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Judge W. Brent Powell Appointed to Missouri Supreme Court
Legal Career News | 2017/04/30 13:50
Jackson County Circuit Judge W. Brent Powell was appointed Tuesday to the Missouri Supreme Court, marking the first high-profile judicial selection by new Republican Gov. Eric Greitens.

Powell will replace former Judge Richard Teitelman, who died in November at his home in St. Louis.

Powell, a 46-year-old Kansas City resident, was appointed by former Republican Gov. Matt Blunt as a Jackson County judge in 2008. He previously spent seven years as an assistant U.S. attorney in Kansas City and also worked as an assistant Platte County prosecutor.

Greitens said Powell has established himself as "an outstanding jurist."

"He has received high marks for being humble, fair-minded and of the highest integrity," Greitens said in a written statement accompanying his announcement. "I am confident Judge Powell will be committed to strengthening and improving our court system and guarding the rule of law as a judge on our state's highest court."

Powell's wife, Beth Phillips, was appointed as a U.S. district judge in 2011 by Democratic President Barack Obama after serving as U.S. attorney in Kansas City. His sister-in-law, Jennifer Phillips, was appointed to the Jackson County Circuit Court in 2014 by former Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon after serving as an assistant county prosecutor. Powell's father, his father-in-law, an uncle and several cousins also have been attorneys.

"Coming from a clan of lawyers, this is a very special day for me and my family," Phillips said Tuesday in a written statement. "As I step into this new role, I hope to model the humility and judicial temperament exhibited by the late Judge Richard Teitelman who was known for his kindness and congeniality."

Unlike at the federal level, Missouri Supreme Court appointees are not subject to Senate confirmation. Instead, Powell will face a retention vote for a 12-year term during the 2018 general election.

Powell's appointment could shift the court a little to the right. Though Missouri appeals judges don't run as Democrats or Republicans, Teitelman had been appointed by former Democratic Gov. Bob Holden and typically aligned along liberal lines.

Powell's addition will mean three of the state's seven Supreme Court judges were appointed by Republican governors.



Airport shooting suspect due for Florida court appearance
Legal Career News | 2017/01/04 05:08
The Iraq war veteran accused of fatally shooting five people and wounding six at a crowded Florida airport baggage claim is due for his first court appearance.

Esteban Santiago is scheduled to be in Fort Lauderdale federal court Monday morning. The 26-year-old from Anchorage, Alaska, faces airport violence and firearms charges that could mean the death penalty if he's convicted.

The initial hearing Monday is likely to focus on ensuring Santiago has a lawyer and setting future dates. Santiago has been held without bail since his arrest after Friday's shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

The FBI has says Santiago flew on a one-way ticket from Alaska to Florida with a handgun in his checked bag. Agents say he retrieved the gun and emerged from an airport bathroom firing.



Election judge pleads not guilty in absentee ballot case
Legal Career News | 2016/11/21 18:20
An 88-year-old election judge from southern Illinois has pleaded not guilty after allegedly sending in an absentee ballot in her late husband's name.

The (Belleville) News-Democrat reports that Audrey Cook appeared Thursday in Madison County Circuit Court.

Cook, of Alton, told The Associated Press this month that she filled out the ballot for her husband after he died in September because she knew he would want Donald Trump to be president.

She was charged a few days before the Nov. 8 election with two felony counts of election fraud.

Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons has said the ballot was never even opened because a clerk found it had been submitted in the name of a deceased person.

Gibbons also said Cook would be removed as an election judge.


Justice Thomas: Honor Scalia by reining in government
Legal Career News | 2016/11/19 18:20
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is calling fellow conservatives to continue the work of the late Justice Antonin Scalia to keep the power of the courts and other branches of government in check.

Thomas tells 1,700 people at a dinner in honor of Scalia that the Supreme Court has too often granted rights to people that are not found in the Constitution. He cited the decision in 2015 that made same-sex marriage legal across the country.

Thomas said he and his longtime friend and colleague formed an "odd couple" of a white New Yorker and a black man from Georgia.

He paraphrased Lincoln's Gettysburg address to exhort the audience to "be dedicated to the unfinished business for which Justice Scalia gave his last full measure of devotion."


Kansas high court justices defend handling of capital cases
Legal Career News | 2016/11/01 22:23
Four Kansas Supreme Court justices facing a campaign to oust them in the Nov. 8 election say the court has decided capital murder cases on legal and constitutional issues while avoiding politics and emotion.

Past high court rulings overturning death sentences are at the center of the effort to remove Chief Justice Lawton Nuss and Justices Carol Beier, Dan Biles and Marla Luckert. They face statewide yes-or-no votes on whether they stay on the court for another six years.

The court's critics are particularly upset about July 2014 rulings overturning death sentences for Jonathan and Reginald Carr. The two brothers had faced lethal injection for shooting four people in December 2000 after forcing them to perform sex acts and robbing them. Among other things, the court concluded that fairness required the brothers to be sentenced separately.



Supreme Court rejects Whitey Bulger appeal
Legal Career News | 2016/10/03 19:16
The Supreme Court has turned away James "Whitey" Bulger's appeal of his racketeering convictions and life sentence.

The justices did not comment Monday in leaving in place Bulger's convictions for playing a role in 11 murders and many other crimes.

The 87-year-old Bulger was a fugitive for 17 years until his arrest in 2011. A jury convicted him in 2013.

Bulger argued that the judge at his trial should have let him tell the jury that a now-dead federal prosecutor had granted him immunity from prosecution. The judge said Bulger hadn't offered hard evidence that such an agreement existed.

Bulger also contended that federal prosecutors failed to disclose "promises, rewards and inducements" made to John Martorano, a hit man who testified against the Boston gangster at his trial.




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