Now an illegal intrusion
The traditional police practice of marking tires with chalk for parking enforcement is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court ruled this week in a decision that surprised even the plaintiffs. The judges of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that marking a car’s tires is a form of trespass on private property that requires a warrant, just as the Supreme Court has said a warrant is necessary for police to attach a tracking device to a car. Marking tires with white or yellow lines in order to monitor how long a car has been parked provides significant revenue for many cities without parking meters. The case originated in Saginaw, Mich., where a lawyer was ticketed while sitting in a chalked car. Philip Ellison, lawyer for the plaintiffs, admitted he was surprised to win. “We made a federal case out of tire chalking,” Ellison said. He said he would seek refunds from Saginaw for people ticketed after being chalked.
Sunland Park, N.M.
The FBI last week arrested the leader of the United Constitutional Patriots, a small group of armed men who patrol remote sections of the border and take undocumented immigrants they find into custody. Larry Hopkins, 69, the “national commander” of the UCP, was charged with being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition. His arrest came days after a video that showed UCP members dressed in camouflage, wielding rifles, and holding migrants against their will went viral and prompted a statewide investigation. UCP members claim to have helped detain over 5,600 migrants in the past two months, leading New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas to rebuke the efforts of “armed vigilantes.” Hopkins has said in the past that his militiamen were also training to assassinate former President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and billionaire liberal donor George Soros, the FBI said.
Trump sues Congress
Lawyers for President Trump and the Trump Organization sued this week to block a congressional subpoena demanding years of Trump’s financial records, calling the request “an abuse of power” by House Democrats as part of their “all-out political war” against Trump. The lawsuit targets House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who subpoenaed documents from Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, and called the lawsuit “unprecedented stonewalling.” Cummings said he’s investigating allegations from former Trump attorney Michael Cohen that the president inflated his financial worth to obtain loans and deflated it to avoid taxes. A separate battle is underway over Trump’s tax returns, which Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin refused this week to provide to House investigators, calling their inquiry “constitutionally suspect.”
‘Perversion files’ grow
The Boy Scouts of America have kept secret files showing that since 1944 nearly 8,000 Scout leaders have been accused of sexually abusing children, attorneys for a group of victims announced this week. More than 200 new accusers have come forward since three law firms began running TV and online ads urging victims to contact them; in December, it was reported that the Boy Scouts face Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which could halt existing and future litigation. The attorneys are also calling for the complete release of what became known as the “perversion files”—records the organization kept since World War I of volunteers banned for abusing scouts. An expert hired by the Boy Scouts recently reviewed those files, and counted 7,819 alleged perpetrators and 12,254 victims. Victims’ rights attorney Jeff Anderson said the organization, “hoarded” the files at its Texas headquarters but “never alerted the community.”
The Vermont state legislature passed a bill last week abolishing Columbus Day and renaming it Indigenous Peoples’ Day, becoming the third state to officially rebrand the holiday. Republican Gov. Phil Scott said, “I see no reason why I would not sign” the bill, which aims to “aid in the cultural development of Vermont’s recognized tribes” and “move forward” from “the history of colonization.” The change would go into effect on Oct. 14 this year. Columbus Day became a federal holiday in 1937, largely to honor Americans from Christopher Columbus’ native Italy. Yet opponents today say the holiday whitewashes the brutality of the Americas’ colonization by Europeans and the genocide of indigenous peoples in the U.S. and the Caribbean. Several states have informally renamed the holiday, as Vermont did three years ago. “I know it’s controversial,” Scott said, “but you know, it’s just a day, and we’ll get through it.”
The Supreme Court’s conservative majority seemed poised during oral arguments this week to allow the Trump administration to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, despite evidence it would significantly suppress Hispanic participation. Several lower courts have found that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross violated federal law and regulations in attempting to include the question, which has not been on the census since 1950. But with the court’s partisan divide on full display, conservative justices expressed doubt about estimates that the citizenship question could deter 6.5 million legal and illegal immigrants from filling out census forms. “It’s very difficult to understand why that question” would depress census participation, said conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch. States with large Hispanic populations could lose House seats and federal funding if the change is made. Liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor suggested that this was Ross’ goal, calling the citizenship question “a solution in search of a problem.” ■