For Immediate Release:
Feb. 1, 2017
COLUMBUS – Federal courts corrected a troubling overreach by President Donald Trump when they temporarily blocked enforcement of his executive order banning people from seven mostly Muslim countries from entering the United States, immigration lawyer David Leopold told a news conference today.
“Courtrooms in this country are the guardians of Democracy,’’ Leopold said. “It’s very important for the courts to continue to play that role.’’
Leopold was among three nationally acclaimed constitutional experts who took part in a press conference to express concerns over Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, 10th District Court of Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch.
Leopold – a vocal critic of the Muslim ban – represents Dr. Suha Abushamma, an Internal Medicine resident at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic who is now suing Trump over the executive order. While visiting family in Saudi Arabia she rushed to return to the United States after hearing of the ban. Although Saudi Arabia is not on the President’s list of seven banned countries, Abushamma’s passport is from Sudan, which is.
Cincinnati-based lawyer Jennifer Branch’s specialty includes civil rights and women’s reproductive rights, and she noted that Gorsuch has twice ruled against birth control access and was nominated by a President who vowed to only appoint justices who want to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“Women have the right to have an abortion and that has been the law of the land for over 40 years,’’ Branch said. “I want to be optimistic and hopeful that the new court will follow precedent and not over overturn Roe v. Wade as the President has suggested, but I did review a dissent he (Gorsuch) has written that was a bit of a concern.’’
The case centered on a Utah law to defund Planned Parenthood. The district court ruled that the law was constitutional, but a federal appeals court panel disagreed and tossed out the ban.
“Without a request from any party, the nominee was part of a panel of judges who suggested that a rehearing should be done on that decision,’’ Branch said. “He was trying to overturn the panel’s decision.’’
Ohio’s law to defund Planned Parenthood is working its way through the courts, and anti-choice groups are hoping for a national ban. Gorsuch’s past dissent suggests he could support such a ban.
“Defunding Planned Parenthood is clearly unconstitutional and it would have a huge, negative impact for Ohio and the nation,’’ Branch said, because it would take away vital health care services for millions of Americans.
In 2013, Gorsuch joined an appeals court ruling that the Obama administration could not require Hobby Lobby – a Christian-owned craft store – to include birth control in their employee health care plans.
Ohio State University Election Law Professor Daniel Tokaji rounded out the panel and said Trump kept his promise to nominate a justice with the same conservative leanings as Justice Antonin Scalia, whose Feb. 13, 2016, death created the court vacancy.
Tokaji took issue with Gorsuch past writings that criticized liberals for being “addicted to the courtroom’’ to advance social change.
“If lawyers and liberals can’t use the courts to change the laws that say blacks and whites have to drink from separate fountains … and one saying it’s wrong for a single woman to use birth control then we cannot honor the Constitution or the Bill of Rights,’’ Tokaji said.
He noted that conservatives also use the courts to advance their social agenda.