Trump taps ‘eminently qualified’ Barrett for Supreme Court
Court News | 2020/09/30 00:02
President Donald Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court on Saturday, capping a dramatic reshaping of the federal judiciary that will resonate for a generation and that he hopes will provide a needed boost to his reelection effort.

Barrett, a former clerk to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, said she was “truly humbled” by the nomination and quickly aligned herself with Scalia’s conservative approach to the law, saying his “judicial philosophy is mine, too.”

Barrett, 48, was joined in the Rose Garden by her husband and seven children. If confirmed by the Senate, she would fill the seat vacated by liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It would be the sharpest ideological swing since Clarence Thomas replaced Justice Thurgood Marshall nearly three decades ago.

She would be the sixth justice on the nine-member court to be appointed by a Republican president, and the third of Trump’s first term in office.

Trump hailed Barrett as “a woman of remarkable intellect and character,” saying he had studied her record closely before making the pick.

Republican senators are lining up for a swift confirmation of Barrett ahead of the Nov. 3 election, as they aim to lock in conservative gains in the federal judiciary before a potential transition of power. Trump, meanwhile, is hoping the nomination will galvanize his supporters as he looks to fend off Democrat Joe Biden.

For Trump, whose 2016 victory hinged in large part on reluctant support from white evangelicals on the promise of filling Scalia’s seat with a conservative, the latest nomination in some ways brings his first term full circle. Even before Ginsburg’s death, Trump was running on having confirmed in excess of 200 federal judges, fulfilling a generational aim of conservative legal activists.

Trump joked that the confirmation process ahead “should be easy” and “extremely noncontroversial,” though it is likely to be anything but. No court nominee has been considered so close to a presidential election before, with early voting already underway. He encouraged legislators to take up her nomination swiftly and asked Democrats to “refrain from personal and partisan attacks.”

In 2016, Republicans blocked Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court to fill the election-year vacancy, saying voters should have a say in the lifetime appointment. Senate Republicans say they will move ahead this time, arguing the circumstances are different now that the White House and Senate are controlled by the same party.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate will vote “in the weeks ahead” on Barrett’s confirmation. Barrett is expected to make her first appearance Tuesday on Capitol Hill, where she will meet with McConnell; Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, the chair of the Judiciary Committee; and others. Hearings are set to begin Oct. 12, and Graham said he hoped to have Barrett’s nomination out of the committee by Oct. 26.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned that a vote to confirm Barrett to the high court would be a vote to strike down the Affordable Care Act. Schumer added that the president was once again putting “Americans’ healthcare in the crosshairs” even while the coronavirus pandemic rages.

Biden took that route of criticism, as well, framing Trump’s choice as another move in Republicans’ effort to scrap the 2010 health care law passed by his former boss, President Barack Obama. The court is expected to take up a case against it this fall.

The set design at the Rose Garden, with large American flags hung between the colonnades, appeared to be modeled on the way the White House was decorated when President Bill Clinton nominated Ginsburg in 1993.

Barrett, recognizing that flags were still lowered in recognition of Ginsburg’s death, said she would be “mindful of who came before me.” Although they have different judicial philosophies, Barrett praised Ginsburg as a trailblazer for women and for her friendship with Scalia, saying, “She has won the admiration of women across the country and indeed all across the world.”

Within hours of Ginsburg’s death, Trump made clear he would nominate a woman for the seat. Barrett was the early favorite and the only one to meet with Trump.

Barrett has been a judge since 2017, when Trump nominated her to the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But as a longtime University of Notre Dame law professor, she had already established herself as a reliable conservative in the mold of Scalia, for whom she clerked in the late 1990s.


Shooting outside US court in Phoenix wounds federal officer
Court News | 2020/09/16 15:08
A drive-by shooting wounded a federal security officer outside the U.S. courthouse in downtown Phoenix on Tuesday, and a person was later taken into custody, authorities said. The officer was taken to a hospital and was expected to recover, according to city police and the FBI. Jill McCabe, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Phoenix office, said someone was later detained and there was no indication of a further threat to the public.

The court security officer works for the U.S. Marshals Service and was struck in their protective vest, said a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly. Court security officers work under the direction of the U.S. Marshals Service but generally are employed by private security companies.

The FBI said it isn’t providing any more details as it investigates. Police had released a photo of a silver sedan spotted leaving the area around the Sandra Day O’Connor U.S. Courthouse. Hours after the shooting, a street surrounding the courthouse was closed to traffic, roped off by yellow tape with police officers standing on each corner. Armed federal officers talked outside the main entrance to the courthouse, which was still open to the public, according to a court clerk.

The shooting came after the weekend ambush of two Los Angeles County deputies. They were sitting in their parked vehicle when a man walked up to the passenger’s side and fired multiple rounds. The deputies were struck in the head and critically wounded but were expected to recover. The gunman hasn’t been captured, and a motive has not been determined. Federal courthouses have been flashpoints for recent violence, but it’s not clear who shot the officer in Phoenix or why.

In June, a federal security officer was shot and killed and his partner was wounded outside the federal courthouse in Oakland as they guarded the building during protests over racial injustice and police brutality. An Air Force sergeant was charged with the shooting, and prosecutors say he had ties to the far-right, anti-government “boogaloo” movement and used the protest as cover for the crime and his escape.

During demonstrations in Portland, Oregon, protesters and federal officers clashed at the federal courthouse, where people set fires and tossed fireworks and rocks, while federal authorities unleashed tear gas and made arrests.


Court: Trump can end temporary legal status for 4 countries
Court News | 2020/09/15 15:10
The Trump administration can end humanitarian protections that have allowed hundreds of thousands of people from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti and Sudan to remain in the United States, a divided appeals court ruled Monday.

While an appeal is imminent and orders to leave wouldn’t take effect for months, the decision moved many people closer to losing legal status, including families who have been in the U.S. for decades and have young children who are American citizens.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a preliminary injunction that blocked the government from ending Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for people from those four countries that are affected by natural disasters and civil conflict.

The order also applies to beneficiaries from Honduras and Nepal, who sued separately but are subject to Monday’s ruling under an agreement between attorneys for both sides, said Ahilan Arulanantham, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, who argued on behalf of TPS holders.

Since 1990, the policy has granted temporary legal status, which is often extended. But the Trump administration decided to end it for several countries, saying the conditions that justified protections in America no longer exist.

That decision had been on hold even as President Donald Trump moved to restrict other forms of humanitarian status in the U.S., such as refugee resettlement and access to asylum.

A three-judge 9th Circuit panel in Pasadena, California, rejected arguments that the administration failed to follow proper procedures and that racially motivated comments by the president and his aides about some of the countries drove the decision to end TPS.

The ACLU noted that in 2017, Trump said recent immigrants from Haiti “all have AIDS” and that Nigerians, once seeing the United States, would never “go back to their huts” in Africa.

White House pressure on Homeland Security leaders to end TPS didn’t prove racial motivation and was “neither unusual nor improper,” wrote Judge Consuelo Callahan, who was appointed by President George W. Bush. She noted that the administration extended TPS for other non-white, non-European countries.

“While we do not condone the offensive and disparaging nature of the president’s remarks, we find it instructive that these statements occurred primarily in contexts removed from and unrelated to TPS policy or decisions,” Callahan wrote.



Saudi court issues final verdicts in Khashoggi killing
Court News | 2020/09/07 16:34
A Saudi court issued final verdicts on Monday in the case of slain Washington Post columnist and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi after his son, who still resides in the kingdom, announced pardons that spared five of the convicted individuals from execution.

While the trial draws to its conclusion in Saudi Arabia, the case continues to cast a shadow over the international standing of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose associates have been sanctioned by the U.S. and the U.K. for their alleged involvement in the brutal killing, which took place inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

The Riyadh Criminal Court’s final verdicts were announced by Saudi Arabia’s state television, which aired few details about the eight Saudi nationals and did not name them. The court ordered a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the five. Another individual received a 10-year sentence, and two others were ordered to serve seven years in prison.

A team of 15 Saudi agents had flown to Turkey to meet Khashoggi inside the consulate for his appointment on Oct. 2, 2018 to pick up documents that would allow him to marry his Turkish fiance, who waited outside. The team included a forensic doctor, intelligence and security officers, and individuals who worked directly for the crown prince’s office, according to Agnes Callamard, who investigated the killing for the United Nations.

Turkish officials allege Khashoggi was killed and then dismembered with a bone saw inside the consulate. His body has not been found. Turkey apparently had the consulate bugged and shared audio of the killing with the C.I.A., among others.

Western intelligence agencies, as well as the U.S. Congress, have said the crown prince bears ultimate responsibility for the killing and that an operation of this magnitude could not have happened without his knowledge.

The 35-year-old prince denies any knowledge of the operation and has condemned the killing. He continues to have the support of his father, King Salman, and remains popular among Saudi youth at home. He also maintains the support of President Donald Trump, who has defended U.S.-Saudi ties in the face of the international outcry over the slaying.


Slovakia court set to give verdict in reporter's slaying
Court News | 2020/09/04 02:51
A court in Slovakia is expected to issue a verdict Thursday in the slayings of an investigative journalist and his fiancee, a crime that shocked the country and led a government to fall.

The state prosecution has requested 25-year prison terms for three remaining defendants, one of them a businessman accused of masterminding the killings. They all pleaded not guilty to murdering journalist Jan Kuciak, and fiancee Martina Kusnirova, both aged 27.

But the trial at the Specialized Criminal Court in Pezinok, which handles Slovakia's most serious cases, might not be coming to an end, yet.

A three-judge tribunal originally was set to deliver a verdict in early August but delayed its decision, citing a need for more time.

Prosecutors submitted additional evidence on Monday. The panel could decide to postpone the verdict again to give them a chance to present the evidence in court.

Kuciak was shot in the chest and Kusnirova was shot in the head at their home in the town of Velka Maca, east of Bratislava, on Feb. 21, 2018.

The killings prompted major street protests unseen since the 1989 anti-communist Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. The ensuing political crisis led to the collapse of a coalition government headed by populist Prime Minister Robert Fico and to the dismissal of the national police chief.

Kuciak had been writing about alleged ties between the Italian mafia and people close to Fico when he was killed, and also wrote about corruption scandals linked to Fico’s leftist Smer - Social Democracy party.


High Court in London backs Virgin Atlantic's rescue plan
Court News | 2020/09/01 09:52
Virgin Atlantic’s 1.2 billion-pound ($1.6 billion) restructuring plan was approved Wednesday by the High Court in London, allowing the international airline to continue rebuilding its operations after the devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The deal, which has already been approved by creditors, must now be confirmed in the U.S. courts.

The airline announced the refinancing package in July to ensure its survival after passenger numbers dropped 98% in the second quarter. It includes 600 million pounds of support from the airline’s owners, Virgin Group and Delta Airlines, 450 million pounds of deferred payments to creditors and 170 million pounds of financing from U.S.-based Davidson Kempner Capital Management LP.

Virgin Atlantic, founded in 1984 by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, has already cut 3,550 jobs, shuttered operations at London’s Gatwick Airport and announced plans to retire 11 aircraft as it seeks to weather the slowdown in air travel. The airline says it doesn’t expect passenger volume to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023.

"Achieving this significant milestone puts Virgin Atlantic in a position to rebuild its balance sheet, restore customer confidence and welcome passengers back to the skies, safely, as soon as they are ready to travel,” the company said in a statement.

Delta invested $360 million in Virgin Atlantic in December 2012, acquiring a 49% stake in the airline. Virgin Group owns the remaining shares.

Virgin flies from London’s Heathrow Airport and Manchester to destinations in the U.S., China, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Nigeria, Israel and the Caribbean.



Huawei, ZTE lose patent appeal cases at UK Supreme Court
Court News | 2020/08/28 00:52
Britain’s Supreme Court has dismissed two appeals by Chinese telecoms firms Huawei and ZTE over mobile data patent disputes.

The disputes center on the licensing of patented technology considered essential to mobile telecoms. The patents are meant to ensure fair competition and access to technology like 4G.

In the first case, Unwired Planet, an intellectual property company that licenses patents, had brought legal action against Huawei for infringement of five U.K. patents that Unwired acquired from Ericsson.

The second appeal concerned legal action brought by another patent licensing company, Conversant Wireless, against Huawei and ZTE for infringement of four of its U.K. patents.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld lower court rulings on the cases and dismissed appeals by Huawei and ZTE.

In a statement, Conversant said the ruling was a landmark judgment that will have “significant implications worldwide” for telecommunications patent licensing.

The ruling meant that companies like Huawei cannot insist that patent holders like Conversant prove their patents in every jurisdiction of the world, which would be “both practically and economically prohibitive,” the company added.


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