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Court: Government can't block immigrant teens from abortion
Press Releases | 2018/04/01 18:35
A federal court in Washington has told the Trump administration that the government can't interfere with the ability of pregnant immigrant teens being held in federal custody to obtain abortions.

A judge issued an order Friday evening barring the government from "interfering with or obstructing" pregnant minors' access to abortion counseling or abortions, among other things, while a lawsuit proceeds. The order covers pregnant minors being held in federal custody after entering the country illegally.

Lawyers for the Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for sheltering children who illegally enter the country unaccompanied by a parent, have said the department has a policy of "refusing to facilitate" abortions. And the director of the office that oversees the shelters has said he believes teens in his agency's care have no constitutional right to abortion.

The American Civil Liberties Union brought a lawsuit on behalf of the minors, which the judge overseeing the case also Friday allowed to go forward as a class action lawsuit.

"We have been able to secure justice for these young pregnant women in government custody who will no longer be subject to the government's policy of coercion and obstruction while the case continues," said ACLU attorney Brigitte Amiri after the judge's order became public.

The government can appeal the judge's order. A Department of Justice spokesman didn't immediately respond to an emailed request for comment Friday evening.

The health department said in a statement Saturday that it "strongly maintains that taxpayers are not responsible for facilitating the abortion of unaccompanied minors who entered the country illegally and are currently in the government's care." It said it is "working closely with the Justice Department to review the court's order and determine next steps."

The ACLU and Trump administration have been sparring for months over the government's policy. In a high-profile case last year, the ACLU represented a teen who entered the U.S. illegally in September and learned while in federal custody in Texas that she was pregnant.

The teen, referred to in court paperwork as Jane Doe, obtained a state court order permitting her to have an abortion and secured private funding to pay for it, but federal officials refused to transport her or temporarily release her so that others could take her to get the procedure.

The teen was ultimately able to get an abortion in October as a result of the lawsuit, but the Trump administration has accused the ACLU of misleading the government during the case, a charge the ACLU has denied.


Trump administration backs PLO in victims' high court appeal
Legal Watch | 2018/03/31 18:34
Despite its bumpy relationship with the Palestinians, the Trump administration is siding with the Palestine Liberation Organization in urging the Supreme Court to reject an appeal from American victims of terrorist attacks in the Middle East more than a decade ago.

The victims are asking the high court to reinstate a $654 million verdict against the PLO and Palestinian Authority in connection with attacks in Israel in 2002 and 2004 that killed 33 people and wounded hundreds more.

The case was scheduled to be considered at the justices’ private conference on Thursday. A decision to reject the appeal could come as early as Monday. If the court decides to hear the case, it could say so by the middle of this month.

The federal appeals court in New York tossed out the verdict in 2016. It said U.S. courts can’t consider lawsuits against foreign-based groups over random attacks that were not aimed at the United States.

The victims sued under the Anti-Terrorism Act, signed into law in 1992. The law was passed to open U.S. courts to victims of international terrorism, spurred by the killing of American Leon Klinghoffer during a 1985 terrorist attack aboard the Achille Lauro cruise ship.

The victims argued that offices the Palestinians maintain in the nation’s capital to promote their cause in speeches and media appearances and to retain lobbyists were sufficient to allow the lawsuit in an American court. The appeals court disagreed.

In late June, the justices asked the administration to weigh in on the case, as they often do in cases with foreign policy implications. The Justice Department filed its brief eight months later, saying there was nothing in the appeals court ruling to “warrant this court’s intervention at this time.”

In unusually strong language for a Supreme Court filing, Theodore Olson, the lawyer for the victims, wrote, “The government is not being square with the court.” Olson said the administration was being cagey about its view of the law, even after the lower court cut back on its use by attack victims to try to hold groups financially liable.


Large Midwest energy project turns to ex-Missouri governor
Court Center | 2018/03/29 17:34
Stymied by state regulators, a renewable energy company seeking to build one of the nation's longest power lines across a large swath of the Midwest has turned to a prominent politician in an attempt to revive its $2.3 billion project.

Former Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, now working as a private attorney after recently finishing 30 years in public office, is to argue Tuesday to the Missouri Supreme Court that utility regulators he appointed wrongly rejected the power line while relying on an incorrect court ruling written by a judge whom Nixon also appointed.

Should Nixon prevail in court, it could help clear a path for Houston-based Clean Line Energy Partners LLC to build a 780-mile (1,255-kilometer), high-voltage transmission line from the wind farms of western Kansas across Missouri and Illinois to Indiana, where it would feed into a power grid serving eastern states. Missouri had been the lone state blocking the project, until an Illinois appeals court in March also overturned that state's approval.



Court hears case alleging unconstitutional 6th District gerrymander
Legal Interview | 2018/03/29 02:34
U.S. Supreme Court justices expressed frustration with partisan gerrymandering on Wednesday as they heard arguments in a case challenging Maryland’s 6th Congressional District.

The case, which alleges a Democratic gerrymander in Maryland at the same time justices are considering the constitutionality of an alleged Republican gerrymander in Wisconsin, has some legal experts wondering whether the justices might be on the verge of establishing a standard that would allow judicial intervention in partisan gerrymandering cases for the first time in the court’s history.

The 6th District challenge was brought by seven Maryland residents, including three from Frederick County, who argue that the district — which includes southwestern parts of Frederick County and the city of Frederick — was unconstitutionally gerrymandered to favor Democrats and punish Republicans during the reapportionment process after the 2010 census.

The justices heard arguments in the Wisconsin political gerrymandering case in October, but have not yet released an opinion.

The Maryland and Wisconsin cases both focus on unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering, but there are some important differences. The Maryland case challenges the redrawing of a single federal district to favor Democrats, while the Wisconsin case is based on the statewide redrawing of Wisconsin State Assembly districts to favor Republicans.



Lohan fails to convince court her image is in video game
Legal News | 2018/03/28 02:33
It looks like "Game Over" for actress Lindsay Lohan in her state court fight against a software company for using what she claims is a likeness of her in a video game.

Lohan's lawyer argued before New York's top court that Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. violated her right to privacy by incorporating "look-a-like" images of her in the game "Grand Theft Auto V."

But the state Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that the satirical representations of "a modern, beach-going" young woman are not identifiable as Lohan. The court affirmed a ruling from a lower state appeals court dismissing her lawsuit.

Similar claims against Take-Two by "Mob Wives" television star Karen Gravano also were dismissed in a separate ruling.

A message left with Lohan's lawyer wasn't immediately returned.



Agency: School boards, counties should stay out of court
Court Center | 2018/03/27 02:33
School districts across North Carolina will present fall funding requests in the coming weeks, with the threat of costly and lengthy litigation if local county commissioners can't see eye-to-eye with school board members on spending.

The General Assembly's government watchdog agency told legislators Monday they should pass a law barring school districts from suing when funding disagreements can't be settled through formal mediation.

The Program Evaluation Division recommended the new law instead direct a county fund a district when mediation is exhausted through a formula based on student membership and inflation.

Some committee members hearing the agency report questioned whether it was worth changing the law since school funding impasses reached the courts just four times between 1997 and 2015. It took 21 months on average to resolve them.



Maryland redistricting case comes before Supreme Court
Top Legal News | 2018/03/25 02:33
The Supreme Court is taking up its second big partisan redistricting case of the term amid signs the justices could place limits on drawing maps for political gain.

The justices are hearing arguments Wednesday in an appeal filed by Republicans in Maryland. They complain that Democrats who controlled the state government in 2011 drew a congressional district for the express purpose of ousting the Republican incumbent and replacing him with a Democrat.

In Wisconsin, Democrats are challenging legislative districts drawn by Republicans statewide. Those districts gave Republicans a huge majority in a state that otherwise is closely divided between the parties.

The Supreme Court has never struck down districts for being too partisan.

A decision in favor of opponents of partisan gerrymandering could cut into the political power of the dominant party in states in which one party controls the state government.

The court is expected to issue decisions in both cases by late June.

Maryland's 6th Congressional District had been centered in rural, Republican-leaning northwestern Maryland and had elected a Republican to Congress for 20 years. Incumbent Rep. Roscoe Bartlett won re-election in 2010 by 28 percentage points.

But in the 2011 redistricting, Democrats altered the district to take in some Democratic suburbs of Washington, D.C. The new district had 62,000 fewer Republicans and 33,000 more Democrats. Bartlett lost the 2012 election by 21 percentage points.

Republican voters who sued over the changes said the state violated their First Amendment rights.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, a Democrat, is defending the district as competitive for both parties. Frosh said the district has elected a moderate Democrat, and in 2014, a friendlier year for Republican candidates, the victory margin of Democratic Rep. John Delaney dropped to less than 2 percentage points, though it rose again in 2016.



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