Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: October 9, 2020

Federal Courts

Supreme Court restores voter suppression requirement in South Carolina

On October 5, the US Supreme Court reinstated South Carolina’s witness-signature requirement on absentee ballots. The South Carolina law requires voters to verify their mail-in ballot by swearing an oath that they are qualified to vote and they received no assistance in voting when they sign and seal their ballots. The oath is to be administered by a witness who signs below the voter’s signature on the ballot. Democrats argue that the law is intended to suppress the votes of African-Americans and the elderly and that it ignores the difficulties of voting during a pandemic. Any ballots received prior to the court’s ruling, however, can’t be rejected for failing to comply with the witness requirement. Justices Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch indicated they would not have counted those ballots, which would have further suppressed the vote. NCJW condemns this decision to suppress the vote and supports easy and equitable access to voting.

SCOTUS hears arguments in religious freedom case

On October 6, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in FNU Tanzin v. Tanvir, an important religious freedom case that NCJW is watching this term. Three Muslim men — Muhammad Tanvir, Jameel Algibah, and Naveed Shinwari — were placed on the nation’s “no-fly list” despite the fact that they posed no threat. They claimed that the move was in retaliation for their refusal to act as informants on other Muslims for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, violating their religious tenets and interfering with the free exercise of their religion protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The Supreme Court will decide if RFRA’s provision that allows litigants to receive “appropriate relief against the government” authorizes monetary damages against individual government agents sued as individuals. Despite continued misuse and manipulation of RFRA, NCJW supports the use of this statute to fulfill its original intention: to protect religious liberty by shielding religious minorities like Muhammad Tanvir, Jameel Algibah, and Naveed Shinwari from historical discrimination.

Unqualified nominee for lifetime appointment to the federal bench

Kathryn Kimball Mizelle was nominated to the US District Court for the Middle District of Florida and is awaiting a vote in Senate Judiciary Committee. Her nomination was scheduled for a vote on October 1; however, due to lack of quorum on the part of Republican members, the vote was originally moved to October 8 and is currently suspended until business resumes in the Senate on October 19. Mizelle has spent a total of four years in practice and has experience in only two trial cases, neither at the senior level. Mizelle has deep ties to the nation’s most conservative legal voices, in addition to being a long-time member of the Federalist Society, an ultraconservative legal society. Moreover, the American Bar Association found Mizelle to be “Not Qualified” for a lifetime appointment, directly citing her lack of meaningful experience. NCJW believes Mizelle lacks the proper experience required for a lifetime appointment and strongly opposes her nomination.

Anti-abortion nominee for lifetime appointment

Toby Crouse, nominated to the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, is currently awaiting a vote by the full Senate, which has suspended all non-SCOTUS business until October 19. Since 2018, Crouse has served as Kansas Solicitor General and proved to be a highly partisan opponent of many important rights — reproductive, voting, and workers, among others. On behalf of the state of Kansas, he urged the Supreme Court to review a case defunding Planned Parenthood, a case that the Tenth Circuit disagreed with and the Supreme Court declined to hear. In private practice, Crouse defended the infamous Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in a case challenging his redistricting plan. Later, as Solicitor General, Crouse supported other restrictive voting laws. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed cloture on September 30, and Crouse is awaiting a full vote once the Senate resumes on October 19. NCJW opposes the nomination of Toby Crouse given his extreme views on issues impacting women, children, and families.

Civil Rights

Petty executive order halts diversity trainings

On September 22, President Trump released an executive order barring the federal government and its contractors from holding diversity, equity, and inclusion training because they are “anti-American.” In response, training has been canceled across the county. NCJW joined a statement condemning this order, which halts the federal government’s already slow process of reckoning with racism.

Immigration and Refugees

Expedited removal begins

This week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) started to implement expedited removal, which allows officers to arrest and rapidly deport undocumented immigrants who have been in the US for less than two years. Some backstory to this policy: it was announced in July 2019 but blocked by a federal court until this past June, when the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled it could go into effect while the case travels through the courts. NCJW opposes this policy shift, which removes due process and instills fear in immigrant communities.

Sign-On Letters

  • On October 7, the ADL released a Jewish Communal Statement Denouncing White Supremacy signed by 29 organizations, including NCJW.
  • On October 7, NCJW joined 57 organizations on a letter to Attorney General Barr urging him to share how the Department of Justice is planning to protect voters and all people in the United States safe from the threat of violent white supremacists, including white nationalists, in the coming weeks before, during, and after the election.
  • On October 7, 121 organizations including NCJW joined a statement condemning President Trump’s recent Executive Order barring the federal government and its contractors from holding diversity, equity, and inclusion trainings.

Related Resources