House OK’s Boehner Lawsuit Against President Obama, Arizona 2-Hour Execution Fuels Death Penalty Debate

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 25, 2014

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This week the House of Representatives approved a lawsuit against President Obama for alleged violations of executive power, Arizona stoked the fires of the death penalty debate with a 2-hour execution, and Florida officials filed a lawsuit against a Hollywood special effects company for supposed misuse of public funds.

US House Approves Boehner’s Lawsuit against President Obama

The House Rules Committee has approved a resolution which authorizes Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) to file a lawsuit on behalf of the House against President Obama for alleged abuses of executive power.  In a 7 – 4 vote, split predictably along party lines, the Rules Committee advanced the resolution for a general vote to be held later next week.  The lawsuit focuses most of its ire on President Obama’s unilateral decision to alter the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) employer mandate without the consent of Congress.  House Republicans cried foul when Mr. Obama waived the employer mandate, claiming that the President’s actions effectively created his own law by bypassing the necessary Congressional approval.

Proponents of the measure laud House Republicans for taking action to prevent the President from future action that circumvents Congress and ignores Constitutional rules.  Democrats, led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, countered that Republicans are using the lawsuit to detract from important issues and obstruct the President – furthering the stalemate that has, in the eyes of many, rendered Congress incapable of passing critical legislation. 

Digging through the political rhetoric from both sides regarding Boehner’s lawsuit is almost impossible, but underneath the posturing exist legitimate legal questions regarding the scope of executive power and Congress’ ability to turn to the judiciary for a solution.  It is well established that the executive branch is limited by the Constitution, and vocal critics of the President have long accused Mr. Obama of acting without regard to his procedural controls.  Unilaterally changing the ACA seems to be the straw that broke the Republican camel’s back, but serious concerns over the legitimacy of the lawsuit linger despite its progression.  Courts have long forbid members of Congress from suing the White House, so even if House Republicans present a case for the limitation of President Obama’s executive power the lawsuit has a difficult legal hurdle to clear before it becomes a viable approach.

Arizona Execution Raises Death Penalty Questions

After a two-hour execution of 55-year-old convicted murderer Joseph Wood, Arizona officials have come under fire for the state’s use of lethal injection.  Wood, sentenced to death after the 1989 murder of his girlfriend and her father, was executed this week after a recent First Amendment challenge to lethal injection was dismissed by the Supreme Court.  The execution process lasted for more than two hours, and featured a dramatic call to U.S. District Court Judge Neil Wake from Wood’s attorney who informed the judge that Wood was “gasping, snorting, and unable to breath, and not dying.”  Asking Judge Wake to halt the execution and begin life saving measures, lawyer Robin C. Konrad claimed Wood’s execution was cruel and unusual punishment – a position refuted by Arizona officials and corrections officers. 

Judge Wake initiated a conference call with Arizona District Attorney Jeffrey Zick while Wood’s execution lingered to assess potential constitutional violations, but before the legal debate could conclude, Wood died.  Although Arizona officials claim that the execution was not botched, the state will face increased scrutiny, particularly in the wake of a disastrous execution in Oklahoma earlier this year.  Senator John McCain called Wood’s execution “torture,” adding his voice to the firestorm of debate over the death penalty that has gained national attention over recent weeks.  In response to the Wood execution, Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer has ordered the State Corrections Department to halt further executions until the process undergoes a strict government review to ensure the situation is completely understood before officials consider policy adjustment.

Florida Sues Movie Effects Company for Misuse of Funds

Florida has filed a lawsuit against former executives of Digital Domain Media Group, Inc., alleging the special effects company defrauded the state of more than $80 million in grants designed to create jobs.  Digital Domain in Florida was an independent offshoot of the company founded in 1993 by James Cameron, noted for its work in Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Titanic.  Under the Florida management team, Digital Domain convinced the State and several municipalities to grant more than $80 million in order to help the company start up and hire Floridians for key movie effects jobs.  The lawsuit alleges that rather than use the $80 million to create Florida jobs, Digital Domain funneled the funds to the original California branch which was struggling financially.

Digital Domain eventually filed for bankruptcy, leading many Florida officials to suspect the $80 million in grant money was not used for its promised purpose of creating Florida jobs.  Former Digital Domain executives claim that the lawsuit is politically motivated, and point to a studio and special-effects college built by the company before it filed for bankruptcy.  The case is in the early stages, but with a significant chunk of public funds at stake, it is unlikely Florida will be deterred by the long legal road ahead.


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