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Judge Calls Trump Request in Wisconsin Lawsuit 'Bizarre'
Lawyer Blog News | 2020/12/05 20:39
A judge hearing President Donald Trump's federal lawsuit seeking to overturn Democrat Joe Biden's win in Wisconsin said Friday that the president's request to “remand” the case to the GOP-controlled Legislature to pick new electors was “bizarre.”

The federal case is one of two Trump has in Wisconsin making similar arguments. He filed another one in state court, which the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday refused to hear before it first goes through lower courts.

Hearings on both lawsuits were scheduled for Thursday, with the judges noting the importance of resolving the legal battles before the Electoral College meets on Dec. 14. Trump, who argues that hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots cast in accordance with state guidelines were illegal, wants a federal judge to give the Republican-controlled Legislature the power to determine who won the election.

“It’s a request for pretty remarkable declaratory relief," said U.S. District Judge Brett Ludwig during a conference call to set deadlines and a hearing date. Ludwig, who said it was “an unusual case, obviously,” also cast doubt on whether a federal court should be considering it at all.

“I have a very, very hard time seeing how this is justiciable in the federal court,” Ludwig, a Trump appointee, said. “The request to remand this case to the Legislature almost strikes me as bizarre.”

The judge questioned why Trump wasn't going directly to the Legislature if he wants lawmakers to get involved with naming electors. Bill Bock, the Trump campaign attorney in the federal lawsuit, said Trump needed the court to rule that the election was “invalid" so the Legislature could get involved. He also said that the term “remand,” which is typically used to describe when one court sends a case to a lower court, was “inartful.”

Republican Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke cast serious doubt in the week on whether the Legislature might change the state's electors from Biden to Trump backers. Steineke tweeted a clip of actor Dana Carvey playing President George H.W. Bush saying, “Not gonna do it.”

In his state lawsuit, Trump is seeking to disqualify 221,000 ballots he claims were cast illegally. Judge Stephen Simanek, who is hearing that case after the Wisconsin Supreme Court refused to take it initially, said Friday he would rule from the bench following next week's hearing that's scheduled to start hours after the one in federal court.

The high court also declined Friday to hear a lawsuit brought by Wisconsin Voters Alliance over Trump's loss. Two others filed by Trump allies — one in federal court and one in state court — remain. Trump has lost multiple lawsuits in other battleground states as part of a longshot effort to overturn Biden's victory. Even if he were to prevail in Wisconsin, the state's 10 Electoral College votes would not be enough to hand him reelection.


Court weighs challenge to Colorado discrimination law
Lawyer Blog News | 2020/11/17 08:52
A Colorado web designer should not have to create wedding websites for same-sex couples under the state's anti-discrimination law because it would amount to forced speech that violates her religious beliefs, a lawyer told an appeals court Monday.

Kristen Waggoner, a lawyer for Alliance Defending Freedom, told a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver that the issue for designer Lorie Smith, who is a Christian, is the message and not the customer.

“No one should be forced to express a message that violates their convictions,” Waggoner said during the virtual hearing. She is trying to revive a lawsuit challenging the state’s law, which her group also targeted on behalf of Colorado baker Jack Phillips in a case decided in 2018 by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The high court decided the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had acted with anti-religious bias against Phillips after he refused to bake a cake for two men who were getting married. But it did not rule on the larger issue of whether a business can invoke religious objections to refuse service to LGBT people.

On Monday, Chief Judge Timothy Tymkovich asked what Smith would do if she was approached by a straight wedding planner asking her to create four heterosexual wedding sites and one for a same-sex wedding. Waggoner said Smith would not take that job.

Colorado Solicitor General Eric Olson questioned whether Smith should even be allowed to challenge the law since she has not started offering wedding websites yet.

But if she did, he said her argument would mean she would refuse to create a website for a hypothetical same-sex couple named Alex and Taylor but agree to make the same one for an opposite sex couple with the same names. He said that would be discrimination under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.


Justice Alito: COVID restrictions ‘previously unimaginable’
Lawyer Blog News | 2020/11/15 16:52
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito sounded an alarm about restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic, saying they shouldn’t become a “recurring feature after the pandemic has passed.”

“The pandemic has resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty,” Alito said in an address Thursday to the conservative Federalist Society, which is holding its annual convention virtually because of the pandemic.

Alito noted that he was “not diminishing the severity of the virus’ threat to public health” or saying anything about “whether any of these restrictions represent good public policy.” He cautioned against his words being “twisted or misunderstood.”

But he said it is an “indisputable statement of fact” that “we have never before seen restrictions as severe, extensive and prolonged as those experienced for most of 2020.”

“Whatever one may think about the COVID restrictions, we surely don’t want them to become a recurring feature after the pandemic has passed,” said Alito, who was nominated to the court by President George W. Bush.

Alito was particularly critical of two cases earlier this year where the court sided with states that, citing the coronavirus pandemic, imposed restrictions on the size of religious gatherings. In both cases, the court divided 5-4 in allowing those restrictions to continue with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the court’s liberals.

In May, the high court rejected an emergency appeal by a California church challenging attendance limits at worship services. The justices turned away a similar challenge by a Nevada church in July. Alito said in both cases the restrictions had “blatantly discriminated against houses of worship” and he warned that “religious liberty is in danger of becoming a second-class right.”

Both cases came to the court before the death in September of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The liberal justice’s replacement by conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett could change how the court might come out on similar cases in the future. Currently before the court is a case involving the Catholic church and limits on in-person services in New York.


9th Circuit ends California ban on high-capacity magazines
Lawyer Blog News | 2020/08/15 16:44
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday threw out California’s ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines, saying the law violates the U.S. Constitution’s protection of the right to bear firearms.

“Even well-intentioned laws must pass constitutional muster,” appellate Judge Kenneth Lee wrote for the panel’s majority. California’s ban on magazines holding more than 10 bullets “strikes at the core of the Second Amendment — the right to armed self-defense.”

He noted that California passed the law “in the wake of heart-wrenching and highly publicized mass shootings,” but said that isn’t enough to justify a ban whose scope “is so sweeping that half of all magazines in America are now unlawful to own in California.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office said it is reviewing the decision and he “remains committed to using every tool possible to defend California’s gun safety laws and keep our communities safe.”

Gun owners cannot immediately rush to buy high-capacity magazines because a stay issued by the lower court judge remains in place.

But Becerra did not say if the state would seek a further delay of Friday’s ruling to prevent an immediate buying spree if the lower court judge ends that restriction. Gun groups estimated that more than a million high-capacity ammunition magazines may have legally flooded into California during a one-week window before the judge stayed his ruling three years ago.

Becerra also did not say if he would ask a larger 11-judge appellate panel to reconsider the ruling by the three judges, or if he would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, who championed the magazine ban when he was lieutenant governor, defended the law as a vital gun violence prevention measure.

“I think it was sound, I think it was right, and ... the overwhelming majority of Californians agreed when they supported a ballot initiative that we put forth,” he said Friday.

California Rifle & Pistol Association attorney Chuck Michel called Friday’s decision “a huge victory” for gun owners “and the right to choose to own a firearm to defend your family,” while a group that favors firearms restrictions called it ”dangerous” and expects it will be overturned.

The ruling has national implications because other states have similar restrictions, though it immediately applies only to Western states under the appeals court’s jurisdiction.


Court lifts block on 4 Arkansas abortion restrictions
Lawyer Blog News | 2020/08/10 02:39
A federal appeals court on Friday lifted a judge's ruling that has blocked four Arkansas abortion restrictions from taking effect, including a ban on a common second trimester procedure and a fetal remains law that opponents say would effectively require a partner’s consent before a woman could get an abortion.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the 2017 preliminary injunction issued against the restrictions. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights had challenged the measures, suing on behalf of Dr. Frederick Hopkins, a Little Rock abortion provider.

The appeals panel said the case needs to be reconsidered in light of a recent decision on abortion by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The laws U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker blocked include a ban on a procedure known as dilation and evacuation, which abortion rights supporters say it is the safest and most common procedure used in second-trimester abortions. The state calls it barbaric and “dismemberment abortion,” saying it can have emotional consequences for the women who undergo it.

Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge praised the appeals court's ruling.

“Arkansas has taken a strong stance to protect the unborn from inhumane treatment,” Rutledge said in a statement. “As Arkansas’s chief legal officer, I have always advocated for the lives of unborn children and will continue to defend our state’s legal right to protect the unborn."

The 2017 decision also blocked new restrictions on the disposal of fetal tissue collected during abortions. The plaintiffs argued that it could also block access by requiring notification of a third party, such as the woman’s parents or her sexual partner, to determine what happens to the fetal remains.

The other restrictions included one that bans abortions based solely on the fetus’ sex and another that requires physicians performing abortions for patients under 14 to take certain steps to preserve embryonic or fetal tissue and notify police where the minor resides.


Texas clinics ask Supreme Court to abortions during pandemic
Lawyer Blog News | 2020/04/12 01:42
Abortion clinics in Texas on Saturday asked the Supreme Court to step in to allow certain abortions to continue during the coronavirus pandemic.

The clinics filed an emergency motion asking the justices to overturn a lower-court order and allow abortions when they can be performed using medication.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order last month that bars non-essential medical procedures so that medical resources can go to treating coronavirus patients. Texas' attorney general has said that providing abortions other than for an immediate medical emergency would violate the order.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday allowed abortions to proceed in cases where a woman would be beyond 22 weeks pregnant, the legal limit for abortions in Texas, on April 22, the day after the governor's order barring non-essential medical procedures is set to expire.


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