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Judge fights for job after admitting to courthouse affair
Lawyer Blog News | 2018/04/21 00:29
Massachusetts' highest court will decide the fate of a judge who admitted to having an affair with a clinical social worker that included sexual encounters at the courthouse.

The Commission on Judicial Conduct is asking for Judge Thomas Estes to be suspended indefinitely without pay to give lawmakers time to decide whether to remove him from the bench for his relationship with Tammy Cagle, who worked in the special drug court where Estes sat before she was reassigned last year.

If the Supreme Judicial Court agrees, it will be the first time in three decades it has taken such action against a judge for misconduct. The case comes amid the #MeToo movement that sparked a national reckoning over sexual misconduct in the workplace.

"This case couldn't come at a worse time for Judge Estes," said Martin Healy, chief legal counsel of the Massachusetts Bar Association.

The Supreme Judicial Court will consider Estes' case Tuesday. Cagle has accused Estes, who's married and has two teenage sons, of pressuring her into performing oral sex on him in his chambers and her home. Then after she tried to end the relationship, she asserts he treated her coldly and pushed her out of the drug court.



Inmate in landmark Supreme Court case denied parole
Lawyer Blog News | 2018/02/20 07:03
A 71-year-old Louisiana inmate whose case led to a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision on juvenile-offender sentences was denied parole Monday, more than a half-century after he killed a sheriff's deputy at age 17.

A three-member panel from the state parole board voted 2 to 1 to keep Henry Montgomery imprisoned. The hearing was his first chance at freedom since his conviction decades ago and a vote to free him would have had to be unanimous. Montgomery now must wait another two years before he can request another parole hearing.

The Supreme Court's January 2016 decision in Montgomery's case opened the door for roughly 2,000 other juvenile offenders to argue for their release after receiving mandatory life-without-parole sentences.

Montgomery has served 54 years in prison for shooting East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff's deputy Charles Hurt in 1963, less than two weeks after Montgomery's 17th birthday. Last June, a state judge who resentenced Montgomery to life with the possibility of parole called him a "model prisoner" who seemed to be rehabilitated.

Montgomery's lawyers said he has sought to be a positive role model for other prisoners, serving as a coach and trainer for a boxing team he helped form at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.

But the two parole board members who voted against Montgomery questioned why he hadn't accessed more prison programs and services that could have benefited him. One of the panelists, Kenneth Loftin, also said he was disappointed in some of Montgomery's statements during the hearing but didn't elaborate.

James Kuhn, the other board member who voted against Montgomery, noted that the Louisiana Sheriffs' Association submitted a statement opposing his release.

"One of the things that society demands, and police officers certainly demand, is that everyone abide by the rule of law. One of the rules of law is you don't kill somebody, and when you do there's consequences," Kuhn said.



City, landowner appeal Supreme Court's Buffalo Chip ruling
Lawyer Blog News | 2018/02/15 15:02
The city of Sturgis and a Meade County landowner have appealed the South Dakota Supreme Court's decision in favor of the incorporation of the city of Buffalo Chip.

Buffalo Chip is located outside Sturgis and used to be a campground mainly used by motorcyclists.

The court last month said any challenge to a 2015 vote to incorporate Buffalo Chip must be brought by the state.

The Black Hills Pioneer reports that the city of Sturgis and landowner Jane Murphy this week asked for a rehearing of the case. Murphy says, "this is such a mess and the court did nothing to clear it up."


Supreme Court blocks some redrawn North Carolina districts
Lawyer Blog News | 2018/02/08 07:19
The U.S. Supreme Court told North Carolina officials late Tuesday they must use some but not all of the state's legislative districts that other federal judges redrew for this year's elections.

The justices partially granted the request of Republican lawmakers who contend the House and Senate maps they voted for last summer were legal and didn't need to be altered.

A three-judge panel determined those GOP-approved boundaries contained racial bias left over from maps originally approved in 2011 and violated the state constitution. So the lower-court judges hired a special master who changed about two dozen districts in all. The judges approved them last month.

The Supreme Court's order means more than half of those districts redrawn by Stanford University law professor Nathaniel Persily will revert to their shapes from last summer. The order said House district changes made in the counties that include Charlotte and Raleigh because of state constitutional concerns are blocked while the full case is appealed, but changes made elsewhere to alleviate racial bias must be used.

The maps containing the partial changes will be used when candidate filing for all 170 General Assembly seats begins next Monday.

Boundaries approved by the General Assembly last August kept Republicans in a position to retain veto-proof majorities in the chambers, which has helped them advance their conservative-leaning agenda this decade. But Democrats are bolstered after successful elections in other states last year. Tuesday's ruling means Democrats could find it harder to win more House districts than they hoped.

Dozens of North Carolina voters originally were successful in overturning the 2011 districts as racial gerrymanders. They subsequently asked Chief Justice John Roberts, who receives appeals from the state, to allow the lower court's directive and require the changes approved by the three judges be used.

The Republicans' request was considered by the entire court and the order reflected division among the justices. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito would have agreed to block all of the changes to the maps approved by the lower-court panel. Yet Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor would have denied the GOP's request entirely, according to the order.



Top Connecticut court cases in 2018 involve Newtown, Skakel
Lawyer Blog News | 2018/01/10 13:57
The Connecticut Supreme Court is expected to issue decisions and hear arguments in a variety of notable cases in 2018, including a newspaper’s quest for documents that belonged to the Newtown school shooter and Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel’s appeal of his murder conviction.

The Hartford Courant and the state Freedom of Information Commission are appealing a decision by a lower court judge, who ruled in April that state police don’t have to release documents that belonged to shooter Adam Lanza. The commission had ordered state police to release the documents.

The 20-year-old Lanza shot his mother to death at their Newtown home before killing 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012. He killed himself as police arrived at the school.

The materials requested by the Courant include a spreadsheet ranking mass murders and a notebook titled “The Big Book of Granny,” which contains a story Lanza wrote in fifth grade about a woman who has a gun in her cane and shoots people and another character who likes hurting people, especially children.

Lawyers in the case did not return messages seeking comment. Andrew Julien, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Courant, declined to comment.


Often at odds, Trump and GOP relish tax win, court picks
Lawyer Blog News | 2018/01/06 13:56
Donald Trump's unpredictable, pugnacious approach to the presidency often worked against him as Republicans navigated a tumultuous but ultimately productive year in Congress.

Trump's major accomplishments, confirmation of conservative Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and a major tax cut, actually came with relatively little drama. But Republicans often struggled to stay on the rails, particularly with a big pratfall on health care and repeated struggles to accomplish the very basics of governing.

Several shutdown deadlines came and went, and a default on the government's debt was averted, thanks to a momentary rapprochement with top Democrats, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer. But a promised solution to the plight of young immigrants brought to the country illegally as infants or children was delayed, while a routine reauthorization of a program providing health care to 9 million low-income kids stalled as well.

Often it seemed as if Trump were more interested in picking fights on Twitter than the nuts and bolts of legislating.

A catchall spending deal in May got relatively little attention for what it accomplished, overshadowed by Trump's threat to shut the government down if he didn't get a better deal the next time. But there was no next time — and about $1.2 trillion in unfinished agency budgets got punted into the new year.

Still, there was no shortage of drama this year on Capitol Hill. Trump displayed a penchant for picking fights with fellow Republicans: Arizona's two senators John McCain and Jeff Flake; Tennessee's Bob Corker and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Onetime Republican rivals such as Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina came firmly into Trump's fold — even as Corker and Flake, both facing potentially difficult primary races, announced their retirements.


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