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High court pick Kavanaugh and his carefully constructed life
U.S. Legal News | 2018/09/01 12:55
Judge Brett Kavanaugh's life seems as carefully constructed as the Supreme Court arguments he will hear if he is confirmed to the high court. He checks all the boxes of the ways of Washington, or at least the way Washington used to be.

He's a team player — the conservative team — stepping up to make a play at key moments in politics, government and the law dating to the Bill Clinton era and the salacious dramas of that time.

Yet in a capital and a country where politics has become poisonously tribal, Kavanaugh has tried to cover his bases, as Washington insiders have long done. He's got liberal friends, associates and role models. He was a complicated figure in the scandal-ridden 1990s, by turns zealous and restrained as an investigator.

If he wins confirmation, he'll be seated with Justice Elena Kagan, the Obama-era solicitor general who hired him to teach at Harvard when she was law school dean, as well as with his prep school mate, Justice Neil Gorsuch. Kavanaugh's law clerks have gone on to work for liberal justices. He's served with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in mock trials of characters in Shakespeare plays, a night out from the real-life dramas.

Amateur athlete, doer of Catholic good works, basketball-coaching dad, Yale degrees, progression from lawyer to White House aide to judge — it's all there in a rarefied life of talent and privilege, though strikingly not one of great personal wealth.

The only skeleton in Kavanaugh's closet that the White House has owned up to is as American as apple pie.

Spending on baseball games helped drive him into debt one year, the White House said. He's also been ribbed for hoarding gummy bears when he worked as an aide to President George W. Bush. Because Republicans are not releasing critical documents for the hearings, it remains to be seen if anything else is rattling around.

With some ideological mashup, Kavanaugh's judicial record has been conservative in the main, reflecting views that could swing the court right on abortion, gay rights, executive power and more for decades to come.

Kavanaugh heads into the confirmation hearings, which begin Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, representing the hopes of President Donald Trump and the right that he will do just that.

Kavanaugh, who's 53, has seen a steady career progression: law clerk for federal appeals judges, fellowship with then-Solicitor General Starr, law clerk for Justice Anthony Kennedy (with Gorsuch), associate counsel in the Starr investigation, law-firm partner, Bush White House associate counsel, White House staff secretary, judge. He first dated Ashley Estes, then Bush's personal secretary, Sept. 10, 2001; they married in 2004 and have two daughters.



Trump finds it 'inconceivable' lawyer would tape a client
U.S. Legal News | 2018/07/19 13:40
Donald Trump said Saturday he finds it "inconceivable" that a lawyer would tape a client, as the president weighed in after the disclosure that in the weeks before the 2016 election, his then-personal attorney secretly recorded their discussion about a potential payment for a former Playboy model's account of having an affair with Trump.

The recording was part of a large collection of documents and electronic records seized by earlier this year by federal authorities from Michael Cohen, the longtime Trump fixer.

In a tweet, Trump called such taping "totally unheard of & perhaps illegal." He also asserted, without elaborating, in post: "The good news is that your favorite President did nothing wrong!"

Cohen had made a practice of recording conversations, unbeknownst to those he was speaking with. Most states, including New York, allow for recordings of conversations with only the consent of one party; other states require all parties to agree to a recording or have mixed laws on the matter. It was not immediately clear where Trump and Cohen were located at the time of the call.

Cohen's recording adds to questions about whether Trump tried to quash damaging stories before the election. Trump's campaign had said it knew nothing about any payment to ex-centerfold Karen McDougal.


Georgia officer charged in fatal shooting to appear in court
U.S. Legal News | 2018/07/15 23:57
A Georgia police officer charged with voluntary manslaughter in a fatal shooting is scheduled to appear in court.

A pretrial hearing is scheduled Tuesday morning for Zechariah Presley in Camden County Magistrate Court. Presley worked as a police officer in the small city of Kingsland when he was charged in the June 20 shooting of 33-year-old Tony Green.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has said Green was fleeing when Presley shot him following a brief altercation. The bureau said Presley had been following Green's vehicle when Green got out and ran on foot, but it has not said what prompted the pursuit.

Kingsland city officials fired 27-year-old Presley from his police job following his arrest a week after the shooting. The city is located near the Georgia-Florida state line.



Conservatives close in on dream: Tipping court right
U.S. Legal News | 2018/07/14 23:56
President Donald Trump’s selection of Judge Brett Kavanaugh as a new Supreme Court nominee last Monday culminates a three-decade project unparalleled in American history to install a reliable conservative majority on the nation’s highest tribunal, one that could shape the direction of the law for years to come.

“They’ve been pushing back for 30 years, and, obviously, the announcement is a big step in the right direction,” said Curt Levey, president of the Committee for Justice, a conservative activist group that’s been working toward this goal full time since 2005. “It’ll be the first time we can really say we have a conservative court, really the first time since the 1930s.”

This presumes that Trump can push Kavanaugh through a closely divided Senate heading into a midterm election season, hardly a given. More so than any nomination in a dozen years, Trump’s choice of a successor for Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the influential swing vote retiring at the end of the month, holds the potential of changing the balance of power rather than simply replacing a like-minded justice with a younger version.

But if the president succeeds in confirming his selection, the new justice is expected to join Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch in forming a much more consistently conservative majority than before.

That has not happened by accident. A network of activists and organizations has worked assiduously since the 1980s to reach this point, determined to avoid the disappointment they felt after Republican appointees like Earl Warren, William J. Brennan Jr., David H. Souter, Sandra Day O’Connor and Kennedy proved more moderate or liberal once they joined the court.



Hawaii Supreme Court sides with lesbian couple in B&B case
U.S. Legal News | 2018/07/11 23:55
A Hawaii appeals court ruling that a bed and breakfast discriminated by denying a room to two women because they're gay will stand after the state's high court declined to take up the case.

Aloha Bed & Breakfast owner Phyllis Young had argued she should be allowed to turn away gay couples because of her religious beliefs.

But the Hawaii Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously rejected Young's appeal of a lower court ruling that ordered her to stop discriminating against same-sex couples.

Young is considering her options for appeal, said Jim Campbell, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian law firm that is representing her. He said Young might not be able to pay her mortgage and could lose her home if she's not able to rent rooms.

"Everyone should be free to live and work according to their religious convictions - especially when determining the living arrangements in their own home," Campbell said in an emailed statement.

Peter Renn, who represents the couple, said the Hawaii high court's order indicates the law hasn't changed even after the U.S. Supreme Court last month, in a limited decision, sided with a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. He said "there still is no license to discriminate."

"The government continues to have the power to protect people from the harms of discrimination, including when it's motivated by religion," said Renn, who is a senior attorney with Lambda Legal, an organization that defends LGBTQ rights.

Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford of Long Beach, California, tried to book a room at Aloha Bed & Breakfast in 2007 because they were visiting a friend nearby. When they specified they would need just one bed, Young told them she was uncomfortable reserving a room for lesbians and canceled the reservation.


Courts finds suspect in neo-Nazi trial guilty of 10 killings
U.S. Legal News | 2018/07/10 23:54
A German court on Wednesday found the main defendant in a high-profile neo-Nazi trial guilty over the killing of 10 people - most of them migrants - who were gunned down between 2000 and 2007 in a case that shocked Germany and prompted accusations of institutional racism in the country's security agencies.

Judges sentenced Beate Zschaepe to life in prison for murder, membership of a terrorist organization, bomb attacks that injured dozens and several lesser crimes including a string of robberies. Four men were found guilty of supporting the group in various ways and sentenced to prison terms of between 2½ and 10 years.

Presiding judge Manfred Goetzl told a packed Munich courtroom that Zschaepe's guilt weighed particularly heavily, meaning she is likely to serve at least a 15-year sentence. Her lawyers plan to appeal the verdict.

The 43-year-old showed no emotion as Goetzl read out her sentence. A number of far-right activists attending the trial clapped when one the co-accused, Andre Eminger, received a lower sentence than expected.

Zschaepe was arrested in 2011, shortly after her two accomplices were found dead in an apparent murder-suicide. Together with the men, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Boehnhardt, she had formed the National Socialist Underground, a group that pursued an ideology of white racial supremacy by targeting migrants, mostly of Turkish origin.

Goetzl said the trio agreed in late 1998 to kill people "for anti-Semitic or other racist motivations" in order to intimidate ethnic minorities and portray the state as impotent.

They planned to wait until they had committed a series of killings before revealing their responsibility, in order to increase the public impact of their crimes.



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