More court challenges expected for Trump's new travel ban

Topics in Legal News 2017/07/01 16:58   Bookmark and Share
A scaled-back version of President Donald Trump's travel is now in force, stripped of provisions that brought protests and chaos at airports worldwide in January yet still likely to generate a new round of court fights. The new rules, the product of months of legal wrangling, aren't so much an outright ban as a tightening of already-tough visa policies affecting citizens from six Muslim-majority countries.

Refugees are covered, too. Administration officials promised that implementation this time, which started at 8 p.m. EDT, would be orderly. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Dan Hetlage said his agency expected "business as usual at our ports of entry," with all valid visa holders still being able to travel. Still, immigration and refugee advocates are vowing to challenge the new requirements and the administration has struggled to explain how the rules will make the United States safer.

Under the temporary rules, citizens of Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Iran and Yemen who already have visas will be allowed into the United States. But people from those countries who want new visas will now have to prove a close family relationship or an existing relationship with an entity like a school or business in the U.S. It's unclear how significantly the new rules will affect travel. In most of the countries singled out, few people have the means for leisure travel. Those that do already face intensive screenings before being issued visas. Nevertheless, human rights groups girded for new legal battles.

The American Civil Liberties Union, one of the groups challenging the ban, called the new criteria "extremely restrictive," ''arbitrary" in their exclusions and designed to "disparage and condemn Muslims." The state of Hawaii filed an emergency motion Thursday asking a federal judge to clarify that the administration cannot enforce the ban against relatives — such as grandparents, aunts or uncles — not included in the State Department's definition of "bona fide" personal relationships.

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer met with customs officials and said he felt things would go smoothly. "For tonight, I'm anticipating few issues because, I think, there's better preparation," he told reporters at Los Angeles International Airport on Thursday night. "The federal government here, I think, has taken steps to avoid the havoc that occurred the last time."

Much of the confusion in January, when Trump's first ban took effect, resulted from travelers with previously approved visas being kept off flights or barred entry on arrival in the United States. Immigration officials were instructed Thursday not to block anyone with valid travel documents and otherwise eligible to visit the United States.
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Another ex-Arpaio underling testifies against him in court

Court News 2017/06/29 09:45   Bookmark and Share
Two ex-members of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s immigration enforcement squad testified against their old boss Wednesday, with one man describing how the agency defied a judicial order to stop rounding up immigrants.

Arpaio, 85, is charged with misdemeanor contempt of court for disobeying a federal judge’s order to end his patrols that rounded up immigrants suspected of being in the U.S. illegally.

If convicted, the former six-term sheriff of metro Phoenix could face up to six months in jail.

Arpaio created a squad called the Human Smuggling Unit that was the main immigration enforcer while he was Maricopa County Sheriff. Prosecutors called a former member of that squad, Lt. Brian Jakowinicz, to the witness stand to describe its immigration efforts from 2012 to 2013.

Jakowinicz testified that he spoke to the leaders of the unit during that time, and they said the agency’s legal troubles over immigration had been resolved — despite being under an injunction to stop immigration enforcement.

“They didn’t want … to change anything,” he said. “Everything was running smoothly.” Arpaio has acknowledged prolonging the patrols, but insists his disobedience was unintentional and puts the blame on his former lawyer.

The case marks a harsh rebuke against a lawman who became a national political celebrity with his Arizona immigration patrols but lost his bid for a seventh term in office last year amid voter frustration stemming from the huge bill he ran up over his many legal tangles.

Jakowinicz testified he personally talked to Arpaio about the agency’s practice of handing over immigrants in the country illegally to the U.S. Border Patrol.

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Mississippi man takes Confederate flag fight to high court

Legal Insight 2017/06/29 09:45   Bookmark and Share
A black Mississippi citizen is taking his case against the state's Confederate-themed flag to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In papers filed Wednesday, attorneys for Carlos Moore said lower courts were wrong to reject his argument that the flag is a symbol of white supremacy that harms him and his young daughter by violating the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection to all citizens.

His attorneys wrote that under the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling against Moore, "a city could adopt 'White Supremacy Forever' as its official motto; or a county could incorporate an image of white hooded figures and a noose hanging from a tree into its county seal; or a state could incorporate a Nazi swastika, as an endorsement of Aryan/white supremacy, in its state flag."

Mississippi's is the last state flag to feature the Confederate battle emblem. Critics say the symbol is racist. Supporters say it represents history.

Mississippi has used the flag since 1894, displaying its red field and tilted blue cross dotted with 13 white stars in the upper left corner. Voters kept it in a 2001 election.

However, several cities and towns and all eight of the state's public universities have stopped flying the flag amid concerns that it is offensive in a state where 38 percent of the population is black. Many took action after the June 2015 massacre of nine black worshippers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, by an avowed white supremacist who posed with the Confederate battle flag in photos posted online.

The fresh scrutiny has extended to other Old South symbols on public display; New Orleans recently removed statues of Confederate officers and a monument to white supremacy, and other cities are considering similar demotions.

The lawsuit Moore filed in February 2016 says the Mississippi flag is "state-sanctioned hate speech," and seeks to have it declared an unconstitutional relic of slavery.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves dismissed it in September without ruling on the merits, saying Moore lacked legal standing to sue because he failed to show the emblem caused an identifiable legal injury.
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Case of gay couple's wedding cake heads to Supreme Court

Legal Insight 2017/06/28 09:45   Bookmark and Share
A Colorado clash between gay rights and religion started as an angry Facebook posting about a wedding cake but now has big implications for anti-discrimination laws in 22 states.

Baker Jack Phillips is challenging a Colorado law that says he was wrong to have turned away a same-sex couple who wanted a cake to celebrate their 2012 wedding.

The justices said Monday they will consider Phillips' case, which could affect all states. Twenty-two states include sexual orientation in anti-discrimination laws that bar discrimination in public accommodations.

Phillips argues that he turned away Charlie Craig and David Mullins not because they are gay, but because their wedding violated Phillips' religious belief.

After the couple was turned away in 2012, they complained about Masterpiece Cakeshop on Facebook, then filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The state sided with the couple.

"It solidified the right of our community to have a right to public accommodations, so future couples are not turned away from a business because of who they are," Mullins said Monday.

Phillips says that artisans cannot be compelled to produce works celebrating an event that violates the artist's religion. A lawyer for Phillips pointed out that another Denver-area baker was not fined for declining to bake a cake with an anti-gay message.

"The government in Colorado is picking and choosing which messages they'll support and which artistic messages they'll protect," said Kristen Waggoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which took the baker's case.

The decision to take on the case reflects renewed energy among the high court's conservative justices, whose ranks have recently been bolstered by the addition of Justice Neil Gorsuch.

The Colorado case could settle challenges from at least a half-dozen other artists in the wedding industry who are challenging laws in other states requiring them to produce work for same-sex ceremonies.
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McCarthy found guilty of 2nd-degree murder of Bella Bond

Court News 2017/06/27 09:45   Bookmark and Share
Michael McCarthy has been convicted of 2nd-degree murder in the death of a 2-year-old girl dubbed Baby Doe after her remains washed up on Boston Harbor island.

The verdict was announced in Suffolk Superior Court on Monday.

Michael McCarthy is charged with first-degree murder in the 2015 death of the girl who was later identified as Bella Bond.

Man facing life in prison after being found guilty of murder. A North Carolina man has been found guilty in the death of his fiancée and will serve the rest of his life in prison.

Local media outlets report an Onslow County jury found 59-year-old Timothy Noble guilty on Thursday of first-degree murder in the 2014 death of 58-year-old Debra Holden.

Deputies responding to the scene on Oct. 31, 2014, said Holden was found at a residence with a gunshot wound to her temple. Her death was originally ruled a suicide, but Noble was arrested eight months later after the medical examiner ruled the case a homicide. Noble will get credit for time spent in prison while awaiting trial.
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D.C. on edge: rumors of new Supreme Court vacancy swirl

Legal Insight 2017/06/26 09:46   Bookmark and Share

White House sources think Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court's ideological fulcrum, may announce his retirement today, as the justices gather on the bench for the last time this term.

If that happens, Day 158 instantly becomes President Trump's biggest moment.

Trump's first Court appointment, of Justice Neil Gorsuch, was a one-for-one ideological swap for the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
Replacing Kennedy would be even more historic and consequential: a momentous chance to edge the Court right, since Kennedy is the center of the Court — the one most willing to listen to both sides. On a controversial case, both sides pitch to him. It's been called "Kennedy's Court."

No one's predicting: Court watchers say no one knows, and Kennedy has said nothing publicly. He could well wait one more year: The Court buzz is that it'll be this year or next.

Be smart: Few domestic developments could more instantly and decisively change the national conversation — blotting out almost everything else, and vastly reducing the sting for conservatives is healthcare tanks.

A Washington wise man emails: "With two court appointments and maybe one more, Trump's presidency will be consequential even if he has few legislative achievements. This week may well demonstrate both."
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