Texas clinics ask Supreme Court to abortions during pandemic
Legal Business | 2020/04/12 18:39
Abortion clinics in Texas on Saturday asked the Supreme Court to step in to allow certain abortions to continue during the coronavirus pandemic.

The clinics filed an emergency motion asking the justices to overturn a lower-court order and allow abortions when they can be performed using medication.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order last month that bars non-essential medical procedures so that medical resources can go to treating coronavirus patients. Texas' attorney general has said that providing abortions other than for an immediate medical emergency would violate the order.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday allowed abortions to proceed in cases where a woman would be beyond 22 weeks pregnant, the legal limit for abortions in Texas, on April 22, the day after the governor's order barring non-essential medical procedures is set to expire.


Court lifts part of order blocking Texas abortion ban
Court News | 2020/04/12 01:39
A federal appeals court on Friday partially rescinded a lower-court order that had largely blocked the enforcement of an abortion ban in Texas during the coronavirus pandemic.

By a 2-1 vote, the three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld enforcement of an executive order by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott that includes abortion among non-essential medical procedures banned during the state of emergency.

However, the appeals court allowed the procedure to go ahead if delays would place the pregnancy beyond the 22-week state cutoff for abortions.

The ruling was agreed to by Judges Jennifer Walker Elrod, an appointee of President George W. Bush, and Kyle Duncan, an appointee of President Donald Trump. Judge James L. Dennis, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, dissented and opposed any stay of the lower-court order.


Court drops rape, other charges against megachurch leader
Court Watch | 2020/04/10 17:39
A California appeals court ordered the dismissal of a criminal case Tuesday against a Mexican megachurch leader on charges of child rape and human trafficking on procedural grounds.

Naason Joaquin Garcia, the self-proclaimed apostle of La Luz del Mundo, has been in custody since June following his arrest on accusations involving three girls and one woman between 2015 and 2018 in Los Angeles County. Additional allegations of the possession of child pornography in 2019 were later added. He has denied wrongdoing.

While being held without bail in Los Angeles, Garcia has remained the spiritual leader of La Luz del Mundo, which is Spanish for “The Light Of The World.” The Guadalajara, Mexico-based evangelical Christian church was founded by his grandfather and claims 5 million followers worldwide.

It was not clear when he would be released. The attorney general’s office said it was reviewing the court’s ruling and did not answer additional questions.

Garcia’s attorney, Alan Jackson, said he and his client are “thrilled” by the decision.


Wisconsin’s pandemic election puts focus on state’s court
Headline Legal News | 2020/04/09 17:47
Anyone needing proof of the power and significance of the Wisconsin Supreme Court can look no further than the lines of mask-wearing voters that stretched for hours in Milwaukee during an election held despite a stay-at-home order because of the coronavirus pandemic.

An election-eve decision by the court overturning the governor’s order to postpone the vote made the state an outlier in pushing ahead with voting, ignoring pleadings from health experts and local officials about the danger of spreading the virus.

The fact that Wisconsin went forward when other states delayed their elections, and that many voters were willing to endure long waits to cast ballots, reflects the hotly disputed role the court has taken in a state with outsize importance in national politics.

Republicans and Democrats both see Wisconsin as crucial to winning national elections and gaining control of Congress. Historically, elections in the state are decided by close margins and power has flipped between the parties.

Since conservatives have held a majority on the state Supreme Court, the Republican-dominated Legislature has been able to enact laws that enhanced the GOP’s position, including voter ID laws and limits on labor unions, despite legal challenges from Democrats. The court would play a pivotal role in reviewing the drawing of new district lines for legislative and congressional offices following the 2020 census, which has a major impact on the balance of political power.

On the ballot Tuesday for a 10-year term was one of the justices in the court’s 5-2 conservative majority, Dan Kelly.

Democrats charged that holding the election when many voters might stay home would unduly benefit Republicans, who generally fare better in low-turnout ballots. Wisconsin’s Supreme Court elections are nonpartisan in name only.

No turnout information was available from Tuesday’s vote. The results can’t be posted until April 13, allowing time for counting absentee ballots.


Justice delayed: Virus crisis upends courts system across US
Attorney News | 2020/04/08 00:48
The coronavirus pandemic has crippled the U.S. legal system, creating constitutional dilemmas as the accused miss their days in court. The public health crisis could build a legal backlog that overwhelms courts across the country, leaving some defendants behind bars longer, and forcing prosecutors to decide which cases to pursue and which to let slide.

“Everybody is scrambling. Nobody really knows how to handle this,” said Claudia Lagos, a criminal defense attorney in Boston.

Judges from California to Maine have postponed trials and nearly all in-person hearings to keep crowds from packing courthouses. Trials that were underway ? like the high-profile case against multimillionaire real estate heir Robert Durst ? have been halted. Some chief judges have suspended grand juries, rendering new indictments impossible. Other have allowed them to sit, though six feet apart.

Prosecutors may have to abandon some low-level cases to keep people from flooding into the legal system.

Many judges are holding hearings by phone or video chat to keep all cases from grinding to a halt. Other courts are stymied by outdated technology. The clerk for the the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Molly Dwyer, likened the logistical challenges to “building the bike as we ride it.”

Judges have asked for emergency powers to delay trials longer than the law generally allows and extend key deadlines, like when a defendant must initially appear in court.


Poland chamber penalizing judges must be suspended
Court News | 2020/04/06 00:49
Europe’s top court on Wednesday ordered Poland's government to immediately suspend a body it set up to discipline judges, saying the chamber did not guarantee independence or impartiality of its verdicts.

The Disciplinary Chamber of Poland’s Supreme Court, which was appointed by the right-wing government in 2017, is widely seen as a tool for the government to control judges who are critical of its policies.

The European Union, which has said the chamber violates basic values of judicial independence and Poland's rule of law, took Poland's government to the European Court of Justice in October.

While the case is still being considered, the European court ordered the Disciplinary Chamber suspended, saying its activity could “cause serious and irreparable harm with regard to the functioning of the EU legal order.”

Poland's government argues it has full right to shape its judiciary, saying it needs to be made more efficient and freed of its communist-era legacy.

Deputy Justice Minister Anna Dalkowska said the government will “weigh various options" after the European court's order.


Wisconsin moves forward with election despite virus concerns
Court Watch | 2020/04/04 00:52
Voters in Wisconsin will face a choice Tuesday of participating in a presidential primary election or heeding warnings from public health officials to stay away from large crowds during the coronavirus pandemic.

Hours after Democratic Gov. Tony Evers issued an order postponing the election for two months, the conservative-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court on Monday sided with Republicans who said he didn’t have the authority to reschedule the race on his own. Conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court quickly followed with a ruling blocking Democratic efforts to extend absentee voting.

The decisions leave Wisconsin as the only state with an election scheduled in April that is proceeding as planned. As other states prepare to vote in May or June, Wisconsin will be closely watched for signs that fears of the coronavirus may depress turnout or cause other problems at the polls.

Evers said he had no other options after the state court ruled against him. “There’s not a Plan B. There’s not a Plan C,” Evers said earlier Monday.

Joe Biden already has a commanding delegate lead over Bernie Sanders and the Wisconsin results aren’t likely to slow his march to the Democratic presidential nomination. But the tumult in one of the most critical general election battlegrounds was a reminder of how the coronavirus has upended politics during an election year. Beyond the shifts in the primary calendar, Biden and President Donald Trump have not been able to hold in-person campaign events and have moved most of their operations online. Sanders called Tuesday’s election “dangerous” and said his campaign will not engage in any traditional get-out-the-vote efforts.

The tension in Wisconsin over whether and how to proceed with the election has been building for weeks. Evers and Republicans initially agreed it was imperative for the election to proceed because thousands of local offices are on the ballot Tuesday for terms that begin in two weeks. There is also a state Supreme Court election.




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