Left-Wing Activist Judge Goes Out Of His Way To Prevent School Choice In North Carolina

One Judge Attempts To Block Thousands Of Students From Accessing School Vouchers – Daily Signal

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Last Thursday, North Carolina Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood ruled the state’s school voucher program unconstitutional because the program “appropriates funds in a manner that does not accomplish a public purpose.” The Opportunity Scholarship Program was established last year and set to go into effect this school year, providing children from low-income families scholarships worth up to $4,200 to attend a private school of choice.

The ruling halts implementation of the program and suspends disbursement of scholarship funds.

In February Hobgood granted a preliminary injunction against the program, arguing that the vouchers were “likely” unconstitutional and halting applications to the program. But in May, the North Carolina Supreme Court issued a temporary stay against Hobgood’s ruling.

Hobgood declared the Opportunity Scholarships unconstitutional based on the state’s obligation to provide students a “sound basic education,” finding that the state could not “delegate this responsibility to unregulated private schools…”

The Institute for Justice has filed a motion to intervene in the case to defend the program.

“This decision from the judge was not unexpected, given his willingness to preliminarily enjoin the program last February. The Institute for Justice was successful in getting the North Carolina Supreme Court to stop that injunction and we hope to have similar success in stopping this one,” said IJ senior attorney Richard Komer. “We are moving quickly to try and get the program up and running again. We remain confident that the program is constitutional in all respects.”

According to Parents for Educational Freedom, over 5,500 families applied for the scholarship this year. The North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority, the organization managing the scholarships, notes that more than 1,800 of those students have already received their awards – and many of those students have begun their school year. It is now unclear whether those students will be able to attend their school of choice.

Darrell Allison, president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, writes:

“Today’s ruling strikes at the heart of what thousands of North Carolina families have been fighting for over the past several months. With nearly 2,000 already enrolled and more than 300 private schools registered to educate these students, there is no doubt that the families, for whom this program is targeted, desperately desire this program. The Opportunity Scholarship Program is offering parents choices where none have existed before and is leveling the playing field when it comes to our state’s most disadvantaged children.”

Last year, North Carolina launched its first private school choice program, the Education Tax-Credit Program, while also adopting the Opportunity Scholarship Program. By doing so, North Carolina enacted options that could improve the educational landscape in the Tar Heel state for some of the most vulnerable students.

As the school choice march continues across the country, this ruling causes thousands of North Carolina students to wait, their educational futures on hold.

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Corruption Update: Federal Judge Demands Answers After IRS Contradicts Sworn Testimony On Lois Lerner’s Hard Drive

Judge Demands Answers After IRS Contradicts Sworn Testimony On Lerner’s Scratched Hard Drive – Daily Caller

U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan Thursday ordered the Internal Revenue Service to come up with new answers after IRS employees contradicted sworn testimony about damage to Lois Lerner’s hard drive.

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Sullivan ruled that “the IRS is hereby ORDERED to file a sworn Declaration, by an official with the authority to speak under oath for the Agency, by no later than August 22, 2014″ on four issues: the IRS’ attempted recovery of Lerner’s lost emails after her computer allegedly crashed, bar codes that could have been on the hard drive, IRS policies on hard drive destruction, and information about an outside vendor who worked on IRS hard drives.

Recent documents from nonprofit group Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the IRS, which Sullivan is presiding over, showed that IRS technology officials contradicted sworn testimony about damage to Lerner’s hard drive.

Aaron Signor, an IRS technician that looked at Lerner’s hard drive in June 2011, said in IRS court filings that he saw no damage to the drive before sending it off to another IRS technician, leading some in the media to suggest that the lost emails scandal is basically over. But Signor’s statement, issued in response to the Judicial Watch lawsuit, does not jibe with sworn congressional testimony.

The Daily Caller reported that Lerner’s hard drive was “scratched” and then “shredded,” according to a court filing the IRS made to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

The IRS technology official who served as the source of the “scratched” and “shredded” revelation is believed to have looked at the hard drive after Signor.

Sullivan’s order seems to have been motivated by the obvious contradiction. Judicial Watch said that Sullivan made the order because the IRS’ new court filing featuring Signor’s statement was a “joke.”

“In an extraordinary step, U. S. District Court Judge Emmett Sullivan has launched an independent inquiry into the issue of the missing emails associated with former IRS official Lois Lerner,” Judicial Watch said in a statement. “Previously, Judge Sullivan ordered the IRS to produce sworn declarations about the IRS email issue by August 11. Today’s order confirms Judicial Watch’s read of this week’s IRS’ filings that treated as a joke Judge Sullivan’s order.”

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It’s About Freakin’ Time! Federal Court Orders Obama Regime To Release Fast And Furious Information

Federal Court Orders Obama Administration To Release Fast And Furious Information – Judicial Watch

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Judicial Watch announced today that on July 18, 2014, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) must turn over to the organization a “Vaughn index” of all requested Operation Fast and Furious materials from the June 2012 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and subsequent September 2012 FOIA lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. Department of Justice (No. 1:12-cv-01510)). Judicial Watch sought all of the documents the Obama White House was withholding from the House of Representatives under executive privilege claims.

The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge John D. Bates lifted a lengthy 16-month delay of this open records lawsuit. This order forces the Obama DOJ, for the first time and by October 1, 2014, to provide a detailed listing of all documents that it has withheld from Congress and the American people for years about the deadly Fast and Furious gun running scandal. The ruling can be found here.

The DOJ opposed the Judicial Watch action, claiming it would interfere with the department’s continuing litigation with the House Oversight Committee concerning these Fast and Furious documents subpoenaed in October 2011. In September 2012, Obama asserted executive privilege over the documents. In the July 2014 opinion overruling the Obama Justice Department’s request for an almost indefinite hold on Judicial Watch’s legal right obtains this information under the Freedom of Information Act Bates said:

In the [February 15, 2013] order granting the stay, this court explicitly noted that the DOJ ‘does not seek, and the court will not award, an indefinite stay pending ultimate resolution of the House Committee litigation,’ and that ‘the benefits of delaying this case might well [become] too attenuated to justify any further delay”…

Because many of the issues to be resolved in this case do not overlap with the House committee, and because resolving those issues will not risk upsetting the delicate balance of powers in subpoena disputes between the political branches, the Court will require DOJ to produce a Vaughn index here.

In fact, the court suggested that disclosing information to Judicial Watch might actually resolve the legal dispute now before Judge Amy Berman Jackson between the Obama administration and Congress:

True, nothing in the subpoena enforcement context of House Committee would require DOJ to produce a particularized description of the withheld documents… But this is a FOIA case, and since 1973, when Vaughn was decided, courts in this circuit have required agencies to justify their FOIA withholdings on a particularized basis. And doing so here will not prematurely expose or resolve the executive privilege issues ahead of Judge Jackson and the political branches; it will merely permit the parties and this Court to cull from the dispute any documents as to which a valid, non-executive privilege reason for withholding exists, thereby narrowing or perhaps even resolving the case. To the extent DOJ argues that the mere production of the Vaughn index – not involving the release of any documents in dispute – would alter the historical balance of powers between the branches, any unbalancing would result from FOIA itself, a law passed by Congress and signed into law by the President, and which this Court cannot ignore forever.

Judge Bates also noted no court has ever “expressly recognized” President Obama’s executive privilege claims that his administration is using to keep these documents secret from Congress and the American people.

The DOJ claims, in addition to other Exemption 5 rationales, at least two distinct forms of executive privilege to justify withholding documents: a “deliberative process” privilege of constitutional dimensions and a “congressional response work-product” privilege. See: Mem.in Supp. of Def.’s Mot. for Summ. J., House Committee, No. 12-1332 [ECF No. 63] (“House Committee Def.’s Mot.”) at 21-27, 27-30. It appears that neither form has been expressly recognized by any court Id (citing Senate Select Comm. on Pres. Campaign Activities v. Nixon, 498 F.2d 725 (D.C. Cir. 1974)).

A Vaughn index must: (1) identify each document withheld; (2) state the statutory exemption claimed; and (3) explain how disclosure would damage the interests protected by the claimed exemption.” In ordering the DOJ to provide Judicial Watch the Vaughn index, the Court ruled, “In this circuit, when an agency is withholding documents under exemption claims, courts require that the agency provide a Vaughn index so that the FOIA requester – at a distinct informational disadvantage – may test the agency’s claims.”

Fast and Furious was a DOJ/Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) “gun-running” operation in which the Obama administration reportedly allowed guns to go to Mexican drug cartels in hopes that they would end up at crime scenes, thereby advancing gun-control policies. Fast and Furious weapons have been implicated in the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and hundreds of other innocents in Mexico.

On June 20, 2012, President Obama asserted executive privilege over Fast and Furious documents the House Oversight Committee had subpoenaed eight months earlier. Judicial Watch filed its FOIA request two days later. When the DOJ denied that request, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit on September 12, 2012. On February 15, 2013, Judge Bates stayed the case, in part to allow ongoing settlement discussions between the DOJ and the House Committee to continue. Judge Bates’ order lifted the stay after a lengthy July 18 hearing. Generally speaking, the documents at issue are about how and if the Obama administration misled Congress about the Fast and Furious matter.

“Once again, Judicial Watch has beat Congress to the punch in getting key information about another Obama scandal – this time, the Fast and Furious outrage,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “A federal court has ordered the Obama administration to produce information that could, for the first time, provide specific details who in the administration is responsible for Fast and Furious lies to Congress and the American people. This is a battle that put Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, saw Nixonian assertions of executive privilege by Barack Obama, and a hapless Congress in face of all this lawlessness. Finally, we may get some accountability for Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and the countless others murdered as a result of the insanely reckless Obama administration program.”

The Judicial Watch lawsuit for Oversight Committee documents is one of several FOIA lawsuits Judicial Watch has filed in its effort to obtain information concerning the Fast and Furious scandal:

* On October 11, 2011, Judicial Watch sued the DOJ and the ATF to obtain all Fast and Furious records submitted to the House Committee on Oversight.

* On June 6, 2012, Judicial Watch sued the ATF seeking access to records detailing communications between ATF officials and Kevin O’Reilly, former Obama White House Director of North American Affairs at the U.S. National Security Council.

* On September 5, 2013, Judicial Watch sued the DOJ seeking access to all records of communications between DOJ and the Oversight Committee relating to settlement discussions in the Committee’s 2012 contempt of Congress lawsuit against Holder. The contempt citation stemmed from Holder’s refusal to turn over documents to Congress related to the Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal.

* On May 28, 2014, Judicial Watch sued the DOJ on behalf of ATF Special Agent John Dodson, who blew the whistle on Operation Fast and Furious and was then subjected to an alleged smear campaign designed to destroy his reputation.

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Federal Court Rules D.C. Ban On Handguns Outside The Home Unconstitutional

Federal Judge Rules DC Ban On Gun Carry Rights Unconstitutional – Fox News

A federal judge in the District of Columbia on Saturday overturned the city’s total ban on residents being allowed to carry firearms outside their home in a landmark decision for gun-rights activists.

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Judge Frederick Scullin Jr. wrote in his ruling in Palmer v. District of Columbia that the right to bear arms extends outside the home, therefore gun-control laws in the nation’s capital are “unconstitutional.”

“We won,” Alan Gura, the lead attorney for the Second Amendment Foundation, told Fox News in a phone interview. “I’m very pleased with the decision that the city can’t forbid the exercise of a fundamental constitutional right.”

Gura said he expects the District to appeal this decision but added, “We’ll be happy to keep the fight going.”

The decision leaves no gray area in gun-carrying rights.

Judge Scullin extensively referenced the Supreme Court decisions in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago (2010) to concluding “there is no longer any basis on which this court can conclude that the District of Columbia’s total ban on the public carrying of ready-to-use handguns outside the home is constitutional under any level of scrutiny.”

The court ordered the city to now allow residents from the District and other states to carry weapon within its boundaries.

Judge Scullin wrote that the court “enjoins Defendants from enforcing the home limitations of [D.C. firearms laws] unless and until such time as the District of Columbia adopts a licensing mechanism consistent with constitutional standards enabling people to exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms.”

The defendants are the city government and Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier.

This case has dragged in the courts for five years. Gura has twice asked the federal appeals court to force Judge Scullin to issue a decision. The five plaintiffs filed in 2009, and the case was argued twice, most recently in Oct. 2012.

George Lyon, a D.C. resident and registered gun owner is one of the plaintiffs in Palmer.

“I am gratified that after a long wait our right to protect ourselves and our families has been vindicated,” Lyon, a lawyer, said Saturday.

He urged Mayor Vincent Gray, a Democrat, and the Democrat-controlled City Council to “swiftly enact a concealed carry law that protects the rights of law abiding citizens to protect themselves.”

Gray did not respond to request for comment.

City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said Sunday that he just learned of the ruling and had yet to read the opinion.

However, he said because of the District’s unique national security concerns, the right to carry a firearm in public “must be more heavily restricted than any place else in the nation.”

“Four U.S. presidents have been assassinated by gunfire, and at least five others have been shot at, including Ronald Regan who was seriously wounded in 1981,” he said. “Neither the Secret Service nor the Capitol Police will disclose all incidents where they have recovered firearms, but we do know that just two years ago someone hit the White House with gunfire, and there are frequent threats on the foreign diplomatic corps.”

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Federal District Court strikes down Handgun Carry Ban

William Jacobson, who is feeling under the weather, celebrates

Well, well, well–I guess the big guy upstairs knew I could do with a pick-me-up while I struggle through this respiratory infection.  And boy, did he deliver big (with a h/t to Ace of Spades HQ).

In light of Heller, McDonald, and their progeny, there is no longer any basis on which this Court can conclude that the District of Columbia’s total ban on the public carrying of ready-to-use handguns outside the home is constitutional under any level of scrutiny. Therefore, the Court finds that the District of Columbia’s complete ban on the carrying of handguns in public is unconstitutional.

Palmer v. District of Columbia (1:09-CV-1482 , filed July 26, 2014; full decision at the end of this post).

This should, of course, be the common fate of virtually every gun law currently on the books, particularly when (as is the only proper legal course) strict scrutiny is applied to the thousands of state and Federal laws that continue to irrationally infringe our rights to keep and bear arms.

Kudos to Attorney Alan Gura, for his continuing masterful efforts in defense and promotion of the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.  As Alan noted in his own blog, Reality-Based Litigation:

In 2012, I won Moore v. Madigan, 702 F.3d 933 (7th Cir. 2012), which struck down Illinois total ban on the carrying of defensive handguns outside the home. With this decision in Palmer, the nation’s last explicit ban of the right to bear arms has bitten the dust. Obviously, the carrying of handguns for self-defense can be regulated. Exactly how is a topic of severe and serious debate, and courts should enforce constitutional limitations on such regulation should the government opt to regulate. But totally banning a right literally spelled out in the Bill of Rights isn’t going to fly. My deepest thanks to the Second Amendment Foundation for making this victory possible and to my clients for hanging in there. Congratulations Americans, your capital is not a constitution-free zone.

 

The Hobby Lobby ruling and why Liberals are wetting themselves over it

The Other McCain explains it very well I would say. It is like I say, the Collectivist Left assumes that every right comes FROM government, and can be limited by government, and of course must be paid for BY government

Years ago, while reporting on federally funded research — the infamous “porn arousal” studies at Northwestern University — I developed what I like to think of as the Existential Theory of Liberalism: To a liberal, nothing exists unless it is mandated, subsidized and/or regulated by the federal government.

If you think it is a waste of taxpayer money to give a creepy psychology professor a federal grant to measure women’s sexual arousal to pornography, you will be condemned as “anti-sex.” If you want to reduce deficit spending by limiting tax money for the National Endowment of the Arts, you’re “anti-art.” Don’t agree with proposed EPA environmental regulations? You’re “anti-science.”

The reaction to today’s Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case— where a business objected, as a matter of religious liberty, to ObamaCare’s mandated insurance coverage for contraceptives — is a case in point: Liberals want us to believe that, unless businesses are compelled by federal law to provide contraception to their employees, contraception will cease to exist.

Absolutely nailed it Mr. McCain!

Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of Hobby Lobby In Obamacare Contraception Case

Supreme Court Pares Back Obamacare’s Contraception Mandate – The Blaze

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that Obamacare cannot force companies to pay for emergency contraceptive coverage for their employees that could lead to abortions, in violation of their religious beliefs.

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The 5-4 ruling delivered a huge victory to conservatives who have worked for years to scale back the various mandates of the controversial healthcare law.

The Court decided that Obamacare cannot be used to require for-profit, closely held companies to provide certain birth control drugs and devices – such as morning after pills – that could cause abortion.

The case was brought by Hobby Lobby, a Oklahoma-based retail chain owned by the Green family. The Greens said they are willing to cover 16 of the 20 birth control methods mandated by Obamacare to its employees, but not four others because the risk of abortion goes against their religious beliefs.

The company argued before the Court that the Obamacare mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which says the government cannot place burdens on the exercise of freedom of religion.

“Providing these objectionable drugs and devices violates the deeply held religious convictions of the Greens – the sole owners of their family businesses – that life begins at conception,” the company’s website says. “Yet refusing to comply with the federal mandate would subject them to an untenable choice of paying substantial fines or discontinuing the outstanding and affordable health insurance plan currently provided to their valued employees.”

The majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito agreed with that argument. According to SCOTUS Blog, the Obama administration failed to show that the broad contraception mandate is the least restrictive way of advancing its interest in ensuring access to birth control. The Court also ruled that the decision applies only to the contraception mandate, not other insurance mandates, such as those involving vaccinations.

Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that the government could pay for this coverage if it wants to make it available, but cannot compel a company to do so.

The decision deals a big hit to the Obama administration, which defended its interpretation of the law as something that forces companies to provide all manner of birth control methods to workers.

Republicans in Congress welcomed the high court’s ruling.

“Religious liberty will remain intact and all Americans can stay true to their faith without fear of big government intervention or punishment,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). “Our nation was founded on the principle of freedom, and with this decision, America will continue to serve as a safe haven for those looking to exercise religious liberty.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called the ruling a victory for religious freedom and a defeat for the Obama administration’s “Big Government objectives.”

“The mandate overturned today would have required for-profit companies to choose between violating their constitutionally-protected faith or paying crippling fines, which would have forced them to lay off employees or close their doors,” he said.

“The president’s health care law remains an unworkable mess and a drag on our economy,” he added. “We must repeal it and enact better solutions that start with lowering Americans’ health care costs.”

The case is Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby, referring to Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell. She replaced Kathleen Sebelius earlier this year – prior to that, the case was Sebelius vs. Hobby Lobby.

The case is second big blow to Obama from the Supreme Court in as many weeks. Last week, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that President Obama’s 2012 “recess” appointments were not legal, because Obama made them when the Senate was not in recess.

That ruling prompted Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to say the decision was the biggest rebuke to a sitting president since 1974, when the Court decided unanimously that President Nixon must release the Watergate tapes.

Also related to abortion, the Court last week struck down a Massachusetts law that said people can’t stand on a public road or sidewalk within 35 feet of an abortion clinic.

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The Supreme Court Deals Blow To Public-Sector Unions – Business Insider

The Supreme Court on Monday limited the power of public-sector unions to compel employees to pay contributions, dealing a setback to public-sector unions.

But the 5-4 decision, written by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, wasn’t as sweeping as some union advocates had feared.

“This is a substantial obstacle to expanding public employee unions, but it does not gut them,” SCOTUSblog’s Tom Goldstein wrote.

Unions had been concerned that the court would strike down laws in 26 states requiring teachers, police officers, firefighters, and other public-sector employees to pay dues to the unions that negotiate contracts on their behalf, even if the workers don’t want to become union members.

The court hedged somewhat, but the decision is still a setback for public-sector unions. In a 5-4 decision written by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, the court “recognized a category of ‘partial public employees’ who could not be required to contribute to union fees,” according to SCOTUSblog. Unions worried the court would rule all public employees could not be forced to pay, which would dry up their ranks and their coffers.

“It remains possible that in a later case the Court will overturn its prior precedent and forbid requiring public employees to contribute to union bargaining. But today it has refused to go that far. The unions have lost a tool to expand their reach. But they have dodged a major challenge to their very existence,” Goldstein wrote.

The case, Harris v. Quinn, stemmed from a challenge in Illinois involving in-home care providers. Illinois uses Medicaid funds to pay in-home care workers, but turnover was high at the low-paying jobs. In response, more than 20,000 in-home car workers organized and joined the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), after executive orders from Govs. Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn, both Democrats, classified them as “public employees.”

The National Right to Work Foundation brought a challenge to Quinn in 2010, arguing workers who didn’t want to participate in the union shouldn’t have to pay the dues.

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