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Texas court: Virus fear alone not enough for mail balloting
Top Legal News | 2020/05/28 01:48
Texas officials fighting to block widespread mail-in voting during the pandemic claimed victory after the state's highest court ruled Wednesday that a lack of immunity to the coronavirus doesn't qualify someone to cast a ballot by mail.

The decision was unanimous by the Texas Supreme Court, which is stocked with nine Republican justices, including one who revealed last week that she had tested positive for COVID-19. Texas generally limits mail balloting only to voters who are over 65 years old or have a disability.

Justice Eva Guzman wrote the court was unified in the conclusion that “fear of contracting a disease is not a physical condition."

The Texas Democratic Party blasted the decision, and moved its hopes to a similar challenge playing out in federal court. But not all saw the decision as a total loss: the top elections lawyer in Houston, Harris County attorney Douglas Ray, said he believed the ruling leaves room for each voter to decide themselves whether they qualify, and gives clerks basically no ability to second-guess the reasoning.

In Texas, voters do not have to describe their disability when requesting a mail-in ballot.

Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who earlier this month lost lower court decisions that would have expanded mail-in ballots to all of the state's 16 million registered voters, has argued that fear of getting the virus alone doesn't qualify as a disability. He applauded the court for keeping the status quo with just weeks until the state is set to hold primary runoff elections in July.




Justices return for season of big decisions, amid campaign
Top Legal News | 2020/02/20 05:48
For a Supreme Court that says it has an allergy to politics, the next few months might require a lot of tissues.

The court is poised to issue campaign-season decisions in the full bloom of spring in cases dealing with President Donald Trump’s tax and other financial records, abortion, LGBT rights, immigration, guns, church-state relations and the environment.

The bumper crop of political hot potatoes on the court’s agenda will test Chief Justice John Roberts’ insistence that the public should not view the court as just another political institution.

“It’s interesting that all of this is coming together in an election year. The chief justice has made it clear that people should view the court as a nonpolitical branch of government and people tend to have the opposite view when they see these big cases,” said Sarah Harrington, who has argued 21 cases in front of the high court.

The justices are gathering on Friday for the first time in nearly a month to put the finishing touches on opinions in cases that were argued in the fall and decide what new cases to take on. Most prominent among the possibilities is the latest dispute over the Obama-era health care overhaul.


UK parents lose court appeal to keep baby on life support
Top Legal News | 2020/02/13 05:54
The parents of a baby declared brain dead by doctors have lost the latest round of a legal battle in Britain’s courts to keep him on life support.

Britain’s Court of Appeal on Friday rejected an attempt by Karwan Ali and Shokhan Namiq to overturn a High Court order that doctors could stop treating their infant son, Midrar Ali.

The baby was starved of oxygen due to complications at birth, and was born not breathing and without a heartbeat. He has been on a ventilator ever since.

Judges at both courts agreed with doctors that Midrar Ali had experienced “irreversible brain stem death” by Oct. 1, when he was 14 days old. Three appeals judges ruled Friday that doctors could lawfully "cease to mechanically ventilate" the baby.

One of the judges, Andrew McFarlane, said Midrar Ali no longer had a "brain that is recognizable as such." "There is no basis for contemplating that any further tests would result in a different outcome," he said.

The baby's parents, who live in Manchester in northwest England, do not accept that his condition is irreversible and want the courts to consider opinions from foreign experts.

Their lawyer, David Foster, said the couple was considering an appeal to the Supreme Court.

The case is a latest in a series of legal challenges by parents to doctors in Britain’s state-funded National Health Service.

The cases often become flashpoints for debates on the rights of children and parents, the responsibilities of hospitals and the role of the state.


Court to hear appeal of Jodi Arias' murder conviction
Top Legal News | 2019/10/19 10:51
Lawyers are scheduled to make arguments Thursday before the Arizona Court of Appeals as Jodi Arias seeks to overturn her murder conviction in the 2008 death of her former boyfriend.

Arias argues a prosecutor's misconduct and a judge's failure to control news coverage during the case deprived her of the right to a fair trial.

A lawyer defending the conviction on behalf of the state said overwhelming evidence of Arias' guilt should outweigh mistakes that were made by the prosecutor who won the case.

Arias, who will not be in the courtroom during her appellate hearing, is serving a life sentence for her first-degree murder conviction in the death of Travis Alexander at his home in Mesa.

Prosecutors said Arias violently attacked Alexander in a jealous rage after he wanted to end their affair and planned a trip to Mexico with another woman. Arias has acknowledged killing Alexander but claimed it was self-defense after he attacked her.

The guilt phase of Arias' trial ended in 2013 with jurors convicting her but deadlocking on punishment. A second sentencing trial ended in early 2015 with another jury deadlock, leading a judge to sentence Arias to prison for life.

The case turned into a media circus as salacious and violent details about Arias and Alexander were broadcast live around the world.



US appeals court sides with Trump in lawsuit involving hotel
Top Legal News | 2019/07/09 02:52
A federal appeals court threw out a lawsuit accusing President Donald Trump of illegally profiting off the presidency through his luxury Washington hotel, handing Trump a significant legal victory Wednesday.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously overturned the ruling of a federal judge in Maryland who said the lawsuit could move forward.

The state of Maryland and the District of Columbia sued in 2017, claiming Trump has violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution by accepting profits through foreign and domestic officials who stay at the Trump International Hotel. The case is one of three that argue the president is violating the provision, which prohibits federal officials from accepting benefits from foreign or state governments without congressional approval.

In the case before the 4th Circuit, the court found the two jurisdictions lack standing to pursue their claims against the president, and granted a petition for a rare writ of mandamus, directing U.S. District Court Judge Peter Messitte to dismiss the lawsuit.

Trump heralded the decision in a tweet, saying, "Word just out that I won a big part of the Deep State and Democrat induced Witch Hunt." Trump tweeted that he doesn't make money but loses "a fortune" by serving as president.



Feds: US Supreme Court should turn down 'Bridgegate' appeal
Top Legal News | 2019/05/14 04:01
The U.S. solicitor general's office has recommended that the U.S. Supreme Court not hear the appeal of two convicted defendants in the "Bridgegate" case, nudging the four-year legal saga of New Jersey's most famous traffic jam toward a conclusion.

"Further review is not warranted," the brief filed late Wednesday said. The Supreme Court is expected to decide whether to hear the case by the end of its term next month.

Bridget Kelly and Bill Baroni want the court to hear the appeal of their 2016 convictions for causing gridlock near the George Washington Bridge to punish a mayor for not endorsing their boss, former Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

Christie wasn't charged, but the revelations from the scandal and conflicting accounts of when he knew about the plot combined to sabotage his 2016 presidential aspirations.

Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff at the time of the 2013 lane realignments in the town of Fort Lee, and Baroni, deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, had their sentences reduced this spring after a federal appeals court tossed some convictions last fall. Kelly petitioned the Supreme Court to consider the rest of the convictions, and Baroni joined in the appeal.

They argued that while their actions may have been ethically questionable, they weren't illegal because neither derived personal benefit, and the Port Authority, which operated the bridge, wasn't deprived of tangible benefits as a result of the scheme.


Court case threatens to take gloss off Ostersund's rise
Top Legal News | 2019/04/21 23:26
It was one of European soccer's most heartwarming stories, an unconventional club from a sleepy city in central Sweden making an eight-year journey from the amateur ranks to beating Arsenal in the Europa League.

But was the remarkable rise of Ostersund built on illegal foundations?

In a case that has rocked Swedish sport in recent months, Daniel Kindberg, the larger-than-life former chairman of Ostersund who is regarded as the mastermind behind the team's success, is heading to court for a trial in which he is accused of serious financial crimes.

The basic premise? Kindberg is alleged to have helped funnel 11.8 million kronor ($1.3 million) of taxpayers' money into the club in an elaborate scheme that involved two other men and three companies — one being the municipality's housing corporation for which Kindberg was chief executive.

Kindberg could go to jail for a maximum of six years, according to the Swedish Economic Crime Authority. Ostersund could lose its place in the top league in Sweden. A small soccer club's great achievement, which was celebrated and enjoyed across the continent, might be tainted.

"As good as it was for the Ostersund brand with this fairy tale of the OFK team going into Europe," Ostersund's mayor, Bosse Svensson, told The Associated Press, "this is just as bad."

Kindberg, who denies the charges, was arrested a year ago and has stood down from his role as Ostersund chairman.

The case has both shocked and polarized the natives of this remote city — located 300 miles (480 kilometers) northwest of Stockholm and with a population of around 50,000 — that is better known for its winter sports than its soccer.


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