Kavanaugh: Watergate tapes decision may have been wrong
Areas of Focus | 2018/07/21 01:26
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh suggested several years ago that the unanimous high court ruling in 1974 that forced President Richard Nixon to turn over the Watergate tapes, leading to the end of his presidency, may have been wrongly decided.

Kavanaugh was taking part in a roundtable discussion with other lawyers when he said at three different points that the decision in U.S. v. Nixon, which marked limits on a president's ability to withhold information needed for a criminal prosecution, may have come out the wrong way.

A 1999 magazine article about the roundtable was part of thousands of pages of documents that Kavanaugh has provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of the confirmation process. The committee released the documents on Saturday.

Kavanaugh's belief in robust executive authority already is front and center in his nomination by President Donald Trump to replace the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. The issue could assume even greater importance if special counsel Robert Mueller seeks to force Trump to testify in the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

"But maybe Nixon was wrongly decided — heresy though it is to say so. Nixon took away the power of the president to control information in the executive branch by holding that the courts had power and jurisdiction to order the president to disclose information in response to a subpoena sought by a subordinate executive branch official. That was a huge step with implications to this day that most people do not appreciate sufficiently...Maybe the tension of the time led to an erroneous decision," Kavanaugh said in a transcript of the discussion that was published in the January-February 1999 issue of the Washington Lawyer.




Trump finds it 'inconceivable' lawyer would tape a client
Areas of Focus | 2018/07/19 01:27
Donald Trump said Saturday he finds it "inconceivable" that a lawyer would tape a client, as the president weighed in after the disclosure that in the weeks before the 2016 election, his then-personal attorney secretly recorded their discussion about a potential payment for a former Playboy model's account of having an affair with Trump.

The recording was part of a large collection of documents and electronic records seized by earlier this year by federal authorities from Michael Cohen, the longtime Trump fixer.

In a tweet, Trump called such taping "totally unheard of & perhaps illegal." He also asserted, without elaborating, in post: "The good news is that your favorite President did nothing wrong!"

Cohen had made a practice of recording conversations, unbeknownst to those he was speaking with. Most states, including New York, allow for recordings of conversations with only the consent of one party; other states require all parties to agree to a recording or have mixed laws on the matter. It was not immediately clear where Trump and Cohen were located at the time of the call.

Cohen's recording adds to questions about whether Trump tried to quash damaging stories before the election. Trump's campaign had said it knew nothing about any payment to ex-centerfold Karen McDougal.


Trump closes in on Supreme Court pick; 3 judges top list
Areas of Focus | 2018/07/06 18:03
President Donald Trump is closing in on his next Supreme Court nominee, with three federal judges leading the competition to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Trump's top contenders for the vacancy at this time are federal appeals judges Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh and Raymond Kethledge, said a person familiar with Trump's thinking who was not authorized to speak publicly.

Working closely with a White House team and consulting with lawmakers and outside advisers, Trump has spent the week deliberating on the choice. He conducted interviews on Monday and Tuesday and has spoken to seven possible candidates. He has not yet publicly indicated that he has narrowed the list and could still consider others in the mix.

With customary fanfare, Trump plans to announce his selection Monday night, kicking off a contentious nomination process as Republicans seek to shift the court to the right and Democrats strive to block the effort.

Vice President Mike Pence has also met with some of the contenders for the Supreme Court vacancy created by Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, The Associated Press has learned.

The meetings took place in recent days, according to a person familiar with the search process. The person did not specify which candidates Pence met with and spoke on condition of anonymity Wednesday to describe the private search process.


Top Texas court says condemned inmate not mentally disabled
Areas of Focus | 2018/06/07 16:00
Texas' highest criminal court narrowly ruled Wednesday that a death row inmate is mentally capable enough to execute, despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that his intellectual capacity had been improperly assessed and agreement by his lawyer and prosecutors that he shouldn't qualify for the death penalty.

In a 5-3 ruling with one judge not participating, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said it reviewed the case of convicted killer Bobby James Moore under guidance from the Supreme Court's March 2017 decision and determined that Moore isn't intellectually disabled based on updated standards from the American Psychiatric Association.

"It remains true under our newly adopted framework that a vast array of evidence in this record is inconsistent with a finding of intellectual disability," the Texas court's majority wrote. "We conclude that he has failed to demonstrate adaptive deficits sufficient to support a diagnosis of intellectual disability."

The Supreme Court last year said the state court used outdated standards to reach its earlier decision on Moore. In a lengthy dissent joined by judges Bert Richardson and Scott Walker, Judge Elsa Alcala wrote that the majority got it wrong. "The majority opinion's assessment of the evidence in this record is wholly divorced from the diagnostic criteria that it claims to adhere to," she wrote.

The ruling came despite Harris County prosecutors telling the court they believed Moore is mentally disabled and shouldn't be found eligible for the death penalty. Cliff Sloan, who argued Moore's case before the Supreme Court, said Wednesday's ruling was "inconsistent" with the high court's decision.



Program offering chance to avoid prison has 1st graduates
Areas of Focus | 2018/05/12 02:39
A program out of Chicago’s federal court building designed to give non-violent suspects a chance to stay out of prison has held its first graduation.
It’s a pretrial diversionary program emphasizing teamwork and counseling on living constructive, crime-free lives.

A statement from the U.S. District Court for northern Illinois says five participants whose alleged crimes ranged from computer fraud to drug possession graduated at a ceremony Thursday. Successful completion keeps participants out of prison. It can lead to reductions of felonies to misdemeanors and even to dismissal of charges.

Participants can’t have felony records. They attend bi-monthly court sessions for up to two years. Judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys help oversee the program. It’s called Sentencing Options that Achieve Results, or SOAR for short. It was established in 2016.


Court: Skechers shoe nearly identical to Adidas icon
Areas of Focus | 2018/05/11 02:40
A U.S. appeals court says a shoe made by American footwear giant Skechers is nearly identical to an iconic Adidas shoe and would likely confuse consumers about the manufacturers.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld a lower court ruling blocking Skechers from selling its Onix shoe.
Adidas argued in a lawsuit that the Onix was a rip-off of its Stan Smith tennis shoe.

The 9th Circuit judges said the shoes had only minor differences, and there was evidence that Skechers intended to confuse consumers.
A spokeswoman for Skechers, Jennifer Clay, said the company does not comment on pending litigation.
The 9th Circuit allowed Skechers to sell its Cross Court shoe, saying Germany-based Adidas failed to show irreparable harm from the sale of that footwear.


Court upholds convictions of 2012 Ron Paul campaign staffers
Areas of Focus | 2018/05/10 02:41
A federal appeals court on Friday upheld the convictions of three top staffers on Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign who were found guilty of arranging for money to be funneled through a vendor to an influential Iowa state senator who dropped his support for another Republican candidate in favor of Paul.

Campaign chairman Jesse Benton, campaign manager John Tate and deputy campaign manager Dimitri Kesari were convicted in 2016 of causing false records to be filed, causing false campaign expenditure reports, engaging in a false statements scheme and conspiring to commit the offenses. Kesari was sentenced to three months in prison while the other two got probation. They have completed their sentences but are seeking to clear the felony convictions from their records.

The three argued that they broke no laws when they paid a video production company, which passed on $73,000 to then-Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson, who withdrew his support from Michele Bachmann and backed Paul six days before the 2012 Iowa caucuses. Sorenson also was convicted in the scheme and sentenced to 15 months in prison. He was released in April.


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