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Travel ban is headed back to a federal appeals court in Virginia
Legal Interview | 2017/12/07 10:13
Thirteen judges on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will be asked to decide if the ban violates the constitution by discriminating against Muslims, as opponents say, or is necessary to protect national security, as the Trump administration says.

The hearing scheduled Friday comes four days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration can fully enforce the ban even as the separate challenges continue before the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th Circuit and the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit appeals courts.

The 4th Circuit is being asked to reverse the decision of a Maryland judge whose injunction in October barred the administration from enforcing the ban against travelers from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen who have bona fide relationships with people or organizations in the U.S. The ban also applies to travelers from North Korea and to some Venezuelan government officials and their families, but the lawsuits didn't challenge those restrictions.

Trump announced his initial travel ban on citizens of certain Muslim-majority nations in late January, bringing havoc and protests to airports around the country. A federal judge in Seattle soon blocked it, and courts since then have wrestled with the restrictions as the administration has rewritten them. The latest version blocks travelers from the listed countries to varying degrees, allowing for students from some of the countries while blocking other business travelers and tourists, and allowing for admissions on a case-by-case basis.

Opponents say the latest version of the ban is another attempt by Trump to fulfill his campaign pledge to keep Muslims out of the U.S. The administration, however, says the ban is based on legitimate national security concerns.

The 4th Circuit rejected an earlier version in May, finding that it "drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination" toward Muslims. The judges cited Trump's campaign pledge on Muslim travelers, as well as tweets and remarks he has made since taking office.


Court reverses itself and restores woman's murder conviction
Court Line News | 2017/12/07 10:12
Georgia's highest court has reversed it own recent decision and restored the murder conviction of a woman whose husband shot and killed a police officer.

The Georgia Supreme Court issued a new opinion Monday that upholds Lisa Ann Lebis' felony murder conviction in the 2012 slaying of Clayton County police officer Sean Callahan.

Barely a month ago the same court had axed Lebis' conviction, saying prosecutors failed to prove she "jointly possessed" the gun that her husband, Tremaine Lebis, used to kill the officer as the couple tried to flee a Stockbridge motel.

The new decision concludes that Lisa Ann Lebis could still be held accountable for the slaying as a co-conspirator.

The opinion Monday does not say why the high court chose to revisit the case.


Supreme Court won't hear dispute involving NC TV network
Headline Legal News | 2017/12/04 10:13
A lawsuit against a North Carolina city for allegedly discriminating against an African-American-owned television network will go forward after the Supreme Court declined to get involved in the case.

The Supreme Court's announcement Monday that it would not get involved in the dispute leaves in place a ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit earlier this year that revived the lawsuit. A trial court had initially dismissed it.

Black Network Television claims the City of Greensboro rescinded a $300,000 economic development loan because of race. The city says race had nothing to do with it. Appeals court judges ruled 2-1 that the lawsuit had been improperly dismissed.



Arkansas judge blocks state from issuing birth certificates
Headline Legal News | 2017/12/02 10:13
An Arkansas judge on Friday blocked the state from issuing any birth certificates until officials are able to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the state's birth certificate law illegally favors heterosexual parents.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox on Friday set aside his orders requiring the state and three same-sex couples go into mediation on how to fix the state law to comply with the U.S. high court's order. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge earlier this week asked the state Supreme Court to stay or lift Fox's mediation order.

"This case has been pending for over two years and it has been more than six months since the United States Supreme Court ruled the Arkansas statutory scheme unconstitutional," Fox wrote in his order. "There are citizens and residents of the state of Arkansas whose constitutional rights are being violated on a daily basis."

Fox last month had threatened to halt the issuance of birth certificates if both sides couldn't find language by Jan. 5 to be stricken from the law. Rutledge told the court this week that both sides had agreed on an order on how to comply with the high court ruling, but Fox rejected it. A spokeswoman for Rutledge said the AG's office was reviewing Fox's order and did not have an immediate comment.

In his order, Fox said he was hopeful Gov. Asa Hutchinson would have the authority to fix the birth certificate law through executive action. If the state is unable to fix the law, Fox said, the injunction would be in effect until lawmakers could address the issue. Lawmakers are not scheduled to convene again until February for a session focused on the budget. Hutchinson could call a special session.


Liberia court says presidential runoff vote can go ahead
Headline Legal News | 2017/12/01 10:14
Liberia's supreme court has cleared the way for the presidential runoff election to go forward, saying there was not enough evidence to support allegations of fraud.

The second-round vote between soccer star George Weah and Vice President Joseph Boakai had been put on hold after the Liberty Party alleged first-round voting irregularities.

But the court said Thursday those violations were not sufficient to overturn the vote's outcome.

No date has been set for the runoff vote. The National Elections Commission has been ordered to clean up its voter roll.

The Liberty Party's candidate was not among the top two finishers in the first round held Oct. 10.

Voters are choosing a replacement for President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa's first female leader and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.


Court asked to stop suit against prosecutor in man's death
Court Line News | 2017/11/24 10:14
A lawyer for Baltimore's top prosecutor asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to dismiss a lawsuit by five police officers who claim she maliciously prosecuted them in the death of a black man gravely injured in custody.

Assistant Attorney General Karl Pothier told the three-judge panel that as a prosecutor, Marilyn Mosby has immunity from the lawsuit filed by officers who were charged but later cleared in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray. Pothier urged the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a judge's decision to allow parts of the lawsuit to go to trial.

"A prosecutor's protective cloak of absolute immunity is not so easily removed," Pothier said.

Lawyers for the officers, however, said Mosby acted as an investigator — not simply as a prosecutor — and is therefore not immune from the lawsuit.

Gray, 25, died on April 19, 2015, from a fatal spinal injury suffered in a police van, prompting days of widespread protests and rioting. While tensions were still smoldering in Baltimore, Mosby charged six officers in Gray's arrest and death, an announcement that brought celebrations in the streets.

Three were ultimately acquitted and Mosby dropped the remaining cases.

On Wednesday, Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III grilled the officers' lawyers about why they should be allowed to sue Mosby for bringing criminal charges against them and holding a news conference to announce the charges.

"What we're talking about here is muzzling prosecutors who have publicly expressed grounds for prosecuting police officers," said Wilkinson, who repeatedly raised his voice while questioning the officers' lawyers.


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