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Vindman retiring from Army, lawyer blames Trump

  Law Center  -   POSTED: 2020/07/13 15:57

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a national security aide who played a central role in President Donald Trump’s impeachment case, announced his retirement from the Army on Wednesday in a scathing statement that accused the president of running a “campaign of bullying, intimidation, and retaliation.”

The statement from attorney David Pressman said Vindman, 45, was leaving the Army after more than 21 years after it had been made clear “that his future within the institution he has dutifully served will forever be limited.”

“Through a campaign of bullying, intimidation, and retaliation, the President of the United States attempted to force LTC Vindman to choose: Between adhering to the law or pleasing a President. Between honoring his oath or protecting his career. Between protecting his promotion or the promotion of his fellow soldiers,” read the statement, first obtained by CNN.

Vindman’s name was on a promotion list sent to Defense Secretary Mark Esper earlier this year, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the matter. But that list was delayed for weeks because the White House asked for an investigation of Vindman, one of the officials said. The Pentagon did a review and found that any suggestion of misconduct was unfounded. One official said the list was resent to Esper about a month ago, but again was delayed.

A senior defense official said the list was held up by a routine personnel review, not related to Vindman. Esper received the final promotion list Monday and approved it, with Vindman’s name included, and it was expected to be sent to the White House in the next day or two, the defense official said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an internal personnel matter.

It’s not clear whether Esper already knew of Vindman’s plan to retire before he signed the list, or whether the White House would have approved the promotion list. The White House and the Pentagon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

US Supreme Court agrees to hear Nazi art case

  Law Center  -   POSTED: 2020/07/03 17:17

The Supreme Court agreed Thursday to hear a case involving the descendants of a group of Jewish art dealers from Germany who say their ancestors were forced to sell a collection of religious art to the Nazi government in 1935.

The justices will decide whether the dispute involving foreign citizens suing a foreign government belongs in U.S. courts. A lower court allowed the case to go forward, but Germany asked the Supreme Court to weigh in.

The justices also took a case involving Hungarian nationals suing Hungary over property taken from them during World War II.

In the case involving Germany, the group of people who sued are descendants of art dealers who in 1929 together bought a collection of religious artworks from the 11th to 15th centuries known as the Guelph Treasure. The collection is known in German as the Welfenschatz. An appeals court in Washington allowed the case to go forward in 2018.

The justices are expected to hear both cases sometime after they take a break for the summer and resume hearing arguments in the fall. It is not clear whether the justices will hear the cases in their courtroom or by telephone as they did in May because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement, Nicholas M. O’Donnell, who represents the heirs of the art dealers, said that: “Germany seeks to eliminate recourse for Nazi-looted art and the Court will have the chance to answer this question of critical importance for Holocaust victims.”

Jonathan Freiman, one of Germany’s lawyers, said in an email: “We’re glad that the Supreme Court will hear the case and look forward to explaining why this dispute doesn’t belong in a U.S. court.”


The state of Ohio continued Monday to defend its right to impose normal signature requirements on ballot issue campaigns amid the global pandemic.

Uncertainty over the question prompted a voting-rights campaign to suspend its ballot effort last week, but minimum wage and marijuana decriminalization issues remain.

In a filing with the U.S. Supreme Court, Republican Attorney General Dave Yost’s attorneys argued that a lower court judge who had temporarily relaxed the rules effectively “rewrote Ohio’s Constitution and Revised Code.”

The state also argued that changing signature-gathering rules now would lead to “last-minute confusion” and the possible wrongful passage of issues this fall. The argument has an ironic twist, since some of the delay pushing the campaigns closer to the signature deadline has been caused by the litigation itself.

U.S. District Court Judge Edmund Sargus Jr. set up the more flexible rules in a May 19 decision. They would have allowed campaigns promoting minimum wage, voting rights and marijuana issues to collect signatures electronically. Sargus had also extended the deadline for submitting signatures by about a month, to July 31.

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked those less restrictive rules from kicking in. Justices have been asked to decide whether failing to accommodate ballot campaigns during the time of COVID-19 violates their constitutional right to access Ohio’s ballot.

A decision by the justices will no longer help what was the most high-profile of Ohio’s fall ballot campaigns. Ohioans for Safe and Secure Elections, which advanced election-law changes aiming to make voting easier, suspended its campaign last week as its protracted fight to proceed with the effort neared the June 30 filing deadline.


LGBT-rights activists are elated by a major Supreme Court victory on job discrimination, and hope the decision will spur action against other biases faced by their community despite Trump administration efforts to slow or reverse advances.

In most states, it remains legal to discriminate against gay and transgender people in housing and public accommodations, leading activists noted. And they decried continuing violence and discrimination directed at transgender Americans, notably trans women of color.

The Trump administration has sharply restricted military service by transgender people and last week formally overturned Obama-era protections for transgender people against sex discrimination in health care. And there are pending lawsuits over transgender participation in school events.

“This is a landmark victory for legal equality, but unfortunately we have a lot of work still to do,” Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBT-rights organization, said of the Supreme Court ruling Monday.

The high court decided 6-3 that the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 — by prohibiting workplace sex discrimination — protects gay, lesbian and transgender people from discrimination in employment. The opinion was written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, one of President Donald Trump’s two appointees to the court.


It’s the time of the year when Supreme Court justices can get testy. They might have to find a new way to show it. The court’s most fought-over decisions in its most consequential cases often come in June, with dueling majority and dissenting opinions.

But when a justice is truly steamed to be on a decision’s losing side, the strongest form of protest is reading a summary of the dissent aloud in court. Dissenting justices exercise what a pair of scholars call the “nuclear option” just a handful of times a year, but when they do, they signal that behind the scenes, there’s frustration and even anger.

The coronavirus pandemic has kept the justices from their courtroom since March and forced them to change their ways in many respects. Now, in their season of weighty decisions, instead of the drama that can accompany the announcement of a majority decision and its biting dissent, the court’s opinions are being posted online without an opportunity for the justices to be heard.

University of Maryland, Baltimore County political science professor William Blake, who co-authored the article calling oral dissents the nuclear option, says a June without them would be a “missed opportunity.” They are “a chance to see the justices as exhibiting emotions,” not just the logic of their opinions, he said.

The act of reading can also be a signal to Congress. In a 2007 dissent Ginsburg read from the bench, she called on lawmakers to overturn her colleagues’ decision in a case about equal pay for women. Congress did, passing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Ginsburg’s oral dissent underscored her belief that urgent action was needed, even if it wasn’t the only reason lawmakers acted.

University of Minnesota professor Timothy Johnson, who has written about oral dissents, says justices also reach the public through them. “If you can have a vociferous enough dissent from the bench you’re going to get the nightly news to talk about it,” he said.




The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a case seeking to purge about 129,000 voter registrations from the rolls ahead of the November presidential election after previously deadlocking on whether to get involved.

Democrats oppose the voter purge, arguing it is intended to make it more difficult for their voters to cast ballots. Conservatives who brought the lawsuit argue that the integrity of the vote is at stake, saying that when records indicate voters may have moved, their registrations should be deactivated.

The case is closely watched in battleground Wisconsin, a state President Donald Trump won by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016. Winning Wisconsin is a key part of the strategy for both Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

he voter purge case was brought on behalf of three voters by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a conservative law firm. It won in Ozaukee County, with a judge ordering in January that the purge take place immediately. The Supreme Court deadlocked then when asked to immediately take the case. In February, a state appeals court reversed the lower court’s ruling, stopped the purge and dismissed the case.

That set up the latest request made in March for the Supreme Court to hear the case, which it agreed to do on Monday. It is likely to hear arguments this summer or early fall and could issue a ruling before the November election.


Big Oil lost a pair of court battles Tuesday that could lead to trials in lawsuits by California cities and counties seeking damages for the impact of climate change.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments by energy companies and ruled state courts are the proper forum for lawsuits alleging producers promoted petroleum as environmentally responsible when they knew it was contributing to drought, wildfires, and sea level rise associated with global warming.

The lawsuits claim Chevron, Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and other companies created a public nuisance and should pay for damage from climate change and help build sea walls and other infrastructure to protect against future impact — construction that could cost tens of billions of dollars.

The ruling overturned a decision by one federal judge, who had tossed out lawsuits brought by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland.

“It is time for these companies to pay their fair share,” San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement applauding the ruling. “They should not be able to stick taxpayers with the bill for the damage they knew they were causing. We will continue to hold these companies accountable for their decades-long campaign of public deception about climate change and its consequences.”

While the rulings were victories for the coastal counties and cities — all in the San Francisco Bay Area except for the tiny city of Imperial Beach in San Diego County — and cheered by environmental groups, it could take years before they ever get to a jury, if they make it that far.

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