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Supreme Court rejects fast track for Trump election cases
Legal Interview | 2021/01/11 22:35
The Supreme Court on Monday formally refused to put on a fast track election challenges filed by President Donald Trump and his allies.

The court rejected pleas for quick consideration of cases involving the outcome in five states won by President-elect Joe Biden: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The orders, issued without comment, were unsurprising. The justices had previously taken no action in those cases in advance of last week’s counting of the electoral votes in Congress, which confirmed Biden’s victory.

The court still could act on appeals related to the Nov. 3 election later this winter or in the spring. Several justices had expressed interest in a Pennsylvania case involving the state Supreme Court’s decision to extend the deadline for receipt of mailed ballots by three days, over the opposition of the Republican-controlled legislature.

But even if the court were to take up an election-related case, it probably wouldn’t hear arguments until the fall.


Biden to name Judge Merrick Garland as attorney general
Headline News | 2021/01/07 21:58
President-elect Joe Biden has selected Merrick Garland, a federal appeals court judge who in 2016 was snubbed by Republicans for a seat on the Supreme Court, as his attorney general, two people familiar with the selection process said Wednesday.

In picking Garland, Biden is turning to an experienced judge who held senior positions at the Justice Department decades ago, including as a supervisor of the prosecution of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. The pick will force Senate Republicans to contend with the nomination of someone they spurned four years ago ? refusing even to hold hearings when a Supreme Court vacancy arose ? but Biden is banking on Garland’s credentials and reputation for moderation to ensure confirmation.

Biden is expected to announce Garland’s appointment on Thursday, along with other senior leaders of the department, including former homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco as deputy attorney general and former Justice Department civil rights chief Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general, the No. 3 official. He will also name an assistant attorney general for civil rights, Kristen Clarke, the president of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, an advocacy group.

Garland was selected over other finalists including former Alabama Sen. Doug Jones and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. The people familiar with the process spoke on condition of anonymity. One said Biden regards Garland as an attorney general who can restore integrity to the Justice Department and as someone who, having worked as both a federal prosecutor and a high-level supervisor inside the agency, will enjoy the respect of nonpartisan career staff.

Garland’s confirmation prospects were solidified as Democrats on Wednesday scored control of the Senate majority by winning both Georgia Senate seats.

Garland would confront immediate challenges if confirmed, including an ongoing criminal tax investigation into Biden’s son, Hunter, as well as calls from many Democrats to pursue inquiries into President Donald Trump after he leaves office. A special counsel investigation into the origins of the Russia probe also remains open, forcing a new attorney general to decide how to handle it and what to make public.

Garland would also inherit a Justice Department that has endured a tumultuous four years and abundant criticism from Democrats over what they see as the overpoliticization of law enforcement. The department is expected to dramatically change course under new leadership, including through a different approach to civil rights issues and national policing policies, especially after months of mass protests over the deaths of Black Americans at the hand of law enforcement.



Republicans condemn 'scheme' to undo election for Trump
Law Firm Business | 2021/01/05 22:34
The unprecedented Republican effort to overturn the presidential election has been condemned by an outpouring of current and former GOP officials warning the effort to sow doubt in Joe Biden's  win and keep President Donald Trump in office is undermining Americans’ faith in democracy.

Trump has enlisted support from a dozen Republican senators and up to 100 House Republicans to challenge the Electoral College  vote when Congress convenes in a joint session to confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s  306-232 win.

With Biden set to be inaugurated Jan. 20, Trump is intensifying efforts to prevent the traditional transfer of power, ripping the party apart.

Despite Trump's claims of voter fraud, state officials have insisted the elections ran smoothly and there was no evidence of fraud or other problems that would change the outcome. The states have certified their results as fair and valid. Of the more than 50 lawsuits the president and his allies have filed challenging election results, nearly all have been dismissed or dropped. He’s also lost twice at the U.S. Supreme Court.

On a call disclosed Sunday, Trump can be heard pressuring Georgia officials  to “find” him more votes.

But some senior lawmakers, including prominent Republicans, are pushing back.

“The 2020 election is over,” said a statement Sunday from a bipartisan group of 10 senators, including Republicans Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Mitt Romney of Utah.

The senators wrote that further attempts to cast doubt on the election are “contrary to the clearly expressed will of the American people and only serve to undermine Americans’ confidence in the already determined election results.”

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland said, “The scheme by members of Congress to reject the certification of the presidential election makes a mockery of our system and who we are as Americans.”

Former House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican, said in a statement that “Biden’s victory is entirely legitimate" and that efforts to sow doubt about the election “strike at the foundation of our republic.”

Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking House Republican, warned in a memo to colleagues that objections to the Electoral College results “set an exceptionally dangerous precedent.”

One of the more outspoken conservatives in Congress, Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton, said he will not oppose the counting of certified electoral votes on Jan. 6. "I’m grateful for what the president accomplished over the past four years, which is why I campaigned vigorously for his reelection. But objecting to certified electoral votes won’t give him a second term?it will only embolden those Democrats who want to erode further our system of constitutional government.”

Cotton said he favors further investigation of any election problems, separate from the counting of the certified Electoral College results.


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Court Center | 2021/01/02 06:31
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Hong Kongers charged in China plead guilty, relatives told
Headline News | 2020/12/31 00:23
Relatives of the 10 Hong Kongers accused of fleeing the city by speedboat during a government crackdown on dissent say they've been informed that their family members pleaded guilty, according to a support group.

The families of the detainees were informed by court-appointed lawyers Tuesday that a court in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen will deliver the verdicts on Wednesday, according to the 12 Hongkongers Concern Group, which is assisting the families.

It was not clear whether the 10 would also be sentenced on Wednesday, but Chinese courts often issue sentences at the same time as verdicts.

The 10 defendants all faced charges of illegally crossing the border, while two of them faced additional charges of organizing the attempt, according to an indictment issued in Shenzhen. The trials began on Monday afternoon, according to a statement issued by the Shenzhen Yantian District court.

Separate hearings were expected for two minors who were also aboard the boat that was apparently heading for Taiwan when it was stopped by the Chinese coast guard on Aug. 23.

The defendants are believed to have feared they would be prosecuted for their past activities in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. Hong Kong media reports said at least one may have had a warrant out for his arrest under a tough new national security law imposed on the semi-autonomous territory by Beijing in June.

Relatives of the defendants say that they have been prevented from hiring their own lawyers and that the accusations are politically motivated. The defendants can be sentenced to up to a year in prison for crossing the border and seven years for organizing the trip.

They were picked up after entering mainland Chinese waters for crossing the maritime border without permission. While Hong Kong is part of China, travelers must still pass through immigration when going to and from the mainland. The defendants apparently needed to pass through Chinese waters to get to open seas.


Parents Plead Not Guilty to Charges in Missouri Girl's Death
Headline News | 2020/12/29 04:00
The parents of a 4-year-old Missouri girl allegedly killed by neighbors to remove a “demon” pleaded not guilty Monday to charges connected to the case. Mary S. Mast, 29, and James A. Mast, 28, both of Lincoln, Missouri, were charged Thursday with felony child endangerment resulting in death and are jailed without bond. They don't yet have attorneys.

During their arraignments Monday, Associate Judge Mark Brandon Pilley also denied the couple's request to attend the girl's funeral, according to online court records. A bond hearing was scheduled for Jan. 5.

The couple's other children, a 2-year-old son and an infant, were placed in protective custody, Benton County Sheriff Eric Knox said in a news release. The girl was found dead at the family home on Dec. 20. Knox said she had been severely beaten and dunked in an icy pond as part of what appeared to be a “religious-type episode.”

Across-the-road neighbors Ethan Mast, 35, and Kourtney Aumen, 21, were charged last week with second-degree murder and other offenses. Both are jailed without bond. Ethan Mast is not believed to be related to James and Mary Mast, Knox said.

Both families attend the same church, but Knox said that the actions involving the girl are not condoned by the church, which he declined to name. “The investigation done so far indicates that this is an isolated incident and NOT the actions of a cult,” Knox wrote in a news release on the department's Facebook page.

A probable cause statement from Benton County Sgt. Chris Wilson said the girl was already dead and had “severe purple bruising” over her body, along with ruptured blisters, when he was called to the home. Knox said the girl’s parents also had been beaten along with the 2-year-old. The infant was unharmed.

James Mast told investigators he and his wife observed the beating of their daughter but were told they would be beaten or shot if they tried to intervene.


Trump made lasting impact on federal courts
Headline News | 2020/12/24 12:00
On this, even President Donald Trump’s most fevered critics agree: he has left a deep imprint on the federal courts that will outlast his one term in office for decades to come.

He used the promise of conservative judicial appointments to win over Republican skeptics as a candidate. Then as president, he relied on outside conservative legal organizations and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to employ an assembly line-like precision to install more than 230 judges on the federal bench, including the three newest justices of the Supreme Court. Trump never tired of boasting about it.

Indeed, undeterred by Democratic criticism, the Senate was still confirming judges more than a month after Trump lost his reelection bid to Joe Biden.

“Trump has basically done more than any president has done in a single term since (President Jimmy) Carter to put his stamp on the judiciary,” said Jonathan Adler, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law in Cleveland, Ohio, adding that Congress created around 150 new judgeships during Carter’s presidency.

The impact will be enduring. Among the Trump-appointed judges, who hold lifetime positions, several are still in their 30s. The three Supreme Court picks could still be on the court at the 21st century’s midpoint, 30 years from now.

Beyond the Supreme Court, 30 percent of the judges on the nation’s court of appeals, where all but a handful of cases reach their end, were appointed by Trump.

But numbers don’t tell the entire story. The real measure of what Trump has been able to do will be revealed in countless court decisions in the years to come on abortion, guns, religious rights and a host of other culture wars issues.

When it came to the president’s own legal challenges of the election results, however, judges who have him to thank for their position rebuffed his claims. But in many other important ways, his success with judicial appointments already is paying dividends for conservatives.

When the Supreme Court blocked New York from enforcing certain limits on attendance at churches and synagogues in areas designated as hard hit by COVID-19, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the newest member of the court, cast the decisive fifth vote. Previously, the court had allowed restrictions on religious services over the dissent of four justices, including the other two Trump nominees, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Five Trump appointees were in the majority of the 6-4 decision by the full 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in September that made it harder for felons in Florida to regain the right to vote. The Atlanta-based court had a majority of Democratic-appointed judges when Trump took office.


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