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Newsletter: Biden’s imprint on the courts

Joe Biden, right, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1993.
Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), then-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, escorts Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg during her Supreme Court confirmation hearing in 1993.
(Marcy Nighswander / Associated Press)

As President Trump prepares to unveil another Supreme Court nominee, we take a look at Joe Biden’s decades-long impact on the courts.

TOP STORIES

Biden’s Imprint on the Courts

With the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the judiciary has leapfrogged to the forefront of the 2020 presidential race.

Senate Republicans have enough votes to consider and probably confirm President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, expected to be announced Saturday, despite the vocal objections of Democrats, including presidential candidate Joe Biden.

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Trump has long touted his success in judicial confirmations, including two Supreme Court justices. Until Ginsburg’s death, Biden had been largely quiet on the matter of judges in the presidential race. But if Biden is elected, he would enter the Oval Office with more experience in confirming judges than any other president in the modern era.

Biden’s decades-long tenure on the Senate Judiciary Committee yielded some of the most significant liberal victories of his career — and missteps that continue to dog him today. In all, Biden has been involved with at least 15 Supreme Court nominations during his tenure as senator and vice president.

A review of his vast experience, including 17 years as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, as well as interviews with nearly two dozen former colleagues, ex-staffers and outside legal experts offer hints to how he would approach judicial nominations in the White House.

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More Politics

— In a sweeping bipartisan vote that takes a government shutdown off the table, the House passed a temporary government-wide funding bill, shortly after Trump prevailed in a behind-the-scenes fight over a farm bailout.

— As the United Nations marked its 75th anniversary with a pandemic-era summit conducted virtually, Trump used the occasion to excoriate China, accusing it of “unleashing” the coronavirus on the world even as U.S. deaths from the disease passed 200,000.

Cindy McCain is endorsing Biden for president, a stunning rebuke of Trump by the widow of the GOP’s 2008 nominee.

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A Mixed Legacy

L.A. County’s Project Roomkey, a $100-million-plus program to repurpose hotels and motels emptied by the coronavirus as safe havens for homeless people, is starting to wind down.

The program, part of a statewide effort launched by Gov. Gavin Newsom, began in March with a goal of providing temporary housing for 15,000 homeless people who were 65 or older or had chronic health conditions such as heart or respiratory illness.

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Instead, it peaked at a little more than 4,300 guests, showing both promise and the problems in solving the homelessness crisis. The program will shut down early next year, officials say, given uncertain funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which pays about 75% of its cost.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

Nail salons may reopen indoors across California under the latest state health guidelines, but it’s still up to counties to determine the timing.

— Two weeks after the Labor Day holiday, Los Angeles County officials say they are seeing a “troubling trend”: On multiple days last week, the county reported more than 1,000 new cases of the coronavirus, an uptick from the week prior.

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— With Orange County‘s coronavirus numbers continuing to improve, officials there said that a wider reopening of businesses could be around the corner. Walt Disney Co. also wants the state to let Disneyland and Disney California Adventure reopen.

Riverside County will set its own reopening agenda, apart from the state’s timeline — although it still may not be fast enough for one county supervisor and his constituents.

‘No Place for Quitters’

Berry Creek has been many things in its long history — a stagecoach stop, a lumber town, a vacation spot, a gold mining camp.

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Now, the town has a new and terrible distinction. When the North Complex West Zone fire swept through about two weeks ago, it killed more people and destroyed more homes there than anywhere else in its destructive path. Gone are the elementary school, two churches, the Guild Hall, even Fire Station 61.

But “the creek is no place for quitters,” a resident wrote in a text message.

More About the Fires

— Officials said at least 29 structures have been destroyed by the Bobcat fire in northeastern Los Angeles County, and the number could reach 85.

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Track the progress of California’s wildfires with our map.

Another College Admissions Scandal

A new state audit found the University of California allowed “inappropriate factors” to influence admissions decisions, with four campuses admitting 64 applicants based on criteria such as family donations or their relationships to campus staff.

The audit scrutinized admissions practices from the 2013-14 through 2018-19 academic years at UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego and UC Santa Barbara. The report found the majority of the admitted students were white and at least half had annual family incomes of $150,000 or more. Among them, 22 applicants were admitted as athletes despite having demonstrated little athletic talent, the audit said.

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UC Berkeley came under particular fire, with auditors finding the campus admitted 42 applicants based on their connections to donors and staff.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

On this date in 1969, days after the University of California tried to fire her, a 25-year-old UCLA philosophy professor named Angela Y. Davis told the Los Angeles Times that her role in the “struggle for Black liberation” had made her a target of the UC regents, led by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan.

Davis’ Communist party membership ran afoul of a university rule barring the hiring of Communists. The Times reported at the time: “Although reliable sources report that most lawyers on the Board of Regents agree that this policy is not likely to stand up legally, the regents apparently have chosen to fire Miss Davis and force her to test the policy in court.”

The policy would later fail that test in court, but UC regents ousted Davis the following year by refusing to renew her contract. Davis, now a professor emerita at UC Santa Cruz, returned to UCLA for a lecture in 2014 and spoke with The Times about prison reform, feminism and how students have become “so much more sophisticated.”

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 Angela Davis at UCLA.
The University of California tried to fire UCLA philosophy professor Angela Davis in 1969 on the grounds that her Communist party membership ran afoul of a university rule barring the hiring of Communists.
(Los Angeles Times)

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CALIFORNIA

— The Los Angeles Police Commission said it would review the city Police Department’s use of facial recognition software and how it compared with programs in other major cities after a Times report this week revealed the scope of the LAPD’s use of the technology for the first time.

Vanessa Bryant has sued the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, alleging deputies shared “unauthorized” photos of the scene of the helicopter crash that killed her husband, Kobe Bryant, their daughter and seven others.

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— A family called 911 for their son’s mental health crisis. They say Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies beat and shocked him to death with a Taser stun gun.

— State officials have taken the unusual step of granting temporary endangered species status to the western Joshua tree but will allow 15 solar energy firms to raze Joshua trees that stand in the way of shovel-ready projects.

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NATION-WORLD

— The Justice Department has identified New York, Seattle and Portland, Ore., as three cities that could have federal funding slashed under an order by Trump to identify localities that permit “anarchy, violence and destruction in American cities.”

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— Just days after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis won a court victory to keep felons from voting until they’ve paid off fines, restitution and court fees, billionaire Michael R. Bloomberg has stepped in to help them erase the debts.

— Officials in Louisville, Ky., were preparing for more protests and possible unrest ahead of the state attorney general’s announcement about whether he will charge officers in Breonna Taylor’s shooting death.

— The former chairman of a Chinese state-owned real estate company who publicly criticized President Xi Jinping’s handling of the coronavirus crisis was sentenced to 18 years in prison on corruption charges, a court announced.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— Inside the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” reunion with Joseph Marcell: “It felt so good to be back,” he says, even if he had to risk his life for it.

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Bill Murray and Sofia Coppola reunite on screen in the film “On the Rocks,” but our critic says the results are mixed.

— L.A.-based singer, songwriter and producer Ty Dolla Sign is making club bangers, minus the clubs, these days.

— Who created Nirvana’s famed smiley-face logo? The band is fighting fashion designer Marc Jacobs over his use of it, but a new claimant says it was never the band’s copyright to claim.

BUSINESS

— COVID-19 has created a windfall for the Malaysian companies that supply nearly two-thirds of the world’s disposable latex and synthetic gloves. But their workers face 12-hour shifts, six days a week, on factory floors where temperatures can surpass 100 degrees.

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— How online music company Bandcamp became the anti-Spotify and the toast of the COVID age.

SPORTS

— The Dodgers clinched their eighth consecutive National League West title with a 7-2 win over the Oakland Athletics.

— The Lakers could not stop Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets when it mattered most and lost Game 3 of the NBA Western Conference Finals. The Lakers still lead the series 2 to 1.

— Fifty years ago on Wednesday, holding a dollar bill and wearing smiles illuminated by more hope than certainty, nine women changed the course of professional sports. Columnist Helene Elliott has the story.

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OPINION

— Another sign of the times: The number of mass shootings is spiking, The Times’ editorial board writes.

— Et tu, Mitt? Romney made the wrong call on considering Trump’s Supreme Court nomination.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

Public shaming has accompanied worries of contagious disease for centuries. But in 2020, the internet has made it faster, broader and more vicious, leaving patients to fight off COVID-19 and online trolls at the same time. (The New Yorker)

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— The Time 100 list of the most influential people this year features a record number of doctors, nurses and scientists. (Time)

ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

From viral particles to wildfire smoke, there’s plenty lately to fret about in the air we breathe. But at the upper reaches of the real estate market, peace of mind can be bought in the form of deluxe air filtration systems that keep the world at bay — and the rich, who these days spend even more time sequestered in their mansions, want the best ones money can buy. Carl Gambino, a luxury real estate agent in Los Angeles, says clients are bringing up clean air as a must-have amenity: “Suddenly it’s a topic of conversation.”

Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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