rulings
September 14, 2020

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Monday ruled against the Green Party's presidential candidate who wanted to get on the state's November ballot.

The state's elections commission did not include the candidate, Howie Hawkins, and his running mate, Angela Walker, on the ballot due to discrepancies in their paperwork, and Wisconsin's top court ruled that Hawkins waited too long to challenge this decision. Had the court ruled in favor of Hawkins, tens of thousands of ballots that have been mailed to voters would have been invalidated.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, more voters are expected to mail in their ballots across the country, and Wisconsin election officials said they weren't sure if they would even be able to reprint more than one million ballots with Hawkins' name before the election.

"Election chaos averted," Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul (D) said in a statement, adding that the ruling "helped safeguard the smooth functioning of the upcoming election." Robert Smith, a spokesman for Hawkins, said the court's decision set a "dangerous precedent where a major party can effectively decide which minor parties can participate in elections by conjuring up arbitrary requirements on the fly to remove its opposition." The Green Party's legal team has ties to the Republican Party, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. Catherine Garcia

August 10, 2020

A California judge on Monday ruled that the ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft have to classify their drivers in the state as employees, not independent contractors.

AB5, a new California labor law that went into effect Jan. 1, makes it harder for companies to misclassify workers who should be considered employees, and thus eligible for minimum wage and overtime. California is the largest market in the U.S. for Uber and Lyft, and in May, the state filed a lawsuit against the companies, accusing them of violating AB5.

Judge Ethan Schulman said there was an "overwhelming likelihood" the companies have been wrongly classifying drivers as contractors instead of employees, and issued a preliminary injunction. He delayed the order by 10 days so Uber and Lyft can have the opportunity to appeal.

Even though nothing will change immediately, this ruling is "huge," Veena Dubal, an associate law professor at the University of California Hastings, told The Guardian. "This is the closest thing in eight years the judiciary has come to enforcing labor rights in the gig economy." Catherine Garcia

March 30, 2020

Federal judges in Ohio and Texas on Monday blocked abortion bans enacted earlier this month amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

After the Ohio Department of Health temporarily suspended all "non-essential and elective surgeries" in order to avoid shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), Ohio Attorney General David Yost (R) said that meant abortions had to be "immediately" stopped. Texas did the same thing a few days later, with Gov. Greg Abbott (R) telling doctors to hold off on procedures that were not medically necessary and Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) saying that included "any type of abortion."

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel in Austin halted Texas' temporary ban, saying the order would cause patients to "suffer serious and irreparable harm." He also said the Supreme Court has "spoken clearly" on "a woman's right to a pre-fetal-viability abortion," and there "can be no outright ban on such a procedure."

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett said Ohio was unable to prove that performing surgical abortions would "result in any beneficial amount of net saving of PPE in Ohio such that the net saving of PPE outweighs the harm of eliminating abortion." Catherine Garcia

March 1, 2020

A federal judge on Sunday ruled that President Trump's appointment last year of Ken Cuccinelli to lead U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was unlawful.

In June, Cuccinelli, an immigration hardliner, was named the agency's principal deputy director, but because the director of USCIS had just resigned, he immediately became the acting director. A lawsuit was filed on behalf of Honduran immigrants, arguing the Trump administration violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act when Cuccinelli was put in charge of the USCIS.

U.S. District Judge Randolph D. Moss agreed, and ruled that Cuccinelli did not have the legal authority to change U.S. asylum policies, and memorandums he signed need to be set aside. In July, Cuccinelli issued memos announcing that the agency was reducing the amount of time asylum seekers have to find legal representation and prohibiting them from seeking extensions to prepare for their credible-fear interviews.

Cuccinelli is now the Department of Homeland Security's acting deputy secretary. Catherine Garcia

February 28, 2020

A federal appeals court ruled Friday that former White House counsel Don McGahn can defy a congressional subpoena that sought to compel him to testify and turn over documents related to former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump administration's possible obstruction of justice, reports The Washington Post.

President Trump had blocked McGahn from complying with the subpoena. The Justice Department argued courts should not be involved in such "interbranch disputes," and Congress can conduct oversight "without dragging judges into the fray," reports HuffPost's Ryan Reilly. The court agreed.

The argument was the opposite of what attorneys said during Trump's impeachment trial; at that time Trump's legal team said subpoenas for executive branch witnesses should be handled in court. The White House has argued its advisers are "absolutely immune from compelled congressional testimony."

Read more at The Washington Post. Summer Meza

September 9, 2019

A federal judge on Monday reinstated a nationwide injunction that prohibits the Trump administration from denying asylum to migrants who come to the United States without first trying to claim asylum in any of the other countries they traveled through.

U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar in California said because there is an ongoing court case, the policy cannot be executed anywhere along the southern border. The Trump administration announced the new policy on July 16, and under an earlier ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said the administration could impose the restrictions in California or Arizona, but not Texas and New Mexico.

The Supreme Court is now considering the policy, and a ruling is expected sometime this week. "Immigration and border security policy cannot be run by any single district court judge who decides to issue a nationwide injunction," the White House said in a statement. "This ruling is a gift to human smugglers and traffickers and undermines the rule of law." Catherine Garcia

September 4, 2019

A federal judge on Wednesday ruled that the Terrorist Screening Database, which contains the names of people designated as "known or suspected terrorists," violates the rights of American citizens on the watchlist.

In 2017, there were about 1.2 million people on the list, which is maintained by the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center and used by several agencies; roughly 4,600 were U.S. citizens. People on the watchlist can have their travel restricted, and they go through more scrutiny at airports. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security use the database to screen potential terrorism suspects, but Judge Anthony Trenga in Virginia found that "the risk of erroneous deprivation of plaintiffs' travel-related and reputational liberty interests is high, and the currently existing procedural safeguards are not sufficient to address that risk."

The lawsuit was filed by 19 U.S. citizens who said they had been detained and harassed while trying to enter the United States, and did not know why they were on the list. They argued that their due process rights were violated, and Trenga said that the way things are now, their rights are not protected. He asked the Justice Department and plaintiffs' lawyers to submit briefings on "what kind of remedy can be fashioned to adequately protect a citizen's constitutional rights while not unduly compromising public safety or national security." Catherine Garcia

July 24, 2019

A federal judge on Wednesday issued a preliminary injunction against the Trump administration's new rule blocking asylum claims for most Central American migrants.

Under the policy, announced July 15, migrants would be required to apply for asylum in the first country they arrive in on their way to the United States, and must be denied there before being able to apply in the U.S. As most migrants arriving at the southern border are from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, a majority would have to apply for asylum in Mexico. Exceptions are made for victims of "severe" human trafficking and immigrants whose asylum applications were rejected by other countries.

In his ruling, Judge Jon S. Tigar in San Francisco wrote the "new rule is likely invalid because it is inconsistent with the existing asylum laws here," adding the government's decision to enact it was "arbitrary and capricious." Earlier in the day, a federal judge in Washington hearing a separate challenge to the policy ruled the restrictions could stay in place, but under Tigar's order, the rule cannot be carried out until there is more debate surrounding its legal issues. The Trump administration argued the policy makes it harder for people to scam the asylum system. Catherine Garcia

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