A conservative judge on Wisconsin’s supreme court questioned the timing of a lawsuit challenging the state’s legislative districts as oral arguments got under way Tuesday in a much-watched case over gerrymandering.
The Guardian’s Alice Herman, who is in the courtroom, reports that Mark Gaber, an attorney representing Campaign Legal Center, laid out one of the plaintiff’s central arguments: that non-contiguous districts in the state are unconstitutional.
Almost immediately, conservative judge Rebecca Bradley interrupted Gaber to question the plaintiffs’ timing in bringing the case forward.
“Where were your clients two years ago?” she asked, pointing to the fact that the ideological sway of the court flipped when Janet Protasiewicz, a liberal judge, was elected this year. “You’re seeking to overturn 50 years of precedent.”
Gaber disputedthe case was brought in a partisan manner, arguing that the state constitution requires contiguous districts – a non-partisan requirement. The argument that 75 of the state’s 132 districts are non-contiguous is at the heart of the plaintiffs’ case against the gerrymandered maps.
House speaker Mike Johnson took a trip to visit Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on Monday night, CNN is reporting, a pilgrimage similar to the one that exposed predecessor Kevin McCarthy to criticism.
“Maga Mike”, as some have branded the Louisiana Republican for his unswerving loyalty to the former president, has endorsed Trump’s campaign for the party’s 2024 presidential nomination, so a “kiss the ring” visit to Mar-a-Lago was not entirely unexpected.
It is not known what the pair discussed, CNN says. But the trip has echoes of former speaker and then minority leader McCarthy’s “groveling” visit to see Trump in January 2021, days after condemning him for sparking the deadly 6 January Capitol riot.
With his endorsement of Trump, Johnson, who voted against certifying the 2020 election results, has gone even further than McCarthy did in backing the twice-impeached ex-president, who is currently facing dozens of charges in multiple cases against him around the country.
“I’m all in for President Trump,” Johnson told CNBC, adding he was “one of the closest allies that President Trump had in Congress”.
The Guardian’s Sam Levine and Alice Herman are following oral arguments this morning at the Wisconsin supreme court, where the seven justices will adjudicate one of the most closely-watched gerrymandering cases this year.
The case is a challenge to the maps for Wisconsin’s state legislature, which are so heavily distorted in favor of Republicans that it is all but impossible for Democrats to win a majority.
Republicans took over the legislature in 2010, and drew maps that have cemented their majority ever since. Democrats won statewide elections in the state in 2018, 2020, and 2022, but Republicans have never had fewer than 60 seats in the state assembly. State senate districts must be comprised of three assembly districts in Wisconsin, so any gerrymandering in the assembly carries over to the senate.
The challengers want the court to strike down the maps and order new elections in all 132 of the state’s legislative districts in 2024.
They note that 75 of Wisconsin’s 132 legislative districts are non-contiguous, a clear violation of a state constitutional requirement that says all districts need to be contiguous. The districts, Republicans argue, are contiguous because even with “islands” they still keep municipalities whole.
The challengers also argue that the process by which the supreme court picked the current maps violated the separation of powers because the panel chose one the Democratic governor had vetoed.
Oral arguments have just begun. We’ll bring you updates as we get them.
Read more here:
“Grifters, frauds and con men willing to subvert the Constitution and long-established constitutional principles for the whims of political expediency.”
That’s how a group of prominent conservative lawyers sees the legal team Donald Trump has surrounded himself with as the former president plots a return to the White House next year.
Warning of an unprecedented threat to democracy from a Trump second term, and the worsening of a “legal emergency” set in motion by his unprecedented efforts to overturn his 2020 defeat by Joe Biden, they have founded a group called the Society for the Rule of Law Institute, which they say is needed “to bring sanity back to conservative lawyering and jurisprudence”.
A trio of lawyers form the new group’s board. They are George Conway, ex-husband to Trump’s former senior adviser Kellyanne Conway; J Michael Luttig, formerly a US appeals court judge; and Republican former Virginia congresswoman Barbara Comstock.
They set out their case Tuesday in a hard-hitting editorial in the New York Times:
American democracy, the Constitution and the rule of law are the righteous causes of our times, and the nation’s legal profession is obligated to support them. But with the acquiescence of the larger conservative legal movement, these pillars of our system of governance are increasingly in peril. The dangers will only grow should Donald Trump be returned to the White House next November.
Recent reporting about plans for a second Trump presidency are frightening. He would stock his administration with partisan loyalists committed to fast-tracking his agenda and sidestepping – if not circumventing altogether – existing laws and long-established legal norms.
They cite Trump’s already publicized plans to appoint public officials investigate and exact retribution against his political opponents; remove federal public servants at will; and invoke special powers to seize control of First Amendment-protected activities, criminal justice, elections, immigration and more.
The “guest essay” continues with praise for the few lawyers in the first Trump administration who stood up to his excesses, and a warning that legal checks and balances would be largely absent from his second:
Alarming is the growing crowd of grifters, frauds and con men willing to subvert the Constitution and long-established constitutional principles for the whims of political expediency.
The actions of these conservative Republican lawyers are increasingly becoming the new normal. Any legal movement that could foment such a constitutional abdication and attract a sufficient number of lawyers willing to advocate its unlawful causes is ripe for a major reckoning.
Our country is in a constitutional emergency, if not a constitutional crisis.
Good morning US politics blog readers! A group of prominent conservative lawyers is warning that democracy would be placed in unprecedented peril if Donald Trump returns to the White House next year, and that legal checks and balances on his conduct would be largely absent if he wins a second term.
The dire predictions come in a hard-hitting opinion piece Tuesday in the New York Times.
Trump, the former president and runaway leader for the Republican 2024 nomination, has surrounded himself with “growing crowd of grifters, frauds and con men willing to subvert the Constitution and long-established constitutional principles for the whims of political expediency,” they say, creating an unprecedented “legal emergency” worsened by their support of his unsuccessful efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat.
The authors, who include George Conway, ex-husband to Trump’s former senior adviser Kellyanne Conway, have formed an attorneys’ group called the Society for the Rule of Law Institute, which they say is needed “to bring sanity back to conservative lawyering and jurisprudence”.
We’ll have a closer look at that coming up.
Here’s what else we’re watching today on a quiet pre-Thanksgiving Tuesday in Washington DC:
Joe Biden will host a White House meeting over efforts to stop the flow of fentanyl into the US this morning, before he and first lady Jill Biden head for their Thanksgiving break in Nantucket.
There’s no action in Congress, but an election in Utah’s 2nd congressional district Tuesday will restore the House to its full complement of 435 members since Democrat David Cicilline of Rhode Island resigned in May. Republican Celeste Maloy is expected to handily beat Democratic state senator Kathleen Riebe.
Wisconsin’s supreme court will hear oral argument in a high-stakes lawsuit seeking to strike down the maps for the state’s legislature. The result could bring an end to what may be the most gerrymandered districts in the US. Read more about that here.