Here are some of the legal news stories making headlines this week:
A New York judge held former President Donald Trump in contempt for failing to provide documents to New York Attorney General Letitia James as part of her office’s investigation into Trump’s business dealings.
- James has been investigating Trump’s business dealings for over two years. Earlier this year, James sought documents and testimony from Trump and two of his children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka Trump. In February, Judge Arthur Engoron ordered Trump to comply with the subpoena. In April, James asked Engoron to hold Trump in contempt for failing to produce documents by the March 31st deadline.
- At this week’s hearing, Trump attorney Alina Habba argued that Trump already turned over the documents that James is looking for. However, Engoron seemingly was not convinced, and therefore he held Trump in contempt and ordered him to pay $10,000 per day until the subpoena is satisfied. “Mr. Trump, I know you take your business seriously and I take mine seriously,” Engoron said.
- Engoron’s decision could still be reversed. During the hearing, Habba indicated that Trump would be willing to sign a sworn statement detailing the steps he took to locate and produce the documents. And on Wednesday, Habba filed a notice of appeal.
The Supreme Court is back in the news this week.
- The justices heard oral arguments in a case with First Amendment implications. The case involved a high school football coach who was fired after he led his team in prayer on the field after a game. According to legal analysts, including SCOTUSblog’s Amy Howe, the Court’s conservative bloc indicated that they would side with the coach. For instance, Justice Clarence Thomas argued that the coach was improperly fired because prayer “is not part of [the coach’s] job.” Justice Elena Kagan countered that the focus of the dispute should really be whether the coach’s conduct put pressure on students to participate in religious activities.
- The Court also held oral argument in a case concerning the immigration policy that requires asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while they wait for their matter to be resolved in a U.S. court. The case stems from a challenge brought by the state of Texas, in which a district court last year ordered the Biden administration to reinstate the Trump-era policy. The Biden administration returned to court, and ultimately petitioned the Supreme Court, after it attempted to restart the policy, but found that its costs outweighed its benefits. Some justices appeared unwilling to wade into the debate, including Chief Justice John Roberts who said, “If you have a situation where you’re stuck because there’s no way you can comply with the law and deal with the problem there, I guess I’m just wondering why that’s our problem?” Meanwhile, some justices questioned how the Court could compel the government to implement a policy that required the participation of the Mexican government. Justice Elena Kagan said, “Congress, aware that Mexico is a sovereign nation, did not think it appropriate to say, ‘You must ship people back to Mexico.’ It understood that there was going to have to be discretion and significant foreign policy considerations involved in that choice.” A decision in the case is expected this summer.
- This week also marked retiring Justice Stephen Breyer’s final hearing on the bench. To mark the occasion, Roberts said, “For 28 years, this has been his arena for remarks profound and moving, questions challenging and insightful, and hypotheticals downright silly…We leave the courtroom with deep appreciation for the privilege of sharing this bench with him.”
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