Supreme Court leaves Kentucky’s ultrasound law in place
Headline Legal News | 2019/12/09 17:21
The Supreme Court on Monday left in place a Kentucky law requiring doctors to perform ultrasounds and show fetal images to patients before abortions.

The justices did not comment in refusing to review an appeals court ruling that upheld the law. Enforcement of the law had been on hold pending the legal challenge but will begin shortly, said Steve Pitt, general counsel to Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin.

The American Civil Liberties Union had challenged the law on behalf of Kentucky’s lone remaining abortion clinic. The ACLU argued that “display and describe” ultrasound laws violate physicians’ speech rights under the First Amendment.

The federal appeals court in Cincinnati upheld the Kentucky law, but its sister court in Richmond, Virginia, struck down a similar measure in North Carolina.

The Supreme Court had previously upheld “informed consent” laws for women seeking abortions. The court will hear an abortion case in March, over Louisiana’s attempt to require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.

Doctors’ speech also has been an issue in non-abortion cases. The federal appeals court in Atlanta struck down parts of a 2011 Florida law that sought to prohibit doctors from talking about gun safety with their patients. Under the law, doctors faced fines and the possible loss of their medical licenses for discussing guns with patients.

In Kentucky, doctors must describe the ultrasound in detail while the pregnant woman listens to the fetal heartbeat. Women can avert their eyes and cover their ears to avoid hearing the description or the fetal heartbeat. Doctors failing to comply face fines and can be referred to the state’s medical licensing board.


Georgia courts urged to require sex harassment training
Areas of Focus | 2019/12/08 01:21
A committee of judges has recommended that all Georgia courts require judges and court employees to participate in sexual harassment prevention training at least once a year.

A Georgia Supreme Court news release says the Ad Hoc Committee to Prevent Sexual Harassment in the Judicial Branch of Government was appointed by Chief Justice Harold Melton in February and released a report Friday outlining best practices.

The committee, chaired by Justice Sarah Hawkins Warren, was made up of eight judges, representing each class of court in Georgia. It reviewed and evaluated anti-harassment policies before making recommendations.

Among other recommendations, the committee recommends that courts "mandate that judges and judicial branch employees participate in sexual harassment prevention training at least once a year."

But the report also acknowledges that the differences in the way the different classes of courts in Georgia operate and how court staffs are employed make it difficult to promote a single policy to be applied uniformly to all courts.



As Dems zero in on White House, Trump racks up court losses
Areas of Focus | 2019/12/07 15:21
President Donald Trump knows he has fierce Democratic adversaries in Congress. But there is also ample push-back from the Judiciary branch, where black-robed judges who sit in courtrooms just blocks from the Capitol and in New York City have repudiated his view of executive power.

Federal judges in the last two months have accused Trump administration lawyers of “openly stonewalling” and of regarding presidents as kings while also deriding Justice Department legal positions as “extraordinary,” “exactly backwards” and just plain “wrong.”

Taken together, the court rulings eviscerate the administration’s muscular view of executive power just as the impeachment inquiry against Trump accelerates.  And they embolden Democrats in their pursuit of investigations into Trump’s government and finances.

The administration at least temporarily lost its bid to shield former White House counsel Don McGahn from being questioned by Congress. It argued unsuccessfully to withhold secret grand jury testimony from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. And lawyers for the president have tried to keep the president’s financial records away from Congress. In each instances, judges have overruled them.

To be sure, some of the most stinging losses have come from Democratic-appointed judges, and all could be overturned on appeal ? well after the impeachment inquiry has ended, or after congressional Democrats have lost their appetite for the desired testimony or records. The Supreme Court, for instance, has already put on hold a lower court ruling directing Trump to produce his financial records in  a case that falls outside the impeachment inquiry.


Court to consider bathroom use by transgender student
Legal Topics | 2019/12/05 17:49
A transgender student’s fight over school bathrooms comes before a federal appeals court Thursday, setting the stage for a groundbreaking ruling.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta will hear arguments about whether a Florida school district should be ordered to allow students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.

Drew Adams, who has since graduated from Nease High School in Ponte Vedra, won a lower court ruling last year ordering the St. Johns County school district to allow him to use the boys’ restroom. The district has appealed, arguing that although it will permit transgender students to use single-occupancy, gender-neutral restrooms, it shouldn’t be forced to let students use the restroom of the gender they identify with.

The 11th Circuit could become the first federal appeals court to issue a binding ruling on the issue, which has arisen in several states. The ruling would cover schools in Florida, Georgia and Alabama, and could carry the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 4th Circuit had ruled in favor of a Virginia student, but the Supreme Court sent the case back down for further consideration. That’s because the U.S. Department of Education, under President Donald Trump, withdrew guidance that said federal law called for treating transgender students equally, including allowing them to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.


Afghanistan probe appeal begins at Hague international court
Court News | 2019/12/04 01:49
The International Criminal Court opened a three-day hearing Wednesday at which prosecutors and victims aim to overturn a decision scrapping a proposed investigation into alleged crimes in Afghanistan’s brutal conflict.

Fergal Gaynor, a lawyer representing 82 Afghan victims, called it “a historic day for accountability in Afghanistan.”

In April, judges rejected a request by the court’s prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, to open an investigation into crimes allegedly committed by the Taliban, Afghan security forces and American military and intelligence agencies.

In the ruling, which was condemned by victims and rights groups, the judges said that an investigation "would not serve the interests of justice" because it would likely fail due to lack of cooperation.

The decision came a month after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo banned visas for ICC staff seeking to investigate allegations of war crimes and other abuses by U.S. forces in Afghanistan or elsewhere.

“Whether the two events are in fact related is unknown, but for many ? victims as well as commentators ? the timing appeared more than coincidental,” said lawyer Katherine Gallagher, who was representing two men being held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

The United States is not a member of the global court and refuses to cooperate with it, seeing the institution as a threat to U.S. sovereignty and arguing American courts are capable of dealing with allegations of abuse by U.S. nationals.


Court sides with Congress in battle for Trump’s bank records
Legal Interview | 2019/12/02 01:49
A federal appeals court in New York on Tuesday upheld the legality of congressional subpoenas seeking President Donald Trump’s banking records but said sensitive personal information should be protected.

A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan issued the ruling, with Judge Debra Ann Livingston saying in a partial dissent that the lower court should take a longer look at the “serious questions” raised by the case and give the parties time to negotiate.

The court said the application by the president and his children to block the subpoenas was properly denied by a judge this year.

The House Financial Services and Intelligence committees have asked Deutsche Bank and Capital One to turn over records related to Trump’s business ventures. The lawyers for the congressional committees say they need access to documents from the banks to investigate possible “foreign influence in the U.S. political process” and possible money laundering from abroad.

Trump and three of his children challenged the subpoenas. In May, U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos said Trump and his company were “highly unlikely” to succeed in proving that the subpoenas were unlawful and unconstitutional.



Israeli held for illegally entering Jordan appears in court
Attorney News | 2019/11/30 01:50
An Israeli man detained in Jordan has appeared before a state security court where he was charged with illegally entering the country and possessing drugs.

The 35-year-old Israeli pleaded guilty on Monday to entering Jordan illegally but denied the other charge. Konstantin Kotov said that possessing a small amount of marijuana is legal in Israel. The judge rejected that argument, saying he had violated Jordanian law.

Kotov, who was arrested on Oct. 29, did not say why he traveled to Jordan. Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty 25 years ago, but relations have cooled in recent years over the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process and Israeli policies in occupied and annexed east Jerusalem, where Jordan has custodianship over Muslim holy sites.


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