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Wisconsin Supreme Court halts Dane County school order
Court Center | 2020/09/12 17:32
The Wisconsin Supreme Court has temporarily blocked an order that prevented most students in Dane County from attending school in person, restrictions issued by health leaders to help control the spread of the coronavirus.

The court, a 4-3 vote, agreed Thursday night to hear a lawsuit challenging the Public Health Madison and Dane County order.

The court's conservative justices were in favor of hearing the case, while more liberal justices opposed. The county's order issued Aug. 21 required students in grades 3-12 be taught online.

The court issued a temporary injunction on the county's order, which means schools across the county can open immediately.



Democrats appeal Green Party case to Pennsylvania high court
Court Center | 2020/09/12 00:32
Democrats on Thursday signaled their intent to appeal a lower court decision ordering election officials to put the Green Party’s candidate for president on the ballot in the battleground state of Pennsylvania.

They filed an intent to appeal the case to the state Supreme Court, where the Democratic majority-panel will could decide the last remaining legal hangup before ballots can be mailed out to voters who applied for one.

The Democrats’ protest targets what they say are disqualifying irregularities in how the Green Party candidates for president and vice president filed affidavits that accompany paperwork to get them on the ballot.

The lower court judge, a Republican, dismissed arguments that the presidential nominee, Howie Hawkins, should be barred from the ballot, but agreed that the Green Party’s vice presidential nominee should be barred.

In 2016, Republican Donald Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton by 44,292 votes in Pennsylvania, helping him win the White House. The Green Party’s nominee that year, Jill Stein, drew slightly more votes than that, 49,941.

Democrats have already dropped their challenges to Green Party candidates for three statewide offices, attorney general, treasurer and auditor general.


Judges: Trump can’t exclude people from district drawings
Legal Interview | 2020/09/11 00:33
Saying the president had exceeded his authority, a panel of three federal judges on Thursday blocked an order from President Donald Trump that tried to exclude people in the country illegally from being counted when congressional districts are redrawn.

The federal judges in New York, in granting an injunction, said the presidential order issued in late July was unlawful. The judges prohibited Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose agency oversees the U.S. Census Bureau, from excluding people in the country illegally when handing in 2020 census figures used to calculate how many congressional seats each state gets.

According to the judges, the presidential order violated laws governing the execution of the once-a-decade census and also the process for redrawing congressional districts known as apportionment by requiring that two sets of numbers be presented ? one with the total count and the other minus people living in the country illegally.

The judges said that those in the country illegally qualify as people to be counted in the states they reside. They declined to say whether the order violated the Constitution.

“Throughout the Nation’s history, the figures used to determine the apportionment of Congress ? in the language of the current statutes, the ‘total population’ and the ‘whole number of persons’ in each State ? have included every person residing in the United States at the time of the census, whether citizen or non-citizen and whether living here with legal status or without,” the judges wrote.

Opponents of the order said it was an effort to suppress the growing political power of Latinos in the U.S. and to discriminate against immigrant communities of color. They also said undocumented residents use the nation’s roads, parks and other public amenities and should be taken into account for any distribution of federal resources.

The lawsuits challenging the presidential order in New York were brought by a coalition of cities, civil rights groups and states led by New York. Because the lawsuits dealt with questions about apportionment, it was heard by a three-judge panel that allows the decision to be appealed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The judges agreed with the coalition that the order created confusion among undocumented residents over whether they should participate in the 2020 census, deterring participation and jeopardizing the quality of the census data. That harm to the census was a sufficient basis for their ruling and they didn’t need to rely on the speculation that a state would be hurt by possibly losing a congressional seat if people in the country illegally were excluded from apportionment, the judges said.


Black Democrat urges governor to drop Black court nominee
Legal Interview | 2020/09/10 00:34
A Black Democratic state lawmaker who is challenging the appointment of a Black woman to the Florida Supreme Court contended Thursday that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is engaging in “racial tokenism” by choosing someone the court itself has already ruled is not eligible for the position.

State Rep. Geraldine Thompson said in an online news conference that DeSantis only chose Renatha Francis for the high court because she shares his conservative ideology, not because he is trying to achieve racial diversity.

Thompson says Francis doesn’t meet the constitutional requirement of being a Florida Bar member for at least 10 years, a point the Supreme Court noted two weeks ago when it ruled DeSantis had exceeded his authority by appointing an ineligible candidate. The court did not undo the appointment, however.

“He wants to throw the rulebook out the window and do whatever he wants to do,” Thompson said. “That’s not what our country is supposed to be about.”

Thompson wants the governor to rescind the appointment. She spoke a day after DeSantis defended his choice at an event Wednesday alongside several Black elected officials who support Francis' appointment. The governor appointed Francis in May with the understanding that she would not actually sit on the court until she is eligible. She will complete 10 years in the bar in two weeks.

DeSantis accused Thompson of blocking the appointment for political reasons. He noted that no other Blacks currently serve on the court. But Thompson argued that DeSantis only wanted the “right" Black person on the court. “It was clearly about ideology and sharing the same perspective he had," she said. “This is one of the worst and most egregious examples of racial tokenism that I have seen in my life.”

Francis, currently a circuit judge in Palm Beach County, would not be the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court but would be the first Caribbean-American to do so. She operated a bar and trucking company in Jamaica before moving to the United States as an adult and working her way through law school.

Thompson represents portions of the Orlando suburbs, including Disney World and Universal Studios.

At the event Wednesday, DeSantis accused Thompson of hypocrisy, saying that she had been among those pushing for a Black justice and now that he has appointed one, she doesn't like her. He said her opposition would force him to choose from a list that includes no Black candidates. Thompson countered that a governor can't simply ignore the Florida Constitution.


Saudi court issues final verdicts in Khashoggi killing
Legal Watch | 2020/09/08 20:26
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.


Court: Money owed can't block voting rights for NC felons
Law Firm Business | 2020/09/05 16:16
A North Carolina court ruled Friday that outstanding restitution, fees or other court-imposed monetary obligations can't prevent convicted felons from voting if they've completed all other portions of their sentence.

The ruling, which may face appeals, could pave the way for an influx of thousands of felons to have their voting rights restored amid hotly contested races for the presidency and U.S. Senate in the battleground state. It wasn't immediately clear how many were affected by the ruling, but lawyers for the plaintiffs said it was in the thousands. A statement issued by Forward Justice, one of the advocacy groups involved in the challenge, said that the ruling would allow some convicted felons to start registering to vote immediately.

“This ruling is a major victory for the thousands of North Carolinians who have been denied access to the ballot due to an inability to pay financial obligations," said Dennis Gaddy, executive director of Community Success Initiative, one of the organizations behind the legal challenge.

Asked whether the state government defendants would appeal, Laura Brewer, a spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office, said lawyers were reviewing the ruling.

The three-judge panel of Wake County Superior Court, which was considering a challenge to state law governing the restoration of voting rights, declined to settle the lawsuit's arguments that probation, parole and post-release supervision are also unfair impediments to voting for those who have completed their incarceration. The judges said further proceedings were needed to address those issues.

In North Carolina, felons can register to vote again once they complete all aspects of their sentence, which can range from prison time to court fees or restitution.

In a 2-1 decision, the judges ruled that a portion of state law requiring felons to pay all monetary obligations before voting again violates the state constitution because it conditions the ability to cast a ballot on one's financial means.

In the majority opinion, the judges note that the state constitution requires that one's property, or financial means, must not affect their ability to vote. Yet, under current state law, “the ability for a person convicted of a felony to vote is conditioned on whether that person possesses, at minimum, a monetary amount equal to any fees, fines and debts assessed as a result of that person's felony conviction,” the judges wrote in the opinion.


High Court in London backs Virgin Atlantic's rescue plan
Headline News | 2020/09/04 23:14
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.


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