Opinion | Righting 150 Years of Wrong in Florida – The New York Times

By The Editorial Board
The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

Jan. 11, 2019, 61 c
A referendum in Florida last November ended some of the harshest voting restrictions in the nation for those with criminal records.
Credit
Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

“This week, as many as 1.4 million Floridians became eligible for full citizenship again — thanks to millions of their neighbors who voted overwhelmingly in November to restore ballot access to people with felony convictions who have served their time.

It was restorative justice far too long in the making.

After the Civil War, Florida — like many other states in the South — barred anyone with a criminal conviction from voting. Aimed at denying freed slaves full participation in democracy, the policy affected every election in Florida from Reconstruction through 2018, when races for governor and the Senate were so close that they required recounts.

Credit for the largest enfranchisement since women’s suffrage a century ago goes to a determined advocacy campaign, which built enough support that Amendment 4 easily cleared the 60 percent threshold needed for ratification. It went into effect on Tuesday and extended this basic right to Floridians convicted of all felonies except for murder and aggravated sexual offenses.

The sight of so many Americans eagerly registering to vote was a rare bright spot in a nation where the right to representative government is under strain from onerous ID laws and computerized gerrymandering.”

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Opinion | Can a Corpse Give Birth? – BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD – The New York Times

BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD DEC. 28 2018

“Rarely will a woman who lost an unborn child be charged with murder. Yet the mere existence of criminal statutes aimed at forcing women to make decisions to protect their fetuses — even at the expense of their own health — has injected fear into maternity wards and operating rooms, complicating even routine health care decisions.

Sometimes doctors or nurses are overzealous. In Florida, a doctor told Lisa Epsteen that he was sending law enforcement to her home if she didn’t report immediately to the hospital for a C-section. In New Jersey, a woman known in court documents as V.M. lost custody of her newborn for years after refusing to have her baby delivered surgically. The baby was born vaginally — and in full health — but put in foster care.

Other times, in many states, doctors and nurses — the very people who are meant to help pregnant women — are required to report suspected drug use to the police. The threat of prison and losing custody of their children drives pregnant women who suffer from addiction or mental illness away from much-needed prenatal care and treatment.”

Opinion | The Corporate Donors Behind a Republican Power Grab – by David Leonhardt – The New York Times

“Walgreens portrays itself as the friendly neighborhood drugstore. It gives flu shots to children, helps communities after storms, donates to charity — and makes feel-good advertisements trumpeting its various good deeds.

But Walgreens also has a tougher side, one you won’t see in those ads. To protect a tax break, the company has allied itself with Wisconsin’s brutally partisan Republican Party. That party is now in the midst of a power grab, stripping authority from Wisconsin’s governor and attorney general solely because Republicans lost those offices last month. The power grab comes after years of extreme gerrymandering, which lets Republicans dominate the legislature despite Wisconsin being a closely divided state.

Wisconsin’s Republicans really are trying to undo democracy. When I asked Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt — the political scientists who wrote the recent book “How Democracies Die” — about the situation, they agreed that the Wisconsin power grab was the sort of move their book describes. If it continues, it can lead to the breakdown of a political system.”

Opinion | The Power of Supreme Court Choices – By Linda Greenhouse – The New York Times

Linda Greenhouse
By Linda Greenhouse
Contributing Opinion Writer

Dec. 6, 2018, 252
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President Bush and Barbara Bush with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas at his swearing-in ceremony in 1991.CreditCreditDirck Halstead/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Image

“It’s not hard for a new president, in concert with Congress, to erase a predecessor’s legislative, regulatory and diplomatic accomplishments. It’s a president’s Supreme Court legacy that lasts.

Many retrospectives on the life of President George H.W. Bush, who died last Friday, noted that one of the two men he named to the court, Clarence Thomas, is now in his 27th year as a justice and, at age 70, is on track to become one of the longest-serving Supreme Court justices in history.

Justice David H. Souter, who in 1990 became President Bush’s first Supreme Court appointee, has received much less attention in recent days, perhaps because he retired nine years ago and has avoided the spotlight ever since. The soft-spoken New Hampshire judge never became a lightning rod except to those on the right who, while thrilling to Justice Thomas’s hard-edge originalism, were sorely vexed by Justice Souter’s modestly progressive jurisprudence. While one became an icon, the other became the object of a negative mantra: “No more Souters.”

My goal here is not to appraise the two Bush 41 justices. It’s to compare the approaches — one conciliatory, the other, confrontational — that in the space of a single year (July 1990 to July 1991) produced such different nominees. Those approaches remain today as contrasting archetypes for how to fill a Supreme Court vacancy.”

Opinion | After Citizens United, a Vicious Cycle of Corruption – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times

Thomas B. Edsall
By Thomas B. Edsall
Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

Dec. 6, 2018, 363
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the author of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, speaking at the White House in 2017.
Credit
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

“In the eight years since it was decided, Citizens United has unleashed a wave of campaign spending that by any reasonable standard is extraordinarily corrupt.

To see how this operates in practice, let’s take a look at how Paul Ryan, the outgoing speaker of the House, negotiated a path — narrowly constructed to stay on the right side of the law — during a recent fund-raising trip to Las Vegas, as recounted in detail by Politico.

In early May, Ryan flew to Nevada to solicit money from Sheldon Adelson — the casino magnate who was by far the largest Republican contributor of 2018 — for the Congressional Leadership Fund, an independent expenditure super PAC. Ryan was accompanied by Norm Coleman, a former Republican Senator from Minnesota.

The Leadership Fund, according to its website, is “a super PAC exclusively dedicated to protecting and strengthening the Republican Majority in the House of Representatives.” It “operates independently of any federal candidate or officeholder.””

Is Exxon Conning Its Investors?  The New York Times Editorial

By The Editorial Board

Nov. 25, 2018, 195
Credit
Antonio Sortino
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CreditCreditAntonio Sortino

“In August, a lawyer for Exxon Mobil told a state court in Manhattan that New York’s attorney general should either sue the company for misleading investors about the impact of climate change on its finances or drop the case. “They should put up or shut up,” the lawyer, Theodore Wells Jr., said of a tangled case that had dragged on for more than two years. The weary judge, Barry Ostrager, agreed. “This cannot go on interminably,” he said.

Put-up time has arrived. Late last month, Attorney General Barbara Underwood filed a fraud lawsuit against the company. Exxon responded with a 38-page brief basically denying everything. And Judge Ostrager has set a trial date for October of next year.

Much can happen between now and then. But the judge’s decision to allow the case to proceed could provide a rare teaching moment that allows the public to see a powerful company grappling with the kinds of choices that all legacy fossil fuel companies will surely face in a carbon-constrained world.

The case is not a rehash of the copiously documented charge that Exxon had for years subsidized climate change denialist groups even as its own scientists were acutely aware of the dangers of global warming. That charge is partly what inspired Ms. Underwood’s predecessor, Eric Schneiderman, to begin investigating the company in the first place. But Exxon has since agreed that climate change is a problem, supported the Paris agreement and invested in cleaner fuels. Nor does the suit hold the company responsible for climate change, unlike several cases against the fossil fuel industry brought by New York City and other localities seeking damages from the rise of sea levels and other consequences of a warming world. Most of these suits have been thrown out of court.”

Opinion | Matthew Whitaker and the Corruption of Justice – The New York Times

“By forcing out Attorney General Jeff Sessions and appointing Mr. Sessions’s chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, as acting attorney general to take over the Justice Department — and, not incidentally, the investigation by the special counsel, Robert Mueller — President Trump has set off a storm of legal questions.

Does the appointment of Mr. Whitaker comport with the Appointments Clause of the Constitution or the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998? Doesn’t the law give control of the department to Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who appointed Mr. Mueller and oversaw the investigation because Mr. Sessions had recused himself?

To add to the academic discussion, the Justice Department’s own Office of Legal Counsel, which weighs in on major legal questions, gave its imprimatur to Mr. Trump’s decision on Wednesday. Now the state of Maryland and at least one criminal defendant are challenging the legality of Mr. Whitaker’s appointment in hopes that a federal judge will declare it invalid.

But all of this debate, hairsplitting and litigation distracts from a more persistent question: Is it O.K. for a president to shut down an investigation of himself? To answer that question yes is to take the position that not only this president, but any president in the future, is free to take the law into his own hands.”

Editorial | America Needs a Bigger House – The New York Times

By The Editorial Board
The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

“We’re nearly two decades into the 21st century, so why is America still operating with a House of Representatives built for the start of the 20th?

The House’s current size — 435 representatives — was set in 1911, when there were fewer than one-third as many people living in the United States as there are now. At the time, each member of Congress represented an average of about 200,000 people. In 2018, that number is almost 750,000.

This would shock the Constitution’s framers, who set a baseline of 30,000 constituents per representative and intended for the House to grow along with the population. The possibility that it might not — that Congress would fail to add new seats and that district populations would expand out of control — led James Madison to propose what would have been the original First Amendment: a formula explicitly tying the size of the House to the total number of Americans.

The amendment failed, but Congress still expanded the House throughout the first half of the nation’s existence. The House of Representatives had 65 members when it was first seated in 1789, and it grew in every decade but one until 1920, when it became frozen in time.”

“. . . . . There’s a better solution, which involves bringing America into line with other mature democracies, where national legislatures naturally conform to a clear pattern: Their size is roughly the cube root of the country’s population. Denmark, for instance, has a population of 5.77 million. The cube root of that is 179, which happens to be the size of the Folketing, Denmark’s parliament.

For all countries other than the United States, the size of the national legislature is calculated using only the larger chamber. For the United States, the number refers to the combined size of the House and the Senate. This is because the United States Senate is a more significant lawmaking body than the smaller chambers of other countries. Source: O.E.C.D.

This isn’t some crazy Scandinavian notion. In fact, the House of Representatives adhered fairly well to the so-called cube-root law throughout American history — until 1911. Applying that law to America’s estimated population in 2020 would expand the House to 593 members, after subtracting the 100 members of the Senate.

That would mean adding 158 members. To some, this might sound like 158 too many. But it’s an essential first step in making the “People’s House” — and American government broadly — more reflective of American society today.”

Opinion | Let the People Vote – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

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Voters waiting in a long line to vote in the 2018 midterm general election, outside a polling station located at Robious Middle School in Midlothian, Virginia. CreditMichael Reynolds/EPA, via Shutterstock

By David Leonhardt
Opinion Columnist, Nov. 11, 2018, 197
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Voters waiting in a long line to vote in the 2018 midterm general election, outside a polling station located at Robious Middle School in Midlothian, Virginia. CreditMichael Reynolds/EPA, via Shutterstock

“The United States finally has the pro-democracy movement that it needs.

Last week, ballot initiatives to improve the functioning of democracy fared very well. In Florida — a state divided nearly equally between right and left — more than 64 percent of voters approved restoring the franchise to 1.4 million people with felony convictions. In Colorado, Michigan and Missouri, measures to reduce gerrymandering passed. In Maryland, Michigan and Nevada, measures to simplify voter registration passed. “In red states as well as blue states,” Chiraag Bains of the think tank Demos says, “voters overwhelmingly sent the message: We’re taking our democracy back.” “

Opinion | Trump’s Appointment of the Acting Attorney General Is Unconstitutional -By Neal K. Katyal and George T. Conway III – The New York Times

By Neal K. Katyal and George T. Conway III
Mr. Katyal and Mr. Conway are lawyers.

Nov. 8, 2018, 34
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Matthew Whitaker, named acting attorney general on Wednesday after the forced resignation of Jeff Sessions, was Mr. Sessions’s chief of staff.CreditCreditCharlie Neibergall/Associated Press

“What now seems an eternity ago, the conservative law professor Steven Calabresi published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal in May arguing that Robert Mueller’s appointment as special counsel was unconstitutional. His article got a lot of attention, and it wasn’t long before President Trump picked up the argument, tweeting that “the Appointment of the Special Counsel is totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!”

Professor Calabresi’s article was based on the Appointments Clause of the Constitution, Article II, Section 2, Clause 2. Under that provision, so-called principal officers of the United States must be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate under its “Advice and Consent” powers.

He argued that Mr. Mueller was a principal officer because he is exercising significant law enforcement authority and that since he has not been confirmed by the Senate, his appointment was unconstitutional. As one of us argued at the time, he was wrong. What makes an officer a principal officer is that he or she reports only to the president. No one else in government is that person’s boss. But Mr. Mueller reports to Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general. So, Mr. Mueller is what is known as an inferior officer, not a principal one, and his appointment without Senate approval was valid.

But Professor Calabresi and the president were right about the core principle. A principal officer must be confirmed by the Senate. And that has a very, very significant consequence today.”