Tag: vacancy

Neil Gorsuch plagiarized multiple authors in book and academic article

Senate Republicans intend to change the rules of the Senate in order to confirm a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) for this guy:

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch copied the structure and language used by several authors and failed to cite source material in his book and an academic article, according to documents provided to POLITICO.

The documents show that several passages from the tenth chapter of his 2006 book, “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” read nearly verbatim to a 1984 article in the Indiana Law Journal. In several other instances in that book and an academic article published in 2000, Gorsuch borrowed from the ideas, quotes and structures of scholarly and legal works without citing them.

[…]

…six experts on academic integrity contacted independently by POLITICO differed in their assessment of what Gorsuch did, ranging from calling it a clear impropriety to mere sloppiness.

You read that correctly. Neil Gorsuch, who is likely to be confirmed to fill the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Antonin Scalia, plagiarized other people’s writings on more than one occasion. Gorsuch isn’t just too ideologically extreme for our nation’s highest bench. He’s too unethical for our nation’s highest bench.

Senate Republicans evade their constitutional duty

Earlier today, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia died. Even though I strongly disagreed with the vast majority of Scalia’s opinions, I offer my condolences to Justice Scalia’s family.

However, Republicans who hold the majority in the U.S. Senate, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and presidential candidates Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), couldn’t wait for Scalia to be cremated before showing that they are more than willing to evade their constitutional duty, with McConnell flatly saying that the Senate should wait until a new president is in the White House before confirming a new Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

This stands in sharp contrast with President Barack Obama, who intends to fulfill his constitutional duty by appointing a new associate justice to this country’s highest bench, even if Republicans obstruct his nomination.

By fulfilling one’s constitutional duty, I’m referring to, in this specific instance, Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution:

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

(emphasis mine; in Article II of the Constitution, “he” refers to the president, regardless of the president’s gender)

The President has the power and constitutional duty to nominate an individual to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, however, the Senate has the power and constitutional duty to either affirm or reject the president’s appointment. It’s clear to me that one party to the process to appoint Supreme Court justices intends to do his constitutional duty (the President), whereas the other party does not (the Republicans who control the U.S. Senate).

The Senate is not required to approve of the president’s pick for the Supreme Court vacancy. The Senate can, if they wish to, establish a process to determine whether or not to approve or reject the president’s pick, and can opt to vote the president’s pick down, either in committee or in the full Senate. However, for the Senate to not establish any kind of process for accepting or rejecting the president’s pick amounts to completely evading the constitutional duty of the Senate.

From an electoral standpoint, it would be absolutely foolish for Republicans to obstruct the president’s pick to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court. If the Republicans go through with their threat to obstruct the president’s pick until, at the earliest, a new president is sworn into office, that would, in effect, put control of both the White House and the Supreme Court on the line in the 2016 presidential and senatorial elections. That is the poker equivalent of going all in with a likely losing hand. This strategy could very easily backfire on Republicans, and they would not like the nominees that either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders (I’m a Bernie supporter) would pick. Hillary would likely nominate Obama to the Supreme Court, and Bernie would probably appoint someone who is ideologically similar to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the most progressive of the current Supreme Court justices, if not even more progressive than Ginsburg. If Democrats were to retain control of the White House and regain control of the Senate, stalling on filling the Scalia vacancy on the Supreme Court could end up resulting in a more progressive justice than someone that Obama will pick being seated on our nation’s highest bench (I’m guessing that Obama will pick someone to his ideological right for Supreme Court). Furthermore, U.S. Senate races where Republicans are thought to be safe or favored, such as Indiana, Iowa, and Missouri, would become more competitive for Democrats, and U.S. Senate races that are either competitive or where Democrats are favored, such as Illinois and Wisconsin, would become even more favorable for Democrats.

ENDORSEMENT: JoAnne Kloppenburg for Wisconsin Supreme Court

Early next year, there will be an election to determine who will be elected to the seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court that was held by Justice Patrick Crooks prior to his death earlier this month. I whole-heartedly endorse JoAnne Kloppenburg, a Wisconsin Court of Appeals judge, for the seat.

Since this seat is vacant, but up for election early next year, Republican Governor Scott Walker will appoint someone to the seat, and that individual will serve the remainder of Crooks’s term. Next year’s election is for a full ten-year term, and I am endorsing Kloppenburg for the election to a full ten-year term. I would encourage Walker to appoint Former Wisconsin State Representative Kelda Roys to the Wisconsin Supreme Court seat, but Walker isn’t going to appoint her or anyone else who is not a full-blown right-wing ideologue.

Prior to becoming an appellate court judge, Kloppenburg served as a Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General under both Democratic (Peg Lautenschlager) and Republican (J.B. Van Hollen) state attorneys general, and she now serves as a state appellate court judge in Wisconsin Court of Appeals District IV, which covers 24 counties (map here) in the south-central, southwestern, and central parts of Wisconsin. If elected to Wisconsin’s highest bench, she’ll be an impartial interpreter of Wisconsin’s constitution and laws, not a judicial activist of any kind.

Walker will most likely appoint Rebecca Bradley, a Wisconsin Court of Appeals judge from the Milwaukee area, to the vacant seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Bradley was running for the seat prior to Crooks’s death and is still running for the seat. Bradley has earned a reputation as a far-right judicial activist. Bradley was once the president of the Milwaukee chapter of the Federalist Society, an organization of far-right judicial activists who believe in using the courts to implement a far-right political agenda that would cost America millions of jobs and undermine the civil liberties of the American people. Furthermore, Bradley is a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA), an organization that, among other things, supports voter suppression schemes designed to keep people from exercising their right to vote.

The third candidate in next year’s Wisconsin Supreme Court race is Joe Donald, a Milwaukee County circuit court judge, who, if elected to Wisconsin’s highest bench, would become the first elected black justice, and second black justice overall, on Wisconsin’s highest bench. While Donald has endorsements from some progressives, most notably Marquette University law professor Ed Fallone, he’s accepted campaign cash from Peter Barca, the Wisconsin State Assembly Democratic Leader who supported Scott Walker’s corporate welfare giveaway to the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks. Judges should be as independent as possible from state legislators and other elected officials, not accepting campaign cash from them.

If you’re a Wisconsinite who wants an actual justice who will interpret Wisconsin’s constitution and laws in a non-partisan manner, then vote for JoAnne Kloppenburg next spring! The non-partisan primary, provided that at least three candidates make the ballot (three candidates are currently campaigning for the seat), will be held in February of 2016, and the general election will be held in April of 2016.

Democratic Party officials pick Scott Bennett to replace Mike Frerichs in Illinois Senate

Scott Bennett, a Champaign County Assistant State’s Attorney from Champaign, has been selected to replace Illinois State Treasurer Mike Frerichs in the 52nd Legislative District seat in the Illinois Senate, and Bennett will serve the final two years of Frerichs’s current term and intends to run for a full four-year term in the state senate in the 2016 elections.

However, Bennett’s remarks before and after accepting the appointment from Champaign County Democratic Party Chairman Al Kurtz (officially, there were two people who were on the 52nd Legislative District Democratic replacement committee, but Kurtz had a majority of the weighted vote, so, in effect, he single-handedly picked the replacement senator) have me very concerned about what his voting record would look like as a state senator.

In a public forum held in Champaign last week where Bennett and the 11 others who sought the appointment were publicly vetted, Bennett publicly bashed Champaign, Urbana, and Danville, the three largest cities in the district that have the vast majority of the district’s population, and claimed that he was seeking the appointment to serve the smaller communities and rural areas of the district, something which Republicans normally do as a coded way of stirring up racial resentment among voters:

“I bring that up because the 52nd District is more than just Champaign, Urbana and Danville. It also includes a lot of farms, and includes over a dozen small communities that have concerns and needs very different from its urban neighbors,” said Bennett. “And I believe I’m one of the only candidates on this slate that understands the concerns and the needs of those communities.”

Apparently, Scott Bennett thinks that he’s responsible for representing a small minority of the district’s population and not the entire district. It’s worth noting that the entire district has 217,468 residents according to the 2010 U.S. Census, and Champaign, Urbana, and Danville combined have a total of 155,332 people, or 71.43% of the district’s total population. To put that another way, Bennett thinks he’s responsible for representing 29.57% of the district’s total population, when, in reality, he’s responsible for representing 100% of the people who live in the district.

Bizarrely, Bennett claimed to be conservative and progressive at once:

His background, Bennett said “is conservative, but I have a long history of working with progressive candidates and their causes.”

Bennett’s background is certainly conservative: he comes from a conservative family that also includes a far-right Republican state representative-elect, Tom Bennett, although it’s commonplace here in Illinois for family members, even close family members, to have completely different party affiliations and political views, in fact, I have relatives who I disagree with politically on many issues, so just because someone has conservative relatives means absolutely nothing about that person’s political views. Regarding Bennett’s claim of having a “long history of working with progressive candidates and their causes”, I want to make two points about that: Bennett never cited any examples of his history of working with progressive candidates and causes that I am aware of, and just because someone supports a progressive candidate for public office doesn’t make one a progressive.

Regarding issues that Bennett views as important, education, which is indeed a very important issue in this part of the state, appears to be the issue that Bennett regards as most important to him:

“We are failing our citizens in so many ways,” he said. “You invest in education. You make sure that we all have a fair and equitable chance at technology and training so that it shouldn’t matter, your opportunities shouldn’t be dependent on what Zip Code you were lucky enough to be born into. It’s also to make sure we reinvest in vocational training in our high schools so those students who are interested in a four-year degree can still get job training so they can support their families after they get out of school.”

That kind of statement on education policy could be used by virtually any politician of any political party and ideological persuasion. Bennett’s remarks on education could describe a very progressive pro-public education policy, such as increasing funding for public schools, establishing a fairer formula for allocating state funds to local school districts, and holding schools, administrators, and teachers accountable based on curriculum and academic standards, not standardized tests. However, Bennett’s remarks on education could describe a very conservative anti-public education policy, such as privatizing public schools, establishing charter schools and school vouchers, implementing academic standards that emphasize standardized testing and overemphasize career preparation, giving big business interests more control over education, and shaming and cutting funding from poorly-performing schools.

While Scott Bennett will be my state senator for at least the next two years, what his voting record will look like two years from now is a huge mystery, given that his previous job involved prosecuting criminal cases, a job that generally doesn’t involve making public policy decisions, and he’s given no real indication of what his ideological leanings are. I would strongly encourage Senator Bennett to hold public listening sessions in every part of the district over the next two years in order to better know the voters, taxpayers, citizens, and people of the 52nd Legislative District. I think that he’ll find that the people of this district have very progressive values.

Illinois Republicans rail against democracy by opposing special election for state comptroller

Republicans, who are in the minority in both houses of the Illinois General Assembly, railed against democracy yesterday by publicly opposing legislation, which is currently on Democratic Governor Pat Quinn’s desk awaiting his signature, that would call a special election, which, if I’m not mistaken, would be held at the same time as the November 2016 presidential election, to fill the final two years of what would have been Republican Judy Baar Topinka’s second term in the comptroller’s office had she not died last month.

Republican State Senator Dave Syverson of Rockford thinks that allowing Illinoisans to vote for who they want to fill the vacancy in the comptroller’s office that was created by Topinka’s death instead of allowing a political appointee to serve four years in the comptroller’s office without having to face the voters is “political”:

Republicans including Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) blasted Democratic leaders for pushing the amendment through.

“I’m disappointed,” Syverson said. “It’s something that’s clearly political and the governor is doing this as part of his last hurrah.”

Apparently, Syverson thinks that whether or not to allow Illinoisans to elect their own public officials is a political stunt by Democrats and that Republicans should run the state forever. That’s one of the most un-American remarks I’ve ever heard from a politician.

Another Republican State Senator, Darin LaHood of Peoria, repeated a threat by Republican Governor-elect Bruce Rauner to challenge the legislation in court in a desperate attempt to block the special election from taking place and allow Rauner’s interim political appointee, Leslie Munger, to serve as comptroller for effectively a full four-year term without ever having to face Illinois voters in an election for comptroller:

While the amendment passed both houses easily and is expected to be signed into law, Republicans, including Darin LaHood (R-Peoria) say the fight isn’t over.

“I think there’s no doubt there’ll be a constitutional challenge to this. I think it will happen shortly after a new comptroller is sworn in on Monday,” LaHood said.

I’m not a lawyer, but the legal argument that LaHood and Rauner are trying to make appears to be badly flawed, and it’s unlikely that a court would strike down the special election legislation. Article V, Section 7 of the Illinois Constitution deals with filling vacancies in the offices of comptroller, treasurer, secretary of state, and attorney general, and it appears to allow the General Assembly to enact legislation to allow special elections to fill vacancies in those offices:

If the Attorney General, Secretary of State, Comptroller or Treasurer fails to qualify or if his office becomes vacant, the Governor shall fill the office by appointment. The appointee shall hold office until the elected officer qualifies or until a successor is elected and qualified as may be provided by law and shall not be subject to removal by the Governor. If the Lieutenant Governor fails to qualify or if his office becomes vacant, it shall remain vacant until the end of the term.

(emphasis mine)

Republicans can whine all they want about Bruce Rauner’s political appointee Leslie Munger not being able to serve four years in the comptroller’s office without having to face the voters of this state, but, more than likely, there will be a special election in order to allow Illinois voters to elect a new comptroller and Munger will only be able to serve two years before either having to face the voters of this state or step down from the comptroller’s office.

Anti-abortion Democrat Michael Puhr seeking appointment to Illinois State Senate seat currently held by Mike Frerichs

In just a few weeks, Mike Frerichs, who represents me in the Illinois State Senate, will be sworn in as the new Illinois Treasurer. This will result in a vacancy in the 52nd Legislative District of Illinois, which is a microcosm of the state and includes parts of Champaign and Vermilion Counties, including the cities of Champaign, Urbana, and Danville.

Three Democrats have publicly acknowledged that they are seeking the state senate appointment:

  • Danville Alderman Michael Puhr
  • Former Champaign County Board Chairman C. Pius Weibel
  • Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing

Additionally, several other Democrats, none of which have been publicly named by anyone, are seeking the appointment as well.

The fact that Michael Puhr is considering a state senate appointment isn’t surprising, as he ran in the 104th Representative District (areas of the 52nd Legislative District outside of the heavily-Democratic areas of Champaign and Urbana) in 2010, losing to far-right Republican candidate Chad Hays in an open-seat race. However, during his state house campaign, Puhr campaigned as an socially conservative Democrat, opposing abortion and gun control. I remember seeing newspaper ads paid for by Puhr’s state house campaign which touted Puhr as a “pro-life” and “pro-2nd Amendment” candidate, indicating that Puhr is opposed to the idea of women having the right to make their own reproductive health care decisions and is opposed to most, if not all, forms of gun control designed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and abusers. While Puhr’s socially conservative views would probably be necessary for a Republican-leaning state house district to be won by a Democrat, Puhr is seeking an appointment to a seat in a state senate district that is a microcosm of a Democratic-leaning state where it is very difficult for politicians who publicly oppose women’s rights to get elected, in fact, if Puhr were to be appointed to the state senate, he’d probably lose a competitive primary once the seat comes up for election in 2016.

The only other Democrat who is publicly seeking the state senate appointment that I know quite a bit about is Laurel Prussing. Prussing, who is currently the Mayor of Urbana, the second-largest city in the district, has been a political figure in East Central Illinois for over four decades. Prussing has publicly stated that she wants to eliminate property tax exemptions on at least some non-profit hospitals in Illinois, such as Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana. I like this idea, since, given how much money hospitals make (even many non-profit hospitals have large cash reserves), hospitals like Carle are effectively moochers since they receive corporate welfare (in the form of a property tax break) from the state.

I know virtually nothing about C. Pius Wiebel, as I’m not all that familiar with Champaign County politics.

The Champaign County and Vermilion County Democratic Party chairmen should appoint someone who will represent the people of East Central Illinois well to serve the last two years of Mike Frerichs’s term in the Illinois Senate. Hopefully, that isn’t a supporter of the Bruce Rauner-Mike Madigan War on Women like Michael Puhr.

How the vacant office of Illinois Comptroller will be filled

Judy Baar Topinka, the Republican Comptroller of Illinois, died early this morning after suffering a stroke. She was 70 years of age at the time of death.

I’m not an attorney, but here’s the part of the Illinois Constitution that deals with filling vacancies in the state comptroller’s office (Article V, Section 7):

If the Attorney General, Secretary of State, Comptroller or Treasurer fails to qualify or if his office becomes vacant, the Governor shall fill the office by appointment. The appointee shall hold office until the elected officer qualifies or until a successor is elected and qualified as may be provided by law and shall not be subject to removal by the Governor. If the Lieutenant Governor fails to qualify or if his office becomes vacant, it shall remain vacant until the end of the term.

This is an instance in which both the incumbent comptroller failed to qualify for a new term after being elected to a second term and died in office before completing her first term in office. Since I’m not sure if Illinois state law allows for a special election to fill the vacancy (the Illinois Constitution appears to allow the General Assembly to provide for special elections for comptroller if it wishes to pass a law in order to do so, but doesn’t require special elections for comptroller), I’m going to provide two scenarios for filling the vacancy in the Illinois Comptroller’s office; one scenario involves a special election being called and the other scenario involves no special election being called.

SCENARIO #1: SPECIAL ELECTION

  • Either Democratic Governor Pat Quinn (if he makes the appointment before he leaves office) or Republican Governor-elect Bruce Rauner (if Quinn does not make the appointment before Rauner is sworn into office) appoints someone until a successor chosen by voters in a special statewide election for comptroller is sworn into office.
  • The special election would be held either in the spring of 2015 (possibly at the same time as the Chicago mayoral election and other local elections across the state), the fall of 2016 (possibly at the same time as the presidential and U.S. Senate elections), or on some other date as specified by any law allowing for a special election for comptroller.

SCENARIO #2: NO SPECIAL ELECTION

  • Either Democratic Governor Pat Quinn (if he makes the appointment before he leaves office) or Republican Governor-elect Bruce Rauner (if Quinn does not make the appointment before Rauner is sworn into office) appoints someone to fill the vacancy in the comptroller’s office.
  • The next general election for comptroller is scheduled for November 2018, meaning that whoever is appointed by either Quinn or Rauner would, depending on the date that the appointee takes office, serve slightly more or less than a full four-year term as comptroller.

If someone can definitively tell me what procedure is used for filling a vacancy in the Illinois Comptroller’s office, let me know by leaving a comment on this blog post.