Congresswoman Invokes Authority
To Arrest U.S. Attorney General


     A member of Congress said Sunday she wants to use a rarely invoked legal authority to compel the arrest of U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland for contempt.
     The House voted last week to hold Garland in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over an investigator's recording of President Joe Biden being interviewed about classified documents found in his garage.
     The Justice Department is declining to prosecute Garland, who heads the Justice Department.
     Republican Rep. Anna Paulina Luna of Florida said in a Fox News interview that she wants the House sergeant-at-arms to arrest Garland.
     Luna has introduced a resolution recommending the arrest and discussed it with the speaker of the House.
     “I anticipated that the Department of Justice would not do their job and so I had this teed up and ready to go,” Luna said while being interviewed by Maria Bartiromo on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”
     She said she plans to push for a vote on her resolution. 
     “I’ve brought this to Speaker [Mike] Johnson’s attention,” Luna said.
     Luna was referring to the “inherent contempt” power of the House established under federal law. It authorizes subpoenaed witnesses who refuse to cooperate with a congressional investigation to be arrested and brought to trial in the House. 
     If convicted, the offender can be punished by a fine of up to $100,000 and imprisonment “for not less than one month nor more than twelve months.” Congress last invoked inherent contempt more than a century ago.
     Johnson so far has declined to use the inherent contempt authority, instead saying the House would use a lawsuit to enforce its contempt citation.
     The law allows “the sergeant-at-arms to essentially go and get him, as well as the tapes [of President Joe Biden’s testimony in the probe of Special Counsel Robert Hur],” Luna said.
     Prosecuting Garland under inherent contempt would “really be a check-and-balance on the Department of Justice,” Luna said.
     The House Judiciary Committee demanded that Garland turn over an audio recording of Hur interviewing Biden about classified documents he improperly took and stored in his Delaware home after serving as vice president during the Obama administration.
     Garland turned over a transcript but declined on the audio tape, saying it was exempted under federal law from public disclosure because it was part of a Justice Department investigation. Releasing it publicly could create a disincentive for witnesses in other cases to cooperate with investigators, he said.
     Republicans in Congress said they need to hear the audio tape to determine whether Biden is fit to serve as president and whether his answers appeared to be truthful.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

Democrats Criticize Chief Justice
For Supreme Court Ethics Enforcement


     Congressional Democrats are criticizing the Supreme Court's chief justice for failing to enforce ethics standards on the court as they consider a proposal to intervene.
     Lawmakers are discussing a Senate Judiciary Committee bill to impose a new code of ethics on the Supreme Court.
     They accuse Chief Justice John Roberts of overlooking ethical lapses by fellow justices, such as Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas.
     "The chief justice has, not only the authority, but the responsibility to deal with the problems of behavior on his own court, and he's not doing it. He is not doing it," Sen. Peter Welch, D-Vt., said on the Senate floor last week.
     He spoke minutes after the Senate struck down a proposal to expedite a final vote on a Supreme Court ethics bill. The bill still is pending but now it must pass through the normal procedures required for all legislation.
     Recent popular opinion surveys show the public’s approval rating for the Supreme Court is near its lowest level in history.
     The justices argue Congress has no authority to intervene because of the separation of powers set out by the Constitution.
     The Supreme Court has a code of conduct but it is enforced internally and it is largely voluntary. It requires disclosure of conflicts of interest that might affect pending cases.
     The code was adopted Nov. 13, 2023. It was the first time in its history the court had adopted a code of conduct.
     The 14-page document defined five canons of conduct that are essentially the same as ethics rules for other federal judges.
     The bill pending in the Senate called the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal and Transparency Act would impose tougher and more strictly enforced standards. It would set a more comprehensive code of conduct and establish a panel to review allegations of ethical violations by the court's members.
     "The court has inflicted wounds on itself that will be difficult — and my fear is impossible — to repair," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. "This measure will at least begin that progress.”
     Recent support for the reform bill is based partly on news reports that an inverted U.S. flag flew outside Alito's Virginia home and an "Appeal to Heaven" flag hung outside his family's New Jersey vacation beach house.
     Both flags are associated with insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol after being incited by Donald Trump's allegations the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him.
     Alito said his wife put the flags outside their homes. He denied any personal responsibility.
     Contributing to outrage in Congress were reports that Thomas accepted luxury vacations from a conservative billionaire he described as a friend but whose real estate enterprise had a stake in a Supreme Court case. Thomas also was criticized for participating in cases related to political activities of his wife, who supported Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.
     Republicans are expressing concern a legislatively-imposed code of conduct could impair the independence of the Supreme Court. They said it could lead to reprisals against justices for their politically unpopular decisions, regardless of whether they were merely upholding the Constitution.
     One provision of the reform bill would allow individuals to file ethics complaints against the justices.
     "Let's be clear, this is not about improving the court, this is about undermining the court," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

Environmental Investors Accused in Congress
Of Hurting Businesses and U.S. Economy


     The dilemma faced by attorneys who advise corporations on environmental investment was on display last week during a congressional hearing.
     Republicans accused environmental activists of collusion and antitrust violations for using their political power to pressure corporations to reduce their emissions.
     They said the result can be damage to the economy, job losses and higher prices for consumers. 
     They were referring to environmental, social, governance (ESG), which refers to investors who try to shift companies away from practices harming society, like greenhouse gas emissions. It is a fast growing segment of the services large law firms offer corporations and investment funds.
     One example mentioned during the hearing is the multi-billion dollar oil industry. Some environmental activists are demanding that investment fund managers cease putting money into their stocks.
     Another example is the agriculture industry, which is trying to withstand pressure from environmentalists to reduce use of pesticides and to convince consumers to eat less beef.
     In other words, the activists are encroaching on “the very interests that allow Americans to drive, fly and eat,” said Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., chairman of the Subcommittee on the Administrative State, Regulatory Reform and Antitrust.
     Massie accused groups like Climate Action 100+ of being “left wing activists” and a “climate cartel.”
     Climate Action 100+ is an investor-led initiative that seeks to balance good environmental policy with the need of corporations to make profits.
     One of its most controversial moves was in 2021, when it convinced major ExxonMobil investors to vote for new members of the board of directors with reputations as environmentalists. ExxonMobil is an oil company and an occasional target of complaints about the greenhouse gasses its fuels produce.
     One of the biggest investors that joined Climate Action 100+ in calling for new ExxonMobil directors was the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS).
     “This is not collusion, it’s collaboration,” Dan Bienvenue, investment manager of CalPERS, told the House subcommittee Wednesday. CalPERS manages about $500 billion in assets.
     He said CalPERS was not trying to hurt the finances of corporations but to get them to invest responsibly.
     “We view climate change as an investment opportunity in order to maximize returns,” Bienvenue said. He mentioned new business opportunities with alternative energy sources as an example.
     Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said he could find no collusion or antitrust violations in the political pressure environmentalists exert on corporations. They are merely exercising their First Amendment rights to freedom of expression, he said.
     “It’s the floods, it’s the wildfires, it’s the drought” that affect their investment policies, Ellison said.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

Consumer Advocates Want GE
To Put Warnings on Gas Stoves


     A consumer advocacy group is alleging in a new lawsuit that a kitchen manufacturing division of General Electric is creating a public health risk with its gas stoves.
     The lawsuit filed in D.C. Superior Court by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund seeks to compel the manufacturer to put warnings on the stoves that inform consumers about the risks.
     “Cooking with GE Appliances gas stoves produces indoor levels of nitrogen dioxide that pose health risks,” the lawsuit says.
     Nitrogen oxide is a pollutant commonly found in smog. It can irritate airways and contribute to the development of asthma
     About 40 percent of American homes use gas stoves.
     The lawsuit is filed against Haier U.S. Appliance Solutions, which does business as GE Appliances.
     It accuses the company of violating a ban on deceptive trade practices listed in the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act. The Act is a general consumer protection law that prohibits a wide variety of deceptive and unconscionable business practices.
     The U.S. Public Interest Research Group and other environmentalists recommend that consumers switch to electric stoves.
     The Environmental Protection Agency does not have standards for indoor nitrogen dioxide levels.
     The lawsuit in Washington is part of a growing trend by activists to use legal action to enforce their preferences on public issues. Other public interest lawsuits have led to pesticide labeling and forced oil companies to pay for climate impacts.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

Congressional Bill Would Prevent
Student Athletes Being Employees

     A U.S. House committee approved a bill last week that would prevent student athletes from being categorized as employees of their universities.
     A National Labor Relations Board judge ruled in February that student athletes were university employees, thereby allowing them to earn salaries and to unionize to protect their rights as workers.
     The bill approved by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce would reverse the NLRB decision.
     The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., said the classification as employees would block students from some benefits, such as receiving compensation for commercial use of their names and images as well as the ability to transfer schools without losing eligibility.
     Both the NLRB and the House committee are trying to protect student athletes but disagree on the technique.
     Good said that few college athletes become successful in professional sports, meaning they need to depend on their education to help them reach their career goals.
     "University or conference employment status would take the focus off their education and have unintended negative consequences," Good said.
     The classification as employees also could extend union influence too far over universities, he said.
     Good was a wrestler for Liberty University when it was an National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II school and later worked as an administrator in its athletics department.
     Democrats argue employment status for student athletes protects them from abuses that have included requiring them to spend so much time on sports that their grades suffer. Meanwhile, their teams and schools reap sometimes huge revenue from the multi-billion dollar college sports industry.
     In the Senate, negotiations continue over a more comprehensive college sports bill. 
     The legislative proposals are taking on greater urgency after a $2.8 billion lawsuit settlement three weeks ago between the NCAA and the Power Five college sports conference. The settlement is awaiting court approval.
     It would provide billions of dollars in revenue-sharing payments to current and former athletes, including shares of sponsorship revenue. It also would fundamentally change how college athletes are compensated.
     The dispute over the best method for protecting the interests of student athletes dates from a landmark 2021 Supreme Court ruling in National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston. The court said NCAA restrictions on education benefits for players violate the nation’s antitrust laws.
     The decision opened the doors for college athletes to profit from personal endorsements and sponsorships. Until then, the NCAA banned its athletes from independent contracts to make money.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.