President, Supreme Court top Wisconsin races in 2020
Headline Legal News | 2020/01/02 01:22
Everyone knows Wisconsin will be in the spotlight for the presidential race in 2020. It's one of just a few states where the electorate is so evenly divided, it could swing either way. That is the biggest prize on the ballot this year, but it's far from the only contest for Wisconsin voters. Here are the highlights of what's on Wisconsin's political horizon in 2020:

PRESIDENTIAL RACE

Wisconsin will be the focus of the presidential race all year. President Donald Trump won Wisconsin by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016 and both sides expect another close race. Wisconsin is one of just a few states expected to be competitive and for that reason, many expect it to be the epicenter of the fight for the White House. Democrats will get a chance to vote for their nominee on April 7. With a large field and unsettled race, many expect it to still be undecided for Wisconsin's primary. Milwaukee hosts the Democratic National Convention in July and both sides are expected to flood the state with money ? and candidate appearances ? before the November election.

SUPREME COURT

Wisconsin elects its Supreme Court justices and one of them who was appointed by then-Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, is up for election in April. Dan Kelly was appointed in 2016 and now he's running for a full 10-year term. He's part of the current 5-2 conservative majority on the court. If he wins, that majority will not change. But if one of two liberal candidates prevail, the conservative hold on the court will drop to 4-3. Dane County Circuit Judge Jill Karofsky and Marquette University law professor Ed Fallone have Democratic support in the race. A Feb. 18 primary will narrow the field to two candidates. The winner will be elected on April 7. That is the same day as Wisconsin's presidential primary, when Democratic turnout is expected to be high. That could spell trouble for Kelly.



Supreme Court leaves Kentucky’s ultrasound law in place
Headline Legal News | 2019/12/09 17:21
The Supreme Court on Monday left in place a Kentucky law requiring doctors to perform ultrasounds and show fetal images to patients before abortions.

The justices did not comment in refusing to review an appeals court ruling that upheld the law. Enforcement of the law had been on hold pending the legal challenge but will begin shortly, said Steve Pitt, general counsel to Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin.

The American Civil Liberties Union had challenged the law on behalf of Kentucky’s lone remaining abortion clinic. The ACLU argued that “display and describe” ultrasound laws violate physicians’ speech rights under the First Amendment.

The federal appeals court in Cincinnati upheld the Kentucky law, but its sister court in Richmond, Virginia, struck down a similar measure in North Carolina.

The Supreme Court had previously upheld “informed consent” laws for women seeking abortions. The court will hear an abortion case in March, over Louisiana’s attempt to require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.

Doctors’ speech also has been an issue in non-abortion cases. The federal appeals court in Atlanta struck down parts of a 2011 Florida law that sought to prohibit doctors from talking about gun safety with their patients. Under the law, doctors faced fines and the possible loss of their medical licenses for discussing guns with patients.

In Kentucky, doctors must describe the ultrasound in detail while the pregnant woman listens to the fetal heartbeat. Women can avert their eyes and cover their ears to avoid hearing the description or the fetal heartbeat. Doctors failing to comply face fines and can be referred to the state’s medical licensing board.


New Orleans judges seek review of court fees conflict ruling
Headline Legal News | 2019/09/10 16:47
State criminal court judges in New Orleans have asked a federal appeals court to reconsider its finding that they have a conflict of interest when deciding whether some defendants can pay fines and fees.

The fines and fees in question partially fund expenses of the New Orleans Criminal District Court.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month upheld a federal district judge who said the New Orleans judges must provide a “neutral forum” for determining whether a defendant can pay. The judges have asked, in a filing dated Friday, that the court grant a rehearing in the case. It’s unclear when the appeals court will rule on the request.



Dubai ruler, princess in London court over welfare of kids
Headline Legal News | 2019/07/30 15:36
A dispute between the ruler of Dubai and his estranged wife over the welfare of their two young children will play out over the next two days in a London courtroom amid reports the princess has fled the Gulf emirate.

The case beginning Tuesday in Britain's High Court pits Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum against Princess Haya, daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan.

The princess is believed to be in Britain, where she owns a gated mansion.

The clash between Sheikh Mohammed and Princess Haya is the latest sign of trouble in Dubai's ruling family. Last year, a daughter of Sheikh Mohammed tried to flee Dubai after appearing in a 40-minute video saying she had been imprisoned.


High court rejects appeal of killer of 4 people in Omaha
Headline Legal News | 2019/07/20 19:06
The Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday upheld the convictions and death sentence of a man who killed four people in Omaha, seemingly at random, shortly after his release from prison in 2013.

Nikko Jenkins pleaded no contest in 2014 to four counts of first-degree murder and multiple weapons counts for three separate, deadly attacks around Omaha. He was sentenced to death  in 2017 after years of delays over concerns regarding his mental health. The high court’s opinion addressed combined direct appeals on Jenkins’ behalf.

Among the arguments Jenkins’ attorneys made is that the trial court abused its discretion in accepting his no-contest pleas in a death penalty case. In a no-contest plea, a defendant does not admit guilt, but concedes there is enough evidence for a conviction. The plea has the same effect as a guilty plea.

The Douglas County Public Defender office also argued that the court was wrong to allow Jenkins to represent himself and that, because it believes Jenkins is mentally ill, sentencing him to death violated the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.


DeVaney sworn in to South Dakota Supreme Court
Headline Legal News | 2019/05/24 21:41
Patricia DeVaney has been sworn in as South Dakota's newest Supreme Court justice.

DeVaney took her oath of office in the state's Capitol Rotunda in Pierre Thursday, steps away from the Attorney General's Office where she spent much of her career.

Republican Gov. Kristi Noem highlighted DeVaney's work as an assistant attorney general prosecuting one of South Dakota's serial killers, Robert Leroy Anderson. The Rapid City Journal says Noem also highlighted DeVaney's work defending the constitutionality of South Dakota's laws requiring "informed consent" prior to an abortion.

DeVaney remained with the Attorney General's Office until 2012, when former-Gov. Dennis Daugaard appointed her to South Dakota's 6th Judicial Circuit. She fills the seat vacated by Justice Steven Zinter, who died unexpectedly last October.


Wisconsin court says gun site not liable in spa shooting
Headline Legal News | 2019/05/01 16:16
The state Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit Tuesday alleging a firearms website that enabled a man to illegally purchase the pistol he used in a mass shooting at a suburban Milwaukee spa six years ago is liable in the killings, ruling that federal law grants the site operators immunity.

The court ruled 5-1 that the federal Communications Decency Act protects Armslist LLC, a firearms classifieds website. The act absolves website operators of any liability resulting from posting third-party content.

Radcliffe Haughton’s wife, Zina Daniel Haughton, had taken out a restraining order against him that prohibited him from possessing a firearm. But he bought a semi-automatic pistol and ammunition in October 2012 from a person he met through Armslist.com, according to court documents.

The next day he opened fire at Azana Salon & Spa in Brookfield, where his wife worked. He killed her, two of her co-workers and wounded four others before he took his own life.

According to court documents, Haughton used an Armslist.com function that allowed him to bypass ads from licensed dealers, enabling him to avoid a background check.

The lawsuit filed in 2015 alleged Armslist’s operators should have known that the design of the site enabled illegal gun purchases. But Chief Justice Pat Roggensack, writing for the majority, said Tuesday that if a website’s features can be used lawfully the act immunizes the operators from liability when third parties use the sites unlawfully. Therefore all that’s left is to consider the site a publisher, triggering immunity under the act, she said.

“Regardless of Armslist’s knowledge or intent, the relevant question is whether (the) claim necessarily requires Armslist to be treated as the publisher or speaker of third-party content,” Roggensack wrote. “Because it does, the negligence claim must be dismissed.”

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley was the lone dissenter. She accused the majority of allowing Armslist to hide behind the federal law and called the decision a “manufactured interpretation” of the lawsuit’s arguments.


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