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Supreme Court rejects lingering 2020 election challenge case
Breaking Legal News | 2021/04/19 15:20
The Supreme Court on Monday said it will not hear a case out of Pennsylvania related to the 2020 election, a dispute that had lingered while similar election challenges had already been rejected by the justices. The high court directed a lower court to dismiss the case as moot.

The justices in February, after President Joe Biden’s inauguration, had rejected a handful of cases related to the 2020 election. In the case the court rejected Monday, however, the court had called for additional briefing that was not complete until the end of March.

The case involved a federal court challenge to a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision requiring election officials to receive and count mailed-in ballots that arrived up to three days after the election. More broadly, however, the case concerned whether state lawmakers or state courts get the last word about the manner in which federal elections are carried out.

The Democratic National Committee was among those that argued the case should be rejected as moot because the 2020 election is over. Those that brought the case said the justices should hear it because the issues involved are important and recurring.

The court had previously rejected other cases that had involved the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision to extend the deadline for mail-in ballots. Three of the court’s conservative justices dissented, saying they would have taken up the cases.

The genesis of the cases were changes Pennsylvania lawmakers made to the state’s election laws in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the changes, lawmakers left in place a Nov. 3 deadline to receive absentee ballots. Democrats sued, and Pennsylvania’s highest court cited the ongoing pandemic and United States Postal Service delays in extending the deadline for mailed-in ballots to be received.

Wanda Murren, the communications director for the Pennsylvania Department of State, said Monday the elections agency is considering what to do about those ballots now, and whether they should be added to the final tally. In all, just over 10,000 ballots were received by elections officials after polls closed on Election Day, Nov. 3, but before 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 6.

“We are pleased that yet another court ruling has affirmed the accuracy and integrity of Pennsylvania’s November 2020 election,” Murren said.

More than 600 of the ballots received during those three days had no postmark or an illegible postmark.

The 10,000 ballots would not have altered the outcome of the presidential election in the state, which former President Donald Trump lost by some 80,000 votes.



Alaska denied oil check benefits to gay couples, dependents
Breaking Legal News | 2021/04/15 10:48
Alaska discriminated against some same-sex spouses for years in wrongfully denying them benefits by claiming their unions were not recognized even after courts struck down same-sex marriage bans, court documents obtained by The Associated Press show.

The agency that determines eligibility for the yearly oil wealth check paid to nearly all Alaska residents denied a dividend for same-sex spouses or dependents of military members stationed in other states for five years after a federal court invalidated Alaska’s ban on same-sex marriage in 2014, and the Supreme Court legalized the unions nationwide in June 2015, the documents show.

In one email from July 2019, a same-sex spouse living out-of-state with his military husband was denied a check because “unfortunately the state of Alaska doesn’t recognize same sex marriage yet,” employee Marissa Requa wrote to a colleague, ending the sentence with a frown face emoji.

This Permanent Fund Dividend Division practice continued until Denali Smith, who was denied benefits appealed and asked the state to start including her lawyer in its correspondence.

Smith later sued the state, seeking an order declaring that state officials violated the federal court decision and Smith’s constitutional rights to equal protection and due process

Smith and the state on Wednesday settled the lawsuit. Alaska admitted denying benefits to same-sex military spouses and dependents for five years in violation of the permanent injunction put in place by the 2014 U.S. District Court decision. The state also vowed to no longer use the outdated state law, to deny military spouses and dependents oil checks going forward, and updated enforcement regulations.

There were no financial terms to the settlement. In fact, Smith had to pay $400 out of pocket to file the federal lawsuit to get her oil check, and her attorney worked pro bono.

In Alaska, the oil wealth check is seen as an entitlement that people use to buy things like new TVs or snowmobiles, fund college savings accounts or, in rural Alaska, weather high heating and food costs. The nest-egg fund, seeded with oil money, has grown into billions of dollars. A portion traditionally goes toward the checks, but the amount varies. Last year, nearly every single resident received $992. The year before, the amount was $1,606.

About 800 pages of emails provided by the state for the lawsuit show a clear misunde


Governor swears in newest Rhode Island state court judge
Breaking Legal News | 2021/03/25 19:23
The newest judge to the Rhode Island Superior Court was sworn in Saturday.

Democratic Gov. Dan McKee presided over the swearing in of R. David Cruise, a longtime political operative and state senator, at the Boys & Girls Club location in Cumberland.

McKee, a former Cumberland mayor who has known Cruise for years, said in a statement that he’s an “honest, fair and thoughtful leader who brings decades of legal and government experience to the bench.”

Cruise is a former state senator and Cumberland town councilor. In recent years, he’s served as former Gov. Gina Raimondo’s director of legislative affairs, former administrative magistrate with the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal and chief of staff to the Rhode Island Senate, among other posts, according to McKee’s office.

In the 1990s, Cruise worked in the commerce department under President Bill Clinton and chief of staff to former Governor Bruce Sundlun. In the 1980s, he was a state senator and before that served on the Cumberland Town Council.

Cruise, who graduated from Providence College and the Suffolk University School of Law, replaces former Superior Court Judge Bennett Gallo, who retired in February.

The Rhode Island Superior Court has 22 judges and five magistrates. It handles both civil and criminal matters.


Florida man gets 11 years for trafficking 78 pounds of meth
Breaking Legal News | 2021/03/16 15:25
A Florida man has been sentenced to 11 years in prison on a federal drug trafficking charge drug in a case that involved one of the largest seizures of methamphetamine in Montana history.

U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen sentenced Nicholas James Imhoff of Caple Coral, Florida during a Tuesday hearing in federal court in Missoula.

Police found 78 pounds (35 kilograms) of meth in a rented minivan driven by the 30-year-old defendant after he was stopped for speeding on an interstate near Columbus, Montana in February 2020.

Imhoff pleaded guilty in September to possession with intent to distribute meth, under a plea deal with prosecutors that resulted in the dismissal of a drug conspiracy charge .

Authorities said the meth seized in the case had an estimated street value of up to $1.2 million and was the equivalent of 280,000 doses of the drug.

The seizure was “by far the largest amount of meth we’ve seen in a single traffic stop,” John Barnes, a spokesperson for the Montana Department of Justice, said at the time.

In December, Canadian law enforcement seized more than 500 pounds of meth (228 kilograms) from a truck that was hauling produce across the border from Montana into Alberta. It was the largest meth seizure on record at a land border crossing in Canada, according to the Canada Border Services Agency.



High court orders full disability for worker whose lost limb
Breaking Legal News | 2021/03/11 11:00
The South Dakota Supreme Court has ordered the state to grant a man whose lower leg was amputated as a result of a work injury permanent and total disability benefits.

Steven Billman was working at Clarke Machine when he cut his foot on a metal shaving in February 2015. His foot became infected and surgeons at Avera Hospital in Sioux Falls had to amputate his right leg just below the knee.

Billman is 64 and has multiple medical conditions, including diabetes. The state Department of Labor and Regulation granted Billman partial disability payments for 2 1/2 years. In 2018, Billman argued that he deserved permanent, total disability benefits, the Rapid City Journal reported.

The department said that while Billman did have some disabilities, he could still do some physical work, has the ability to adapt and learn new technology, and that his age doesn’t prevent him from finding work.

Billman appealed to the Hughes County Court where Judge Christina Klinger upheld that he was not unemployable and inappropriately limited the geographical size of his work search.

The justices this week concluded the department’s determination that Billman is not unemployable” is clearly erroneous.”


Anchorage companies, man fined for clean air violations
Breaking Legal News | 2021/02/26 14:33
A man and two companies in Alaska have been sentenced to three years probation and a $35,000 fine for violating the Clean Air Act involving asbestos work at a shopping center more than five years ago, a judge said.

The work was performed at the Northern Lights Center in Anchorage, the former location of an REI store. Reports of potential asbestos exposure at the time closed the store for a day back in 2015, authorities said.

U.S. District Court Judge Joshua Kindred sentenced Tae Ryung Yoon, 64, on Friday to probation, fined him $35,000 and said he owes $30,000 in restitution for medical monitoring of the four workers who claimed they were exposed to asbestos, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

The owners of Yoo Jin Management Company Ltd. and Mush Inn Corp. were also sentenced after agreeing to plead guilty to a charge of violating the Clean Air Act’s Asbestos Work Practice Standards. Both companies are owned by Chun Yoo, who is in his 80s and has “serious medical conditions,” and his wife, attorney Kevin Fitzgerald said. The couple still owns the center.

The case centers on workers who said they were exposed to asbestos during improperly conducted renovations involving an old boiler room. The work was stopped when two of the workers raised concerns.

High levels of asbestos exposure can cause lung disease or cancer.

Prosecutors said in a statement that the building owners and manager relied on a contractor who was not a certified asbestos abatement contractor and “failed to inform the contractor of the possibility of asbestos in the old boiler room.”

Fitzgerald argued that an assessment indicated no evidence of asbestos when his clients bought the center in 2006. Yoon was the building’s property manager at the time.

Documents show the boilers were replaced by another company in 2012 and the old ones were removed in 2014 to make more room. Some of the workers took photos of what they thought was asbestos and emailed them to the property management company that employed Yoon.




Judge says lawyer who killed her son also tracked Sotomayor
Breaking Legal News | 2021/02/19 17:49
The lawyer who killed a federal judge’s son and seriously wounded her husband at their New Jersey home last summer also had been tracking Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the judge said in a television interview.

U.S. District Judge Esther Salas said FBI agents discovered the information in a locker belonging to the lawyer, Roy Den Hollander. “They found another gun, a Glock, more ammunition. But the most troubling thing they found was a manila folder with a workup on Justice Sonia Sotomayor,” Salas said in an interview with CBS News’ “60 Minutes.” The segment is scheduled for broadcast Sunday, but a portion of the interview aired Friday on “CBS This Morning.”

Both the Supreme Court and the FBI declined to comment Friday. “We do not discuss security as a matter of Court policy,” court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said in an email.

Authorities have said Den Hollander, a men’s rights lawyer with a history of anti-feminist writings, posed as a FedEx delivery person and fatally shot 20-year-old Daniel Anderl and wounded his father, Mark Anderl, in July. Salas was in another part of the home at the time and was not injured.

Den Hollander, 72, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound the day after the ambush. Authorities believe he also shot and killed a fellow attorney in California in the days before the attack at Salas’ home.

The AP has previously reported that when Den Hollander was found dead he had a document with him with information about a dozen female judges from across the country, half of whom are Latina, including Salas.

Salas has been calling for more privacy and protections for judges, including scrubbing personal information from the internet, to deal with mounting cyberthreats. The U.S. Marshals Service, which protects about 2,700 federal judges, said there were 4,449 threats and inappropriate communications in 2019, up from 926 such incidents in 2015.

Legislation named for Salas’ son that would make it easier to shield judges’ personal information from the public failed to pass the Senate in December, but could be reintroduced this year.


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