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Sessions criticizes court order on deposition in census case
Court Line | 2018/10/16 23:48

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday criticized a court order that allows for the questioning of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on how a citizenship question came to be added to the 2020 census.

The court's actions, the attorney general said in a speech to the conservative Heritage Foundation, represent an improper attempt "to hold a trial over the inner-workings of a Cabinet secretary's mind."

With his remarks, Sessions waded into a simmering legal dispute that may ultimately be resolved by the Supreme Court, which solidified its conservative majority with the recent addition of Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The conflict centers on a judge's order that Ross may be deposed by lawyers challenging whether a question on citizenship legally can be included on the census. Plaintiffs in two lawsuits, including more than a dozen states and big cities, have sued, saying the question will discourage immigrants from participating in the census.

The judge, Jesse M. Furman, has said Ross can be questioned about how the citizenship inquiry was added to the census because he was "personally and directly involved in the decision, and the unusual process leading to it, to an unusual degree." A New York-based federal appeals court backed Furman's ruling last week, but Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a temporary stay.



Court picks prosecutor to defend ruling on Arpaio's pardon
Court Watch | 2018/10/14 23:51

A Los Angeles attorney has been appointed to defend a ruling by a lower court judge who refused to erase the criminal record of former metro Phoenix Sheriff Joe Arpaio after he was pardoned by President Trump.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday picked Christopher G. Caldwell to argue in support of the ruling that dismissed the lawman's case but refused to expunge his record.

The appointment in the appeal came after President Donald Trump's Justice Department refused to handle the case.

Caldwell worked for the Justice Department in the 1980s and, in private practice since then has focused on cases involving the entertainment industry, intellectual property and other areas.

After the six-term sheriff was defeated in late 2016, he was convicted of criminal contempt of court for his acknowledged disobedience of a judge's 2011 order that barred his traffic patrols that targeted immigrants. Arpaio was accused of prolonging the patrols for 17 months to boost his successful 2012 re-election campaign.

The pardon of the misdemeanor conviction spared Arpaio — an early supporter of Trump's presidential campaign — a possible jail sentence.

Arpaio is appealing the ruling that refused to expunge his criminal record.

Lawyers for the Justice Department won the conviction. But after the pardon, it sided with Arpaio, arguing that the conviction should be expunged because he was pardoned before it became final.


Colorado Supreme Court hears high-stakes oil and gas lawsuit
Court Line | 2018/10/14 23:49

An attorney for six young people who want the state to impose tougher safeguards on the energy industry told the Colorado Supreme Court on Tuesday that the law requires regulators to protect public health from the hazards of drilling.

A lawyer for the state countered that regulators acted properly when they rejected a request for stronger health protections on the grounds that they did not have the authority to impose them.

The justices heard oral arguments in the high-stakes case but did not say when they would rule.

The case revolves around how much weight energy regulators should give public health and the environment — a contentious issue in Colorado, where cities often overlap lucrative oil and gas fields and drilling rigs sit within sight of homes and schools.

The six young plaintiffs in the case asked the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission, which regulates the industry, to enact a rule that would require energy companies to show they would not harm human health or the environment before regulators issued a drilling permit.

The commission responded that it did not have that authority. Commission members said Colorado law required them to balance public safety with responsible oil and gas production.

Colorado Solicitor General Frederick R. Yarger, representing the attorney general's office, told the Supreme Court that the commission correctly interpreted state law to mean it must consider other factors in addition to public health.



New campaign seeks support for expanded Supreme Court
Legal News | 2018/10/13 20:51

A couple of liberal Harvard law professors are lending their name to a new campaign to build support for expanding the Supreme Court by four justices in 2021.

The campaign, calling itself the 1.20.21 Project and being launched Wednesday, also wants to increase the size of the lower federal courts to counteract what it terms "Republican obstruction, theft and procedural abuse" of the federal judiciary. This includes the recent near party-line confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh that cemented a conservative majority on the Supreme Court.

It is premised on Democratic victories in next month's elections and the 2020 presidential contest that could leave Democrats in charge of Congress and the White House in 2021, a possibility but by no means a sure thing. Additional justices nominated by a Democrat could change the court's ideological direction.

Harvard professors Mark Tushnet and Laurence Tribe are joining an effort being led by political scientist Aaron Belkin. He was a prominent advocate for repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that prohibited LGBT people from serving openly in the military.

The Kavanaugh confirmation was the culmination of a process that started with Republicans blocking many of President Barack Obama's nominees to lower courts and then refusing to consider his Supreme Court nomination of Judge Merrick Garland in 2016, Belkin said. President Donald Trump's victory in November 2016 allowed him to fill the high court vacancy with Justice Neil Gorsuch.



Manhattan DA drops part of Weinstein case
Court Line | 2018/10/11 17:35

Manhattan’s district attorney dropped part of the criminal sexual assault case against Harvey Weinstein on Thursday after evidence emerged that cast doubt on the account one of his three accusers provided to the grand jury.

The development was announced in court Thursday with Weinstein looking on.

The tossed charge involves allegations made by one of the three accusers in the case, Lucia Evans, who was among the first women to publicly accuse Weinstein of sexual assault.

In an expose published in The New Yorker one year ago Wednesday, Evans accused Weinstein of forcing her to perform oral sex when they met alone in his office in 2004 to discuss her fledgling acting career. At the time, Evans was a 21-year-old college student.

Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon told the judge that prosecutors wouldn’t oppose dismissal of the count in the case involving Evans. She insisted the rest of the case, involving two other accusers, was strong.

“In short, your honor, we are moving full steam ahead,” she said.

Weinstein’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, told the judge he believed Evans had lied both to the grand jury and to The New Yorker about her encounter with Weinstein. He also said he believed a police detective had corruptly attempted to influence the case by keeping a witness from testifying about her misstatements.


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