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Appeals court keeps Flynn case alive, won’t order dismissal
Court Feed News | 2020/09/01 10:04
A federal appeals court in Washington declined Monday to order the dismissal of the Michael Flynn  prosecution, permitting a judge to scrutinize the Justice Department’s request to dismiss its case against President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser.

The decision keeps the case at least temporarily alive and rebuffs efforts by both Flynn’s lawyers and the Justice Department to force the prosecution to be dropped without further inquiry from the judge, who has for months declined to dismiss it. The ruling is the latest development in a criminal case that has taken unusual twists and turns over the last year and prompted a separation of powers tussle involving a veteran federal judge and the Trump administration.

In a separate ruling Monday, a three-judge panel of the same appeals court again threw out a lawsuit by House Democrats to compel former White House counsel Don McGahn to appear before a congressional committee.

The Flynn conflict arose in May when the Justice Department moved to dismiss the prosecution despite Flynn’s own guilty plea to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition period.

But U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, who had upbraided Flynn for his behavior at a 2018 court appearance, signaled his skepticism at the government’s unusual motion. He refused to dismiss the case and instead scheduled a hearing and appointed a retired federal judge to argue against the Justice Department’s position. That former judge, John Gleeson, challenged the motives  behind the department’s dismissal request and called it a “gross abuse” of prosecutorial power.

Flynn’s lawyers sought to bypass Sullivan and obtain an appeals court order that would have required the case’s immediate dismissal. They argued that Sullivan had overstepped his bounds by scrutinizing a dismissal request that both sides, the defense and the Justice Department, were in agreement about and that the case was effectively moot once prosecutors decided to abandon it.

At issue before the court was whether Sullivan could be forced to grant the Justice Department’s dismissal request without even holding a hearing into the basis for the motion.

“We have no trouble answering that question in the negative,” the court wrote in an unsigned opinion for the eight judges in the majority.



1st Black woman confirmed to be justice on NJ high court
Court Feed News | 2020/08/28 01:01
The nomination of the first Black woman to sit on New Jersey’s Supreme Court was confirmed Thursday by the state Senate.

Fabiana Pierre-Louis, a 39-year-old attorney in private practice and a former federal prosecutor, was nominated by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy in June to succeed Justice Walter Timpone. He was nominated to the court by former Republican Gov. Chris Christie in 2016 and will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 later this year.

“Ms. Pierre-Louis is a New Jersey success story who will bring more diversity to the highest court of the most diverse state in the country,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney, also a Democrat. She is Murphy’s first pick for the high court.

The daughter of Haitian immigrants, Pierre-Louis was the first person to go to law school in her family. At the event in Trenton in June with Murphy, she seemed to get choked up talking about the role they played in her life.

“Many years ago, my parents came to the United States from Haiti with not much more than the clothes on their backs and the American dream in their hearts. I think they have achieved that dream beyond measure because my life is certainly not representative of the traditional trajectory of someone who would one day be nominated to the Supreme Court of New Jersey,” she said.

Pierre-Louis is a partner at Montgomery McCracken in Cherry Hill, where she is in the white collar and government investigations practice.

Before that, she served for nearly a decade as an assistant United States Attorney in New Jersey.

As part of that role, she served as the attorney-in-charge of the Camden branch office — the first woman of color to hold that a position, according to her biography on Montgomery McCracken’s website.

Murphy, a Democrat, said that Pierre-Louis would carry on the legacy of John Wallace, who was the last Black justice on the state’s highest court and who she clerked for.

Murphy lamented that Wallace was not renominated when his first term expired in 2010 — the first time that had happened under the state’s current constitution.


Appeals court revives House lawsuit for McGahn's testimony
Court Feed News | 2020/08/08 02:39
A federal appeals court in Washington on Friday revived House Democrats' lawsuit to force former White House counsel Don McGahn to appear before a congressional committee, but left other legal issues unresolved with time growing short in the current Congress.

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit voted 7-2 in ruling that the House Judiciary Committee can make its claims in court, reversing the judgment of a three-judge panel that would have ended the court fight.

The matter now returns to the panel for consideration of other legal issues. The current House of Representatives session ends on Jan. 3. That time crunch means “the chances that the Committee hears McGahn’s testimony anytime soon are vanishingly slim," dissenting Judge Thomas Griffith wrote. Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson also dissented.

The Judiciary Committee first subpoenaed McGahn in April 2019 as it examined potential obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump during special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Trump directed McGahn not to appear and the Democratic-led panel filed a federal lawsuit to force McGahn to testify.

A trial judge ruled in November that the president’s close advisers do not have the absolute immunity from testifying to Congress that the administration claimed. Griffith and Henderson formed the majority when the appellate panel said in February that the Constitution forbids federal courts from refereeing this kind of dispute between the other two branches of government.

On Friday, the full court said the panel reached the wrong decision. Lawmakers can ask the courts “for judicial enforcement of congressional subpoenas when necessary," Judge Judith Rogers wrote. Congress needs detailed information about the executive branch for both oversight and impeachment, she wrote.

House lawmakers had sought McGahn’s testimony because he was a vital witness for Mueller, whose report detailed the president’s outrage over the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and Trump’s efforts to curtail it.

In interviews with Mueller’s team, McGahn described being called at home by the president on the night of June 17, 2017, and being directed to call the Justice Department and say Mueller had conflicts of interest and should be removed. McGahn declined the command, deciding he would resign rather than carry it out, the report said.


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.


International Criminal Court condemns US sanctions order
Court Feed News | 2020/06/11 00:22
The International Criminal Court has condemned the Trump administration’s decision to authorize sanctions against court staff, saying it amounted to “an unacceptable attempt to interfere with the rule of law and the Court’s judicial proceedings.”

An executive order by U.S. President Donald Trump announced Thursday authorizes sanctions against ICC staff investigating American troops and intelligence officials and those of allied nations, including Israel, for possible war crimes in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Trump’s order would block the financial assets of court employees and bar them and their immediate relatives from entering the United States.

The court, which has 123 member states, said in a statement released early Friday that it “stands firmly by its staff and officials and remains unwavering in its commitment to discharging, independently and impartially, the mandate” laid down in its founding treaty, the Rome Statute.

It said an attack on the Hague-based court also constitutes “an attack against the interests of victims of atrocity crimes, for many of whom the Court represents the last hope for justice.”

O-Gon Kwon, president of the court’s management and oversight mechanism, the Assembly of States Parties, also criticized the U.S. measures.

“They undermine our common endeavor to fight impunity and to ensure accountability for mass atrocities,” he said in a statement. “I deeply regret measures targeting Court officials, staff and their families.”

The Hague-based court was created in 2002 to prosecute war crimes and crimes of humanity and genocide in places where perpetrators might not otherwise face justice. The U.S. has never been an ICC member.


Lawyer for Biden accuser Tara Reade drops her as a client
Court Feed News | 2020/05/23 21:53
The attorney working with Tara Reade, the former Joe Biden Senate staffer who alleged he sexually assaulted her in the 1990s, said Friday he is no longer representing her, just two weeks after he first began working with her.

Douglas Wigdor said in a statement the decision to drop Reade came on Wednesday of this week, and that it wasn’t a reflection on the veracity of her claims. But he offered no specifics on why he and his firm are dropping her.

Wigdor said he and others at his firm still believe Reade’s allegation against Biden, that he digitally penetrated her and groped her in the basement of a Capitol Hill office building when she worked as a low-level staffer in his Senate office in the Spring of 1993. Biden has vehemently denied her claims, and multiple current and former Biden staffers have said they have no recollection of such an incident.

In his statement, Wigdor said his firm believed that Reade has been “subjected to a double standard” in the media and that much of the coverage surrounding her biography had little to do with her claims against Biden. The news was first reported by The New York Times.



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