Blog Posts by Liz Goodwin

  • Conservatives turn on Roberts, Supreme Court after health care ruling

    Republicans have a much lower opinion of Chief Justice John Roberts and the Supreme Court in general following the court's June 28 decision that upheld President Barack Obama's health care reform law.

    Only 27 percent of Republicans surveyed by Gallup last week said they had a favorable opinion of Roberts, down from 67 percent after he was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2005. Democrats, meanwhile, profess a new affection for the conservative justice, who sided with the four liberal-leaning Supreme Court justices to uphold the health care law as a tax last month. More than half of Democrats approved of Roberts in July, compared to only 35 percent in 2005.

    Republicans' approval of the Supreme Court as a whole has dropped by 21 points since September, the Gallup poll found. Democrats' approval of the court jumped 22 points, meanwhile, to 68 percent approval over the same period.

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  • Adam with a penguin and sheep in the Creation Museum's interpretation of the Garden of Eden. (Goodwin/Yahoo News)

    Five years after it opened, the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., still gleams, and life-size dinosaurs still tread the Earth, shoulder-to-shoulder with humans. But behind the scenes, one of the most ambitious efforts in America to counter evolutionary theory has hit a roadblock.

    When you walk into the Creation Museum, one of the first things you see is an exhibit of a doe-eyed human child crouched next to a velociraptor dinosaur. The two seem not at all surprised that their epochs have collided. Homo sapiens and velociraptors missed each other by a good 65 million years, according to most scientists, but in the world of the Creation Museum, humans and dinosaurs were created on the same day 6,000 years ago, coexisting peacefully in the Garden of Eden. A thousand years later, a 600-year-old man ushered them onto Noah's ark.

    Answers in Genesis, a ministry founded in Australia, built the Creation Museum. The group seeks to convince others that the theory of evolution is wrong and that

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  • Roberts switched his health care reform vote, CBS reports

    Chief Justice John Roberts on June 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Ann Wilkins/US Courts Circuit Executive's Office)Originally, Chief Justice John Roberts had decided to strike down the health care reform law's individual mandate after oral arguments in March, CBS News reported over the weekend. But sometime over the next six weeks, he changed his mind, bitterly disappointing his fellow conservatives on the court.

    [First person: 'I can't afford the insurance']

    CBS News' Jan Crawford reported that two unnamed sources with knowledge of the deliberations told her that Justice Anthony Kennedy, usually the court's swing vote, launched a "relentless" but unsuccessful campaign to get Roberts to come back to the fold after he changed his mind and joined the court's liberal wing. Kennedy was flatly opposed to the law and joined the three conservative justices in writing an unsigned dissent that pointedly refused to engage with Roberts' majority opinion. The justices did not sign on to any part of Roberts' opinion, even portions with which they agreed. (Earlier reports that their dissent was originally the majority opinion were wrong, Crawford writes.)

    Crawford did not find out why Roberts switched his vote, but she floated two theories.

    The first is that Roberts, unlike some other justices, pays attention to media coverage and is highly "sensitive" to the court's public image and legacy. If Roberts had struck down the law, many court-watchers and legal scholars would have derided the court as activist and over-partisan, a characterization some were already making following the Citizens United decision, which swept away decades of congressionally passed campaign finance as a violation of the First Amendment.

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  • Americans evenly divided on court’s Obamacare decision

    Americans are evenly divided, 46 percent to 46 percent, on whether they support the Supreme Court's decision to uphold President Barack Obama's health care reform on Thursday, according to a new Gallup poll. Nearly 80 percent of Democrats agree with the court, compared to 45 percent of independents and only 13 percent of Republicans.

  • George Zimmerman bond decision delayed by judge

    George Zimmerman consults with his attorneys. (AP Photo/Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)

    A Florida judge is delaying his decision on whether to let George Zimmerman out of jail on bond, saying he will rule on the matter later.

    Judge Kenneth Lester revoked Zimmerman's $150,000 bond earlier this month after he said Zimmerman, who awaits trial for the death of Trayvon Martin, and his wife intentionally tried to dissemble about their financial situation in April so that he could get out on bond. The pair did not disclose more than $100,000 raised on a legal defense fund website. Zimmerman's wife is charged with perjury. (The site raised more than $200,000 in donations.)

    [Related: Texas 'stand your ground' shooter headed to prison]

    The nondecision comes after a 2.5-hour hearing on Friday, during which the defense and prosecution conducted a sort of mini-trial. The state argued that Zimmerman is a dangerous criminal who should not be released on bail, while the defense put forward evidence that Zimmerman acted in self defense.

    The defense team played a 911 call from the night that Zimmerman shot 17-year-old Martin.

    "There's someone screaming outside. It sounds like a male. I think they're yelling help," the woman says in the call, as someone screams for help repeatedly in the background.

    [Related: Witnesses change stories ahead of trial]

    Zimmerman's lawyer Mark O'Mara then called Zimmerman's father, Robert Zimmerman, to the stand. He identified the screams heard on the call as his son's.

    "It was absolutely George's," he said.

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  • Did Justice Roberts change his Obamacare vote at the last minute?

    Justice John Roberts in 2010. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/APDid Chief Justice John Roberts decide to join the court's liberal wing and uphold the individual mandate at the very last minute?

    That's the theory floated by Paul Campos, a law professor at the University of Boulder, and Brad DeLong, a Berkeley economics professor and former Treasury Department official under President Bill Clinton. Campos wrote Thursday in Salon that the dissent had a triumphant tone, as if it were written as a majority opinion, and that the four conservative justices incorrectly refer to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's concurring opinion as a "dissent."

    "No less than 15 times in the space of the next few pages, the dissent refers to Ruth Bader Ginsburg's concurring opinion as 'Justice Ginsburg's dissent,'" Campos wrote.

    DeLong pointed out on his popular blog that in Justice Clarence Thomas' two-page note on the dissent, he refers to the conservatives' dissent as the "joint opinion" instead of the "joint dissent."

    Campos hypothesized that the conservative justices may have intentionally left these typos as a way of signaling to the outside world that Roberts abandoned them at the last moment.

    Lyle Denniston, the longtime courtwatcher who writes for SCOTUSblog, tells Yahoo News that he "can't account for the wording of the Thomas opinion."

    But Denniston disagrees with Campos that it's incorrect for the dissenters to refer to Ginsburg's opinion as a dissent. Ginsburg wrote that she thought the individual mandate should have been upheld under the Commerce Clause, and she was in the minority in that respect.

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  • Supreme Court upholds Obamacare individual mandate as a tax

    President Barack Obama speaks Thursday after the Supreme Court ruled on his health care legislation. (Luke Sharrett/AP)

    In a victory for President Barack Obama, the Supreme Court upheld his signature health care law's individual insurance mandate in a 5-4 decision, upending speculation after hostile-seeming oral arguments in March that the justices would overturn the law. The mandate has been upheld as a tax, with Chief Justice John Roberts, a Bush appointee, joining the liberal wing of the court to save the law.

    [Have questions about today's Supreme Court ruling upholding the health care individual mandate? Join us for a live Facebook chat at 4 p.m. ET ]

    In brief comments Thursday afternoon, Obama called the decision a win for Americans. "With today's announcement it is time for us to move forward to implement and, where necessary, to improve this law," he said. Mitt Romney told reporters shortly before noon that he would repeal the law his first day in office if elected. "ObamaCare was bad policy yesterday, it's bad policy today," he said.

    The court's four liberal justices agreed that the individual

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  • Arizona implements immigration law as feds push back

    Immigrant rights protesters on Monday in Phoenix. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

    Arizona began implementing the piece of its anti-illegal immigration law that survived the Supreme Court's ruling on Monday, requiring police officers to verify immigration status during routine stops if they have a "reasonable" suspicion that someone may be in the country illegally.

    Arizona tells police officers to look for specific signs that indicate they should ask for immigration papers when stopping a person. These signals include lack of a license, driving a car with foreign plates, difficulty speaking English and seeming nervous. Officers must be careful not to stop someone for more than a "reasonable" amount of time while verifying his or her status, however, or the inquiry could violate the stopped person's rights. Gov. Jan Brewer says officers have been trained not to racially profile while implementing the new law.

    [Related: Scalia blasts Obama's deportation stay]

    But Tucson police Chief Roberto Villasenor told the Los Angeles Times he worries his department will be flooded by lawsuits from people who say they were improperly questioned about their status, or held for too long. Under the law, Villasenor estimates that Tucson will make 50,000 additional calls to the federal government each year to verify status. Officers will have to hold people whom they would usually just cite and let go while they verify immigration statuses, he added.

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  • In Arizona dissent, Scalia blasts Obama’s deportation stay, immigration policies

    A sketch of the Supreme Court justices on Monday. Scalia is fourth from the left. (Dana Verkouteren/AP)

    In a stinging, 22-page dissent to Monday's decision striking down most of Arizona's tough anti-illegal immigration law, Justice Antonin Scalia criticized President Barack Obama's announcement earlier this month that he would stay the deportation of young illegal immigrants and suggested that the federal government does not want to enforce its immigration laws.

    "The president said at a news conference that the new program is 'the right thing to do' in light of Congress's failure to pass the administra­tion's proposed revision of the Immigration Act," Scalia, a Reagan appointee, wrote in his dissent. "Perhaps it is, though Arizona may not think so. But to say, as the Court does, that Arizona contradicts federal law by enforc­ing applications of the Immigration Act that the President declines to enforce boggles the mind."

    Scalia went on to write:

    Arizona bears the brunt of the country's illegal immigration problem. Its citizens feel themselves under siege by large numbers of illegal immigrants who invade their property, strain their social services, and even place their lives in jeopardy. Federal officials have been unable to remedy the problem,and indeed have recently shown that they are unwilling to do so. Thousands of Arizona's estimated 400,000 illegal immigrants—including not just children but men and women under 30—are now assured immunity from en­forcement, and will be able to compete openly with Ari­zona citizens for employment.

    Scalia also repeatedly referenced Obama's policy of prosecutorial discretion, which directs Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to prioritize deporting the illegal immigrants who are frequent border crossers, have committed crimes, or recently entered the country illegally. The Obama administration has deported a record number of illegal immigrants, but its prosecutorial discretion policy still draws the ire of illegal immigration hawks.

    Scalia directly referred to Obama's immigration enforcement policy as "lax" at one point.

    "Must Arizona's ability to protect its borders yield to the reality that Congress has provided inadequate funding for federal enforcement—or, even worse, to the executive's unwise targeting of that funding?" Scalia asked. Later, he added: "What I do fear—and what Arizona and the States that support it fear—is that 'federal policies' of nonen­forcement will leave the States helpless before those evil effects of illegal immigration."

    The federal government "does not want to enforce the immigration laws as written, and leaves the States' borders unprotected against immigrants whom those laws would exclude," Scalia alleged.

    Arizona's entire immigration law should be upheld, Scalia wrote, because it is "entitled" to make its own immigration policy. At one point, he cites the fact that before the Civil War, Southern states could exclude free blacks from their borders to support the idea that states should be able to set their own immigration policies.

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  • Supreme Court upholds key part of Arizona immigration law, strikes down rest

    Demonstrators stand outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, June 25, 2012. (Evan Vucci/AP)

    The Supreme Court upheld a key part of Arizona's tough anti-illegal immigration law in a 5-3 decision on Monday that allows police officers to ask about immigration status during stops. That part of the law, which never went into effect because of court challenges, will now immediately be enforced in Arizona. Other parts of the law, including a provision that made it a state crime for illegal immigrants to seek work, will remain blocked, as the justices affirmed the federal government's supremacy over immigration policy.

    [Yahoo News reporter Liz Goodwin will be answering your questions about the Supreme Court's immigration ruling today at 4 p.m. ET on Facebook.]

    Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court's swing vote, wrote the opinion, and was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. Conservative Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas partially dissented, saying the entire law or most of the law should have been upheld.

    In the opinion, Justice Kennedy wrote that the federal government's "power to determine immigration policy is well settled." But he also showed concern for what he described as Arizona's outsize burden in dealing with illegal immigration, seeming to sympathize with the state's decision to butt in on immigration enforcement. "Arizona bears many of the consequences of unlawful im­migration," he wrote. "Hundreds of thousands of deportable aliens are apprehended in Arizona each year." But, ultimately, the justices found that Arizona cannot mete out its own state punishments for federal immigration crimes.

    "Arizona may have under­standable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration while that process continues, but the State may not pursue policies that undermine federal law," Kennedy wrote in the opinion's conclusion.

    The police immigration checks are allowed, however, because state police would simply flag federal authorities if they found an illegal immigrant. The federal government would then decide if they wanted to try to deport the suspect, or let him or her go. Kennedy did not rule out that these checks may be implemented in an illegal way, which means more lawsuits may be forthcoming.

    Nevertheless, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer cast the decision as a "victory" for the state. "I am confident our officers are prepared to carry out this law responsibly and lawfully. Nothing less is acceptable," she said in a statement, adding that officers have been trained not to racially profile in their stops.

    Erika Andiola, an activist and undocumented immigrant in Arizona, said that the Latino community will not be happy with the decision, as the immigration checks portion of the law was most unpopular with them. "It's another message to the Latino community that if you look brown you're a perfect target for the police," she said.

    The Obama administration sued to block Arizona's law, called SB1070, shortly after it passed two years ago, saying it interfered with federal authority over immigration. The law made it a state crime for illegal immigrants to seek work or fail to carry proper immigration papers. It also requires police officers to check immigration status and make warrantless arrests for immigration crimes in some cases. A federal judge prevented those aspects of the law from going into effect, but the law became a lightning rod around the country, sparking boycotts and counterboycotts and opening up a debate about the nation's illegal immigrant population.

    In oral arguments in April, many of the justices seemed deeply skeptical of the government's argument that local police officers would interfere with federal authority over immigration law if they began asking people about their immigration status during stops. Though much of the debate around the law has focused on "racial profiling"—whether Hispanic people would be stopped and questioned by police based on their ethnicity—the government did not even mention those words in its case against the law, instead focusing on the federal government's supremacy in immigration matters. Justices repeatedly criticized the government's argument against immigration checks. Even Sotomayor, part of the court's liberal wing, said she was "terribly confused" by the government's argument against the checks.

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