With scant record, Supreme Court nominee elusive on abo
Court News | 2018/08/02 06:50
Twice in the past year, Brett Kavanaugh offered glimpses of his position on abortion that strongly suggest he would vote to support restrictions if confirmed to the Supreme Court.

One was in a dissent in the case of a 17-year-old migrant seeking to terminate her pregnancy. The other was a speech before a conservative group in which he spoke admiringly of Justice William Rehnquist's dissent in the 1973 Roe v. Wade case that established a woman's right to abortion.

Yet the big question about Kavanaugh's view on abortion remains unanswered: whether he would vote to overturn Roe. He'll almost certainly decline to answer when he is asked directly at his confirmation hearing. Decades of Kavanaugh's writings, speeches and judicial opinions, reviewed by The Associated Press, reveal a sparse record on abortion.

That leaves the migrant case, known as Garza v. Hargan, and the Rehnquist speech as focal points for anti-abortion activists who back President Donald Trump's nominee and for abortion rights advocates who say Kavanaugh has provided ample clues to justify their worst fears.

"This is the rhetoric from the anti-abortion groups being used by a potential Supreme Court justice, and that really gives us pause," said Jacqueline Ayers, the national director of legislative affairs for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Democrats have been casting Kavanaugh as a threat to abortion rights as they face the difficult task of blocking his nomination in a Senate where Republicans hold a narrow majority. Kavanaugh's views on other issues, such as the reach of presidential powers, will also be part of a confirmation fight. But abortion is perpetually a contentious issue for court nominees, and the stakes are particularly high this time since Kavanaugh would be replacing the moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has voted to uphold abortion rights.


Donald Trump Jr., wife due in court for divorce hearing
Court News | 2018/07/31 16:03
Donald Trump Jr. and his estranged wife Vanessa are expected to appear before a judge in New York City for a hearing in their divorce case.

They're due in state Supreme Court in Manhattan on Thursday. Vanessa Trump filed for divorce in March. Afterward, they issued a joint statement saying they will "always have tremendous respect for each other."

The 2007 birth of the couple's first child made Donald Trump Sr. a grandfather a decade before he became president.

The Trumps were married in 2005 and have five children. Former Fox News Channel personality Kimberly Guilfoyle recently left the network amid news that she's dating Donald Trump Jr. She has joined a super PAC supporting the president. The divorce, initially listed as uncontested, is now contested.




High court gives mixed verdict on Burgum-Legislature spat
Court News | 2018/07/30 23:02
North Dakota's Supreme Court on Monday rejected several of Gov. Doug Burgum's vetoes but sided with the governor in other portions of a dispute with the Legislature that revolved around overreach on both sides.

The high court ruled that Burgum was out of line in four out of five line-item vetoes that the Legislature had challenged. In the vetoes — which included appropriations for the State Water Commission and for information technology spending, among others — the Supreme Court said Burgum had gone too far with vetoes that would have changed legislators' intent.

The Supreme Court sided with Burgum's challenge that lawmakers had improperly delegated authority to a subset of legislators — known as the Budget Section — for how some $299 million for the Water Commission could be shifted among several identified needs.

Burgum made the same successful argument for the Legislature's attempt to have the budget section direct where half of $3.6 million appropriated for information technology would be spent.

"Convenience is no substitute for the mandatory legislative process," Judge Jerod Tufte wrote. He said the Legislature encroached on the executive branch by giving a committee of its members the power to administer appropriations.

Burgum had earlier conceded most of the vetoes would fail. He said in a statement late Monday he was pleased with the court's ruling.




New Jersey court proposes tossing out old open-warrant cases
Court News | 2018/07/21 01:25
The highest court in New Jersey is taking steps to do away with hundreds of thousands of open warrants for minor offenses such as parking tickets as part of an overhaul of the state's municipal court system.

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner on Thursday assigned three Superior Court judges to hold hearings on the proposal to dismiss at least 787,764 open warrants for offenses more than 15 years old that were never prosecuted.

"Those old outstanding complaints and open warrants in minor matters raise questions of fairness, the appropriate use of limited public resources by law enforcement and the courts, the ability of the state to prosecute cases successfully in light of how long matters have been pending and the availability of witnesses, and administrative efficiency," Rabner wrote in his order.

NJ.com reported that the order covers open warrants issued before 2003 for failure to appear in low-level cases, including 355,619 parking ticket cases, 348,631 moving violations and some cases related to town ordinance violations.

The open warrant and the underlying unpaid ticket would be dismissed. The order indicates that more serious charges such as speeding and drunken driving would not be included.

Throwing out old low-level cases was among 49 recommendations following a Supreme Court committee's review of the municipal court system. The committee cited a growing "public perception" that municipal courts "operate with a goal to fill the town's coffers," which the panel called contrary to the purpose of the courts.



India's top court calls for new law to curb mob violence
Court News | 2018/07/16 23:20
India's highest court on Tuesday asked the federal government to consider enacting a law to deal with an increase in lynchings and mob violence fueled mostly by rumors that the victims either belonged to members of child kidnapping gangs or were beef eaters and cow slaughterers.

The Supreme Court said that "horrendous acts of mobocracy" cannot be allowed to become a new norm, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

"Citizens cannot take law into their hands and cannot become law unto themselves," said Chief Justice Dipak Misra and two other judges, A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud, who heard a petition related to deadly mob violence. They said the menace needs to be "curbed with iron hands," the news agency reported.

The judges asked the legislature to consider a law that specifically deals with lynchings and cow vigilante groups and provides punishment to offenders.

India has seen a series of mob attacks on minority groups since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won national elections in 2014. The victims have been accused of either smuggling cows for slaughter or carrying beef. Last month, two Muslims were lynched in eastern Jharkhand state on charges of cattle theft. In such mob attacks, at least 20 people have been killed by cow vigilante groups mostly believed to be tied to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling party.

Most of the attacks waged by so-called cow vigilantes from Hindu groups have targeted Muslims. Cows are considered sacred by many members of India's Hindu majority, and slaughtering cows or eating beef is illegal or restricted across much of the country.

However, most of the mob attacks this year have been fueled mainly by rumors ignited by messages circulated through social media that child-lifting gangs were active in villages and towns. At least 25 people have been lynched and dozens wounded in the attacks. The victims were non-locals, mostly targeted because they looked different or didn't speak the local language.


German court: Catalan politician can legally be extradited
Court News | 2018/07/14 07:31
A German court on Thursday removed a hurdle to the extradition of a prominent Catalan politician on charges of embezzlement, setting the stage for a possible trial in Spain but on lesser charges than prosecutors there had hoped for.

In its decision in the case of Carles Puigdemont, the Schleswig-Holstein state court said the former Catalan leader could be extradited on embezzlement charges, but not rebellion.

The charge of rebellion is not recognized in Germany and the court said related German statutes such as that against treason did not apply, because his actions "did not rise to this kind of violence."

The charges are in connection with the Catalan regional government's unauthorized referendum last year on independence from Spain and a subsequent unilateral declaration of independence by the separatist-controlled regional parliament.

The Spanish government rejects Catalan independence. Puigdemont hailed the decision as a victory, tweeting "we have defeated the central lie of the (Spanish) state. German justice denies that the referendum of October 1 was rebellion."

The decision means that if he is extradited, Puigdemont can only stand trial in Spain on embezzlement charges over allegations he misused public funds, court spokeswoman Christine von Milczewski said.

Rebellion carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, while misuse of public funds carries up to 12 years.


Schumer rallies opposition to Trump anti-abortion court pick
Court News | 2018/07/02 22:56
The Senate's top Democrat tried Monday to rally public opposition to any Supreme Court pick by President Donald Trump who'd oppose abortion rights, issuing a striking campaign season call to action for voters to prevent such a nominee by putting "pressure on the Senate."

With Trump saying he'll pick from a list of 25 potential nominees he's compiled with guidance from conservatives, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said any of them would be "virtually certain" to favor overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that affirmed women's right to abortion. They would also be "very likely" to back weakening President Barack Obama's 2010 law that expanded health care coverage to millions of Americans, he said.

Schumer said that while Democrats don't control the Senate — Republicans have a 51-49 edge — most senators back abortion rights. In an unusually direct appeal to voters, he said that to block "an ideological nominee," people should "tell your senators" to oppose anyone from Trump's list.

"It will not happen on its own," the New Yorker wrote in an opinion column in Monday's New York Times. "It requires the public's focus on these issues, and its pressure on the Senate."

Trump has said he is focusing on up to seven potential candidates, including two women, to fill the vacancy of retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, a swing vote on the nine-member court. He's said he'll announce his pick July 9.

Schumer's column appeared a day after Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she would oppose any nominee she believed would overturn Roe v. Wade. Collins said she would only back a judge who would show respect for settled law such as the Roe decision, which has long been anathema to conservatives.


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