Spanish court: Google search must show man's acquittal first
Areas of Focus | 2020/03/08 02:38
A Spanish court has partially accepted Google's appeal against a ruling that ordered it to erase news articles about a man accused of sexual abuse, but the new judgement said the company had to display the man's acquittal at the top of any search results.

A National Court decision Friday said that freedom of expression took precedence over personal data protection in this case. However, given the case's special circumstances, the person's acquittal must appear in first place in internet searches, it ruled.

In 2017, Spain's Data Protection Agency ruled in favor of a psychologist who was tried and acquitted on three counts of sexual abuse for which he faced a possible 27 years in prison.

The man, whose name was not released, applied to have Google's search engine erase 10 news articles relating to the case that appeared when his name was keyed in. The agency ordered eight story links to be blocked, saying the news was obsolete.

Google appealed, arguing that the articles were of public interest and access to them should be protected by free speech laws. It also maintained they were of current interest and not outdated.

Spain's privacy agency has long defended people's “right to be forgotten.” Its efforts triggered a landmark ruling in 2014 by Europe's highest court that said search engines must listen, and sometimes comply, when people ask for the removal of links to newspaper articles or other sites containing outdated or otherwise objectionable information about themselves.


Supreme Court divided in 1st big abortion case of Trump era
Opinions | 2020/03/05 02:39
A seemingly divided Supreme Court struggled Wednesday with its first major abortion case of the Trump era, leaving Chief Justice John Roberts as the likely deciding vote.

Roberts did not say enough to tip his hand in an hour of spirited arguments at the high court.

The court’s election-year look at a Louisiana dispute could reveal how willing the more conservative court is to roll back abortion rights. A decision should come by late June.

The outcome could have huge consequences at a time when several states have passed laws, being challenged in the courts, that would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, as early as six weeks.

The justices are weighing a Louisiana law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. A federal judge found that just one of Louisiana’s three abortion clinics would remain open if the law is allowed to take effect. The federal appeals court in New Orleans, though, upheld the law, setting up the Supreme Court case.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted, as she had before, that “among medical procedures, first trimester abortion is among the safest, far safer than childbirth.” The abortion clinic in Shreveport at the heart of the case reported transferring just four patients to a hospital out of roughly 70,000 it has treated over 23 years, Justice Elena Kagan noted.


A clinic prepares for Supreme Court abortion fight
Court Watch | 2020/03/02 17:20
The Hope Medical Group for Women in northern Louisiana fields phone calls every day from anxious pregnant women who ask if abortion is still legal and if the clinic, one of only three that provides abortions in the state, is still open.

Despite the protesters who sometimes gather outside, the threats that forced the clinic to board up all the windows and the repeated restrictions put upon abortion providers in this staunchly anti-abortion state, the clinic stands. Abortion remains legal in Louisiana and elsewhere in the United States. But a Supreme Court case set for arguments Wednesday could lead to the clinic’s closure and, more fundamentally, a retreat from protecting the right to abortion that the high court first announced in 1973.

The case is just one in a series of high-stakes disputes the more conservative court, now with two appointees of President Donald Trump, is expected to decide by late June as the 2020 election campaign gathers steam.

“We're fighting this as hard as we possibly can. And for now, all three clinics are still open. And for now, abortion is still legal in all 50 states,” said Hope’s administrator, Kathaleen Pittman.

Pittman tries to keep her focus on the women who come through the door every day — generally poor women who are forced to travel increasingly longer distances as other clinics in Louisiana and neighboring states have closed. Pittman estimates as many as 80% of the women who come in get financial assistance to help pay for the abortion.



Supreme Court will decide fate of Obama health care law
Areas of Focus | 2020/03/02 01:20
The Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide a lawsuit that threatens the Obama-era health care law, but the decision is not likely until after the 2020 election.

The court said it would hear an appeal by 20 mainly Democratic states of a lower-court ruling that declared part of the statute unconstitutional and cast a cloud over the rest.

Defenders of the Affordable Care Act argued that the issues raised by the case are too important to let the litigation drag on for months or years in lower courts and that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans erred when it struck down the health law's now toothless requirement that Americans have health insurance.

The case will be the third major Supreme Court battle over the law popularly known as Obamacare since its passage in 2010. The court has twice upheld the heart of the law, with Chief Justice John Roberts memorably siding with the court's liberals in 2012, amid President Barack Obama's reelection campaign.

The Trump administration supports the total repeal of the law, including its provisions that prohibit insurance companies from discriminating against people with existing health ailments.



Ex-Phoenix area sheriff declares victory despite court loss
Court Watch | 2020/02/27 01:20
Former Phoenix-area Sheriff Joe Arpaio lost a bid to erase his criminal conviction for disobeying a 2011 court order, but claimed victory Thursday after an appeal's court said the verdict no longer has any legal consequence because of President Donald Trump's pardon.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals explained Arpaio was pardoned before he could be sentenced and that the final judgment in the case ended up dismissing the contempt charge.

“They can’t use that conviction against me in a court of law,” Arpaio said. “That’s a win.”

Gabriel “Jack" Chin, a professor at the University of California, Davis School of Law, agreed. “Even though Mr. Arpaio did not get the district court's findings vacated, he still won his case.

”The Ninth Circuit clearly ruled that after the pardon there is neither a conviction for criminal purposes (say, sentencing in the future), nor a finding of fact binding in any future criminal or civil cases," Chin added. “On the other hand, the underlying facts are out there for whatever the court of public opinion wants to do with them.”

Arpaio was convicted for disobeying an order barring his traffic patrols that targeted immigrants.

The 87-year-old lawman, who was defeated for reelection in 2016 after six terms, had argued the misdemeanor contempt of court conviction should be removed from his record so it can't be raised against him in future court cases.

A 2017 lower court decision said Trump’s pardon removed his possible punishments and that pardons don’t erase convictions or the facts of cases.


Arkansas candidate's political ties targeted in court race
Legal Business | 2020/02/22 21:24
The race for a seat on the Arkansas Supreme Court is technically nonpartisan, but the close ties of one of the two main candidates to the state Republican Party — she's married to its leader — highlight just how partisan such campaigns have become, with outside conservative groups outspending the candidates themselves.

Barbara Webb, chief administrative law judge for the Arkansas Workers Compensation Commission and the wife of the state Republican Party chairman, is running against Pulaski County Circuit Judge Morgan “Chip” Welch in the March 3 election.

Although both candidates have been promising to be independent voices if elected to the court, Welch has been making noise about Webb's appeals to Republicans and speeches to GOP gatherings around the state. She's had public support from top Republican leaders, including Sen. Tom Cotton and former White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, and one of Webb's campaign mailings features a photo of GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

“It hadn't escaped my notice that party politics is the family business,” Welch said recently. “It is some concern to me. I noticed that she's pretty much talking to an echo chamber of one political party.”

Webb and Welch are running for the seat being vacated by retiring Justice Jo Hart, and whoever wins will be elected to an eight year term. The court has angered conservatives in recent years with rulings blocking part of the state's plan to execute eight inmates in quick succession in 2017 and disqualifying a GOP-backed 2018 ballot measure that sought to cap the amount of damages that could be awarded in lawsuits.


Florida can’t bar felons who served their time from registering to vote
Legal Business | 2020/02/20 18:22
A federal appeals court has ruled that Florida cannot bar felons who served their time from registering to vote simply because they have failed to pay all fines and fees stemming from their cases.

A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld a Tallahassee federal judge's decision that the law implementing Amendment 4 amounted to an unfair poll tax.

Amendment 4 was passed overwhelmingly by voters in 2018 to allow as many as 1.6 million ex-felons to regain their right to vote.

The Republican-led Legislature passed a law saying they had to pay any fines and fees first. GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis plans to ask the full 11th Circuit to reconsider the ruling.


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