President Donald Trump is nominating white men to America's federal courts at a rate not seen in nearly 30 years, threatening to reverse a slow transformation toward a judiciary that reflects the nation's diversity.
So far, 91 percent of Trump's nominees are white, and 81 percent are male, an Associated Press analysis has found. Three of every four are white men, with few African-Americans and Hispanics in the mix. The last president to nominate a similarly homogenous group was George H.W. Bush.
The shift could prove to be one of Trump's most enduring legacies. These are lifetime appointments, and Trump has inherited both an unusually high number of vacancies and an aging population of judges. That puts him in position to significantly reshape the courts that decide thousands of civil rights, environmental, criminal justice and other disputes across the country. The White House has been upfront about its plans to quickly fill the seats with conservatives, and has made clear that judicial philosophy tops any concerns about shrinking racial or gender diversity.
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a First Amendment case brought by a Florida man who previously won a landmark ruling from the justices on whether his floating home was a house, not a boat subject to easier government seizure under laws that govern ships and boats.
This time, the justices agreed to hear a case in which Fane Lozman sued after being charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest at a public meeting.
Lozman, 56, was never brought to trial on the charges — prosecutors dropped them after concluding there was no possibility of a conviction. Lozman then sued Riviera Beach, claiming his arrest at a 2006 city council meeting violated the First Amendment's free speech guarantee because it was in retaliation for opposing a marina redevelopment plan and accusing council members of corruption.
A jury sided with the city after a trial and an appeals court upheld that verdict. Lozman, however, took the case to the Supreme Court, arguing in part that U.S. appeals courts across the country are split on the issue of retaliatory arrest versus free speech.
When Gov. Dannel P. Malloy makes his pick for the next Connecticut chief justice, the Democrat will have nominated six of the seven people serving on the state's highest court — a rare feat in the history of the governorship.
Lawyers and other legal affairs observers say the court is rarely partisan, focusing mostly on interpretations of state law that often result in 7-0 rulings.
Occasionally, though, a case comes along that exposes an ideological rift, as it did in a 4-3 ruling that abolished the state's death penalty in 2015 when the majority and minority criticized each other in dueling opinions. Two cases currently before the court may also expose such a rift — a lawsuit against gunmaker Remington Arms in connection with the 2012 Newtown school massacre and a lawsuit challenging the way the state funds local education.
"They're not as controversial as you see at the federal level," said Proloy Das, a Hartford-based lawyer who chairs the appellate practice group at the Murtha Cullina law firm. "Our values aren't all that different across the state."
Das and other observers say the biggest impact of the Malloy nominations may be increased diversity on the court.
Malloy-nominated Justices Richard Robinson and Raheem Mullins are black. Newly appointed Justice Maria Araujo Kahn is one of two full-time female justices, joining soon-to-be-retiring Chief Justice Chase Rogers, who was nominated by Republican former Gov. M. Jodi Rell. And Justice Andrew McDonald, also picked by Malloy, is the court's first openly gay member.
Over the summer, it appeared Ryan Lochte had been cleared of criminal charges in Brazil after he was accused of fabricating a story about getting robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro during the 2016 Olympics. On Friday, a decision made by an appeals court that originally ruled the case should be dismissed was reversed, according to USA Today, which cited Brazilian newspaper O Globo. The ruling came after Rio's prosecutor's office filed its own appeal.
"I'm disappointed that they're trying to take another shot at it," Lochte's attorney Jeff Ostrow told USA Today. "I think they should just let it die because they lost and because he didn't do anything wrong. But for whatever reason, they want to try to save face and continue this charade, let them do what they gotta do and we'll continue to fight it because we believe we're right."
Ostrow said he will now attempt to halt further proceedings by filing his own legal motion. If the case continues, Lochte could once again be facing a sentence of one to six months in jail should he be convicted of a misdemeanor offense of fabrication, although he would be unlikely to serve it. The reason, according to CNBC, is that Lochte would need to be extradited to Brazil, which would require U.S. cooperation. Under agreed upon terms with Brazil, extradition only applies in the case of more serious offenses, such as murder or rape.
Lochte's alleged offense was making up a tale inspired by a confrontation between him and three other U.S. swimmers and security at a gas station. After the incident, Lochte embarked on a media tour telling the world he was robbed at gunpoint by criminals posing as Rio police. With Rio authorities trying to downplay the city's crime rate, however, Lochte's allegations sparked an investigation. Eventually security camera footage revealed Lochte's story was untrue.