Washington (CNN)The Supreme Court session that began last October and ended on Thursday unfolded against a volatile political background and as individual justices faced their own delicate dilemmas.Here are the 10 defining moments of the 2018-2019 term:Awkward appearance with Trump at White HouseThree days after the Senate confirmed Brett Kavanaugh, 50-48, to succeed retired Justice Anthony Kennedy and he took his oath of office, President Donald Trump held a ceremonial swearing-in at the White House and asked that the other justices attend. Some went reluctantly, worried that their presence could be politicized at the televised event. Their concerns might have been justified, as Trump slowly and awkwardly introduced each justice in the audience as if they were all trophy-attendees. Then the President referred to the sexual assault claim asserted against Kavanaugh by Christine Blasey Ford, from their high school years. Trump apologized to him, declaring it was on behalf of the nation. “You, sir, under historic scrutiny, were proven innocent,” Trump declared. Kavanaugh categorically denied Ford’s claim, which was neither conclusively dismissed nor validated. Roberts tries to reduce political tensionsSpeaking at the University of Minnesota on October 16, Chief Justice John Roberts tried to lower the post-Kavanaugh hearing political tensions. “I will not criticize the political branches,” Roberts began. “We do that often enough in our opinions. But what I would like to do, briefly, is emphasize how the judicial branch is — and how it must be — very different.”RELATED: Chief Justice John Roberts is exercising the power he’s cravedHe continued, “Those of us on the court know that the best way to do our job is to work together in a collegial way. I am not talking about mere civility, although that helps. I am instead talking about a shared commitment to a genuine exchange of ideas and views through each step of the decision process. We need to know at each step that we are in this together.”Roberts also emphasized, “We do not sit on opposite sides of an aisle, we do not caucus in separate rooms and we do not serve one party or one interest. We serve one nation.”Ruth Bader Ginsburg fractures ribs, then discovers lung cancerJustice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fractured three ribs when she fell on November 7 in her office. She had gone home after the fall but, feeling pain through the night, arranged to be taken to the hospital. Although the news was not to be publicly revealed for another six weeks, physicians discovered cancerous nodules in her lungs. The justice, who has become a social media sensation, nicknamed “Notorious RBG,” prompted a media frenzy with news of the fall — at least the third such incident since 2012. Some people circulated digital “get well” cards and tweeted that they would give their ribs for her.When the Supreme Court revealed that Ginsburg had surgery at a New York hospital on December 21 to remove the cancerous nodules on her left lung, a spokeswoman said there was no evidence of any remaining disease.The episode was Ginsburg’s third highly public bout with cancer. In 1999, she had undergone surgery for colorectal cancer, and in 2009 she was treated for early stages of pancreatic cancer. This time, Ginsburg missed several days of oral arguments and did not return to the bench until late February, triggering a round of bizarre conspiracy theories about the true state of her health. She continued with her mantra: “I will do this job as long as I can do it full steam.” She resumed her scheduled travels, including a trip to Sweden in May.Roberts clashes with TrumpAfter Trump disparaged a lower court judge who ruled against the administration in an asylum dispute as an “Obama judge,” Roberts on November 21 issued a remarkable statement implicitly criticizing the President and asserting judicial neutrality.”We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for,” Roberts said in a statement given first to The Associated Press.Within a few hours, Trump responded on Twitter: “Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have ‘Obama judges,’ and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country.”The chief justice did not publicly respond.Prolonged public fight over the death penaltyThe 2018-19 court session was marked by multiple instances of late-night orders from the justices, but the first Thursday in February stood out. By a 5-4 vote, the court allowed an Alabama inmate, Domineque Ray, to be executed without his choice of a religious minister by his side. Ray, a Muslim, had requested an imam, just as Christian prisoners were permitted authorized Christian ministers in the execution chamber. Prison officials disallowed Ray’s choice. Dissenting from the order allowing the execution, Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the four liberal justices that the majority’s decision was “profoundly wrong.” There was a swift public outcry over the court’s view on religious rights, and justices referred to the dispute, Dunn v. Ray, in subsequent cases, elaborating on and defending their legal rationales.In a later death penalty dispute, the justices split 5-4 along ideological lines to reject a Missouri inmate’s claim that execution by lethal injection would cause him unconstitutional suffering. He said he has a rare medical condition that includes throat tumors that could rupture during an injection and cause him to suffocate on his own blood before dying. The case of Bucklew v. Precythe produced heated opinions on both sides. Responding to Justice Neil Gorsuch’s majority opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote, “I am especially troubled by the majority’s statement that ‘[l]ast-minute stays should be the extreme exception,’ which could be read to intimate that late-occurring stay requests from capital prisoners should be reviewed with an especially jaundiced eye. … There are higher values than ensuring that executions run on time.”Kavanaugh hearing controversy lingersKavanaugh’s October appointment and related ethics complaints spawned public controversy through the annual session. Time magazine named both Kavanaugh and Ford to its list of the “100 Most Influential Americans,” which also generated a raft of public commentary.RELATED: Supreme Court creates new limits to FOIA disclosureOn May 6, Kavanaugh made his first major public appearance outside of Washington, in Milwaukee at the 7th Circuit bar and judicial conference. Onstage with his predecessor Justice Kennedy and two lower court judges, Kavanaugh emphasized judicial independence and “allegiance to the Constitution.”He said he believed in getting out beyond the court’s marble walls and told the audience, “It’s important for judges not be in a bubble.” Abortion debate in a new contextAs state legislatures were adopting a multitude of new abortion regulations, including outright bans on the procedure, Justice Stephen Breyer on May 13 penned an ominous dissenting opinion in a California tax case that referred to a high court abortion-rights milestone. Joined by his fellow liberal justices as the conservative majority reversed a 1979 tax precedent, Breyer wrote, “Today’s decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the Court will overrule next.” He cited an important 1992 case that reinforced Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark that made abortion legal nationwide.In abortion-related action later in May, the justices revived part of an Indiana regulation that had been invalidated by a lower court. The 2016 law required abortion providers to bury or cremate fetal remains and, separately, prohibited women from choosing abortion because of the sex, race or disability of a fetus. In an unsigned opinion, the majority said the fetal-remains requirement could take effect but rejected the state’s appeal related to a woman’s motivation for an abortion.Earlier in the session, on the same day that the justices allowed the execution of Domineque Ray without an imam, the justices by a 5-4 vote temporarily blocked a Louisiana abortion restriction from taking effect. The law in dispute was similar to a Texas regulation the justices had struck down in 2016. (The merits of the Louisiana law were not decided, and it could be on the court’s agenda for the 2019-20 session.) Roberts cast the decisive vote with the four liberal justices to prevent the Louisiana law from taking effect at this preliminary stage. 2020 census dispute dominates When the justices heard arguments over the Trump administration’s proposed addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census on April 23, it appeared the five conservative justices were ready to accept the administration’s grounds for adding the controversial query to the decennial survey. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had contended that it was added to ensure the protection of minorities’ voting rights, but a lower court judge had declared that reason pretextual and said Ross’ move was “arbitrary and capricious” in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. Opponents noted that census analysts had said the question would diminish census participation by recent immigrants and Hispanic citizens. Then, six weeks after oral arguments, the American Civil Liberties Union contended new evidence revealed that the citizenship query had been devised “by a longtime partisan redistricting strategist who had concluded that adding a citizenship question would facilitate redistricting methods ‘advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites.'” The Justice Department urged the high court to reject the ACLU request and said its “conspiracy theory is implausible on its face.”In their last ruling of the session, the justices by a 5-4 vote agreed that the voting rights rationale was pretextual. Chief Justice Roberts, joined by the four liberal justices, said the Commerce Department’s explanation for its action was “incongruent with what the record reveals about the agency’s priorities and decisionmaking process.” He said the court would not accept “contrived reasons.” The justices returned the case to the lower court, which could give the Trump administration another chance to try to justify the proposed citizenship question.No changes among the 9 The annual session ended with a series of major rulings but no retirement announcement. That means the same nine justices would be together for a successive term, going into the 2019-2020 session. The court’s membership has been in flux since February 2016, when Antonin Scalia died suddenly.Justice Clarence Thomas, a 1991 appointee who is the longest-serving member of this bench, had been the subject of retirement rumors throughout the annual session. Questioned about any plans to step down, he told an audience at Pepperdine University this spring, “I’m not retiring.” As the court has become increasingly conservative, this senior justice on the right could be at the height of his judicial power.On the horizon, DACA and other election-year battlesIn a final set of orders released on Friday, the justices announced they would hear a challenge to Trump’s attempt to end the Obama administration policy that protects from deportation hundreds of thousands of immigrants who came to the country as children and lack proper documentation. The court had stalled any action on the Trump administration’s appeal in the matter for months. But now the high-profile dispute on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program will be part of a 2019-2020 court calendar that already includes contentious cases over gun rights and LGBTQ protections in the workplace. There is a strong chance the justices will be faced with an abortion rights case, too, as they fill in their calendar later this year. Whatever their docket brings, such major cases will likely be resolved by next June, just as the 2020 presidential election year contest is heating up.
Breonna Taylor case grand juror ‘wants to make sure the truth gets out,’ lawyer says
(CNN)A grand juror in the Breonna Taylor case has suggested the Kentucky attorney general may have misrepresented to the public the case presented to the panel, a lawyer for the juror said Tuesday. “My client wants to make sure the truth gets out,” Kevin Glogower, the attorney for an anonymous grand juror, told reporters. “This…
(CNN)A grand juror in the Breonna Taylor case has suggested the Kentucky attorney general may have misrepresented to the public the case presented to the panel, a lawyer for the juror said Tuesday. “My client wants to make sure the truth gets out,” Kevin Glogower, the attorney for an anonymous grand juror, told reporters. “This is an issue that is about accountability, it is about public trust and it is about transparency,” he added. The grand juror has requested in court that any and all recordings, transcripts, and reports of the grand jury relating to the case be released to the public, a move a former Kentucky prosecutor called “totally surprising and tremendously uncommon.”Glogower said Tuesday his client’s position is, “What was presented [to jurors] is not being publicly disclosed.”Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron on Monday night said he only recommended charges of wanton endangerment to the grand jury, which did not charge any of the officers with killing Taylor. Cameron, in a statement, said prosecutors presented all evidence, even though the facts showed use of force by two officers not charged was “justified” because they were fired upon. “For that reason, the only charge recommended was wanton endangerment,” Cameron said. In addition to the release of recordings and transcripts, the juror, according to court documents obtained by CNN, also asked the court to “make a binding declaration” that the grand juror has the right to disclose information. It asked for details about the process and details of the proceedings, particularly, the motion stated, to avoid fears that Cameron would attempt to use the court’s powers of contempt in the case of a public disclosure.AG ultimately agreed to release recordingCameron initially refused to release grand jury transcripts related to the Taylor case despite growing public calls to do so by the Louisville mayor, the Kentucky governor, and Taylor’s family’s attorneys.But Cameron on Monday evening announced he would comply with a judge’s ruling ordering a recording of the grand jury presentation be added to the court’s case file.Cameron had previously said releasing the presentation would interfere with other investigations. He reiterated that Monday, saying, “We stand by our belief that such a release could compromise the ongoing federal investigation and could have unintended consequences such as poisoning the jury pool.””The Grand Jury is meant to be a secretive body,” Cameron said in the statement emailed from his office to CNN.”It’s apparent that the public interest in this case isn’t going to allow that to happen. As the special prosecutor, our team has an ethical obligation not to release the recording from the Grand Jury proceedings, and we stand by our belief that such a release could compromise the ongoing federal investigation and could have unintended consequences such as poisoning the jury pool.””Despite these concerns, we will comply with the Judge’s order to release the recording on Wednesday,” Cameron said.Cameron’s statement came after Judge Ann Bailey Smith said the recording and all discovery documents cannot be shared simply between the parties. Smith oversaw the arraignment of former Louisville police Det. Brett Hankison on three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment in connection with the incident that led to Taylor’s death.Taylor had five penetrating gunshot wounds and a projectile in her right heel, according to an autopsy report released Tuesday by the Jefferson County Medical Examiner’s office.She had gunshot wounds to her torso, forearm, thigh and foot, according to the report, which cited the cause of death as multiple gunshot wounds. A blood sample tested negative for alcohol and drug use, the report said. Cameron said last week that the single, fatal shot was not fired by Hankison. Taylor’s family and others have called for the grand jury transcript to be released.No officer who took part in the March 13 raid was charged for Taylor’s actual killing. A grand jury instead leveled three counts of felony wanton endangerment against Hankison, Cameron said last week. The counts pertain to Hankison allegedly firing blindly through a door and window, with bullets entering an adjacent apartment where a pregnant woman, a man and a child were home, according to the state attorney general.Hankison pleaded not guilty to the charges on Monday.The FBI announced in May it was investigating the circumstances surrounding Taylor’s death and said last week that work continued “beyond the state charges announced.” The agency has previously said it is taking a “fresh look” at all the evidence and interviewing witnesses as well as examining all the evidence.
Biden and Trump prepare for a debate that could turn personal
(CNN)Inside the map room of the White House, a small group of advisers sat around a table and peppered the President with accusations and criticisms about everything from lying to incompetence. The team, led by former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, was getting Donald Trump prepared for the onslaught they expect from Joe Biden on…
(CNN)Inside the map room of the White House, a small group of advisers sat around a table and peppered the President with accusations and criticisms about everything from lying to incompetence. The team, led by former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, was getting Donald Trump prepared for the onslaught they expect from Joe Biden on the debate stage Tuesday night.About 100 miles north in Wilmington, Delaware, a similar scene played out with Biden and his team, led by longtime Biden aide and debate expert Ron Klain. Biden’s prep has been more traditional — putting on mock debates with veteran Democratic attorney Bob Bauer playing the role of Trump in at least one session.For two very different men with polar opposite temperaments and divergent governing philosophies, their debate objectives have some fundamental things in common: Put their opponent on the defense and make it as much a referendum on the other as possible. In conversations with multiple sources familiar with both candidates’ prep, each is practicing ways to get under the other’s skin, while also avoiding blowing up and going off script if the debate turns personal.Advisers to both candidates are expecting one of the night’s biggest flash points to be about each man’s children. CNN is told that Trump is preparing to go after Hunter Biden for getting lucrative jobs overseas when his father was vice president that he will say the younger Biden was not qualified for. Trump and his allies have repeatedly made unfounded and false claims to allege that the former vice president and his son acted corruptly in Ukraine. Their hope is that it knocks Biden off his game — either causing him to blow up or say something incorrect. Biden’s team has been working with him to be ready for Trump to go after his son in a way he hasn’t had to deal with as directly before. Trump advisers have also spent time working with the President to stay calm if Biden retaliates by invoking Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, both White House aides with no previous government experience. A source familiar with Biden’s prep, however, says his plan is to pivot away from this issue, not engage.Studying past performancesAdvisers to both are looking at each candidate’s past debate performances to prepare for tonight’s matchup. Watch any of Biden’s debates, it is clear he has some quirks. Since he was told for decades that he talks too much, he often stops mid-sentence when he sees his time is up. Some advisers say that when he is debating someone like Trump, if he’s trying to be polite, it can be perceived as weak — and is something to avoid.”I do think that he will not be polite against somebody who is a terrible bully. I think that he will be strong. I think he will be clear. He should own the stage, right? ‘This character over here, who is a liar and a con man, and has presided over 200,000 deaths, that guy should not be president. I should be, and here is why.’ ” said former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who has prepared Biden for multiple debates. Granholm is a CNN contributor. She, like other Biden allies, warns that spending too much time fact checking the President would be a mistake. “He can start by saying and acknowledging from the outset that Donald Trump is an inveterate liar and he will lie during this debate, but he just can’t be spending all of his time battling Donald Trump’s lies when he’s got to get his message out and talk to the people about what he’s going to do for them. It’s about them, not about Donald Trump,” said Granholm.As for the President, some of his advisers say they hope he reigns in his natural tendency to get too personal.”I would say to avoid becoming overly personal and stick to the issues,” said Trump’s 2016 campaign manager Kellyanne Conway.But, Conway added, “You can question, and I’ve been a loud voice about this, you can question the readiness for the presidency of Joe Biden, his acuity, his agility, his stamina, his just readiness for the job.”Team Trump has been pushing the President to lean into key 2016 promises he kept, like renegotiating NAFTA. They’re also hoping — when the issue of race comes up — he pivots to the bipartisan criminal justice reform bill he signed into law. Conway said the President has been watching videos of Biden’s previous debates and of his own debates against Clinton four years ago.Trump advisers say they believe Biden gets flummoxed when talking about and presented with numbers — so they have been practicing ways for the President to work that into Tuesday night’s debate. A focus on coronavirus The way Biden’s advisers see it, a successful first debate will mean the former vice president will be on the offense on Covid-19, the issue that has upended Americans’ lives and the Trump presidency. “So much revolves around Covid. The economy revolves around Covid. Our standing in the world revolves around Covid. The incompetence of this administration revolves around Covid. I mean, if he just points out that if we had done what Japan had done, 195,000 of those 200,000 people who are dead would now be alive?” previewed Granholm, adding that she hopes Biden adds what she calls his secret sauce — empathy — to his answers on the issue.Inside Trump’s prep, advisers tell CNN, they have been working to give him tools to beat back Biden’s broadsides on the pandemic. Like when Biden compares America’s high case count to other countries, sew doubt in others’ numbers.They are also working with Trump to go beyond his go-to points like restricting travel from China. “I’d love to see the pivot to things that maybe people don’t know as much about, which is the millions and millions of PPE that were provided. The billions of dollars in PPP loans to small businesses,” Conway said.One of the hardest things to do in preparing any candidate for a political debate is getting him or her used to the fact that an attack is coming. Granholm has been in the room with Biden doing just that multiple times, playing the role of then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, whom Biden debated in 2008, and pretending to be Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren during this year’s primary battle. “You have to find the hardest things and go after him again and again and again,” Granholm said.”You’re ready for it, and it’s not going to get you emotional. That’s really important,” she added. .Conway said that despite the fact that people not in the room have a hard time imagining Trump taking the incoming needed to be really prepared, he does understand the importance and “appreciates people firing questions at him.””Nobody wants to hear tough questions for the first time on the debate stage in front of hundreds of millions of people. You want to hear them before that among advisers who know you, who understand the issues, who understand politics and policy, and who have witnessed any number of debates over the years,” Conway said.
6 things to look for in the first Biden-Trump presidential debate