Arkansas officials ask court to keep voter ID law in place
Court News | 2018/05/01 19:10
Arkansas officials asked the state's highest court on Monday to allow them to enforce a voter ID law in the May 22 primary despite a judge blocking the measure and calling it unconstitutional.

Secretary of State Mark Martin asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to put on hold a Pulaski County judge's ruling preventing the state from enforcing the 2017 law requiring voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot. Martin asked the high court for a ruling by noon Friday, noting that early voting for the primary begins May 7.

"Here, the trial court has changed the rules in the middle of the election," Martin's filing said. "An immediate stay is necessary; any further delay will harm the state."

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray sided with a Little Rock voter who sued the state and had argued the law enacted last year circumvents a 2014 Arkansas Supreme Court ruling that struck down a previous voter ID measure.

An attorney for the Little Rock voter said he hoped the court would not halt the ruling, noting evidence that nearly 1,000 votes weren't counted in the 2014 primary because of the previous voter ID law that was struck down later that year.


Judge fights for job after admitting to courthouse affair
Court News | 2018/04/22 09:45
Massachusetts' highest court will decide the fate of a judge who admitted to having an affair with a clinical social worker that included sexual encounters at the courthouse.

The Commission on Judicial Conduct is asking for Judge Thomas Estes to be suspended indefinitely without pay to give lawmakers time to decide whether to remove him from the bench for his relationship with Tammy Cagle, who worked in the special drug court where Estes sat before she was reassigned last year.

If the Supreme Judicial Court agrees, it will be the first time in three decades it has taken such action against a judge for misconduct. The case comes amid the #MeToo movement that sparked a national reckoning over sexual misconduct in the workplace.

"This case couldn't come at a worse time for Judge Estes," said Martin Healy, chief legal counsel of the Massachusetts Bar Association.

The Supreme Judicial Court will consider Estes' case Tuesday. Cagle has accused Estes, who's married and has two teenage sons, of pressuring her into performing oral sex on him in his chambers and her home. Then after she tried to end the relationship, she asserts he treated her coldly and pushed her out of the drug court.



SUPREME COURT NOTEBOOK: Diabetes, decisions and justice math
Court News | 2018/04/05 12:03
Visitors attending Supreme Court arguments surrender their electronics on entering the courtroom. So if something rings, chimes or buzzes, it's likely the device's owner is dressed in a black robe.

Last year, a justice's cellphone went off. But last month, when four electronic pings sounded during an argument, the device was different. It belonged to Justice Sonia Sotomayor and was alerting the justice, who is diabetic, that her blood sugar was urgently low.

The 63-year-old justice has had diabetes since childhood, but the sound was the first public notice that she was using a continuous glucose monitor.

Sotomayor's use of the device doesn't indicate a change in her health, experts told The Associated Press, but it does show her embracing a technology that has become more popular with Type 1 diabetics.

In 2013, when Sotomayor did an interview with the American Diabetes Association's "Diabetes Forecast," the magazine reported she was not using one. But in recent years the devices, which use sensors inserted under the skin, have become more accurate, said Cleveland Clinic endocrinologist Kevin Pantalone.

Monitors give users continuous information about glucose levels, rather than the snapshot they get from testing their blood with a finger prick. Information from the sensor gets sent every few minutes to a device where a user can see it charted. Most devices sound alarms at low and high glucose levels. Some monitors work with an insulin pump, which continuously delivers insulin.

It's not clear when Sotomayor began using the technology. She declined comment through a court spokeswoman. But the dinging during arguments on March 21 followed an incident in January where emergency medical personnel treated her at home for symptoms of low blood sugar.

Aaron Kowalski, an expert in diabetes technologies, said an event like that can prompt a person to try a monitor, but even people using the devices can experience low blood sugar that might result in an emergency call. Kowalski, who leads the research and advocacy efforts of JDRF, the Type 1 diabetes research organization, said about 15 percent to 20 percent of Type 1 diabetics now use such a device.



Drug companies want Supreme Court to take eye drop dispute
Court News | 2018/04/01 22:53
Eye drop users everywhere have had it happen. Tilt your head back, drip a drop in your eye and part of that drop always seems to dribble down your cheek.

But what most people see as an annoyance, some prescription drop users say is grounds for a lawsuit. Drug companies' bottles dispense drops that are too large, leaving wasted medication running down their faces, they say.

Don't roll your eyes. Major players in Americans' medicine cabinets — including Allergan, Bausch & Lomb, Merck and Pfizer — are asking the Supreme Court to get involved in the case.

On the other side are patients using the companies' drops to treat glaucoma and other eye conditions. Wasted medication affects their wallets, they say. They argue they would pay less for their treatment if their bottles of medication were designed to drip smaller drops. That would mean they could squeeze more doses out of every bottle. And they say companies could redesign the droppers on their bottles but have chosen not to.

The companies, for their part, have said the patients shouldn't be able to sue in federal court because their argument they would have paid less for treatment is based on a bottle that doesn't exist and speculation about how it would affect their costs if it did. They point out that the size of their drops was approved by the Food and Drug Administration and redesigned bottles would require FDA approval. The cost of changes could be passed on to patients, possibly resulting in treatment that costs more, they say.

Courts haven't seen eye to eye on whether patients should be able to sue. That's why the drugmakers are asking the Supreme Court to step in. A federal appeals court in Chicago threw out one lawsuit over drop size. But a federal appeals court in Philadelphia let the similar case now before the Supreme Court go forward. That kind of disagreement tends to get the Supreme Court's attention.

And if a drop-size lawsuit can go forward, so too could other packaging design lawsuits, like one by "toothpaste users whose tubes of toothpaste did not allow every bit of toothpaste to be used," wrote Kannon Shanmugam, a frequent advocate before the Supreme Court who is representing the drug companies in asking the high court to take the case.


Another key redistricting case goes in front of high court
Court News | 2018/03/18 02:34
The Supreme Court has already heard a major case about political line-drawing that has the potential to reshape American politics. Now, before even deciding that one, the court is taking up another similar case.

The arguments justices will hear Wednesday in the second case, a Republican challenge to a Democratic-leaning congressional district in Maryland, could offer fresh clues to what they are thinking about partisan gerrymandering, an increasingly hot topic before courts.

Decisions in the Maryland case and the earlier one from Wisconsin are expected by late June. The arguments come nearly six months after the court heard a dispute over Wisconsin legislative districts that Democrats claim were drawn to maximize Republican control in a state that is closely divided between the parties.

The Supreme Court has never thrown out electoral districts on partisan grounds and it’s not clear the justices will do so now. But supporters of limits on partisanship in redistricting are encouraged that the justices are considering two cases.

“In taking these two cases, the Supreme Court wants to say something about partisan gerrymandering. It’s clear the Supreme Court is not walking away from the issue,” said Michael Li, senior counsel at the New York University law school’s Brennan Center for Justice.

The justices’ involvement in partisan redistricting reflects a period of unusual activity in the courts on this topic. Over the past 16 months, courts struck down political districting plans drawn by Republicans in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Federal judges threw out a state legislative map in Wisconsin and a congressional plan in North Carolina. In Pennsylvania, the state Supreme Court invalidated the state’s congressional districts and replaced them with a court-drawn plan.



Court leaves black judge on case against white officer
Court News | 2018/02/24 06:24
The Alabama Supreme Court is refusing to make a black judge quit the case of a white police officer charged with murder in the shooting death of a black man.

The justices without comment Friday turned down a request from officer Aaron Cody Smith of the Montgomery Police Department.

Smith is charged in the shooting death two years ago of 58-year-old Greg Gunn, who authorities say was walking in his neighborhood when Smith shot him.

Defense attorneys sought a new judge based on social media posts of Circuit Judge Greg Griffin, who wrote about being stopped by police because he is black.

Griffin refused to step aside and accused the defense of injecting race into the case. Smith's lawyers appealed.


Supreme Court sides with Chicago museum in terror case
Court News | 2018/02/22 14:24
The Supreme Court is preventing survivors of a 1997 terrorist attack from seizing Persian artifacts at a Chicago museum to help pay a $71.5 million default judgment against Iran.

The court ruled 8-0 Wednesday against U.S. victims of a Jerusalem suicide bombing. They want to lay claim to artifacts that were loaned by Iran to the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute more than 80 years ago.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote for the court that a provision of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act does not support the victims' case. That federal law generally protects foreign countries' property in the U.S. but makes exceptions when countries provide support to extremist groups.

The victims, who were wounded in the attack or are close relatives of the wounded, argued that Iran provided training and support to Hamas, which carried out the attack. Iran has refused to pay the court judgment.

The federal appeals court in Chicago had earlier ruled against the victims. The Supreme Court affirmed that ruling Wednesday.

The artifacts in question are 30,000 clay tablets and fragments containing ancient writings known as the Persepolis Collection. University archeologists uncovered the artifacts during excavation of the old city of Persepolis in the 1930s. The collection has been on loan to the university's Oriental Institute since 1937 for research, translation and cataloging.


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