Passing Judgment

By Jessica Levinson

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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
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 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