Supreme Court insider featured at next Dem Club meeting

By Yahairah Aristy and Jeff Benesch | La Mesa Foothills Democratic Club

The upcoming fall term of the U.S. Supreme Court may prove to be momentous. Among other issues, multiple immigration cases, same sex marriage, district gerrymandering, and voting rights will take center stage.

We may also hear of the retirement of one or more justices, extremely significant given the current occupant of the Oval Office and the likely conservative direction of his court appointees.

James Crooks was a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. (Courtesy LMFDC)

The keynote speaker at the Wednesday, Oct. 4 meeting of the La Mesa Foothills Democratic Club will be none other than former La Mesan James Crooks, who as a clerk for Justice Anthony Kennedy, gained a unique perspective of the inner workings of the Supreme Court and the decisions they handed down during the second term of the Obama administration.

We’ll hear about his clerkship, how it came about, how he ended up with Justice Kennedy (a Reagan appointee), and what it was like to spend a year at the highest court of the land. We’re also likely to hear the details of his interactions with the other judges, and just maybe some personal insights into Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her gym workout regimen.

Crooks will also answer current questions about the court, like what does he think of the whole Merrick Garland-Neil Gorsuch imbroglio? How badly will this political manipulation hurt progressive causes for decades? What is the state of the Supreme Court? How does it interact with the other branches of government? What tools does it have if it seeks to rein in the executive? Who is likely to retire and what direction is the court likely to take on upcoming cases this fall?

We hope he’ll dissect the entire Trump affair. Is impeachment possible or likely? What about the dismantling of the administrative state and accepted norms, the “limits” of executive power and how he keeps pushing the boundaries (like the pardon of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio), the role of state and city governments in the Trump era, and the consequences of the Citizens United decision? Any chance it gets further review? How about Roe vs. Wade? Are existing abortion laws and freedoms in trouble with the Gorsuch appointment?

Crooks will touch upon the role and nature of the special prosecutor, as we are fascinated with the daily revelations and leaks about the Trump-Russia scandal, the cover-up, the many instances of obstructions of justice, and the Trump Organization’s money laundering of Russian mob revenues — ultimately the real reason behind the president’s predicament. It’s now clear that there was collusion at the highest levels of the Trump campaign and in the Trump White House with Russian nationals. Crooks will analyze where this is likely to go, and how the power of the Presidential pardon can affect the investigation, the inevitable indictments, and the consequences of illegally interfering with the U.S. electoral process.

Crooks is a La Mesa native who works at the Los Angeles law firm O’Melveny & Myers LLP, where his practice group focuses on Supreme Court litigation, as well as federal and state appellate cases. He has worked on cases involving many aspects of federal law, including copyright and trademark, constitutional law, financial services, education, antitrust, and administrative law.

Before joining O’Melveny, Crooks served as a law clerk to Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy of the U.S. Supreme Court during the court’s 2014-15 term. During that term, the Supreme Court heard cases involving nearly every area of federal law, including anti-discrimination law, the First Amendment, Obamacare and Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the Court recognized a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

Part of our meeting will be devoted to learning more about the upcoming La Mesa City Council vote on whether to adopt a meaningful Climate Action Plan. In this most important action, Councilmember Colin Parent and executive director of the Climate Action Campaign Nicole Capretz, will highlight steps that our members and guests can take to influence the direction of that vote, and have significant input into if the La Mesa City Council will follow in the steps of San Diego and Solana Beach in adopting a Climate Action Plan.

The Oct. 4 meeting will be held at the La Mesa Community Center, 4975 Memorial Drive starting at 6:30 p.m.

Learn more about La Mesa Foothills Democratic Club on our website,, and like us on Facebook. Be sure to visit our booth at the upcoming 44th annual La Mesa Oktoberfest.

—Yahairah Aristy is president and Jeff Benesch is vice president of programming of the La Mesa Foothills Democratic Club. Reach them at

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