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Seals can keep using San Diego children's beach, court says
Court Watch | 2018/06/09 18:07
A California appeals court has upheld a San Diego city ordinance that closes a picturesque children's beach for nearly half the year so that seals may give birth, nurse and wean their pups.

In a decision filed Thursday, the 4th District Court of Appeal reversed a lower court ruling that set aside the ordinance governing Children's Pool Beach in La Jolla, an affluent seaside community in San Diego.

Thursday's ruling will allow for the beach to continue to be closed between Dec. 15 and May 15 every year. Violators face misdemeanor penalties of up to $1,000 in fines or six months in jail.

The Children's Pool is an artificial cove that was used as a swimming hole for youngsters until seals began moving in during the 1990s — spurring a yearslong feud between supporters of the animals and those who want beach access.

In 2014, the City Council approved closing the beach for part of the year after concluding that other efforts to protect the seals during their breeding season haven't worked. The California Coastal Commission issued a permit allowing that action.

Visitors to the area often walk up to the seals, pose for selfies with them and mimic the barking noise they make. When they're disturbed, seals can abandon their pups, give birth prematurely or miscarry, or become frightened and accidentally stampede babies. They've also nipped at humans.

The group Friends of the Children's Pool sued San Diego and the coastal commission, arguing that the Marine Mammal Protection Act and California Coastal Act give the federal government jurisdiction over marine mammals, not local governments. The group won a trial court ruling in the matter.

The appeals court rejected the group's argument and the lower court's ruling, saying nothing in the protection act pre-empts a state's ability to regulate access to its own property.



Analysis: Voter ID Fight Testing Court as Much as New Law
Court Watch | 2018/05/05 08:57
The Arkansas Supreme Court's decision to allow the state to enforce its voter ID law in this month's primary while justices consider whether the measure is unconstitutional sets up a test over Republican lawmakers' efforts to reinstate a law struck down four years ago. More importantly, it will show how much the state's highest court has changed since 2014.

Justices last week put a hold on Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray's decision to block the law's enforcement, meaning voters will have to show photo identification before they cast a ballot in the May 22 primary. Early voting for the primary begins Monday. Republican advocates of the law said the Supreme Court's decision to put the law on hold will avoid creating confusion.

"The stay issued this afternoon provides needed clarity for Arkansas voters and election officials," Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said in a statement shortly after the high court's ruling.

The 6-1 order from the court — only Chief Justice Dan Kemp would have denied the request to halt Gray's ruling — didn't elaborate on the reason for the stay. Both sides are set to begin filing briefs in the appeal of Gray's ruling in June, likely ensuring the legal fight will last throughout the summer.

"We are disappointed for the voters in Arkansas that the Arkansas Secretary of State and the Attorney General continue to want to enforce an unconstitutional Voter ID law," Jeff Priebe, an attorney for the Little Rock voter who challenged the measure, said after the ruling.

The decision creates a scenario similar to 2014, when a Pulaski County judge struck down Arkansas' previous voter ID law but put the ruling on hold and allowed it to be enforced in the primary that year.

The state Supreme Court ultimately came down against the 2013 voter ID law, striking it down weeks before the general election in 2014. Opponents of the law were able to point to nearly 1,000 votes in the primary that year that weren't counted because of the photo ID requirement.

The latest law is aimed at addressing a secondary reason some justices raised while striking down the previous voter ID law. The court unanimously struck down Arkansas' law, with four of the court's seven justices saying it violated the state's constitution by adding a qualification to vote. But three of the justices cited a different reason, saying the law didn't garner the two-thirds vote needed in both chambers of the Legislature to change voter registration requirements.



Supreme Court upholds challenged patent review practice
Court Watch | 2018/04/24 18:11
The Supreme Court has upheld a challenged practice that is used to invalidate patents without the involvement of federal courts.

The justices on Tuesday rejected a bid to strike down a process established by Congress in 2011 to speed up patent reviews.

The justices voted 7-2 in favor of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's patent review process. It has been used to invalidate hundreds of patents since it was established in 2012.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Neil Gorsuch dissented.


UK Supreme Court declines appeal from parents of ill toddler
Court Watch | 2018/04/21 17:52
Britain’s Supreme Court declined Friday to hear an appeal from a mother and father who want to take their terminally ill toddler to Italy for treatment instead of allowing a hospital to remove him from life support.

The decision is another setback for the parents of 23-month-old Alfie Evans, who have been engaged in a protracted legal fight with Alder Hey Children’s Hospital over their son’s care.

The Supreme Court decision means an earlier Court of Appeal ruling will stand. Justices in that court upheld a lower court’s conclusion that it would be pointless to fly the boy to Rome for treatment.

Alfie is in a “semi-vegetative state” as the result of a degenerative neurological condition that doctors have been unable to definitively identify. Earlier court rulings blocked further medical treatment and ordered the boy’s life support to be withdrawn.

In appealing the rulings, Alfie’s parents, Tom Evans, 21, and Kate James, 20, argued their son had shown improvement in recent weeks. But doctors said his condition was irreversible.

Pope Francis prayed Sunday for Alfie and others who are suffering from serious infirmities.

It was the second time the pope offered his views about a case involving a terminally ill British child. In July, Francis spoke out on behalf of Charlie Gard, who died a week before his first birthday from a rare genetic disease after his parents fought in court to obtain treatment for him outside of Britain.



Facebook to stop spending against California privacy effort
Court Watch | 2018/04/12 00:49
Facebook says it will stop spending money to fight a proposed California ballot initiative aimed at giving consumers more control over their data.

The measure, known as the "California Consumer Privacy Act," would require companies to disclose upon request what types of personal information they collect about someone and whether they've sold it. It also would allow customers to opt out of having their data sold.

The company made the announcement Wednesday as chief executive Mark Zuckerberg underwent questioning from Congress about the handling of user data.

Pressure has mounted on Facebook to explain its privacy controls following revelations that a Republican-linked firm conducted widespread data harvesting.

Facebook had donated $200,000 to a committee opposing the initiative in California - part of a $1 million effort by tech giants to keep it off the November ballot.

Facebook said it ended its support "to focus our efforts on supporting reasonable privacy measures in California."

Proponents of the ballot measure applauded the move.

"We are thrilled," said Mary Ross, president of Californians for Consumer Privacy.

The California Chamber of Commerce and other groups are fighting to keep the measure off the ballot through the "Committee to Protect California Jobs." Google, AT&T, Verizon and Comcast also contributed $200,000 each to that effort in February.

Committee spokesman Steve Maviglio said the measure would hurt the California economy.

"It is unworkable and requires the internet in California to operate differently - limiting our choices, hurting our businesses, and cutting our connection to the global economy," he said.


Mississippi court: Woman has parent rights in same-sex split
Court Watch | 2018/04/07 12:04
Mississippi's Supreme Court says a woman has parental rights to a 6-year-old boy born to her ex-wife when the two were married, in a case watched by gay rights activists and groups aiding in vitro fertilization.

Chris Strickland brought the appeal, challenging a lower court decision that an anonymous sperm donor had parental rights and that Strickland didn't.

Strickland argued that the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage requires same-sex couples to be treated equally. She ultimately hopes to win 50-50 custody of a boy who bears her last name.

All nine justices, citing different reasons, found the original ruling flawed, although some wouldn't have gone as far as the main opinion. The case was ordered back to a lower court for the original judge to decide on custody.



Russian authorities asks court to block messaging app
Court Watch | 2018/04/04 12:03
Russia's communications watchdog says it has asked a court to block access to a popular messaging app.

The Russian Communications Agency said on Friday it has filed a lawsuit against the messaging app Telegram after it refused to hand over encryption keys to Russian intelligence.

The announcement follows a months-long row between Telegram and Russian authorities, who insist they need access to the keys to investigate serious crimes including terrorist attacks.

Russia's Supreme Court last month threw out an appeal by Telegram against demands from the Federal Security Service intelligence agency to provide access to user data.

Telegram argues that the FSB violates consumer rights, while authorities say the app has been used by violent extremists.


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