Iowa Senators Consider Increasing Governor’s Role on District Court Judge Selection

Iowa senators advanced a bill Monday that would change the makeup and leadership of district judicial nominating commissions.

Iowa’s 14 judicial election subdistricts each has a nominating commission that screens applicants and selects two nominees for district court judicial vacancies. The governor chooses one of the two to appoint for a district court vacancy.

Currently, the judge of the longest service in the district is the chair of the nominating commission, according to Iowa state statute. If there are two longest-serving judges, the elder is the chair. The commissions have 11 members: five elected by lawyers; five nonlawyers appointed by the governor; and the chair. Each commissioner, apart from the chair, serves a six-year term.

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Judge Rules Absentee Ballot Drop Boxes Illegal in Wisconsin, Regulators Must Retract Guidance

People at a voting location, voting early at polls

A Wisconsin judge has ruled that the absentee ballot drop boxes widely deployed during the 2020 election are not allowed under state law, a decision that could dramatically impact voting ahead of the swing state’s midterm elections.

Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Michael Bohren ordered on Thursday the Wisconsin Elections Commission to retract its instructions to election officials on how to use drop boxes. Bohren declared that the WEC had overstepped its authority in issuing the guidance in the first place.

Bohren called the WEC’s guidance a “major policy decision that alter[s] how our absentee ballot process operates,” that was significant enough that it should have required approval by the Legislature.

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Judge Suspends COVID Vaccine Mandate for Military Service Members Seeking Religious Exemption

The Navy cannot force service members with religious objections to COVID-19 vaccines to take them so long as the exemption process remains “by all accounts … theater,” a federal judge ruled Monday.

“Our nation asks the men and women in our military to serve, suffer, and sacrifice. But we do not ask them to lay aside their citizenry and give up the very rights they have sworn to protect,” U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor wrote in approving a preliminary injunction against the mandate as applied to the 35 service members who sued.

“Every president since the signing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act has praised the men and women of the military for their bravery and service in protecting the freedoms this country guarantees,” O’Connor said.

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Judge in Case of Anti-Trump Mudslinger is Married to Attorney for Ex-FBI Lawyer Lisa Page

FBI logo outside of building

Last week, the special counsel appointed to oversee the probe into the FBI’s investigation of former president Donald Trump indicted Michael Sussmann, a lawyer for the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. Republicans and Trump allies are optimistic about the latest development in John Durham’s investigation but are still concerned that Attorney General Merrick Garland might halt the investigation to protect allies and even the president himself.

FBI notes appear to suggest that as vice president, Joe Biden played a role in the Democratic Party project to smear Trump as a Russian asset by raising the obscure, disused, 18th century statute the Logan Act as a possible vehicle for prosecuting Michael Flynn for speaking with the Russian ambassador to Washington — even after FBI case agents had cleared Trump’s incoming national security adviser of wrongdoing.

And now Republicans are raising concerns that the judge appointed to the Sussmann case has too many conflicts of interest to preside over it fairly.

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Judge Rules Christian Baker Jack Phillips Must Make ‘Gender Transition’ Cake

Jack Phillips

A Colorado baker and self-described cake artist who won a 2018 victory at the Supreme Court faced a related setback this week when a state court ruled in another case that the law requires him to make a cake to celebrate a gender transition. 

Denver District Court Judge A. Bruce Jones ruled against Jack Phillips, the Christian owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, in the case of Scardina v. Masterpiece Cakeshop. 

“The anti-discrimination laws are intended to ensure that members of our society who have historically been treated unfairly, who have been deprived of even the every-day right to access businesses to buy products, are no longer treated as ‘others,’” Jones wrote Tuesday in a 28-page opinion.

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