Wisconsin Supreme Court to hear open meetings case
Court News | 2017/02/15 16:22
The Wisconsin Supreme Court is to hear arguments in a case that could give school boards and other governmental bodies a way around the open meetings law.

The case up for argument Wednesday focuses on whether meetings of a committee created by employees of the Appleton Area School District to review books for use in a ninth grade class should have been open to the public.

More broadly the court will examine whether committees created in the same way that the one in Appleton was brought together allows them to be exempt from the law.

John Krueger, whose son attends the Appleton district, argued in a lawsuit that the review committee broke the state open meetings law by not posting a public notice of its meetings or allowing the public to attend. But the Waupaca County Circuit Court and state appeals court both sided with the district, setting up Krueger's appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Krueger raised concerns in 2011 about references to suicide and sex in the book "The Body of Christopher Creed" that students in a freshman communications arts class read. Krueger requested that an alternative class be offered that included books that had no profanity, obscenities or sexualized content.

Appleton's superintendent, Lee Allinger, asked two members of the district's department that handles curriculum and instruction to respond to Krueger's concerns. Those employees formed a 17-member committee including district administrators, teachers and staff to evaluate books used in the course.


Court: Police executing 'no-knock' warrant before shooting
Legal Topics | 2017/02/14 07:26
Court documents show Hickory police were executing a "no knock" search warrant when a police officer was shot in the arm by a suspect who was shot and killed.

WSOC-TV in Charlotte reports documents showed that police were concerned that one of their officers might be hurt while carrying out the warrant. Hickory Police Chief Thurman Whisnant said that as soon as officers came through the door, they identified themselves and announced they were executing the warrant.

The search warrant listed more than a decade of convictions against 33-year-old William David Whetstone for assaults and drug charges.

Police said Whetstone disobeyed orders not to move, pulled a gun and shot an officer in the arm on Feb. 3. Two other officers then shot Whetstone, who died at the scene.



NC court blocks law stripping governor of election powers
Court News | 2017/02/14 07:26
North Carolina's Supreme Court on Monday again blocked a state law approved by Republicans that strips the new Democratic governor of powers to oversee elections.

A lower appeals court briefly let the law to take effect last week, allowing a revamped state elections board to meet for the first time Friday. It's one of the changes passed in late December that shift power over running elections away from Gov. Roy Cooper.

"We are pleased the Supreme Court has put the injunction back in place until the judges can hear and decide the full case" early next month, Cooper spokeswoman Noelle Talley wrote in an email.

The law ends the practice of allowing the governor's political party to hold majorities on all state and county elections boards. Instead of Democrats holding sway over running elections and resolving voting disputes, elections board positions would be evenly divided between major-party partisans.

Republicans would control elections during even-numbered years, when big races for president, legislature or other major statewide offices are held. The measure also merges the state ethics and elections boards into one.

Lawyers representing state House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, and Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, did not respond to emails seeking comment after the Supreme Court's decision.

Cooper, Moore and Berger are also fighting in court over another new law aiming to restrict the Democrat's ability to alter the state's recent conservative direction.

A panel of three state trial court judges is considering whether to continue blocking a law requiring Senate confirmation of Cooper's Cabinet secretaries.

The law requiring Senate consent to Cooper's top appointees came during a surprise special session barely a week after Republican incumbent Pat McCrory conceded to Cooper in their close gubernatorial race.



Supreme Court nominee has defended free speech, religion
Legal Interview | 2017/02/13 15:27
Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch has been a defender of free speech and a skeptic of libel claims, an Associated Press review of his rulings shows. His record puts him at odds with President Donald Trump's disdain for journalists and tendency to lash out at critics.

On other First Amendment cases involving freedom of religion, however, Gorsuch's rulings in his decade on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver reflect views more in line with the president and conservatives. Gorsuch repeatedly has sided with religious groups when they butt up against the secular state.

In a 2007 opinion involving free speech, Gorsuch ruled for a Kansas citizen who said he was bullied by Douglas County officials into dropping his tax complaints. "When public officials feel free to wield the powers of their office as weapons against those who question their decisions, they do damage not merely to the citizen in their sights but also to the First Amendment liberties," Gorsuch wrote.


Partisan struggle over NC governor's authority back in court
Legal Business | 2017/02/12 15:27
Judges are hearing more arguments about North Carolina Republican lawmakers' efforts to reduce Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's authority in choosing his Cabinet.

A three-judge panel scheduled arguments Friday on whether to extend their recent temporary block of a law requiring Senate confirmation of Cooper's Cabinet secretaries.

The GOP-controlled legislature passed the law shortly before Cooper took office, one of several provisions designed to limit Cooper's powers.

Cooper's attorneys say confirmation usurps his authority to carry out core executive functions. Republicans respond that the state Constitution gives senators "advice and consent" powers with gubernatorial appointees.

The governor wants the law blocked at least until a hearing scheduled for March.

In another gubernatorial power issue, a state appeals court on Thursday temporarily reinstated a law stripping Cooper of his oversight of elections.



Kenya court blocks closing of world's biggest refugee camp
Headline Legal News | 2017/02/11 15:27
A Kenyan court ruled Thursday that the government must not close the world's largest refugee camp and send more than 200,000 people back to war-torn Somalia, a decision that eases pressure on Somalis who feared the camp would close by the end of May.

Kenya's internal security minister abused his power by ordering the closure of Dadaab camp, Judge John Mativo said, adding that the minister and other officials had "acted in excess and in abuse of their power, in violation of the rule of law and in contravention of their oaths of office."

Rights groups Amnesty International, Kituo cha Sheria and the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights had challenged the government's order to close the camp, which has operated for more than a quarter-century.

Kenya's government quickly said it will appeal the ruling. "Being a government whose cardinal responsibility is first to Kenyans, we feel this decision should be revoked," spokesman Eric Kiraithe said.

The judge called the order discriminatory, saying it goes against the Kenyan constitution as well as international treaties that protect refugees against being returned to a conflict zone.

President Uhuru Kenyatta's government has not proved Somalia is safe for the refugees to return, the judge said, also calling the orders to shut down the government's refugee department "null and void."

Somalia remains under threat of attacks from homegrown extremist group al-Shabab. Some Kenyan officials have argued that the sprawling refugee camp near the border with Somalia has been used as a recruiting ground for al-Shabab and a base for launching attacks inside Kenya. But Kenyan officials have not provided conclusive proof of that.



Rolling Stone defamation case over rape story back in court
Legal Interview | 2017/02/10 15:27
Attorneys for Rolling Stone magazine are heading back to federal court to try to overturn a jury's defamation verdict over its botched story "A Rape on Campus."

A judge is holding a hearing in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Thursday to consider Rolling Stone's request to throw out the jury's November verdict. The jury awarded University of Virginia administrator Nicole Eramo $3 million after finding Rolling Stone and a reporter defamed her.

The 2014 story told the account of a woman identified only as "Jackie," who said she was gang raped at the school. A police investigation found no evidence to back up Jackie's claims.

The magazine argues, among other things, there's no evidence reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely acted with actual malice. Eramo's attorneys are urging the judge to keep the verdict.




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