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Stand-ins to decide who sits on West Virginia Supreme Court
Legal Focuses | 2018/09/24 10:20

A group of judicial stand-ins representing West Virginia's Supreme Court was hearing challenges Monday to GOP Gov. Jim Justice's appointments of two Republican politicians to replace two departed justices.

Democrats have called the impeachments that imploded the state's highest court an unprecedented power grab by the West Virginia GOP. One of the petitions being heard on Monday says the choice of U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins and ex-House speaker Tim Armstead violates "the clear will of the voters" who elected Democrats to their spots on the bench.

Justice appointed Jenkins and Armstead — who resigned as speaker of the House of Delegates in anticipation of his move to the court — to serve until a Nov. 6 special election in which both men are candidates.

Also on the November ballot is attorney William Schwartz, whose petition seeks to stop Jenkins and Armstead from temporarily serving on the court. His petition also accuses Jenkins of being ineligible because he hasn't actively practiced law recently. The state constitution requires justices to be admitted to practice law for at least 10 years prior to their election.

Jenkins and Schwartz are seeking to serve the remainder of retired Justice Robin Davis' term through 2024, while Armstead hopes to finish the term of retired Justice Menis Ketchum through 2020. Both Davis and Ketchum were elected as Democrats.

Ketchum resigned before the Republican-led House voted to impeach the remaining four justices. Davis then resigned in time to trigger an election for the remainder of her term. The others await Senate impeachment trials next month, including Allen Loughry, who is suspended, and Margaret Workman and Beth Walker, who recused themselves from hearing these petitions. Temporary Chief Justice Paul T. Farrell then appointed four circuit judges to hear the challenges.

According to Schwartz's petition, Jenkins voluntarily placed his West Virginia law license on inactive status in 2014 after he was elected to the U.S. House. But Jenkins said he's been admitted to practice law in the state for more than three decades. According to the bylaws of the State Bar, an inactive status means members are admitted to practice law but aren't taking clients or providing legal counseling.


The Latest: McConnell says Kavanaugh 'will be' on court soon
Legal Focuses | 2018/09/19 07:19

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is telling evangelical activists the Senate will "plow right through" and move to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

McConnell told the annual Values Voter conference Friday "in the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court." He urges the Republican-leaning activists to "keep the faith" and predicts senators will do their jobs.

McConnell's predictions come as California college professor Christine Blasey (BLAH'-zee) Ford accuses Kavanaugh of sexual assault more than 30 years ago when they were teenagers. Kavanaugh has denied the allegations.

Negotiations have been ongoing on whether Ford will testify next week before the Senate Judiciary Committee. President Donald Trump is challenging by name the woman accusing his Supreme Court nominee of sexual assault, saying if the attack she alleges were that "bad" then she would have filed charges.

Trump tweeted Friday: "I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!"

The president previously had avoided naming California college professor Christine Blasey (BLAH'-zee) Ford or casting doubt on her account. Ford alleges Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her more than 30 years ago when they were teenagers. Kavanaugh has denied the allegations.


The Latest: Bolton says international court 'dead to us'
Legal Focuses | 2018/09/10 22:07

The United States is pledging to use "any means necessary" to protect American citizens and allies from International Criminal Court prosecution.

President Donald Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, says the court is "illegitimate" and "for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us."

Bolton delivered his remarks Monday to the conservative Federalist Society in Washington. He says that the court threatens the "constitutional rights" of Americans and U.S. sovereignty.

The ICC, which is based in the Hague, has a mandate to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

President Bill Clinton signed the Rome Statute that established the court, but his successor, George W. Bush, renounced the signature, citing fears that Americans would be unfairly prosecuted for political reasons.

The State Department is announcing the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington.

The department says that the PLO "has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel."

It accuses the Palestinian leadership of condemning a yet-to-be-released Trump administration plan to forge peace between Israel and the Palestinians. It also contends that the PLO is refusing to engage with the U.S. government on peace efforts.

In its statement Monday, the department says its decision is also consistent with administration and congressional concerns with Palestinian attempts to prompt an investigation of Israel by the International Criminal Court.



Court: Cities can't prosecute people for sleeping on streets
Legal Focuses | 2018/09/06 06:10

Cities can't prosecute people for sleeping on the streets if they have nowhere else to go because it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, which is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court said Tuesday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with six homeless people from Boise, Idaho, who sued the city in 2009 over a local ordinance that banned sleeping in public spaces. The ruling could affect several other cities across the U.S. West that have similar laws.

It comes as many places across the West Coast are struggling with homelessness brought on by rising housing costs and income inequality.

When the Boise lawsuit was filed, attorneys for the homeless residents said as many as 4,500 people didn't have a place to sleep in Idaho's capital city and homeless shelters only had about 700 available beds or mats. The case bounced back and forth in the courts for years, and Boise modified its rules in 2014 to say homeless people couldn't be prosecuted for sleeping outside when shelters were full.

But that didn't solve the problem, the attorneys said, because Boise's shelters limit the number of days that homeless residents can stay. Two of the city's three shelters also require some form of religious participation for some programs, making those shelters unsuitable for people with different beliefs, the homeless residents said.

The three-judge panel for the 9th Circuit found that the shelter rules meant homeless people would still be at risk of prosecution even on days when beds were open. The judges also said the religious programming woven into some shelter programs was a problem.



Cities vying for 2020 convention court Democrats in Chicago
Legal Focuses | 2018/08/26 17:12

The three cities vying to host the 2020 Democratic convention are courting party leaders and activists at their summer meeting in Chicago.

Houston, Miami and Milwaukee are the finalists. A selection committee has been visiting the potential sites. A decision is expected early next year.

Miami gave people attending the Democratic National Committee meeting a taste of Chicago's waterfront offerings by renting out a boat docked at Navy Pier for its party.

Milwaukee's gathering featured an appearance by onetime Milwaukee Bucks basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The city has suggested the Bucks' new arena as the convention's venue.

Gospel singer Yolanda Adams highlighted Houston's party. Houston also scattered promotions throughout the DNC's meeting hotel, including Texas-shaped decals on the carpet and bar tabletops.



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