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Heated congressional, court races on Arkansas midterm ballot
Court Watch | 2018/11/04 05:57

A push by Democrats to flip a Republican-held congressional seat that represents the Little Rock area and a state Supreme Court race that has drawn heavy spending by a conservative interest group have drawn the most attention in Arkansas' midterm election.

The campaigns for the 2nd Congressional District and state Supreme Court seats became increasingly bitter and expensive in the run-up to Tuesday's election, especially from outside groups that have been airing attack ads and sending mailers. The races have overshadowed an election in which Democrats face long odds of making gains in the solidly Republican state.
 
The secretary of state's office hasn't predicted how many of Arkansas' nearly 1.8 million registered voters will cast ballots in the election, but more than 350,000 had voted early through Friday.

Republicans have a solid hold on Arkansas' four U.S. House seats and President Donald Trump easily won the state two years ago, but Democrats believe they have a chance to flip a Little Rock-area district by focusing on the incumbent's vote to repeal the federal health care law.

Democrat Clarke Tucker is trying to unseat two-term Republican Rep. French Hill in the 2nd Congressional District, which represents Little Rock and seven surrounding counties. Tucker is a state legislator who regularly talks about his battle with bladder cancer and his support for the Affordable Care Act, especially its protections for those with pre-existing conditions


Trump visit stirs debate; massacre defendant in court
Court Watch | 2018/10/30 05:39

The man charged in the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre was brought into court in a wheelchair Monday, as some members of the Jewish community and others objected to President Donald Trump’s plans to visit, accusing him of contributing to a toxic political climate in the U.S. that might have led to the bloodshed.

With the first funerals set for Tuesday, the White House announced that Trump and first lady Melania Trump will visit the same day to “express the support of the American people and to grieve with the Pittsburgh community” over the 11 congregants killed Saturday in the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.

Some Pittsburghers urged Trump to stay away. “His language has encouraged hatred and fear of immigrants, which is part of the reason why these people were killed,” said Marianne Novy, 73, a retired college English professor who lives in the city’s Squirrel Hill section, the historic Jewish neighborhood where the attack at the Tree of Life synagogue took place.

Meanwhile, the alleged gunman, 46-year-old truck driver Robert Gregory Bowers, was released from the hospital where he was treated for wounds suffered in a gun battle with police. Hours later he was wheeled into a downtown federal courtroom in handcuffs to face charges.

A judge ordered him held without bail for a preliminary hearing on Thursday, when prosecutors will outline their case. He did not enter a plea.

During the brief proceeding, Bowers talked with two court-appointed lawyers and said little more than “Yes” in a soft voice a few times in response to routine questions from the judge. Courtroom deputies freed one of his cuffed hands so he could sign paperwork.


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.


Supreme Court won't hear case over California beach access
Court Watch | 2018/10/01 10:32

The Supreme Court is refusing to hear an appeal from a California billionaire who doesn't want to open a road on his property so that the public can access a beach.

The justices said Monday that they will not take up Vinod Khosla's appeal of a California appeals court decision. The case had the potential to upend California's longstanding efforts to keep beaches open to the public.

Khosla bought the property in the San Francisco Bay Area for $32.5 million in 2008 and later blocked the public from accessing it. That prompted a lawsuit by the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation.

A state appeals court ruled last year that Khosla needed to apply for a coastal development permit before denying public access.

Khosla — a venture capitalist who co-founded the Silicon Valley technology company, Sun Microsystems — closed a gate, put up a no-access sign and painted over a billboard at the entrance to the property that had advertised access to the beach, according to the appellate ruling.

The secluded beach south of Half Moon Bay, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) south of San Francisco, is only accessible by a road that goes over Khosla's land.

The previous owners of the property allowed public access to the beach for a fee. But Khosla's attorneys say the cost to maintain the beach and other facilities far exceeded revenue from the fees.

The government cannot demand that people keep their private property open to the public without paying them to do so, Khosla's attorneys said in their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The state appeals court ruling would "throw private property rights in California into disarray," the appeal argued, saying other property owners along California's coast would prefer to exclude the public.

The Surfrider Foundation said Khosla's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was premature because he had not yet applied for a permit and received a decision from the state.

"This win helps to secure beach access for all people, as is enshrined in our laws," said Angela Howe, legal director of the foundation. "The Surfrider Foundation will always fight to preserve the rights of the many from becoming the assets of the few."


The Latest: 6 countries seek criminal probe of Venezuela
Court Watch | 2018/09/28 10:26

Six countries from the Americas say they are asking the International Criminal Court to investigate Venezuela's government for alleged crimes against humanity. It's the first time that member countries have referred another country to the Netherlands-based U.N. court.

Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Chile, Paraguay and Canada made the announcement on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meeting.

The court has already opened a preliminary investigation into allegations that since April 2017 Venezuelan government forces "frequently used excessive force to disperse and put down demonstrations," and abused some opposition members in detention.

Wednesday's move could broaden the scope of the existing preliminary probe. The countries accuse Venezuela of several crimes including murder, torture and unjust imprisonment.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says his meeting with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho was "very positive."

Pompeo made the comment on Twitter on Wednesday after meeting with Ri at the U.N. General Assembly. The meeting comes as U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un work to set up a widely expected second summit to restart stalled diplomacy meant to rid the North of its nuclear weapons.

Pompeo said that "much work remains, but we will continue to move forward."

Kim made denuclearization vows last week in a summit with the South Korean president in Pyongyang, but there's still skepticism over his sincerity to relinquish weapons that many believe are the only major guarantee of his continued authoritarian rule.


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