A lot is happening
The Supreme Court's conservatives can do what they want — but Ginni Thomas is testing the limits. Across the nation, trans people are fighting for their lives.
There will be news.
As we enter Summer 2022, that seems to be one of the few things that I’d be willing to bet on.
As the 6-3 conservative — and ever-more-reactionary five-justice majority — Supreme Court nears the end of its term and the January 6 Committee continues its hearings and the far right goes after drag queens (and continues to attack trans people), the coming months could be increasingly complicated at best and dangerous at worst for many people across the country.
I will be using this space to cover those developments and more.
But I need your help. I want to do this independently. I want to talk to the people who I think are essential to understanding what’s happening and tell you what I think matters and why. And I want to do so in a way that will allow this to become my job. That means I need subscribers and, ultimately, it means I need paid subscribers.
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OK, let’s go.
SUPREME DECISIONS: Over the coming weeks, we are expecting the Supreme Court to issue decisions in its remaining 18 cases. The court has announced that there will be two decision days this week: today and Thursday, June 23. We don’t know how many of the 18 decisions we’ll be getting this week, but a large number of decisions could suggest that the justices are still trying to finish by the traditional “end-of-June” completion for decisions. Only time will tell, though.
These decisions are, of course, expected to include the ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. If Justice Samuel Alito has his way, Dobbs will overturn Roe v. Wade and nearly 50 years of high court rulings supporting the right to an abortion. An end to Roe could upend official Washington, this year’s midterm elections, congressional plans, state and local officials’ jobs, and — most importantly — the lives of people who will be forced to deal with the disappearance of the right to an abortion overnight. Many people will face the possibility of criminal investigations or even prosecutions related to their pregnancies, as I reported earlier this year, as well efforts to get people abortions. The health and financial consequences for women and other pregnant people who want an abortion will change their lives — and will likely change our communities and the workplace.
Due in part to the unprecedented draft opinion leak but also to the substantive question of whether the court will end Roe, the coming Dobbs decision has overtaken the discussion about this term. It is not, however, the only ruling that could upend laws and government. The are several other areas where the court could change the landscape: guns, religion, the environment, and immigration policy, among others. The latter two cases could also change the way we look at the executive branch’s authority. Criminal procedure and sentencing law could also be further altered by the new majority.
New York Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen represents the first big gun case the court is due to decide in more than a decade. Although several cases have come to the justices, the court had, most recently, turned down several cert petitions — requests for the court to hear a case — relating to gun laws in June 2020. Less than two months after Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the court later that year, the prominent conservative Supreme Court lawyer Paul Clement filed the Bruen cert petition, which the new 6-3 court agreed to hear. The case addresses New York’s restrictive concealed-carry law, and a broad decision could throw other gun regulations into question.
Two religion cases — Kennedy v. Bremerton School District and Carson v. Makin — could continue the Roberts Court’s evisceration of the Establishment Clause in favor of a religious supremacy perspective that protects Free Exercise at the expense of limits on government entanglement with religion. Now-former coach Joseph Kennedy (also represented by Clement) is likely to receive the court’s constitutional blessing for his post-game, mid-field prayer, and Maine is likely to lose in its effort to exclude religious schools from a publicly funded program. (In a sign of the religious supremacy animating these cases, the First Liberty Institute, a Texas-based group, is representing plaintiffs in both cases. The group used to be called the Liberty Institute, but, in 2016, they changed their name to the First Liberty Institute.)
Two of the cases referenced above — West Virginia v. EPA and Biden v. Texas — address very different topics — regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act and the Biden administration’s decision to end the “Remain in Mexico” Trump administration policy, respectively — and the decisions could have stark effects on the environment and immigration. They also, however, could alter the way presidents interact with states, Congress, courts, and the policies of past presidents.
Other decisions will address several areas of criminal law: the reach of the First Step Act (Concepcion v. United States), the power people have to hold authorities accountable when they don’t give Miranda warnings (Vega v. Tekoh), criminal prosecutions of doctors coming out of the opioid crisis (Ruan v. United States), more limits on method-of-execution challenges (a line of cases disfavored by the court for some time now) (Nance v. Ward), and state prosecutions for crimes committed on tribal lands (another case where the changed makeup of the court could prove pivotal) (Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta).
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BEHIND THE CURTAIN: As the Jan. 6 Committee continues to hold its hearings, questions about the role of Ginni Thomas, Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife, in the efforts to overturn the 2020 election resurfaced and took on new significance this past week.
First, the Washington Post reported that John Eastman — the lawyer who, among other steps, pushed the illegal scheme to have then-Vice President Mike Pence reject some states’ slates of electors to prevent President Biden from reaching 270 electoral votes (and then asked Rudy Giuliani for a pardon) — was in communication with Ginni Thomas during the period between the 2020 election and Jan. 6.
Then, Eastman, always willing to help his opposition, tweeted and posted information about the communication, including posting Ginni Thomas’s Dec. 4 email inviting him to speak to “Frontliners” on Dec. 8 with a “status update.” The email included a Bates stamp — a numbering system used to identify documents involved in legal discovery — that corresponded with a set of 30 documents Eastman sought in May to prevent turning over to the Jan. 6 Committee.
I first reported this connection on June 16.
Earlier this month, the court ordered Eastman to turn over 10 of the 30 documents to the committee, including the Ginni Thomas email.
Because of the Bates number reveal, Eastman inadvertently confirmed speculation that the “group of civic-minded citizens of a conservative viewpoint” is FrontLiners.
Since Eastman publicized the email, CNBC has reported that people associated with the FrontLiners have clammed up and web pages associated with the group have locked down or been deleted.
Eastman himself has not tweeted since.
EYES ON: The attack on LGBTQ people continues.
In a throwback to its state’s Homosexual Conduct Law that was struck down by the US Supreme Court in 2003, the Texas Republican Party over the weekend declared homosexuality to be “an abnormal lifestyle choice” as part of its 2022 platform, the Texas Tribune reported.
The platform also states that the party opposes “all efforts to validate transgender identity,” Houston Public Media added.
A few days before that, lawyers for Arkansas fought at the US Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit to enforce an anti-transgender law that advocates stopped from going into effect earlier this year.
Courthouse News reported on the oral arguments in the case, which featured the ACLU’s Chase Strangio arguing for the challengers to HB 1570. The law was passed over Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto and would ban providers from giving transgender-affirming care to minors and permit private insurance to deny transgender coverage to people of any age. Even though the district court order has stopped the law from going into effect thus far, Strangio told the court that it has already had harmful effects.
“Dr. [Michele] Hutchison, she’s a plaintiff in this case, testified in her declaration that even the passage itself led to multiple suicide attempts with adolescents just based on the fear of losing their treatment,” Strangio told the court, per Courthouse News.
Governmental discrimination is paired with increased social discrimination — with the threat of physical violence steadily increasing. In the wake of last week’s arrest of 31 Patriot Front members on their way to a Pride Month event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Grid News looked at the overlap between online far-right extremists and in-person confrontations.
As the Southern Poverty Law Center’s spokesperson told Grid, “I would be worried about something way, way more deadly and dangerous unfolding.”
On Sunday, Newsweek’s far-right opinion editor, Josh Hammer, tweeted out a picture of a Manhattan drag brunch with the caption, “This civilization deserves everything that is coming to it.”
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