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Texas clinics ask Supreme Court to abortions during pandemic
Legal Interview | 2020/04/12 20:02
Abortion clinics in Texas on Saturday asked the Supreme Court to step in to allow certain abortions to continue during the coronavirus pandemic.

The clinics filed an emergency motion asking the justices to overturn a lower-court order and allow abortions when they can be performed using medication.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order last month that bars non-essential medical procedures so that medical resources can go to treating coronavirus patients. Texas' attorney general has said that providing abortions other than for an immediate medical emergency would violate the order.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday allowed abortions to proceed in cases where a woman would be beyond 22 weeks pregnant, the legal limit for abortions in Texas, on April 22, the day after the governor's order barring non-essential medical procedures is set to expire.


Kansas' high court rules for governor on religious services
Law Firm Business | 2020/04/12 20:01
The Kansas Supreme Court ruled Saturday that a Republican-dominated legislative panel exceeded its authority when it tried to overturn the Democratic governor’s executive order banning religious and funeral services of more than 10 people during the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision letting Gov. Laura Kelly’s order stand came after the justices heard oral arguments one day before Easter, which is typically the busiest day on the Christian calendar in terms of church attendance. The Saturday hearing was the court’s first conducted completely via video conferencing.

The court ruled that legislative action designed to give the legislative leadership panel the ability to overrule Kelly’s executive orders was flawed and didn’t legally accomplish that.

The hearing, which was the court’s first conducted completely via video conferencing, came one day before Easter, which is typically the busiest day on the Christian calendar in terms of church attendance.

“In this time of crisis, the question before the court is whether a seven-member legislative committee has the power to overrule the governor. The answer is no,” said Clay Britton, chief counsel for the governor.


Court lifts part of order blocking Texas abortion ban
Legal Interview | 2020/04/10 07:03
A federal appeals court on Friday partially rescinded a lower-court order that had largely blocked the enforcement of an abortion ban in Texas during the coronavirus pandemic.

By a 2-1 vote, the three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld enforcement of an executive order by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott that includes abortion among non-essential medical procedures banned during the state of emergency.

However, the appeals court allowed the procedure to go ahead if delays would place the pregnancy beyond the 22-week state cutoff for abortions.

The ruling was agreed to by Judges Jennifer Walker Elrod, an appointee of President George W. Bush, and Kyle Duncan, an appointee of President Donald Trump. Judge James L. Dennis, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, dissented and opposed any stay of the lower-court order.

COVID-19 is the illness caused by the new coronavirus. For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.



Court drops rape, other charges against megachurch leader
Legal Interview | 2020/04/08 03:05
A California appeals court ordered the dismissal of a criminal case Tuesday against a Mexican megachurch leader on charges of child rape and human trafficking on procedural grounds.

Naason Joaquin Garcia, the self-proclaimed apostle of La Luz del Mundo, has been in custody since June following his arrest on accusations involving three girls and one woman between 2015 and 2018 in Los Angeles County. Additional allegations of the possession of child pornography in 2019 were later added. He has denied wrongdoing.

While being held without bail in Los Angeles, Garcia has remained the spiritual leader of La Luz del Mundo, which is Spanish for “The Light Of The World.” The Guadalajara, Mexico-based evangelical Christian church was founded by his grandfather and claims 5 million followers worldwide.

It was not clear when he would be released. The attorney general’s office said it was reviewing the court’s ruling and did not answer additional questions.

Garcia’s attorney, Alan Jackson, said he and his client are “thrilled” by the decision.

“In their zeal to secure a conviction at any cost, the Attorney General has sought to strip Mr. Garcia of his freedom without due process by locking him up without bail on the basis of unsubstantiated accusations by unnamed accusers and by denying him his day in court,” Jackson said in a statement.

La Luz del Mundo officials in a statement urged their followers to remain respectful and pray for authorities.


Justice delayed: Virus crisis upends courts system across US
Legal News | 2020/04/03 03:07
The coronavirus pandemic has crippled the U.S. legal system, creating constitutional dilemmas as the accused miss their days in court. The public health crisis could build a legal backlog that overwhelms courts across the country, leaving some defendants behind bars longer, and forcing prosecutors to decide which cases to pursue and which to let slide.

“Everybody is scrambling. Nobody really knows how to handle this,” said Claudia Lagos, a criminal defense attorney in Boston.

Judges from California to Maine have postponed trials and nearly all in-person hearings to keep crowds from packing courthouses. Trials that were underway ? like the high-profile case against multimillionaire real estate heir Robert Durst ? have been halted. Some chief judges have suspended grand juries, rendering new indictments impossible. Other have allowed them to sit, though six feet apart.

Prosecutors may have to abandon some low-level cases to keep people from flooding into the legal system.

Many judges are holding hearings by phone or video chat to keep all cases from grinding to a halt. Other courts are stymied by outdated technology. The clerk for the the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Molly Dwyer, likened the logistical challenges to “building the bike as we ride it.”

Judges have asked for emergency powers to delay trials longer than the law generally allows and extend key deadlines, like when a defendant must initially appear in court.


Poland chamber penalizing judges must be suspended
Headline News | 2020/04/02 03:09
Europe’s top court on Wednesday ordered Poland's government to immediately suspend a body it set up to discipline judges, saying the chamber did not guarantee independence or impartiality of its verdicts.

The Disciplinary Chamber of Poland’s Supreme Court, which was appointed by the right-wing government in 2017, is widely seen as a tool for the government to control judges who are critical of its policies.

The European Union, which has said the chamber violates basic values of judicial independence and Poland's rule of law, took Poland's government to the European Court of Justice in October.

While the case is still being considered, the European court ordered the Disciplinary Chamber suspended, saying its activity could “cause serious and irreparable harm with regard to the functioning of the EU legal order.”

Poland's government argues it has full right to shape its judiciary, saying it needs to be made more efficient and freed of its communist-era legacy.

Deputy Justice Minister Anna Dalkowska said the government will “weigh various options" after the European court's order.


Supreme Court: Justices healthy and trying to stay that way
Court Center | 2020/03/22 00:49
The Supreme Court reported Friday that the nine justices are healthy and trying to stay that way.

To that end, when the court held its regularly scheduled private conference Friday morning, some of the justices participated remotely, and those who were in the building did not engage in the tradition of shaking hands, court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said.

The court plans to issue opinions Monday in cases argued during the fall and winter without taking the bench, Arberg said. The last time that happened was when the court decided Bush v. Gore late in the evening of Dec. 12, 2000, essentially settling the disputed 2000 presidential election in favor of Republican George W. Bush.

Arberg wouldn't say who showed up in person Friday to the justices' conference room, adjacent to Chief Justice John Roberts' office. Six of the nine justices are 65 and older, at higher risk of getting very sick from the illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who turned 87 on Sunday, and Stephen Breyer, 81, are the oldest members of the court.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, 54, flew on a commercial flight last week between Washington, D.C., and Louisville, Kentucky, for a ceremony in honor of U.S. District Judge Justin Walker, a former law clerk whom President Donald Trump named to the federal bench last year.


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