City attorney criticizes law used to arrest Stormy Daniels
Court Watch | 2018/07/20 01:26
An Ohio city attorney has recommended that the state law police cited to arrest porn actress Stormy Daniels should not be enforced.

In a memo to the city's police chief, Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein says Wednesday that future charges filed under that law will not be prosecuted. Klein has also dismissed charges brought against two other employees arrested with Daniels.

The law states dancers at "sexually oriented" businesses are prohibited from touching customers and vice versa.

Klein says the law is "glaringly inequitable" because its applicability depends on how regularly the employee performs. He also says employees who touch police are not in violation because on-duty public officials are not legally considered patrons.

Daniels' lawyer says he applauds Klein's decision. Messages seeking comment were left Wednesday for Columbus police.


Florida school shooting suspect's statement issue in court
Court Watch | 2018/07/15 23:21
How much of Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz's statement to investigators should be made public is an issue going before a judge.

A hearing is set Monday on whether any or all of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting suspect's statement should be released. Attorneys for the 19-year-old Cruz want most of the statement suppressed, contending it would improperly influence jurors in his trial.

News organizations including The Associated Press want as much of the statement released as possible. Florida law requires most evidence to be made public once it is turned over by prosecutors to the defense.

Cruz faces the death penalty if convicted of killing 17 people in the Valentine's Day attack. His attorneys say he would plead guilty in exchange for a life prison sentence.


Prosecutor to press court to release church abuse report
Court Watch | 2018/07/01 22:56
Pennsylvania's highest court is being pressed to publicly release a major grand jury report on allegations of child sexual abuse and cover-ups in six of the state's Roman Catholic dioceses.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro will ask the court to swiftly decide lingering legal issues before it, his office said Friday. He expects to make that request Monday.

"The people of Pennsylvania have a right to see the report, know who is attempting to block its release and why, and to hear the voices of the victims of sexual abuse within the Church," Shapiro said in a statement.

The state Supreme Court is blocking the release of the report as the result of legal challenges filed under seal by people apparently named in the report. The court has declined to make those filings or dockets public, or name the people who filed the challenges.

The Supreme Court's chief justice, Thomas Saylor, declined comment through a spokeswoman, and lawyers for the unnamed people challenging the report did not respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, seven news organizations, including The Associated Press, on Friday filed a motion to intervene in the case in a bid to argue that the court should release the report, contending that it is required by law. If the court decides it needs more time to consider the legal challenges, it could immediately order the report's release with only those parts that are in question shielded from view, lawyers for the news organizations wrote.

The court also should be consistent with practice in other grand jury matters and make public the filings and dockets in the case, with redactions if necessary, the news organizations wrote.

Victim advocates have said the report is expected to be the largest and most exhaustive such review by any state. The grand jury spent two years investigating allegations of child sex abuse in the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton, churches with some 1.7 million members.


Kansas court avoids ruling on execution for student's death
Court Watch | 2018/06/13 23:09
The Kansas Supreme Court has postponed a decision on whether the state can execute a man convicted of kidnapping, raping and strangling a 19-year-old college student.

The high court on Friday upheld the capital murder conviction of Justin Eugene Thurber but returned his case to a lower court for another review of whether he's developmentally disabled.

The U.S. Supreme Court has deemed it unconstitutional to execute defendants with even mild developmental disabilities.

Thurber was sentenced to lethal injection for the January 2007 killing of Jodi Sanderholm. She was a pre-pharmacy student and dance team member at Cowley College.

The trial judge rejected the defense's request for a hearing on whether Thurber is developmentally disabled, ruling that the defense hadn't presented enough evidence to warrant it.


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.


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