I was attending a special meeting of the Los Alamitos City Council when President Donald Trump announced his nominee to replace Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy on the United States Supreme Court*.
Justice Kennedy will retire at the end of this month.
If the Senate confirms his appointment in the Fall, Associate Justice Kavanaugh will be seated in time for the start of the new term on the first Monday of October. (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has promised a vote on confirmation in the Fall before the November election.)
According to one prominent measure of judicial ideology, called Judicial Common Space scores, Kavanaugh would fall to the right of Gorsuch and Justice Samuel Alito, and just to the left of the arch conservative Justice Clarence Thomas. That score is based not on Kavanaugh’s rulings but rather on an appeal to the nomination process. Typically, this relies on the ideology of a judge’s home-state senator, but because Kavanaugh served on the D.C. circuit, his ideology score is drawn from that of the relevant president, George W. Bush. If JCS is accurate, Chief Justice John Roberts will become both the chief and the court’s new median justice. Roberts has been the pivotal vote in liberal-leaning decisions only five times during his tenure.
Those who enjoy keeping close tabs on how the sausage is made in Washington can bookmark SCOTUS Watch, which is keeping a running tab on public statements by Senators on how they plan to vote. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) are all definite no. These three are also likely 2020 Democratic presidential contenders.
SCOTUS Watch provides this useful tidbit: “Although he is counted here, Senator John McCain is unlikely to vote due to illness. If all other senators vote, the nominee would need 50 votes to pass, 50-49. If Senator McCain is able to vote and the final tally is 50-50, Vice President Mike Pence would cast a tiebreaking vote in favor of the nominee.”
Ed Whelan at Bench Memos, lists and describes highlights of his judicial career:
- Taming the administrative state
- Enforcing the Second Amendment
- Protecting religious liberty
- Safeguarding free speech
- Ruling for the American worker
- Ruling against a radical abortion claim
Read details at Bench Memos.
According to anybody to the left of John Roberts on the political spectrum, Brett Kavanaugh is a dangerous extremist hell-bent on overturning decisions on abortion and LGBTQ rights. SCOTUSblog collates the reactions, both pro and con.
District-based elections in Los Alamitos
The major reasons for Monday’s special meeting of the Los Alamitos City Council were twofold: first, allow public comment on an array of proposed maps; and, second, to select a particular map and district voting sequence to move forward.
The maps showed different ways of cutting up the City into five voting districts that meet legal requirements for the California Voting Rights Act. Together with corresponding demographic information, they also clearly showed the awkwardness of forcing a cookie-cutter solution. Mayor Pro Tem Warren Kusumoto likened the exercise to cutting up a small pie. Mayor Troy Edgar predicted that nobody would be happy no matter which map were chosen.
This meeting was better attended than prior meetings on the same topic. However, attendance was not commensurate with the radical change to voting procedure forced by the Malibu law firm’s demand letter.
Many attending tried to paint the maps as attempts at gerrymandering, or diluting the vote, of residents in Apartment Row. The motivation for alleged gerrymandering was asserted to be silencing the voices of the “diverse” or Democratic population resident in Apartment Row. Nefarious dealings were suggested for deviations from ideal conditions that rose almost to the legal limit. One speaker threatened a lawsuit if the Council did not select his preferred map. (The Council did not.)
The demographer who drew the maps assured the audience that the company’s goal in drawing the array of maps was to meet legal requirements, not to weaken representation of any particular block of voters. He said that because the “building blocks” of the districts were census blocks of 100 to 200 people, it was impossible to entirely prevent deviations from ideal conditions.
After public comment and Council discussion, Mayor Edgar put forward the green map. After seconding, further discussion uncovered each Council member’s preference. For example, Councilman Mark Chirco liked the purple map best.
In the end, the vote to approve the green map was unanimous. The first districts to elect Council members will be 1 and 3 in 2020. Districts 2, 4, and 5 will elect representatives in 2022.
It should be noted that the next federal census will occur in 2020. New districts may be required depending on the results of that census.
* Thank you to John Underwood for informing me of Kavanaugh’s nomination. We also spoke about his current video project, reporting the stories of homeless people evicted from the Santa Ana Riverbed. He is still editing the video. I look forward to letting Orange County Breeze readers know where they can find it once it’s ready.