Court of Appeals Judge Elmore won't seek re-election
Attorney News | 2017/05/25 15:50
A North Carolina appeals court judge said Wednesday he won't run again when his seat comes up for re-election next year.

Judge Rick Elmore has served since 2003. The former private practice lawyer from Greensboro was re-elected to a second eight-year term in 2010.

In an interview, Elmore said he'll be satisfied serving two full terms on the state's intermediate-level appeals court when comparing it to the uncertainty of any outcome if he was to run another statewide campaign in 2018. Elmore, 66, also would have been unable to serve another full term due to the state's mandatory retirement age for judges at 72.

Leaving after this term expires "seemed to be a good fit," Elmore said, adding that he wanted to "leave on my own terms."

Elmore said he wanted to make the announcement before state political parties gather this year. Elmore is a registered Republican. A law approved last December makes Court of Appeals races officially partisan elections again, with party primaries.

Elmore said his decision had nothing to do with legislation approved in March by the General Assembly to reduce the number of Court of Appeals judges from 15 to 12 by eliminating positions vacated by resignation or death. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the measure, but the veto was overridden.

The appeals court usually meets in panels of three judges. The court is the final arbiter in state court matters except for cases heard by the state Supreme Court.



Finnish court releases Iraqi twins in IS-related killings
Attorney News | 2017/05/24 22:50
A Finnish court has thrown out charges against Iraqi twin brothers of taking part in Islamic State-related killings of at least 11 unarmed soldiers.

The Pirkanmaa District Court says the two who were not identified, were set free on Wednesday.

The court in Tampere, southern Finland, said the evidence against them was too weak. It included testimonies from other asylum-seekers, a video footage of the massacre by IS militants and information from an Iraqi investigative commission.

State prosecutors had demanded life sentences and claimed the brothers took part in atrocities committed by IS militants at a military base outside Tikrit in June 2014 when some 1,700 Iraqi army soldiers were slain.

The brothers arrived in Finland in September 2015 and were arrested three months later.


Texas advances new abortion limits despite court defeats
Attorney News | 2017/05/20 13:23
Texas' Republican-controlled Legislature late Friday advanced tough new limits on abortion— hitting back at a U.S. Supreme Court decision last summer striking down most of the sweeping restrictions on the procedure that America's second-largest state approved four years ago.

The Texas House voted 96-47 on legislation that bans a commonly used second-trimester abortion procedure, known as dilation and evacuation, similar to laws that courts have blocked in Alabama, Oklahoma, Kansas and Louisiana. It further directed doctors performing the procedure in Texas to face felony charges.

Those contentious provisions were tacked onto a broader bill requiring the burial or cremation of fetal remains from abortions, even though a federal judge has already blocked an existing state rule mandating the same thing.

The measure also bars sale or donation of fetal tissue, something GOP-majority legislatures around the country have sought since the release of heavily edited, secretly recorded videos shot inside Planned Parenthood clinics by an anti-abortion group in 2015. Federal law already prohibits sale of fetal tissue.

Final approval should come Saturday. The proposal previously cleared the state Senate, but will have to return there because the House so expanded its scope. That chamber is even more conservative, though, and passage should be easy.


Court pauses criminal case against Texas' attorney general
Attorney News | 2017/05/19 13:23
A state appeals court has temporarily halted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's criminal case on securities fraud charges as he presses for a new judge.

The ruling Tuesday comes as Paxton is scheduled to stand trial in Houston in September on felony accusations that he misled investors in a tech startup. He has pleaded not guilty.

The Dallas-based 5th Court of Appeals is now putting the case on hold while it considers Paxton's demand for a new judge. The Republican has sought to remove state District Judge George Gallagher after the trial was moved from Paxton's hometown near Dallas.

The court didn't indicate when it will make a final decision. If convicted, Paxton faces five to 99 years in prison.



Appeal in boy's burp arrest case relies on Gorsuch dissent
Attorney News | 2017/05/13 22:06
One of Neil Gorsuch's sharpest dissents as an appeals court judge came just six months before he was nominated for the Supreme Court.

That's when he sided with a New Mexico seventh-grader who was handcuffed and arrested after his teacher said the student had disrupted gym class with fake burps.

Nearly a year later, Gorsuch sits on the nation's higher court and the boy's mother is asking the justices to take up her appeal. She's using Gorsuch's words to argue that she has a right to sue the officer who arrested her son.

The court could act as early as Monday, either to deny the case or take more time to decide.

Justices typically withdraw from cases they heard before joining the Supreme Court, which means Gorsuch probably would not have any role in considering this one. But that hasn't stopped lawyers for the mother from featuring his stinging dissent prominently in legal papers. Gorsuch said arresting a "class clown" for burping was going "a step too far."

"If a seventh-grader starts trading fake burps for laughs in gym class, what's a teacher to do?" Gorsuch wrote. "Order extra laps? Detention? A trip to the principal's office? Maybe. But then again, maybe that's too old school. Maybe today you call a police officer. And maybe today the officer decides that, instead of just escorting the now compliant thirteen-year-old to the principal's office, an arrest would be a better idea."

Whether the Supreme Court ultimately takes the case or not may have nothing to do with Gorsuch. The justices have repeatedly turned away disputes over school disciplinary policies. Or they may decide it's not important enough for the court to intervene.

The appeal comes as some school districts have been rolling back "zero tolerance" discipline policies that expanded in the 1990s. The shift is aimed at preventing students from getting caught up in the criminal justice system.


Judge rejects effort to block Confederate statue's removal
Attorney News | 2017/05/12 05:06
A last-ditch effort to block the removal of a monument to a Confederate general in New Orleans was rejected Wednesday by a Louisiana judge who turned away arguments that the city doesn't own the statue or the land on which it sits.

"This has gone on an inordinate amount of time," Judge Kern Reese said as he outlined reasons for his refusal to grant an injunction protecting the statue of Gen. P.G.T Beauregard. It was a reference to state and federal court battles that delayed removal of the Beauregard monument and three others for more than a year.

The huge bronze image of Beauregard on horseback sits in the center of a traffic circle at the entrance to New Orleans City Park. Those who don't want it removed argued that it belongs to a park board and, therefore, the city has no authority to remove it.

Reese's rejection of an injunction means the city can remove the statue pending further proceedings in his court. Richard Marksbury, a New Orleans resident and monument supporter, said he may go to an appeal court to block removal.

The Beauregard statue, a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee and one of Confederate President Jefferson Davis are slated for removal. A fourth structure, the Liberty Place monument, was removed late last month. It honored whites who battled a biracial Reconstruction-era government in New Orleans.

The Liberty Place monument was taken down without advance notice in the dead of night by workers in masks and body armor. City officials have been secretive about removal plans due to threats of violence against those tasked with taking down the structures.

In Reese's court, Franklin Jones, an attorney for Marksbury, cited documents asserting that the independent, state-supervised board that oversees City Park owns the Beauregard statue and the tract of land on which it sits. Adam Swensek, an assistant city attorney, noted court precedents holding otherwise and said delays in removing the monuments only prolong a controversy that has resulted in tense confrontations between pro- and anti-monument groups at monument sites.



Court: Gay couple's suit against Kentucky clerk can proceed
Attorney News | 2017/05/02 19:57
A federal appeals court says a gay couple's lawsuit seeking damages from a Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue them a marriage license can proceed. The ruling revives an issue that pulled the state into the center of a national debate over same-sex marriages following a historic Supreme Court ruling.

David Ermold and David Moore tried to get a marriage license in Rowan County, Kentucky, in June 2015 after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage bans were unconstitutional. But Kim Davis, the county clerk, refused to issue them a license because she said it violated her religious beliefs.

Ermold and Moore sued, along with several other couples. Davis lost, and spent five days in jail for refusing to follow a court order. The dispute thrust the embattled clerk into the national limelight and prompted same-sex marriage opponents across the country to rally behind her. A Republican congressman from Ohio gave her a ticket to former President Barack Obama's State of the Union address. And she met with Pope Francis in Washington, although that encounter quickly sent the Vatican scrambling to distance itself from the controversy.

Davis has since changed her party affiliation to Republican, saying the Democratic Party had abandoned her. Ermold and Moore want Davis to pay damages for the emotional distress caused by her refusal to issue them a license. Ermold and Moore were not the first couple to be denied a license. But they filmed their rejection and uploaded it to YouTube, which has been viewed more than 1.8 million times.

Liberty Counsel, a Florida-based law firm specializing in religious-liberty issues, has represented Davis throughout the case. The firm also represents former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who ordered state probate judges to continue to enforce that state's ban on same-sex marriage despite the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Moore was removed from his post because of his order. He is now running for U.S. Senate.


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