Court: Missouri not required to name execution drug's source

Legal Insight 2017/02/20 09:29   Bookmark and Share
A Missouri appellate court has ruled that the state's prison officials aren't obligated to publicly reveal the source of the drug used to execute prisoners.

The appellate court's Western District decided Tuesday to overturn a 2016 trial court ruling that found the state wrongly withheld documents that would identify pharmaceutical suppliers, The Kansas City Star reported.       

The appeals court agreed with the state that a law that protects the identity of the state's execution team applies to those who supply the execution drug pentobarbital.

Major drug companies for the past several years have refused to allow their drugs to be used in executions. Missouri and many other active death penalty states refuse to disclose the source of their drugs, though the sources are widely believed to be compounding pharmacies ? organizations that make drugs tailored to the needs of a specific client. Those pharmacies do not face the same approval process or testing standards of larger pharmaceutical companies.

The appeals court ruling said that disclosing the identities of "individuals essential to the execution process" could hinder Missouri's ability to execute the condemned.

Several states also are facing legal challenges to lethal injection practices. Just last month, a federal judge found Ohio's latest lethal injection procedure unconstitutional while Texas sued the Food and Drug Administration over execution drugs that were confiscated in 2015. In Oklahoma last year, a grand jury criticized state officials charged with carrying out executions, describing a litany of failures and avoidable errors.
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Trial court election changes considered by North Carolina House

Legal Business 2017/02/18 09:29   Bookmark and Share
Some Republicans are set on returning all North Carolina state judicial elections to being officially partisan races again.

A law quickly approved in December during a special election directed statewide races for Supreme Court and Court of Appeals to become partisan starting in 2018. Now the state House scheduled floor debate Wednesday on legislation extending that to local Superior Court and District Court seats next year, too.

Having partisan races means candidates run in party primaries to reach the general election. Unaffiliated candidates could still run but would have to collect signatures to qualify.

Judicial races shifted to nonpartisan elections starting in the mid-1990s in part as an effort to distance judicial candidates from politics. But Republicans today say party labels help give voters some information about the candidates.
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Court: Police executing 'no-knock' warrant before shooting

Court News 2017/02/14 00:35   Bookmark and Share
Court documents show Hickory police were executing a "no knock" search warrant when a police officer was shot in the arm by a suspect who was shot and killed.

WSOC-TV in Charlotte reports documents showed that police were concerned that one of their officers might be hurt while carrying out the warrant. Hickory Police Chief Thurman Whisnant said that as soon as officers came through the door, they identified themselves and announced they were executing the warrant.

The search warrant listed more than a decade of convictions against 33-year-old William David Whetstone for assaults and drug charges.

Police said Whetstone disobeyed orders not to move, pulled a gun and shot an officer in the arm on Feb. 3. Two other officers then shot Whetstone, who died at the scene.
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NC court blocks law stripping governor of election powers

Court News 2017/02/14 00:34   Bookmark and Share
North Carolina's Supreme Court on Monday again blocked a state law approved by Republicans that strips the new Democratic governor of powers to oversee elections.

A lower appeals court briefly let the law to take effect last week, allowing a revamped state elections board to meet for the first time Friday. It's one of the changes passed in late December that shift power over running elections away from Gov. Roy Cooper.

"We are pleased the Supreme Court has put the injunction back in place until the judges can hear and decide the full case" early next month, Cooper spokeswoman Noelle Talley wrote in an email.

The law ends the practice of allowing the governor's political party to hold majorities on all state and county elections boards. Instead of Democrats holding sway over running elections and resolving voting disputes, elections board positions would be evenly divided between major-party partisans.

Republicans would control elections during even-numbered years, when big races for president, legislature or other major statewide offices are held. The measure also merges the state ethics and elections boards into one.

Lawyers representing state House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, and Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, did not respond to emails seeking comment after the Supreme Court's decision.

Cooper, Moore and Berger are also fighting in court over another new law aiming to restrict the Democrat's ability to alter the state's recent conservative direction.

A panel of three state trial court judges is considering whether to continue blocking a law requiring Senate confirmation of Cooper's Cabinet secretaries.

The law requiring Senate consent to Cooper's top appointees came during a surprise special session barely a week after Republican incumbent Pat McCrory conceded to Cooper in their close gubernatorial race.
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Supreme Court nominee has defended free speech, religion

Topics in Legal News 2017/02/13 00:35   Bookmark and Share
Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch has been a defender of free speech and a skeptic of libel claims, an Associated Press review of his rulings shows. His record puts him at odds with President Donald Trump's disdain for journalists and tendency to lash out at critics.

On other First Amendment cases involving freedom of religion, however, Gorsuch's rulings in his decade on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver reflect views more in line with the president and conservatives. Gorsuch repeatedly has sided with religious groups when they butt up against the secular state.

In a 2007 opinion involving free speech, Gorsuch ruled for a Kansas citizen who said he was bullied by Douglas County officials into dropping his tax complaints. "When public officials feel free to wield the powers of their office as weapons against those who question their decisions, they do damage not merely to the citizen in their sights but also to the First Amendment liberties," Gorsuch wrote.
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Partisan struggle over NC governor's authority back in court

Politics 2017/02/12 00:35   Bookmark and Share
Judges are hearing more arguments about North Carolina Republican lawmakers' efforts to reduce Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's authority in choosing his Cabinet.

A three-judge panel scheduled arguments Friday on whether to extend their recent temporary block of a law requiring Senate confirmation of Cooper's Cabinet secretaries.

The GOP-controlled legislature passed the law shortly before Cooper took office, one of several provisions designed to limit Cooper's powers.

Cooper's attorneys say confirmation usurps his authority to carry out core executive functions. Republicans respond that the state Constitution gives senators "advice and consent" powers with gubernatorial appointees.

The governor wants the law blocked at least until a hearing scheduled for March.

In another gubernatorial power issue, a state appeals court on Thursday temporarily reinstated a law stripping Cooper of his oversight of elections.

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