Justice Kennedy’s retirement and what it could mean for the direction of the country


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NEWS OF JUSTICE KENNEDY’S RETIREMENT: WHAT IT MEANS

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, last week, big news broke on the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Anthony Kennedy announced that he’d be retiring July 31st, 2018. Harry, as many people will review the career of Justice Kennedy on the Supreme Court, he no doubt is going to have mixed reviews. Your thoughts?

DR. REEDER: Justice Kennedy was a Ronald Reagan appointee. Some people may be old enough to remember that it was quite an ordeal in that, I think, one of the most brilliant that has ever existed with an impeccable track record, Judge Bork, was nominated. He was more or less a mentor to Justice Scalia, who died recently, on this matter of what is originalism or what we also call strict interpretation based upon the Constitution as it was written in its context and apply it to today’s context.

Senators Kennedy, Biden and others undertook a campaign to destroy Judge Bork, which succeeded in removing him. The next nominee that was put forward, Justice Ginsburg, it had been uncovered his practice of smoking marijuana as a law student and later on as a law professor. He withdrew.

ALTHOUGH ELECTED A CONSERVATIVE, KENNEDY’S SUPPORT OF SEXUAL REVOLUTION LED TO DANGER IN FAMILY ISSUES AND FIRST AMENDMENT

And then came Ronald Reagan’s third nominee, which was Justice Kennedy. Because he came under Reagan and because of his past record, he was considered to be a relatively reliable conservative justice but he has, over the period, made it very clear he is no Scalia, he is no Justice Bork, he is not an originalist in that sense.

Having said that, he is almost always reliable on the First Amendment issues. However, he has been a proponent of the sexual revolution as he has not upheld the sanctity of marriage, and its historic definition, in his leadership and opinion on the Obergefell case. He has a new civil right tied to the sexual revolution in terms of the striking down of all the sodomy laws, not only the affirmation of same-sex marriage but also the removal of all historic ethic that placed sexuality within the context of marriage.

Interestingly, he, himself, in his opinions realized that he had put in danger the free practice of religion because all major religions observe the fact that sexuality belongs in marriage and marriage is one man and one woman and he can see the collision. Tom, because of the profile I’ve laid out and sketched out, he has become known as “the swing vote” — which way is he going to go in most cases?

Well, with his retirement — he’s 81 years of age — President Trump has a second opportunity to place a justice on the Supreme Court and he has already said that he will pick from that list that he announced during his candidacy.

His stated commitment to appoint Constitutionalists and the publishing of that list of 25, I think may have won him the election because most Evangelicals would have had a very difficult time voting for him otherwise. Many who had issues with President Trump from a number of vantage points, I think, went to the poll and pulled the lever almost exclusively on this Supreme Court issue. And, if I may say, politically, it seems to have borne out. Gorsuch, by all accounts, has manifested not only judicial consistency as an originalist, but also has manifested a certain amount of brilliance in the public statements that he has made in the various cases.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR MIDTERMS?

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, you mention many conservative evangelicals who went to the poll in the last presidential election and voted for Trump for the Supreme Court decision alone — will that have carryover to these midterms?

DR. REEDER: There are two thoughts. One is while you are assured of having the votes to get through the nominee, go ahead and get it before the election and get it done before November. The other one is, well, no, hold this back and then use this to stoke the base of the conservatives — the evangelicals, the constitutionalists — to make sure that the president does have a majority in the Senate in order to get this nominee through.

There’s a third thought and the third thought is go ahead and get it done while you can get it done and then the fact that you could get it done, you make that the point of the next election that there is likely going to be at least one, possibly two more Supreme Court appointments with Stephen Breyer’s age at 79 and Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s age at 85. The fact that you’re able to get it through becomes the rallying point — you need to help us maintain that — so I think, politically, that’s what they’re working through.

Through a Christian and world and life view, I’m grateful for the turn that Justice Kennedy has made in the last three decisions and upholding First Amendment issues, particularly the free practice of religion, then I think it’s very important that the Supreme Court should be comprised of originalists — that is, those who see their job not to make law from a “living Constitution,” but to interpret the law from its context and apply it to today’s cases and that we maintain that genius of the American experiment. In fact, I want to talk about that some tomorrow as we focus our program upon the July the Fourth celebration and its ingenious dynamic of the three branches of government.

IT IS IMPORTANT TO KEEP OUR GOVERNMENT TRUE TO PURPOSE

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, this is a significant decision. As we have seen with the previous justices that were put on the Supreme Court, it affects the direction, the morality and the conscience of the nation for decades to come.

DR. REEDER: Yes, it certainly does and so, as a believer, I believe that the American experiment that this would be a country governed by law not only necessitates a branch for lawmakers — that is, the legislators, the Congress — and also a branch for the execution of the law — that is, the presidency — but we desperately need competent and qualified justices who understand the role of the judiciary — not to become the executive branch, not to become the legislative branch, but to truly be the judiciary to make judgements based upon the law.

One of the great blessings for a nation is to have a justice that is “blind” in the sense that it doesn’t matter who is before the court, that they will get a fair interpretation of the law — it’s not just the rich, it’s not just the powerful, but all who stand before the law get the appropriate judgements of the law. And the opinions of the Supreme Court obviously set the precedents for the rest of the courts — the appeals court, the district court and the local courts.

What I would say, Tom, is that I, of course, am going to pray for this appointment, that it will be a good one. I’m not sure what they’ll do politically — I’ll leave that to the political pundits and the strategists — but I will pray that there will be an excellent appointee and I pray that that one, in their development after in office, will be consistent as an originalist and a strict constructionist of the Constitution and its proper application and will have wisdom from above.

PRAYERS FOR A JUST AND WISE COURT THAT PLEASES GOD

I love the prayer that used to accompany every single court. It’s interesting, Tom, recently, there was a lower court decision that went to the Supreme Court that the Supreme Court did not address concerning prayer for a commission meeting in Rowan County, North Carolina. That’ll probably come back to the Supreme Court.

However, beyond commission meetings, we almost always used to begin the session of a court with a prayer: “God, save this court.” And what the prayer meant was God, keep the court faithful and effective in bringing forth cases, process and judgements that are not only manifest with wisdom — perhaps even the wisdom of Solomon as he would sit in cases — but, beyond that, would also let justice roll down like rivers so that the citizens of this country all have the equal protection of the inalienable rights have been God-given and the courts would preserve that.

This is going to be a very important appointment and I am certainly in prayer that it would result in a justice that understands the role of a judge and will do so with wisdom and who will relish justice even in the midst of mercy. And dare I pray that the Lord would grant us a judge who would walk humbly with God — in other words, an echo of the words of the prophet: “And what does the Lord require of you, O man, but to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

COMING UP TOMORROW: CELEBRATING INDEPENDENCE DAY

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, as you mentioned earlier, tomorrow is Independence Day, our Fourth of July. It is our nation’s 242nd birthday. We’ll celebrate our nation’s independence on Wednesday’s edition of “Today in Perspective.”

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

 

35 mins ago

Ex-Auburn assistant basketball coach Chuck Person pleads guilty

Former Auburn University assistant coach and 13-year NBA veteran Chuck Person pleaded guilty Tuesday to a bribery conspiracy charge in the widespread college basketball bribery scandal, ensuring that none of the four coaches charged in the probe will go to trial.

Person, 54, of Auburn, Alabama, entered the plea in Manhattan federal court, averting a June trial.

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He and his lawyer declined to speak afterward and made a quick exit from the courthouse.

Prosecutors said Person accepted $91,500 in bribes to steer players with NBA potential to a Pittsburgh-based financial adviser.

As part of the plea, he agreed to forfeit that amount.

Person said he committed his crime in late 2016 and early 2017.

The plea deal has a recommended sentencing guideline range of two to 2½ years in prison, though the sentence will be left up to Judge Loretta A. Preska.

The sentencing is scheduled for July 9.

In a release, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said Person “abused his position as a coach and mentor to student-athletes in exchange for personal gain.”

“In taking tens of thousands of dollars in cash bribes, Person not only placed personal financial gain above his obligations to his employer and the student-athletes he coached, but he broke the law,” he said.

Person’s plea falls in line with those recently entered by three other former assistant coaches at major college basketball schools.

Tony Bland, a former Southern California assistant coach; ex-Arizona assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson; and former Oklahoma State assistant coach Lamont Evans are awaiting sentencing.

Their prison terms are likely to be measured in months rather than years.

Person, former associate head coach at Auburn, was drafted by the Indiana Pacers in 1986 and played for five NBA teams over 13 seasons.

In court papers, prosecutors said Person arranged multiple meetings between the financial adviser and Auburn players or their family members.

Prosecutors said he failed to tell families and players that he was being bribed to recommend the financial adviser.

In one recorded conversation, the prosecutor said, Person warned an Auburn player to keep his relationship with the financial adviser a secret.

According to prosecutors, Person said: “Don’t say nothing to anybody. … Don’t share with your sisters, don’t share with any of the teammates, that’s very important cause this is a violation … of rules, but this is how the NBA players get it done, they get early relationships, and they form partnerships.”
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 hours ago

Marsh bill to repeal Common Core approved by Senate committee

MONTGOMERY — Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh’s (R-Anniston) bill to eliminate Common Core in the state of Alabama was given a unanimous favorable recommendation by the Senate’s Education Policy Committee on Wednesday.

The bill, SB 119, is now set to be debated and considered on the Senate floor Thursday.

Marsh spoke about this bill during Yellowhammer Multimedia’s “News Shaper” event in Montgomery Tuesday evening after he filed the bill earlier that day.

He acknowledged that he has been a proponent of letting the state school board set education curriculum and standards policy in the past and even stopped an effort to repeal Common Core a few years ago. However, in Marsh’s view, Common Core has been given a chance now and it is time for the legislature to step in.

“It’s not working. I think we have to have some radical change with education policy in this state. And y’all know me, I’ve pushed a lot of things –  public charter schools, the Accountability Act. We’ve got to address this issue and it’s critical for this state,” Marsh said.

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He said eliminating Common Core would “clear the field” so the state could then move forward to better education outcomes.

Alabama would come up with its own high standards, premised on local control, under Marsh’s proposal.

He said his bill is cosponsored by all 27 of his Republican Senate colleagues and he expects SB 119 to pass the chamber and then receive similarly strong support in the House.

“I am committed to moving to a different standard that’s right for Alabama and moves us forward,” Marsh emphasized.

He also advised that there is a high level of politics involved in education decisions in the state but that sound policy must come first.

“[T]he education community, who I’ve asked to get this fixed, who have not addressed this, quite honestly I don’t think has put us in shape to move forward to address the problem at present. But I’m going to do all I can to see that it happens,” Marsh added.

Democrats on the Senate Education Policy Committee spoke in favor of keeping Common Core on Wednesday.

A career public school teacher from Lee County spoke in favor of eliminating Common Core at the hearing, while representatives from the state school superintendents association and the school boards association had concerns about the implementation of new standards.

Marsh said his bill will be amended before final passage to allow another national standard to be used if found to be best for Alabama, as the current language in his bill would ban any national standard from being adopted by the state school board.

Update, 11:35 a.m.:

State Sen. Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville) released a statement in support of Marsh’s bill.

“I strongly support Senator Marsh’s bill,” Givhan said. “The Common Core standards just haven’t worked for Alabama’s students, and the proof is evident in the data. In 2017, Alabama’s 8th grade math scores ranked 49th among the 50 states, and math scores for 4th grade students were 45th in the nation, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Common Core’s curriculum standards and guidelines have been in place for nine years, and they have failed Alabama’s students. It’s clear we need to look at alternative educational methods, with an emphasis on returning as much control as possible back to the local school districts.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Marsh, McCutcheon talk lottery, ethics clarifications at Yellowhammer ‘News Shaper’ event

MONTGOMERY — Speaking Tuesday evening at Yellowhammer Multimedia’s first “News Shaper” event of 2019, Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) provided their insight on some of the hot-button topics expected to be debated during the legislature’s ongoing regular session.

Yellowhammer owner and editor Tim Howe, who moderated the discussion, outlined uncertainty in the state’s ethics laws brought on by recent court and ethics commission decisions. Howe then asked the two leaders how they think the legislature can provide certainty and codified clarification moving forward, especially when it comes to defining a “principal.”

“There is no doubt that there’s a lot of uncertainty in the ethics legislation,” Marsh said. “The [Alabama Code of Ethics Clarification and Reform Commission] was set up to look over this, but in addition to that, both the Senate and the House – in the Senate you have Greg Albritton and in the House [you have] Mike Jones – working throughout the entire break on how we address this.”

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“And remember,” Marsh continued, “it’s not about 140 legislators, there are 50,000 people in the state of Alabama affected by the ethics law. I’m going to make a plea to my colleagues, some of whom are in this room tonight: If it’s going to be fixed, we’ve got to fix it.”

He emphasized, “[I]t’s not going to get any easier. You’ve got to face the issues. You’ve got to address it and realize this is about much [more] than the legislature. So, I’m hopeful.

Marsh also noted that the uncertainty in the ethics law has “affected economic development.”

“There’s a section there where the economic developers are having problems keeping the [confidentiality] in the process of recruiting industries. We’ve got to address this,” he advised. “And I’m hopeful that we will address it this year.”

Marsh added, “I know that both Senator Albritton and Representative Jones have been in conversation with the attorney general and the ethics commission, as well. So we’re going down a path to try and get everybody on the same page. But we have got to -trust me, ladies and gentleman – we have best fix this. It’s got to be done.”

Howe then asked Marsh to articulate why certainty in the ethics law for economic development professionals is important not just for them, but for the entire state and each of its residents.

“[I]t’s important for the state, because we’re competing with all of the other states,” Marsh said.

He used the example of a piece of legislation passed out of committee that very day largely dealing with Polaris vehicles built in north Alabama and explained that the site selection process requires confidentiality, with most economic development recruitment projects being given code names.

“Because we’re competing against other states. And if we’re not able to keep that degree of secrecy at that stage of the game, we’re at a disadvantage to our neighbors,” Marsh explained.

He concluded, “So this is something that we have got to address. But I’m going to say this: that’s [only] a piece of it. And there’s going to be an attempt by the business community and economic developers to pass the piece. But I think it’s [incumbent] upon us to pass the big picture, solve all the problems, because you want as many people with you, supporting you, to make the changes. Every time you carve off a little piece, you lose some support. So, as I said, I want to help everybody, but I’m committed to the big picture.”

Lottery

Howe later asked the speaker if the time has come for a lottery proposal to pass the legislature and reach a referendum of the people.

“I think so,” McCutcheon responded. “I think it’s been coming for several years. I know that the districts, House districts, that are [bordering other states], most of those districts have seen a significant shift over the last seven or eight years because they see Alabamians driving across the state line to buy lottery tickets.”

He continued, “And people are starting to talk about it, and they’re starting to make it part of their discussion around the dinner table. … At the end of the day, there’s a good push from the people.”

McCutcheon did emphasize what he viewed as key to a successful lottery discussion.

“If we’re going to put this to a vote of the people, and I think it has a good chance of passing, we need to make sure that people understand what they’re voting on,” he outlined. “That’s very, very important. We don’t want to cloud the issue with the definition of a ‘lottery’ and try to sneak something in the back door. Let’s make sure the people understand in their minds what a lottery is and we define it in such a way that they know what they’re voting on.”

“Then, I think the next big debate will be, ‘Where’s the money [lottery revenue] going to go?’ And that will be something that we’ll have to contend with,” McCutcheon concluded.

This came the same day that Senator Jim McClendon (R-Springville) filed a lottery proposal that was soon after called not “clean” by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, who said McClendon’s legislation would legalize slot machines in a select few places in the state.

Watch the entire discussion:

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

After 133 launches, Alabama built rockets boast 100% mission success

Thank you to the United Launch Alliance team and the entire workforce surrounding another successful launch.  Alabama’s Decatur based facility brings the utmost precision, passion and purpose to one of the most technically complex, critical American needs: affordable, reliable access to space.

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3 hours ago

Bipartisan bill to regulate vaping set for House committee hearing

MONTGOMERY — Alabama is currently one of only three states to not regulate vaping, but that could soon change.

HB 41, sponsored by Republican Rep. Shane Stringer and Democrat Rep. Barbara Drummond, both of Mobile County, is on the House Judiciary Committee’s agenda for Wednesday afternoon.

The bill would regulate the sale, use and advertisement of vaping – or “alternative nicotine products” – in the state.

In an interview with Yellowhammer News, both Drummond and Stringer emphasized that their bill is intended to protect the health and wellbeing of Alabama minors.

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“The motivation is simple,” Drummond emphasized. “We are trying to safeguard the teens in the state of Alabama.”

She outlined, “Vape shops, as it stands right now, are not regulated at all… And the bill came about because our drug education council locally brought it to our attention, but [Stringer and I] have both seen ourselves, as well as throughout the whole state, the rise of vape shops. They’re popping up everywhere in the state of Alabama.”

While it is too early to tell what vaping is directly doing to users’ health, Stringer and Drummond emphasized there is an objective gateway effect from vaping use and to smoking traditional cigarettes.

“Right now, there is no data that says what is the [direct] effect that these products are having on our young people. What we are seeing, and this is a national trend, is that you’re seeing smoking not going down, but increasing, among young people,” Drummond explained.

Stringer, a career law enforcement officer with stints as chief of multiple local police departments, said educators from every corner of Mobile County have voiced their concerns with the lack of state oversight on vape products and retailers “saying this is an epidemic and a problem what we need to address.”

“The products haven’t been out long enough to know the problems we could face in five, ten, 15 years from now,” he said. “It’s pretty similar to when smoking came out. There was basically no risk at that time, according to everyone. Now, look at all the data that we have to go with smoking… this is a new product we’re learning every day about.”

Stringer said statistics they were shown from the drug education council show an approximately 34 percent increase in children under 19-years-old that tried smoking after vaping.

“In Alabama, we don’t want to wake up one day and see the effects, negative effects on our kids,” Drummond added. “Right now, we’re trying to be responsible legislators to make sure that we look out for the welfare of our children.”

The two lawmakers also stressed that not only do vape shop operators have no restrictions on them, but the state has no way to even keep track of them currently.

Their bill would make it illegal to sell or give vape products to anyone under 19-years-old. The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board would regulate retail sales of the products, just as they do tobacco products. Retailers would have to obtain an annual permit, which includes an application fee of $300. Retailers would also have to comply with relevant FDA regulations and post signage warning of the dangers of nicotine usage.

Using vape products in certain places, including schools and child care facilities, would be prohibited.

‘This is something that is nonpartisan, it’s not anything that is about Republican or Democrat. This is something about our young people,” Drummond said. “Because if you look at the amount of nicotine that is showing up in these products, when they first hit the market, the nicotine levels were very low – like five percent. Now, it’s gone up to about ten percent. They’ve got other chemicals in there, like formaldehyde. What is the effect of that upon the brains of our kids? So, this is more of a public wellbeing bill for us.”

Stringer advised that he foresees widespread support in the legislature for the bill.

“Everyone agrees that there has to be some checks and balances [oversight] in place,” he concluded.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn