Indiana Attorney General Accused of Inappropriately Touching Women

Curtis Hill, the top law enforcement officer in the state of Indiana, was accused of touching four different women inappropriately at a party at the end of the recent legislative session, according to a report first obtained by the Indianapolis Star. The allegations were recounted in a confidential eight-page memo dated June 18, prepared by the law firm of Taft Stettinius & Hollister on behalf of state legislative leaders.

The alleged incidents happened during the early hours of March 15, at a party at a bar near downtown Indianapolis. The women accusing Hill include a lawmaker and three legislative employees.  Republican leaders in the state assembly announced they were launching an investigation into the leak of the report.

“No one should be subjected to unwanted sexual advances. I commend House and Senate leaders for their immediate and formal follow up to the allegations presented to them,” Governor Eric Holcomb (R-Ind.) said in a statement. He declined further comment until after he had “reviewed the facts in detail.” Indiana Republican Party chairman Kyle Hupfer praised the way the state legislature handled the investigation in a statement and added, “As the Republican Party, we have zero tolerance for sexual harassment, and that’s the standard to which we all should adhere. Actions like these alleged have no place in public life or anywhere else.”

Two state Democratic leaders, Senator Tim Lanane and Indiana Democratic Party chairman John Zody, have called for Hill’s resignation.

Hill, a Republican, denied the allegations.  He is not up for re-election until 2020.

UPDATE: Statement from Washington DC AG Karl Racine and Oregon AG Ellen Rosenblum, co-chairs of the Democratic Attorneys General Association:

“The Democratic Attorneys General Association abhors any and all forms of unwanted physical contact, period. We commend these strong women for standing up. State Attorneys General are the chief law officers of our states, and as such we have a solemn duty to demonstrate the highest standards of behavior and accountability. We trust this commitment is shared by all our colleagues, no matter their party affiliation. We encourage a continued, thorough, and transparent investigation into the Indiana Attorney General’s conduct.”

Attorneys General Sue Trump Administration Over Family Separation Policy

A coalition of eighteen attorneys general spearheaded by Bob Ferguson of Washington filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s family separation policy.  The lawsuit calls the policy “an affront to States’ sovereign interests in enforcing their laws governing minimum standards of care for children, declaring the family unit to be a fundamental resource of American life that should be nurtured, and requiring the preservation of the parent-child relationship unless the child’s right to basic nurture, health, or safety is jeopardized. The Policy also adversely affects the States’ proprietary interests, forcing States to expend resources to remediate the harms inflicted by the Policy, some of which are likely to be permanent.”

The lawsuit accuses the administration of violations of the Fifth Amendment, the Administrative Procedure Act, and asylum laws.  Ferguson was one of the attorneys general who successfully challenged early iterations of the administration’s travel ban policy, a newer version of which was upheld 5-4 by the Supreme Court today. The lawsuit was filed this afternoon in the Western District of Washington.

Supreme Court Upholds Travel Ban

By a 5-4 split on ideological lines, the high court ruled in favor of the administration. Read the opinion here.

Update: Read the analysis from SCOTUSblog here.

Update II:

Update III:

Update IV:
Statement from New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood:

“​President Trump’s travel bans are a stain on American history that were rooted in deep anti-Muslim animus and unleashed chaos on families, businesses, institutions, and communities throughout New York. Despite today’s ruling, New York will continue to serve as a beacon to the world, welcoming people of all faiths, races, nationalities, and backgrounds.

I’m proud of our work to successfully beat back President Trump’s first two discriminatory bans. My office won’t hesitate to act to protect New York’s families and ensure that we live up to the values on which this state and this nation were built.”​

Update V:
Statement from Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez:

“Discrimination is not a national security strategy, and prejudice is not patriotism. Let’s call this ban for what it is: an outright attack on the Muslim community that violates our nation’s commitment to liberty and justice for all. But this ban does more than just violate our values – it also makes us less safe and threatens our place as a beacon of freedom for the world.

“Of course, this is part of a larger assault by President Trump and congressional Republicans on our nation’s values of inclusion and opportunity for all people — no matter who they are, where they come from, who they love, or how they pray. From the Muslim ban to the humanitarian crisis on our southern border, Donald Trump has made tearing families apart a hallmark of his administration and the Republican Party.

“As a nation, our diversity is our greatest strength. We cannot allow this administration’s prejudice to shut the doors of progress. And Democrats will continue to fight back every step of the way.”

Update VI:

Update VII:
Statement from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra:

“The Supreme Court got this one wrong. One day, this nation and Court will look back and regret this ruling that legalized discrimination. We will continue to fight actions that unlawfully target people based on their background or faith.”

Update VIII:
Statement from Marielena Hincapié, Executive Director of the National Immigration Law Center:

“Today the arc of justice just got longer. The Supreme Court ruling marks this as another painful day in our country’s history. The Court’s decision ignores and empowers this administration’s bigotry and serves as a tacit approval of religious and ethnic discrimination that runs counter to the inclusionary principles that our country aspires to. President Trump’s Muslim ban has already caused immeasurable suffering to families and communities and is part of the administration’s overall strategy of attacking and separating immigrant and refugee families.

“The Supreme Court has been wrong before. Today, the Roberts Court joins the shameful legacy left by Court majorities that sanctioned the unjust imprisonment of Japanese Americans (Korematsu) and the perpetuation of slavery in the U.S. (Dred Scott).

“The fights for religious freedom and justice for all immigrant families do not end here. The right to live in peace and be treated with dignity and justice no matter one’s race, ethnicity, or religion is too important to let one person, one president destroy. In November, we must elect a Congress that will hold this administration accountable. We continue to stand proudly with our plaintiffs, refugees, and the American Muslim community and will fight in the courtroom, in the halls of Congress, at the ballot box, and alongside our communities until there is no Muslim ban ever.”

Democratic Attorneys General Will Sue Trump Administration Over Family Separation Policy

A coalition of ten state attorneys general has announced it will sue the Trump administration over its family separation policy. The planned lawsuit, which will be led by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, will be filed in the Western District of Washington.

“This is a rogue, cruel, and unconstitutional policy,” Ferguson said in a statement. “We’re going to put a stop to it.” The other states involved are California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. More states are expected to join the case after the lawsuit is filed.

According to the statement from Ferguson’s office, the lawsuit will allege that the Trump administration violated constitutional due process rights of the parents and children for separating them without a finding that the parent poses a threat to children.  The suit will also allege the policy violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection, because it only targets people crossing from the southern border, not from anywhere else. The plaintiffs will also argue that it violates the Administrative Procedure Act because “it is arbitrary and capricious,” and noted that the administration has been violating U.S. asylum laws by turning people away at ports of entry.”

Ferguson and other attorneys general have been successful in other legal challenges to Trump administration policies, including litigation about the administration’s travel ban that was put into place at the beginning of President Trump’s term. The Supreme Court is expected to hand down its decision in Trump v. Hawaii before the end of its current term.

Democratic Attorneys General Oppose Trump Clean Water Executive Order

While much of the focus on the Democratic legal opposition to the Trump White House has focused on the travel ban, a new front has opened up: Trump’s executive order loosening Obama-era clean water regulations.

New York Attorney General (and long-time Trump nemesis) Eric Schneiderman announced a coalition of attorneys general from New York, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Oregon and Vermont that would oppose this new executive order.  The coalition issued this statement:

“We strongly oppose President Trump’s action today that undermines Clean Water Act protections and the public health and environment of our states.

The President’s order runs counter to the Clean Water Act’s, and the EPA’s, very purpose: achieving clean water. The Clean Water Rule is a measured, reasonable, and lawful application of sound and uncontroverted science to protect our nation’s upstream source waters. We rely on these waters to ensure clean drinking water, recreation, and viable commercial fishing and navigation. Abandoning the Clean Water Rule will allow uncontrolled pollution of these critical water resources. It could also harm the competitiveness of our state economies by forcing us to spend more to clean up the pollution of deregulated waters coming from upstream states that refuse to control such pollution.

Clean water is essential to life — and the people of our states and the nation deserve the basic protections established by the Clean Water Rule, to ensure that the benefits of clean water are shared equally, regardless of state lines.

We won’t hesitate to protect our people and our environment—including by aggressively opposing in court President Trump’s actions that ignore both the law and the public’s paramount need for clean water.”

 

Washington Attorney General Scores Legal Victories Against Federal Government and Florist

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson scored two big legal victories today. The one that got the most attention is his lawsuit regarding President Trump’s travel ban, which has already been ruled in his favor on two separate occasions by four judges on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Department of Justice filed a 61-page document this morning with this crucial sentence:

Rather than continuing this litigation, the President intends in the near future to rescind the Order and replace it with a new, substantially revised Executive Order to eliminate what the panel erroneously thought were constitutional concerns.
President Trump confirmed this himself during his press conference today, telling reporters, “The new order is going to be very much tailored to what I consider to be a very bad decision.”
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson – who filed the initial lawsuit on behalf of the state, before being joined by his Minnesota counterpart Lori Swanson – said in a statement:
“Let’s be clear:  Today’s court filing by the federal government recognizes the obvious — the President’s current Executive Order violates the Constitution,” Ferguson said. “President Trump could have sought review of this flawed Order in the Supreme Court but declined to face yet another defeat.”
The question that remains now is what will the new executive order look like, and will there be further litigation surrounding that as well.
Ferguson’s other victory today was in the case of State of Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers. (Read the PDF here) At issue was a Richland florist who refused to sell flowers to a gay couple for their wedding because the owner didn’t believe in marriage equality. Ferguson’s office sued the florist arguing that by doing so, it was violating the state’s Consumer Protection Act and the Washington Law Against Discrimination.  The Washington Supreme Court ruled unanimously in the state’s favor. According to state law, businesses are not required to provide a particular service. However, if it does so for heterosexual couples, it must provide that service to same-sex couples.
In the bigger picture, this case provides a potential precedent for future litigation involving state or federal religious freedom bills that allow people to deny services if they conflict with their religious beliefs – for example, opposition to gay marriage.

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Rules 3-0 Against Trump Administration

A three-judge panel on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously in favor of Washington and Minnesota in their lawsuit against the federal government. (Read the PDF of the decision here) The ruling means the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) issued by Judge James Robart blocking the implementation of President Trump’s travel/immigration ban is still in effect. CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin called it “a complete and total repudiation of the Trump administration’s legal position in this case.” (Watch the video here)

Toobin also pointed out that the three judges who made this decision were appointed by Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, so there is no political division. In addition, Judge Robart was a George W. Bush appointee, meaning that four federal judges from both parties have ruled unanimously against the administration in two separate decisions.   If the administration appeals to the Supreme Court and the justices split 4-4, the Ninth Circuit opinion would stand, though not with the weight of a Supreme Court ruling decided by a majority of the full court.  Keep in mind there are other lawsuits that have been filed against the administration in other states, so this is not over by any means.

Here is a sampling of reactions to the Ninth Circuit’s decision: