Judge Calls Trump Request in Wisconsin Lawsuit 'Bizarre'
Headline Legal News | 2020/12/05 20:32
A judge hearing President Donald Trump's federal lawsuit seeking to overturn Democrat Joe Biden's win in Wisconsin said Friday that the president's request to “remand” the case to the GOP-controlled Legislature to pick new electors was “bizarre.”

The federal case is one of two Trump has in Wisconsin making similar arguments. He filed another one in state court, which the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday refused to hear before it first goes through lower courts.

Hearings on both lawsuits were scheduled for Thursday, with the judges noting the importance of resolving the legal battles before the Electoral College meets on Dec. 14. Trump, who argues that hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots cast in accordance with state guidelines were illegal, wants a federal judge to give the Republican-controlled Legislature the power to determine who won the election.

“It’s a request for pretty remarkable declaratory relief," said U.S. District Judge Brett Ludwig during a conference call to set deadlines and a hearing date. Ludwig, who said it was “an unusual case, obviously,” also cast doubt on whether a federal court should be considering it at all.

“I have a very, very hard time seeing how this is justiciable in the federal court,” Ludwig, a Trump appointee, said. “The request to remand this case to the Legislature almost strikes me as bizarre.”

The judge questioned why Trump wasn't going directly to the Legislature if he wants lawmakers to get involved with naming electors. Bill Bock, the Trump campaign attorney in the federal lawsuit, said Trump needed the court to rule that the election was “invalid" so the Legislature could get involved. He also said that the term “remand,” which is typically used to describe when one court sends a case to a lower court, was “inartful.”

Republican Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke cast serious doubt in the week on whether the Legislature might change the state's electors from Biden to Trump backers. Steineke tweeted a clip of actor Dana Carvey playing President George H.W. Bush saying, “Not gonna do it.”

In his state lawsuit, Trump is seeking to disqualify 221,000 ballots he claims were cast illegally. Judge Stephen Simanek, who is hearing that case after the Wisconsin Supreme Court refused to take it initially, said Friday he would rule from the bench following next week's hearing that's scheduled to start hours after the one in federal court.

The high court also declined Friday to hear a lawsuit brought by Wisconsin Voters Alliance over Trump's loss. Two others filed by Trump allies — one in federal court and one in state court — remain. Trump has lost multiple lawsuits in other battleground states as part of a longshot effort to overturn Biden's victory. Even if he were to prevail in Wisconsin, the state's 10 Electoral College votes would not be enough to hand him reelection.


Pennsylvania high court rejects lawsuit challenging election
Headline Legal News | 2020/11/29 22:27
Pennsylvania’s highest court on Saturday night threw out a lower court’s order preventing the state from certifying dozens of contests on its Nov. 3 election ballot in the latest lawsuit filed by Republicans attempting to thwart President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the battleground state.

The state Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, threw out the three-day-old order, saying the underlying lawsuit was filed months after the expiration of a time limit in Pennsylvania’s expansive year-old mail-in voting law allowing for challenges to it.

Justices also remarked on the lawsuit’s staggering demand that an entire election be overturned retroactively. “They have failed to allege that even a single mail-in ballot was fraudulently cast or counted,” Justice David Wecht wrote in a concurring opinion.

The state’s attorney general, Democrat Josh Shapiro, called the court’s decision “another win for Democracy.”

President Donald Trump and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, meanwhile, have repeatedly and baselessly claimed that Democrats falsified mail-in ballots to steal the election from Trump. Biden beat Trump by more than 80,000 votes in Pennsylvania, a state Trump had won in 2016.

The week-old lawsuit, led by Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly of northwestern Pennsylvania, had challenged the state’s mail-in voting law as unconstitutional.

As a remedy, Kelly and the other Republican plaintiffs had sought to either throw out the 2.5 million mail-in ballots submitted under the law — most of them by Democrats — or to wipe out the election results and direct the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature to pick Pennsylvania’s presidential electors.

In any case, that request — for the state’s lawmakers to pick Pennsylvania’s presidential electors — flies in the face of a nearly century-old state law that already grants the power to pick electors to the state’s popular vote, Wecht wrote.

While the high court’s two Republicans joined the five Democrats in opposing those remedies, they split from Democrats in suggesting that the lawsuit’s underlying claims — that the state’s mail-in voting law might violate the constitution — are worth considering.

Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough, elected as a Republican in 2009, had issued the order Wednesday to halt certification of any remaining contests, including apparently contests for Congress.

It did not appear to affect the presidential contest since a day earlier, Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, had certified Biden as the winner of the presidential election in Pennsylvania.

Wolf quickly appealed McCullough’s decision to the state Supreme Court, saying there was no “conceivable justification” for it.

The lawsuit’s dismissal comes after Republicans have lost a flurry of legal challenges brought by the Trump campaign and its GOP allies filed in state and federal courts in Pennsylvania.


Int'l court: Hezbollah member guilty in Lebanon ex-PM death
Headline Legal News | 2020/08/17 23:05
A U.N.-backed tribunal on Tuesday convicted one member of the Hezbollah militant group and acquitted three others of involvement in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon said Salim Ayyash was guilty as a co-conspirator of five charges linked to his involvement in the suicide truck bombing. Hariri and 21 others were killed and 226 were wounded in a huge blast outside a seaside hotel in Beirut on Feb. 14, 2005.

However, after a years-long investigation and trial, three other Hezbollah members were acquitted of all charges that they also were involved in the killing of Hariri, which sent shock waves through the Mideast.

None of the suspects were ever arrested and were not in court to hear the verdicts.

The tribunal’s judges also said there was no evidence the leadership of the Hezbollah militant group and Syria were involved in the attack, despite saying the assassination happened as Harairi and his political allies were discussing calling for an “immediate and total withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon,” Presiding Judge David Re said.

When launched in the wake of the attack, the tribunal raised hopes that for the first time in multiple instances of political violence in Lebanon, the truth of what happened would emerge and those responsible would be held to account.

But for many in Lebanon, the tribunal failed on both counts. Many of the suspects, including the man convicted Tuesday, are either dead or out of reach of justice. And the prosecution was unable to present a cohesive picture of the bombing plot or who ordered it.

The verdicts come at a particularly sensitive time for Lebanon, following the devastating explosion at the Port of Beirut two weeks ago, and as many in Lebanon are calling for an international investigation into that explosion.



Lawsuit: Trump still blocks Twitter critics after court loss
Headline Legal News | 2020/08/02 00:43
An organization that successfully proved President Donald Trump violated the law when he blocked Twitter critics sued him anew on Friday, saying he continues to reject some accounts two years after losing in court.

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University sued Trump a second time in Manhattan federal court over use of his @realDonaldTrump Twitter account, saying the president and his staff continue to block some accounts.

Some individuals identified in a lawsuit filed in 2017, along with dozens of others who were blocked on the basis of viewpoint, have been unblocked, the lawsuit said.

But lawyers say the White House has refused to unblock those who can't identify which tweet led them to be blocked and others who were blocked before Trump was sworn in more than three years ago.

“It shouldn’t take another lawsuit to get the president to respect the rule of law and to stop blocking people simply because he doesn’t like what they’re posting,” said Katie Fallow, senior staff attorney at the Knight Institute, in a release.

The lawsuit identified as plaintiffs five individuals who remain blocked, including a digital specialist with the American Federation of Teachers, a freelance writer and researcher, a former teacher, an actor and Donald Moynihan, a professor of public policy at Georgetown University.

Moynihan could not point to a specific tweet that caused him to be blocked because he periodically deletes tweets, the lawsuit said. It added that when the institute pressed the White House to unblock Moynihan, the request was rejected.


No peeking, voters: Court keeps Trump taxes private for now
Headline Legal News | 2020/07/10 22:52
Rejecting President Donald Trump’s complaints that he’s being harassed, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday in favor of a New York prosecutor’s demands for the billionaire president’s tax records. But in good political news for Trump, his taxes and other financial records almost certainly will be kept out of the public eye at least until after the November election.

In a separate case, the justices kept a hold on banking and other documents about Trump, family members and his businesses that  Congress has been seeking for more than a year. The court said that while Congress has significant power to demand the president’s personal information, it is not limitless.

The court turned away the broadest arguments by Trump’s lawyers and the Justice Department that the president is immune from investigation while he holds office or that a prosecutor must show a greater need than normal to obtain the tax records. But it is unclear when a lower court judge might order the Manhattan district attorney’s subpoena to be enforced.

Trump is the only president in modern times who has refused to make his tax returns public, and before he was elected he promised to release them. He didn’t embrace Thursday’s outcome as a victory even though it is likely to prevent his opponents in Congress from obtaining potentially embarrassing personal and business records ahead of Election Day.

In fact, the increasing likelihood that a grand jury will eventually get to examine the documents drove the president into a public rage. He lashed out declaring that “It’s a pure witch hunt, it’s a hoax” and calling New York, where he has lived most of his life, “a hellhole.”

The documents have the potential to reveal details on everything from possible misdeeds to the true nature of the president’s vaunted wealth ? not to mention uncomfortable disclosures about how he’s spent his money and how much he’s given to charity.

The rejection of Trump’s claims of presidential immunity marked the latest instance where his broad assertion of executive power has been rejected.



Court issues temporary restraining order on Gov. Kelly's order
Headline Legal News | 2020/04/20 06:09
A federal judge issued a limited temporary restraining order on Governor Kelly's order banning religious gatherings of ten or more people. The ruling was made by Judge John W. Broomes Saturday evening.

Kelly responded, saying, "This is not about religion. This is about a public health crisis,” Kelly said. “This ruling was just a preliminary step. There is still a long way to go in this case, and we will continue to be proactive and err on the side of caution where Kansans’ health and safety is at stake.”

A telephone conference call had be arranged to hear arguments from attorneys. Broomes also set a time for a preliminary injunction hearing on Wednesday at the federal courthouse in Wichita.
Court issues temporary restraining order on Gov. Kelly's order

The churches and their pastors filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against Kelly, arguing that the directive violates their religious and free-speech rights, as well as their right to assembly.

A federal judge issued a limited temporary restraining order on Governor Kelly's order banning religious gatherings of ten or more people.


Wisconsin’s pandemic election puts focus on state’s court
Headline Legal News | 2020/04/09 17:47
Anyone needing proof of the power and significance of the Wisconsin Supreme Court can look no further than the lines of mask-wearing voters that stretched for hours in Milwaukee during an election held despite a stay-at-home order because of the coronavirus pandemic.

An election-eve decision by the court overturning the governor’s order to postpone the vote made the state an outlier in pushing ahead with voting, ignoring pleadings from health experts and local officials about the danger of spreading the virus.

The fact that Wisconsin went forward when other states delayed their elections, and that many voters were willing to endure long waits to cast ballots, reflects the hotly disputed role the court has taken in a state with outsize importance in national politics.

Republicans and Democrats both see Wisconsin as crucial to winning national elections and gaining control of Congress. Historically, elections in the state are decided by close margins and power has flipped between the parties.

Since conservatives have held a majority on the state Supreme Court, the Republican-dominated Legislature has been able to enact laws that enhanced the GOP’s position, including voter ID laws and limits on labor unions, despite legal challenges from Democrats. The court would play a pivotal role in reviewing the drawing of new district lines for legislative and congressional offices following the 2020 census, which has a major impact on the balance of political power.

On the ballot Tuesday for a 10-year term was one of the justices in the court’s 5-2 conservative majority, Dan Kelly.

Democrats charged that holding the election when many voters might stay home would unduly benefit Republicans, who generally fare better in low-turnout ballots. Wisconsin’s Supreme Court elections are nonpartisan in name only.

No turnout information was available from Tuesday’s vote. The results can’t be posted until April 13, allowing time for counting absentee ballots.


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