Judge blocks photography ban in Georgia’s new election law
Legal Topics | 2021/08/26 00:07
A federal judge has found that a part of Georgia’s sweeping new election law that broadly prohibits the photographing of a voted ballot is likely unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge J.P. Boulee on Friday granted a preliminary injunction on that section of the law, meaning it cannot be enforced for now. In the same order, he declined to block a number of other provisions that mostly have to do with monitoring or photographing parts of the election process.

The judge’s order came in a lawsuit filed by the Coalition for Good Governance, an election integrity group, and others. Boulee wrote that the plaintiffs in the lawsuit “have shown a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their claim” that the broad ban on photographing a voted ballot in both public and nonpublic places violates their First Amendment rights.

The new law, known as SB 202, also adds a voter ID requirement for mail ballots, shortens the time period for requesting a mail ballot, results in fewer ballot drop boxes available in metro Atlanta, and gives the State Election Board new powers to intervene in county election offices and to remove and replace local election officials.

There are currently eight federal lawsuits challenging parts of the 98-page law enacted earlier this year, including one filed by the U.S. Department of Justice.

“The Court’s striking of the Photography Ban was an important first step in demonstrating that SB202 is an overreach by lawmakers who prefer ballots to be counted behind closed doors, blocking the important oversight of the press and public,” Marilyn Marks, executive director of the Coalition for Good Governance said in a statement.

The office of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who’s a defendant in the lawsuit along with the members of the State Election Board, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. But he has previously said he’s confident the new law will withstand court challenges.

While the lawsuit filed by the Coalition for Good Governance challenges many aspects of the law, including the part that allows the State Election Board to remove county election superintendents, the request for a preliminary injunction that was the subject of Boulee’s ruling was relatively narrow.


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Attorney News | 2021/08/24 04:08
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Judge tells prison to seize Nassar’s money for victims
Legal Topics | 2021/08/20 17:46
A judge ordered the government to take money from the prison account of a former Michigan sports doctor who owes about $58,000 to victims of his child pornography crimes.

Larry Nassar has received about $13,000 in deposits since 2018, including $2,000 in federal stimulus checks, but has paid only $300 toward court-ordered financial penalties and nothing to his victims, prosecutors said.

He had a prison account balance of $2,041 in July.

“Because (Nassar) has received substantial non-exempt funds in his inmate trust account since incarceration, he was required by law to notify the court and the United States attorney and to apply those funds to the restitution that he still owed,” U.S. District Judge Janet Neff said Thursday.

In a court filing, Nassar said he had received “gifts” from “third parties.”

He said inmates should be paid a “living wage” for prison jobs so they can “make reasonable payments towards restitution.”

Nassar was a doctor at Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians. He pleaded guilty in federal court to child pornography crimes before pleading guilty in state court to sexually assault female gymnasts.

Nassar is serving decades in prison.


US moves to cut backlog of asylum cases at US-Mexico border
Legal Topics | 2021/08/18 17:08
The Biden administration on Wednesday proposed changing how asylum claims are handled, aiming to reduce a huge backlog of cases from the U.S.-Mexico border that has left people waiting years to find out whether they will be allowed to stay in America.

Under the proposal, routine asylum cases no longer would automatically be referred to the overwhelmed immigration court system managed by the Justice Department but would be overseen by asylum officers from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, part of Homeland Security Department.

Advocates for the change see it as a way to help those with legitimate claims for protection while allowing officials to more quickly deal with people who do not qualify for asylum or are taking advantage of the long delay to stay in the United States.

“Individuals who are eligible will receive relief more swiftly, while those who are not eligible will be expeditiously removed,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said.

The proposal must go through a public comment period before it can be adopted as a new policy.

The immigration court system has an all-time high backlog of about 1.3 million cases. The Trump administration tried to deal with the issue in part by imposing stricter criteria for asylum and forcing people to seek protection in Mexico and Central America. President Joe Biden’s proposal would streamline the system.

The reason for the change is that more people have been seeking asylum under U.S. law, particularly at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years.

As the system works now, people who present themselves at the border or are apprehended by the Border Patrol and identify themselves as asylum-seekers must pass what is known as a “credible fear” interview. A USCIS asylum officer determines whether they meet the criteria of someone facing persecution in their homeland because of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.


Holocaust researchers in Poland win libel case on appeal
Legal Topics | 2021/08/16 17:16
An appellate court in Poland on Monday rejected a lawsuit brought against two Holocaust scholars in a case that has been closely watched because it was expected to serve as a precedent for research into the highly sensitive area of Polish behavior toward Jews during World War II.

Poland is governed by a nationalist conservative party that has sought to promote remembrance of Polish heroism and suffering during the wartime German occupation of the country. The party also believes that discussions of Polish wrongdoing distort the historical picture and are unfair to Poles.

The Appellate Court of Warsaw argued in its explanation that it believed that scholarly research should not be judged by courts. But it appeared not to be the end: a lawyer for the plaintiff said Monday that she would appeal Monday’s ruling to the Supreme Court.

The ruling was welcomed by the two researchers, Jan Grabowski and Barbara Engelking, who declared it a “great victory” in a Facebook post.

“We greet the verdict with great joy and satisfaction all the more, that this decision has a direct impact on all Polish scholars, and especially on historians of the Holocaust,” they said.

Monday’s ruling comes half a year after a lower court ordered the two researchers to apologize to a woman who claimed that her deceased uncle had been defamed in a historical work they edited and partially wrote, “Night Without End: The Fate of Jews in Selected Counties of Occupied Poland.”

Lawyers for the niece, 81-year-old Filomena Leszczynska, argued that her uncle was a Polish hero who had saved Jews, and that the scholars had harmed her good name and that of her family by suggesting the uncle was also involved in the killing of Jews.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Monika Brzozowska-Pasieka, said in an emailed statement to The Associated Press that Leszczynska was “astonished” by the judgement and intends to file an appeal to the Polish Supreme Court.


Federal judge leaves CDC evictions moratorium in place
Legal Topics | 2021/08/15 23:51
A federal judge is refusing landlords’ request to put the Biden administration’s new eviction moratorium on hold, though she made clear she thinks it’s illegal.

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich on Friday said her “hands are tied” by an appellate ruling the last time courts considered the evictions moratorium in the spring.

Alabama landlords who are challenging the moratorium are likely to appeal.

Friedrich wrote that the new temporary ban on evictions the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention imposed last week is substantially similar to the version she ruled was illegal in May. At the time, Freidrich put her ruling on hold to allow the administration to appeal.

This time, she said, she is bound to follow a ruling from the appeals court that sits above her, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

If the D.C. Circuit doesn’t give the landlords what they want, they are expected to seek Supreme Court involvement.

In late June, the high court refused by a 5-4 vote to allow evictions to resume. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, part of the slim majority, said he agreed with Friedrich, but was voting to keep the moratorium in place because it was set to expire at the end of July.

Kavanaugh said then that he would reject any additional extension without clear authorization from Congress, which has not been able to take action.

In discussing the new moratorium last week, President Joe Biden acknowledged there were questions about its legality, but said a court fight over the new CDC order would buy time for the distribution of some of the $45 billion in rental assistance that has been approved but not yet used.


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Legal Topics | 2021/08/14 11:43
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