Year 4, Week 45 (November 22-28)

This week saw an improbable amount of news, given the holiday in the middle–several things snuck in under the turkey radar while most people weren’t paying attention.  (The National News Roundup was paying attention.  You’re on notice, SCOTUS.)

Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m mostly summarizing the news within my area of expertise. NNR summaries often contain some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise–I’m a lawyer, not an ill-advised partial recount!–but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. And, of course, for the things that are within my lane, I’m offering context that shouldn’t be considered legal advice. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers.  Onward to the news!   

Constitutional Crisis Corners:

Here we go again with another round of Election Rejection, but it’s tentatively looking like Trump is running out of steam.  Here’s what I have for you:

That said, we also saw more Original Flavor Disregard of Governing Norms. Here’s what I have for you: 

Your “Normal” Weird:

  • Unexpected Political Updates.   There were a handful of other noteworthy political stories this past week as well. In “I can’t believe this happened, even though it needed to” news, Senator Diane Feinstein announced that she is stepping down as the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee after alienating half her party with her handling of the Comey Barrett hearing.  Along a similar vein, the Washington Post reports that the NRA straight-up told the IRS about its executives misappropriating funds in 2019–great news in the long run, but you don’t often see a nonprofit just admit its executives were stealing money.  It will be very interesting to see what, if anything, happens in the wake of both of these stories.

Your New Normal*:

*Increasingly, I struggle with where to put news about the Biden administration, because much of it isn’t clear-cut enough to be considered ‘good,’ but it isn’t Trump or pandemic levels of bad.  And yet it’s not weird, because, well, it’s an overt bid to make things “normal” again.  I don’t believe a return to our previous political reality is achievable, but I’m creating a new section to highlight Biden’s choices and reflect that agenda.

The Bad:

  • SCOTUS Sea Change.   Very early in the morning leading into Thanksgiving, the Supreme Court released an anonymous 5-4 opinion stating that the governor of New York was being prevented from limiting in-person religious gatherings in COVID red zones.  This would be concerning enough, given the rapid rise of COVID-related deaths, but as an attorney I really want to stress that this opinion was rife with inconsistencies, bizarre arguments, and legal irregularities that appear to usher in a scary new age for SCOTUS cases.  Among the irregularities to note: 1) They granted an injunction, which is designed to be an emergency remedy when harm is imminent, for religious groups that were no longer in red zones; 2) The decision overturned decisions that were issued only a few months before, which is an incredibly fast window to overturn precedent; 3) There were six different opinions written for this decision, which is an unusually high number of separate opinions even for a court known for routinely writing concurrences and dissents; 5) The decision was written anonymously despite the fact that there were six different opinions written and the other five were all signed, leaving only a few justices as the possible author of the per curium opinion.  (I’ve seen legal scholars speculate that Amy Comey Barrett probably wrote this opinion, and I think they’re likely correct.)  I would disagree with this opinion even if it illustrated none of these irregularities, but the fact that they are there suggests that court processes may be breaking down at the highest level right now in this country. We need to be watching the court’s activity over the next couple of months very, very carefully, especially given the court’s pending case about census apportionment, and we should brace ourselves now for potential fallout.  

The Good:

So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m sorry, there are no news refunds. For making it through, you deserve these Canterbury Park corgi races and an eventual better government.  I’ll be back next week with more (and hopefully better) news, and I hope you will be back as well–but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments.  Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me uninterrupted sleep!

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