Supreme Court term amid starts in shadow of Kavanaugh
Court News | 2018/09/29 23:19
It's the storm before the calm at the Supreme Court. Americans watched Thursday's high court nomination hearing of Judge Brett Kavanaugh with rapt attention. The televised spectacle was filled with disturbing allegations of sexual assault and Kavanaugh's angry, emotional denial.

On Monday, the court will begin its new term with the crack of the marshal's gavel and not a camera in sight. The term's start has been completely overshadowed by the tumult over Kavanaugh's nomination.

Republicans had hoped to have Kavanaugh confirmed in time for the court's first public meeting since late June, an addition that would cement conservative control of the court.

Instead, there are only eight justices on the bench for the second time in three terms, with a breakdown of four conservatives and four liberals. The court was down a member in October 2016, too, following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the court in April 2017, after all but about a dozen cases had been argued

It's unclear how long the vacancy created by Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement in July will last. Consideration of Kavanaugh's nomination by the Senate has been delayed while the FBI undertakes an investigation of Christine Blasey Ford's allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in 1982.

An empty seat on the bench often forces a push for compromise and leads to a less exciting caseload, mainly to avoid 4-4 splits between conservatives and liberals.

The cases the court has agreed to hear so far this term look nothing like the stream of high-profile disputes over President Donald Trump's travel ban, partisan redistricting, union fees and a clash over religious objections to same-sex marriage that the court heard last term.


Trump picks combat over caution in court fight
Court News | 2018/09/23 21:49
White House aides and congressional allies worked all week to keep President Donald Trump from unloading on the woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.

But as Kavanaugh's nomination hung in the balance, Trump couldn't contain his frustration any longer and unleashed a direct Twitter attack on the credibility of Christine Blasey Ford, who says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her decades ago during a high school party.

Friday's tweet landed with a splat in the noxious brew of gender and politics that has taken over a high-stakes confirmation battle playing out against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement. In keeping with Trump's natural instinct to fight back when under attack, as well as his long pattern of defending powerful men against the claims of women, the president's tweet reflected growing anger over all the focus on Ford's accusation.

Trump initially believed he could support his nominee without wading into the specific allegations against Kavanaugh since they did not involve him. But that began to change as Trump watched ongoing coverage of the accusations, particularly on Air Force One TVs tuned into Fox News on his long flight Thursday from Washington to Las Vegas, according to a White House official and a Republican close to the White House. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss private conversations.


Idaho high court considers defamation lawsuit
Court News | 2018/09/23 04:49
The Idaho Supreme Court heard arguments Friday in a case that could determine whether individuals have the right to sue if they think a journalist implied — but didn't outright say — something defamatory.

The issue arose in a lawsuit brought last year by former teacher James Verity against USA Today and television stations in Idaho and Oregon after they reported on the results of a national investigation into teacher licensing. The investigation found that teachers who had a license revoked in one state were often able to move to another state to be licensed there.

Verity lost his Oregon teaching license after he was disciplined for having inappropriate sexual contact with an 18-year-old student. He was later was granted an Idaho teaching license.

Verity says the news coverage wrongly implied that he was danger to female students, that he misled Idaho officials and that he committed a crime by having sex with a student. The news organizations say their reporting was accurate.


The Latest: New Mexico court blocks straight-ticket option
Court News | 2018/09/13 18:43
The New Mexico Supreme Court is blocking a ballot option that would have allowed voters to select candidates from one particular party in all races by marking a single box.

The court made its decision Wednesday after listening to oral arguments about a plan from the state's top elections regulator to reinstate straight-ticket voting in the November general election.

The court found that Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver did not have authority to impose such a change.

Critics of the practice say it primarily harms independent, minor-party and Republican candidates in a state dominated by registered Democrats.

They argued in court that state law doesn't clearly say whether authority to design ballot forms extends to substantive decisions about straight-party voting, and that Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver should have consulted the public through the rulemaking process.

The New Mexico Supreme Court has indicated it will decide Wednesday whether voters should be allowed to select candidates from a particular party in all races by marking a single ballot box.

At issue is a plan from the state's top elections regulator to reinstate straight-ticket voting in the November general election.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver argued she has authority over ballot forms, including the discretion to determine whether to include a straight-party voting option.

Critics questioned that authority Wednesday, saying such decisions should be made by the Legislature and should be informed by data on voting behavior. They also raised concerns that no public hearings were held before Toulouse Oliver announced the change.


Poland likely to ignore EU court ruling on justice overhaul
Court News | 2018/08/26 09:35
Poland's deputy prime minister says his government will likely ignore the European Court of Justice if it suspends a new Polish law compelling numerous Supreme Court judges to retire early.

The attempted forced retirements are part of a broader overhaul of the justice system by Poland's nationalist ruling party, Law and Justice. The changes have alarmed the European Union, which says rule of law is under threat in Poland.

The government insists it is reforming a corrupt system.

Polish Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Gowin says if the EU court suspends the retirement law, "our government will probably have no choice" but to ignore the ruling. His comments were published Monday by a pro-government weekly, Do Rzeczy.


Court document details moments before fatal police shooting
Court News | 2018/08/15 22:58
Investigators say a man fired gunshots into a bedroom wall and pointed a gun at his roommate before he was fatally shot by St. Paul police.

A search warrant filed Tuesday by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension contains details about the moments leading up to the fatal police shooting on Aug. 5.

The document says William "Billy" Hughes became angry and fired two or three gunshots into a wall in his apartment before pointing a gun at his roommate's head. The Star Tribune says the roommate fled and called police.

The warrant says relatives told investigators Hughes had been suicidal over a terminal illness that limited his quality of life.

The bureau has said Hughes was shot after police knocked on one of the apartment's doors and he came out another. The agency continues its investigation.


N Carolina Supreme Court race lawsuit returning to court
Court News | 2018/08/12 03:25
A North Carolina Supreme Court candidate's lawsuit against Republican legislators over a law preventing him from having his party listed on November ballots is returning to court.

A judge scheduled a Wake County hearing Monday to consider requests by candidate Chris Anglin and a lower-court candidate also fighting the law finalized by GOP legislators earlier this month.

The law says a judicial candidate's party affiliation won't be listed next to the candidate's name if it was changed less than 90 days before filing for a race. Anglin says the law targets him — he was a registered Democrat three weeks before entering the race as a Republican.

Republicans accuse Anglin of trying to split the GOP vote with incumbent Justice Barbara Jackson to help Democratic opponent Anita Earls win.



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