Passing Judgment

By Jessica Levinson

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Episodes: 254


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?

Episode Date
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.

Apr 14, 2023
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.

Apr 08, 2023
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.

Apr 08, 2023
Everything You Need to Know About the $1.6 billion Dominion v Fox Case

The 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.

Apr 05, 2023
Everything You Need to Know About Trump's Indictment

Former 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.

Mar 31, 2023
Why I'm Worried the New York District Attorney Will Indict Trump
It 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.
Mar 19, 2023
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.

Mar 04, 2023
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.

Feb 25, 2023
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.

Feb 18, 2023
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.
Feb 10, 2023
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.
Feb 04, 2023
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?

Jan 28, 2023
Time to talk about the debt ceiling, classified docs, and Jan 6 (Guest: Philip Bump)
Philip Bump from The Washington Post joins Jessica to explain the politics behind the debt ceiling debacle, and the discovery of classified documents at Biden’s house, and how Jan 6 could have been avoided.
Jan 20, 2023
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.

Jan 12, 2023
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.

Jan 02, 2023
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.

Dec 24, 2022
A breaking news edition - The House Select Committee on January 6 Supports Four Criminal Referrals Against Trump

The 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.

Dec 19, 2022
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.

Dec 09, 2022
The latest from SCOTUS - Freedom of Speech v Freedom from Discrimination
The 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.
Dec 06, 2022
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.

Dec 02, 2022
Will Stewart Rhodes Be Convicted of Seditious Conspiracy?

The two-week trial against the founder of the Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, and four others for seditious conspiracy in association with the January 6th insurrection just concluded. While we wait for the jury's verdict, Jessica breaks down what is at stake - both for Rhodes and the Justice Department.

Nov 26, 2022
Midterm Elections Update! Who will control the House?

Democrats outperformed expectations in the midterm elections. Jessica gives three reasons why historical trends didn't hold in this election, previews what will come next, and shares the best-known secret in American politics - Supreme Court decisions matter!

Nov 13, 2022
What led to the rise of Trump and Trumpism? (Guest: David Corn)

It's midterm election eve and all is not quiet. With the control of both houses of Congress hanging in the balance, rising inflation, a staunchly conservative Supreme Court majority and a President with low approval ratings, Americans are poised to go to the polls to determine the direction of the country.

In the midst of this, Jessica talks with David Corn, the Washington, D.C. bureau chief for Mother Jones and author of American Psychosis: A Historical Investigation of How the Republican Party Went Crazy, as well as other books.

What do Barry Goldwater, the Tea Party, and Senator Joe McCarthy have to do with Trumpism? Listen and find out!

Nov 08, 2022
Justice Alito's Roe v. Wade 'Truthiness’ & Trump's Legal Strategy
Jessica gives a quick summary of the breaking legal news of the week, including new revelations in a book that call into question some of Justice Samuel Alito’s statements to the late Senator Ted Kennedy about his position on Roe v. Wade, the January 6th Committee’s decision to give Trump another week to produce subpoenaed documents, and the likelihood that Donald Trump will ever sit for a deposition. (Don’t hold your breath.)
Nov 06, 2022
Will the Supreme Court end affirmative action programs? Probably.
The Supreme Court is hearing two huge cases dealing with the legality of affirmative action programs. Jessica explains the two cases before the court and what is likely to happen in each case. 
Oct 30, 2022
Can the 14th Amendment be used to disqualify elected officials involved in Jan 6? (Guest - Noah Bookbinder)

Jessica speaks with Noah Bookbinder, the President and CEO of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). CREW's mission statement outlines the organization's activities to "...use aggressive legal actions, in-depth investigations, and innovative policy and reform work" because "Americans deserve a government that is ethical, accountable, and open."

Noah and Jessica discuss efforts to use the 14th Amendment to disqualify lawmakers involved in the insurrection on January 6th, efforts to reform judicial ethics, and more.

Oct 29, 2022
Donald Trump Is Subpoenaed and Deposed, Steve Bannon Is Sentenced
The former president had a no good, very bad legal week. The January 6th Committee served him with a subpoena. He was deposed in a defamation case brought by journalist E. Jean Carroll. And a federal judge found that it is more likely than not that Trump and one of his attorneys, John Eastman, engaged in a crime related to thwarting the peaceful transfer of power. Oh, and Steve Bannon was sentenced for contempt of Congress. Jessica breaks it all down in plain English.
Oct 22, 2022
It is going to be another huge term for the Supreme Court. Here is why.
After an earth-shattering term that ended federal protection for abortion in the last term, the 6-3 Supreme Court GOP majority is flexing its power in the new 2022-2023 term. Jessica welcomes the PJP producer and co-host Joe Armstrong back to discuss upcoming cases about redistricting and voting rights, a 1st Amendment case that deals with Andy Warhol (you read that right), a pair of cases that address affirmative action, yet another religious rights and discrimination case, and a doozy of a case with colossal implications that deals with what what is referred to as the independent legislature doctrine. And there is a new justice on the bench, with Ketanji Brown Jackson displaying a keen legal mind in the first oral arguments of the new session.
Oct 16, 2022
Why did prosecutors drop the murder charges against Adnan Syed?

Jessica gives a quick update on what happened this week when Baltimore prosecutors decided to drop all charges against Adnan Syed, who has spent the last two decades in prison after being convicted in 2000 of the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. Syed's story was brought to national attention in the "Serial" podcast and he has consistently claimed to be innocent of the crimes of first-degree murder, robbery, kidnapping and false imprisonment that landed him in jail.

Oct 16, 2022
What is the latest in case of the classified docs found at Mar-a-Lago? (Guest: Jose Pagliery)

The Daily Beast's political investigations reporter Jose Pagliery joins Jessica to unravel the morass of legal maneuvers by Donald Trump's lawyers.

Oct 09, 2022
Will the Supreme Court Weaken Legal Protections Against Discrimination?
The new Supreme Court term is about to begin and the court is set to hear a number of cases that address legal protections from discrimination. Two of the cases involve voting rights, two more involve affirmative action programs, and another centers on the matchup between free speech rights and freedom from discrimination. How will these cases impact American society? Will the now-entrenched 6-3 conservative majority on the court continue to attempt to push the country to the right?
Sep 30, 2022
Trump’s Lawyers Are Busy These Days (Guest: Jan Wolfe of the Wall Street Journal)

Donald Trump's legal team got its special master to review classified documents discovered at Mar-a-Lago in August, but is the situation playing out like they intended? Reporter Jan Wolfe is the business legal affairs correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and he spends a lot of time sorting out questions like that one. He joins Jessica to discuss the multiple ever-developing investigations that seem to be changing by the minute into the former president's business empire and handling of sensitive documents.

Sep 23, 2022
What Did We Learn from the Latest DOJ Filing? Will Trump Get His Special Master?

Just a few moments ago the Department of Justice submitted a 36-page filing responding to President Trump's claim that a special master should be appointed to review documents the FBI obtained and took from his residence at Mar-a-Lago.

What did the DOJ say and what did we learn?

Aug 31, 2022
What Did We Learn from the Newly Released Affidavit that Supported the Warrant to Search Mar-a-Lago? (Guest: Hugo Lowell)

Hugo Lowell, reporter for The Guardian and regular commentator on MSNBC, joins Jessica to discuss the breaking news of the partial release of the affidavit supporting the warrant to search Trump’s former residence at Mar-a-Lago. What did we learn? Why was the affidavit redacted? Does this mean Trump will face charges? What about this new development has Trump's legal team more concerned than ever before?

Aug 26, 2022
The Legal Hot Water Is Starting to Boil: Will Trump Face Criminal or Civil Charges?

There has been a deluge of political and legal news over the past few weeks - especially for midsummer - a typically slow period in the calendar that news junkies sometimes refer to as "the summer doldrums." But not this year. An unprecedented FBI search of a former president's current residence is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to deepening legal trouble for Donald Trump.

It is time for a regroup and a recap. 

On this week's episode, Jessica breaks down the states of the (multiple) big legal investigations into Trump and his associates and explains which laws are at issue in each case: the investigation regarding January 6th, the documents seized at Mar-a-Lago, possible election fraud in Georgia, and potential business or tax fraud in New York. Will any of these investigations imperil the teflon reputation the former president has when it comes to dodging real legal liability?

Aug 19, 2022
Trump Takes the Fifth. What Are the Legal Repercussions?

Two more big pieces of legal news this week.

First, if Trump is convicted for taking classified documents from the White House, does that mean he is barred from holding federal office again? (Spoiler alert - no).

Second, since Trump took the Fifth in a deposition in the ongoing investigation by the New York Attorney General into the Trump Org, does that mean we can't judge him for that? (Answer - it does not).

Aug 10, 2022
The FBI executes a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, Trump's private residence

This is a breaking news episode of Passing Judgment.

The FBI has executed a search warrant at the private residence of former President Trump.

What does this tell us about the investigation into Trump and whether he will face criminal charges?

Aug 09, 2022
Will Congress protect reproductive rights? (Guest - Rep. Judy Chu)

Representative Judy Chu stops by Passing Judgment to discuss reproductive rights, marriage equality, and gun control.

Rep. Chu is the lead sponsor of the Women's Health Protection Act, and a supporter of Right to Contraception Act, the Respect for Marriage Act, and tighter gun control measures. She talks with Jessica about those proposed laws and why, in her view, it is time to eliminate the filibuster.

Aug 04, 2022
Will Trump face criminal charges? What is next for the Jan. 6th Committee? (Guest: Kyle Cheney of Politico)
Kyle Cheney, senior legal affairs reporter for Politico, joins Jessica to talk about the January 6th Committee, Steve Bannon’s trial for criminal contempt, and whether the DOJ will bring criminal charges against Trump. 
Jul 27, 2022
Will states be able to ban same-sex marriage, interracial marriage, or the use of contraception? (Guest: Prof. Cary Franklin)

Prof. Cary Franklin, a professor at UCLA's School of Law and the Director of the Center on Reproductive Health, Law, and Policy and the Williams Institute, joins Jessica to talk through the impact of the Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson.

Cary and Jessica discuss the rationale behind the ruling and what it could mean for other rights, including LGBTQ rights and the ability to obtain contraception.

Jul 21, 2022
Has the January 6th Committee Accomplished Anything? Will Trump Face Criminal Charges?

The congressional hearings investigating the events of the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6th of 2021 were supposed to end in June, but progress is being made and additional hearings have been scheduled. Like so many investigations, when you tug on one thread you discover that that thread is connected to many, many others. Why has the committee scheduled more hearings? How has Team Trump changed its strategy as the committee gains traction? Why didn't Trump administration officials reveal the information discovered in the hearings in the immediate aftermath of the deadly event? In this episode, Jessica and Joe review and analyze the latest news from the January 6th committee - where they started, where they are, and where they are going.

Jul 15, 2022
Abortion, Guns, & Religious Rights - The Supreme Court Term in Review

This was an epic Supreme Court term.

It is not an overstatement to say this was the most consequential term in at least half a century.

Joe joins Jessica as they walk through the biggest opinions of the term and what they mean for you.

We talk abortion rights, religious rights, gun rights, and the power of the federal government.

Jul 07, 2022
Is American on the brink of a civil war? (Guest: Stephen Marche)

Jessica speaks with novelist, essayist and cultural commentator Stephen Marche.

Stephen is the author of The Next Civil War (2022), The Unmade Bed: The Messy Truth About Men and Women in the Twenty-First Century (2016), and The Hunger of the Wolf (2015) among other books.

Jessica interviews Stephen about whether and why America stands at the brink of civil war and what we can do about it.

Jul 01, 2022
The Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. States are free to ban abortions.
The Supreme Court issued a legal and political earthquake today: abortion is no longer a constitutionally protected right, and this means states have a clear pathway to completely ban abortion. Jessica and Joe break down the opinion, talking through exactly how the Court made this decision which overturns half a century of legal precedent, as well as what comes next both legally and politically. 
Jun 25, 2022
Democracy on the Brink. Why the 1/6 Select Committee Hearing Matters
Hearings of the House Select Committee on the January 6th, 2021 insurrection at the Capitol took place this week. Jessica gets us started with an overview the evidence presented, the former president’s brazen disregard of the Constitution, the intended audience(s) for the hearings, and just how close America came to becoming a failed democracy.
Jun 17, 2022
Will Congress address gun control, disinformation, or reproductive rights? (Guest - Rep. Brad Sherman)
Congressman Brad Sherman has been serving California in congress since 1997, in three different congressional districts - long enough to have endured many changes in how our government governs. Sherman joins Jessica to whether Congress will address some of the most pressing problems facing our society, including gun control, reproductive rights, and disinformation.
Jun 03, 2022
How will the Supreme Court rule on the big cases this term? (Abortion? Gun control? Religious rights?)

There are about half a dozen big cases left in the current Supreme Court term that began last October. The 6-3 conservative majority on the Court has an opportunity to make an enormous impact on our country over the next month as decisions will be issued regarding not just Roe v. Wade and the fate of federally protected abortion rights, but also gun rights, religious rights, and the limits of executive authority. And as per usual, the implications for these new decisions affecting other rights looms large. In today's episode Jessica gives a short preview of what to expect.

May 29, 2022
Does the Constitution bar someone who supports an insurrection from being a member of Congress?

This week a Court of Appeals held that someone who engages in or supports an insurrection is barred from holding certain public offices. The case involved a challenge surrounding Rep. Madison Cawthorn's candidacy.

Cawthorn last week lost his primary election and will not appear on the ballot for reelection in November, but the precedent - based on a section of the 14th Amendment - has far-reaching implications for other lawmakers who may have participated in the "Stop the Steal" riot. In this episode of PJP, Jessica explains why this crucial clarification goes far beyond the soon-to-be former Congressman Cawthorn.

For more, read Jessica's piece here.

May 27, 2022
What is next for the January 6th Committee?

Sarah D. Wire covers the Justice Department and national security for the Los Angeles Times with a focus on the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and domestic extremism.

She stops by Passing Judgment to update us on the Committee's work.

May 13, 2022
What does the Supreme Court leak mean for our rights?

It was a bombshell week of legal news this week. A leaked draft opinion revealed that the Court is poised to eliminate abortion protections that have stood for nearly half a century. The opinion - if it is issued in its current form at the end of the term - has far-reaching implications for both abortion rights in America as well as collateral damage to other rights like access to birth control and same-sex marriage. And the unprecedented leak continues to erode the legitimacy of the court.

As expected, America will soon likely look very different, with a patchwork of legal protections for abortion determined on a state-by-state basis. In this episode Jessica talks about the leak, how and why she thinks it took place, and what the fallout may be.

May 07, 2022
What does Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter mean for you? And how can we make social media a better place for users? (Guest - David Lazarus)

Our guest is David Lazarus, the "Emmy-winning money guy for KTLA Channel 5" and the former business columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

David joins Jessica to talk about the impact of Elon Musk's impending acquisition of Twitter, why Europe might better protect social media users, and why it is important to have consumer affairs reporters.

Apr 29, 2022
Are abortion pills legal in states that outlaw abortion? Are mask mandates legal? Will Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene be on the next ballot?

It's a legal and political roundup! Jessica is joined by Joe.

Topics include -- abortion pills, and whether women in states that outlaw abortion will be able to obtain them; a terrible decision regarding the legality of federal mask mandates; Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and whether a Civil War era provision of the 14th Amendment will prevent her from being on the ballot; and Rep. Kevin McCarthy's hypocrisy caught on tape.

Apr 23, 2022
Should voting be compulsory? (Guests E.J. Dionne and Miles Rapoport)

Should Americans be required to vote?

E.J. Dionne and Miles Rapoport argue that they should in their new book, 100% Democracy.

Jessica interviews E.J. and Miles and asks them about the pros and cons of their proposal.

Apr 15, 2022
The Senate Votes to Confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will be sworn in as our country's first African American female Supreme Court justice. How will Judge Jackson change the Supreme Court?

Which big cases will the court tackle next term when she is on the court?

What do the confirmation hearings and vote say about our political processes?

Apr 09, 2022
Big Court Rulings re the Jan. 6th Committee and Voting Rights

This week federal district court judges from opposite sides of the country came out with two big decisions this week. A California district court judge ruled that John Eastman, former advisor to the former president, must turn over some emails to the January 6th Committee. But the big news from the ruling is the judge's conclusion that it is more likely than not that Eastman and Trump engage in criminal conduct. Will Trump and Eastman face criminal charges?

Next, a Florida district judge struck down a portion of Florida's restrictive voting law. The judge found that Florida intentionally discriminated against Black voters. Will the decision stand?

Jessica and Joe break it all down for you.

For more, here are Jessica's pieces on MSNBC. Why this federal judge has had enough of Florida's racist election laws A federal judge's conclusion is more than a stinging rebuke of Trump

Apr 02, 2022
Supreme Court News! Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's Confirmation Hearings. Justice Clarence Thomas' Possible Conflict of Interest.

Will Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson make history and become the first female African American Supreme Court justice? What happened during the four days of confirmation hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee?

Could Justice Clarence Thomas be impeached? Given his wife, Ginni Thomas', political activities, should he recuse himself from all cases dealing with January 6th or the 2020 presidential election?

And what did the Supreme Court just say about the religious rights of death row inmates?

Mar 25, 2022
What is the Jan 6 Committee up to? How Is Biden Handling the Crisis in Ukraine (Guest: Kyle Cheney of POLITICO)
POLITICO Senior legal affairs reporter Kyle Cheney covers the legal and political action following the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol. A Congressional committee’s work investigating the insurrection - and former president Donald Trump’s possible culpability - has been intensifying. It is the perfect time to have Kyle join Jessica and get us up to speed on the latest on this topic with far-reaching implications. Will Steve Bannon face penalties for ignoring a congressional subpoena? Why did Michael Flynn change his tune? Will the committee recommend charges to DOJ? And perhaps most importantly of all, did Donald Trump’s involvement in Ukraine set the stage for Russia’s invasion and the rapidly developing human crisis in Europe?
Mar 19, 2022
Reproductive Rights, Voting Rights, and the January 6th Committee (It's a legal roundup!)
Another week, another batch of breaking legal news! In this episode Jessica breaks down the latest news from the House Select Committee investigating the events of January 6, 2021 and talks about a key new court filing that may turn out to be a game-changer in the ongoing investigation. Jessica also discusses a new, baseless theory that may look good in the short term but bad further down the road - one that could further threaten our voting rights. And Jessica explains why Texas and Missouri recently delivered a one-two punch when it comes to rapidly eroding reproductive rights in America.
Mar 12, 2022
President Biden gives his second SOTU address. How did he do? (Guest: Joel Payne)

Time to analyze President Joe Biden's SOTU address with CBS political contributor Joel Payne.

How did Biden do? Did he pivot and signal a change in his governing style? Are any concrete policies likely to result from the laundry list of wishes included in the speech? Will the speech help Democrats in the midterms?

Mar 03, 2022
Who is Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson (President Biden's nominee to the Supreme Court)?

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will make history later this year when she is expected to become the first Black woman to sit on the Supreme Court United States.

Jessica provides you with a quick biographical sketch of Judge Brown Jackson, how her appointment could change the court, and the big cases she'll be deciding next term.

Feb 25, 2022
Russia has invaded Ukraine. What will happen next? (Guest: Tom Nichols)

Jessica talks with Tom Nichols, Tom is an expert on international affairs. His work deals with issues involving Russia. He is a contributing writer for the Atlantic and proprietor of “Peacefield” a newsletter at the Atlantic.  

He was a professor at the U.S. Naval War College and at the Harvard Extension School. He was previously a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. And he is the author of numerous books, including Our Own Worst Enemy: The Assault from Within on Modern Democracy.

Tom talks with Jessica about what precipitated Russia's invasion of the Ukraine, whether there was any way to prevent Russia's invasion, and what may happen next. Tom walks us through options that the U.S. and our international allies have to address Russia's acts of war.

Feb 24, 2022
Sarah Palin loses her defamation case & The Trump family loses their bid to avoid depositions

In a follow-up to last week's coverage of Sarah Palin's defamation lawsuit against the New York Times, Jessica and Joe report that the judge tossed Palin's case - but that he also allowed the jury to render a verdict. Neither were particularly favorable to Palin, but the unique close to the trial may complicate the situation down the road after Palin issues a near-inevitable appeal. Will the First Amendment rights of the press remain as robust when Palin's defamation accusation is eventually resolved? Also, this week a 1st Judicial District judge ruled that three members of the Trump Organization, namely the former president Donald Trump and his two eldest children, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, must sit for depositions under suspicion of fraudulent business practices. Will they show? And if they do, will they lean on their 5th Amendment protections and not answer questions? Also, in a unique wrap for this week's episode, Jessica gives the absolute latest development of a story on a podcast in a manner that typically happens on live radio - breaking news that former Minnesota police officer Kim Potter was today sentenced to two years for the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright.

Feb 18, 2022
Sarah Palin v NYT, Trump's Document Dump, SCOTUS on Voting Rights - It's a Legal Roundup!

It is our first legal roundup of 2022, and intrepid producer and co-host Joe Armstrong returns.

First, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin took the stand in her defamation suit against the New York Times this week. How did she do? [ANSWER: Not great.]

We also recently learned that although Donald Trump may or may not have been flushing official documents down a White House toilet, he most definitely improperly took some top secret documents with him when he left for Mar-a-Lago in Florida.

Lastly, the Supreme Court this week ruled in Alabama's favor when it came to a recent challenge to congressional redistricting despite a violation of the Voting Rights Act, and Jessica shares some theories about how this "shadow docket" decision may be related to SCOTUS' recent YOLO energy.

Feb 11, 2022
What is next for the Supreme Court? (Guest: Lawrence Hurley)
Lawrence Hurley has covered the Supreme Court for over two decades, earning a Pulitzer Prize in 2021 for work on a project that examined the doctrine of “qualified immunity.” Lawrence and Jessica discuss what it is like to cover the Court, whether the Court has become increasingly partisan in the modern age, who might be on the shortlist to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, and the fate of Roe v. Wade.
Feb 04, 2022
The State of the Senate (Guest: Senator Alex Padilla)
United States Senator Alex Padilla has spent his lifetime in public service - first as a member of the Los Angeles City Council and eventually as a California State Senator. In 2015 he became California’s first Latino Secretary of State, and he was then appointed by Gavin Newsom to finish the term of Senator and now Vice President Kamala Harris. Padilla joins Jessica to discuss the fate of the filibuster, why voting rights are essential to a free democracy, and the Senate’s role in the upcoming replacement of retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.
Jan 29, 2022
The Biden Administration's Past and Possible Futures (Guest: Molly Hooper)

CBS political contributor and veteran Capitol Hill reporter Molly Hooper joins Jessica to discuss the major political stories of the week - including Joe Biden's marathon two-hour press conference. The President took a wide range of questions on a variety of topics, but was more better? With the midterm elections looming larger every day and an ongoing pandemic hampering the healthcare system and the economy, did Biden help or hurt his party, his presidency, or the country?

Jan 21, 2022
A Look At President Biden's First Year (Guest: Joel Payne)

Joel Payne is a Democratic strategist who worked on Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign as well as a member of the late Senator Harry Reid's staff. He joins Jessica to discuss the Biden administration's first term. President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was sworn in last January 20th in the midst of a maelstrom of foreign and domestic challenges - a raging Covid-19 pandemic, a monumental vaccine rollout, a strong conservative majority on the Supreme Court, and a country divided by years of misinformation and disinformation fomented by the chaotic prior administration - and he moved into the Oval Office two weeks to the day after an unprecedented and violent insurrection at the Capitol that left five Americans dead. But Biden also found himself with narrow majorities in both the Senate and the House and managed to pass a groundbreaking infrastructure bill within months. How did Biden navigate his first year in office? And how is he positioned to guide the United States through the ongoing pandemic, the upcoming midterm elections, and a likely run for reelection in 2024?

Jan 14, 2022
BEST-OF Passing Judgment GUESTS!

Welcome to 2022! This is a special, best-of episode of Passing Judgment, featuring excerpts from some of Jessica's best interviews with guests like Senator Barbara Boxer, America's Debate Coach Dr. Todd Graham, hard-nosed journalist Brian Karem, Nse Ufot, who played no small part in turning Georgia blue in 2020, New York Times legal counsel David McCraw, former white supremacist Arno Arno Michaelis and his ideas on how to heal a divided society, author and political scientist Brian Klaas on how power corrupts, SCOTUS expert Linda Greenhouse, and an emotional account of her experience during the January 6th insurrection from California Rep. Norma Torres.

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Jan 09, 2022
2021 Legal and Political Roundup

Happy New Year Passing Judgment listeners.

Jessica and Joe talk through some, but not all, of the biggest legal stories of the year, including the January 6th insurrection, SCOTUS news (including abortion laws and vaccine mandates), and some big criminal trials including - Derek Chauvin, Travis & Gregory McMichael, Kyle Rittenhouse, Ghislaine Maxwell, and Jussie Smollett.

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Dec 31, 2021
Is the Supreme Court a broken institution? (Guest - Jay Willis)
Jay Willis, editor-in-chief of Balls and Strikes, joins Jessica to talk about the problems plaguing the Supreme Court. They talk through the root causes of those problems and some potential solutions.
Dec 25, 2021
"Justice on the Brink" (Guest - Linda Greenhouse)
Dec 17, 2021
Texas' Abortion Law, Trump's Efforts to Thwart the Jan 6th Committee, the Jussie Smollett Trial & Senator Bob Dole

It is a week legal and political roundup of the big stories of the week that was. Joe joins Jessica to help explain the Supreme Court's big ruling today regarding Texas' restrictive abortion law, the District of Columbia's Circuit Court's decision regarding the work of the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection on January 6th, the resolution of the Jussie Smollett case, and the legacy of Senator and former Republican candidate for president Bob Dole, who died this week at the age of 98. 

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Dec 11, 2021
Abortion, January 6th, and Gun Control -- Legal Roundup Time

Time for a legal roundup.

We cover oral arguments before the Supreme Court in the big abortion case, oral arguments before the DC Circuit regarding Trump's attempt to stop the January 6th Select Committee from getting Whitehouse documents, and the shooting in Michigan this week.

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Dec 03, 2021
The Trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein's Long-Time Companion, Begins

Financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein died by suicide while incarcerated in August of 2019, but that's not the end of the story. Epstein's confidant and alleged former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, is now facing federal charges for sex trafficking. Maxwell is a British citizen and former socialite who stands accused of assisting Epstein in multiple instances of exploiting and abusing underage girls over nearly a decade. On this episode of Passing Judgment, Jessica gives a summary of the beginning of the trial, for which opening arguments are expected today to take place.

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Nov 29, 2021
Charlottesville White Supremacists Liable for Substantial Fine in Civil Trial After Deadly Rally

On August 12th 2017, during two days of protests and counterprotests surrounding the white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, a man named James Alex Fields Jr. drove his car into a group of counterprotesters, severely injuring several of them and killing a 32-year-old woman named Heather Heyer. Fields was eventually convicted and sentenced to life in prison, plus 419 years. In public statements about the violence, then-President Donald Trump kicked off a political firestorm when he failed to immediately denounce the white nationalists, saying there were “...very fine people on both sides.” In the conclusion of the civil trial that arose in the aftermath of that bloody weekend, a jury this week ruled that the white nationalist organizers of the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville must pay more than $26 million in damages. In this episode of Passing Judgment, Jessica and Joe discuss the civil trial and how the outcome may impact future activities by white supremacist organizations.

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Nov 27, 2021
Three Men Found Guilty in the Murder of Ahmaud Arbery

In the verdict in the second high-profile court case with a strong racial aspect in just five days, a jury today found three white men, Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, and William "Roddie" Bryan, guilty in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. Arbery was jogging in a residential neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia in late February of 2020 when the three men chased the young black man in their vehicles. Suspecting Arbery was a burglar, Travis McMichael shot and killed Arbery with a shotgun during a scuffle. On this episode, Jessica and Joe break down the 27 charges against the men, how and why the case and the verdict were different from the outcome in last week's Rittenhouse trial, the selection of an almost all-white jury for the murder of a black man in a mostly-white county, and why 75 days elapsed between Arbery's murder and the arrest of the three men.

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Nov 24, 2021
Kyle Rittenhouse is found not guilty on all counts. Did the jury make the right decision?

During a summer of civil unrest in 2020, a white police officer shot a 29-year-old black man named Jacob Blake in the back in Kenosha, Wisconsin. This sparked days of protests and rioting in Kenosha. Kyle Rittenhouse, an Illinois resident, drove to Kenosha, saying that he wanted to protect businesses from looters. He brought his Smith and Wesson M&P15 Sport II, an AR-15-style rifle. After a series of chaotic events, Rittenhouse shot and killed two people - Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, and he wounded a third, Gaige Grosskreutz. After a widely-publicized trial, the jury today found Rittenhouse not guilty on all counts. Jessica and Joe break down the verdict, its context, and its larger consequences.

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Nov 20, 2021
The Kyle Rittenhouse Trial, Explained

The trial of Kyle Rittenhouse has garnered national attention for a myriad of reasons, and it brings up important questions related to self-defense, vigilantism, and race. In today's episode, Jessica and Joe give a summary of facts of the case, discuss how the prosecution and the defense presented their arguments to the jury, and examine the judge's headline-generating role in this trial.

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Nov 16, 2021
Bannon indicted, Trump sues the National Archives, Biden's vaccine mandate is put on hold, and the Supreme Court considers the religious rights of death row inmates

Biden indicted. Why? What is next?

Trump wins a (temporary) victory in his effort to prevent the National Archives from releasing documents to the House Select Committee on January 6th.

Biden has a (perhaps temporary) loss in his effort implement a vaccine mandate.

And the Supreme Court considers the religious rights of death row inmates.

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Nov 13, 2021
(How) Does Power Corrupt? Guest: Dr. Brian Klaas Talks About His New Book, Corruptible

We've all heard the aphorism from Lord Acton, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." But does it? And if it does, how does power corrupt people who would otherwise act in the best interest of others? Does power make people more susceptible to abusing that power or are people more likely to abuse power drawn to leadership positions? Author and political scientist Dr. Brian Klaas set out to answer those questions in his new book, Corruptible: Who Gets Power and How It Changes Us. (Scribner, November 9, 2021). In his previous books, The Despot's Accomplice: How the West is Aiding and Abetting the Decline of Democracy and The Despot's Apprentice: Donald Trump's Attack on Democracy, Klaas turned his keen eye on the increasingly divisive state of the world and how the former U.S. president Donald Trump undermined democracy at home and abroad. This time, Klaas broadens the scope of his research by conducting over 500 interviews for Corruptible - sitting with presidents, rebel leaders, cult members and dictators to try and determine if that age old adage is true.

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Nov 09, 2021
Is the Supreme Court Poised to Expand Gun Rights?

It’s hot button season here on Passing Judgment. We have been closely following the fate of abortion rights with Supreme Court cases out of Texas and Mississippi. Today's episode of Passing Judgment focuses on another lightning rod topic that has come before the court, and that’s gun rights. On Wednesday of this week, the court heard about two hours of oral arguments about the Constitutionality of a New York law that restricts concealed carry permits. With a new solid conservative majority on the Court, what has changed about how the nine justices address the interpretation of the Second Amendment? And will the current case out of New York wind up expanding gun rights in several states - areas where 25% of Americans live?

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Nov 04, 2021
Will the Supreme Court Let Texas Undermine the Constitution?
This morning the Supreme Court heard almost three hours of oral arguments about who can sue and be sued to block the enforcement of SB8 - Texas’ restrictive abortion law. Jessica listened to the arguments, and in this episode she and Joe explain what exactly how each side presented their position, what the eventual outcome will mean for the protection of your individual rights, and how the law of unintended consequences may come into play.  
Nov 01, 2021
CA Congressman Devin Nunes Pushes the Envelope with a Defamation Lawsuit

On today's episode, Jessica and Joe discuss California Congressman Devin Nunes and his defamation lawsuit against journalist Ryan Lizza - and why it may have significant consequences for free speech and the free press in America.  

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Oct 29, 2021
Diversifying judges, the Charlottesville civil trial, and did Trump officials help coordinate the 1/6 insurrection?

President Obama appointed 55 federal appellate judges in two terms - and Donald Trump appointed 54 in just one. Now President Biden is working to nominate judges who will diversify the judicial system to better reflect the changing demographics of America. Also, the civil trial begins this week in the deadly "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, West Virginia. And a new exclusive piece in Rolling Stone alleges that Trump administration members and other elected officials may have helped plan the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol. Jessica and Joe talk about all these topics and veer gently into "Big, if true" territory for the last one.

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Oct 26, 2021
Texas' abortion law heads to the SCOTUS, Trump is deposed, Bannon is held in contempt

It is our semi-regular weekly legal roundup!

We're going to explain the breaking legal news out of the Supreme Court. It agreed to hear a challenge to Texas' abortion law, but it may not be exactly what you think.

We explain what is next for Steven Bannon, now that the House voted to hold him in contempt.

We also walk through former President Trump's suit against the national archives, talk about why voting rights reform has failed to gain traction in the Senate, and why Trump recently sat for a deposition.

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Oct 23, 2021
Is President Biden really plummeting in the polls? - Guest: Dr. Peter Hanson

In today's episode, Jessica talks with Dr. Peter Hanson - the National Poll Director at Grinnell College. Hanson walks us through brand-new polling data about Biden, the politicization of the Supreme Court, the future of democracy, and how what liberty means to Democrats is not the same thing as what liberty means to Republicans. The results will surprise you.  

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Oct 20, 2021
Will Steve Bannon face criminal penalties for defying a congressional subpoena? Will the Supreme Court be reformed?

Its our legal roundup!

Will Steve Bannon face criminal penalties for defying a congressional subpoena? (For more, here is Jessica's MSNBC column).

Will the Supreme Court be reformed?

Will former President Trump sit for a deposition in a civil suit?

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Oct 16, 2021
Do Trump and Steven Bannon have to comply with Congressional subpoenas?

A House Select Committee is investigating the events of January 6th.

It is vital that the American public know what exactly happened leading up to, and during, the insurrection at the Capitol.

But now some people who were subpoenaed by that committee, namely former President Trump, and former White House counselor Steve Bannon, are contending they do not have to comply with those subpoenas.

We will break down the law and talk about the politics of what is really happening here.

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Oct 12, 2021
Are religious exemptions for vaccine mandates required?

Vaccine mandates, they're everywhere. Public and private institutions are requiring that workers, students, and customers be vaccinated. But are religious exemptions to these vaccine mandates legally required?

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Oct 10, 2021
Was Texas' abortion law just overturned?

Not exactly. A federal judge just pushed pause in the implementation of Texas' restrictive abortion law. But that ruling is already being appealed.

We talk about what happened and why and what comes next.

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Oct 07, 2021
Abortion? Gun control? Religious rights? Freedom of speech? It's our SCOTUS preview!

Jessica previews and explains the big cases the Supreme Court will be hearing this term.

What's on the docket for the term that begins on October 4th? Abortion, gun control, religious rights, the freedom of speech, and much more.

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Oct 02, 2021
Will Texas' abortion law be put on hold? What happened in court today?
There was a big hearing in federal district court today in the case of U.S. v Texas. We break down all of the legal arguments made by the Department of Justice, the State of Texas, and what is likely to happen next.
Oct 01, 2021
Audit-Mania! Why are AZ, TX & PA Recounting the 2020 Election?

Cyber Ninjas, along with three other contractors, completed the Arizona ballot audit this week, spending millions to prove once again that Joe Biden won the state in the 2020 presidential election. But Arizona isn't alone in doing so - a number of states are engaging in audits of ballot tallies from the 2020 election; Pennsylvania's is ongoing, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott this week announced that an audit will be performed in four Texas counties despite the fact that Donald Trump won Texas in the last election. With no demonstrable evidence of fraud, what is the GOP strategy here? Is this about the last election or the next election?

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Sep 25, 2021
Did the architect of Texas' abortion law really just tell women to have less sex?

Kind of.

It's a new week and a new episode.

Jessica breaks down the arguments in favor of Texas and Mississippi's restrictive abortion laws, why the people supporting those laws are may soon try to undermine protections for LGBTQ Americans, and why Supreme Court justices keep telling us they're neutral.

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Sep 21, 2021
What are your top legislative priorities? (Guest - Congressman Ro Khanna)
While we all think through our top legislative priorities, we talk with Congressman Ro Khanna (D) about this. Rep. Khanna shares his thoughts about climate change, infrastructure, the economy, and when kids will be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Sep 18, 2021
Recalling the Failed Attempt to Recall California Governor Gavin Newsom

Let's recall the failed recall election of California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Why and how did he resoundingly defeat an effort to end his term before it, well, ends?

What does this recall mean for California? Gavin Newsom? The future of recall elections?

We address all of this on the latest episode of Passing Judgment.

And here is Jessica's piece on MSNBC about the recall.

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Sep 16, 2021
"The Rise and Fall of Osama Bin Laden" (Author and Guest - Peter Bergen)

On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we are joined by Peter Bergen, author of the new book, "The Rise and Fall of Osama Bin Laden."

Peter is the vice president for global studies & fellows at New America, a CNN national security analyst, and a professor of practice at Arizona State University where he co-directs the Center on the Future of War.

He is the author or editor of nine books, three of which were New York Times bestsellers and four of which were named among the best non-fiction books of the year by The Washington Post

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Sep 10, 2021
The latest on Texas' abortion and voting laws and a Texas death row inmate

Lots of legal news from the Lone Star State.

We will give you the latest legal news on Texas' abortion and voting laws and a challenge by an inmate on death row in Texas.

Here are Jessica's latest columns (mentioned in the episode) on MSNBC.

Texas abortion law should be fought at state court level

Texas abortion ban is devastating testament to Trump's Supreme Court

Also, did an Ohio judge really force a hospital to tread a COVID-19 patient with ivermectin?

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Sep 08, 2021
Texas’ Abortion Law - The Supreme Court Functionally Overturns Roe v Wade
The Supreme Court just silently let its most controversial case in decades - Roe v Wade - slip away by taking no action on an emergency appeal on a restrictive new Texas abortion law. By letting that law - SB 8 - go into effect, abortion is presently illegal after six weeks in the state of Texas. Jessica and Joe discuss the implications of SB 8 at the state and federal levels, as well as how the conservative majority on the Court said a lot by saying nothing at all.
Sep 01, 2021
How Should the Biden Administration Face Its Current Challenges - Foreign and Domestic? (Guest: Dr. Aaron David Miller)
Dr. Aaron David Miller is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and he has advised Secretaries of State from multiple presidential administrations on both sides of the aisle. With an ongoing international pandemic and a bollixed pullout of U.S. forces from a twenty year war in Afghanistan, what would someone with decades of foreign policy experience tell the Biden Administration about how to best face multiple challenges at home and abroad?
Aug 31, 2021
Legal Update re the Insurrection at the Capitol (Guest - Zoe Tillman)

Senior reporter for Buzzfeed News, Zoe Tillman, stops by Passing Judgment to update us on the cases against those involved in the insurrection at the Capitol.

We talked about who has been charged, what charges are being brought, and what to look for in upcoming cases.

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Aug 28, 2021
Is it safe for kids to go back to school? When will kids under 12 be eligible for a vaccine? (Guest - Dr. Lauren Crosby)

We ask Dr. Lauren Crosby, a nationally-recognized parenting expert and pediatrician, all of your questions about kids and COVID-19.

Can kids safely go back to school? What safety protocols should schools be putting in place? Are playdates safe? After school sports?

Should every eligible child get the vaccine? And when will kids under 12 be eligible for the vaccine?

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Aug 25, 2021
Everything you need to know about Afghanistan (and were afraid to ask) (Guest - Dr. Sinno)

The news out of Afghanistan is gutting.

We call on Dr. Abdulkader Sinno, professor of Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies at Indiana University, to walk us through how we got here, whether it was avoidable, who is to blame for what is currently happening in Afghanistan, and were we go from here.

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Aug 18, 2021
What is (and isn't) in the infrastructure bill? And when will we have self-driving cars? (Guest - Tanya Snyder of Politico)

Wondering what is in the big infrastructure bill? So were we. We called Politico reporter Tanya Synder for help. Tanya walks us through what is and isn't in the infrastructure bill and what that means for you.

We also talk about Tanya's area of expertise -- self-driving cars. Ready to let a machine take the wheel? We are.

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Aug 13, 2021
Cuomo Resigns and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is Temporarily Kicked Off Twitter (Again)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo steps aside. What does it mean for impeachment hearings, criminal investigations, and civil cases?

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is temporarily kicked off Twitter (again). Spoiler alert - mandatory vaccinations are typically legal. We will tell you why. And for more, here is Jessica's piece on MSNBC.

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Aug 11, 2021
Is Cuomo on his way out (Part II)? Is your employer about to mandate vaccinations?
We round out the week with a look back at the legal and political problems facing Gov. Cuomo and the new round of employers requiring vaccine mandates.
Aug 07, 2021
Will Gov. Cuomo face criminal prosecution? Will we ever see Trump's tax returns?

Welcome back! We have a lot of politics and law packed into this episode.

First up, what is NY Gov Andrew Cuomo's political future? Will he face impeachment proceedings? Civil litigation? Criminal prosecution?

Next, what about the latest developments in Rep. Eric Swalwell's case against former President Donald Trump, Rep. Mo Brooks and others? Is Brooks immune from liability? What about Trump?

And finally ... will we ever see Trump's tax returns? It looks like Congress might see them. When will we?

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Aug 04, 2021
How to have an informed public in an age of disinformation (Prof. Kate Starbird)

Kate Starbird stops by Passing Judgment to discuss how to create an informed public and strengthen democratic discourse. She also talks about how to fight misinformation and disinformation.

Kate is the co-founder the University of Washington's Center for an Informed Public.

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Jul 31, 2021
So what exactly is covered under HIPAA?

We have you covered on all of your HIPAA FAQs.

What can employers, business owners, and journalists ask you about your health and vaccine status?

And a bonus new segment -- that's not how it works.

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Jul 27, 2021
Mississippi vs. Roe v. Wade, Tom Barrack's Indictment, & NFL Coach Rick Dennison's Firing

It is Mississippi versus Roe v. Wade. Jessica and Joe talk through the state's assault on Roe. Jessica discusses the case law leading up to the Roe decision and whether the case is not vulnerable to being overturned.

Joe gives an update on the indictment of Tom Barrack, the chair of former President Trump's 2017 inauguration committee.

And Joe and Jessica talk through the implications of the firing of NFL Coach Rick Dennison for his failure to get vaccinated.

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Jul 24, 2021
The latest on Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, DACA, and the CA Recall

Is the DACA program itself now illegal? We breakdown all of the legal ins and outs and tell you what is likely become of this immigration program.

Will CA Governor Gavin Newsom be recalled? Probably not. But there are plenty of fun legal topics surrounding the recall to discuss.

Also, we have decided to add a new segment on called Passing Judgment called - THAT IS NOT HOW IT WORKS! (Say it with me listeners). And for our first installment of this segment, here is looking at you Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

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Jul 21, 2021
Welcome to Season 3, Year 2 of Passing Judgment!

Welcome to our second year and third season of Passing Judgment.

In this episode we look back on the biggest legal and political issues we covered in the first year of Passing Judgment and preview some of the most pressing questions we are sure to address in the coming weeks and months.

We look back on the election, the insurrection, and the impeachment. Then we turn to talking about whether there will be meaningful legislative reform in the areas of health care, immigration, gun control, and more. We also talk about the past SCOTUS term and discuss what is ahead for the October 2021 term.

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Jul 17, 2021
Will Texas Democrats Save Voting Rights?

Some Texas lawmakers have literally left town, why? Texas democrats are leaving their state to deny republicans of the quorum needed to vote on a another bill that would restrict voting rights.

Will this be successful? Will it put pressure on federal lawmakers to implement new voting rights protections on the federal level?

Jessica and Joe discuss on the latest episode.

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Jul 14, 2021
Trump v Facebook; Swalwell v Trump, Mo Brooks, & Guiliani; Nike v Avenatti

Another big week of legal news.

We cover Trump v. Facebook; Congressman Swalwell v. Trump, Trump Jr., Guiliani, & Congressman Mo Brooks; Nike v. Avenatti, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's next gig.

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Jul 09, 2021
What is disinformation? And who should combat it? (Guest - Renee Diresta)

Our guest, Renee DirResta, is the Research Manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory.

We talk through what disinformation is, why it is harmful, how we can combat it, and who should be in charge of combatting it.

Our conversation with Renee occurred during Loyola Law School's Journalist Law School.

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Jul 07, 2021
Our mega legal roundup -- Trump Org indicted, Cosby freed, SCOTUS unleashed

This episode is overflowing with legal news.

What do the Trump Org indictments mean, and will the former president himself be indicted?

Is the Supreme Court acting to subvert our democracy? We talk about the last two blockbuster cases of the term -- one dealing with voting rights and the other with First Amendment rights.

And finally -- Cosby is freed. Is this actually a win for the rule of law?

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Jul 03, 2021
Are bathroom bans for transgender students legal? (SCOTUS update)

The Supreme Court left in place a lower court decision that requires that transgender students in public high schools be able to use the bathroom of their choosing.

We talk about the legal and psychological implications of the case with Felicia Ortiz, who has a JD from UC Berkeley and is a therapist who works with transgender youth and adults.

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Jun 30, 2021
Inside the sentencing of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd (Guest - Tami Abdollah)
USA Today national correspondent Tami Abdollah brings us inside the courtroom for the sentencing of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd.
Jun 26, 2021
Swearing cheerleaders, union organizers, loud drivers, and more (SCOTUS roundup!)

The Supreme Court handed down three big decisions today.

The Court answered the following questions:

Can schools punish students for certain off campus speech?

Can union organizers enter employers' property?

Can the police enter a suspects house without a warrant if they suspect a violation of a noise ordinance?

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Jun 23, 2021
Will college athletes start being paid? (SCOTUS update)

As the end of the current Supreme Court term draws near, today the Court issued a narrow ruling on compensation for college athletes. In this episode of Passing Judgment, Jessica and Joe talk about how the court applied anti-trust statues to the NCAA's claim that their rules should continue to prevent additional academic and other compensation for college athletes, and how justice Kavanaugh - a former coach - issued a fiery retort to the NCAA's position.

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Jun 22, 2021
SCOTUS issues end-of-term decisions on the ACA (aka Obamacare) & religious rights

It's playoff season for Supreme Court aficionados! This morning the Court issued three decisions, the first of which both retained the Affordable Care Act as the law of the land at the same time that it punted a bit, leaving the door open to future challenges. The second decision ruled that the First Amendment can be interpreted to mean that the City of Philadelphia cannot prevent a Catholic organization from discriminating against same-sex couples when it comes to fostering children. And as horrific as it sounds, the third decision states that Nestle and other cocoa bean producers are not culpable for child slavery practices in Africa's Ivory Coast. Jessica and Joe break down how the court voted and give some insight how these changes may affect American society.

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Jun 17, 2021
Is the Supreme Court doomed? (Guest - Prof. Dan Epps)

Jessica talks with Dan Epps of Washington University about the current state of the court and the pros and cons of proposed reforms.

This episode was recorded during a panel of Loyola Law School's Journalist Law School program.

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Jun 15, 2021
Will former President Trump face prison or jail time? Will he be found civilly liable? (Guest - Glenn Kirschner)

In this episode of Passing Judgment we speak with NBC and MSNBC legal analyst Glenn Kirshner. Glenn is a former federal prosecutor and he shares his insights into whether Trump will face prison or jail time. Glenn also touches on issues of potential civil liability.

Jessica's conversation with Glenn took part during Loyola Law School's Journalist Law School.

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Jun 11, 2021
The DOJ seeks to defend Trump against E. Jean Carroll, a federal judge strikes down CA's ban on assault weapons, and the Supreme Court term heats up

It’s June! That means a bunch of big, controversial Supreme Court decisions are coming your way. Jessica and Joe preview the biggest cases pending on the Court's end-of-term docket. They also talk about a case that might be destined for the Supreme Court down the road - a federal judge’s recent decision to strike down California's ban on assault weapons. And they wrap up by talking about the Department of Justice’s decision to seek to defend former president Donald Trump in the E. Jean Carroll defamation case.

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Jun 09, 2021
"My Life After Hate" (Guest - Arno Michaelis)

Hear from former white supremacist and the author of My Life After Hate, Arno Michaelis.

Arno talks to Jessica about how he moved from being a white supremacist to working with people to prevent radicalization, violence, and extremism.

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Jun 05, 2021
Where are the biggest fault lines in American society? (Guest-Colin Woodard)

Colin Woodard stops by Passing Judgment to talk about American regionalism and what truly causes the fissures in our political ideology.

Colin is author of numerous books, including Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood.

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Jun 03, 2021
The 100th Anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre (Guest-Tim Madigan)

Journalist and author Tim Madigan stops by Passing Judgment to talk about the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre, an vitally important but somewhat forgotten tragedy in our nation's history. He wrote the critically acclaimed and best-selling book The Burning: The Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921.

Tim talks about the Jim Crow era and whether we are living through "Jim Crow 2.0."

His discussion is an important reminder of how much the past informs the present.

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May 30, 2021
Roe v. Wade and beyond: The past and future of abortion rights in America (Guest-Prof. Mary Zeigler)

How did the court come to its decision in Roe v. Wade? Is that decision now under attack?

We talk with Prof. Mary Zeigler author of_Abortion in America: A Legal History, Roe v. Wade to the PresentAfter Roe: The Lost History of the Abortion Debate, and  Beyond Abortion: Roe v. Wade and the Fight for Privacy._

Note: This episode was recorded before the Supreme Court decided to weigh in on a Mississippi abortion law that could overturn Roe v. Wade. We have a special episode on that case which dropped on 5.18.21.

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May 27, 2021
Trump org is under criminal investigation by the New York Attorney General’s office, President Biden is poised sign an anti-Asian hate crimes bill, & more

The New York Attorney General’s office just announced that it’s investigation into the Trump organization is criminal as well as civil. We will tell you what that means. 

President Biden is about to sign a new anti-Asian hate crimes bill. We will talk about what it does. 

The Supreme Court clarifies that when it comes to the 4th Amendment, your home is your castle. 

And finally … Space junk. Who is responsible if it lands on you? 

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May 19, 2021
The future of abortion rights in America: Is the Supreme Court poised to overturn Roe v. Wade?
The Supreme Court has agreed to weigh in on a Mississippi law that could threaten its landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. Jessica and Joe will talk through whether this current conservative Supreme Court could rule that the right to obtain access to an abortion is no longer protected under the Constitution.
May 18, 2021
Is Matt Gaetz facing a federal indictment? Is Liz Cheney the past or the future of the GOP?

Let's talk about two members of Congress in the news this week -- Reps. Liz Cheney and Matt Gaetz. Liz Cheney lost her leadership position for speaking truth to power. Gaetz could be closer to facing federal charges. 

Also, are you ready to go maskless in light of the new CDC guidance?

And, perhaps our most pressing topic ever, will we get year round daylight saving time? 

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May 14, 2021
Will Trump get back on Facebook? Will Florida's voting law be overturned?

Want to go beyond the legal and political headlines? We have you covered.

In this episode Jessica and Joe talk about the federal grand jury indictments of the four former officers involved in the death of George Floyd, Florida's new voting law, whether former President Trump will be permanently banned from Facebook, fake vaccination cards, and the recall election facing CA Governor Gavin Newsom..

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May 11, 2021
Is it legal to mandate vaccinations? (Guest - Kevin Troutman)

We talk with one of the nation's leading labor and employment attorneys to get the real answers about mandating vaccination.

Can any employer require that their employees get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Can schools require that teachers, parents, and / or employees get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Can you be required to show proof of vaccination before entering a restaurant, plane, train, or stadium?

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May 08, 2021
AG Merrick Garland remakes the DOJ, Newsmax apologizes to Dominion, Idaho's transgender sports ban gets a hearing

We have a legal and political roundup!

Is Merrick Garland putting the "justice" back in the Department of Justice?

Why did Newsmax apologize to Dominion Voting Systems?

Will Idaho's transgender sports ban survive a court challenge?

What will Florida's new voting bill do to voter turnout?

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May 04, 2021
Biden's First 100 Days, Rudy Giuliani's Legal Woes, and Federal Hate Crimes

Welcome to another legal and political roundup.

Is Rudy Giuliani in serious legal trouble?

Were President Biden's first 100 days a success?

What do the federal hate crimes charges against those who are accused of being involved in the death of Ahmaud Arbery mean?

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May 01, 2021
Gun Control, Free Speech, & Dark Money

It is already a big week for legal and political news.

For the first time in more than a decade, the Supreme Court just decided to take a big gun control case. The Court heard arguments in a case that could have big implications for the rise of so-called "dark money." And the Court will hear arguments about free speech protections for public school students.

We also preview the new census numbers and talk about California Governor Gavin Newsom's recall election.

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Apr 27, 2021
What was it like inside the courtroom during the Chauvin trial? (Guest - Tami Abdollah)

After less than 12 hours of deliberation, the jury concluded that Derek Chauvin is guilty of second and third degree murder and second degree manslaughter.

USA Today criminal justice reporter Tami Abdollah has been covering the trial from the beginning. She stops by Passing Judgment to walk us through the trial; we talk jury selection, opening arguments, witnesses, and much more.

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Apr 21, 2021
Closing arguments in the Chauvin trial; The Mike Lindell/MyPillow/Dominion Voting Systems saga; The legal end of the 2020 election

It is legal-roundup time.

We talk about closing arguments in the Chauvin trial, a new suit by MyPillow against Dominion Voting Systems, the legal end (finally? hopefully?) of the 2020 election, and calls to reform the Supreme Court.

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Apr 20, 2021
Legal roundup-Will Roe v. Wade be overturned? Will Chauvin be convicted?

It is your weekly legal roundup with Jessica and Joe.

We update you on the trial of former Officer Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd. We talk about the prosecution's and the defense's strategies.

We discuss the big ruling regarding abortion rights out of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and what it could mean for the future of abortion rights in our country.

We also talk about the Supreme Court's "shadow docket" decision in a case that pitted COVID-19 restrictions against the freedom of religion.

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Apr 15, 2021
How do reporters decide which stories to cover? (Guest - Tom Wait)

Tom (T.J.) Wait, CBSLA / KCLA political reporter visits Passing Judgment to talk about how the press can engender more trust in their work.

Tom talks about how he helps to decide what to cover and how to cover it, what it is like to cover protests, whether reporters have an obligation to tell people they interview that they are members of the media, and more.

Join us for a fun and topical conversation about the role of the media.

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Apr 13, 2021
Legal & political round-up - Biden, Gaetz, Hill & Chauvin

We've got all your legal and political updates.

Jessica and Joe talk about President Biden's executive order on gun control, the murder trial of former Officer Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd, the continuing investigation of Congressman Matt Gaetz, and the "revenge porn" case filed by former Congresswoman Katie Hill.

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Apr 09, 2021
The beginning of a trend? MLB pulls the All-Star Game out of GA in response to its new voting laws (Guest-Dave Zirin)

This week the worlds of politics, the law, and sports collide. We are talking about MLB's decision to pull the all-star game out of GA after GA passed new, restrictive, voting laws.

We have separate episodes on the politics behind GA's new law with Greg Bluestein of the Atlanta Journal Constitutional and the legal challenges GA's law faces with me and Joe.

On this episode with talk with Dave Zirin, the Sports Editor for the Nation, about the history of professional sports organizations acting like, well, political actors. We also talk about whether these organizations will increasingly become key political players.

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Apr 05, 2021
Gaetz under investigation? Trump sued for defamation? Chauvin trial continues?

Rep. Matt Gaetz is allegedly under federal investigation for sex trafficking. He has denied the charges and said he’s the victim of an extortion plot.

Former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos’ defamation case against former President Trump continues.

The prosecution makes its case against former officer Derek Chauvin.

And there’s breaking SCOTUS news!

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Apr 02, 2021
Chauvin Trial Update + Georgia Voting Laws Analysis

PJ host Jessica Levinson is joined by co-host Joe Armstrong to recap day 1 of the trial of former officer Derek Chauvin, who is accused of killing Georgia Floyd, and analyze Georgia's new (restrictive) voting laws.

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Mar 30, 2021
Is Georgia's New Voting Law "Jim Crow in the 21st Century"? (Guest - Greg Bluestein)

President Joe Biden described Georgia's new voting law as "un-American" and "Jim Crow in the 21st Century."

We dive into what this new law says, what consequences it will have for voters in Georgia, what motivated the law, and the legal challenges the law will face with Atlanta Journal-Constitution political reporter Greg Bluestein.

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Mar 27, 2021
Gun Control, Hate Crimes, Katie Hill's Revenge Porn Suit, & the Defamation Case Against Sidney Powell

It is time to get you caught up on all of the legal news of the week.

We talk about the possibility of federal gun control legislation, how hate crimes prosecutions work, whether former Congresswoman Katie Hill will succeed in her revenge porn case, and the defamation case against Sidney Powell, one of former President Trump's attorneys.

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Mar 25, 2021
"Kamala's Way: An American Life" (Guest - Dan Morain)

Curious about how Kamala Harris became the first female vice president of color? Veteran political journalist has written the book on Harris' historic rise -- Kamala's Way: An America Life.

Dan stops by Passing Judgment to provide insight into our current Vice President.

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Mar 20, 2021
Are we in a race between vaccines and variants? (Guest - Dr. Peter Hotez)
Yes, according to Dr. Peter Hotez, we are. Dr. Hotez shares his thoughts on where we are in the pandemic, what to expect next, and what we can do to fight disinformation. 
Mar 19, 2021
Abortion Bans, the Chauvin trial, and more.

Arkansas banned almost all abortions. Is that legal?

Former Officer Chauvin, the man accused of killing George Floyd, goes to trial.

Andrea Sahouri, a reporter from Iowa who covered the George Floyd protests, is acquitted.

Merrick Garland has a new title -- Attorney General.

And President Joe Biden addresses the nation.

Join us and we roundup the biggest stories of the week.

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Mar 12, 2021
Will We Protect Voting Rights? And Will Trump be Held Accountable for the Insurrection?

Just last week, almost exactly 56 years after Bloody Sunday, the House passed a sweeping set of electoral and political reforms. What exactly is included in these reforms? And will they pass? (Spoiler alert - probably not because of the filibuster). 

Also, what is the latest news out of Georgia and Iowa when it comes to proposed changes to voting laws?

And finally, there's another suit against Trump related to the insurrection at the Capitol. Will he be held liable? 

Join us as we talk through these topics. 

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Mar 09, 2021
Is freedom of the press enough if we lose faith in the press? (Guest - David McCraw)

Is there a typical day for David McCraw, the Deputy General Counsel at the New York Times and the author of “Truth in Our Times: Inside the Fight for Press Freedom in the Age of Alternative Facts”? Answer, not really.

David stops by Passing Judgment to talk about what it is like to be the New York Times' top newsroom lawyer at a time when public trust in the media is at an all-time low, how he supports the work of reporters, and why faith in the press may matter as much as the freedom of the press.  

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Mar 05, 2021
Will the Supreme Court reduce protections for voters? 

Against the backdrop of a slew of new proposals that could restrict the right to vote, this week the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a big election law case out of Arizona. The case could determine the level of protection that voters have under the Voting Rights Act. 

Jessica talks through the case and what is at issue for voters across the country. 

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Mar 03, 2021
What does it take to successfully run for Congress? (Guest Congresswoman Nanette Barragan)

Congresswoman Barragan visits Passing Judgment to talk about three "Is" -- immigration, insurrection, and impeachment. Congresswoman Barragan also shares her experience running for local and federal office and talks about what it takes to be a political candidate.

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Feb 25, 2021
It's our 100th episode! Who is Merrick Garland? And will we ever see Trump's taxes?

Happy 100 episodes to the Passing Judgment podcast.

We are so deeply grateful to our listeners for being along for this ride.

In this episode we talk about how future Attorney General Merrick Garland is likely to change the Department of Justice, the Supreme Court's ruling in the Trump tax returns case (and whether we will ever see those returns), the next big abortion case before the Court, and whether the 2020 election litigation has finally come to an end.

Pull up a chair and join us.

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Feb 23, 2021
Will Trump Face Criminal and/or Civil Exposure?

Former President Trump is now a private citizen and faces significant criminal or civil legal exposure.

Jessica and Joe talk through the federal and state criminal and civil cases and investigations pending against Trump.

Jessica brings you up to date on the potential claims related to the insurrection, the Trump Organization's financial dealings, obstruction of justice, campaign finance, and more.

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Feb 20, 2021
What Is The Cyber Weapon Arms Race? (Guest - Nicole Perlroth)

The New York Times' cybersecurity reporter and author of the new book, 'This is How They Tell Me The World Ends,' Nicole Perlroth visits Passing Judgment.

Nicole explains how the U.S. has possibly fallen behind in the cyber arms race, what that means for our lives, and what we might be able to do to stop it.

We also talk Moneyball, Dessa, Yoshimi, Nora Ephron, and Sam Sifton.

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Feb 16, 2021
The Senate Votes to Acquit Donald Trump, Again

The historic second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump is now over. The U.S. Senate voted 57-43 to convict Trump, failing to reach the needed threshold by 10 votes.

In less than 20 minutes we answer all your legal questions about the trial.

1) What exactly was Trump accused of? 2) What did the house managers (the prosecution) argue? 3) What was Trump's defense? 4) What is the standard for impeachable conduct? 4) What did the Senators who voted to acquit give as their rationale?

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Feb 14, 2021
How Should We Prioritize Who Gets the Vaccines? (Guest - Dr. Anne Rimoin)

Dr. Anne W. Rimoin, a Professor of Epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and Infectious Disease Division of the Geffen School of Medicine, stops by Passing Judgment.

Dr. Rimoin talks about how to prioritize who should get the vaccine, how to distribute the vaccine, how to safely re-open schools, and what a new normal looks like.

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Feb 10, 2021
The Church, the State, the Pandemic, and the Supreme Court

In a late-night decision, the Supreme Court has again weighed in on the battle between religious freedom and public safety.

California churches recently challenged some of the state's health and safety restrictions. Specifically, the churches argued that restrictions on indoor services, capacity restrictions, and bans on indoor singing and chanting violated their First Amendment rights.

What did the Supreme Court say? And what do the justices' decisions say about religious freedoms moving forward?

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Feb 06, 2021
Inside the insurrection: A Congresswoman runs for her life (Guest Rep. Norma Torres)

Congresswoman Norma Torres (D-CA), forced to shelter-in-place in the House gallery, shares the harrowing details of January 6th, 2021.

As the Capitol was under siege, Congresswoman Torres donned a gas mask and crawled on hands and knees to safety. She spent hours worried her life was at risk. When one of her sons called, she picked up the phone only to tell him that she was safe but running for her life.

This is not merely an academic discussion about disinformation and security breaches. This is a personal conversation about one representative's fight to stay safe amid real danger.

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Feb 05, 2021
The Filibuster, Explained (Guest - Dr. Molly Reynolds)

Do Senate rules and procedures sound boring and arcane? Brookings Institution fellow Dr. Molly Reynolds stops by Passing Judgment to demystify practices like the filibuster and explain how they affect our daily lives. Surprise - it's a lot more complicated than depicted in the Frank Capra and Jimmy Stewart classic, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington! 

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Feb 03, 2021
Get Your Latest SCOTUS News on Abortion, Emoluments, Term Limits & More.

SCOTUS news! Get your latest SCOTUS news right here.

We talk about calls to reform the federal judiciary, the latest news in the Emoluments cases, abortion rights, and President Biden's ability to fire the directors of federal agencies.

Jan 29, 2021
Will Trump face criminal charges? What is the point of impeachment? (Guest - Asha Rangappa)
Former F.B.I. Special Agent, Yale faculty member, and CNN legal analyst Asha Rangappa stops by Passing Judgment to talk about the impeachment trial, whether former President Trump will ever face criminal charges, and threats of disinformation.
Jan 28, 2021
Will the inauguration of Biden and Harris mark a new day in America?
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were officially sworn into office today. Jessica and Joe unpack the inauguration, the new executive orders, the structural reforms we will need to tackle in the next administration, and the outgoing president's pardons.
Jan 21, 2021
What Are the Biggest Security Threats Facing America? (Guest - Dave Benson)

Security expert and former State Department Special Agent Dave Benson joins Jessica to talk about the unique security concerns at the Biden inauguration ceremony in the aftermath of the Capitol insurrection, and how social media, self-radicalization, and individual responsibility play into being an active and alert member of society.

Jan 19, 2021
Making Sense of Trump and the American Presidency (Guest - Dr. Jack Pitney)
Dr. Jack Pitney, an expert on the American presidency, public policy, and politics, stops by Passing Judgment. Jack talks to Jessica about how to make sense of Trump and Trumpism. Jack discusses the rise of Trumpism, institutional weaknesses in our government, and what the next few years might look like.
Jan 18, 2021
What ails America's healthcare system? (Guest - Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal)
Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal, bestselling author of "An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back," visits Passing Judgment to talk about our some of the systemic problems of America's healthcare system, our dismal response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and what we can do moving forward.
Jan 17, 2021
President Trump is impeached for the second time. What does it mean?

Episode Notes

President Trump is the first president in our nation’s history to be impeached twice. The House of Representatives voted, along a bipartisan basis, to impeach Trump for inciting a riot in the Capitol. 

What will happen next during the Senate trial? And what does this all mean for the Biden administration?

Jan 15, 2021
Will President Trump be impeached for a second time, removed from office under the 25th Amendment, and/or charged with federal crimes?

The House of Representatives is moving forward with articles of impeachment against President Trump and a resolution asking Vice President Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment. There is also talk of using a little-discussed provision of the 14th Amendment to remove President Trump from office. And of course, there is the looming question of whether President Trump will attempt to pardon himself for crimes related to the insurrection and beyond. 

Jessica and Joe talk through these issues give you answers to all of these questions.

Jan 11, 2021
How did Democrats win in Georgia? (Guest - Nse Ufot)
Nse Ufot, CEO of the New Georgia Project, joins Jessica Levinson to talk about how Democrats won both U.S. Senate races in Georgia, and how the New Georgia Project worked to register new voters and plan to create a new class of super voters.
Jan 08, 2021
Insurrection in the Capitol. Impeachment? The 25th Amendment?
Wednesday 1/6/2021 was a surreal day for our country. A violent mob stormed the Capitol building and our federal representatives, their staff, and members of the press sheltered in place. Jessica and Joe walk through the legal and political implications of what just happened. They talk about whether we just saw an attempted coup d'etat, whether the Vice President and members of the cabinet will invoke the 25th Amendment, and whether impeachment proceedings will begin again.
Jan 07, 2021
What is at stake in the Georgia runoff elections? (Guest - Greg Bluestein)

Why are all eyes on Georgia? On 1/5/2021, Georgia voters will head to the polls to pick their two U.S. Senators. If both democrats win, the Senate will be split 50-50 and with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote, will in fact be controlled by Democrats. This has enormous implications for the Biden administration.

Greg Bluestein, of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, stops by to tell us everything we need to know about these races.

Jan 04, 2021
Did President Trump just commit federal and state crimes? 
President Trump called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, and spent just over an hour trying to convince him to overturn the results of the election in Georgia in favor of Trump. Jessica and Joe will walk you through the legal and political implications of the call.
Jan 04, 2021
Can President Trump obtain a second term? What is going to happen when Congress counts the Electoral College votes?

President Trump cannot obtain a second term. However, some Republicans will engage in Trump-supporting, country-degrading political theatre to try to claim that he can.

Jessica and Joe break down what is going to happen on Wednesday 1/6/2021 when Vice President Mike Pence presides over Congress' counting of the Electoral College votes. The 12th Amendment and the Electoral College Act of 1887 both dictate what will happen. And while Republicans will object, in the end, President-elect Joe Biden will receive 306 votes and will be inaugurated on 1/20/2021.

Jan 02, 2021
What does the Brexit trade deal mean for us? (Guest - Dr. Nick Cull)

USC Professor Nick Cull stops by Passing Judgment. He answers Jessica's questions: What is Brexit? What is the new trade deal? And what does this mean for Americans?

Dec 31, 2020
Our special holiday episode. Looking back on the first 6 months of Passing Judgment.

This is a different kind of episode for us.

Join Jessica and Joe for an end-of-the-year look back on the first 6 months of Passing Judgment. We talk the guests that surprised us the most, the episodes that hit us the hardest, and how the podcast came to be. We also chat about how we celebrated the holidays, the first thing we will do post-vaccination, and what is ahead in the new year for the podcast.

Please join us, and as always, tweet Jessica @LevinsonJessica

Dec 29, 2020
Are we facing a recovery or a recession? (Guest - Dr. Chris Thornberg)
Economist Christopher Thornberg stops by Passing Judgment to talk about how the COVID-19 pandemic has and will affect the American economy. Chris talks with Jessica about what Congress and the President should do to help Americans recover from the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic and how systemic inequality affects our economy.
Dec 26, 2020
When and how will the COVID-19 pandemic end? (Guest - Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding)
Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, one of the nation’s leading epidemiologists, stops by Passing Judgment to answer all of your pressing COVID-19 questions. Are the vaccines safe? When can we safely go back to work? When will our kids go back to school? What did the Trump administration do wrong? What can the future Biden administration do right?
Dec 23, 2020
It Is Pardon Time for President Trump and Musical Chairs Time for Politicians in California (Guest - Carla Marinucci) 
Senior political reporter for Politico, Carla Marinucci, stops by to talk about all the breaking political news. President Trump issued twenty controversial pardons. Governor Newsom named Secretary of State Alex Padilla to fill Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris’ U.S. Senate seat and Assemblywoman Shirly Weber to be the next Secretary of State. Carla, who has covered Kamala Harris since the beginning of her career, also tells us what else Americans should know about the future Vice President. Come for the political chat, stay for the immigrant success stories. 
Dec 23, 2020
Can Trump Declare Martial Law?
Join Jessica and Joe to talk about whether President Trump can declare martial law, Sidney Powell will become the special counsel to look into election fraud, and Attorney General Barr will appoint a special counsel to look into Hunter Biden. 
Dec 22, 2020
How to Analyze Political News (Guest Amber Phillips)

Amber Phillips of the Washington Post stops by Passing Judgment for a short talk about what it is like to analyze political news during the Trump administration.

Jessica and Amber talk about Trump's post-election litigation strategy and whether anything could stop President-Elect Joe Biden from being inaugurated on January 20th, 2021.

Dec 19, 2020
A Cyber Attack and a Census Decision
Join Jessica Levinson and Joe Armstrong as they discuss the biggest political and legal news of the week. Jessica walks through the latest census news and why it matters to you, Joe talks about the latest on the cyber attacks, and then Jessica and Joe discuss whether the Biden transition team will get security briefings over the holidays. 
Dec 19, 2020
A view from inside the House of Representatives (Guest Congresswoman Karen Bass)
Join Congresswoman Karen Bass and host Jessica Levinson for a discussion about diversity in government, why Republicans have continued to support President Trump throughout his presidency and in the post-election period, how we can increase trust in government, and how California Governor Gavin Newsom could re-shape California with his ability to appoint Vice President-elect Kamala Harris's senate seat.
Dec 16, 2020
President-Elect Biden is in, Attorney General Bill Barr is out

Happy voting day! Yes, again. Members of the Electoral College just voted in every state throughout the country and, no surprise, Joe Biden received 306 votes. This is more than the 270 needed to win the presidency. This is a day that typically passes unnoticed, but in the topsy-turvy 2020 election, many eyes were on this typically pro forma event. Could anything else happen before inauguration day? 

And because why would we ever have a slow news day, Attorney General Bill Barr resigned. We re-live Barr's greatest hits and talk about the timing of his resignation. 

Thank you for listening and please do provide us with feedback. You can tweet Jessica

Dec 15, 2020
Let’s talk SCOTUS, election lawsuits, & the Biden administration (Guest - Kimberly Atkins)
Join senior Boston Globe columnist and MSNBC contributor Kimberly Atkins and host Jessica Levinson for a wide-ranging discussion about the Supreme Court, post-election litigation, and President-elect Biden's next steps.
Dec 12, 2020
What is it like to be in the House of Representatives in 2020? (Guest - Congressman Eric Swalwell)
Congressman Eric Swalwell stops by Passing Judgment to talk about what it is like to serve in the House of Representatives, what he would do to reform the institution, how President-Elect Biden can bring together our country, and more!
Dec 10, 2020
Happy Safe Harbor Day! Is the 2020 Election Over Yet?

So, is election 2020 finally over?

Host Jessica Levinson and co-host Joe Armstrong walk through the biggest legal and political developments of the week.

Jessica and Joe explain where we are in the post-election litigation, what is happening with DACA, why Xavier Becerra was tapped to become part of the Biden administration, and what Trump's executive order about vaccines really means.

For more on Safe Harbor Day, read Jessica's piece on NBC News here:

Dec 09, 2020
Can President Trump pardon himself? His children?

Get caught up on all your legal news of the week.

Big stories so far -- Can President Trump pardon himself? What about his adult children?

Why did AG Bill Barr admit there is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 elections but then appoint a special counsel to investigate the 2016 election investigators?

And what is happening in the Supreme Court these days regarding COVID-19 restrictions and religious freedoms?

Join Jessica and Joe.

Dec 05, 2020
How can the Biden administration begin to address racial inequality? (Guest - Areva Martin)
Host Jessica Levinson is joined by civil rights attorney, author, host, and CNN legal analyst Areva Martin for a discussion of racial inequality, what the Biden administration's top priorities should be, the electoral college, and more.
Dec 03, 2020
What is (and is not) happening in the Supreme Court? (An update on the election, the census, & religious freedoms)

There is a lot of legal and political news to catch up on this week!

The Supreme Court made a big decision regarding religious freedom and coronavirus restrictions, they heard a big case dealing with the census and immigrants, and they may be avoiding a big post-election litigation case.

Dec 01, 2020
The Biden-Harris Transition Officially Begins

Surprise! The man who won the 2020 election (both the national popular vote and the Electoral College vote) will be the next president.

Why did the Trump administration finally agree to let the Biden transition team officially begin? What is happening with all of the post-election litigation? And what can we expect between now and inauguration day?

Nov 24, 2020
The Art of Being Barbara Boxer (Guest - former Senator Barbara Boxer)

Former Senator Barbara Boxer joins host Jessica Levinson to talk about women in politics, her book, "The Art of Tough," how to improve the Senate, why she ran for office, "the year of the woman," and much more.

Nov 19, 2020
The 2020 elections are over. Now what? (Guest - Congressman Ted Lieu)
Congressman Ted Lieu stops by Passing Judgment to share his thoughts on the 2020 election and how we move forward from our current state of polarization. Congressman Lieu talks about whether voters repudiated Trump, Trumpism, or the GOP. Congressman Lieu also discusses some of the biggest challenges our country faces in the future and how to solve them.
Nov 16, 2020
What is the fate of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare)?

The Supreme Court could determine the fate of the Affordable Care Act.

This week the high court heard arguments in a case addressing whether the individual mandate is legally valid and whether, if it is not, the entire ACA must be declared invalid.

This is one of the first blockbuster cases the court has heard this term. And its decision could affect how and whether tens of millions of Americans obtain health insurance.

Nov 13, 2020
Will there be a peaceful transfer of power?

Happy post-election week.

We're back to discuss the most pressing political and legal issues.

What is happening with all of this post-election litigation? Will any of these cases end up before the Supreme Court?

What about the Department of Justice investigation into voter fraud?

Will the GOP continue to support President Trump's efforts to claim the election was rigged?

And are there any other election nightmares we should be thinking about?

Nov 12, 2020
Joe Biden & Kamala Harris win! What is next?

Congratulations to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris!

What happens next? Will there be civil unrest?

When will the pre-election litigation be resolved?

What if Donald Trump does not concede?

What can Trump do during his lame duck session? Can he pardon himself?

Jessica Levinson and Joe Armstrong discuss and explain.

Nov 07, 2020
The day after Election Day - just who is going to win this thing?
We all watched yesterday's election results tumble in, and it was a long night for everyone. In this episode, Jessica Levinson and Joe Armstrong talk about riding the final waves of the 2020 election storm. There was no blue wave, and although President Trump prematurely declared victory, the show's not over. Ballots are still being counted as Election Day bleeds into Election Days. Which candidate has a clearer path to be inaugurated on January 20th, 2021? What voting blocs broke for which candidate? How is the electoral map different from 2016? And did you sleep last night?
Nov 04, 2020
Election Day special episode number two - doom scrolling to oblivion!

Our second election day special episode!

What are the latest results?

Can we trust the polls?

Will we know the result on election night?

How did you spend election day?

What did Joe buy to get himself through the week?

Nov 04, 2020
Our first Election Day special episode!

Will Trump declare victory on election night?

Will Trump concede? What if he loses and refuses to leave?

Where does the pre-election litigation stand?

Where were you on Election Day 2016?

Nov 03, 2020
Will the country reject Trump and Trumpism? Guest - Sarah Longwell

Hear from Sarah Longwell, a Republican political strategist and founder of Republican Voters Against Trump.   Sarah and host Jessica Levinson talk about who will win the 2020 presidential election and why, who undecided voters are, how you can persuade voters that certain information is false, and the future of the Republican Party.

Nov 02, 2020
Is Trump a Traitor? Guest - David Rothkopf

David Rothkopf is out with a new book - Traitor: A History of Betrayal from Benedict Arnold to Donald Trump.

David is the host of "Deep State Radio" and CEO of the Rothkopf Group media and podcasting company. He is also the former CEO and editor of Foreign Policy magazine.

David joins host Jessica Levinson to discuss what makes President Donald Trump a traitor and how he compares to other historical figures.

Nov 01, 2020
Election Nightmares! Also, Boo.
What to expect when you're expecting the 2020 elections. We have got you covered, from the likely to the improbable. We talk post-election litigation, DOJ investigations, Electoral College breakdowns, and contested elections. And of course, we discuss Joe's love of Halloween.
Oct 30, 2020
What can we do about the Electoral College? Guest - Jesse Wegman

Jesse Wegman, New York Times editorial board member and author of Let the People Pick the President: The Case for Abolishing the Electoral College joins host Jessica Levinson.

Jesse discusses the fascinating history behind the Electoral College, how it has affected presidential elections, and proposals to reform it.

Oct 29, 2020
Will Trump draw another royal flush? Guest - Bob Shrum
Veteran Democratic campaign strategist Bob Shrum joins host Jessica Levinson to talk about the 2020 election. Bob gives his advice for the candidates, explains what makes a good presidential candidate, and helps us to sort out current presidential election.
Oct 28, 2020
When are we likely to know the outcome of the election? Guest - Sam Levine
Host Jessica Levinson is joined by Sam Levine, a reporter for the Guardian who covers voting rights. Jessica and Sam talk about the biggest voting rights issues of the day, the current state of pre-election litigation, and which suits are likely to be filed post-election.
Oct 27, 2020
Did anyone win the 2020 debates? Guest - Dr. Todd Graham
America's debate coach, Dr. Todd Graham, is back with host Jessica Levinson to unpack the presidential debates and town halls and the vice presidential debate. Hear from an expert about how the candidates and moderators performed and whether anything that happened will move the electoral needle.
Oct 23, 2020
What is it like to cover the Trump administration? Guest - Brian Karem.
Brian Karem, senior White House correspondent for Playboy, CNN contributor, and author, joins Passing Judgment to talk about covering the Trump administration. Brian talks about what it is like to be in the White House briefing room, the role of the press when covering this administration, why he was once jailed, and much more.
Oct 22, 2020
The Supreme Court term heats up with three new immigration-related cases
The Supreme Court just agreed to hear three big immigration cases. The first deals with President Trump's use of money to build the border wall and more broadly a president's power to declare a national emergency and use funds that Congress appropriated for other purposes. The second deals with the Trump administration's policy to make asylum seekers from South and Central America wait in Mexico while their cases are processed. The third centers around whether undocumented immigrants need to be counted as part of the census.
Oct 20, 2020
Did we learn anything from Judge Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation hearings?

What, if anything, did we learn from the four days of hearings about Judge Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court? Is Judge Coney Barrett's refusal to answer questions typical of U.S. Supreme Court nominees? Did her lack of answers actually speak volumes?

Join Jessica Levinson and Joe Armstrong for the discussion.

Oct 16, 2020
Are the CA GOP's unofficial ballot drop boxes illegal?

The CA GOP has put up ballot drop boxes throughout the state. The CA GOP has defended this practice as legal "ballot harvesting." But that explanation may obscure what is really going on both legally and politically. The CA Secretary of State has said, "[u]nauthorized ballot drop boxes are illegal."

What can voters do now?

Oct 13, 2020
VP Debate Recap

Did the vice presidential debate change the election? Will people remember anything other than the fly seen round the world?

Host Jessica Levinson and co-host Joe Armstrong review the debate.

Oct 08, 2020
Can the Constitution Save Us? What Will the Supreme Court Do Next? Guest-Erwin Chemerinsky

Host and Loyola Law School Professor Jessica Levinson is joined by Erwin Chemerinsky, one of the nation's leading lawyers, legal educators, and legal scholars, and the Dean of UC Berkeley School of Law.

Join Jessica and Erwin for a smart and accessible discussion of the most pressing issues before the Supreme Court. Erwin also talks about how Judge Amy Coney Barrett could change the Supreme Court if the Senate confirms her nomination.

Oct 08, 2020
Welcome to Season 2 of Passing Judgment! A preview of the new Supreme Court term.

Host Jessica Levinson and co-host Joe Armstrong preview the legal and political issues 2020-2021 Supreme Court term. There are big cases related to healthcare, religious rights, and voting rights on the court's docket.

Tune in and let us know what you think!

Oct 06, 2020
A conversation with Loyola Law School Dean Michael Waterstone
Michael Waterstone, the Dean of Loyola Law School, joins host Jessica Levinson for a discussion about leadership and legal education. Michael talks about what it takes to be a good leader and a lawyer. Michael also shares insights about what it is like to be a law school dean.
Oct 05, 2020
What are the political and legal implications of President Trump having COVID-19?
Host Jessica Levinson and co-host Joe Armstrong talk through the breaking news that President Trump has contracted COVID-19. Because President Trump is both a sitting president and a candidate for the  presidency, there are a myriad of hypothetical legal questions to discuss. 
Oct 02, 2020
What just happened? A conversation with Leslie Marshall about the debates, tax returns, and the Supreme Court
Join host Jessica Levinson and guest Leslie Marshall for a lively conversation about what is happening in the political world this week. Jessica and Leslie discuss the first presidential debate, the latest news regarding Trump's financial records, and how the Supreme Court is likely to factor into the presidential election.
Oct 01, 2020
Debate time! What should Trump and/or Biden do to win the debates?
Welcome to presidential and vice presidential debate season! Join host and Loyola Law School Professor Jessica Levinson and debate expert Dr. Todd Graham to talk about why debates matter, what each of the candidates should do to win, and what they should each avoid.
Sep 28, 2020
How would Judge Amy Coney Barrett change American law and society as a member of the Supreme Court?
President Trump has officially nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's vacancy on the Supreme Court. Host Jessica Levinson and regular co-host Joe Armstrong talk about what is likely to happen next, and how Judge Barrett could change the shape of American law and society if she is confirmed by the Senate.
Sep 27, 2020
Will Democrats pack the Supreme Court?
Host Jessica Levinson and producer Joe Armstrong talk about the biggest legal and political news of the week — Court packing and peaceful transfers of power.
Sep 25, 2020
How can you combat campaign disinformation and misinformation?

Hear from a reporter and fact-checker from the Associated Press about what campaign misinformation and disinformation is and how to combat it.

Host Jessica Levinson and guest Amanda Seitz talk about why we are all so susceptible to campaign misinformation and disinformation and how we can be on alert to "fake news."

Sep 22, 2020
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Passes Away

United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has passed away. Our country has lost a champion of gender equality.

What does her death mean for the future of our country both legally and politically?

With only weeks to go before the election, will President Trump nominate someone to fill the seat and will Senator Mitch McConnell hold confirmation hearings?

Sep 19, 2020
The Curious Case of Attorney General William Barr

What happened to AG Bill Barr?

He compared COVID-19 restrictions to slavery.

He has talked about protecting protesters under the Sedition Act.

The DOJ has intervened to get favorable treatment for friends of President Trump -- think Michael Flynn and Roger Stone.

Is Bill Barr acting to protect the American president or the American people?

Sep 17, 2020
Are you consuming fake news?

Join host and Loyola Law School Professor Jessica Levinson as she talks with New York Times reporter Matt Stevens about what it is like to be a political reporter in 2020.  Matt explains why journalists don't just make up stories or sources, why they can't just be stenographers and what goes into writing headlines.

Sep 15, 2020
Our Top Election Nightmares?

A cyber attack? A contingent election decided by the House of Representatives? Law enforcement at the polls? The closing of polling places? The invocation of the Presidential Succession Act?

Join host and Loyola Law School Professor Jessica Levinson and producer Joe Armstrong for a rundown of the top election 2020 nightmares.

Sep 11, 2020
Did the Trump administration start a war against masks (and science)?
Host Jessica Levinson is joined by Dr. Julie Cantor, physician, attorney, and entrepreneur. Jessica and Julie talk about everything from why California Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks was forced to bring her infant to the state capitol to cast in person votes to why wearing masks has become a proxy for partisan affiliation.
Sep 10, 2020
What are the laws surrounding the gig economy?

Happy Labor Day everyone.

On this special Labor Day episode, host and Loyola Law School Professor Jessica Levinson and producer Joe Armstrong talk about a issue near and dear to many workers -- whether they are independent contractors or employees. Jessica and Joe unpack the current legal wrangling surrounding rules for gig economy workers. Starting January 1, 2020, California changed the law to categorize many gig economy workers as employees, not independent contractors.

But the law, known as AB 5, cast a wide net and covered some freelancers who lost jobs as a result. Joe shares his story of work that he lost. In addition, one of those famous freelancers is former San Francisco Mayor and Speaker of the Assembly, Willie Brown. As Politico's Carla Marinucci wrote, just this week his regular Sunday op-ed column for the San Francisco Chronicle was temporarily put on hold as a result of the law.

A few days ago, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill that narrows AB 5, and exempts many freelance workers, like Willie Brown.

But wait, there's more. There is a measure on the ballot, sponsored by companies like Uber and Lyft, to undo the California law which treats most gig workers as employees.

Where does the law stand and what could happen next?

Sep 07, 2020
Should members of the media be real-time fact checkers?

Join host and Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson and guest Elex Michaelson, anchor and host of the only statewide political show in California -- The Issue Is.

Jessica and Elex talk about how social media has changed news consumption and coverage, whether reporters have an obligation to be real-time fact checkers, why we are so polarized, how to deal with campaigns of disinformation and misinformation, why we should all be taking media literacy classes, and the importance of cookies in a greenroom.

Sep 03, 2020
Can President Trump send federal or state law enforcement officers to polling places?

Host Jessica Levinson explains whether the president has the power to send law enforcement officers to polling places on Election Day. She is joined by producer Joe Armstrong to walk through the legal and political limits on the president.

Jessica and Joe discuss who typically observes a polling place, whether Trump can send federal or state law enforcement, what power states have over their polling places, and what recourse voters have if they feel intimidated at the polls.

Aug 31, 2020
What is the media's role during the Trump era? Are we more polarized than ever?

Host and Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson is joined by television and radio legend Steve Edwards. Steve has been a member of the media for more than four decades, covering every major news event in that time.

Steve talks with us about the changing role of the media and why we are more polarized than ever.

Aug 28, 2020
Did members of the Trump administration just violate the Hatch Act?

What is the Hatch Act? A law that prohibits certain government employees from engaging in political activities. The purpose is to ensure that civil servants are serving the public and not working as political operatives while engaging in official duties or using public facilities or vehicles.

Have members of the Trump administration violated this federal law in front of our eyes? Probably! Let's talk about what is happening the Republican National Convention.

What recourse is there for violations of the Hatch Act? It looks like not much right now. This is arguably an existential crisis in our democracy -- we have a federal law that looks like it is being violated but ignored.

Join host Jessica Levinson and producer Joe Armstrong to walk through these issues.

Aug 26, 2020
Priority # 1 in the 2020 Election? Make Sure Your Vote Counts

Host and Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson takes a quick tour through the nuts and bolts of what it takes to make sure your vote counts in the 2020 election. 

Elections in America are decentralized. The U.S. Constitution gives states the power to run elections and so it is important to know the laws in your state. 

Jessica walks you through what is different about voting this election, spoiler alert -- a pandemic and a president who is actively trying to undermine our election process. Jessica talks about everything from registering to vote, to getting a vote by mail ballot, to returning that ballot. 

For more information, read Amber Phillips' great piece in the Washington Post.  

Sound engineer - Andrei Padilla

Aug 23, 2020
What is it like to be a State Senator?

What is it like to be a state lawmaker?

Join host Jessica Levinson and California State Senator Ben Allen for a wide-ranging discussion about being a lawmaker in 2020. Senator Allen talks about why he ran, what most surprises him about the job, his favorite part of being an elected official, the power of lobbyists, the influence of money and politics, mandatory vaccinations, and much more.

Aug 19, 2020
What does it take to be an effective presidential candidate?
Join host Jessica Levinson and Los Angeles Times political reporter Melanie Mason, for a discussion about political reporting during a pandemic. Melanie chats about how Senator Kamala Harris changed as a candidate, covering presidential candidates, what it takes to be an effective presidential candidate, what makes President Trump a good or bad presidential candidate, the influence of money on our presidential campaigns, and more. 
Aug 17, 2020
What is it like to cover a presidential campaign during a pandemic? 

Host Jessica Levinson talks with Los Angeles Times political reporter Seema Metha about the 2020 presidential campaign. 

Jessica and Seema chat about these questions and more.

Are voters more polarized than ever before? Are social media and cable television to blame? 

Do Republicans have a choice between following President Trump or following public health experts? 

Why do evangelical voters continue to support President Trump? 

Will the Supreme Court become a focal point of the 2020 election? 

Who is Biden likely to pick as his VP candidate?

How has Pres. Trump changed what is means to be a journalist?

Aug 11, 2020
Are President Trump's Recent Executive Actions Legal?

President Trump signed four executive actions in the wake of Congress' failure to come to a resolution regarding COVID-19 relief for Americans.

President Trump's actions are both much more narrow than he alleged and likely stand on legally shaky grounds. Specifically, Trump's actions may violate the separation of powers and invade Congress' power to tax and spend.

Host Jessica Levinson walks through the political and legal implications of Trump's actions on unemployment benefits, an eviction moratorium, student loan deferrals, and payroll tax deduction deferrals.

Sound engineer - Andrei Padilla

Aug 10, 2020
Election Nightmares. What happens if President Trump loses but won't leave office? 

Join host Jessica Levinson as she details which potential election catastrophes keep her up at night.  Jessica talks about the possible problems associated with voting in a pandemic, President Trump's efforts to undermine the integrity of our elections, whether Nancy Pelosi could become president, and much more. 

Sound engineer extraordinaire - Andrei Padilla

Aug 08, 2020
Is the Supreme Court Really a Court?

Join host Jessica Levinson and guest Eric Segall. Eric is a professor at Georgia State University College of Law and an expert on the Supreme Court.

How does the Supreme Court make its decisions? Does the Court function as intended?

In this episode, Eric makes the provocative argument that the Supreme Court is not really a court, and that judges make their decisions on little more than their ideological views.

Aug 04, 2020
Which Vice Presidential Contender Will Help Biden Beat Trump? 

Vice President Joe Biden is about to choose his running mate. He has pledged that he will pick a woman. But who? 

Host Jessica Levinson talks about whether or not a presidential candidate's running mate makes any real difference in a presidential campaign and who Biden might pick as his running mate. 

Jessica runs down the top contenders including Senators Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Tammy Duckworth, former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, and Congresswomen Karen Bass and Val Demings.

Sound engineer-Andrei Padilla.

Aug 02, 2020
Is Pres. Trump's Census Order Unconstitutional?

President Trump just signed an executive order directing the Department of Commerce not to count undocumented immigrants for the purposes of drawing congressional district lines.   Is Trump's executive order? What are the political consequences of this order?

Host Jessica Levinson walks you through everything you need to know about Trump's decision to weaponize the census.

For more, read Jessica's recent pieces on

Jul 30, 2020
The Supreme Court as "the Solicitor General's Idiot Intern?"

Chief Justice John Roberts as a junior woodchuck?

When does a judge go "Christopher Walken" on you?

Come for the My Cousin Vinny references, stay for an in-depth look at the most powerful court in the land - the Supreme Court - with Professor Garrett Epps.

Jul 28, 2020
Rep. AOC v Rep. Yoho?

What happened between Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ted Yoho?

Rep. AOC made a speech on the floor of the House to discuss Yoho's comments and what they say about gender dynamics more generally.

Women are underrepresented in the public and private sphere. Why does that matter?

Host Jessica Levinson and producer Joe Armstrong discuss Rep. AOC's speech and the great gender divide in rooms of power throughout the country.

Jul 24, 2020
Will it take Republicans to defeat Pres. Trump and Trumpism?
The Lincoln Project co-founder Mike Madrid joins host Jessica Levinson to talk about the rise of President Trump and Trumpism. Mike discusses the biggest issues surrounding the 2020 election and what The Lincoln Project is doing to try to defeat President Trump and protect our democracy.
Jul 21, 2020
Did Pres. Trump or Ivanka Trump violate ethics laws by promoting Goya products?

President Trump and his daughter, senior advisor Ivanka Trump, went to social media to promote Goya products. They did this in the wake of the CEO of Goya's praising of President Trump and the ensuing backlash against that praise. Is the White House for sale? Did President Trump or his daughter, Ivanka Trump, violate any federal ethics laws?

Join host Jessica Levinson and producer Joe Armstrong for a quick analysis.

Jul 17, 2020
Supreme Court Wrap Up!

In this special episode of Passing Judgment host Jessica Levinson tells you everything you need to know about the last Supreme Court term. Jessica explains the biggest decisions of the year and how they affect you. Jessica covers abortion rights, religious rights, LGBTQ rights, executive authority, Congressional power, and more.

Producer Joe Armstrong is back by popular demand to ask the questions you want answered.

Jul 17, 2020
Confederate Statues, Cancel Culture, Defunding the Police, and More with Mr. Mo'Kelly
Guest Mr. Mo'Kelly joins host Jessica Levinson for a frank discussion about race relations, racism, and more. Mr. Mo'Kelly talks about confederate statutes, calls to defund the police, and the so-called cancel culture. 
Jul 14, 2020
President Trump Commutes Roger Stone's Sentence
Host Jessica Levinson walks you through the breaking news of President Trump's commutation of Roger Stone's sentence. Jessica discusses why and how presidents have the power to commute and pardon people, what Roger Stone was convicted of doing, what the Stone case means for the independence of the Department of Justice, how this is another example of President Trump's norm-breaking behavior, and where we go from here. Jessica is joined by producer Joe Armstrong.
Jul 11, 2020
Will the public ever see President Trump's financial information? 

Today, on the last day of the Supreme Court term, the court handed down two cases that will define the contours of congressional power and presidential immunity. 

In one case, congressional committees subpoenaed the president’s personal financialrecords, claiming that they needed this information to analyze government ethics laws and foreign influence into domestic elections. In the other case, a New York prosecutor, on behalf of a grand jury, issued  subpoenas for Trump’s accountant and banks as part of an investigation into hush money payments made to women who allegedly had affairs with Trump. What did the Supreme Court say?

Join host Jessica Levinson as she walks you through these blockbuster decisions and explains what they mean for future presidents. 

The bottom line? Unless President Trump decides to release his financial records(which he won’t), the public will still not see that information before the 2020 election.

Jul 09, 2020
Two Big Victories for Religious Employers in the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court handed down two decisions with big implications for religious employers and their employees. In one case the court ruled that employers with religious or moral objections may opt out of a part of the Affordable Care Act which requires insurance plans sponsored by certain employers to provide free access to contraception. In another case, the court concluded that some employees of religious schools are not protected from anti-discrimination laws. 

Host Jessica Levinson tells you everything you need to know about the decisions.

Jul 09, 2020
Did the Supreme Court just help to determine the winner of the next presidential election?

The Supreme Court just upheld the right of states to punish electors, members of the Electoral College, who go rogue and vote for a candidate other than the presidential candidate chosen by the popular vote of the state they represent. The court unanimously concluded that the Constitution allows states to fine or remove electors who fail to vote for the candidate chosen by a majority of the voters in their state. 

Host Jessica Levinson explains what this decision means for the next presidential election and the future of the Electoral College. Producer Joe Armstrong is back to ask the questions.

Jul 07, 2020
The Supreme Court, Congressional Power, and Executive Authority

A deeply divided Supreme Court just upheld the legality of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but struck a blow to its independence. The court's decision could threaten the work of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and also undermine Congress' ability to create executive agencies relatively free of presidential influence.

Jessica unpacks what could turn out to be the biggest case of this Supreme Court term.

Jul 02, 2020
Journalism in the Trump Era and the political rise of Governor Gavin Newsom and Senator Kamala Harris with Carla Marinucci
Carla Marinucci, a senior reporter for Politico, joins Jessica to talk about what it is like to be a journalist during the Trump administration, what it takes to be a good journalist, and the political prospects of California Governor Gavin Newsom and Senator Kamala Harris.
Jun 30, 2020
Will President Trump be re-elected? How did he get elected in the first place?

LMU Professor Michael Genovese joins Jessica to chat about how President Trump governs, and whether or not he will win re-election. They talk about what makes a good presidential candidate, the skills a president needs, and how the Trump presidency has exposed the cracks in our political system.

Jun 30, 2020
Fake News, Twitter Trolls, and Mask Shaming with Jane Wells

CNBC reporter Jane Wells and Jessica tackle some of the biggest political stories of the moment. They discuss everything from the polarization of American voters during the Trump administration, to “fake news,” to mask shaming, to the pitfalls of social media.

Jun 30, 2020
Welcome to Passing Judgment!

Episode Notes

This podcast is for you, 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 Loyola Law School, and a rotating cast of experts. Jessica will be joined by journalists, politicians, politician scientists, lawyers, and many others.

Join Jessica and her guests for a wry, and sometimes irreverent take on the most pressing issues of our time. Is the Constitution in crisis? What are the laws of our democracy? How are they changing? And what does that mean for your daily life?

Jun 30, 2020