Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Federal Courts' Category

Court Says Candidate for KY Judge Can Campaign as Republican

In Kentucky, U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar said a candidate for a state district judgeship can say in campaign materials that he’s a conservative Republican.

The ruling in the case of candidate Cameron Blau invalidated a judicial ethics canon barring judicial candidates from stumping for election as a member of a political party, but it was not clear, the Associated Press said, whether the court’s order applied to every judicial candidate.

It also was not clear whether the Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission would appeal the new ruling. Jeffrey Mando, a lawyer representing the commission, said, “I think that the canon is important because it supports the (state’s) compelling interest in diminishing the reliance on political parties in the selection of judges and it promotes the nonpartisan nature of judicial elections in Kentucky.”

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Ninth Circuit Strikes Down Marriage Bans From Two States

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday struck down state bans from Idaho and Nevada on marriage for same-sex couples.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Ninth Circuit’s ruling — if upheld — would expand from 30 to 35 the number of states where marriage will be permitted for same-sex couples. That’s because it would apply to all the states covered by the Ninth Circuit, and it would invalidate the bans in Alaska, Arizona, and Montana, the newspaper said; action by the Supreme Court earlier this week invalidated bans in five other states (see Gavel Grab). Read more

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Legislator Wants Term Limits or Elections for U.S. Judges

Republican state Rep. John Becker of Ohio, who earlier this year called for impeachment of a federal judge over a single ruling (see Gavel Grab), now is voicing unhappiness over another U.S. judge’s ruling and saying federal judges should be subject to term limits or elections.

According to a Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch blog, Becker was critical of U.S. District Judge Peter Economus, who last month ordered Ohio to undo cuts to early voting because the cuts discriminated against the poor and minorities. Becker also said that in this legal dispute, the U.S. Supreme Court has “stepped in to (at least temporarily) restore sanity and the rule of law.”

He called Judge Economus “one of our local best examples of why federal judges should be term limited and/or elected. There are far too many judges, especially at the federal level, who believe it their mission to make the law Read more

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Essay: Court Battles Over Voting Rights Have High Stakes

There are high stakes for this year’s midterm elections, for the 2016 presidential elections and for the longer-term protection of citizens’ voting rights in a series of battles in the courts over how hard or easy it is to cast a vote, election law scholar Rick Hasen writes at Slate.

Hasen casts a spotlight on legal disputes, court rulings, and options for U.S. Supreme Court action in his essay, entitled “The Voting Wars Heat Up: Will the Supreme Court allow states to restrict voting for partisan advantage?” Read more

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Appeals Court to Review Arizona Ethics Rules Case

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to hold a rehearing on a case involving challenges to several rules from the Arizona Code of Judicial Ethics. Justice at Stake was among groups that requested the rehearing in Wolfson v. Concannon.

According to a Courthouse News Service article, “Arizona’s refusal to let unelected judicial candidates solicit campaign contributions will face en banc review, the 9th Circuit said Friday.” Earlier, a Ninth Circuit panel had ruled that judicial candidates who are not judges may personally solicit campaign contributions and may participate in other political campaigns and endorse or oppose other candidates publicly. The ruling did not apply to judicial candidates who are sitting judges (see Gavel Grab). Read more

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Bin Laden Son-in-Law Sentenced on Terror Charges

U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan on Tuesday sentenced Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a son-in-law of Osama Bin Laden, to life in prison on three counts of conspiring to kill Americans and of giving material support to terrorists.

When Mr. Ghaith was initially charged, there was extensive debate over whether he should be prosecuted in civilian courts or before a military tribunal. On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told news media the case showed it “beyond any doubt” that trials for terror suspects could “safely occur” in New York City, and “further demonstrated the reality that bringing terrorists swiftly to justice is fully within the capabilities” of the civilian courts, the New York Times reported.

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Domestic-Assault Case Involving Judge Gets More Scrutiny

With football star Ray Rice making new headlines after video of his beating his fiancee was made public, some analysts are finding parallels with the case of a federal district judge recently charged with assaulting his wife.

Judge Fuller

Judge Fuller

Both Rice and Judge Mark Fuller of Alabama may see their records expunged after they have participated in pre-trial diversion programs that include counseling (see Gavel Grab for background about Judge Fuller). The NFL initially suspended Rice for two games, and after the video became public, his contract was terminated by the Baltimore Ravens. Judge Fuller has been relieved of his caseload temporarily and hopes to return to “full, active status.”

For CNN, legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin wrote that both Rice and Judge Fuller received “sweet deals” in court, and “it looks like the prosecutors failed in Atlantic City and Atlanta.” His essay was headlined, “Wife-beating is not a private matter.” Read more

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Court Program Offers Judge Route to Resolve Assault Charge

U.S. District Court Judge Mark Fuller of Alabama, recently arrested on a domestic assault charge, will accept a pre-trial diversion offer that includes attendance at a 24-week counseling program on family and domestic violence.

Reuters said Judge Fuller has been relieved of his caseload. “I … look forward to addressing the concerns of the court and hopefully returning to full, active status in the Middle District of Alabama,” the judge said.

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Greenhouse: Efforts to Influence Courts 'By Any Means Necessary'

US Supreme CourtMillions of Americans stand to be affected by any final decision in the federal courts about the legality of the government subsidizing health insurance premiums for individuals.

In the wake of dueling federal court opinions on this issue (see Gavel Grab), Linda Greenhouse offers an intriguing analysis in the New York Times about the protracted efforts of federal Affordable Care Act foes to derail the law in the courts. She calls it “turning to the courts to achieve what politics won’t deliver” and suggests the latest efforts rely on an extremely fine point of law. Read more

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Same-Sex Marriages Set to Begin in VA Next Week

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va. rejected Prince William County Circuit Court Clerk Michèle McQuigg’s request to postpone its ruling dropping Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage, reports USA Today.

According to the piece, the three-judge panel ruled the right of gays and lesbians to marry constitutional last month. That means that same-sex couples could get married in Virginia starting August 20th and the state would start recognizing gay marriages from other states too, unless the Supreme Court intervenes.

“There is no doubt that Virginia is ready for the freedom to marry. …We are thrilled that the 4th Circuit denied the request for a stay and hope that we will see wedding celebrations in Virginia as early as next week. Marriage validates the commitment couples make to one another and, if the Supreme Court doesn’t intervene, achieving marriage equality in Virginia will be a tremendous step forward,” stated James Parrish, the executive director of Equality Virginia.

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