What to know about abortion in Arizona under the near-total 1864 ban
Legal Business | 2024/04/12 15:55
The Arizona Supreme Court gave the go-ahead Tuesday to prepare to enforce a long-dormant law that bans nearly all abortions, drastically altering the legal landscape for terminating pregnancies in a state likely to have a key role in the presidential election.

The law predating Arizona’s statehood provides no exceptions for rape or incest and allows abortions only if the mother’s life is in jeopardy. Arizona’s highest court suggested doctors can be prosecuted under the 1864 law, though the opinion written by the court’s majority didn’t explicitly say that.

The Tuesday decision threw out an earlier lower-court decision that concluded doctors couldn’t be charged for performing abortions in the first 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The Civil War-era law, enacted long before Arizona became a state on Feb. 14, 1912, had been blocked since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing the constitutional right to an abortion nationwide.

After Roe v. Wade was overturned in June 2022, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, persuaded a state judge lift an injunction that blocked enforcement of the 1864 ban. Then the state Court of Appeals suspended the law as Brnovich’s Democratic successor, Attorney General Kris Mayes, urged the state’s high court to uphold the appellate court’s decision.

The court itself was expanded in 2016 from five justices to seven, all appointed by Republican governors.

The high court said enforcement won’t begin for at least two weeks. However, plaintiffs say it could be up to two months, based on an agreement in a related case to delay enforcement if the justices upheld the pre-statehood ban.

The law orders prosecution for “a person who provides, supplies or administers to a pregnant woman, or procures such woman to take any medicine, drugs or substance, or uses or employs any instrument or other means whatever, with intent thereby to procure the miscarriage of such woman, unless it is necessary to save her life.”

The Arizona Supreme Court suggested in its ruling Tuesday that physicians can be prosecuted, though justices didn’t say that outright.

“In light of this Opinion, physicians are now on notice that all abortions, except those necessary to save a woman’s life, are illegal,” and additional criminal and regulatory sanctions may apply to abortions performed after 15 weeks of pregnancy, the ruling said.

The law carries a sentence of two to five years in prison upon conviction. Lawyers for Planned Parenthood Arizona said they believe criminal penalties will apply only to doctors. But the penalties also apply to providing abortion pills — the most common method in the United States.

In other places with abortion bans, some women have obtained pills both through underground networks and from telehealth from medical providers in states that have laws intended to protect prescribers from out-of-state prosecutions. This was already illegal in Arizona, the attorney general’s office said.

Dr. Maria Phillis, an Ohio OB-GYN with a law degree, said she believes women who obtain pills through those means could be prosecuted under the 1864 law. Across the country, new abortion bans have not been used to prosecute women in similar cases, and measures that have been introduced to punish those who obtain abortions have not been adopted.

Fourteen other states are now enforcing bans on abortion in all stages of pregnancy.


Mexico breaks diplomatic ties with Ecuador after embassy raid
Legal Topics | 2024/04/08 18:29
The Mexican president has quickly moved to break off diplomatic ties with Ecuador after police broke into the Mexican Embassy to arrest a former vice president who had sought political asylum there after being indicted on corruption charges.

In an extraordinarily unusual move, Ecuadorian police forced their way into the embassy in the capital, Quito, to arrest Jorge Glas, who had been residing there since December. Police broke through the external doors of the Mexican diplomatic headquarters in the Ecuadorian capital and entered the main patio to get Glas.

On Saturday, he was taken from the attorney general’s office to a detention facility in an armored vehicle followed by a convoy of military and police vehicles. People who had gathered outside the prosecutor’s office yelled “strength” as the vehicles began to move.

The raid prompted Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to announce the break of diplomatic relations with Ecuador Friday evening.

Glas has been convicted on bribery and corruption charges. Ecuadorian authorities are still investigating more allegations against him. “This is not possible. It cannot be. This is crazy,” Roberto Canseco, head of the Mexican consular section in Quito, told local press while standing outside the embassy. “I am very worried because they could kill him. There is no basis to do this. This is totally outside the norm.”

Defending its decision, Ecuador’s presidency said in a statement: “Ecuador is a sovereign nation and we are not going to allow any criminal to stay free.”

López Obrador fired back, calling Glas’ detention an “authoritarian act” and “a flagrant violation of international law and the sovereignty of Mexico.”

Alicia Bárcena, Mexico’s secretary of foreign relations, posted on the social platform X that a number of diplomats suffered injuries during the break-in, adding that it violated the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Diplomatic premises are considered “inviolable” under the Vienna treaties and local law enforcement agencies are not allowed to enter without the permission of the ambassador. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange lived inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for seven years because British police could not enter to arrest him.

Bárcena said that Mexico would take the case to the International Court of Justice “to denounce Ecuador’s responsibility for violations of international law.” She also said Mexican diplomats were only waiting for the Ecuadorian government to offer the necessary guarantees for their return home.

Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry and Ecuador’s Ministry of the Interior did not immediately respond to a request for comment.



Retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy has memoir coming
Headline Legal News | 2024/04/04 19:50
Retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy has a two-volume memoir coming out this fall, tracking his life from growing up in California to his 30 years on the court, when he cast key votes on landmark cases ranging from abortion to gay marriage to campaign finance.

Simon & Schuster announced Tuesday that Kennedy’s “Life and Law: The Early Years” and “Life and Law: The Court Years” will be published Oct. 1, as a boxed set and in individual editions, each around 320 pages. Kennedy was widely regarded as a moderate conservative who wrote the majority opinion on such closely divided cases as Obergefell v. Hodges, which found a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allowed corporations and other outside entities to spend unlimited money on election campaigns.

“In ‘Life and Law,’ he explains the why’s and how’s of judging,” Simon & Schuster’s announcement reads in part.

“The second volume is filled with moving portraits of Justices O’Connor, Rehnquist, Scalia and Ginsburg that go along with the account of how Kennedy decided his views in the landmark cases. But it is the first volume about his youth in Sacramento and his decade as a practicing lawyer that explains the judicial giant. Readers will see the child who turns into the man, who shaped America as much as any Washington figure in the 21st century.”

Kennedy, 87, noted in the preface to the first volume that his memoirs proved more expansive than originally planned.

“It was my intent (my right hand is raised to swear it so) to recount my earlier years in a summary way. But something happened on the way to the pencil,” he wrote. “More and more of my recollections turned to how our society and its mindset changed in fascinating ways from the ’40s and ’50s to the ’60s and then again in the ’70s. This seemed relevant to the dynamics that influenced me and our larger society.”

“As each day passes, we should strive to learn more about who we are and whom we should strive to become,” he added. “Writing a memoir is a formal way to do this.”

Kennedy was an associate justice from 1988-2018 and his arrival and departure proved equally newsworthy.

He was appointed to the court by President Ronald Reagan, but only after the Senate had voted down Reagan’s first choice, Robert Bork, and after the second choice, Douglas Ginsburg, withdrew amid reports he had smoked marijuana. When Kennedy announced in 2018 that he was stepping down, President Donald Trump nominated a former Kennedy law clerk, Brett Kavanaugh, who was narrowly approved by the Senate after contentious confirmation hearings that included allegations Kavanaugh had assaulted a high school acquaintance, Christine Blasey Ford.

Kennedy’s book will arrive soon after Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s memoir “Lovely One,” which comes out Sept. 3.


Pennsylvania’s mail-in ballot dating rule is legal under civil rights law
Legal Topics | 2024/03/31 03:49
A requirement for Pennsylvania voters to put accurate handwritten dates on the outside envelopes of their mail-in ballots does not run afoul of a civil rights law, a federal appeals court panel said Wednesday, overturning a lower court ruling.

A divided 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to uphold enforcement of the required date on return envelopes, a technical mandate that caused thousands of votes to be declared invalid in the 2022 election.

The total number is a small fraction of the large state’s electorate, but the court’s ruling puts additional attention on Pennsylvania’s election procedures ahead of a presidential election in which its Electoral College votes are up for grabs.

A lower court judge had ruled in November that even without the proper dates, mail-in ballots should be counted if they are received in time. U.S. District Judge Susan Paradise Baxter said the envelope date is irrelevant in helping elections officials decide whether a ballot was received in time or if a voter is qualified.

In the court’s opinion, Judge Thomas Ambro said the section of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that the lower court relied upon does not pertain to ballot-casting rules broadly, such as dates on envelopes, but “is concerned only with the process of determining a voter’s eligibility to cast a ballot.”

“The Pennsylvania General Assembly has decided that mail-in voters must date the declaration on the return envelope of their ballot to make their vote effective,” Ambro wrote. “The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania unanimously held this ballot-casting rule is mandatory; thus, failure to comply renders a ballot invalid under Pennsylvania law.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, which helped represent groups and voters who challenged the date mandate, said the ruling could mean thousands of votes won’t be counted over what it called a meaningless error.

“We strongly disagree with the panel majority’s conclusion that voters may be disenfranchised for a minor paperwork error like forgetting to write an irrelevant date on the return envelope of their mail ballot,” Ari Savitzky, a lawyer with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project who argued the appeal, said in a statement. “We are considering all of our options at this time.”

State and national Republican groups defended the date requirement, and the Republican National Committee called the decision a “crucial victory for election integrity and voter confidence.”

In Pennsylvania, Democrats have been far more likely to vote by mail than Republicans under an expansion of mail-in ballots enacted in 2019.



Former Georgia insurance commissioner John Oxendine pleads guilty
Legal Topics | 2024/03/26 08:50
A former Georgia insurance commissioner who made a failed Republican run for governor has pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit health care fraud.

John W. Oxendine of Johns Creek entered the guilty plea Friday in federal court in Atlanta. The 61-year-old had been indicted in May 2022 on charges of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The crime is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, but Oxendine is likely to be sentenced to less. Federal sentencing guidelines discussed in the plea agreement suggest prosecutors will recommend Oxendine be imprisoned between 4 years, 3 months, and 5 years, 3 months, depending on what U.S. District Judge Steve Jones decides at a sentencing hearing set for July 12. Jones could also fine Oxendine and order him to serve supervised release.

Oxendine also agreed to pay nearly $700,000 in restitution to health insurers who lost money in the scheme, the plea document states. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss the money laundering charge as part of the plea.

“John Oxendine, as the former statewide insurance commissioner, knew the importance of honest dealings between doctors and insurance companies,” U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan said in a statement. “But for personal profit he willfully conspired with a physician to order hundreds of unnecessary lab tests, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Prosecutors say Oxendine conspired with Dr. Jeffrey Gallups to pressure other physicians who practiced with Gallups to order unnecessary medical tests from Next Health, a lab in Texas. Prosecutors said Oxendine pushed the plan in a September 2015 presentation to doctors who worked for Gallups’ practice.

The lab company, Oxendine and Gallups agreed the company would pay Gallups a kickback of 50% of the profit on the tests, Oxendine’s indictment said. Next Health paid $260,000 in kickbacks through Oxendine’s insurance consulting company, prosecutors said. Oxendine paid a $150,000 charitable contribution and $70,000 in attorney’s fees on Gallups,’ behalf, prosecutors said, keeping $40,000 for himself. Some patients were also charged, getting bills of up to $18,000 for the tests, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Oxendine told Gallups to lie and say the payments from Oxendine were loans when a compliance officer at Gallups’ company asked about them. Oxendine told Gallups to repeat the same lie when questioned by federal agents, prosecutors said. And they said Oxendine falsely said he didn’t work with the lab company or get money from Next Health when interviewed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.


Spanish court grants bail to Dani Alves while appealing rape conviction
Legal Interview | 2024/03/22 16:49
A Spanish court decided Wednesday that Brazilian soccer star Dani Alves could leave prison if he pays a bail of one million euros ($1.1 million) and hands over his passports while awaiting the appeal of his conviction for raping a woman in Barcelona.

Alves was found guilty of having raped the woman in a nightclub in 2022 and sentenced to four years and six months in prison. He denied wrongdoing during the three-day trial.

He has been behind bars since being arrested in January 2023. His prior requests to be released on bail were denied because the court deemed him a flight risk. Brazil does not extradite its own citizens when they are sentenced in other countries.

To now go free, in addition to the bail money, the 40-year-old Alves is also required to hand over his Brazilian and Spanish passports and is prohibited from leaving the country. He also cannot come within 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) of the victim or try to communicate with her and must make weekly check-ins at the courthouse. He still has a residence near the city.

The decision came a day after a hearing where Alves told the court via video conference from prison that he had no intention of fleeing the country, according to his lawyer, Inés Guardiola.

Guardiola and the state prosecutor have appealed the conviction. His defense is seeking his acquittal while the prosecutor wants his prison sentence increased to nine years. The victim’s lawyer wants him put away for 12 years. There is no date yet for the new trial at a higher court in Barcelona. After that, it can then go to the Supreme Court in Madrid.

The panel of judges at the Provincial Court in Barcelona was split on the decision, two to one. The judges in favor of granting Alves bail said that they believed the flight risk had lowered, adding that they considered the fact that Alves responded to police summons when he was arrested while visiting Spain. The other judge disagreed, saying he was still able to flee despite the restrictions placed on him.

Another factor cited by the two judges was that according to Spanish law a person cannot be kept in preventative detention for more than half the period of his or her prison sentence while awaiting an appeal. In Alves’ case that leaves him just over a year before he would reach the mid-way mark of two years, three months, while the appeals could easily take longer. Once his appeals are exhausted, and if his conviction is maintained, then depending on the final sentence he could go back to prison.


A Supreme Court ruling in a social media case could set standards
Legal Topics | 2024/03/18 20:56
In a busy term that could set standards for free speech in the digital age, the Supreme Court on Monday is taking up a dispute between Republican-led states and the Biden administration over how far the federal government can go to combat controversial social media posts on topics including COVID-19 and election security.

The justices are hearing arguments in a lawsuit filed by Louisiana, Missouri and other parties accusing officials in the Democratic administration of leaning on the social media platforms to unconstitutionally squelch conservative points of view. Lower courts have sided with the states, but the Supreme Court blocked those rulings while it considers the issue.

The high court is in the midst of a term heavy with social media issues. On Friday, the court laid out standards for when public officials can block their social media followers. Less than a month ago, the court heard arguments over Republican-passed laws in Florida and Texas that prohibit large social media companies from taking down posts because of the views they express.

The cases over state laws and the one being argued Monday are variations on the same theme, complaints that the platforms are censoring conservative viewpoints. The states argue that White House communications staffers, the surgeon general, the FBI and the U.S. cybersecurity agency are among those who coerced changes in online content on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter) and other media platforms.

“It’s a very, very threatening thing when the federal government uses the power and authority of the government to block people from exercising their freedom of speech,” Louisiana Attorney General Liz Murrill said in a video her office posted online.

The administration responds that none of the actions the states complain about come close to problematic coercion. The states “still have not identified any instance in which any government official sought to coerce a platform’s editorial decisions with a threat of adverse government action,” wrote Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, the administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer. Prelogar wrote that states also can’t “point to any evidence that the government ever imposed any sanction when the platforms declined to moderate content the government had flagged — as routinely occurred.”


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