Pennsylvania high court rejects lawsuit challenging election
Headline Legal News | 2020/11/29 22:27
Pennsylvania’s highest court on Saturday night threw out a lower court’s order preventing the state from certifying dozens of contests on its Nov. 3 election ballot in the latest lawsuit filed by Republicans attempting to thwart President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the battleground state.

The state Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, threw out the three-day-old order, saying the underlying lawsuit was filed months after the expiration of a time limit in Pennsylvania’s expansive year-old mail-in voting law allowing for challenges to it.

Justices also remarked on the lawsuit’s staggering demand that an entire election be overturned retroactively. “They have failed to allege that even a single mail-in ballot was fraudulently cast or counted,” Justice David Wecht wrote in a concurring opinion.

The state’s attorney general, Democrat Josh Shapiro, called the court’s decision “another win for Democracy.”

President Donald Trump and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, meanwhile, have repeatedly and baselessly claimed that Democrats falsified mail-in ballots to steal the election from Trump. Biden beat Trump by more than 80,000 votes in Pennsylvania, a state Trump had won in 2016.

The week-old lawsuit, led by Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly of northwestern Pennsylvania, had challenged the state’s mail-in voting law as unconstitutional.

As a remedy, Kelly and the other Republican plaintiffs had sought to either throw out the 2.5 million mail-in ballots submitted under the law — most of them by Democrats — or to wipe out the election results and direct the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature to pick Pennsylvania’s presidential electors.

In any case, that request — for the state’s lawmakers to pick Pennsylvania’s presidential electors — flies in the face of a nearly century-old state law that already grants the power to pick electors to the state’s popular vote, Wecht wrote.

While the high court’s two Republicans joined the five Democrats in opposing those remedies, they split from Democrats in suggesting that the lawsuit’s underlying claims — that the state’s mail-in voting law might violate the constitution — are worth considering.

Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough, elected as a Republican in 2009, had issued the order Wednesday to halt certification of any remaining contests, including apparently contests for Congress.

It did not appear to affect the presidential contest since a day earlier, Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, had certified Biden as the winner of the presidential election in Pennsylvania.

Wolf quickly appealed McCullough’s decision to the state Supreme Court, saying there was no “conceivable justification” for it.

The lawsuit’s dismissal comes after Republicans have lost a flurry of legal challenges brought by the Trump campaign and its GOP allies filed in state and federal courts in Pennsylvania.


Biden win over Trump in Nevada made official by court
Court News | 2020/11/25 18:44
The Nevada Supreme Court made Joe Biden’s win in the state official on Tuesday, approving the state’s final canvass of the Nov. 3 election.

The unanimous action by the seven nonpartisan justices sends to Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak results that will deliver six electoral votes from the western U.S. battleground state to Biden.

The court action drew extra scrutiny amid legal efforts by the state GOP and Trump campaign to prevent sending vote-by-mail ballots to all 1.82 million active registered voters and then to stop the counting of the 1.4 million votes that were cast.

Nevada’s six Democratic presidential electors are scheduled to meet Dec. 14 in the state capital of Carson City.

Biden won Nevada by 33,596 votes, according to results approved by elected officials in Nevada’s 17 counties — including Clark County, which encompasses Las Vegas, and Washoe County, which includes Reno.

Biden got 50.06% of the vote and Trump 47.67%. Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican who has avoided the public eye in recent weeks, presented the results to the court.

She noted the first-ever use of all-mail balloting statewide in a general election, same-day voter registration and early voting. “The result was more of a hybrid model where voters had a choice of how to participate,” she said, adding that a record number of voters participated.

Certification of the vote does not stop several lawsuits pending in state and federal courts.

They include bids by two Republican congressional candidates and a state Senate challenger to obtain re-votes in those races, an open-records case by the state GOP, and a U.S. District Court action alleging that thousands of ineligible people voted.

A federal judge in that case declined a bid for an immediate injunction that would have stopped the use of a signature verification scanner during the vote count.

Jesse Binnall, an attorney for the Trump campaign who is handling an election challenge pending before a state court judge, said Tuesday he intends to prove that so many fraudulent votes were cast statewide that Trump won Nevada.

Turnout among the state’s more than 1.8 million active registered voters was almost 77.3%, including mail, early voting and Election Day ballots cast amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to secretary of state data.

That was up from a turnout of 76.8% during the presidential election in 2016, when Democrat Hillary Clinton carried Nevada by a little under 2.5% over Trump. Nevada was one of several states due to certify the election on Tuesday.


Trump's legal team cried vote fraud, but courts found none
Legal Business | 2020/11/23 08:36
As they frantically searched for ways to salvage President Donald Trump's failed reelection bid, his campaign pursued a dizzying game of legal hopscotch across six states that centered on the biggest prize of all: Pennsylvania.

The strategy may have played well in front of television cameras and on talk radio. But it has proved a disaster in court, where judges uniformly rejected their claims of vote fraud and found the campaign's legal work amateurish.

In a ruling late Saturday, U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann ? a Republican and Federalist Society member in central Pennsylvania ? compared the campaign's legal arguments to “Frankenstein's Monster,” concluding that Trump's team offered only “speculative accusations," not proof of rampant corruption.

Now, as the legal doors close on Trump's attempts to have courts do what voters would not do on Election Day and deliver him a second term, his efforts in Pennsylvania show how far he is willing to push baseless theories of widespread voter fraud.

It was led by Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, who descended on the state the Saturday after the Nov. 3 election as the count dragged on and the president played golf. Summoning reporters to a scruffy, far-flung corner of Philadelphia on Nov. 7, he held forth at a site that would soon become legendary: Four Seasons Total Landscaping.

Just heating up was Trump’s plan to subvert the election through litigation and howls of fraud ? the same tactic he had used to stave off losses in the business world. And it would soon spread far beyond Pennsylvania.

“Some of the ballots looked suspicious,” Giuliani, 76, said of the vote count in Philadelphia as he stood behind a chain link fence, next to a sex shop. He maligned the city as being run by a “decrepit Democratic machine.”

“Those mail-in ballots could have been written the day before, by the Democratic Party hacks that were all over the convention center,” Giuliani said. He promised to file a new round of lawsuits. He rambled.

“This is a very, very strong case,” he asserted. Justin Levitt, a Loyola Law School professor who specializes in election law, called the Trump lawsuits dangerous.

“It is a sideshow, but it’s a harmful sideshow," Levitt said. “It’s a toxic sideshow. The continuing baseless, evidence-free claims of alternative facts are actually having an effect on a substantial number of Americans. They are creating the conditions for elections not to work in the future.”


Court: Tennessee can enforce Down syndrome abortion ban
Attorney News | 2020/11/21 16:36
A federal appeals court ruled Friday that Tennessee can begin outlawing abortions because of a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, as well as prohibit the procedure if it’s based on the race or gender of the fetus.

Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee enacted the so-called “reason bans” earlier this year as part of a sweeping anti-abortion measure. The law gained national attention because it banned abortion as early as six weeks ? making it one of the strictest in the country ? but it included several other anti-abortion components.

The law was immediately blocked by a lower federal court just hours after Lee signed it into law.

However, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision will allow the state to enforce the reason bans while abortion rights groups continue their court battle against that law.

The plaintiffs, which include Tennessee abortion providers being represented by reproductive rights groups, had argued the ban was improperly vague, but the court disagreed.

Currently, more than a dozen states have similar reason bans in place.

“These bans are just another way anti-abortion politicians are attempting to limit the constitutional right to abortion care and to create stigma,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement. “Decisions about whether and when to continue or to end a pregnancy are best made by the individual and their family.”

The Attorney General’s office said in a statement that they “appreciate the Sixth Circuit lifting the lower court’s injunction” and looked forward to continuing defending the statute.

“Our law prohibits abortion based on the race, gender, or diagnosis of Down syndrome of the child and the court’s decision will save lives,” Lee said in a statement. “Protecting our most vulnerable Tennesseans is worth the fight.”

Immediately following the appeals court ruling, the plaintiffs’ attorneys filed a request in lower federal court for a temporary restraining order to block the reason bans once again, but this time argued the law illegally prohibits a patient from “obtaining constitutionally protected pre-viability abortion care.”

“(The) Sixth Circuit only addressed plaintiffs’ vagueness claims and explicitly declined to issue any ruling with respect to plaintiffs’ claims that the Reason Bans violate patients’ constitutional right to pre-viability abortion,” the attorneys wrote.

The court had not issued a ruling on that as of Friday evening.

Down syndrome is a genetic abnormality that causes developmental delays and medical conditions such as heart defects and respiratory and hearing problems.

According to the National Down Syndrome Society, about one in every 700 babies in the United States ? or about 6,000 a year ? is born with the condition, which results from a chromosomal irregularity.

The rarity of the condition has prompted abortion rights groups to paint the Down syndrome bans as part of yet another thinly veiled effort by lawmakers to continue chipping away at a patient’s right to an abortion.


Giuliani shows at Trump camp lawsuit hearing in Pennsylvania
Attorney News | 2020/11/18 04:02
A hearing on the Trump campaign’s federal lawsuit seeking to prevent Pennsylvania officials from certifying the vote results was set to begin Tuesday after a judge denied the campaign’s new lawyer’s request for a delay.

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and the president’s personal attorney, entered the federal courthouse in Williamsport to cheers across the street from several dozen supporters of President Donald Trump.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann had told lawyers for Donald J. Trump for President Inc. and the counties and state election official it has sued that they must show up and “be prepared for argument and questioning” at the federal courthouse.

Giuliani filed Tuesday morning to represent Trump in the case. He has not entered an appearance in federal court since 1992, according to online court records. That was the year before he was elected mayor.

The Trump campaign wants to prevent certification of results that give President-elect Joe Biden the state’s 20 electoral votes, suing over election procedures that were not uniform across the state. Giuliani has promised a raft of lawsuits and to provide Trump with evidence of voter fraud in the drive to overturn the election result.

Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, a Democrat, has asked to have the lawsuit thrown out, calling its allegations in court filings “at best, garden-variety irregularities.”

Brann scheduled the hearing to discuss the campaign’s request for a temporary restraining order as well as the defendants’ request to have the case dismissed.

After Pittsburgh lawyers dropped out of representing Trump’s campaign on Friday, Philadelphia election lawyer Linda Kerns and two Texas lawyers also filed to withdraw Monday.

Camp Hill lawyer Mark Scaringi, a losing candidate in the 2012 Republican U.S. Senate primary, notified the judge he was stepping in but did not get the delay he sought.

The Associated Press has declared Biden the winner of the presidential contest, but Trump has refused to concede and is blocking Biden’s efforts toward a smoother transition of power. With Georgia the only uncalled state, Biden has collected at least 290 electoral votes ? just enough that overturning Pennsylvania’s result would not open an avenue to a second term for Trump.

Biden’s margin in Pennsylvania is now more than 73,000 votes.

There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, and experts say Trump’s various lawsuits have no chance of reversing the outcome in a single state, let alone the election. In fact, election officials from both political parties have stated publicly that the election went well, and international observers confirmed there were no serious irregularities.

The issues Trump’s campaign and its allies have pointed to are typical in every election: problems with signatures, secrecy envelopes and postal marks on mail-in ballots, as well as the potential for a small number of ballots miscast or lost.



Justice Alito: COVID restrictions ‘previously unimaginable’
Court News | 2020/11/17 08:34
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito sounded an alarm about restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic, saying they shouldn’t become a “recurring feature after the pandemic has passed.”

“The pandemic has resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty,” Alito said in an address Thursday to the conservative Federalist Society, which is holding its annual convention virtually because of the pandemic.

Alito noted that he was “not diminishing the severity of the virus’ threat to public health” or saying anything about “whether any of these restrictions represent good public policy.” He cautioned against his words being “twisted or misunderstood.”

But he said it is an “indisputable statement of fact” that “we have never before seen restrictions as severe, extensive and prolonged as those experienced for most of 2020.”

“Whatever one may think about the COVID restrictions, we surely don’t want them to become a recurring feature after the pandemic has passed,” said Alito, who was nominated to the court by President George W. Bush.

Alito was particularly critical of two cases earlier this year where the court sided with states that, citing the coronavirus pandemic, imposed restrictions on the size of religious gatherings. In both cases, the court divided 5-4 in allowing those restrictions to continue with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the court’s liberals.

In May, the high court rejected an emergency appeal by a California church challenging attendance limits at worship services. The justices turned away a similar challenge by a Nevada church in July. Alito said in both cases the restrictions had “blatantly discriminated against houses of worship” and he warned that “religious liberty is in danger of becoming a second-class right.”

Both cases came to the court before the death in September of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The liberal justice’s replacement by conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett could change how the court might come out on similar cases in the future. Currently before the court is a case involving the Catholic church and limits on in-person services in New York.


Chapter 7 bankruptcy - The Bankruptcy Means Test
Legal Business | 2020/11/15 12:04
The means test makes it so that not everyone can simply file for bankruptcy and wipe out their debts. Those with a high amount of disposable income do not qualify. You will need to determine how your household income compares to the median in your state. If it is less, then you automatically qualify. If it is above the median, then you need to calculate your disposable income, which can get complicated.

When we calculate the means test, the formula allows certain amounts of expenses, and then the test calculates how much money you have left over. If it is higher than a certain amount, then you fail the means test. But, when we complete the means test, there are many items which vary for each person. We will use our experience to give you the best possible result to see if you qualify. It’s not simply plugging in a few numbers.

However, even if you do not qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you may still qualify for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, and the means test will determine how much of your debt you are required to pay back.

Chapter 7 for Individuals/

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a good option for consumers who simply have too much debt and can not keep up with payments. They may have lost their job or come across unexpected expenses, such as medical bills or car repairs. If you take the means test and your income is below the median, then you qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you want a fresh start, but do not have a regular income, Chapter 7 can wipe out the majority of your debts.

In this type of bankruptcy, we will consult with you to see what you own, and who you owe. We will then review your entire situation so that you know exactly what we expect will happen. In most cases, people can keep their house, car, and other household goods, and eliminate their unsecured debts.

A Trustee is assigned to review your case to see if you own more than you can protect. If you own more than what you are allowed to protect, the trustee may sell your assets, and use the proceeds to pay your debts. This happens in a very small number of cases.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy will wipe out unsecured debts such as credit card bills and medical bills. You are still on the hook for certain debts, such as tax debt, child support, alimony, and student loan debt. For student loan debt, you might be able to discharge that debt if you can prove that you have a permanent injury or illness that will prevent you from paying back your student loan debt. (Called the “Bruner” or “undue hardship” standard) Any attempt to discharge student loans are done in a separate and very difficult court proceeding.


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