Is the constitution in crisis? This podcast is for people who are curious about politics and the law and how the biggest political and legal issues of the moment affect you. Pull up a chair and join host Jessica Levinson, a professor at LMU’s Loyola Law School, and a rotating cast of experts. Jessica will be joined by journalists, politicians, political scientists, lawyers, and many others. Listen to Jessica and her guests for a wry, and sometimes irreverent take on the most pressing issues of our time. What are the laws of our democracy? How are they changing? And what does that mean for your daily life?
- Mifepristone - What Do You Need To Know About The Abortion Pill Litigation?In a nation of complicated legal machinations, the mifepristone situation is especially complicated. U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk last week suspended a number of laws regulating the popular and widely-used abortion drug mifepristone. Kacsmaryk’s ruling affected both the Food and Drug Administration's original 2000 approval of mifepristone as well as subsequent updates to laws regulating the drug from 2016 and 2019. Multiple appeals to Kacsmaryk’s ruling followed, and late this week the Supreme Court issued an administrative stay on the lower court’s ruling in the aftermath of a formal request from the Justice Department to block the new restrictions to the drug. Limiting access to mifepristone would have far-reaching implications of the ability of the FDA to approve other drugs, and to further complicate the situation, a ruling out of Washington was issued that could potentially limit Kacsmaryk’s decision. As the story develops in real time, Jessica updates you on the current state of the law surrounding mifepristone, as well as how we got here and where the law is going.
- How Strong Is DA Alvin Bragg's Case Against Trump?Depending on what you've heard, Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg's case against former President Trump is somewhere between frivolous or airtight. And it is likely that one's position depends on the beholder's opinion about Donald Trump himself. In today's episode, Jessica strips away the partisan perspectives and assesses the real world legal nuts and bolts of exactly what the charges are, as well as the obstacles that Bragg faces in proving his case.
- What is it like to cover the Supreme Court? (Guest - David Savage)Los Angeles Times Supreme Court reporter David Savage joins Jessica on this special episode of Passing Judgment. Savage has been covering the Supreme Court for more than 30 years, a time period that has seen substantial changes in both the composition of the Court as well as the way the Court addresses issues. Jessica recorded this conversation, in part, for her Constitutional Law students at Loyola Law School. We also think it will be fun for you, our Passing Judgment audience, to hear David and Jessica talk about what it has been like to make a career out of covering the Supreme Court. David shares his thoughts on issues related to judicial activism, originalism, Chief Justice John Roberts' judicial philosophy, and what accounted for the rise of the Federalist Society.
- Everything You Need to Know About the $1.6 billion Dominion v Fox CaseThe biggest defamation case we've seen in decades is about to go to trial. Dominion Voting Systems, a manufacturer of electronic voting machines and associated software, has sued Fox News and Fox Corporation for defamation, based on false claims that Dominion helped rig the 2020 presidential election for President Biden. Jessica talks through exactly what Dominion will have to prove to succeed in its case.
- Everything You Need to Know About Trump's IndictmentFormer President Trump will be criminally indicted. This is a historic first. But what does it mean legally and politically? Jessica walks through what we're likely to see in the indictment, what an arraignment will look like, and what the next steps will be.
- Why I'm Worried the New York District Attorney Will Indict TrumpIt looks likely that former President Donald Trump will soon be indicted by New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg for his role in the 2016 hush money payment to adult film performer Stormy Daniels stemming from an alleged affair with then-candidate Trump. Setting aside the time when president Ulysses Grant was arrested for speeding in a horse and buggy in Washington D.C. in 1876, a Trump arrest would make him the only sitting or former president to be arrested for suspected criminal activity. For many people who believe in accountability and the rule of law, this may sound like good news, but there may be legal and political landmines ahead - especially given the other cases in process against Trump and the fact that he as already announced his campaign for 2024. Jessica explains the legal basis for a potential indictment and talks about why she’s nervous this case will go forward.
- Will the Supreme Court invalidate Pres. Biden’s student loan program? (Guest - Adam Liptak)Will the Supreme Court conclude that President Biden overstepped his authority when he created a $400 billion student loan forgiveness program? Adam Liptak, the Supreme Court reporter for The New York Times, joins Jessica to discuss how we got here and the likely fate of Biden’s program.
- Will the Supreme Court Upend Legal Protections for Tech Companies? (Guest - Michael Macagnone)This week the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that could change the Internet as we know it. Two cases, one case was brought against YouTube by the family of an individual was killed in an ISIS attack in Paris in 2015, and another was filed against Twitter by the family of an individual killed by an ISIS attack in Istanbul in 2017, will ask the high court to interpret the extent that technology companies could face legal liability for content posted on their sites. Jessica discusses both cases and how the eventual decisions by the Court may affect how both tech giants and everyday Americans use the Internet with Michael Macagnone, a legal affairs reporter for CQ Now and Roll Call. Jessica has also written on the cases for MSNBC here.
- Spy Balloons and UFOs (Guest: Mariana Alfaro)On January 28th of 2023, what appears to be a Chinese surveillance balloon entered U.S. airspace north of the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. President Biden ordered the balloon to be shot down. In subsequent weeks, three more unidentified flying objects were shot down by the U.S. military over Alaska, Canada, and Lake Huron. What is going on? How concerning is this string of aerial incidents? Are they related? Mariana Alfaro, The Washington Post's co-anchor of Post Politics Now, The Washington Post's live breaking political news feed, joins Jessica to talk about what is going on and why the origins of these UFOs are more banal than an invasion of little green men from a planet far, far away.
- Getting to the Bottom of the SCOTUS Leak. Or Not. (Guest: Steven Mazie)Something rare happened in the Supreme Court last year: News that the decision in the Dobbs case would scuttle nearly half-century-old abortion protections of Roe v Wade leaked before the Court announced it, sending shockwaves through American society. Other branches of our government may leak, intentional or otherwise, but the Supreme Court traditionally ran a tighter ship. The Court just did not leak. And then it did. An investigation held by the Marshal of the Court to determine the source of the leak was inconclusive and it was revealed that the nine justices refused to sign affidavits about the leak that were mandatory for the rest of the clerks and staff. Steven Mazie, Professor of Political Studies at Bard High School Early College-Manhattan and Supreme Court Correspondent for The Economist, joins Jessica to chat about the leak and what it means for the legitimacy of the Court going forward.
- Alec Baldwin Is Charged With Involuntary Manslaughter After the Fatal 2021 Rust Shooting (Guest: Joey Dillon)Actor Alec Baldwin and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed were recently charged with involuntary manslaughter stemming from a fatal on-set incident that took place on October 21st of 2021 while the movie Rust was filming in New Mexico. An extensive investigation by New Mexico officials established some facts regarding the tragedy: which are that Baldwin was rehearsing a scene inside a church set with a prop gun given to him by assistant director David Halls. During the rehearsal, the gun discharged and a real bullet struck cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. The bullet passed through her chest and also struck the film’s director, Joel Souza, wounding him in the shoulder with a non-fatal injury. Hutchins was pronounced dead later that day. In this episode, Jessica lays out the legal ramifications of the charges and where the trials may lead. And in order to learn a bit about on-set firearms protocols, we invited an expert in this field to talk about how firearms are handled on movie and television productions. Joey Dillon is an armorer, gun trainer, gunfight choreographer, and assistant prop master who has handled prop weapons on movies like the Coen Brothers’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and Hail Caesar!, as well as The Call of the Wild, The Harder They Fall and television programs like HBO’s Westworld.
- Will the Death of Tyre Nichols Change Policing In America?Jessica and Joe discuss the death of a young man named Tyre Nichols, who died three days after a violent incident at the hands of Memphis police on January 7th, 2023. After a traffic stop, a pair of "confrontations" occurred with video evidence of the incident showing that Nichols was savagely beaten by five or more officers of Memphis' SCORPION street crime unit. Nichols wound up in critical condition and he died in a hospital three days later. Seven police officers were relieved of duty in the aftermath of the incident, five of whom were fired. Nichols was unarmed. What charges do these officers face in the death of Tyre Nichols? How can video evidence affect the judicial process in the Nichols case? Will the death of Nichols change police tactics? And how does this keep happening?
- Is the American Public Capable of Being Persuaded? (Guest - Anand Giridharadas)Author, columnist, and analyst Anand Giridharadas, stops by Passing Judgment to discuss his latest book -- The Persuaders: At the Front Lines of the Fight for Hearts, Minds, and Democracy. What are the best ways to persuade people? Are Republicans better than Democrats at persuasion? What is the best way to combat disinformation? What is deep canvasing? Anand and Jessica discuss all of these questions.
- How Have Baby Boomers Effected Power and Politics in America? (Guest - Philip Bump)Journalist Philip Bump's day job is as a journalist and correspondent for The Washington Post, where he writes the weekly newsletter, How to Read This Chart - in which he analyses trends in economics, pop culture, politics, and more using the data behind the news. His new book, The Aftermath: The Last Days of the Baby Boom and the Future of Power in America, examines the ways that America's largest generation has had an effect on manifold aspects of our culture. Who are the Boomers, beyond just a birth year? How do they continue to determine major aspects of our society, and what happens as they age and are eventually replaced by their generational competitor, the equally large generation of Millennials? Bump joins Jessica to talk about his new book on a deep dive into all things Boomer.
- Is Trump Constitutionally Disqualified From Holding Office Again?The short answer -- It's complicated. Jessica explains why members of the House Select Committee on January 6th and others have claimed that Trump is legally barred from holding federal office again, and why it is not so straightforward.
- A breaking news edition - The House Select Committee on January 6 Supports Four Criminal Referrals Against TrumpThe House Select Committee on January 6, 2021 just met for the last time. As expected, they referred former President Trump to the DOJ for four criminal charges. Jessica breaks down those four charges, what they mean, and why this matters.
- How did Warnock beat Walker? Analysis of the Georgia Runoff (Guest: Greg Bluestein)Democrats padded their midterm elections win tally this week with another victory in Georgia's runoff election to fill the state's second Senate seat. When neither incumbent Raphael Warnock nor challenger Herschel Walker garnered 50% of the vote in November, that set Georgia's voters on an accelerated runoff schedule. One of the strangest races in this year's senatorial elections got even stranger with former football star Walker making comments about werewolves and vampires and dodging additional accusations of allegedly encouraging former girlfriends to get abortions. Although Reverend Warnock won convincingly enough to have the race called mere hours after polls closed, Walker still managed to garner 48.6% of the votes cast. Jessica welcomes journalist Greg Bluestein from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution back to PJP to discuss the runoff, how Warnock won, why Walker lost, why Republicans still voted en masse for a candidate as flawed as Walker, and why Brian Kemp beat Stacy Abrams so convincingly in the Georgia governor's race.
- The latest from SCOTUS - Freedom of Speech v Freedom from DiscriminationThe Supreme Court just heard oral arguments in the biggest free speech case of the term. The case involves a would-be website designer in Colorado and whether she can decline to design wedding websites for same sex couples. Jessica gives a quick recap of the complex legal issues and tells us what to expect from the Supreme Court.
- Why Won't Trump Get His Special Master? Is the Supreme Court About to Allow State Lawmakers to Undermine Fair Elections In America?It is another big week of legal news on two-fer Friday! First, Jessica explains why former President Trump is unlikely to keep the special master he asked for in the Mar-a-Lago investigation. Second, Jessica talks through a huge election law case involving the 'independent legislature doctrine' that will be argued before the Supreme Court next week and explains how it could affect your voting power.