Senate GOP plans vote on Trump’s court pick before election
Attorney News | 2020/09/23 15:59
Votes in hand, Senate Republicans are charging ahead with plans to confirm President Donald Trump’s pick to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s  Supreme Court seat before the Nov. 3 election, launching a divisive fight over Democratic objections before a nominee is even announced.

Trump said Tuesday he will name his choice Saturday, confident of support. Democrats say it’s too close to the election, and the winner of the presidency should name the new justice. But under GOP planning, the Senate could vote Oct. 29.

“I guess we have all the votes we’re going to need,” Trump told WJBX FOX 2 in Detroit. “I think it’s going to happen.”

Republicans believe the court fight will energize voters for Trump, boosting the party and potentially deflating Democrats who cannot stop the lifetime appointment for a conservative justice . The Senate is controlled by Republicans, 53-47, with a simple majority needed for confirmation. The one remaining possible Republican holdout, Mitt Romney of Utah, said Tuesday he supports taking a vote.

Still, with early presidential voting already underway in several states, all sides are girding for a wrenching Senate battle over health care, abortion access and other big cases before the court and sure to further split the torn nation.

It is one of the quickest confirmation efforts in recent times. No court nominee in U.S. history has been considered so close to a presidential election. And it all comes as the nation is marking the grave milestone of 200,000 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic.

During a private lunch meeting Tuesday at Senate GOP campaign headquarters, several Republican senators spoke up in favor of voting before the election. None advocated a delay.

Elsewhere, as tributes poured in for Ginsburg with vigils and flowers at the court’s steps, Democrats led by presidential nominee Joe Biden vowed a tough fight. The Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, said “we should honor her dying wish,” which was that her seat not be filled until the man who wins the presidential election is installed, in January.

But that seemed no longer an option. So far, two Republicans have said they oppose taking up a nomination at this time, but no others are in sight. Under Senate rules, Vice President Mike Pence could break a tie vote.


Florida Supreme Court orders governor to pick new justice
Attorney News | 2020/09/11 16:09
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis must pick a new Supreme Court justice because the judge he picked to fill a high court vacancy is constitutionally ineligible to serve, the court said in an order issued Friday.

The Florida Supreme Court ordered DeSantis to appoint another judge by Monday, nullifying the appointment of Judge Renatha Francis. Francis would have been the first Caribbean-American justice to serve on the court.

But the state constitution requires that a justice be a member of the Florida Bar for at least 10 years, and Francis was four months shy when DeSantis appointed her in May. At the time DeSantis acknowledged the shortfall, but said she wouldn't be sworn in until Sept. 24, the day she would meet the requirement.

The Supreme Court said that DeSantis was required to name a new justice within 60 days of the resignation of former Justice Robert Luck.

Her appointment was challenged by Democratic state Rep. Geraldine Thompson, a prominent Black state lawmaker.



Court OKs extradition of man linked to Venezuela's Maduro
Attorney News | 2020/08/04 17:43
A court in the West African nation of Cape Verde has approved the extradition to the United States of a Colombian businessman wanted on suspicion of money laundering on behalf of Venezuela's socialist government, his lawyers said Tuesday.

The court made the decision to extradite Alex Saab on Friday, but his legal team said in a statement it was informed about the decision only on Monday. They said they would appeal.

Saab was arrested in June when his private jet stopped to refuel in the former Portuguese colony on the way to Iran.
Saab was waiting for the court to schedule a hearing at which he could argue against extradition, according to the statement sent by the legal team, which is led by former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon.

The legal team described the extradition order as “alarming” and accused Cape Verdean authorities of denying him his legal rights. The defense lawyers plan to appeal to Cape Verde’s Supreme Court and, if necessary, the Constitutional Court, the statement said.

U.S. officials trying to reignite their campaign to oust Maduro believe Saab holds many secrets about how Venezuelan president, his family and top aides allegedly siphoned off millions of dollars in government contracts at a time of widespread hunger in the oil-rich nation.

Venezuela’s government had protested the arrest of Saab, 48, who it said was on a “humanitarian mission” to buy food and medical supplies. Saab came onto the radar of U.S. authorities a few years ago after amassing a large number of contracts with Maduro’s government.

Federal prosecutors in Miami indicted him and a business partner last year on money laundering charges connected to an alleged bribery scheme that pocketed more than $350 million from a low-income housing project for the Venezuelan government that was never built.


Court denies AG's bid to halt initiative signature gathering
Attorney News | 2020/07/24 15:28
Those backing a plan to put an independent commission in charge of Oregon’s redistricting process will get additional time to gather signatures and a lower threshold to qualify their initiative for the November ballot because of the pandemic, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum had asked the federal appeals court last week to step in to halt the effort, after a federal judge in Eugene ordered Secretary of State Bev Clarno to either accept the signatures the campaign gathered by the deadline or give organizers more time and a lower bar to qualify for the ballot.

Clarno, who is a Republican, opposed the People Not Politicians campaign’s request for more time and a lower signature requirement but she chose the option of lowering the threshold to 58,789 valid signatures by Aug. 17. The normal requirement was 149,360 valid signatures by July 2.

Rosenblum, a Democrat, appealed U.S. District Court Judge Michael J. McShane’s decision to the 9th Circuit. The two appeals court judges appointed by Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton who upheld McShane’s order did not explain their reasoning, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

Only Judge Consuelo M. Callahan, appointed by President George W. Bush, explained her dissent, writing that “adherence to Oregon’s constitutionally mandated signature threshold for ballot initiatives either does not implicate the First Amendment at all or does not do so in a way” that does not violate the People Not Politicians campaign’s free speech rights.

Oregon’s Legislature is in charge of redrawing the state’s legislative and congressional district lines once a decade, with the secretary of state handling it when lawmakers are unable to finish. Secretaries of state have completed Oregon’s redistricting process nearly every time over the last century, according to the City Club of Portland.

Initiative Petition 57 would transfer the job of carving up Oregon’s electoral map from the Legislature to a new 12-member commission. Supporters include groups such as the League of Women Voters, business associations and branches of the NAACP. They have argued lawmakers face a conflict in setting the boundaries of their own electoral districts.

“We are thrilled that our people-powered campaign to make redistricting in Oregon fair and transparent has scored another victory in court,” said Kate Titus, executive director of Common Cause Oregon which is part of the campaign.


New Mexico high court rules on privacy for banking records
Attorney News | 2020/06/20 17:07
Prosecutors can obtain a person’s banking records using a warrantless grand jury subpoena without violating the individual’s right to privacy under New Mexico’s Constitution, the state Supreme Court has ruled.

In a unanimous decision Thursday, the justices concluded that a district court properly allowed the use of five years of personal financial records as evidence in a pending criminal case against a Taos couple facing charges of tax evasion and other finance-related offenses.

The high court rejected the married couple’s argument that the state’s Constitution provided greater privacy protections for their financial records than offered under the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. The couple contended that a court-authorized warrant should have been required to obtain bank records.

The justices adhered to a decadesold legal doctrine established by the U.S. Supreme Court that people have no constitutionally protected privacy interest in the financial account records they voluntarily share with third parties.


Wolf asks Pennsylvania Supreme Court to uphold shutdown
Attorney News | 2020/06/13 00:17
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Friday to intervene in his dispute with legislative Republicans who have voted to end pandemic restrictions he imposed in March to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

Republican majorities in the House and Senate, with a few Democrats in support, voted this week to end the state’s emergency disaster declaration that Wolf has used to shut down “non-life-sustaining” businesses, ban large gatherings and order people to stay at home.

Wolf asked the state’s high court to uphold the shutdown. He said that his gradual reopening plan is working, pointing to a downward trend in the number of new virus infections in Pennsylvania even as cases rise in nearly half the states.

“Pennsylvania’s measured, phased process to reopen is successful because of its cautious approach that includes factors relying on science, the advice of health experts and that asks everyone to do something as simple as wearing a mask when inside or around others outside the home,” Wolf said in a news release. “We will continue to move forward cautiously.”

Wolf has been easing restrictions in vast swaths of the state, including on Friday when he announced that another eight counties would be moving to the least restrictive “green” phase of his reopening plan. But gyms, barber shops, theaters and similar businesses in the state’s highly populated southeast corner remain closed, and many types of businesses statewide must abide by occupancy limits.


Alaska Supreme Court justices call for system improvements
Attorney News | 2020/06/07 22:29
The justices of the Alaska Supreme Court have called for improvements within the judicial system to ensure equitable and fair treatment for people of color. The four justices posted a letter online Friday saying there needs to be systematic improvements for African Americans, Alaska Natives and other groups.

The letter is addressed to “Fellow Alaskans” and signed by Chief Justice Joel Bolger and Justices Daniel Winfree, Peter Maassen and Susan Carney. Justice Craig Stowers retired June 1, and his seat has not yet been filled.

The justices referred to the ongoing social unrest sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. Floyd, 46, a black man, died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while he was handcuffed and lying on the ground. His death prompted protests across the U.S. and around the world against police brutality and racial injustice.

“As we watch events unfolding in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, we are saddened to see again that the ideals on which our society is founded are far from the reality of many people’s lives,” the letter said.

The justices said they must “provide an accessible and impartial forum” for cases. “We recognize that too often African-Americans, Alaska Natives, and other people of color are not treated with the same dignity and respect as white members of our communities," the justices wrote. “And we recognize that as community members, lawyers, and especially as judicial officers, we must do more to change this reality.”


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