Dems force 1-week delay on panel vote on Supreme Court pick

Court News 2017/03/27 15:25   Bookmark and Share
Senate Democrats on Monday forced a one-week delay in a committee vote on President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, who remains on track for confirmation with solid Republican backing.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, announced that, as expected, Democrats have requested a postponement. The committee vote on Judge Neil Gorsuch now will be held April 3.

As the committee readies to vote, three additional Democrats said they are likely to vote against the Denver-based appeals court judge. Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono said they will vote against Gorsuch, and Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy tweeted that he still was undecided but inclined to oppose him. Leahy is a senior member of the Judiciary panel and a former chairman.

That means at least 17 Democrats and independents, led by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, have announced their opposition to the Denver-based appeals court judge, arguing that Gorsuch has ruled too often against workers and in favor of corporations.

The Democrats who have announced their opposition have also said they will try to block the nominee, meaning Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will have to hold a procedural vote requiring 60 votes to move forward. The Senate GOP has a 52-48 majority, meaning McConnell will need support from at least eight Democrats or independents.

It was unclear whether he would be able to get the 60 votes. If he doesn't, McConnell seems ready to change Senate rules and confirm him with a simple majority.

Republicans had hoped that they'd see some support from the 10 Democrats running for re-election in states won by Trump in the presidential election, but four of those senators — Nelson, Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin — have already said they will oppose the nominee.

Leahy, however, signaled that he may be willing to break from Schumer and vote with Republicans on the procedural vote, while also signaling in a separate tweet he'd vote against Gorsuch in the final, up or down vote.

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Immigration courts: record number of cases, many problems

Court News 2017/03/07 10:47   Bookmark and Share
Everyone was in place for the hearing in Atlanta immigration court: the Guinean man hoping to stay in the U.S., his attorney, a prosecutor, a translator and the judge. But because of some missing paperwork, it was all for nothing.

When the government attorney said he hadn't received the case file, Judge J. Dan Pelletier rescheduled the proceeding. Everybody would have to come back another day.

The sudden delay was just one example of the inefficiency witnessed by an Associated Press writer who observed hearings over two days in one of the nation's busiest immigration courts. And that case is one of more than half a million weighing down court dockets across the country as President Donald Trump steps up enforcement of immigration laws.

Even before Trump became president, the nation's immigration courts were burdened with a record number of pending cases, a shortage of judges and frequent bureaucratic breakdowns. Cases involving immigrants not in custody commonly take two years to resolve and sometimes as many as five.

The backlog and insufficient resources are problems stretching back at least a decade, said San Francisco Immigration Judge Dana Marks, speaking as the president of the National Association of Immigration Judges.
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US appeals court upholds Maryland assault weapons ban

Court News 2017/02/22 09:29   Bookmark and Share
Maryland's ban on 45 kinds of assault weapons and its 10-round limit on gun magazines were upheld Tuesday by a federal appeals court in a decision that met with a strongly worded dissent.

In a 10-4 ruling, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., said the guns banned under Maryland's law aren't protected by the Second Amendment.

"Put simply, we have no power to extend Second Amendment protections to weapons of war," Judge Robert King wrote for the court, adding that the Supreme Court's decision in District of Columbia v. Heller explicitly excluded such coverage.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, who led the push for the law in 2013 as a state senator, said it's "unthinkable that these weapons of war, weapons that caused the carnage in Newtown and in other communities across the country, would be protected by the Second Amendment."

"It's a very strong opinion, and it has national significance, both because it's en-banc and for the strength of its decision," Frosh said, noting that all of the court's judges participated.

Judge William Traxler issued a dissent. By concluding the Second Amendment doesn't even apply, Traxler wrote, the majority "has gone to greater lengths than any other court to eviscerate the constitutionally guaranteed right to keep and bear arms." He also wrote that the court did not apply a strict enough review on the constitutionality of the law.
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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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Court upholds guilty verdict for Russian opposition leader

Court News 2017/02/07 00:36   Bookmark and Share
A Russian court on Wednesday found opposition leader Alexei Navalny guilty in the retrial of a 2013 fraud case, which formally disqualifies him as a candidate for president next year.

However, the first time Navalny was convicted, his sentence was suspended and he was allowed to be a candidate for mayor of Moscow. An associate said Navalny will carry on with the presidential campaign he announced in December.

In a webcast hearing in Kirov, a city nearly 800 kilometers (500 miles) east of Moscow, Judge Alexei Vtyurin found Navalny guilty of embezzling timber worth 16 million rubles ($270,000) and gave him a five-year suspended sentence. The previous guilty verdict was overturned by the European Court of Human Rights which ruled that Russia violated Navalny's right to a fair trial.

During a break in the proceedings, Navalny told reporters that he and his lawyers were comparing this verdict with the text of the 2013 verdict and found them to be identical.

"You can come over and see that the judge is reading exactly the same text, which says a lot about the whole trial," Navalny told reporters, adding that even the typos in the names of companies were identical in both rulings.

Navalny, the driving force behind massive anti-government protests in Moscow 2011 and 2012, had announced plans to run for office in December and had begun to raise funds.

Navalny's campaign manager, Leonid Volkov, insisted that the campaign goes on even though the guilty verdict formally bars Navalny from running.

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