecent liberties with a child in 2006. The second conviction qualified Grady as a repeat offender.

After serving nearly three years in prison, Grady was ordered to start wearing the GPS bracelet 24 hours a day in 2013 so officials could keep track of his movements.

Grady argued that the state’s lifetime GPS monitoring system is unreasonable because it allows state officials to enter his home — with or without his permission — to maintain a GPS monitoring base station. Grady also complains that he must charge the bracelet every day by plugging it into a wall outlet for four to six hours at a time.

State courts rejected his claims, but the Supreme Court said the monitoring qualifies as a search under the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures and likened it to its last case on GPS devices three years ago.

‘‘The state’s program is plainly designed to obtain information,’’ the court said in an unsigned opinion. ‘‘And since it does so by physically intruding on a subject’s body, it effects a Fourth Amendment search.’’

In 2012, the court ruled that placing the tracking units on cars to follow their movement is a search. That case did not decide whether attaching the devices without a search warrant violated the Constitution. On Monday, the justices said in their unsigned opinion that the state court should weigh whether North Carolina’s tracking of sex offenders is reasonable.

State officials argued that Grady’s complaints are based on outdated descriptions of the monitoring program. They said he presented no evidence of the interruptions to his daily life, how often officials must visit his home, or what use North Carolina makes of the information it collects from the ankle bracelet.

In other action Monday:


"Justices side with president on Jerusalem passport law" by Adam Liptak New York Times  June 09, 2015

WASHINGTON — Against the backdrop of generations of conflict in the Middle East and the longstanding tensions between Congress and presidents on the conduct of foreign policy there, the Supreme Court struck down a law Monday that allowed American parents of children born in Jerusalem to obtain passports saying the children were born in Israel.

That makes me feel a bit better.

The vote was 6-3, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissenting.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for five justices, said the court approached the question cautiously.

“Jerusalem’s political standing has long been, and remains, one of the most sensitive issues in American foreign policy,” Kennedy wrote, “and indeed it is one of the most delicate issues in current international affairs.”

But Kennedy said the Constitution gives the president exclusive authority to determine the nation’s stance. “Put simply,” he wrote, “the nation must have a single policy regarding which governments are legitimate in the eyes of the United States and which are not.”

The nation must speak with one voice, he said, and “that voice must be the president’s.”

In dissent, Roberts said the majority had taken a bold step. “Today’s decision is a first,” he wrote. “Never before has this court accepted a president’s direct defiance of an act of Congress in the field of foreign affairs.”

The case concerned a 2002 law that instructed the State Department to “record the place of birth as Israel” in the passports of American children born in Jerusalem if their parents asked. It was brought by the parents of Menachem B. Zivotofsky, who was born not long after Congress enacted the law. Under the State Department’s policies, their son’s passport says that he was born in Jerusalem; they sought to have it say Israel.

President George W. Bush signed the law, part of an appropriations bill, but said he would not follow the Jerusalem provision because it “impermissibly interferes with the president’s constitutional authority to conduct the nation’s foreign affairs.”

The Obama administration also objected to the provision and has refused to follow it. In its Supreme Court briefs, it told the justices that the status of Jerusalem, whether it is part of Israel, should be resolved by negotiations between Arabs and Israelis.

I'm siding with the executive on this, and it's a slim difference with AIPAC-occupied Congre$$.

The case, Zivotofsky v. Kerry, thus presented an important test of the dueling roles of Congress and the president in the conduct of foreign affairs. On Monday, the court ruled that Congress had gone too far, and it struck down the passport provision as unconstitutional.

Scalia announced his dissent from the bench, a rare move indicating bitter disagreement.

“A principle that the nation must have a single foreign policy, which elevates efficiency above the text and structure of the Constitution, will systematically favor the president at the expense of Congress,” he said. “It is possible that it will make for more effective foreign policy, perhaps as effective as that of Bismarck or King George. But it is certain that, in the long run, it will erode the structure of equal and separated powers that the people established for the protection of their liberty.”

Reaction to the decision in the Middle East focused on its bottom line and not on the Supreme Court’s differing conceptions of the separation of powers required by the Constitution.

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, praised the decision and said it “sends a clear message to Israel that its policies of colonization are null and void.”

But Mayor Nir Barkat of Jerusalem called on Obama to recognize his city as Israel’s capital, saying it was particularly important “when anti-Semitism is trying to raise its head.”

They wave that around every time they don't get their way!

“Just as Washington is the capital of the United States, London the capital of England, and Paris the capital of France,” Barkat said in a statement, “so Jerusalem was and always will be the capital of Israel, and the heart and soul of the Jewish people.”

Actually, it's Tel Aviv. They are trying to steal Jerusalem like they have stolen so many other Palestinian lands.

Kennedy based his opinion on provisions of the Constitution authorizing the president to receive foreign ambassadors, to appoint US ones, and to make treaties.

Roberts responded that receiving ambassadors is a presidential duty rather than a power.

“The president does have power to make treaties and appoint ambassadors,” the chief justice added. “But those authorities are shared with Congress, so they hardly support an inference that the recognition power is exclusive.”

Roberts wrote that the majority decision would be wrong even if the president’s power to recognize foreign governments were exclusive. What was at issue, after all, he said, was a notation in a passport. “The annals of diplomatic history,” he wrote, “record no examples of official recognition accomplished via optional passport designation.”

Kennedy wrote that some observers had interpreted passport provision as altering US policy, leading to “protests across the region.” Roberts responded that giving legal weight to such mistaken reactions “is essentially to subject a duly enacted statute to an international heckler’s veto.”

Kennedy wrote that Congress was not free to contradict the president’s determination about the status of Jerusalem even in a notation in a passport.

“This is not to say Congress may not express its disagreement with the president in myriad ways,” Kennedy added. “For example, it may enact an embargo, decline to confirm an ambassador, or even declare war. But none of these acts would alter the president’s recognition decision.”

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan joined Kennedy’s majority opinion.

Justice Clarence Thomas voted with the majority to strike down the passport provision, but he did not adopt its reasoning. He traded jabs with Scalia, usually an ally. Scalia wrote that Thomas’s approach would produce “a presidency more reminiscent of George III than George Washington.”

Thomas responded that Scalia’s opinion “about the Constitution’s resolution of conflict among the branches could itself be criticized as creating a supreme legislative body more reminiscent of the Parliament in England than the Congress in America.”

In other court action, justices:

■ Decided they would stay out of a dispute between Governor Paul LePage and the federal government over whether Maine can eliminate Medicaid coverage for thousands of low-income young adults. The justices’ refusal to hear the case means the state must adhere to a lower court’s ruling to continue providing health coverage to about 6,500 19- and 20-year olds until at least 2019 to maintain federal funding.

RelatedMaine governor’s checkbook joke falls flat with women

■ Turned down another National Rifle Association-led appeal aimed at loosening gun restrictions and instead left in place two San Francisco gun laws. The court let stand court rulings in favor of a city measure that requires handgun owners to secure weapons in their homes, keeping them on their bodies, or applying trigger locks. A second ordinance bans the sale of hollow-point bullets.


"In other matters Monday:

■ The Supreme Court, in a 5-to-4 decision with no majority opinion, refused to second-guess the denial of a visa on national security grounds to the Afghan husband of an American woman.

Scalia, joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Clarence Thomas, said the woman, Fauzia Din, had no legal right to live with her husband in the United States.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, joined by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., took no position on that point but said the reasons given for denying the visa were sufficient, particularly in light of national security concerns.

The State Department said in 2009 that it had turned down Din’s husband, Kanishka Berashk, because he had been involved in terrorist activities. Berashk had worked as a civil servant in the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

Under a longstanding legal doctrine called “consular nonreviewability,” Berashk was powerless to pursue the matter in US courts. But Din, a naturalized US citizen, said the visa denial interfered with her fundamental right to marriage. A federal appeals court in California agreed, ruling that she was entitled to “a facially legitimate reason” for the denial.

Scalia acknowledged that the Supreme Court had ruled that marriage is a fundamental right, notably in 1967 in Loving v. Virginia, which struck down bans on interracial marriage.

“Although some of our case law speaks of an implied fundamental right to marry, Din has not been forbidden to enter a marriage,” Scalia said in summarizing his opinion from the bench. “And those right-to-marry cases cannot be expanded to include a right that Din argues for — the right to live in the United States with one’s alien spouse.”

Given that, Scalia said of Din in his written opinion, “to the extent that she received any explanation for the government’s decision, this was more than the due process clause required.”

Kennedy’s opinion, narrower and therefore controlling, said, “Today’s disposition should not be interpreted as deciding whether a citizen has a protected liberty interest in the visa application of her alien spouse.”

It is not unusual for the justices in the majority to agree on the bottom line but not the rationale. If no rationale commands five votes, the narrowest opinion governs.

■ The high court ruled that federal appeals courts have authority to decide whether people facing deportation should be able to extend the deadlines in immigration proceedings.

In an 8-to-1 opinion, the justices sided with Noel Reyes Mata, a Mexican citizen who had lived in the United States for nearly 15 years. The government began deportation proceedings after he pleaded guilty to an assault charge.

An immigration judge ordered him deported. Mata appealed, but his lawyer failed to file paperwork within the 90 days required.

A new attorney tried to reopen the case, but the Board of Immigration Appeals refused.

■ The justices agreed to hear an appeal from Mississippi over the authority of tribal courts to try civil lawsuits involving non-Indians. They stepped into a lawsuit over allegations of sexual abuse of a teenager at a Dollar General store located on the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians reservation. The issue is whether the non-Indian owners of the store can be sued in tribal courts."

That finishes up tribal matters.

Time to head for home:

Supreme Court OK’s lawsuits under the Fair Housing Act

Bankrupt homeowners can’t void second mortgage

Supreme Court strikes down Maryland income tax law In other matters Monday the justices: Ruled unanimously in favor of participants in employee retirement plans who object to companies’ investment decisions that eat into retirement savings. The justices revived claims by current and former employees of energy company Edison International, who argued that the company chose mutual funds with excessive fees."

Ex-governor Rod Blagojevich appeals to Supreme Court
Court overturns some Blagojevich Senate-seat convictions

Speaking of insider trading:

"Supreme Court denies request to hear insider trading case" by Matthew Goldstein and Adam Liptak New York Times  October 06, 2015

NEW YORK — The Supreme Court on Monday refused to review an appeals court decision that made it harder to prosecute insider trading and threatens to undermine a number of convictions.

It's a corporate court.

As is their custom, the justices gave no reasons for turning down the case.

The decision dealt a blow to Preet Bharara, the US attorney in Manhattan, whose office oversaw a sweeping crackdown on insider trading in the $3 trillion hedge fund industry.

How them Mellons taste?

The high court’s decision not to hear the case is a final vindication for Todd Newman and Anthony Chiasson, two former hedge fund managers who were prosecuted by Bharara’s office and convicted in December 2012. The Justice Department was seeking review of an appellate decision last year that overturned their insider trading convictions.

The court’s decision could also jeopardize a number of other insider trading convictions secured by Bharara’s office, including one against Michael Steinberg, a former trader who worked for Steven A. Cohen, the billionaire investor. It could also affect a handful of plea agreements made with cooperating witnesses.

See: SAC's Steinberg Sentenced

Lawyers for Chiasson and Newman issued statements applauding the Supreme Court’s decision. A lawyer for Steinberg said the court’s decision should require that his client’s “conviction be thrown out as well.”

Steinberg, convicted of insider trading in 2013 while working at Cohen’s former hedge fund, SAC Capital Advisors, has an appeal pending. The appeal was stayed pending the outcome of the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Newman and Chiasson.

Also see: Connecticut Keeps Eye on Cho$en Ones

Bharara, in a conference call with reporters to discuss the Supreme Court decision, said he continued to believe the appellate court was wrong. He said the ruling would make it more difficult for prosecutors to bring criminal cases when corporate executives pass on an inside tip to a friend or a relative expecting nothing special in return. “We think there is a category of conduct that will go unpunished going forward,” he said.

Bharara declined to comment on how his office would respond to Steinberg’s appeal and any attempt by cooperators to overturn their pleas. But he noted 90 percent of his office’s insider trading convictions would stand, including one against Raj Rajaratnam, the former Galleon Group hedge fund founder, who is serving an 11-year prison sentence.

The Justice Department had asked the Supreme Court to review the ruling from the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in United States v. Newman, claiming that it represented a significant change in decades of insider trading case law.

That was a risky move, and it backfired just as people thought it would.

In its petition urging the court to hear the case, the Justice Department said the appeals court’s decision “unjustifiably impedes the government’s ability to restrain and punish” those who trade on confidential information. Allowing the ruling to stand, the petition said, would “hurt market participants, disadvantage scrupulous market analysts, and impair the government’s ability to protect the fairness and integrity of the securities markets.”

The case concerned trading at two hedge funds that was said to be based on inside information about coming earnings announcements. The defendants, Newman and Chiasson, learned the information indirectly and said they did not know enough about the original tips to be held criminally responsible for trading on them. They were convicted in 2012. Newman was sentenced to 54 months in prison, and Chiasson to 78 months.

In overturning their convictions, a three-judge panel of the Appeals Court ruled that the original tips were not unlawful because the company insiders had not disclosed confidential information in exchange for a personal benefit. That ruling was based on a 1983 Supreme Court decision, Dirks v. Securities and Exchange Commission, which requires evidence that the insider “directly or indirectly” gained something from the initial disclosure.

That must lift the fantasy sports crowd.

The appeals court interpreted that requirement narrowly, saying it required “proof of a meaningfully close personal relationship that generates an exchange that is objective, consequential and represents at least a potential gain of a pecuniary or similarly valuable nature.”

The court added that prosecutors must also prove that the defendants — in this case, several steps removed from the initial disclosure — knew they were trading on information of this sort. It said there was insufficient evidence on this second point.


RelatedUS calls insider trading ruling ‘harmful’ in review bid

Going to have to change the rules then:

"Will new rules on prosecuting economic crime change anything?; Justice Department says it aims to hold individuals accountable, too" by Ben Protess and Matt Apuzzo New York Times  September 11, 2015

NEW YORK — Banks don’t break the law; bankers do.

That populist lament is now a government directive, with the Justice Department this week announcing new policies for prosecuting corporate employees, responding to criticism that it has secured huge fines from banks but few indictments of bankers.


The overhaul, Justice Department officials say, may ease some barriers to prosecuting Wall Street cases and pave the way for executive indictments.

But will the changes guarantee a Wall Street “perp walk” — that moment when a top banker is led away in handcuffs?

Perhaps not. Recent investigations suggest that the challenges prosecutors face are greater than new rules can solve.

Do I really have to type it? This government image garbage being shoveled forth by the pre$$!

In all likelihood, prosecutors today would still struggle to indict Angelo Mozilo, the founder of Countrywide Financial, who embodied the financial crisis-era risk-taking in subprime mortgages.

Aren't they Bank of America now? 

What a sweetheart deal!

The same goes for Lehman Brothers executives, who, like Mozilo, never faced criminal charges. Prosecutors did conduct investigations of those executives along the lines of the new guidelines, but they say they struggled to prove wrongdoing.

We were told they were "too big to jail" and doing so would destroy the economy (never mind the criminal behavior doing it).

“Updated guidelines are not a panacea,” said David A. O’Neil, a defense lawyer who until last year was the acting head of the Justice Department’s criminal division in Washington. “White-collar cases are hard to prove, because they’re very complex and if you don’t have direct evidence of fraud, there’s room for argument on both sides.”

Are you sick of the excu$es like me?

And even if the changes ultimately lead to a new round of indictments, those cases won’t necessarily succeed in the courtroom.

Then we won't see them.

In several Wall Street cases that involved individual charges — the indictments of two Bear Stearns hedge fund managers, JPMorgan Chase traders, and certain hedge fund portfolio managers, for example — juries and judges have spoiled the government’s efforts to secure convictions and prison sentences.

Those outcomes underscore the difficulty of proving criminal wrongdoing, with or without new guidelines, in an increasingly complex and global financial system. Compounding the obstacles, the FBI’s resources these days are dedicated more to fighting terrorism than to white-collar crime.

That why their instigators are setting up so many patsies?

The Justice Department acknowledges the limitations of its new guidelines, but it argues that it is nonetheless necessary to put corporations on notice and set the tone for its white-collar investigations.


While the Justice Department cannot control whether some companies continue to obfuscate, officials say, the new policies can at least remove some of the internal barriers to prosecuting culpable individuals.

“I’m not trying to tell you that this means that tomorrow, all of a sudden, corporate heads are going to be rolling,” said Sally Q. Yates, the deputy attorney general and the author of the new guidelines.

“It’s going to take some time for these changes to take effect. And we don’t have any way of knowing what the actual impact will be in terms of cases that are brought,” she added.

Translation: this is all crap.

In a speech Thursday at New York University School of Law, Yates was to emphasize six “key steps” to such prosecutions, including the refusal to award companies “any” — the word is underlined in a memo that lays out the changes — credit for cooperating without full disclosure of individual wrongdoing.

The change places added pressure on companies to name names during investigations.

A protracted federal inquiry can cost millions of dollars in legal fees and weaken share prices, giving companies a strong incentive to seek cooperation credit from the government. Lacking such credit, companies could pay billions of dollars in extra fines. It can also mean the difference between a company pleading guilty or taking probation.

Another element of Yates’s memo instructs civil and criminal investigators to give individual employees priority from the onset of an investigation, rather than making them an afterthought.

Yates also instructed civil and criminal prosecutors to better coordinate their investigations, which will probably streamline cases so that actions against companies and individuals are announced in unison.

“The main reason you bring these cases is to send messages to the business community,” said Matthew L. Schwartz, a former prosecutor at the US attorney’s office in Manhattan who is now a partner at Boies, Schiller & Flexner. “The more that you can bring every part of a case together, it paints a more complete picture of who is responsible and what conduct won’t be tolerated.”

Oh, they got the message. They are back to business as usual.

Much of Yates’s memo codifies practices that were in place in Washington and in US attorneys’ offices that are accustomed to handling big corporate cases, like those in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The memo mandates that other offices, which increasingly handle white-collar cases, adopt those practices.


Look who may be getting out soon:

"Onetime allies on Wall Street now share prison" by Anita Raghavan New York Times  August 03, 2015

In their heyday, Raj Rajaratnam and Rajat K. Gupta were business partners who lent each other a helping hand.

The two men were very different. Rajaratnam was a high-rolling hedge fund manager who loved to take risks, while Gupta was a consultant educated at Harvard Business School who worked all his life at one firm, McKinsey & Co.

Years after their closely watched insider trading trials and two of the biggest victories for prosecutors in the government’s crackdown on insider trading on Wall Street, the men find themselves under the same roof: In a new development, both are now at the main prison at the Federal Medical Center Devens in Ayer, northwest of Boston, with 1,000 other inmates.

Friends, a former inmate, and those who have interacted with the two men describe an awkward relationship. The two lead parallel lives that sometimes intersect. They occasionally run into each other in the common areas at Devens and exchange pleasantries.

Although both men are in prison for the same crime, their friendship is irrevocably broken.

It is a long way from the chummy relationship Rajaratnam worked to cultivate over the years with Gupta and a web of others in corporate America as, prosecutors say, he worked to obtain illegal insider tips for his now-defunct hedge fund, Galleon Group. Gupta played a pivotal part, providing an important tip about Goldman Sachs’s financial health in the depths of the 2008 financial crisis.

That affinity, however, quickly frayed as both men stood trial. Rajaratnam was sentenced to 11 years in federal prison in 2011 after his conviction on 14 counts of conspiracy and securities fraud. Gupta was convicted in 2012 on one count of conspiracy and three counts of securities fraud.

David E. Morgan, a former inmate who served about a year and half on charges related to insurance fraud, met both men at Devens. Initially, Gupta was rumored to be a snitch, Morgan said. But Gupta quickly won over inmates. “People would ask him about trading stocks,” Morgan said, and Gupta would reply: “I don’t know anything about stocks.”

Often, before release, inmates would seek Gupta’s advice on business plans. One asked him to invest. According to Morgan, Gupta replied: “I am out of business.”

Though Gupta earned inmates’ respect, prison conditions can seem harsh to those accustomed to civilian life. White-collar convicts are typically treated better than murderers, but the main prison in Devens houses inmates of all security levels.

When Gupta arrived in June 2014, he was assigned to Devens’ minimum security camp, which houses 135 inmates. But in April, Gupta was sent for six weeks to the Special Housing Unit, or SHU (pronounced “shoe,” as fans of the Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black” know), as punishment. His infraction was having an unauthorized item: an extra pillow. Inmates often grab the pillows of departing prisoners. Gupta hoped an extra pillow would help with a bad back.

It is just one sign of the long fall from grace for Gupta. After his trial, luminaries like Bill Gates and Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general, wrote admiringly to the judge about Gupta’s charity work to urge leniency. Still, the judge sentenced Gupta, a former Goldman director, to two years in prison, calling his 2008 insider tip — he disclosed Warren E. Buffett’s investment in the financial firm — “a terrible breach of trust.”

It was the second time that Gupta was sent to “the hole,” as the SHU is sometimes called. Last summer, Gupta was dispatched to the unit for sitting during the inmate count. “He was actually tying his shoe,” Morgan said.

Inmates in the unit are kept in near-solitary conditions. They are allowed out of their cells only for one hour of exercise a day, said Michael Santos, a former federal prisoner, now a consultant. A light is on 24 hours a day for observation.

When inmates are moved for a visit, they must wear orange jumpsuits and are restrained in an elaborate procedure. The guard opens the cell door only when the inmate has been cuffed.

At a disciplinary hearing in May, Gupta’s privileges such as visiting rights were revoked, people briefed on the situation said. When Gupta’s elder sister traveled from India to see him, he offered to serve more time if she could visit, these people said. His requests were denied. She returned to India without seeing her brother.

Am I supposed to be feeling sorry for these greedy scum?

Shortly after, Gupta was transferred to the main compound.

When Morgan, the former inmate, arrived at the compound in October 2013, Rajaratnam, a longtime diabetic who needs dialysis, was housed in the prison’s hospital in a comfortable electrically operated bed. After a stint in the camp, when Morgan returned to the main prison compound late last year, he noticed that Rajaratnam “was in the same unit as I was” — a unit made up of two-man cells with a toilet, a sink, two lockers, one desk, and narrow bunk beds.

Morgan said Rajaratnam asked about Gupta, saying: “I consider him my friend.” Morgan responded: “He doesn’t consider you his friend.” Rajaratnam persisted. “Listen, you need to know I had an opportunity to give up Gupta and I didn’t,” he said.

Reed Brodsky, the prosecutor, did make an overture in 2011 for the hedge fund manager to cooperate. It was widely known that charging Gupta was a priority for prosecutors. Rajaratnam, through his lawyer, turned Brodsky down.

Samidh Guha, Rajaratnam’s lawyer, said his client recalled meeting with Morgan. “Mr. Rajaratnam simply told Mr. Morgan that Mr. Gupta is a good man and is innocent,” Guha said.

In court papers filed in June to set aside Rajaratnam’s conviction, lawyers claimed Anil Kumar, a McKinsey consultant who testified against Rajaratnam and his brother Rengan, had lied under oath.

Gregory Morvillo, Kumar’s lawyer, strongly disagreed. He acknowledged Rajaratnam’s wife, Asha, recently contacted Kumar and asked him to recant his testimony. Morvillo said Kumar had replied that “he testified truthfully and would do no such thing.”

Guha responded, saying: “Mr. Morvillo is wrong about his facts. Mr. Kumar called Mr. Rajaratnam’s wife first out of the blue. The relevant and troubling issue is that Mr. Kumar’s testimony at Mr. Rajaratnam’s trial cannot be reconciled with his later testimony at Mr. Rajaratnam’s brother’s trial.”

A spokeswoman for the Devens prison declined to comment on specific inmates. Rajaratnam was recently moved back to the hospital, said those who know him.

In prison, it is Gupta’s family that has kept him going. 

What a trooper! What a hero! What $hit pre$$!

At the camp, he pasted family photos on the bottom panel of the bunk above him. “Hey, David, look at what we have to be grateful for,” Morgan remembered Gupta saying. “ ‘When I go to bed, I see them, and when I wake up, I see them.’ ”

Until recently, Gupta’s twin granddaughters visited on Fridays. “He lights up from ear to ear when the babies come,” Morgan said. Gupta is sad they will no longer visit. Unlike the fenceless camp, visitors to the compound have to pass through clanging doors with steel bars. The Guptas decided the setting would frighten the grandchildren.


How many children's lives did he and his greedy friend ruin?


NDU: Punish people, not just corporations


UPDATE: Health law foes press justices to take new case

They are talking it over now.

Also see: 

Supreme Court troubled by DA’s rejection of black jurors

Fourth Supreme Court go-round for 5-year-old Obama health law

California plans use of 1 drug in executions

Missouri executions expected to slow

The police are going to calm down.

Texas man executed for setting fire that killed 3 children

Georgia man executed after losing appeals