Montana vote adds to win streak for abortion rights backers

Legal Business 2022/11/11 14:39   Bookmark and Share
Abortion rights supporters secured another win Thursday as voters in Montana rejected a ballot measure that would have forced medical workers to intercede in the rare case of a baby born after an attempted abortion.

The result caps a string of ballot defeats, months after the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade galvanized abortion-rights voters.

Michigan, California and Vermont voted to enshrine abortion rights in their state constitutions, and Kentucky voters rejected an anti-abortion amendment in a tally that echoed a similar August vote in Kansas.

Abortion rights groups said the outcomes show that voters across the political spectrum support access to abortion, even after a dozen Republican-governed states legislatures adopted near-total bans in the wake of the Roe decision. Anti-abortion groups, on the other hand, say they were outspent in the state races and point out anti-abortion candidate victories.

Like voters nationwide, only about 1 in 10 voters in California, Michigan, Montana Kentucky or Vermont said abortion should generally be illegal in all cases, according to AP VoteCast.

The Montana ballot measure would have raised the prospect of criminal charges carrying up to 20 years in prison for health-care providers unless they take “all medically appropriate and reasonable actions to preserve the life” of an infant born alive, including in the rare case of a birth after an abortion.

Doctors and other opponents argued the law could keep parents of babies born with incurable diseases from spending peaceful moments with their infants if doctors were forced to attempt treatment.
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Fishermen hire Bush-era official in challenge to whale laws

Legal Business 2022/10/11 12:24   Bookmark and Share
Maine lobster fishermen have hired a former high-ranking U.S. Department of Justice official to represent them in their case against new laws intended to protect whales.

The Maine Lobstermen’s Association is appealing its case against the new rules to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The group said Tuesday it has hired Paul Clement, who served as U.S. solicitor general from 2004 to 2008, to represent it in the case.

The solicitor general supervises all Supreme Court litigation for the U.S., and Clement has argued dozens of cases in front of the high court. That’s where the lobstermen’s case could ultimately be headed, he said Tuesday.

The new fishing restrictions have pushed the industry to the brink of collapse, Clement said.

“You have administrative overreach. The implications are easy to understand,” he said. “It directly threatens really one of the most iconic American industries. Everyone who has ever enjoyed a lobster can appreciate this.”

The lobster fishermen sued the National Marine Fisheries Service, and in September a judge denied their request to stop the regulators from placing the new restrictions on fishing. The restrictions are designed to protect the North Atlantic right whale, which numbers less than 340 and is vulnerable to entanglement in fishing gear.

The fisheries service has declined to comment on the lawsuit. The Maine Lobstermen’s Association also said it planned to file court papers on Tuesday asking for its appeal to be expedited because of the jeopardy posed to the fishery by the new rules.

Environmental groups have long pushed for stronger protections for the right whales, which were devastated generations ago during the commercial whaling era. The groups have made their own case in court that the federal government should be doing more to protect the whales.

The American lobster fishery is based mostly in Maine, though lobsters also come to the docks elsewhere in New England and in New York and New Jersey. U.S. lobsters were worth a record figure of more than $900 million at the docks last year.
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Wisconsin Supreme Court says COVID records can be released

Legal Business 2022/06/07 15:48   Bookmark and Share
A divided Wisconsin Supreme Court on Tuesday said the state health department can release data on coronavirus outbreak cases, information sought two years ago near the beginning of the pandemic.

The court ruled 4-3 against Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s largest business lobbying group, which had wanted to block release of the records requested in June 2020 by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and other news outlets.

The state health department in the early months of the pandemic in 2020 had planned to release the names of more than 1,000 businesses with more than 25 employees where at least two workers have tested positive for COVID-19.

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, along with the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce and the New Berlin Chamber of Commerce, sued to block the release of the records, saying it would “irreparably harm” the reputations of their members. It argued that the information being sought is derived from diagnostic test results and the records of contact tracers, and that such information constitutes private medical records that can’t be released without the consent of each individual.

Attorneys for the state argued that the information contained aggregate numbers only, not personal information, and could be released. A Waukesha County circuit judge sided with the business group and blocked release of the records. A state appeals court in 2021 reversed the lower court’s ruling and ordered the case dismissed, saying WMC failed to show a justifiable reason for concealing the records.
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Man denies kidnapping charge in alleged murder-for-hire plot

Legal Business 2022/06/03 09:33   Bookmark and Share
A Colorado man pleaded not guilty Thursday in federal court in Vermont to kidnapping a man who was later found shot to death in a snowbank in 2018 in what prosecutors allege is a murder-for-hire case stemming from a financial dispute.

Federal prosecutors say they believe Jerry Banks, 34, of Fort Garland, Colorado, killed Gregory Davis, 49, of Danville, Vermont, but he has not been charged in the killing. U.S. District Judge Geoffrey Crawford ordered Banks to remain detained until trial, noting the prosecutors’ concerns about his risk of flight and safety risk to potential witnesses.

“Someone who would kill for money would likely kill or improperly influence a witness or otherwise seek to influence the course of a trial that would result in his life in prison,” Paul Van de Graaf and Jonathan Ophardt, assistant U.S. attorneys for Vermont, wrote in their detention request. They said Banks has a history of living “off the grid” and no strong connection to Vermont or anywhere else in the country.

Banks’ federal public defender, Mary Nerino, did not contest detention and would not comment on the charges after the arraignment.

Davis was abducted from his Danville, Vermont, home on Jan. 6, 2018, and found shot to death the next day in a snowbank on a back road in Barnet.

Prosecutors detailed the alleged conspiracy in a filing Monday in federal court in Las Vegas. They wrote that Davis had been threatening to go to the FBI with information that Serhat Gumrukcu, 39, an inventor and the co-founder of a Los Angeles-based biotechnology company, was defrauding Davis in a multimillion-dollar oil deal Gumrukcu and Gumrukcu’s brother had entered into with Davis in 2015.

Gurumkcu was facing felony fraud charges in California in 2017 and was working on a deal that came together soon after Davis’ death that gave him significant ownership stake in Enochian Bioscience.
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German federal court mulls bid to remove antisemitic relic

Legal Business 2022/05/30 09:48   Bookmark and Share
A German federal court on Monday mulled a Jewish man’s bid to force the removal of a 700-year-old antisemitic statue from a church where Martin Luther once preached, and said it will deliver its verdict in the long-running dispute next month.

The “Judensau,” or “Jew pig,” sculpture on the Town Church in Wittenberg is one of more than 20 such relics from the Middle Ages that still adorn churches across Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

The case went to the Federal Court of Justice after lower courts ruled in 2019 and 2020 against plaintiff Michael Duellmann. He had argued that the sculpture was “a defamation of and insult to the Jewish people” that has “a terrible effect up to this day,” and has suggested moving it the nearby Luther House museum.

Placed on the church about four meters (13 feet) above ground level, the sculpture depicts people identifiable as Jews suckling the teats of a sow while a rabbi lifts the animal’s tail. In 1570, after the Protestant Reformation, an inscription referring to an anti-Jewish tract by Luther was added.

In 1988, a memorial was set into the ground below, referring to the persecution of Jews and the 6 million people who died during the Holocaust. In addition, a sign gives information about the sculpture in German and English.

In 2020, an appeals court in Naumburg ruled that “in its current context” the sculpture is not of “slanderous character” and didn’t violate the plaintiff’s rights. It said that, with the addition of the memorial and information sign, the statue was now “part of an ensemble which speaks for another objective” on the part of the parish.
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Tennessee, South Carolina extend health care for new moms

Legal Business 2022/05/06 12:17   Bookmark and Share
Tennessee and South Carolina are joining five other states in extending health care coverage to women with low-to-modest incomes for a full year after childbirth, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announced on Friday.

The expansion of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program comes as the U.S. Supreme Court could be poised to overturn women’s constitutional right to abortion. That could make the coverage more urgently needed than ever if more women, especially older women or those in poorer health, end up carrying pregnancies to term. In Tennessee, a trigger law would outlaw abortion in the state if Roe v. Wade were overturned. South Carolina has a law banning abortions after six weeks.

States are currently required to provide 60 days of coverage after childbirth, but medical experts say women can die from pregnancy-related conditions up to a year after giving birth and that most pregnancy-related deaths are preventable. Maternal mortality is particularly serious for Black women, whose pregnancy-related death rate is three times that of white women.

Asked about the effect of an abortion ban on Tennessee women at a Thursday news conference, Republican Gov. Bill Lee, who opposes abortion, pointed to the extension.

“It’s important that we recognize that women in crisis need support and assistance through this process. For example, that’s why we’ve expanded our postpartum coverage for women in TennCare,” Lee said.

TennCare is Tennessee’s version of Medicaid, the federal-state program covering about one in five Americans, from many newborns, to low-income adults and frail nursing home residents. The program pays for about four out of every 10 births in the United States.

About 700 U.S. women die annually because of pregnancy-related problems, a little over half after the woman has given birth, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 12% of maternal deaths occur 43 to 365 days after delivery.

The expanded coverage is made possible by a provision in the COVID-19 relief bill that will expire after five years unless Congress reapproves it or makes it permanent.
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