In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Justice Elena Kagan issued a blistering dissent Wednesday that argued that the Supreme Court’s conservative majority — in a union fees case, as well as other recent decisions — was “weaponizing the First Amendment.”

“Today is not the first time the Court has wielded the First Amendment in such an aggressive way. And it threatens not to be the last,” Kagan warned in the dissent, where she was joined by the three other liberal justices.

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“There may be some litigation,” President Trump said off-the-cuff as he signed an executive order purporting to suspend his administration’s policy of taking migrant children away from their parents.

It was an understatement.

In the subsequent chaos, with Congress increasingly unable to pass legislation to address the situation, an army of lawyers mobilized, filing cases aimed at permanently ending the Trump administration’s family separation policy and reuniting the thousands of parents and children still held in separate detention facilities in different states.

Late Tuesday night, the first of these cases struck home. A federal judge in San Diego blocked any future family separations and ordered the government to reunite all separated families within 30 days, adding that children under five years old who have been torn from their parents must be returned within 14 days, and all parents must be put in phone contact with their children within 10 days.

The decision is likely just the opening salvo in a long legal battle that will be waged in federal courts across the country. Here are the cases most likely to force the administration’s hand.

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Rep. Carolyn Maloney handily won the Democratic primary Tuesday in the New York City congressional district she’s represented for 25 years, fending off a challenge from unconventional progressive opponent Suraj Patel.

The New York Times and Associated Press called it for Maloney at around 10: 20 PM ET. She earned 58 percent of the vote with 87 percent of the votes counted.

NY-12, which covers much the East Side of Manhattan plus upscale neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens, is the wealthiest congressional district by per capita income, known for its dismal primary turnout.

Those circumstances gave an advantage to incumbent Maloney, who campaigned on her years of experience on Capitol Hill and focused on New York-specific issues like securing funds for the 9/11 Health Compensation Act and Second Avenue Subway.

Patel—a hotel executive, former Obama campaign staffer, and NYU business ethics professor—argued that it was time for a change of leadership and for New York City’s leaders to move left to meet their voters. One notable policy position was a call for Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to be defunded.

But despite raising over $1 million, Patel’s quirky campaign never got much traction. It was hampered by questions over his voter registration, which he has switched multiple times over the past few years, and his self-consciously hip get-out-the vote methods. Those included handing out campaign-branded condoms and courting voters through bogus profiles created on dating apps like Bumble and Grindr.

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In a stunning defeat, New York Rep. Joe Crowley, the fourth-most powerful Democrat in the House of Representatives, lost a Tuesday primary to Democratic Socialists of America-backed challenger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The Washington Post and Associated Press called the race for Ocasio-Cortez at 10:00 PM. The 28-year-old Bronx-born community organizer earned 57 percent of the vote compared to 42 for her veteran lawmaker opponent, with 91 percent of the vote counted.

“I want nothing but the best for Ms. Ocasio-Cortez. I want her to be victorious,” Crowley said in conceding the race, according to the AP.

Ocasio-Cortez was the first primary challenger in 14 years for Crowley, who until Tuesday was seen as a possible successor to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Her victory marks a dramatic end to to a feisty primary campaign that drew national attention thanks to Ocasio-Cortez’s boldly progressive platform. She campaigned on abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and on Medicare for All.

The NY-14 congressional seat covers the east Bronx and several neighborhoods in north-central Queens. It is seen as safely Democratic, and Crowley was viewed as the clear favorite. He pulled in $3 million this year, has served in Congress since 1999, and was backed by New York’s Democratic establishment.

Ocasio-Cortez made a convincing case that this didn’t—and shouldn’t—matter, proclaiming, in a campaign ad that went viral, “This race is about people versus money. We’ve got people. They’ve got money.”

The young former organizer for the Bernie Sanders campaign won acclaim on the left for her unflinching advocacy for a new vision for the Democratic Party. Ocasio-Cortez rejected corporate donations and was one of the first to call for doing away with ICE—a position that has since gained popularity among a small but growing number of other Democratic candidates, as well as some lawmakers already in Congress.

Another Democratic New York incumbent facing a more progressive challenger on Tuesday was also in a tight race. Rep. Yvette Clarke had pulled in 51 percent of the vote with 93 percent of votes counted in her central Brooklyn district as of 10: 43 PM, compared to 48.8 for opponent Adem Bunkeddeko.

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The Republican Party avoided disaster on Staten Island Tuesday when convicted tax cheat Michael Grimm (R-NY) lost his bid to return to the seat he resigned in 2015 in the midst of his legal troubles.

Grimm’s successor, Rep. Dan Donovan (R-NY), handily won the GOP primary, according to projections from the Associated Press and New York Times. Donovan  had 64 percent of the vote with 95 percent of the votes counted, as of 9 45 ET.

Donovan is widely expected to hold on to his seat in the November general election. Had Grimm won the GOP nomination, given his troubled past, the seat would have been in jeopardy, Republicans admitted.

Grimm was forced to give up the seat when he was imprisoned for felony tax fraud and who once threatened to throw a reporter off a Capitol Hill balcony.

The vicious, personal race between the two Republicans ended up turning on their purported allegiance to President Trump.

Grimm was banking on his enduring popularity with voters in the NY-11 District, which covers Staten Island and a swath of south Brooklyn, trying to convince voters that he was most aligned with the President in both personality and ideology. But Grimm’s bluster and skill at retail politicking were ultimately not enough to defeat Donovan’s endorsement from the bulk of the New York GOP establishment, and, most critically, Trump himself.

Grimm held a consistent lead in the few polls conducted on the race. Only one Remington Research Group poll released Friday had Donovan in the lead. The group has a “C” in FiveThirtyEight’s pollster rankings and is owned by a consulting firm that worked with the Donovan campaign.

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Justice Anthony Kennedy would like the world to know that he’s no fan of President Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric even while he provided the crucial vote upholding the President’s travel ban, which targeted some majority-Muslim countries after Trump during the campaign promised a ban on Muslims entering the United States.

Kennedy filed a brief concurrence with the majority’s 5-4 opinion upholding the third iteration of the Trump policy. The justice did not call out Trump by name, but said that, while certain government actions and statements are not subject to judicial scrutiny, it is “imperative” for a government official “to adhere to the Constitution and to its meaning and its promise.”

He then referenced the Constitution’s First Amendment, which protects freedom of religion:

The First Amendment prohibits the establishment of religion and promises the free exercise of religion. From these safeguards, and from the guarantee of freedom of speech, it follows there is freedom of belief and expression. It is an urgent necessity that officials adhere to these constitutional guarantees and mandates in all their actions, even in the sphere of foreign affairs. An anxious world must know that our Government remains committed always to the liberties the Constitution seeks to preserve and protect, so that freedom extends outward, and lasts.

Court observers are watching closely to see if Kennedy chooses to retire this summer. Doing so would let Trump appoint a replacement who could sit on the court for decades.

Read the Kennedy concurrence, which starts on page 45 below:

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The Twitter account for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign was ready to remind everyone, in the minutes after the Supreme Court upheld President Trump’s travel ban, of the unprecedented power grab that helped secure such a decision.

The tweet was  photo of McConnell going in for a hand shake with Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, who filled the absence on the bench created by Justice Scalia Antonin Scalia’s death in 2016 and provided the fifth vote upholding the ban Tuesday.

McConnell notoriously blocked then-President Barack Obama from filling the seat with his own choice, D.C. Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland, and refused to grant the Obama nominee even a committee hearing.

The seat stayed open well over a year, while the prospect of a Republican-appointed Supreme Court justice to fill the pivotal ninth seat appeared to help drive conservatives otherwise skeptical of Trump to the ballot box in 2016, according to exit polls.

Trump nominated Gorsuch, who has quickly emerged as one of the most conservative justices on the court, soon after his inauguration and Senate Republicans led by McConnell blew up the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees to see him confirmed.

McConnell, meanwhile, has bragged that blocking Garland was “the most consequential decision I’ve made in my entire public career.”

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The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Tuesday morning to uphold the most recent iteration of President Donald Trump’s ban on immigrants and refugees from Libya, Iran, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, North Korea, Venezuela and Chad, rebuffing challengers’ arguments that the President’s policy was motivated by the racial animus toward Muslims that he repeatedly expressed in campaign speeches and on social media.

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It took weeks, but national Democrats finally got the candidate they wanted to face Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

Democrat Hans Keirstead conceded to opponent Harley Rouda on Sunday night, shortly after the last of the Orange County district’s votes were counted, leaving Rouda with a 126-vote lead.

“After weeks of hard work counting every ballot, I congratulate Harley Rouda on advancing to the general election,” Keirstead, a scientist, said in a Facebook post on Sunday. “I know the Rouda campaign values the importance of science and facts in public policy, and they will give voice to that message. I pledge my support and will work in unison with Harley Rouda to make sure Democrats and science prevail in November.”

Rouda thanked Keirstead with a tweet.

That newfound comity stands in stark contrast to the pair’s close and sometimes nasty primary fight, which Democrats had worried could lead to Republican Scott Baugh beating both of them in the all-party primary to face Rohrabacher in the fall. That nearly happened, but major investments by national Democrats to take down Baugh helped push him into 4th place, just 2,500 votes behind Rouda.

The race was one of a handful where Democrats were worried they might fail to get a candidate through because of California’s unusual top-two primary system. But a concerted effort by national Democrats kept that from happening.

Keirstead got the state Democratic Party’s endorsement early on and was an early candidate touted by national Democrats. But some #metoo accusations led local groups like Indivisible to abandon him in favor of Rouda, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee followed suit.

National Democrats believe Rouda’s nomination gives them a strong chance at beating Rohrabacher in the fall in a traditionally Republican coastal Orange County seat that has trended their way in recent years, especially given Rohrabacher’s baggage as a Russia apologist and other idiosyncratic views.

The lengthy vote count also illustrates a more nausea-inducing fact for many political observers: If the battle for the House is decided by just a handful of seats, California’s snail’s-pace vote counting could leave the fate of the House undecided for weeks after the election. The state has more than a half-dozen competitive races, and as this primary and races from earlier years prove, the closer contests often take weeks to sort through.

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The Supreme Court for a second time sided with Texas in a years-long legal fight starting with legislative maps its statehouse drew in 2011.

In a 5-4 majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, the high court reversed a lower court’s finding that that the map that Texas adopted in 2013 was adopted with a discriminatory intent. The map had been okayed by the lower court as a temporary fix for the 2012 election. But the lower court rejected the 2013 map as a permanent solution — a decision the Supreme Court largely reversed Monday, with the exception of one Texas House district.

Texas’ legislative map was first found to be racially discriminatory under the Voting Rights Act by the lower court — a three-judge panel  — in 2011, but the Supreme Court ordered the lower court to narrow its remedy for fixing the map going into the 2012 elections.

The Texas legislature then rushed to adopt the map in 2013, even as the lower court said it was still assessing the effects of the map. The lower court then later ruled that Texas in doing so was continuing to act with the intent of racial discrimination — a finding that threatened to put the state back under the so-called pre-clearance regime that the Supreme Court gutted in 2013 in Shelby County v. Holder.

The Supreme Court on Monday was weighing in on appeal of the lower court’s finding that the intentional discrimination of the 2011 map had not been wiped away by the state adopting in 2013 the court-ordered map. The case was called Abbot v. Perez.

“We now hold that the three-judge court committed a fundamental legal error. It was the challengers’ burden to show that the 2013 Legislature acted with discriminatory
intent when it enacted plans that the court itself had produced,” Alito wrote. “The 2013 Legislature was not obligated to show that it had ‘cured’ the unlawful intent that the court attributed to the 2011 Legislature. Thus, the essential pillar of the three-judge court’s reasoning was critically flawed.”

Much of Alito’s opinion dealt with the procedural issue of whether Texas had appealed the case to the Supreme Court too early given that the lower court was still working on a remedy. The conservative majority rejected the argument that Texas’s appeal was premature.

Moving on to the merits of the case, Alito said that “when all the relevant evidence in the record is taken into account, it is plainly insufficient to prove that the 2013 Legislature acted in bad faith and engaged in intentional discrimination.”

In addition to reversing the lower court’s intentional discrimination decision, the Supreme Court on Monday overturned its decision that three legislative districts should be invalidated because they had a discriminatory effect, but it allowed to stand the court’s decision that a fourth district, a state House district, was an impermissible racial gerrymander.

Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch, filed a brief concurring opinion that said they did not believe the Voting Rights Act could be applied to redistricting.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in a dissent joined by the court’s three other liberals, bashed the majority for guaranteeing Texas “continued use of much of its discriminatory maps.”

“This disregard of both precedent and fact comes at serious costs to our democracy. It means that, after years of litigation and undeniable proof of intentional discrimination, minority voters in Texas—despite constituting a majority of the population within the State—will continue to be underrepresented in the political process,” she wrote. “Those voters must return to the polls in 2018 and 2020 with the knowledge that their ability to exercise meaningfully their right to vote has been burdened by the manipulation of district lines specifically designed to target their communities and minimize their political will. The fundamental right to vote is too precious to be disregarded in this manner.”


Read the opinion below:

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