Todd Ruger

Court Sides With Employers Over Workers in Arbitration Case
Gorsuch: Court not free to substitute economic policies for those chosen by people’s representatives

A sharply divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that arbitration clauses in employment contracts can prevent workers from pursuing class-action lawsuits on minimum wage and overtime disputes, prompting some justices to call for congressional action to protect workers’ rights.

In the 5-4 opinion, the conservative justices sided with corporate interests to find that Congress, in a 1925 law, instructed federal courts to enforce arbitration agreements according to their own terms. That includes terms that require individual — and not class — proceedings.

FBI Director Raises Concerns about Chinese Tech Giant Trump Wants to Help
Wray defends agency, responding to political attacks from Congress and White House

FBI Director Christopher Wray on Wednesday reaffirmed concerns about Chinese telecommunications company ZTE that President Donald Trump wants to help — and defended the agency from political attacks coming from the White House and Congress. 

At a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing about the FBI’s fiscal 2019 budget request, Wray used a question about the agency’s responsiveness to congressional oversight to highlight the importance of protecting people who provide agents information.

Supreme Court Strikes Down Law Banning Sports Gambling
The 1992 law violates the 10th Amendment, justices find

Updated 4:20 p.m. | The Supreme Court ruled Monday that Congress took the wrong path when it effectively banned sports gambling, in an opinion that appears to open the door for New Jersey and other states to get in on the action unless Washington steps in again.

In a 6-3 opinion, the justices struck down key provisions of a 1992 federal law, known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, finding that it violates the 10th Amendment’s delegation of regulatory power to the states.

Criminal Justice Overhaul Efforts Appear Stuck
House and Senate Judiciary panels have taken different approaches

House action on a criminal justice overhaul bill this week appears to have done little to change the political dynamic in the Senate that makes it unlikely Congress will act on the issue this year.

The House Judiciary Committee advanced legislation on Wednesday that aims to prepare federal prisoners for release so they are less likely to commit another crime. A co-author of the bill, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, said in an interview Thursday he expected the measure would hit the House floor “in the next few weeks, and we’ll have strong bipartisan support.”

Fiercest Fight of the Midterms May Be the One for Maps
Democrats hope to wrest back control of the redistricting process from Republicans ahead of 2020 census

The congressional maps are all but set for the 2018 elections. But for those on the front lines of a simmering battle over the next decade of elections, the results are about more than who will control the next Congress.

This year’s election season could reveal just how much the current districts have entrenched an advantage for one political party over the other, whether courts will step in to stop state lawmakers from creating such partisan districts, and which party will control crucial local offices ahead of a nationwide redistricting based on the 2020 census.

Another Judicial Pick Gets Hearing Despite Home-State Concerns
Top Democrat warns Senate is ceding its advice and consent role to the White House

For the third time in the Trump administration, Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley has moved forward with a confirmation hearing for an appeals court nominee over the objections of Democratic home-state senators.

The Iowa Republican set a Wednesday confirmation hearing on Ryan Bounds to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, even though Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley have declined to give their consent through the committee’s traditional process.

What to Watch as Supreme Court Prepares Major Decisions
 

The Supreme Court will decide on several big issues before the end of its current session. CQ legal affairs reporter Todd Ruger breaks down what to watch from the high court, including a ruling on President Donald Trump’s travel ban and decisions on partisan political gerrymandering....
Texas Leads States in Legal Challenge to DACA Program
Move opens a new front in fight over status of undocumented childhood immigrants

Texas and six other states filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration Tuesday seeking to stop the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, arguing that the 2012 executive order that created it is unlawful.

The move opens a new front in the legal fight over the Obama-era program for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children. It also adds more uncertainty to the future of these so-called Dreamers. After the Senate’s fruitless attempt to legislate a path to citizenship for them, there is little chance for more congressional action anytime soon.

Sluggish Supreme Court Poised to Deliver Big Decisions
From gerrymandering to cake artists, the court has a full plate

The Supreme Court started the current term in October with a docket that could have a lasting impact on politics and culture, including major cases on partisan gerrymandering and LGBT rights. 

Six months later, the justices are done with oral arguments and approaching the end of the term in June. And they haven’t crossed off much on their to-do list.

Senate Panel Sends Message By Advancing Mueller Bill
A warning to Trump even if special counsel protections don’t become law

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill Thursday to give protections to Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, which senators said sent a message to President Donald Trump even if it has major hurdles to ever becoming law.

Although the 14-7 vote on the measure split Republicans, the message from the committee to Trump was clear.

Sessions Ducks Senate Questions on Trump-Related Probes
‘That calls for a speculative answer ... I’m just not able to do that’

Attorney General Jeff Sessions reassured senators Wednesday the Justice Department will stay committed to the law in the face of criticism from President Donald Trump, who has openly disparaged the agency and actions of the nation’s top law enforcement officer.

But Sessions was coy during testimony about his role in the department’s high-profile investigations and the politics of Trump’s criticism.

Supreme Court to Weigh Legality of Trump’s Travel Ban
Not even the Supreme Court can escape hearing about Trump’s Twitter feed

The Supreme Court hears arguments Wednesday in a challenge to the Trump administration’s travel ban, the first major high court test of one of President Donald Trump’s signature campaign issues and a key piece of his tough-on-immigration efforts.

The showdown is shaping up to be among the highest-profile cases of the court’s current term, with a line forming along First Street NE on Sunday for seats in the courtroom.

Conservative Court Nominee Highlights Smoother Path to Bench
Previous political work no longer impedes confirmation chances

Updated 4:29 p.m. | Appeals court nominee Kyle Duncan has advocated on behalf of conservatives in legal fights over contentious cultural issues such as abortion and LGBT rights, leaving behind the kind of paper trail that might have dissuaded presidents from putting him through the Senate’s confirmation process.

Donald Trump is not such a president.

Texas Congressional Map Comes Under Supreme Court Scrutiny
Voter rights advocates worry the court could hand states a shield

The Supreme Court hears oral arguments Tuesday in a case that could not only require Texas to redraw its congressional districts, but give states a way to defend against claims of gerrymandering.

This is the third case the justices will hear this term about how states draw legislative maps to gain a political advantage. Cases from Wisconsin and Maryland focus on whether those maps can be too partisan. The Texas case is a more traditional challenge to how state lawmakers draw the lines using voter data.

Senate Panel Tees Up Mueller Protection Bill Despite Headwinds
McConnell indicates measure won’t reach Senate floor

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee say they want to act on a bill to protect Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III — even if Majority Leader Mitch McConnell essentially killed it by saying it won’t make it to the floor.

They then spoke to the natural follow-up question: Why bother?

Federal Courts Make Changes in Response to #MeToo Movement
Judicial branch is creating more informal ways to file complaints

A federal court official said Wednesday that a main barrier to reporting sexual harassment and other workplace misconduct in the judicial branch is the “formality of our complaint process,” as well as employees misunderstanding confidentiality provisions in ethics rules and being unaware of protections against retaliation.

James Duff, director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, told a House Appropriations subcommittee that the courts will create more informal ways to file complaints. The judiciary will also take extra steps to educate employees and law clerks about protections against retaliation for reporting misconduct, Duff said. The courts have already revised their confidentiality provisions, he added.

Justices Weigh Congressional Inaction on Internet Sales Tax
Supreme Court muses about “obsolete” ruling

The Supreme Court almost yearned Tuesday for Congress to resolve a major internet sales tax issue, if only to relieve the justices from having to make a call in a case with potential widespread effects on the nation’s online commerce.

“Is there anything we can do to give Congress a signal it should act more affirmatively in this area?” Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked near the end of an hour of oral arguments.

Congressional Gridlock Plays Central Role in Internet Tax Case
Supreme Court could reshape online commerce nationwide this term

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Tuesday in a major internet sales tax case, and it won’t be the first or last time the justices will try to figure out whether gridlock in Congress plays a role in their decision.

But usually the gridlock is not quite on this scale. The Supreme Court could reshape online commerce nationwide when it decides this term whether to overturn its 1992 ruling that bars states from collecting sales tax from out-of-state vendors.

Mueller Protection Bill Faces Political, Procedural Headwinds
Judiciary Committee looks at consideration of bill in two weeks

The Senate Judiciary Committee appears poised to vote in two weeks on a bill that would give job protections to Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, even as President Donald Trump asserted again Thursday that he has the authority to fire the man investigating connections between Trump’s campaign and Russian operatives.

Thursday’s discussion revealed how the bill still faces potential political hazards at the Judiciary Committee. Democrats have raised concerns about a yet-to-be-seen amendment that Republicans want to add to the measure. Some Republicans have concerns about the constitutionality of a bill that would limit a president’s ability to make personnel decisions in the executive branch.

Bipartisan Bill to Protect Mueller Headed for Judiciary Markup
Trump dubs probe “Fake Corrupt Russia Investigation”

A bipartisan group of senators unveiled a compromise bill Wednesday to give Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III job protections, as renewed criticism from President Donald Trump adds more fuel to speculation that he plans to fire the man tapped to investigate connections between his campaign and Russian operatives.

Trump on Wednesday dubbed Mueller’s probe the “Fake Corrupt Russia Investigation” on Twitter, the latest in a series of statements sparked by the FBI’s search Monday of the office of his personal lawyer Michael Cohen. It is one of several times since June that Trump’s statements have prompted discussion that Mueller’s job was at risk.