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Court: Tennessee can enforce Down syndrome abortion ban
Law Firm Business | 2020/11/20 16:53
A federal appeals court ruled Friday that Tennessee can begin outlawing abortions because of a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, as well as prohibit the procedure if it’s based on the race or gender of the fetus.

Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee enacted the so-called “reason bans” earlier this year as part of a sweeping anti-abortion measure. The law gained national attention because it banned abortion as early as six weeks ? making it one of the strictest in the country ? but it included several other anti-abortion components.

The law was immediately blocked by a lower federal court just hours after Lee signed it into law.

However, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision will allow the state to enforce the reason bans while abortion rights groups continue their court battle against that law.

The plaintiffs, which include Tennessee abortion providers being represented by reproductive rights groups, had argued the ban was improperly vague, but the court disagreed.

Currently, more than a dozen states have similar reason bans in place.

“These bans are just another way anti-abortion politicians are attempting to limit the constitutional right to abortion care and to create stigma,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement. “Decisions about whether and when to continue or to end a pregnancy are best made by the individual and their family.”

The Attorney General’s office said in a statement that they “appreciate the Sixth Circuit lifting the lower court’s injunction” and looked forward to continuing defending the statute.

“Our law prohibits abortion based on the race, gender, or diagnosis of Down syndrome of the child and the court’s decision will save lives,” Lee said in a statement. “Protecting our most vulnerable Tennesseans is worth the fight.”

Immediately following the appeals court ruling, the plaintiffs’ attorneys filed a request in lower federal court for a temporary restraining order to block the reason bans once again, but this time argued the law illegally prohibits a patient from “obtaining constitutionally protected pre-viability abortion care.”

“(The) Sixth Circuit only addressed plaintiffs’ vagueness claims and explicitly declined to issue any ruling with respect to plaintiffs’ claims that the Reason Bans violate patients’ constitutional right to pre-viability abortion,” the attorneys wrote.

The court had not issued a ruling on that as of Friday evening.

Down syndrome is a genetic abnormality that causes developmental delays and medical conditions such as heart defects and respiratory and hearing problems.

According to the National Down Syndrome Society, about one in every 700 babies in the United States ? or about 6,000 a year ? is born with the condition, which results from a chromosomal irregularity.

The rarity of the condition has prompted abortion rights groups to paint the Down syndrome bans as part of yet another thinly veiled effort by lawmakers to continue chipping away at a patient’s right to an abortion.



High court seems likely to leave to health care law in place
Law Firm Business | 2020/11/11 23:26
The Supreme Court seemed likely Tuesday to leave in place the bulk of the Affordable Care Act, including key protections for pre-existing health conditions and subsidized insurance premiums that affect tens of millions of Americans. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, among the conservative justices, appeared in two hours of arguments to be unwilling to strike down the entire law ? a long-held Republican goal that has repeatedly failed in Congress and the courts ? even if they were to find the law’s now-toothless mandate for obtaining health insurance to be unconstitutional.

The court’s three liberal justices are almost certain to vote to uphold the law in its entirety and presumably would form a majority by joining a decision that cut away only the mandate, which now has no financial penalty attached to it. Congress zeroed out the penalty in 2017, but left the rest of the law untouched.

“Would Congress want the rest of the law to survive if the unconstitutional provision were severed? Here, Congress left the rest of the law intact,” Roberts said. “That seems to be a compelling answer to the question.” For his part, Kavanaugh said recent decisions by the court suggest “that the proper remedy would be to sever the mandate and leave the rest of the act in place.”

A week after the 2020 election, the justices heard arguments by telephone in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic in the court’s third major case over the 10-year-old law, popularly known as “Obamacare.” Republican attorneys general in 18 states and the administration want the whole law to be struck down, which would threaten coverage for more than 23 million people.

California, leading a group of Democratic-controlled states, and the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives are urging the court to leave the law in place.

Kavanaugh is one of three justices appointed by President Donald Trump on a court that is more conservative than the ones that sustained the law in previous challenges in 2012 and 2015. The others are Neil Gorsuch and new Justice Coney Barrett, who joined the court late last month following her hurried nomination and confirmation to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The three Trump appointees have never ruled on the substance of the health care law. Barrett, though, has been critical of the court’s earlier major health care decisions sustaining the law, both written by Roberts.

The Supreme Court could have heard the case before the election, but set arguments for a week after. The timing could add a wrinkle to the case since President-elect Joe Biden strongly supports the health care law.

The case turns on a change made by the Republican-controlled Congress in 2017 that reduced the penalty for not having health insurance to zero. Without the penalty, the law’s mandate to have health insurance is unconstitutional, the GOP-led states argue.



Trump faces tough road in getting Supreme Court to intervene
Law Firm Business | 2020/11/07 18:21
President Donald Trump has repeatedly said there’s one place he wants to determine the outcome of the presidential election: the U.S. Supreme Court. But he may have a difficult time ever getting there.

Over the last two days, Trump has leaned in to the idea that the high court should get involved in the election as it did in 2000. Then, the court effectively settled the contested election for President George W. Bush in a 5-4 decision that split the court’s liberals and conservatives.

Today, six members of the court are conservatives, including three nominated by Trump. But the outcome of this year’s election seemed to be shaping up very differently from 2000, when Florida’s electoral votes delivered the presidency to George W. Bush.

Then, Bush led in Florida and went to court to stop a recount. Trump, for his part, has suggested a strategy that would focus on multiple states where the winning margins appear to be slim. But he might have to persuade the Supreme Court to set aside votes in two or more states to prevent Joe Biden from becoming president.

Chief Justice John Roberts, for his part, is not likely to want the election to come down to himself and his colleagues. Roberts, who was not on the court for Bush v. Gore in 2000 but was a lawyer for Bush, has often tried to distance the court from the political branches of government and the politics he thinks could hurt the court’s reputation.

It’s also not clear what legal issues might cause the justices to step in. Trump has made repeated, unsubstantiated claims of election fraud. Lawsuits filed by his campaign so far have been small-scale efforts unlikely to affect many votes, and some already have been dismissed.

Still, Trump has focused on the high court. In the early morning hours following Election Day he said: “We’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court — we want all voting to stop.” And on Thursday, as Biden inched closer to the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House, Trump again told Americans, “It’s going to end up, perhaps, at the highest court in the land, we’ll see.” On Twitter too he urged, “U.S. Supreme Court should decide!”

There is currently one election case at the Supreme Court and it involves a Republican appeal to exclude ballots that arrived after Election Day in the battleground state of Pennsylvania. But whether or not those ballots ultimately are counted seems unlikely to affect who gets the state’s electoral votes.

Biden opened a narrow lead over Trump on Friday, and any additional mail-in votes probably would help Biden, not the president.

Still, Trump’s campaign is currently trying to intervene in the case, an appeal of a decision by Pennsylvania’s highest court to allow three extra days for the receipt and counting of mailed ballots. Because the case is ongoing, the state’s top election official has directed that the small number of ballots that arrived in that window, before 5 p.m. Friday, be separated but counted. Republicans on Friday asked for a high court order ensuring the ballots are separated, and Justice Samuel Alito, acting on his own, agreed, saying he was motivated in part by the Republicans’ assertion that they can’t be sure elections officials are complying with guidance.


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.


Huawei, ZTE lose patent appeal cases at UK Supreme Court
Law Firm Business | 2020/08/28 01:26
Britain’s Supreme Court has dismissed two appeals by Chinese telecoms firms Huawei and ZTE over mobile data patent disputes.

The disputes center on the licensing of patented technology considered essential to mobile telecoms. The patents are meant to ensure fair competition and access to technology like 4G.

In the first case, Unwired Planet, an intellectual property company that licenses patents, had brought legal action against Huawei for infringement of five U.K. patents that Unwired acquired from Ericsson.

The second appeal concerned legal action brought by another patent licensing company, Conversant Wireless, against Huawei and ZTE for infringement of four of its U.K. patents.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld lower court rulings on the cases and dismissed appeals by Huawei and ZTE.

In a statement, Conversant said the ruling was a landmark judgment that will have “significant implications worldwide” for telecommunications patent licensing.

The ruling meant that companies like Huawei cannot insist that patent holders like Conversant prove their patents in every jurisdiction of the world, which would be “both practically and economically prohibitive,” the company added.


Kansas' high court rules for governor on religious services
Law Firm Business | 2020/04/12 20:01
The Kansas Supreme Court ruled Saturday that a Republican-dominated legislative panel exceeded its authority when it tried to overturn the Democratic governor’s executive order banning religious and funeral services of more than 10 people during the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision letting Gov. Laura Kelly’s order stand came after the justices heard oral arguments one day before Easter, which is typically the busiest day on the Christian calendar in terms of church attendance. The Saturday hearing was the court’s first conducted completely via video conferencing.

The court ruled that legislative action designed to give the legislative leadership panel the ability to overrule Kelly’s executive orders was flawed and didn’t legally accomplish that.

The hearing, which was the court’s first conducted completely via video conferencing, came one day before Easter, which is typically the busiest day on the Christian calendar in terms of church attendance.

“In this time of crisis, the question before the court is whether a seven-member legislative committee has the power to overrule the governor. The answer is no,” said Clay Britton, chief counsel for the governor.


European court backs Spain on express migrant deportations
Law Firm Business | 2020/02/16 05:55
The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday backed Spain’s express deportation of two African migrants back to Morocco from a Spanish enclave in northwest Africa as part of a mass expulsion.

The court’s grand chamber ruled that there had been no violation of two articles of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case was taken by a Malian and an Ivorian with the support of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, or ECCHR.

The two men, along with several dozen others, crossed the high three border wire fences separating the Spanish enclave of Melilla from Morocco in August 2014. They were caught by Spanish police and immediately returned to Morocco.

Human rights organizations have long criticized express deportations. They claim that migrants are denied the opportunity to apply for asylum and an assessment of the risks they face if expelled.

The European court had initially condemned Spain in October 2017 for the case and concluded that the so-called summary returns from the Spanish North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla to Morocco were in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. Thursday's ruling followed an appeal by Spain.



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