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Lawyer: Over 150 Minneapolis officers seeking disability
Class Action News | 2020/07/11 16:01
More than 150 Minneapolis police officers are filing work-related disability claims after the death of George Floyd and ensuing unrest, with about three-quarters citing post-traumatic stress disorder as the reason for their planned departures, according to an attorney representing the officers.

Their duty disability claims, which will take months to process, come as the city is seeing an increase in violent crime and while city leaders push a proposal to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a new agency that they say would have a more holistic approach.

While Floyd’s death in May and the unrest that followed are not the direct cause of many of the disability requests, attorney Ron Meuser said, those events and what Meuser called a lack of support from city leadership were a breaking point for many who had been struggling with PTSD from years on the job. Duty disability means the officer was disabled while engaged in inherently dangerous acts specific to the job.

“Following the George Floyd incident, unfortunately it became too much and as a result they were unable to, and are unable to, continue on and move forward,” Meuser said. “They feel totally and utterly abandoned.”

He said many officers he represents were at a precinct that police abandoned  as people were breaking in during the unrest. Some officers feared they wouldn’t make it home, he said, and wrote final notes to loved ones. People in the crowd ultimately set fire to the building.

Mayor Jacob Frey issued a statement saying that COVID-19 and unrest following Floyd’s death tested the community and officers in profound ways. He said cities need resources to reflect the realities on the ground.

“In the meantime, I am committed to supporting those officers committed to carrying out their oath to serve and protect the people of Minneapolis during a challenging time for our city,” he said.

Meuser said in recent weeks, 150 officers have retained his office for help in filing for duty disability benefits through the state’s Public Employment Retirement Association, or PERA. So far, 75 of them have already left the job, he said.

Police spokesman John Elder questioned Meuser’s figure of 150, though he does expect an increase in departures. The department currently has about 850 officers and will adjust staffing to ensure it can do its job, he said.

The city said it has received 17 PTSD workers compensation claims in the last month, but when it comes to PERA duty disability, officers are not obligated to notify the Police Department that an application was submitted. Meuser said the city isn’t being transparent about departures, and the numbers it sees will lag as PERA benefits take months to process.


Wisconsin Supreme Court OKs GOP-authored lame-duck laws
Criminal Law Updates | 2020/07/09 23:02
The conservative-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday upheld Republican-authored lame-duck laws that stripped power from the incoming Democratic attorney general just before he took office in 2019.

The justices rejected arguments  that the laws were unconstitutional, handing another win to Republicans who have scored multiple high-profile victories before the court in recent years.

The 5-2 ruling marks the second time that the court has upheld the lame-duck laws passed in December 2018, just weeks before Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul, both Democrats, took office. The actions in Wisconsin mirrored Republican moves after losing control of the governors’ offices in Michigan in November 2018 and in North Carolina in 2016. Democrats decried the tactics as brazen attempts to hold onto power after losing elections.

The Wisconsin laws curtailed the powers of both the governor and attorney general, but the case decided Thursday dealt primarily with powers taken from Kaul.

The attorney general said in a statement that Republican legislators have demonstrated open hostility to him and Evers and made it harder for state government to function. Evers echoed that sentiment in a statement of his own, saying Republicans have been working against him “every chance they get, regardless of the consequences.”

Thursday’s ruling involved a case filed by a coalition of labor unions led by the State Employees International Union. The coalition argued that the laws give the Legislature power over the attorney general’s office and that this violates the separation of powers doctrine in the state constitution.

The laws prohibit Evers from ordering Kaul to withdraw from lawsuits, let legislators intervene in lawsuits using their own attorneys rather than Kaul’s state Department of Justice lawyers, and force Kaul to get permission from the Legislature’s Republican-controlled budget committee before settling lawsuits.

Republicans designed the laws to prohibit Evers from pulling Wisconsin out of a multistate lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and to ensure that they have a say in court if Kaul chooses not to defend GOP-authored laws.



Town court in southern Nevada closes due to coronavirus
Court Feed News | 2020/07/07 17:04
A town court in southern Nevada was closed Tuesday after officials said several workers were exposed to a person who tested positive for the new coronavirus.

The two judges in the Nye County community of Pahrump issued an order saying all staff members will be tested Wednesday for COVID-19, and no in-person hearings will be held at the courthouse.

Pahrump Justice Court will continue to conduct initial appearances, bail hearings and arraignments with detainees and attorneys appearing by telephone or video conference.

Applications for protective orders can be made by internet or at the Nye County sheriff’s office.

The court in the community about 60 miles (96.5 kilometers) west of Las Vegas also closed for several days in April after an employee tested positive and other workers were exposed to the virus.

The court order said officials anticipate reopening after staff members have tested negative.

State health officials report that more than 22,000 people have tested positive for the virus statewide and at least 537 have died.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms for up to three weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems can face severe illness and death. The vast majority recover.


Supreme Court upholds cellphone robocall ban
Criminal Law Updates | 2020/07/05 00:04
The Supreme Court on Monday upheld a 1991 law that bars robocalls to cellphones.

The case, argued by telephone in May because of the coronavirus pandemic, only arose after Congress in 2015 created an exception in the law that allowed the automated calls for collection of government debt.

Political consultants and pollsters were among those who asked the Supreme Court to strike down the entire 1991 law that bars them from making robocalls to cellphones as a violation of their free speech rights under the Constitution. The issue was whether, by allowing one kind of speech but not others, the exception made the whole law unconstitutional.

Six justices agreed that by allowing debt collection calls to cellphones Congress “impermissibly favored debt-collection speech over political and other speech, in violation of the First Amendment,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote. And seven justices agreed that the 2015 exception should be stricken from the law.

“Americans passionately disagree about many things. But they are largely united in their disdain for robocalls,” Kavanaugh noted at the outset of his opinion.

During arguments in the case in May, Justice Stephen Breyer got cut off when someone tried calling him. Breyer said after he rejoined the court’s arguments: “The telephone started to ring, and it cut me off the call and I don’t think it was a robocall.”


Supreme Court lifts ban on state aid to religious schooling
Criminal Law Updates | 2020/07/04 00:05
States can’t cut religious schools out of programs that send public money to private education, a divided Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

By a 5-4 vote with the conservatives in the majority, the justices upheld a  Montana scholarship program that allows state tax credits for private schooling in which almost all the recipients attend religious schools.

The Montana Supreme Court had struck down the K-12 private education scholarship program that was created by the Legislature in 2015 to make donors eligible for up to $150 in state tax credits. The state court had ruled that the tax credit violated the Montana constitution’s ban on state aid to religious schools.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion that said the state ruling itself ran afoul of the religious freedom, embodied in the U.S. Constitution, of parents who want the scholarships to help pay for their children’s private education. “A state need not subsidize private education. But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious,” Roberts wrote.


High court won't hear abortion clinic 'buffer zone' cases
Business Law Info | 2020/07/03 04:41
The Supreme Court on Thursday turned away pleas from anti-abortion activists to make it easier for them to protest outside clinics, declining to wade back into the abortion debate just days after striking down a Louisiana law regulating abortion clinics.

The justices said in a written order that they would not hear cases from Chicago and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where anti-abortion activists had challenged ordinances that restrict their behavior outside clinics.

As is usual, the justices did not comment in turning away the cases. The order from the court noted Justice Clarence Thomas would have heard the Chicago case.

The Supreme Court has since the late 1990s heard several cases involving demonstration-free zones, called buffer zones, outside abortion clinics. Most recently, in 2014, the justices unanimously struck down a law that created a 35-foot protest-free zone outside Massachusetts abortion clinics. The court said Massachusetts’ law, which made it a crime to stand in the protest-free zone for most people not entering or exiting the clinic or passing by, was an unconstitutional restraint on the free-speech rights of protesters.

On Thursday, one of the two cases the court declined to take up involved an ordinance passed by the city counsel in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania's capital, in 2012 that made it illegal to “congregate, patrol, picket or demonstrate” in a zone 20 feet from a health care facility. Anti-abortion activists sued, arguing that the ordinance violates their free speech rights. Lower courts have upheld the ordinance, however, ruling it doesn't apply to “sidewalk counseling,” where individuals who oppose abortion offer assistance and information about alternatives to abortion to those entering a clinic.


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