Photo of lady justice wearing a crown. Illustration by Slate, Photos by Getty Images Plus


Wednesday May 3, 2023

05.03.23Carlos Aguilar

The tribal lawyers winning back rights

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Members of the Leech Lake Band of the Ojibwe Tribe harvest rice on Mud Lake, credit Flickr public domain

The United States was founded on the declaration that all people are inherently endowed by their Creator with the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but what about the rest of life on the planet?

With climate-change-fueled droughts and environmental exploitation in the form of oil pipelines causing the depletion and contamination of watersheds and endangering plant and animal species, some in the legal community have decided to swim against the current of conventional law. They are fighting not only for the inalienable rights of humans but for the legal protection of nature.

Proponents of the Rights of Nature movement, which has been gaining momentum since 2006, believe that legal systems should ensure the rights of Earth’s natural environment, which includes all the flora and fauna in any given ecosystem, and put an emphasis on protection, restoration, and stewardship of nature instead of exploitation.

“Rights of Nature is cutting edge,” says tribal rights attorney Frank Bibeau. “It’s not the old paradigm, and people aren’t prepared for it.”

Read the story on LA Progressive

Meet the conservative legal movement’s best friend

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Dr. Steven Hotze, credit Balls and Strikes

Most civil lawsuits are brought by people who believe that someone else personally wronged them, and should have to pay for doing so. But that’s not what is happening with right-wing litigants in the federal courts, who are bringing strategic cases that seek to expand the reach of a narrow strain of evangelical Christianity; minimize the reach of government regulation; or, sometimes, both.

To get in the courtroom, the right needs people who are willing to sign on to these efforts. Fortunately for the right, and unfortunately for the rest of us, these people exist, and now that the federal courts are crammed full of outcome-driven conservative crusaders, their wins are coming in bunches.

Last month, federal district court Judge Reed O’Connor, a reliable conservative, threw out most of the ACA’s requirement that insurers cover the costs of preventative care, including screenings for common cancers and sexually transmitted diseases. But the party asking O’Connor to do so, Braidwood Management, isn’t a health insurer. It bills itself as a “management company” whose employees work at one of several health- and pharmacy-adjacent businesses. Braidwood is controlled by one person, Dr. Steven Hotze, who says he was inspired to get into the business by his Christian worldview, which “ignited a deep desire to offer the message of hope and optimal health to all who need to hear it.” Among his more notable pearls of wisdom are, you will be shocked to learn, is getting very alarmed about the “so-called” COVID-19 vaccine.

Read the story on Balls & Strikes

Chief Justice Roberts thinks SCOTUS should be exempt from oversight

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Photo of lady justice wearing a crown. Illustration by Slate, Photos by Getty Images Plus

Alex Aronson is former chief counsel to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. He worked on judicial ethics, oversight, and dark money issues and advised on the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

A top Republican legal strategist told a roomful of GOP donors over the weekend that conservatives must band together to limit voting on college campuses, same-day voter registration and automatic mailing of ballots to registered voters, according to a copy of her presentation reviewed by The Washington Post.

Cleta Mitchell, a longtime GOP lawyer and fundraiser who worked closely with former president Donald Trump to try to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, gave the presentation at a Republican National Committee donor retreat in Nashville on Saturday.

The presentation — which had more than 50 slides and was labeled “A Level Playing Field for 2024” — offered a window into a strategy that seems designed to reduce voter access and turnout among certain groups, including students and those who vote by mail, both of which tend to skew Democratic.

Read the story on Slate

Prominent retired judge calls for SCOTUS ethics rules

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A prominent conservative former federal judge joined a group of legal experts on Tuesday in calling on Congress to enact new ethical standards for Supreme Court justices, after a series of revelations about the justices’ undisclosed gifts, luxury travel and property deals.

The statement by Judge J. Michael Luttig, a retired appeals court judge revered by some conservatives, was released hours before the Democratic-led Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Supreme Court ethics. Pressure has mounted among progressives for a stricter code of conduct for the justices, the nation’s highest judges, who are appointed to lifetime terms and are bound by few disclosure requirements.

Congress “indisputably has the power under the Constitution” to “enact laws prescribing the ethical standards applicable to the nonjudicial conduct and activities of the Supreme Court of the United States,” Judge Luttig said in a written statement presented to the Judiciary Committee.

Read the story on NY Times