High court upholds texting suicide manslaughter conviction
Headline Legal News | 2019/02/06 18:08
The involuntary manslaughter conviction of a young woman who encouraged her boyfriend through dozens of text messages to kill himself was upheld Wednesday by Massachusetts' highest court.

The Supreme Judicial Court agreed with a lower court judge who found that Michelle Carter caused Conrad Roy III's death when she told him to "get back in" his truck that was filling with toxic gas after he told her he was scared. The judge said Carter had a duty to call the police or Roy's family when she knew he was killing himself.

"And then after she convinced him to get back into the carbon monoxide filled truck, she did absolutely nothing to help him: she did not call for help or tell him to get out of the truck as she listened to him choke and die," Justice Scott Kafker wrote in the Supreme Judicial Court's ruling.

Carter's lawyers noted the only evidence she instructed Roy to get back in the truck was a long, rambling text she sent to a friend two months later in which she called Roy's death her fault.

Carter was 17 when Roy, 18, was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in July 2014. Carter, now 22, was sentenced to 15 months in jail, but has remained free while she pursues her appeals.

Prosecutors had argued Carter could have stopped Roy from killing himself, but instead bullied him into going through with his plan through text messages that became more insistent as he delayed.


Appellate judge announces run for Supreme Court seat
Court News | 2019/02/05 02:10
An appellate judge has announced he will run for a spot on the Kentucky Supreme Court days after Justice Bill Cunningham retired.

Kentucky Court of Appeals Judge Christopher "Shea" Nickell told The Paducah Sun that he is running in November's election for the vacant seat, which represents the First Supreme Court District encompassing 24 counties in western Kentucky. The winner of the general election will serve the rest of Cunningham's current term ending in 2022.

Gov. Matt Bevin will appoint a temporary justice to the seat until November, but Nickell did not submit his name for consideration. He says that would have required him to step down from the appeals court.

Nickell practiced law for 22 years before he became an appellate judge.


NC high court sidesteps decision on tracking sex offenders
Court News | 2019/02/03 02:21
The North Carolina Supreme Court is brushing aside a rapist's appeal that he shouldn't be forced into a lifetime of electronic monitoring after serving his 41-year prison sentence.

The state's highest court on Friday let stand without comment that 50-year-old Darren Gentle must submit to GPS monitoring after his release, projected for 2048. Gentile was convicted in Randolph County in 2016 of violently raping a 25-year-old pregnant woman with whom he'd been taking drugs.

The court is still considering a separate case on whether forcing sex offenders to be perpetually tracked by GPS-linked devices is justified or is unreasonable search and violates the Constitution. The pending decision in Torrey Grady's case comes after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that mandating GPS ankle monitors for ex-cons is a serious privacy concern.




Ginsburg makes 1st public appearance since cancer surgery
Attorney News | 2019/02/03 02:13
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is making her first public appearance since undergoing lung cancer surgery in December.

The 85-year-old Ginsburg is attending a concert at a museum a few blocks from the White House that is being given by her daughter-in-law and other musicians. Patrice Michaels is married to Ginsburg’s son, James. Michaels is a soprano and composer.

The concert is dedicated to Ginsburg’s life in the law.

Ginsburg had surgery in New York on Dec. 21. She missed arguments at the court in January, her first illness-related absence in more than 25 years as a justice.

She has been recuperating at her home in Washington since late December.

Ginsburg had two previous bouts with cancer. She had colorectal cancer in 1999 and pancreatic cancer in 2009.

The justice sat in the back of the darkened auditorium at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

The National Constitution Center, which sponsored the concert, did not permit photography.

James Ginsburg said before the concert that his mother is walking a mile a day and meeting with her personal trainer twice a week.

The performance concluded with a song set to Ginsburg’s answers to questions.

In introducing the last song, Michaels said, “bring our show to a close, but not the epic and notorious story of RBG.”



Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate defends blog posts
Court Watch | 2019/02/02 02:39
Conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Brian Hagedorn is defending blog posts he wrote more than a decade ago where he said a landmark gay rights court ruling could lead to legalized bestiality and labeled Planned Parenthood a “wicked organization.”

Hagedorn spoke Monday about the blogs to conservative talk radio host John Muir on WTAQ-AM. He wrote the blogs while in law school in 2005 and 2006.

He is an evangelical Christian and says he can separate his personal opinion from the law. Hagedorn faces liberal-backed Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Lisa Neubauer in the April 2 election.

Neubauer is chief judge on the state appeals court where Hagedorn is also a judge.

Neubauer campaign manager Tyler Hendricks says Hagedorn would bring a “personal, extreme and radical agenda to the Supreme Court.”



Out-of-state money boosts Collins after Supreme Court vote
Court Watch | 2019/01/29 02:39
Maine Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins had the best fundraising quarter of her career after she delivered a pivotal vote that helped seat Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission.

The Bangor Daily News reports that after announcing her decision to vote in favor of Kavanaugh's nomination during a speech on the Senate floor in early October, Collins raised $1.8 million in the final quarter of 2018.

The records show that of the nearly $900,000 Collins received from individual donors who contributed more than $200 to her campaign, just $19,000 came from individuals with Maine addresses.

"We made an effort to have a strong quarter because we wanted to send the message that Senator Collins will be prepared to run a vigorous campaign in 2020," said Amy Abbott, the deputy treasurer of Collins' campaign committee. "We focused our fundraising efforts nationally, which we typically do until the election year, which is why there were relatively fewer donations from Maine."

She said the campaign received "many contributions" from Maine that were under the $200 reporting threshold.

In the quarter before her Kavanaugh vote, Collins raised $140,000.

Collins' decision to support Kavanaugh's nomination led to a burst of donations for a potential 2020 challenger. So far no Democrats have emerged to challenge Collins next year.



North Carolina Supreme Court to examine Smithfield payments
Court News | 2019/01/26 02:40
North Carolina's highest court will weigh in on whether money paid by the world's largest pork producer for environmental restoration projects should go to public schools instead.

The state Supreme Court announced Friday it would hear appeals in a lawsuit involving a 2000 agreement between Smithfield Foods and then-Attorney General Mike Easley. Smithfield has paid $2 million annually for 25 years. Easley's successors enforce the agreement and distribute funds.

A conservative activist and later the New Hanover County school board sued, contending Smithfield's payments are civil penalties for past environmental violations, so the state constitution requires they go to schools.

A trial judge dismissed the lawsuit, but the Court of Appeals resurrected it last September. Current Attorney General Josh Stein and other parties asked the justices to step in.



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