Roundups Law and Policy

Gavel Drop: Evangelical Group Hints That It May Target Iowa Judges

Brie Shea & Jessica Mason Pieklo

Because they have "notorious opinions" that support things like abortion rights.

Welcome to Gavel Drop, our roundup of legal news, headlines, and head-shaking moments in the courts.

Courts

An evangelical advocacy group may fight to remove Iowa Supreme Court justices over their “notorious opinions,” such as finding pregnant people in Iowa have a fundamental right to abortion. The anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ religious right organization The Family Leader was responsible for the 2010 campaign to oust three Iowa state Supreme Court justices over the court’s unanimous ruling to legalize same-sex marriage in the state.

Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announced last week that she was recusing herself from public life after being diagnosed with dementia. O’Connor was appointed to the court by President Ronald Reagan, was the first woman Supreme Court justice, and the last true swing vote the court had (we’re looking at you, Justice Kennedy). Following her retirement, O’Connor launched iCivics, a tool for teaching civic engagement to public school children. She’s a dedicated public servant and class act, and we wish her and her family nothing but the best.

Dahlia Lithwick has this thoughtful piece on what Democrats can do to salvage the federal courts now that Republicans have packed the judiciary with ideologues and partisans.

Abortion

Robert Lewis Dear Jr., the man who admits to attacking a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood in a shooting spree that killed three people and wounded nine, has once again been found not legally competent to stand trial. Dear, who has been diagnosed with delusional disorder, has been found incompetent multiple times now, by two different judges.

LGBTQ Rights

Anti-LGBTQ activists have sued the Houston Public Library over a city-sponsored “Drag Queen Story Hour,” claiming the event violates their religious freedom. The plaintiffs describe themselves as “‘Christ followers,’ taxpayers and card-carrying library patrons” and include Chris Sevier, the anti-marriage equality activist who once sued to marry his laptop because he believes so strongly in “traditional” marriage. Advocates have filed a similar lawsuit in Louisiana.

Immigration

Activist groups are suing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in federal court on First and Fifth Amendment grounds over its alleged retaliatory policy of selecting certain immigrants for arrest, detention, and deportation. The lawsuit—filed last week in Seattle by the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) Resistance, the Detention Watch Network, and the Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites—claims ICE officials are targeting immigrant activists who speak out about immigration policies and practices. Such practices, the suit claims, violates the groups’ right to speak, assemble, and associate. The suit further argues that the retaliatory practices are a violation of their due process rights because “they further no legitimate purpose, much less a compelling government interest.” This isn’t the first time the agency has been called out for its retaliatory practices. ICE, which is currently facing numerous lawsuits—including complaints over its unlawful detention practices—was called out for its targeting policies earlier this year. Reproductive justice activist Alejandra Pablos was detained back in March in what immigrant rights advocates called an act of “retaliation” for protesting.

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