Judges who care

Since last October North Carolina’s Republican leadership has been threatening the state’s Superior Court.  Legislators have the power to limit the court’s jurisdiction, cut judicial funding, gerrymander judicial districts, and impeach judges.

Last week the chair of the N.C. Republicans repeated the threats as judges consider a case concerning “deceptive wording” of two ballot measures that would shift the power to make many political appointments from the governor to the legislature.

I’m adding this to my list of reasons I’m glad to live in Idaho.

And it’s made me aware of how important our courts are right now in upholding human rights and safety.

Two cases dealing with visitors and refugees have caused public uproar.

The Trump Administration’s January 2017 travel rescinded 60,000 approved visas and left airlines all over the world turning away college students, conference speakers, and parents of children needing surgery.

Fifty court cases were filed within three days and, as courts found one provision after another illegal, the order was rescinded.

Recently, a thoroughly-revised travel ban did pass a court challenge.

Equally disturbing was the Trump Administration’s insistence this year that refugees from Central America had entered the U.S. illegally (they hadn’t) and, as criminals, could not be entrusted with the care of their own children.

Court ruled that the separations would end and that children and parents would be reunited. Many were, but the administration claims it can’t locate the parents of the 500 children still in custody–it failed to note children’s names or ages on the parents’ records.  The administration actually asked that a court order the American Civil Liberties Union to pay for finding parents already deported.

The court said no.

Court rulings on the environment are lesser known, but equally, if not more, important.

In a July 6 on-line update of an earlier article, the New York Times listed 46 environmental rules that the Trump Administration has eliminated and another 30 that it is working to end.

Congress had a voice in ending only four rules, including one we desperately needed to keep that forbade dumping coal mining debris into local streams.  The others are the result of orders by the president and twelve different agencies.

With changes coming from so many different directions, states and citizen organizations have been hard pressed to raise the money and prepare the legal arguments to press court cases.

Yet, they’ve succeeded in a number of cases before a court.

A Federal court ordered the EPA to enforce the ban on the chlorpyrifos based on an earlier EPA study showing the pesticide was not only dangerous for farm workers, but also for consumers of treated food products.

When the EPA announced it would delay enforcing regulation of methane discharges until the agency completed a two-year study, the Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals ruled it must continue to enforce existing rules while studies are underway.

When the EPA decided to postpone revising the 2001 lead regulations for another six years, the appeals court demanded that the rules be revised within 90 days to protect children’s health.

 And a federal district court ordered the Tennessee Valley Authority to remove the coal ash from a 476-acre pond adjacent to the Cumberland River.

And some rules, including one brought by families of persons who died from using paint removers containing methylene chloride, have been reinstated before a court ruled.

Not all the 76 environmental regulations the administration is set on ending will cost lives or destroy habitat. Enough do, however, that we need judges who care.

Note this editorial by Judy Ferro published by Idaho Press – 2018

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