State Supreme Court returns stalking case to lower court
Legal Topics | 2018/07/22 18:25
Facebook complaints against her neighbor constituted stalking.

The Rapid City Journal reports that a judge in 2016 granted Sarah Thompson's request for a protection order against Wambli Bear Runner over Bear Runner's frequent antagonistic updates against Thompson. The two women had been dating the same man.

One of the posts read, "I'll forever be watching #your enemy unless I get an apology!"

The high court ruled that the circuit court did not show why Bear Runner's comments qualified as stalking. The case has been returned to the lower court.

South Dakota's law against stalking notes harassment can come through verbal, digital, electronic or even telegraphic communication.


Hawaii Supreme Court sides with lesbian couple in B&B case
Legal Topics | 2018/07/09 23:33
A Hawaii appeals court ruling that a bed and breakfast discriminated by denying a room to two women because they're gay will stand after the state's high court declined to take up the case.

Aloha Bed & Breakfast owner Phyllis Young had argued she should be allowed to turn away gay couples because of her religious beliefs.

But the Hawaii Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously rejected Young's appeal of a lower court ruling that ordered her to stop discriminating against same-sex couples.

Young is considering her options for appeal, said Jim Campbell, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian law firm that is representing her. He said Young might not be able to pay her mortgage and could lose her home if she's not able to rent rooms.

"Everyone should be free to live and work according to their religious convictions - especially when determining the living arrangements in their own home," Campbell said in an emailed statement.

Peter Renn, who represents the couple, said the Hawaii high court's order indicates the law hasn't changed even after the U.S. Supreme Court last month, in a limited decision, sided with a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. He said "there still is no license to discriminate."

"The government continues to have the power to protect people from the harms of discrimination, including when it's motivated by religion," said Renn, who is a senior attorney with Lambda Legal, an organization that defends LGBTQ rights.

Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford of Long Beach, California, tried to book a room at Aloha Bed & Breakfast in 2007 because they were visiting a friend nearby. When they specified they would need just one bed, Young told them she was uncomfortable reserving a room for lesbians and canceled the reservation.


Trump has 2 or 3 more candidates to interview for court
Legal Topics | 2018/07/03 15:56
President Donald Trump has interviewed four prospective Supreme Court justices and plans to meet with a few more as his White House aggressively mobilizes to select a replacement for retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Eager to build suspense, Trump wouldn't divulge whom he's talking to in advance of his big announcement, set for July 9. But he promised that "they are outstanding people. They are really incredible people in so many different ways, academically and in every other way. I had a very, very interesting morning."

Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump met with four people for 45 minutes each Monday and will continue meetings through the rest of the week. She said Tuesday he has "two or three more that he'll interview this week and then make a decision."

The interviews were with federal appeals judges Raymond Kethledge, Amul Thapar, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, said a person with knowledge of the meetings who was not authorized to speak publicly about them. The Washington Post first reported the identities of the candidates Trump spoke with.

The president spent the weekend at his Bedminster golf club, consulting with advisers, including White House counsel Don McGahn, as he considers his options to fill the vacancy with a justice who has the potential to be part of precedent-shattering court decisions on abortion, health care, gay marriage and other issues.

McGahn will lead the overall selection and confirmation process, the White House said Monday, repeating the role he played in the successful confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch last year.

McGahn will be supported by a White House team that includes spokesman Raj Shah, taking a leave from the press office to work full time on "communications, strategy and messaging coordination with Capitol Hill allies." Justin Clark, director of the Office of Public Liaison, will oversee White House coordination with outside groups.

Trump's push came as the Senate's top Democrat tried to rally public opposition to any Supreme Court pick who would oppose abortion rights. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer issued a campaign-season call to action for voters to prevent such a nominee by putting "pressure on the Senate," which confirms judicial nominees.

With Trump committed to picking from a list of 25 potential nominees that he compiled with guidance from conservatives, Schumer said any of them would be "virtually certain" to favor overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that affirmed women's right to abortion. They would also be "very likely" to back weakening President Barack Obama's 2010 law that expanded health care coverage to millions of Americans, he said.

Schumer said that while Democrats don't control the Senate — Republicans have a 51-49 edge — most senators back abortion rights. In an unusually direct appeal to voters, he said that to block "an ideological nominee," people should "tell your senators" to oppose anyone from Trump's list.

"It will not happen on its own," the New Yorker wrote in an opinion column in Monday's New York Times. "It requires the public's focus on these issues, and its pressure on the Senate."

Schumer's column appeared a day after Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she would oppose any nominee she believed would overturn Roe v. Wade. Collins, who appeared on ABC's "This Week" and CNN's "State of the Union," said she would only back a judge who would show respect for settled law such as the Roe decision, which has long been anathema to conservatives.



Kentucky high court: Death penalty IQ law unconstitutional
Legal Topics | 2018/06/17 23:53
The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled that the state's practice for determining if someone is intellectually disabled and not eligible to receive the death penalty is "unconstitutional."

News outlets report that the court on Thursday deemed Kentucky's use of an IQ test to determine if defendants have the mental competence to be sentenced to death outdated. Trial courts required defendants show an IQ of 70 or below before a hearing to determine intellectual disability.

The court's opinion came in the case of a man convicted of murdering a Muhlenberg County girl 20 years ago. Robert Keith Woodall was sentenced to death after pleading guilty in the killing of 16-year-old Sarah Hansen.

Woodall's attorneys, assistant public advocates Mike O'Hara and Dennis Burke, say the court's decision to abandon Kentucky's statute is modern and appropriate.



NY high court nixes Trump's bid to delay defamation suit
Legal Topics | 2018/06/15 16:09
New York's highest court on Thursday turned down President Donald Trump's latest bid to delay a defamation suit filed by a former "Apprentice" contestant who accused him of unwanted groping and kissing.

The ruling by the state Court of Appeals didn't address either side's central arguments. But it means evidence-gathering in Summer Zervos' lawsuit can proceed, at least for now.

Zervos' lawyer, Mariann Wang, said she looks forward to continuing with the case "and exposing the truth."

Trump, who denies Zervos' allegations, is trying to get the case dismissed or postponed until after his presidency. A mid-level appellate court is due to consider that request in the fall.

Trump's lawyers at Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP noted that Thursday's ruling didn't speak to their argument for tossing out the case: That a sitting president can't be sued in a state court.

Instead, the Court of Appeals said the case was simply in too early a stage for its consideration.

Zervos, a California restaurateur, appeared in 2006 on the Republican president's former reality show, "The Apprentice."

She says he made unwanted advances when she sought career advice in 2007, then defamed her by calling her a liar after she came forward late in his 2016 presidential race. She is seeking a retraction, an apology and compensatory and punitive damages.


Supreme Court allows Arkansas to enforce abortion restrictions
Legal Topics | 2018/05/22 23:02
The Supreme Court is allowing Arkansas to put into effect restrictions on how abortion pills are administered. Critics of a challenged state law say it could effectively end medication abortions in the state.

The justices did not comment Tuesday in rejecting an appeal from the Planned Parenthood affiliate in Arkansas that asked the court to review an appeals court ruling and reinstate a lower court order that had blocked the law from taking effect. The law says doctors who provide abortion pills must hold a contract with another physician who has admitting privileges at a hospital and who would agree to handle complications.

The law is similar to a provision in Texas law that the Supreme Court struck down in 2016. The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the court order barring enforcement of the law, but put its ruling on hold while Planned Parenthood appealed to the Supreme Court.

The legal fight over the law is not over, but the state is now free to enforce it, at least for the time being. Planned Parenthood has said that if the law stands, Arkansas would be the only state where women would not have access to a pair of drugs that end pregnancies: mifepristone, which makes it difficult for a fetus to attach to the uterine wall, and misoprostol, which causes the body to expel it, similar to a miscarriage.

The organization offers pills to end pregnancies at clinics in Fayetteville and Little Rock but says it cannot find any Arkansas obstetrician willing to handle hospital admissions. Preventing women from obtaining medication abortions would create an undue burden on their right to an abortion, Planned Parenthood says. Undue burden is the standard set by the Supreme Court to measure whether restrictions go too far in limiting women who want an abortion.


Court to hear challenge to Winona County's sand mining ban
Legal Topics | 2018/05/05 08:58

Winona County, Minnesota's only county to ban the mining of silica sand for use by the oil and gas industry in hydraulic fracturing, goes to court Monday to defend the ban.

Minnesota Sands LLC, which holds extensive mineral rights in southeastern Minnesota, is challenging the legality before the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Here's a look at the ban and key issues before a three-judge panel:

The Winona County Board adopted the ban in 2016 after public hearings that drew large crowds. The Land Stewardship Project spearheaded a 17-month grassroots campaign, citing risks to public health, air and water; damage to the scenic landscape of southeastern Minnesota; the impact on roads from heavy truck traffic and the loss of farmland.

Minnesota Sands LLC sued, arguing it was an unconstitutional restraint on interstate commerce and it made worthless the company's mineral rights leases on nearly 2,000 acres of land in the county. The company says the silica sand there is worth between $3.6 billion and $5.8 billion. Winona County District Judge Mary Leahy rejected those arguments last November, so the company appealed.


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