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Slow Walking For Trump

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Good piece by Dahlia Lithwick and Barry Friedman about how Republican justices are deliberately and unnecessarily letting cases drag out to benefit Republican politicians:

What’s stunning is the degree to which the courts are complicit in all this. The courts have aided and abetted the Trump legal team and Mitch McConnell by refusing to behave as if time is a factor in any of these proceedings. That’s evident in the decision to docket a pair of financial records cases no earlier than March and the meandering pace of the gamesmanship around a case seeking to end the Affordable Care Act through judicial fiat. But the real coup de grâce was the failure of the Supreme Court and lower federal courts to resolve congressional subpoenas around the impeachment process with alacrity when it was altogether plain what was needed. Had the courts signaled a willingness to act at a pace befitting the needs of the moment, Schiff might have made a different choice. Sometimes the appearance of studied deliberation serves nihilism and chaos, even as it pretends at neutrality and institutionalism.


It didn’t have to be this way. Chief Judge John J. Sirica of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia insisted that the Watergate tapes case play out so quickly that the White House was caught off guard and unable to formulate a workaround in time. The Supreme Court heard the Nixon tapes case on July 8, 1974, after the term had ended. It issued its unanimous ruling a few weeks later. In 1942, during World War II, Franklin Roosevelt wanted to execute some German saboteurs who came to Long Island by submarine—and he wanted to do so quickly. The eight defendants were tried by military tribunal lickety-split. When the constitutionality of this use of military tribunals was challenged—some of the alleged saboteurs were American citizens—the Supreme Court interrupted its carefully guarded summer recess, heard extra-long arguments on July 29 and 30 of 1942, and issued its judgment, giving its unanimous OK on the July 31. (So anxious were the justices to rule quickly that the actual opinion justifying the ruling did not come out until the end of October, long after the men had been executed in the electric chair.) Justices have heard emergency petitions in far-flung places, including a 1973 hearing over a petition to stop the military from bombing Cambodia that took place in a courthouse near Justice William O. Douglas’ home in the mountains of Washington state. When William Barr’s Justice Department has asked that the high court rush cases onto its docket, sometimes even before intermediate courts have ruled, the Supreme Court has accommodated. When stays of execution are requested in death penalty cases, they seem to fly through the courts on their way to being denied.

It’s a classic example of Republican justices trying to give as much of an appearance of nonpartisanship to partisan actions. They’re capable of moving quickly when they want to; they’re not acting quickly on things related to impeachment and investigations of Trump because they don’t want to, because running out the clock accomplishes the same ends as issuing explicitly pro-Trump opinions with much less exposure.

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