SCOTUS Asked to Decide re Hamilton Electors

A recent blog post discussed the case of Michael Baca, a Presidential Elector from Colorado who instead of voting for Hillary Clinton–as required by state law because she won the state’s popular vote–voted for moderate Republican John Kasich.

Along with other Electors in Colorado and elsewhere, Baca was trying to get Republican electors who might be similarly horrified by the prospect of a Trump presidency – it is hard to believe now but there were many in 2016–to help save us from that fate by diverting enough votes to throw the presidential race into the House of Representatives. The U.S. Constitution requires that  when no candidate reaches the 270 votes needed for an Electoral College majority, the House determines who gets to be President from among the top three vote-getters, as has happened on three occasions.

All but two states require Electors to vote for the winner of the state’s popular vote in a winner-take-all manner. Throughout history, a handful of Electors have refused to do so and they have often been referred to as Faithless Electors. Baca, however, who launched his effort with Peter Chiafalo, a Democratic Elector from Washington State, dubbed his group the “Hamilton Electors,” a name with more contemporary cachet thanks to the Broadway musical. He named it after founding father Alexander Hamilton, whose Federalist paper No. 68, described the role of Electors in making the case for having the President chosen by them, rather than by the popular vote.

The State of Colorado refused to count Baca’s vote, removed him, and replaced him with someone who then voted for Clinton. It also threatened Baca with criminal prosecution but did not carry through on the threat.

Baca sued and on August 20, 2019, the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that states, though they determine how Electors are chosen, cannot dictate to them how they vote, no remove them or punish them for their votes. “The text of the Constitution makes clear that states do not have the constitutional authority to interfere with presidential electors who exercise their constitutional right to vote for the President and Vice President candidates of their choice,” wrote U.S. Circuit Judge Carolyn B. McHugh, in Baca v. Colorado Department of State. She was joined by Judge Jerome A. Holmes in the 2-1 ruling, with the third judge on the panel, Mary Beck Briscoe, dissenting based on her view that the case was moot.

Now a similar challenge brought by three Hamilton Electors, Chiafalo v. State of Washington, aims to bring the question of Elector discretion before the U.S. Supreme Court. Continue reading SCOTUS Asked to Decide re Hamilton Electors

RULING ALLOWS ELECTOR DISCRETION BUT MIGHT IMPEDE EFFORT TO CIRCUMVENT ELECTORAL COLLEGE

Donald Trump won the Presidency in 2016 despite being trounced by Hillary Clinton in the popular vote.

Thanks to the Electoral College, the profoundly undemocratic body that actually elects our Presidents and Vice-Presidents, Trump’s slight margin of victory in a few key states outweighed the millions more votes cast nationwide by those who preferred Clinton.

The Electoral College has been enshrined in our system from the start, in Article II, section 1, paragraph 3 of the Constitution. It was modified in 1804, with ratification of the Twelfth Amendment, which requires separate votes for President and Vice-President.

Most years, the results of the Electoral College vote match up with the popular vote.  But after 2016, when it thwarted the will of the people for the second time in 16 years (and for two of our last three Presidents), many people realized that we must do something about it if we want to make sure that the person who wins the most votes is the one who becomes President. Continue reading RULING ALLOWS ELECTOR DISCRETION BUT MIGHT IMPEDE EFFORT TO CIRCUMVENT ELECTORAL COLLEGE

Thank You for Your (Dis)Service–Corrupt Former Newark Water Agency Head Seeks Pension Payoff

It has been nearly six years since the quasi-public entity that was once responsible for the reservoirs that supply Newark’s drinking water shut down amid widespread corruption that sent at least six people to prison and helped drive the agency into bankruptcy.

Now, the person who once ran the agency and another high-level employee–both currently doing time in federal prison for their on-the-job misdeeds–are trying to collect pensions worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. And it looks like they might get their payday.

Continue reading Thank You for Your (Dis)Service–Corrupt Former Newark Water Agency Head Seeks Pension Payoff

NJ COURTS PROVIDE ICE SHIELD

I was really happy to see last week that the New Jersey courts were taking concrete action to protect people from the harsh immigration policies of the Trump Administration.

Administrative Directive 07-19, released on May 23, states the view of the judiciary “that civil immigration enforcement activities should not take place in courthouses” and that “courthouses must be viewed by the public, all parties, victims, and witnesses as a neutral and safe forum to resolve disputes.” Continue reading NJ COURTS PROVIDE ICE SHIELD

Federal Courts Limit Hiring Protections for Older Workers

As a former employment lawyer and a Baby Boomer, I am dismayed that two recent federal appeals courts, one within the last month, have held that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act does not protect older workers looking for jobs from disparate impact age discrimination, only those who already have jobs.

We are talking about the use of hiring criteria that might not expressly mention age but disfavor job candidates who have too much experience or who graduated too many years ago—factors which correlate closely with age. Continue reading Federal Courts Limit Hiring Protections for Older Workers

DIFFERENT RULINGS ON ACCESS TO POLICE RECORDINGS

People, like me, who believe in open government, were sorely disappointed last month when the state’s highest court, usually so protective of transparency, denied access to police dash-cam recordings under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA).

On August 13, 2018, a sharply divided New Jersey Supreme Court held, 4-3, in Paff v. Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, that such recordings were not subject to disclosure under OPRA because they were not “required by law” to be made and constituted criminal investigatory records deemed confidential under OPRA.

Just 11 days later, however, a different New Jersey court determined that the same criminal investigatory exemption did not apply to police body cams. Continue reading DIFFERENT RULINGS ON ACCESS TO POLICE RECORDINGS

LAWSUIT CHALLENGES IRONBOUND UPZONING

In a process that took years, spanned three mayors and was led by an urban planner who just won a MacArthur “genius” award based, in part, on those efforts, the City of Newark overhauled its zoning laws in 2015.

It was the first such comprehensive revision in more than 50 years and was widely praised not only for the substance of the new zoning,  which was based upon goals of environmental justice and accountable development, but for the open, participatory process by which it was adopted

Recently, in a move that would seem to undermine the well-thought out plan embraced just two years earlier and to contradict its participatory approach, Newark amended its zoning to increase the maximum building height in part of the Ironbound. And it allegedly did so without providing nearby residents the legally required notice.  Continue reading LAWSUIT CHALLENGES IRONBOUND UPZONING