Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Hannah Kris
Friday, June 22, 2018, 2:54 PM

In Carpenter v. United States, the Supreme Court ruled that under the Fourth Amendment, the government needs a warrant to collect cell-site location data, according to the New York Times. The decision was 5-4, with Chief Justice Roberts joining Justices Breyer, Kagan, Ginsburg and Sotomayor in the majority. Privacy advocates and law enforcement officials alike have long said the case could have wide-reaching implications for all sorts of personal information that has historically been able to be handed over to courts as part of third-party doctrine. The case was brought by Timothy Carpenter, who was convicted of a series of armed robberies, in part due to records held by cell-phone companies that proved Carpenter’s phone was in the vicinity of the robberies at the time they occurred. Several technology companies, including Facebook, Apple, and Google, had filed a brief supporting neither party but encouraging the Supreme Court to support the Fourth Amendment.

Law-enforcement agents near the Mexico border are expressing confusion over instructions on what to do with migrant children apprehended at the border, according to the Wall Street Journal. After Congress once again failed to pass a compromise immigration bill on Thursday, and President Trump issued an executive order in an effort to slow the separation of parents and children, law-enforcement and social-service officials have scrambled to find new facilities and clarify policy about the legality of imprisoning families together. Additionally, immigration officials are debating strategies for prosecuting migrants for illegal border entry; if prosecution slows, detention facilities will be able to accommodate more people, but slowing prosecution may appear to some as a retreat on immigration. Officials continue to wait for sturdier legal ground before making decisions.

Almost two-dozen U.S. military planes have been targeted by lasers coming from Chinese-flagged ships in the East China Sea, according to the Journal. The contested area, which has islands claimed by both China and Japan, has often been patrolled by what is termed a “maritime militia”—a group of Chinese fishing boats—which serves to assert China’s claims in the area. The U.S., which has defended certain Japanese interests, although not Japanese claims of sovereignty, often flies military aircraft in an effort to challenge China’s declared air-defense identification zone over the East China Sea. The lasers involved in the incidents were not military grade, but small commercial-grade lasers easily purchased by consumers—but they can and do temporarily blind pilots and can cause eye damage in some cases. U.S. officials expressed cautious optimism, calling the incidents “low-level but concerning harassments.”

Authorities in Latvia are investigating an allegation by anti-corruption activist Bill Browder that defunct ABLV, Latvia’s third-largest bank, handled money from Russian nationals engaged in fraud uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky, reports Reuters. ABLV, which closed this year after the U.S. Treasury Department accused the bank of money laundering, has been accused of holding multiple accounts connected to fraud totaling $230 million. The allegation brought by Browder, who worked with Magnitsky before the latter’s death in 2009, may increase scrutiny of how ABLV winds itself down this year, as well as scrutiny of other Latvian banks which have been accused of similar practices. Magnitsky, the lawyer who uncovered the fraud, was arrested and died in a Moscow prison after being denied medical care; his death spurred the U.S. Treasury to freeze the U.S. assets of several Russian individuals.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced plans to eliminate 10 of his government’s 26 ministries and increase the speed with which the president can make decisions if he wins Sunday’s Turkish election, according to Reuters. Erdogan, whom many in the West have called out for increasingly authoritarian tendencies, took steps during his previous tenure as prime minister to reduce the number of ministries from 37 to 26. Erdogan explains his consolidation of power by saying that he needs sweeping new authority to combat what he sees as economic and security threats. Erdogan called for snap elections in April, when his public support was higher than it is now. Polls indicate that Erdogan’s party, AKP, may lose its majority in the Turkish assembly and suggest that the president may be forced into a second runoff vote.

In South Dakota v. Wayfair Inc., the Supreme Court ruled that internet retailers can be forced to charge sales tax even in states where the companies lack a physical presence, in a decision that may bring up to tens of billions of dollars in additional annual revenue to states, reports the Times. In an anticipated decision, the Supreme Court overturned precedent, Quill Corporation v. North Dakota, in which the court had ruled that states cannot collect sales tax from businesses unless they have a substantial connection to the state. Wayfair is seen as a victory for brick-and-mortar stores, which have complained for years about losing out to online retailers who did not need to collect sales tax. The decision is also seen as a victory for state budgets, which may gain up to $33 billion in annual tax revenues as a result of this decision.

Romania’s highest court has sentenced Liviu Dragnea to three years and six months in jail for abuse of office, according to the Times. Dragnea served as the leader of Romania’s Social Democratic Party and is considered to be among the country’s most powerful politicians. Dragnea was found guilty as a result of keeping two party employees on the state payroll for seven years despite the fact that they did no work, although he was acquitted on a charge of intellectual forgery. The verdict was viewed favorably in Romania, considered one of Europe’s most corrupt countries. The ruling also is seen as a success for the country’s 2004 National Anticorruption Directorate, which had been used to prosecute thousands of lawmakers until January 2017, when an emergency ordinance was passed decriminalizing low-level corruption.

In Lucia v. SEC, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Raymond J. Lucia, an investment adviser who was fined $300,000 and given a lifetime ban from working as a financial adviser in 2012 after he was found to have misled potential investors, finding that the SEC judge involved in the case was improperly appointed, reports the Washington Post. In a 6-3 ruling, the Court held that agency judges should be classified as officers of the United States as opposed to simple government employees. As many as 150 judges could be affected, according to Lucia’s counsel. This opens the door to additional litigation concerning other civil-service judges working in the U.S. government now. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board celebrated the decision, arguing the ruling increases federal accountability. The editorial board felt that forcing judges to be appointed by political actors diversifies the bench and eliminates an opaque administrative state, a view contested by Justice Breyer, who felt that civil servants form the backbone of a functioning government.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Matthew Kahn summarized Trump’s executive order on separating migrant families.

Kemal Kirisci, Jessica Brandt, and M. Murat Erdoğan looked at the plight of the Syrian refugees in Turkey.

J. Dana Stuster investigated the Hodeidah offensive, the U.S. withdrawal from the U.N. Human Rights Council, and Turkey’s election.

Jen Patja Howell posted a joint podcast between the Rational Security crew and the gang from Bombshell.

Robert Chesney took a closer look at Section 1621 of the Senate’s proposed National Defense Authorization Act for 2019.

Tim Marer makes a case for pragmatism in U.S.-China relations in order to protect financial stability in his essay for the Hoover Paper Series.

Victoria Clark and Quinta Jurecic posted litigation documents on family separations.

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