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Supreme Court agrees to hear Maryland cross memorial case
Court Center | 2018/11/05 06:34
The Supreme Court agreed Friday to hear a case about whether a nearly 100-year-old, cross-shaped war memorial located on a Maryland highway median violates the Constitution's required separation of church and state, a case that could impact hundreds of similar monuments nationwide.

A federal appeals court in Virginia had previously ruled against the approximately four-story-tall cross. The judges said that it "has the primary effect of endorsing religion and excessively entangles the government in religion."

But the Maryland officials who maintain the memorial told the Supreme Court that the monument's context and history show it is intended to convey a secular message of remembrance, not a religious message. They said the appeals court's decision would "compel the removal or dismemberment of a cherished war memorial that has served as a site of solemn commemoration and civic unity for nearly a century." In urging the high court to take the case, officials argued that the lower court's decision puts at risk hundreds of other monuments nationwide.

The approximately 40-foot-tall cross at the center of the case is located in Bladensburg, Maryland, about 5 miles from the Supreme Court. Sometimes called the "Peace Cross," it was completed in 1925, and it honors 49 men from the surrounding county who died in World War I. A plaque on the cross' base lists the names of those soldiers, and both faces of the cross have a circle with the symbol of the American Legion, the veterans organization that helped raise money to build it.

Today, responsibility for the cross falls to a Maryland parks commission that took over ownership and maintenance of it in 1961 because of traffic safety concerns. The massive concrete structure could be dangerous to motorists if it were to fall or crumble.


Supreme Court hopeful had DWI charge in 2009
Court Center | 2018/10/21 11:38
A candidate for the North Carolina Supreme Court pleaded guilty more than nine years ago to trespassing and driving while impaired.

The Charlotte Observer reports Republican Chris Anglin was stopped by police in Greensboro in January 2009 and charged after he registered a blood-alcohol level of 0.14, nearly twice the legal limit. The following September, he pleaded guilty.

That December, Anglin was charged with attempted breaking and entering and pleaded guilty to second-degree trespassing. On Wednesday, he attributed both cases to struggles with alcohol in his 20s.

Both incidents happened while Anglin was a student at Elon University School of Law. He said that in 2010, he sought help for his drinking problem with a lawyer-assistance program. He said he's since gotten sober.

Anglin criticized N.C. Republican Party Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse for emailing Anglin's arrest records to a listserv the GOP maintains. Anglin has feuded with the GOP since he switched party affiliation and entered the Supreme Court race.

Woodhouse has previously said Anglin "will be treated like the enemy he is," and Anglin said the GOP is acting desperate "by sending something out that occurred almost a decade ago."

Republicans have described Anglin as a Democratic plant in the race and Woodhouse said as much Wednesday, writing that "Democrats had one of their own with a very questionable background pretend to be a Republican, so they could try and fool the voters."

Republican legislators responded earlier this summer to Anglin's campaign by passing a law, which was later overturned as unconstitutional, that would have banned Anglin from listing his Republican Party on the ballot even though his opponents could list their parties.

Anglin is one of three candidates seeking a place on the court. The other candidates are Barbara Jackson, a Republican who's seeking re-election, and Anita Earls, a Democrat and longtime civil rights lawyer.


Supreme Court wrestles with case on detention of immigrants
Court Center | 2018/10/10 01:10
The Supreme Court wrestled Wednesday with a case about the government’s ability to detain certain immigrants after they’ve served sentences for committing crimes in the United States. Several justices expressed concerns with the government’s reading of immigration law.

Justice Stephen Breyer seemed perhaps the most sympathetic to the arguments of immigrants in the case. The immigrants, mostly green-card holders, say they should get hearings where they can argue for their release while deportation proceedings against them are ongoing. Breyer noted that the United States “gives every triple ax murderer a bail hearing.”

While members of the court’s conservative majority seemed more inclined than its liberal members to back the government, both of President Donald Trump’s appointees asked questions that made it less clear how they might ultimately rule.

The issue in the case before the justices has to do with the detention of noncitizens who have committed a broad range of crimes that make them deportable. Immigration law tells the government to pick those people up when they are released from federal or state prisons and jails and then hold them without bond hearings while an immigration court decides whether they should be deported.

But those affected by the law aren’t always picked up immediately and are sometimes not detained until years later. They argue that unless they’re picked up essentially within a day of being released, they’re entitled to a hearing where they can argue that they aren’t a danger to the community and are not likely to flee. If a judge agrees, they can stay out of custody while their deportation case goes forward. That’s the same hearing rule that applies to other noncitizens the government is trying to deport.

The Trump administration argues, as the Obama administration did, against hearings for those convicted of crimes and affected by the law. The government reads immigration law to say that detention is mandatory for those people regardless of when they are picked up.

Sounding sympathetic to the immigrants’ arguments, Breyer asked a lawyer arguing for the government whether he thought “a person 50 years later, who is on his death bed, after stealing some bus transfers” is still subject to mandatory detention without a hearing. But Breyer also seemed to suggest that the government might be able to hold noncitizens without bond hearings if they were picked up more than a day after leaving custody, maybe up to six months.



Supreme Court could limit execution of people with dementia
Court Center | 2018/10/04 06:24
The Supreme Court appeared willing Tuesday to extend protection from capital punishment to people with dementia who can't recall their crime or understand the circumstances of their execution.

The eight justices heard arguments in the case of Alabama death row inmate Vernon Madison, who killed a police officer in 1985 but has suffered strokes that his lawyers say have left him with severe dementia.

The high court has previously said the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment means that people who are insane, delusional or psychotic cannot be executed.

A ruling for Madison probably would mean a new hearing in state court over whether his condition renders him ineligible for execution.

Chief Justice John Roberts and the court's four liberal justices seemed most willing to rule for Madison. The other three justices, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas, are unlikely to side with Madison because they voted to allow his execution to proceed when their colleagues blocked it in January, setting up the current case.

In a reflection of the changed dynamics on the court, Roberts' vote would appear to be decisive since a 4-4 split would leave in place a state court ruling against Madison and allow Alabama to try again to execute him. The high court is down one justice, following Anthony Kennedy's retirement in July and a delay in a vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh so that the FBI can investigate allegations against him of sexual misconduct.

Kennedy had been the conservative justice most likely to vote with the liberals on death penalty cases. The court agreed to hear the appeal while Kennedy was on the bench. He had been a key voice in limiting capital punishment, having voted to bar the execution of people under 18, the intellectually disabled and those who lack a rational understanding of why they are to be put to death.



Kavanaugh's support for surveilling Americans raises concern
Court Center | 2018/09/01 13:51
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has frequently supported giving the U.S. government wide latitude in the name of national security, including the secret collection of personal data from Americans.

It's a subject Democrats plan to grill Kavanaugh about during his confirmation hearings scheduled to begin next Tuesday. Beyond his writings as an appeals court judge, some senators suspect Kavanaugh was more involved in crafting counterterrorism policies during the George W. Bush administration than he has let on.

Kavanaugh stated in past congressional testimony that he wasn't involved in such provocative matters as warrantless surveillance and the treatment of enemy combatants in the years immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

But legal experts say he could shift the court on national security issues, if he is confirmed to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Stephen Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor whose expertise includes national security and counterterrorism, cites opinions he says show Kavanaugh "is a lot less willing (than Kennedy) to look at international law as a relevant source of authority and constraint." He said on matters such as Guantanamo detention, Kavanaugh is "much more deferential to the executive branch in this context than Kennedy would have been."

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, calls Kavanaugh "incredibly well-qualified." The former U.S. trade representative and White House budget director knows Kavanaugh from their time together in the Bush administration. He said Kavanaugh "believes strongly in the Constitution" and the Bill of Rights.

"I think he's in the mainstream with regard to these issues, and frankly, I don't think it's a difference with any meaning between where he is and where the court is currently," Portman said.

Democrats facing an uphill battle in blocking Kavanaugh's nomination have focused less on his judicial counterterrorism record than whether he misled senators about his role in Bush policies while testifying in 2006 confirmation hearings.

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin and Vermont Sen. Pat Leahy are among Democrats who want to see more records from Kavanaugh's White House days, saying news media accounts after he was seated on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia raised new questions. White House spokesman Raj Shah said Durbin has been doing the misleading by taking Kavanaugh's answers out of context.


Kavanaugh's support for surveilling Americans raises concern
Court Center | 2018/08/28 00:36
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has frequently supported giving the U.S. government wide latitude in the name of national security, including the secret collection of personal data from Americans.

It's a subject Democrats plan to grill Kavanaugh about during his confirmation hearings scheduled to begin next Tuesday. Beyond his writings as an appeals court judge, some senators suspect Kavanaugh was more involved in crafting counterterrorism policies during the George W. Bush administration than he has let on.

Kavanaugh stated in past congressional testimony that he wasn't involved in such provocative matters as warrantless surveillance and the treatment of enemy combatants in the years immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

But legal experts say he could shift the court on national security issues, if he is confirmed to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Stephen Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor whose expertise includes national security and counterterrorism, cites opinions he says show Kavanaugh "is a lot less willing (than Kennedy) to look at international law as a relevant source of authority and constraint." He said on matters such as Guantanamo detention, Kavanaugh is "much more deferential to the executive branch in this context than Kennedy would have been."

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, calls Kavanaugh "incredibly well-qualified." The former U.S. trade representative and White House budget director knows Kavanaugh from their time together in the Bush administration. He said Kavanaugh "believes strongly in the Constitution" and the Bill of Rights.

"I think he's in the mainstream with regard to these issues, and frankly, I don't think it's a difference with any meaning between where he is and where the court is currently," Portman said.

Democrats facing an uphill battle in blocking Kavanaugh's nomination have focused less on his judicial counterterrorism record than whether he misled senators about his role in Bush policies while testifying in 2006 confirmation hearings.

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin and Vermont Sen. Pat Leahy are among Democrats who want to see more records from Kavanaugh's White House days, saying news media accounts after he was seated on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia raised new questions. White House spokesman Raj Shah said Durbin has been doing the misleading by taking Kavanaugh's answers out of context.


Israeli court allows entry to Hamas kin for medical care
Court Center | 2018/08/26 00:36
Israel's Supreme Court has ruled that five critically ill women from Gaza may enter Israel for urgent medical treatment despite a government decision preventing relatives of Hamas members from doing so.

The five women appealed to the court last month after their requests to enter Israel were rejected on the grounds of their relation to Hamas members.

The government decision denies entry for health care to relatives of Hamas members and is meant to exert pressure Gaza's rulers who currently hold the remains of two Israeli soldiers.

The court ruled late Sunday that the government decision was unreasonable and could not stand up to a legal test.

Four human rights groups representing the women said the government was using them and others seeking care unavailable in Gaza as "bargaining chips."


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