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Court to hear resentencing bid in Arizona death penalty case
Attorneys News | 2019/12/11 05:15
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear an appeal Wednesday by an Arizona death row inmate who is seeking a new sentencing trial, arguing the horrific physical abuse that he suffered as a child wasn't fully considered when he was first sentenced.

The appeal of James Erin McKinney could affect as many as 15 of Arizona's 104 death row inmates. Attorneys say the Arizona courts used an unconstitutional test in examining the mitigating factors considered during the sentencing trials of the inmates.

The Supreme Court has ruled both that juries, not judges, must impose death sentences, and that mitigating factors, including childhood deprivations, must be factored into sentencing decisions.

McKinney's attorneys say the Arizona Supreme Court erred last year in upholding his sentences after a federal appellate decision concluded that the state court used an unconstitutional test in examining the mitigating factors considered during his sentencing.

Prosecutors said McKinney shouldn't get a sentencing retrial, arguing his case was considered officially closed years before the 2002 Supreme Court decision that required death penalty decisions to be made by jurors, not judges.

Attorneys say the decision in McKinney's case could affect other Arizona death row inmates who could challenge the test used in evaluating the mitigating factors considered during sentencing. But it's unclear whether the ruling would affect death penalty cases from other states.



EU court: ‘Active consent’ required for cookie storage
Attorneys News | 2019/10/02 02:08
The European Union’s top court has ruled that website operators must secure internet users’ “active consent” to their storage of so-called cookies.

The European Court of Justice’s ruling Tuesday was prompted by a dispute between German firm Planet49 and a German consumer organization over the company’s use of a pre-ticked checkbox for participants in online promotional games to secure consent to cookie storage.

Judges found that EU law’s requirement for users to consent to storage of and access to cookies on their devices isn’t covered by a pre-checked box that the user “must deselect to refuse his or her consent.”

They said specific consent must be obtained. They also said the service provider must tell users how long the information about them will operate and whether third parties may access them.


Supreme Court asked to void Louisiana abortion clinic law
Attorneys News | 2019/04/18 17:54
A Louisiana abortion clinic is asking the Supreme Court to strike down regulations that could leave the state with just one clinic.

A divided high court had previously agreed to block the law pending a full review of the case.

An appeal being filed with the court Wednesday says the justices should now take the next step and declare the law an unconstitutional burden on the rights of women seeking an abortion. The Louisiana provision is similar to a Texas law the court struck down in 2016.

If the justices agree to hear the Louisiana case, as seems likely, it could lead to a decision on the high-profile abortion issue in spring 2020, in the midst of the presidential election campaign.

The case presents a swirling mix of the changed court’s views on abortion rights and its respect for earlier high court decisions.

Louisiana’s law requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The justices said in 2016 that a Texas law provided “few, if any, health benefits for women.”

But the composition of the court has changed since then. President Donald Trump has put two justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, on the court. Kavanaugh replaced Justice Anthony Kennedy, who voted to strike down the Texas law. Trump had pledged during the campaign to appoint “pro-life” justices, and abortion opponents are hoping the more conservative bench will be more open to upholding abortion restrictions.

Louisiana abortion providers and a district judge who initially heard the case said one or maybe two of the state’s three abortion clinics would have to close under the new law. There would be at most two doctors who could meet its requirements, they said.

But the appeals court in New Orleans rejected those claims, doubting that any clinics would have to close and saying the doctors had not tried hard enough to establish relationships with local hospitals.

In January, the full appeals court voted 9-6 not to get involved in the case, setting up the Supreme Court appeal.

In February, the justices split 5-4 to keep the law on hold. Chief Justice John Roberts, a dissenter in the 2016 case from Texas, joined with the court’s four liberal justices to temporarily block the Louisiana measure.


Texas bans clergy from executions after Supreme Court ruling
Attorneys News | 2019/04/04 06:13
Texas prisons will no longer allow clergy in the death chamber after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the scheduled execution of a man who argued his religious freedom would be violated if his Buddhist spiritual adviser couldn’t accompany him.

Effective immediately, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice will only permit prison security staff into the execution chamber, a spokesman said Wednesday. The policy change comes in response to the high court’s ruling staying the execution of Patrick Murphy, a member of the “Texas 7” gang of escaped prisoners.

Texas previously allowed state-employed clergy to accompany inmates into the room where they’d be executed, but its prison staff included only Christian and Muslim clerics.

In light of this policy, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Texas couldn’t move forward with Murphy’s punishment unless his Buddhist adviser or another Buddhist reverend of the state’s choosing accompanied him.

One of Murphy’s lawyers, David Dow, said the policy change does not address their full legal argument and mistakes the main thrust of the court’s decision.

“Their arbitrary and, at least for now, hostile response to all religion reveals a real need for close judicial oversight of the execution protocol,” Dow said

Murphy’s attorneys told the high court that executing him without his spiritual adviser in the room would violate the First Amendment right to freedom of religion. The 57-year-old — who was among a group of inmates who escaped from a Texas prison in 2000 and then committed numerous robberies, including one where a police officer was fatally shot — became a Buddhist while in prison nearly a decade ago.


N Carolina court: State retirees should pay health premiums
Attorneys News | 2019/03/06 03:44
A North Carolina appeals court is throwing out a judge's ruling that a former Supreme Court chief justice and other retired state government workers can't be forced to pay part of their health insurance premiums.

A state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday the retirees don't have a contract preventing them from contributing to their coverage. A three-judge panel ruled unanimously that retired state employees were promised nothing more than what is offered to current workers.

Legislators passed a law in 2011 requiring retirees to pay premiums they didn't pay while working. Retirees including former Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake sued, saying that broke the state's promise to provide health insurance.

The State Health Plan covers more than 700,000 employees, retirees and their dependents.


Supreme Court won't hear Planned Parenthood case
Attorneys News | 2018/12/10 04:14
The Supreme Court is avoiding a high-profile case by rejecting appeals from Kansas and Louisiana in their effort to strip Medicaid money from Planned Parenthood over the dissenting votes of three justices.

Lower courts in both states had blocked the states from withholding money that is used for health services for low-income women. The money is not used for abortions. Abortion opponents have said Planned Parenthood should not receive any government money because of heavily edited videos that claimed to show the nation's largest abortion provider profiting from sales of fetal tissue for medical research.

Investigations sparked by the videos in several states didn't result in criminal charges.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch said they would have heard the case.

It takes four votes on the nine-justice court to grant review, so neither Chief Justice John Roberts nor new Justice Brett Kavanaugh was willing to join their conservative colleagues to hear the Medicaid funding challenge.

Thomas wrote for the three dissenters that the court seems to be ducking a case it should decide because it involves Planned Parenthood. "But these cases are not about abortion rights," Thomas wrote.

The issue is who has the right to challenge a state's Medicaid funding decisions, private individuals or only the federal government. The states say that the Medicaid program, a joint venture of federal and state governments to provide health care to poorer Americans, makes clear that only the Secretary of Health and Human Services can intervene, by withholding money from a state.


Group asks court to reject Arkansas justice's ad lawsuit
Attorneys News | 2018/10/30 13:12
A Washington-based conservative group is asking a federal court to reject an Arkansas Supreme Court justice's attempt to halt its attack ads and mailers against her.

Attorneys for the Republican State Leadership Committee's Judicial Fairness Initiative on Monday asked the court to reject Justice Courtney Goodson's request for a preliminary injunction against the ads and mailers.

Goodson is running against David Sterling, an attorney for the Department of Human Services, in next month's election. The group's filing Monday said blocking the ads and mailers would be "patently unconstitutional."

RSLC says it's spent $1.1 million so far this fall on the high court race. A state judge in the spring temporarily blocked another group's TV ad attacking Goodson through the May 22 judicial election.



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