US appeals court upholds Maryland assault weapons ban
Court News | 2017/02/24 08:17
Maryland's ban on 45 kinds of assault weapons and its 10-round limit on gun magazines were upheld Tuesday by a federal appeals court in a decision that met with a strongly worded dissent.

In a 10-4 ruling, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., said the guns banned under Maryland's law aren't protected by the Second Amendment.

"Put simply, we have no power to extend Second Amendment protections to weapons of war," Judge Robert King wrote for the court, adding that the Supreme Court's decision in District of Columbia v. Heller explicitly excluded such coverage.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, who led the push for the law in 2013 as a state senator, said it's "unthinkable that these weapons of war, weapons that caused the carnage in Newtown and in other communities across the country, would be protected by the Second Amendment."

"It's a very strong opinion, and it has national significance, both because it's en-banc and for the strength of its decision," Frosh said, noting that all of the court's judges participated.

Judge William Traxler issued a dissent. By concluding the Second Amendment doesn't even apply, Traxler wrote, the majority "has gone to greater lengths than any other court to eviscerate the constitutionally guaranteed right to keep and bear arms." He also wrote that the court did not apply a strict enough review on the constitutionality of the law.


Trial court election changes considered by North Carolina House
Court News | 2017/02/21 16:17
Some Republicans are set on returning all North Carolina state judicial elections to being officially partisan races again.

A law quickly approved in December during a special election directed statewide races for Supreme Court and Court of Appeals to become partisan starting in 2018. Now the state House scheduled floor debate Wednesday on legislation extending that to local Superior Court and District Court seats next year, too.

Having partisan races means candidates run in party primaries to reach the general election. Unaffiliated candidates could still run but would have to collect signatures to qualify.

Judicial races shifted to nonpartisan elections starting in the mid-1990s in part as an effort to distance judicial candidates from politics. But Republicans today say party labels help give voters some information about the candidates.


Wisconsin Supreme Court to hear open meetings case
Court News | 2017/02/15 16:22
The Wisconsin Supreme Court is to hear arguments in a case that could give school boards and other governmental bodies a way around the open meetings law.

The case up for argument Wednesday focuses on whether meetings of a committee created by employees of the Appleton Area School District to review books for use in a ninth grade class should have been open to the public.

More broadly the court will examine whether committees created in the same way that the one in Appleton was brought together allows them to be exempt from the law.

John Krueger, whose son attends the Appleton district, argued in a lawsuit that the review committee broke the state open meetings law by not posting a public notice of its meetings or allowing the public to attend. But the Waupaca County Circuit Court and state appeals court both sided with the district, setting up Krueger's appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Krueger raised concerns in 2011 about references to suicide and sex in the book "The Body of Christopher Creed" that students in a freshman communications arts class read. Krueger requested that an alternative class be offered that included books that had no profanity, obscenities or sexualized content.

Appleton's superintendent, Lee Allinger, asked two members of the district's department that handles curriculum and instruction to respond to Krueger's concerns. Those employees formed a 17-member committee including district administrators, teachers and staff to evaluate books used in the course.


NC court blocks law stripping governor of election powers
Court News | 2017/02/14 07:26
North Carolina's Supreme Court on Monday again blocked a state law approved by Republicans that strips the new Democratic governor of powers to oversee elections.

A lower appeals court briefly let the law to take effect last week, allowing a revamped state elections board to meet for the first time Friday. It's one of the changes passed in late December that shift power over running elections away from Gov. Roy Cooper.

"We are pleased the Supreme Court has put the injunction back in place until the judges can hear and decide the full case" early next month, Cooper spokeswoman Noelle Talley wrote in an email.

The law ends the practice of allowing the governor's political party to hold majorities on all state and county elections boards. Instead of Democrats holding sway over running elections and resolving voting disputes, elections board positions would be evenly divided between major-party partisans.

Republicans would control elections during even-numbered years, when big races for president, legislature or other major statewide offices are held. The measure also merges the state ethics and elections boards into one.

Lawyers representing state House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, and Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, did not respond to emails seeking comment after the Supreme Court's decision.

Cooper, Moore and Berger are also fighting in court over another new law aiming to restrict the Democrat's ability to alter the state's recent conservative direction.

A panel of three state trial court judges is considering whether to continue blocking a law requiring Senate confirmation of Cooper's Cabinet secretaries.

The law requiring Senate consent to Cooper's top appointees came during a surprise special session barely a week after Republican incumbent Pat McCrory conceded to Cooper in their close gubernatorial race.



Philippine president's drug crackdown faces court challenge
Court News | 2017/01/28 21:33
A survivor of a Philippine police raid that killed four other drug suspects asked the Supreme Court Thursday to stop such operations and help him obtain police records to prove his innocence in a test case against the president's bloody crackdown.
 
Lawyer Romel Bagares said his client Efren Morillo and other petitioners also asked the court to order police to stop threatening witnesses.

More than 7,000 drug suspects have been killed since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in June and ordered the crackdown, alarming human rights group and Western governments.

Four policemen shot Morillo and four other men in impoverished Payatas village in metropolitan Manila in August. Morillo survived and denied police allegations that he and his friends were drug dealers or that they fought back, according to Bagares and the court petition.

Morillo, a 28-year-old vegetable vendor and the four slain men, were garbage collectors who were shot with their hands bound and could not have possibly threatened police, the petition said.


Driver due in court in Cleveland officer's hit-and-run death
Court News | 2017/01/27 04:50
The driver accused in the fatal hit-and-run of a Cleveland patrolman on an interstate is set to appear in court.

Forty-four-year-old Israel Alvarez, of Lorain, was scheduled for arraignment Thursday morning on charges of aggravated vehicular homicide and failing to stop after a fatal accident. Court records don't indicate whether he has an attorney.

Police say 39-year-old Patrolman David Fahey was struck Tuesday while setting down flares to close lanes of Interstate 90 after an accident.

Authorities allege Alvarez was driving over 60 mph and disregarded emergency vehicles that were parked along the road with their lights flashing. He was arrested in Lorain later Tuesday.

A viewing for Fahey is scheduled Friday at a North Olmsted funeral home. A funeral Mass is planned Saturday at a Cleveland church.



Student guilty of black church arsons wants pro-white group
Court News | 2017/01/26 09:33
A University of Wisconsin-Madison student who once served prison time for setting fires at two predominantly black churches is recruiting on campus for a local chapter of a national pro-white party, enraging students searching for ways to improve race relations.

Daniel Dropik, 33, said frustration over the Black Lives Matter movement's presence on campus and university courses examining white and male privilege led him to start a local chapter of the American Freedom Party. The American Freedom Party is a political party with deep ties to white supremacism, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups.

Dropik's recruiting comes as minorities have been pushing UW-Madison leaders to better protect them following several incidents targeting black and Jewish students last spring.

"It's become unacceptable," Dropik said. "If white people have problems, they need to be able to organize."

In 2005, Dropik was convicted in federal court of racially-motivated arsons at two predominantly black churches in Milwaukee and Lansing, Michigan. According to court documents, Dropik told investigators he believed a black person had stolen his backpack in a Milwaukee bus terminal and black men beat him up during




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