Appeals court orders dismissal of Michael Flynn prosecution

Headline Legal News 2020/06/25 12:25   Bookmark and Share
A divided federal appeals court on Wednesday ordered the dismissal of the criminal case against President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, turning back efforts by a judge to scrutinize the Justice Department’s extraordinary decision to drop the prosecution.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said in a 2-1 ruling that the Justice Department’s move to abandon the case against Flynn settles the matter, even though Flynn pleaded guilty as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation to lying to the FBI.

The ruling, a significant win for both Flynn and the Justice Department, appears to cut short what could have been a protracted legal fight over the basis for the government’s dismissal of the case. It came as Democrats question whether the Justice Department has become too politicized and Attorney General William Barr too quick to side with the president, particularly as he vocally criticizes, and even undoes, some of the results of the Russia investigation.

The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing Wednesday centered on another unusual move by Barr to overrule his own prosecutors and ask for less prison time for another Trump associate, Roger Stone. Barr has accepted an invitation to testify before the panel on July 28, a spokeswoman said Wednesday, and he will almost certainly be pressed about the Flynn case.

Trump tweeted just moments after the ruling became public: “Great! Appeals Court Upholds Justice Departments Request to Drop Criminal Case Against General Michael Flynn.”

Later, at the White House, Trump told reporters he was happy for Flynn.

“He was treated horribly by a group of very bad people,” Trump said. “What happened to Gen. Flynn should never happen in our country.”

Flynn called into conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh’s radio show and said the ruling was a good development for him and his family. But he also called it “great boost of confidence for the American people in our justice system because that’s what this really comes down to ? is whether or not our justice system is going to have the confidence of the American people.”

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan had declined to immediately dismiss the case, seeking instead to evaluate on his own the department’s request. He appointed a retired federal judge to argue against the Justice Department’s position and to consider whether Flynn could be held in criminal contempt for perjury. He had set a July 16 hearing to formally hear the request to dismiss the case.
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Tennessee Supreme Court delays second execution due to pandemic

Headline Legal News 2020/06/14 09:46   Bookmark and Share
The Tennessee Supreme Court on Friday issued a stay of execution for a second death row inmate because of the coronavirus pandemic. Byron Black's execution was scheduled for Oct. 8, but the court moved it to April 8, 2021.

Attorneys for the 64-year-old Black had said the pandemic made it impossible to have a hearing on whether Black is competent to be executed. They also wrote that the health crisis is interfering with his ability to prepare for a clemency request.

The court also extended until January Black's deadline for a petition alleging incompetence. The previous deadline was next month. "The stay will help protect guards, witnesses, attorneys representing the prisoners, attorneys for the State, and everyone else involved in these cases," said Kelley Henry, supervisory assistant federal public defender.

Henry said Black has mental defects and medical issues. "For the court to evaluate Mr. Black's competency, it would need to hear from mental health experts who are out of state and can't travel to Tennessee to examine Mr. Black in the prison at this time," Henry said. "The stay in Mr. Black's case was absolutely necessary."

Tennessee's attorney general opposed Black's motion to delay his execution. Attorney General Herbert Slatery wrote in Supreme Court filings that attorneys for Black and another inmate who sought a stay, Harold Nichols, were speculating about future public health conditions in their delay requests.

Black was convicted by a Nashville court of murdering his girlfriend Angela Clay and her daughters Latoya, 9, and Lakesha, 6, at their home in 1988. Prosecutors said he shot the three during a jealous rage. Black was on work release at the time for shooting and wounding Clay's estranged husband.
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Juul Labs sought to court AGs as teen vaping surged

Headline Legal News 2020/03/11 11:05   Bookmark and Share
It was a blunt warning about the dangers of youth vaping: Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr announced late last month that his state had joined 38 others to investigate whether Juul Labs, the nation’s largest electronic cigarette company, promoted and sold its nicotine-heavy products to teens.

Ten months earlier, a team of Juul representatives met with Carr and his senior staff. They delivered a 17-page presentation laden with information about the public-health potential of Juul’s combustion-free vaping devices for adult smokers and the company’s “commitment to ending youth use,” a pledge that included more rigorous retail and online sales controls.

It was a blunt warning about the dangers of youth vaping: Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr announced late last month that his state had joined 38 others to investigate whether Juul Labs, the nation’s largest electronic cigarette company, promoted and sold its nicotine-heavy products to teens.

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Court to look anew at health care law birth control rules

Headline Legal News 2020/01/22 16:03   Bookmark and Share
The Supreme Court will consider allowing the Trump administration to enforce rules that allow more employers to deny insurance coverage for contraceptives to women.

The justices agreed Friday to yet another case stemming from President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, this time about cost-free birth control. The court probably will hear arguments in April.

The high court will review an appeals court ruling that blocked the Trump administration rules because it did not follow proper procedures. The new policy on contraception, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, would allow more categories of employers, including publicly traded companies, to opt out of providing no-cost birth control to women by claiming religious objections.

The policy also would allow some employers, though not publicly traded companies, to raise moral objections to covering contraceptives.

Employers also would be able to cover some birth control methods, and not others. Some employers have objected to covering modern, long-acting implantable contraceptives, such as IUDs, which are more expensive and considered highly effective in preventing pregnancies.

The share of female employees paying their own money for birth control pills has plunged to under 4 percent, from 21 percent, since contraception became a covered preventive health benefit under the Obama-era health law, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Even though the Trump rules remain blocked, a ruling by a federal judge in Texas in June already allows most people who object to covering contraception to avoid doing so.

The issue in all the cases is the method originally adopted by the Obama administration to allow religiously affiliated organizations to opt out of paying for contraception while making sure that women under their plans would not be left with the bill.

Some groups complained that the opt-out process violated their religious beliefs and wanted to be relieved of even signaling their religious objection.
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In or out? Court case on job bias casts pall on LGBT fests

Headline Legal News 2019/10/14 20:39   Bookmark and Share
National Coming Out Day festivities were tempered this year by anxiety that some LGBT folk may have to go back into the closet so they can make a living, depending on what the Supreme Court decides about workplace discrimination law.

But the mere fact that words like “transgender” are being uttered before the nation’s highest court gives some supporters of LGBT workplace rights hope that the pendulum will swing in their favor.

“I want all members of our community to feel supported by the government, and often for a lot of us and a lot of friends of mine, it’s the first time that they feel represented,” said Jessica Goldberg, a bisexual senior at the University of Colorado Denver.

Still, for many, the arguments showed the continuing relevance of National Coming Out Day, first observed in 1988 and marked every Oct. 11, though observances happen over several days. That includes Philadelphia’s annual OutFest, held Sunday this year and billed as the largest National Coming Out Day event.
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Kings coach Walton focused on team, not lawsuit

Headline Legal News 2019/09/27 23:23   Bookmark and Share
Sacramento Kings first-year coach Luke Walton says he is focused on his team and not worried about a lawsuit accusing him of sexual assault.

Walton spoke publicly Friday at Kings media day for the first time since a former sportscaster filed a civil suit against him in April accusing him of the assault.

"I'm here to do my job and focus on the Kings," Walton said. "The rest will take care of itself."

Walton was hired by the Kings in April, soon after being fired following three seasons as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. He was sued shortly after being hired by Kelli Tennant, a former host on Spectrum SportsNet LA, who accused him of sexually assaulting her in a hotel room in 2014 when he was an assistant with the Golden State Warriors and harassing her after that during his tenure with the Lakers.

The Kings and the NBA investigated the charges but took no action against Walton when "investigators determined that there was not a sufficient basis to support the allegations." Tennant did not participate in the investigation.

Walton still faces a civil suit but has said in a court filing that the allegations aren't backed up in facts. He said the suit is not a distraction to his job.

"My focus is on the Kings and what we're doing to get this group to the next level," he said.

Walton is trying to get the Kings back to the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the longest current postseason drought in the NBA. He takes over a young team featuring emerging stars like De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley III.

The Kings hold their first practice Saturday before leaving next week for a trip to India, where they will play two exhibition games. That puts more emphasis on the early days of practice.
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