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In court, Giuliani argues to block Biden win in Pennsylvania
Legal News | 2020/11/19 05:21
Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, returned to federal court Tuesday after a long hiatus to accuse Democrats in control of big cities of hatching a nationwide conspiracy to steal the election, even though no such evidence has emerged in the two weeks since Election Day. The court case is over the Trump campaign’s federal lawsuit seeking to prevent the battleground state of Pennsylvania from certifying its election. Withering questions from the judge gave Trump’s opponents hope that the lawsuit will be one of many filed by the Trump campaign around the country to be tossed out of court.

During several hours of arguments, U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann told Giuliani that agreeing with him would disenfranchise the more than 6.8 million Pennsylvanians who voted.  “Can you tell me how this result could possibly be justified?” Brann questioned. Giuliani responded, “the scope of the remedy is because of the scope of the injury.” Meanwhile, lawyers defending the Democratic secretary of state, Philadelphia and several counties said the Trump campaign’s arguments lack any constitutional basis or were rendered irrelevant by a state Supreme Court decision Tuesday.

They asked Brann to throw out the case, calling the evidence cited “at best, garden-variety irregularities” that would not warrant undoing Pennsylvania’s election results, which delivered a victory for President-elect Joe Biden. The Trump campaign’s lawsuit is based on a complaint that Philadelphia and six Democratic-controlled counties in Pennsylvania let voters make corrections to mail-in ballots that were otherwise going to be disqualified for a technicality, like lacking a secrecy envelope or a signature.

It is not clear how many ballots that could involve, although some opposing lawyers say it is far too few to overturn the election result. But Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, spent most of his time in court claiming baselessly that a wide-ranging scheme in Pennsylvania and elsewhere stole the election from Trump in battleground states won by Biden.

Democrats in control in major cities in those states ? Giuliani name-checked Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Milwaukee and Detroit ? prevented Republican observers from watching election workers process mail-in ballots so the workers could falsify enough ballots to ensure Trump lost, Giuliani claimed, without evidence to back it up. “The best description of this situation is widespread, nationwide voter fraud, of which this is a part. ... This is not an isolated case, this is a case that is repeated in at least 10 other jurisdictions,” Giuliani said, without citing any evidence. Later, he claimed, “they stole the election.”

The dozens of affidavits Trump’s lawyers filed in the case, however, do not assert widespread fraud, but rather the potential for something fishy to occur because partisan poll watchers weren’t given an opportunity to view the results. Brann did not rule Tuesday. He canceled a Thursday hearing to air the Trump campaign’s evidence and instead gave the parties three more days to file arguments in the case. Next Tuesday is the deadline for Pennsylvania’s counties to certify their election results.

Trump’s campaign has not been shy in previous weeks about publicizing what they say is evidence of election fraud. But there is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, and officials of both political parties have stated publicly that the election went well. The Trump campaign argues that Republican-controlled counties in Pennsylvania did not allow voters to correct ballots and claims the inconsistent practice in Democratic-controlled counties violated constitutional rights of due process and equal protection under the law.

Two of the Trump campaign’s co-plaintiffs are voters whose ballots were disqualified by counties that did not notify them about the problems. If no county allowed voters to correct problems with mail-in ballots “it’s very likely that the results would have been very, very different,” argued Linda Kerns, a Philadelphia lawyer working alongside Giuliani.


Shooting outside US court in Phoenix wounds federal officer
Legal News | 2020/09/16 15:52
A drive-by shooting wounded a federal security officer outside the U.S. courthouse in downtown Phoenix on Tuesday, and a person was later taken into custody, authorities said. The officer was taken to a hospital and was expected to recover, according to city police and the FBI. Jill McCabe, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Phoenix office, said someone was later detained and there was no indication of a further threat to the public.

The court security officer works for the U.S. Marshals Service and was struck in their protective vest, said a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly. Court security officers work under the direction of the U.S. Marshals Service but generally are employed by private security companies.

The FBI said it isn’t providing any more details as it investigates. Police had released a photo of a silver sedan spotted leaving the area around the Sandra Day O’Connor U.S. Courthouse. Hours after the shooting, a street surrounding the courthouse was closed to traffic, roped off by yellow tape with police officers standing on each corner. Armed federal officers talked outside the main entrance to the courthouse, which was still open to the public, according to a court clerk.

The shooting came after the weekend ambush of two Los Angeles County deputies. They were sitting in their parked vehicle when a man walked up to the passenger’s side and fired multiple rounds. The deputies were struck in the head and critically wounded but were expected to recover. The gunman hasn’t been captured, and a motive has not been determined. Federal courthouses have been flashpoints for recent violence, but it’s not clear who shot the officer in Phoenix or why.

In June, a federal security officer was shot and killed and his partner was wounded outside the federal courthouse in Oakland as they guarded the building during protests over racial injustice and police brutality. An Air Force sergeant was charged with the shooting, and prosecutors say he had ties to the far-right, anti-government “boogaloo” movement and used the protest as cover for the crime and his escape.

During demonstrations in Portland, Oregon, protesters and federal officers clashed at the federal courthouse, where people set fires and tossed fireworks and rocks, while federal authorities unleashed tear gas and made arrests.


California court upholds verdict in Monsanto cancer case
Legal News | 2020/07/22 17:52
A California appeals court on Monday upheld a groundbreaking verdict that Monsanto’s widely used weed killer caused cancer in a school groundskeeper but the panel also slashed the damage award from $78.5 million to $21.5 million.

The 1st District Court of Appeal said there was evidence to support a California jury’s 2018 decision that “Monsanto acted with a conscious disregard for public safety,” but it reduced the damages to Dewayne Johnson of Vallejo because state law doesn’t allow damages for reduced life expectancy, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The original San Francisco Superior Court jury found that St. Louis-based Monsanto had purposely ignored warnings and evidence that glyphosate, the active ingredient in its popular Roundup and Ranger Pro products, causes cancer.

Johnson, then 46, alleged that his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was caused by his years of spraying Ranger Pro on school grounds in Benicia.

Jurors awarded Johnson $289.2 million but a judge later reduced the punitive damages, knocking down the total to $78.5 million.

In further reducing the total award, the appellate court ruled 3-0 that state law entitled Johnson only to compensation for future harm he was “reasonably certain” to suffer. He had been given only two to three years to live.

R. Brent Wisner, a lawyer for Johnson, said the ruling was an overall victory but the court shouldn’t have reduced the damage award.

“This effectively rewards a defendant for killing a plaintiff, as opposed to just injuring him,” Wisner told the Chronicle.

Bayer AG, the German corporation that owns Monsanto, called the reduction “a step in the right direction” but said the appellate panel should have thrown out the verdict and said it may appeal to the California Supreme Court.


Justice delayed: Virus crisis upends courts system across US
Legal News | 2020/04/03 03:07
The coronavirus pandemic has crippled the U.S. legal system, creating constitutional dilemmas as the accused miss their days in court. The public health crisis could build a legal backlog that overwhelms courts across the country, leaving some defendants behind bars longer, and forcing prosecutors to decide which cases to pursue and which to let slide.

“Everybody is scrambling. Nobody really knows how to handle this,” said Claudia Lagos, a criminal defense attorney in Boston.

Judges from California to Maine have postponed trials and nearly all in-person hearings to keep crowds from packing courthouses. Trials that were underway ? like the high-profile case against multimillionaire real estate heir Robert Durst ? have been halted. Some chief judges have suspended grand juries, rendering new indictments impossible. Other have allowed them to sit, though six feet apart.

Prosecutors may have to abandon some low-level cases to keep people from flooding into the legal system.

Many judges are holding hearings by phone or video chat to keep all cases from grinding to a halt. Other courts are stymied by outdated technology. The clerk for the the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Molly Dwyer, likened the logistical challenges to “building the bike as we ride it.”

Judges have asked for emergency powers to delay trials longer than the law generally allows and extend key deadlines, like when a defendant must initially appear in court.


Georgia high court election cancellation headed for appeal
Legal News | 2020/03/18 17:41
A would-be candidate for a seat on Georgia's highest court on Wednesday asked the state's lower appeals court to step in after a judge this week said the governor had the right to fill the position even though a judge who's resigning won't leave until November.

Georgia Supreme Court Justice Keith Blackwell, whose six-year term ends in December, told Gov. Brian Kemp last month that he planned to resign but would remain on the bench until Nov. 18. Kemp's office then told Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger that the Republican governor intended to fill the seat by appointment, and Raffensperger canceled the scheduled May 19 election for the position.

John Barrow, a former Democratic congressman from Athens, and former Republican state lawmaker Beth Beskin of Atlanta had both planned to challenge Blackwell. They filed separate lawsuits in Fulton County Superior Court saying the election had been illegally canceled and asking a judge to order Raffensperger to put it back on the calendar and allow candidates to qualify.

Judge Emily Richardson on Monday ruled that according to the Georgia Constitution and state law, Blackwell's seat became vacant Feb. 26, when Kemp signed a letter accepting the justice's resignation. Raffensperger was no longer required to hold an election for the seat once the governor signaled his intent to appoint someone to fill it, she wrote.

Even though the effective date of Blackwell’s resignation is after the May election, it is still within his current term, which ends Dec. 31, meaning Kemp has the authority under the state Constitution to fill the vacancy by appointment, Richardson wrote.

Barrow on Wednesday filed an emergency request with the Georgia Court of Appeals, arguing that Richardson was wrong and asking the court to take up the case. Beskin's lawyer, Cary Ichter, said in an email that they intend to do the same on Thursday.



Ohio Supreme Court keeps camera challenge alive
Legal News | 2019/11/20 03:45
Ohio’s Supreme Court has rejected Toledo’s motion to dismiss a challenge to how the city handles appeals of citations related to camera-captured traffic violations.

The high court recently rejected the motion to dismiss a challenge by Susan Magsig, of Woodville.

The Toledo Blade reports  Magsig received a citation alleging a camera held by a police officer caught her vehicle traveling 75 mph in a 60 mph-zone. Magsig argues Toledo violates state law by considering such appeals through an administrative hearing rather than through municipal court.

The city argues the case shouldn’t continue because a lower court’s preliminary ruling prevents enforcement of a state law giving local courts jurisdiction over all traffic violations. Magsig’s attorney says she isn’t bound by that ruling involving a legal dispute between the city and state.


EPA reaffirms glyphosate safe for users as court cases grow
Legal News | 2019/05/01 22:37
The Environmental Protection Agency reaffirmed Tuesday that a popular weed killer is safe for people, as legal claims mount from Americans who blame the herbicide for their cancer.

The EPA’s draft conclusion Tuesday came in a periodic review of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. The agency found that it posed “no risks of concern” for people exposed to it by any means — on farms, in yards and along roadsides, or as residue left on food crops.

The EPA’s draft findings reaffirmed that glyphosate “is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”

Two recent U.S. court verdicts have awarded multimillion-dollar claims to men who blame glyphosate for their lymphoma. Bayer, which acquired Roundup-maker Monsanto last year, advised investors in mid-April that it faced U.S. lawsuits from 13,400 people over alleged exposure to the weed killer.

Bayer spokesmen did not immediately respond Tuesday to an email seeking comment.

Nathan Donley, a scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity environmental group, said the agency is relying on industry-backed studies and ignoring research that points to higher risks of cancer.

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, classified glyphosate as ”probably carcinogenic to humans.” The agency said it relied on “limited” evidence of cancer in people and “sufficient” evidence of cancer in study animals.

The EPA draft review says the agency found potential risk to mammals and birds that feed on leaves treated with glyphosate, and risk to plants. The agency is proposing adding restrictions to cut down on unintended drift of the weed killer, including not authorizing spraying it by air when winds are above 15 mph.


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