During a closed meeting on this week, Attorney General Merrick Garland met with 35 state supreme court chief justices to urge their cooperation on limiting evictions. Garland praised the Michigan Supreme Court for giving tenants more time to apply for rental assistance by directing courts to stay eviction proceedings for up to 45 days. The AG also saluted the Texas Supreme Court for helping tenants facing lawsuits by sending them notices with assistance options.
The 35 justices should not have accepted Garland’s invitation (or was it a command?) Those who did accept should have ostentatiously walked out as soon as his purpose became clear. To call the meeting inappropriate is itself inappropriate: this was a straight up violation of the separation of powers, and a breach of professional ethics for everyone involved. Garland works for the President: he’s part of the executive branch. He’s also a litigant or a potential one in the matter he was discussing. The is an ex parte communication, as he well knows.
For the White House’s agents to strong-arm, or attempt to, members of the judiciary to allow the President’s party to pursue an unconstitutional policy is one more step to undo the structure of American democracy. This is a pure IIPTDXTTNMIAFB (“Imagine if President Trump did X that the news media is accepting from Biden.”). Creeping autocracy! Democrats and their puppet media would scream. Defying democratic traditions and weakening institutions! Except, you see, Donald Trump never did anything like this, and if he did, I assume all those good Democrats and progressives among the justices would have used the opportunity to call for impeachment, and the Republican chief justices, having respect for the Constitution, would refuse to attend.
At this point, it is not unfair to conclude that Joe Biden, or whoever is pulling his strings, is following the familiar pattern we have seen so often in Cuba and South America, where a politician posing as the foe of a leader he calls dictatorial and a threat to democracy becomes an existential threat to the nation’s democracy as soon as the suckers vote him into power. In July, Gioconda Belli, an exiled Nicaraguan poet and the former president of PEN Nicaragua, wrote an op-ed about the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and his wife. I’m so old, I remember when Ortega was supposed to be a Good Guy. I just read it again: it has an ominous ring. Trump liked to lead “Lock her up!” chants, but his administration never tried to prosecute Hillary, nor did any of his allies in the states. In contrast, Democratic officials are still trying to prosecute Trump; they would love to lock him up. Biden’s corporate allies have effectively censored Trump; now, with Rand Paul and others, they are moving on to other opponents. Capturing the judiciary by using intimidation is a brazen move toward dictatorship. The fact that the justices involved tolerated and participated in such a “closed door meeting” is especially ominous.
Another thought while reading Belli’s piece: she theorizes that losing his first reelection bid in 1990 “scarred Ortega’s psyche,” explaining his sharp shift to the Dark Side, and I immediately thought of Merrick Garland. His record as a judge was far from radical, but having the SCOTUS nomination snatched from him by Mitch McConnell’s unethical maneuver seems to have turned him into an angry avenger. Mitch deserves a kick in the teeth for what he did, but the country does not. Ortega also has a Machiavellian wife who doesn’t just Stand By Her Man, she eggs him on.
The good news is that the one court Biden and his minions can’t bully is the U.S. Supreme Court, despite the wobbly Chief Justice Roberts. Last night the Court granted a request from a group of New York landlords to lift part of a state moratorium on residential evictions put in place at the beginning of the pandemic. The ruling in Chrysafis v. Marks comes three days after a federal district judge in Washington, D.C., heard oral argument challenging to the Biden administration’s federal moratorium on evictions in most of the country.
New York’s moratorium allows tenants in New York to avoid eviction by declaring that they have suffered “financial hardship” as a result of the pandemic. New York extended it through Aug. 31, 2021. From SCOTUSblog:
“The landlords went to federal court in New York to challenge the moratorium, arguing that it violates their right to due process by allowing tenants to put eviction proceedings on hold without any proof that the pandemic has affected them and without giving landlords a chance to rebut their assertions. A federal district court dismissed their challenge, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit turned down the landlords’ request to put the moratorium on hold while they appeal. The landlords turned to the Supreme Court at the end of July, telling the justices that “the courthouse door has been barred to New York’s landlords” for over a year. And when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) recently declared that the state’s “disaster emergency” is over, and the economy is reopening, they contended, the state cannot point to the pandemic to justify maintaining its ban on evictions. Opposing the landlords’ request to block the state moratorium, New York pointed to a decision in late June in which a divided Supreme Court allowed a prior version of the federal eviction moratorium to remain in place for one month. In that case, Justice Brett Kavanaugh provided the key fifth vote to keep the moratorium in place. He wrote that the Centers for Disease Control had exceeded its authority when it extended the nationwide moratorium, but he joined Chief Justice John Roberts and the court’s three liberal justices in voting to maintain the moratorium because it was scheduled to expire on July 31. Shortly after that federal moratorium expired, the CDC enacted a new, 60-day moratorium on evictions in areas of the country hardest hit by the Delta variant. The legal challenge to the new federal moratorium may reach the justices soon.”
We’ll see if Justice Roberts is summoned to chat behind a “closed door”…
Pointer: Other Bill