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D.C. on edge: rumors of new Supreme Court vacancy swirl
Court Feed News | 2017/06/25 03:20
White House sources think Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court's ideological fulcrum, may announce his retirement today, as the justices gather on the bench for the last time this term.

If that happens, Day 158 instantly becomes President Trump's biggest moment.

Trump's first Court appointment, of Justice Neil Gorsuch, was a one-for-one ideological swap for the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
Replacing Kennedy would be even more historic and consequential: a momentous chance to edge the Court right, since Kennedy is the center of the Court — the one most willing to listen to both sides. On a controversial case, both sides pitch to him. It's been called "Kennedy's Court."

No one's predicting: Court watchers say no one knows, and Kennedy has said nothing publicly. He could well wait one more year: The Court buzz is that it'll be this year or next.

Be smart: Few domestic developments could more instantly and decisively change the national conversation — blotting out almost everything else, and vastly reducing the sting for conservatives is healthcare tanks.

A Washington wise man emails: "With two court appointments and maybe one more, Trump's presidency will be consequential even if he has few legislative achievements. This week may well demonstrate both."



Court: 'JudgeCutie' nickname doesn't ruffle judicial dignity
Court Feed News | 2017/06/20 00:08
A Mississippi jurist can call herself "JudgeCutie" without ruffling the dignity of the legal profession.

That's what the Mississippi Supreme Court says in one of its speediest decisions in years.

Only two days after hearing arguments, the court — which often takes months for decisions — dismissed a complaint filed against Gay Polk-Payton. The justice court judge has gone by "JudgeCutie" on social media.

The state Commission on Judicial Performance sought to reprimand her, saying she had used her job on the bench and the online persona to promote herself as a motivational speaker and musical entertainer.

During arguments to the Supreme Court, her attorney Oliver Diaz pointed out that other Mississippi judges have used names that some might consider less than dignified. One was Noah "Soggy" Sweat, a circuit judge from 1966 to 1974.

Court papers say "Judge Cutie" is a play on the name of TV's "Judge Judy."


After jury deadlocks, Bill Cosby faces 2nd sex assault trial
Court Feed News | 2017/06/17 00:09
Bill Cosby, the comedian and actor once known as "America's Dad" for his TV role as paternal Dr. Cliff Huxtable, avoided a conviction on Father's Day weekend as a jury declared itself hopelessly deadlocked on charges he drugged and molested a woman more than a decade ago.

Prosecutors found themselves back to square one Saturday after the judge declared a mistrial following more than 52 hours of deliberations over six days.

Excoriated by the defense for charging Cosby in the first place, District Attorney Kevin Steele vowed to put him on trial a second time, saying accuser Andrea Constand supported the decision.

"She has shown such courage through this, and we are in awe of what she has done," Steele said. "She's entitled to a verdict in this case." Cosby's team declared victory, however temporary.

By sowing doubt among one or more jurors, Cosby's lawyers managed to overcome two years of unrelenting bad publicity for their client after the public release of his damaging testimony about drugs and sex, as well as a barrage of accusations from 60 women who came forward to accuse him of sexual assault.

Constand told jurors Cosby gave her pills that made her woozy and then penetrated her with his fingers as she lay paralyzed on a couch, unable to tell him to stop. The 2004 encounter at Cosby's suburban Philadelphia estate was the only one to result in criminal charges.

Constand is ready to go to trial again, said her lawyer, Dolores Troiani. "She's a very spiritual woman, she believes things happen for a purpose, and I think the purpose is ... it should encourage other women to come forward and have their day in court."

Troiani acknowledged the difficulty of the case, given the passage of time and the impact of the alleged drugging on Constand's ability to recall details. The jury failed to reach a unanimous decision on any of the three counts against the comedian, ending the trial without a verdict. Cosby's team immediately went on the attack.

The entertainer's wife of 53 years, Camille, slammed prosecutors for bringing the case to court, calling Steele "heinously and exploitively ambitious" in a statement released after the trial. She also criticized the judge, the accuser's lawyers and the media.

"How do I describe the judge? Overtly arrogant, collaborating with the district attorney," said her statement, which was tweeted by her husband and read by an associate of the public relations firm representing Cosby.

Cosby himself didn't comment, remaining stoic as the judge declared a mistrial, but Wyatt declared the star's "power is back. It has been restored." That seemed debatable.

Cosby's career and good-guy image were already in tatters by the time his chief accuser took the witness stand, and the prosecution's decision to pursue a second trial keeps him in legal limbo.


The Latest: Suspect in 36 fire deaths appears in court
Court Feed News | 2017/06/09 03:05
A man who leased the Oakland warehouse where 36 people died in a massive fire appeared briefly in court on charges of involuntary manslaughter.

Derick Almena had been expected to enter a plea Thursday but his attorney asked to delay the arraignment.

A judge ordered the 47-year-old Almena to return June 15 when co-defendant Max Harris is expected to make his first appearance on the same charges.

Officials say the warehouse was illegally turned into living spaces and an unpermitted concert was held there on the night of the fire in December.

Almena's attorney Jeffrey Krasnoff said his client is being used as a scapegoat and plans to fight the charges. Harris doesn't have an attorney yet.


Presidency hangs in balance in case before Brazil court
Court Feed News | 2017/06/08 03:06
Judges on Brazil's top electoral court are in their third day of proceedings of a case that could cost President Michel Temer his job.

The judgment phase of the trial was supposed to last three days, with a vote expected Thursday. However, the court already has scheduled sessions for Friday and Saturday in case they are necessary.

At issue is whether the 2014 campaign of President Dilma Rousseff and her running mate Temer received illegal financing. Temer took over last year when Rousseff was removed for illegally managing the federal budget.

If a simple majority on court votes that the ticket did receive illegal funds, the victory would be annulled and Temer would be stripped of the presidency. However, Temer could appeal and has said he would do so.



Court to hear challenge to speed up California executions
Court Feed News | 2017/06/06 16:03
The California Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday over a ballot initiative designed to speed up executions that could fundamentally change the way the court handles death penalty appeals.

Death penalty opponents are challenging a ballot measure passed by a slim majority of voters in November that aimed to reform a dysfunctional system that hasn't executed a condemned killer in more than a decade.

Foes of capital punishment argue that Proposition 66 was unconstitutional because it would take power away from the state's high court to decide how it handles cases and it would disrupt the court system, cost the state more money and undermine the appeals process.

If allowed to take effect, the measure would require more lawyers to take death penalty appellate cases, some trial court judges would be assigned appeals and all state appeals would have to be completed in five years, which is about a third of the time it typically takes.

With a backlog of 380 death penalty appeals, there's concern judges would be overwhelmed trying to speed through appeals, said Elisabeth Semel, a law professor at University of California, Berkeley, who consulted for death penalty opponents on the case.

"There's an enormous ripple effect to that," said Semel, who directs the school's death penalty clinic. "The attention the justices can pay to each individual case is significantly diminished. When you're talking about life and death, that's important."

The ballot initiative supported by 51 percent of voters was designed to "mend not end" capital punishment in California, where nearly 750 inmates are on Death Row and only 13 have been executed since 1978.

A competing measure to repeal capital punishment lost by a slightly wider margin. Both sides acknowledged the current system is broken.


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