Supreme Court term ended much different than it began
Legal Topics | 2017/06/27 23:14
The Supreme Court began its term nine months ago with Merrick Garland nominated to the bench, Hillary Clinton favored to be the next president, and the court poised to be controlled by Democratic appointees for the first time in 50 years.

Things looked very different when the justices wrapped up their work this week. The court's final decisions and orders were almost emphatic declarations, if there had been any doubt, that this is once again a conservative-leaning court that may only move more to the right in the years to come. The justices gave President Donald Trump the go-ahead to start enforcing at least part of his travel ban, showed that the wall between church and state is perhaps not as high as it once was and invigorated a baker's religion-based refusal to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

"Liberals were certainly looking forward to a Clinton presidency that would alter the direction of the court. This was not an outcome we predicted," said Nan Aron, president of the liberal Alliance for Justice. The first casualty of Trump's election was Garland, the appellate judge whom President Barack Obama nominated to the high court. Instead of Garland on the far right of the bench where the newest justice sits, there was Justice Neil Gorsuch.

The placement also meshed with his votes. The Trump nominee who joined the court in April, Gorsuch staked out the most conservative position in a number of closely watched cases, including the one on the travel ban. The 49-year-old Coloradan restored the court's conservative tilt, nearly 14 months after Justice Antonin Scalia's death left the remaining eight justices divided between four liberal-leaning Democratic appointees and four conservative-leaning Republican appointees.

Trump also could bring seismic change to the court if any of the three oldest justices — 84-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 80-year-old Anthony Kennedy or 78-year-old Stephen Breyer — steps down in the next few years. The youngest justice was unusually active both as a questioner during arguments and in his writing. Gorsuch wrote separately from the court's majority opinion seven times in less than three months, the same number of such opinions Justice Elena Kagan wrote in her first two years on the court, University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck noted on Twitter.


McCarthy found guilty of 2nd-degree murder of Bella Bond
Headline Legal News | 2017/06/27 23:14
Michael McCarthy has been convicted of 2nd-degree murder in the death of a 2-year-old girl dubbed Baby Doe after her remains washed up on Boston Harbor island.

The verdict was announced in Suffolk Superior Court on Monday.

Michael McCarthy is charged with first-degree murder in the 2015 death of the girl who was later identified as Bella Bond.

Man facing life in prison after being found guilty of murder. A North Carolina man has been found guilty in the death of his fiancée and will serve the rest of his life in prison.

Local media outlets report an Onslow County jury found 59-year-old Timothy Noble guilty on Thursday of first-degree murder in the 2014 death of 58-year-old Debra Holden.

Deputies responding to the scene on Oct. 31, 2014, said Holden was found at a residence with a gunshot wound to her temple. Her death was originally ruled a suicide, but Noble was arrested eight months later after the medical examiner ruled the case a homicide. Noble will get credit for time spent in prison while awaiting trial.



Attention on Supreme Court as justice weigh Trump travel ban
Court News | 2017/06/25 23:15
The focus is on the Supreme Court as the high-stakes legal fight over President Donald Trump's travel ban awaits action by the justices.

The court is expected to decide within days whether the Trump administration can enforce a ban on visitors to the U.S. from six mostly Muslim countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Trump rolled out a travel ban just a week after his Jan. 20 inauguration, but lower federal courts have blocked it and a revised version — and one court also has blocked a 120-day halt on refugee arrivals in the United States.

The president casts the travel ban as critical to deterring possible terrorist attacks in the United States. Opponents say it targets Muslims in violation of federal law and the Constitution.


Supreme Court agrees to take up Colorado gay wedding case
Legal Topics | 2017/06/25 23:15
The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether private businesses have the right to decline to provide services for gay weddings due to religious objections to participating in such ceremonies.

The justices announced Monday that they will hear a case presented by a Colorado bakery owner who claims his rights to free exercise of religion and free speech were violated when he was found to have run afoul of a state anti-discrimination law by turning down a gay couple’s order for a wedding cake in 2012.

The appeal by Masterpiece Cakeshop and its owner Jack Phillips, expected to be argued this fall, is the court’s first significant foray into the issue of gay rights since the landmark 2015 ruling that the Constitution requires states to recognize same-sex marriage.


D.C. on edge: rumors of new Supreme Court vacancy swirl
Court Watch | 2017/06/24 13:15
White House sources think Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court's ideological fulcrum, may announce his retirement today, as the justices gather on the bench for the last time this term.

If that happens, Day 158 instantly becomes President Trump's biggest moment.

Trump's first Court appointment, of Justice Neil Gorsuch, was a one-for-one ideological swap for the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
Replacing Kennedy would be even more historic and consequential: a momentous chance to edge the Court right, since Kennedy is the center of the Court — the one most willing to listen to both sides. On a controversial case, both sides pitch to him. It's been called "Kennedy's Court."

No one's predicting: Court watchers say no one knows, and Kennedy has said nothing publicly. He could well wait one more year: The Court buzz is that it'll be this year or next.

Be smart: Few domestic developments could more instantly and decisively change the national conversation — blotting out almost everything else, and vastly reducing the sting for conservatives is healthcare tanks.

A Washington wise man emails: "With two court appointments and maybe one more, Trump's presidency will be consequential even if he has few legislative achievements. This week may well demonstrate both."



Supreme Court limits ability to strip citizenship
Attorney News | 2017/06/22 15:54
The Supreme Court on Thursday limited the government's ability to strip U.S. citizenship from immigrants for lying during the naturalization process.

The justices ruled unanimously in favor of an ethnic Serb from Bosnia who lied about her husband's military service.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court that false statements can lead to the revocation of citizenship only if they "played some role in her naturalization."

The court rejected the position taken by the Trump administration that even minor lies can lead to loss of citizenship.

The woman, Divna Maslenjak, and her family were granted refugee status in 1999 and settled near Akron, Ohio, in 2000. She became a citizen in 2007.

She initially told immigration officials her husband had not served in the Bosnian Serb military. That was a lie, she later conceded, and lower courts upheld a criminal conviction against her. The conviction automatically revoked her citizenship, and she and her husband were deported in October.


EU Court: Vaccines Can Be Blamed for Illnesses Without Proof
Legal Business | 2017/06/21 22:54
The highest court of the European Union ruled Wednesday that courts can consider whether a vaccination led to someone developing an illness even when there is no scientific proof.

The decision was issued on Wednesday in relation to the case of a Frenchman known as Mr. J.W., who was immunized against hepatitis B in late 1998-99. About a year later, Mr. J.W. was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. In 2006, he and his family sued vaccine-maker Sanofi Pasteur in an attempt to be compensated for the damage they claim he suffered due to the vaccine. Mr. J.W. died in 2011.

France's Court of Appeal ruled there was no causal link between the hepatitis B vaccine and multiple sclerosis, and dismissed the case. Numerous studies have found no relationship between the hepatitis B shot and multiple sclerosis.

After the case went to France's Court of Cassation, it was brought to the European Union. On Wednesday, the EU's top court said that despite the lack of scientific consensus on the issue, a vaccine could be considered defective if there is "specific and consistent evidence," including the time between a vaccine's administration and the occurrence of a disease, the individual's previous state of health, the lack of any family history of the disease and a significant number of reported cases of the disease occurring following vaccination.

In a statement, the court said that such factors could lead a national court to conclude that "the administering of the vaccine is the most plausible explanation" for the disease and that "the vaccine therefore does not offer the safety that one is entitled to expect." It did not rule on the specific French case.





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