Moats named to temporary seat on West Virginia Supreme Court

Headline Legal News 2022/02/07 10:59   Bookmark and Share
A circuit judge has been appointed to a temporary seat on the West Virginia Supreme Court after the resignation of Justice Evan Jenkins.

Chief Justice John Hutchison on Monday appointed Alan D. Moats to the high court. Moats has served in the judicial circuit covering Barbour and Taylor counties since 1997.

Moats will serve on the Supreme Court until Gov. Jim Justice appoints someone to the seat. That person then would serve until a election can be held for the remainder of Jenkins’ term through 2024.

Jenkins announced Friday that he is resigning to return to private law practice.

Jenkins was appointed and then elected to the seat of retired Justice Robin Davis following the Supreme Court’s 2018 impeachment scandal.
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Suits target New Orleans virus rules, some affect Mardi Gras

Lawyer Blog Post 2022/02/03 14:57   Bookmark and Share
More than 100 people have joined a lawsuit against New Orleans’ mayor and health director over COVID-19 restrictions that recently were extended to parade and other participants on Mardi Gras and during the season leading up to it.

The lawsuit against Mayor LaToya Cantrell and health director Jennifer Avegno targets mask and vaccination mandates, news outlets reported.

It was filed Monday in state court by Alexandria attorney Jimmy Faircloth, who has lost federal court challenges to restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, The Times-Picayune / The New Orleans Advocates noted.

“Traditionally, we do not comment on active or pending litigation,” City Hall spokesman Beau Tidwell said during a news conference Tuesday. “However, in this case I think it’s worth noting that the guidelines that we put in place saved lives, full stop. The vaccine mandate and the mask requirements are going to remain in place throughout Mardi Gras.”

Fat Tuesday will be March 1 this year. The 2020 festival was later recognized as a super spreader that turned New Orleans into an early pandemic hot spot. Last season, parades were canceled and bars were shuttered in the city.

This year, masks are required in bars, restaurants and other public spaces. And children as young as 5 must show proof of vaccination or a recent negative test for the virus to get into indoor public areas.

The new lawsuit accuses Cantrell and Avegno, who often have gone beyond state restrictions, of taking “authoritarian actions under the pretext of an emergency without end,” the newspaper reported.

The plaintiffs, mostly from New Orleans and neighboring Jefferson Parish, want Judge Robin Giarrusso to halt the requirements while the lawsuit is in court.
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US sanctions Myanmar judiciary officials on coup anniversary

Headline Legal News 2022/01/31 13:24   Bookmark and Share
The Biden administration on Monday slapped sanctions on top members of Myanmar’s judiciary and one of its main revenue-producing ports over rights abuses since last year’s coup.

The sanctions on the country’s attorney general, supreme court chief justice and others were announced by the Treasury and State Departments to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the February 2021 coup, which replaced a civilian-led government with a military regime.

The penalties freeze any assets that those targeted may have in U.S. jurisdictions and bar Americans from doing business with them and are to be complemented by similar measures from Britain and Canada.

“One year after the coup, the United States, along with allies in the United Kingdom and Canada, stands with the people of Burma as they seek freedom and democracy,” Treasury said in a statement using the country’s alternate name. “We will continue to target those responsible for the coup and ongoing violence, enablers of the regime’s brutal repression, and their financial supporters.”

Among the judiciary, the new sanctions apply to Attorney General Thida Oo, Supreme Court chief justice Tun Tun Oo, and Tin Oo, the chairman of the Myanmar’s anti-corruption commission. The sanctions also hit the KT Services and Logistics Company, which operates a major port in Myanmar’s economic hub of Yangon, and its CEO as well as the procurement department of the country’s defense ministry.

“The United States will continue to work with our international partners to address human rights abuses and press the regime to cease the violence, release all those unjustly detained, allow unhindered humanitarian access, and restore Burma’s path to democracy,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
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Palin COVID-19 tests delay libel trial against NY Times

Lawyer Blog Post 2022/01/25 16:21   Bookmark and Share
An unvaccinated former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin tested positive for COVID-19 Monday, forcing a postponement of a trial in her libel lawsuit against The New York Times.

The Republican’s positive test was announced in court just as jury selection was set to begin at a federal courthouse in New York City.

Palin claims the Times damaged her reputation with an opinion piece penned by its editorial board that falsely asserted her political rhetoric helped incite the 2011 shooting of then-Arizona U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords. The newspaper has conceded the initial wording of the editorial was flawed, but not in an intentional or reckless way that made it libelous.

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff said the trial can begin Feb. 3 if Palin, 57, has recovered by then.

Palin, a one-time Republican vice presidential nominee, has had COVID-19 before. She’s urged people not to get vaccinated, telling an audience in Arizona last month that “it will be over my dead body that I’ll have to get a shot.”

When he first announced that Palin had gotten a positive result from an at-home test, Rakoff said: “She is, of course, unvaccinated.”

Additional tests in the morning also came out positive, Palin’s lawyer told the court.

“Since she has tested positive three times, I’m going to assume she’s positive,” the judge said.

Rakoff said that courthouse rules would permit her to return to court Feb. 3, even if she still tests positive, as long as she has no symptoms. If she does have symptoms, she can be looked at on Feb. 2 by a doctor who provides services to the courts, he said.

On Saturday, Shawn McCreesh, a features writer for New York Magazine tweeted that Palin was seen at Elio’s restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and he quipped in a follow-up tweet: “My mom thought she was Tina Fey.” Fey was widely praised for her portrayal of Palin on Saturday Night Live when Palin was campaigning for vice president in 2008.

Luca Guaitolini, a restaurant manager, confirmed she had slipped through vaccination checks and dined at the restaurant known for attracting famous customers in violation of the city’s rule that restaurant guests must prove vaccination to be served. He said the restaurant was not making further statements.
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Judge sides with Alaska attorney who alleged wrongful firing

Court News 2022/01/21 10:33   Bookmark and Share
A U.S. judge sided Thursday with an attorney who alleged she was wrongly fired by the state of Alaska over political opinions expressed on a personal blog.

U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick ruled that Elizabeth Bakalar’s December 2018 firing violated her free speech and associational rights under the U.S. and state constitutions.

According to Sedwick’s decision, Bakalar was an attorney with the Alaska Department of Law who handled election-related cases and was assigned to advise or represent state agencies in high-profile or complex matters. She began a blog in 2014 that focused on issues such as lifestyle, parenting and politics but began blogging more about politics and then-President Donald Trump after his 2016 election. She also commented about Trump on Twitter, with her name listed as the Twitter handle, the order says.

Shortly after Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s election in 2018, the chair of his transition team and later his chief of staff, Tuckerman Babcock, sent a memo to a broad swath of state employees requesting they submit their resignations along with a statement of interest in continuing to work for the new administration. The request was derided by attorneys for Bakalar and others as a demand for a “loyalty pledge.”

“To keep their jobs employees had to actually offer up a resignation with an accompanying statement of interest in continuing with the new administration and then hope that the incoming administration would reject the resignation,” Sedwick wrote.

Babcock said he fired Bakalar because he considered the tone of her resignation letter to be unprofessional, the order says. But Sedwick said Babcock did not accept the resignation of an assistant attorney general who used the same wording he had found objectionable when used by Bakalar.

While every lawyer in the Department of Law received the memo, just two — Bakalar and another attorney who had been critical of Trump on social media — had their resignation letters accepted, according to Sedwick’s decision.
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Some Michigan counties pause jury trials amid COVID surge

Headline Legal News 2022/01/17 13:04   Bookmark and Share
Jury trials have been paused in some western Michigan counties due to a surge in coronavirus cases, court officials said Monday.

Chief Judge Mark Trusock said all jury trials in Kent County 17th Circuit Court, based in Grand Rapids, were on hold until March 7. Ottawa County Probate Court and the 20th Judicial Circuit Court, based in Grand Haven, will not summon the public to courthouses to serve as jurors until at least Feb. 1, according to a statement released by the court.

Michigan health officials said last week that the state’s record-high COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations could peak in late January or early February, and they urged the public to take steps to help control the spread.

Ottawa County court officials said their decision was made in consultation with the Ottawa County Department of Public Health. Circuit Court Administrator Susan Franklin said judges don’t want to bring large numbers of people into the courthouses given the current rates of COVID transmission.

Courts across the U.S. have paused jury trials at various points during the pandemic. The highly contagious omicron variant has prompted additional pauses in recent days, including in Indiana’s largest county and in the state’s second most-populous county.
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