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Abortion clinic goes before judge to challenge WVa ban
Human Rights | 2022/07/18 12:48
West Virginia’s only abortion clinic was going before a county judge on Monday to ask that an 1800s-era law be thrown out so the facility can immediately resume abortions.

The Women’s Health Center of West Virginia suspended abortion services on June 24, the day the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The state has an abortion ban on the books dating back 150 years that makes performing or obtaining an abortion a felony, punishable by up to a decade in prison. There is an exception for cases in which a pregnant person’s life is at risk.

The ACLU of West Virginia has argued on the clinic’s behalf that the old law is void because it hasn’t been enforced in more than 50 years and has been superseded by a slew of modern laws regulating abortion that acknowledge a woman’s right to the procedure. One example is West Virginia’s 2015 law, which allows abortions until 20 weeks.

In motions before Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Tera L. Salango in Charleston, the Women’s Health Center’s attorneys said abortion services are essential health care, and the state’s most vulnerable residents are put at risk every day they don’t have access to that care.

Staffers have canceled dozens of abortion appointments, fearing they or their patients could be prosecuted under the old statute. “When it was in effect, the statute was used to criminalize both people who seek and provide abortion care,” the ACLU said.


California Democratic supremacy tested by crime, inflation
Human Rights | 2022/05/09 08:59
Democrats in many parts of the country are facing a potentially grim political year, but in California no one is talking about the liberal stronghold changing direction.

California’s largely irrelevant Republican Party could field only little-known candidates for governor and U.S. Senate, and the GOP appears to have only isolated chances for upsets even under what should be favorable conditions for the party.

Mail ballots are already going out for the June 7 primary election that will set the stage for November runoffs. The election is taking place within a cauldron of dicey political issues: the possible repeal of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, widespread frustration with a homelessness crisis and with residents suffering pocketbook stress from galloping inflation and soaring home costs — the state’s median price hit a record $849,080 in March.

President Joe Biden’s popularity has sagged — even among some of his fellow Democrats — and the party in the White House typically loses congressional seats in midterm elections. California Democrats showed up in historic numbers in 2020 to defeat then-President Donald Trump in landslide, but turnout next month is expected to tumble with little drama at the top of the ticket: Gov. Gavin Newsom and U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, both Democrats, face only token opposition.

But none of that adds up to a threat to the state’s Democratic supremacy. Republicans haven’t won a statewide election in California since 2006, and Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by nearly 2-to-1 statewide. Democrats are expected to maintain their supermajorities in the Legislature.


Holocaust researchers in Poland win libel case on appeal
Human Rights | 2021/08/16 10:22
An appellate court in Poland on Monday rejected a lawsuit brought against two Holocaust scholars in a case that has been closely watched because it was expected to serve as a precedent for research into the highly sensitive area of Polish behavior toward Jews during World War II.

Poland is governed by a nationalist conservative party that has sought to promote remembrance of Polish heroism and suffering during the wartime German occupation of the country. The party also believes that discussions of Polish wrongdoing distort the historical picture and are unfair to Poles.

The Appellate Court of Warsaw argued in its explanation that it believed that scholarly research should not be judged by courts. But it appeared not to be the end: a lawyer for the plaintiff said Monday that she would appeal Monday’s ruling to the Supreme Court.

The ruling was welcomed by the two researchers, Jan Grabowski and Barbara Engelking, who declared it a “great victory” in a Facebook post.

“We greet the verdict with great joy and satisfaction all the more, that this decision has a direct impact on all Polish scholars, and especially on historians of the Holocaust,” they said.

Monday’s ruling comes half a year after a lower court ordered the two researchers to apologize to a woman who claimed that her deceased uncle had been defamed in a historical work they edited and partially wrote, “Night Without End: The Fate of Jews in Selected Counties of Occupied Poland.”

Lawyers for the niece, 81-year-old Filomena Leszczynska, argued that her uncle was a Polish hero who had saved Jews, and that the scholars had harmed her good name and that of her family by suggesting the uncle was also involved in the killing of Jews.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Monika Brzozowska-Pasieka, said in an emailed statement to The Associated Press that Leszczynska was “astonished” by the judgement and intends to file an appeal to the Polish Supreme Court.


Supreme Court upholds Puerto Rico financial oversight board
Human Rights | 2020/06/01 09:57
The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the oversight board established by Congress to help Puerto Rico out of a devastating financial crisis that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus outbreak, recent earthquakes and damage from Hurricane Maria in 2017. The justices reversed a lower court ruling that threatened to throw the island's recovery efforts into chaos.

In a unanimous holding, the court will allow the oversight board's work to pull the island out of the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history to proceed. At one point, Puerto Rico faced more than $100 billion in debt and unfunded pension obligations.

The case stemmed from a constitutional challenge to the oversight board's composition led by hedge funds that invested in Puerto Rican bonds. A lower court ruled last year that board members were appointed in violation of the Constitution because they were not confirmed by the Senate.

The president selects the board's seven voting members. They and one other non-voting member chosen by Puerto Rico's governor approve budgets and fiscal plans drawn up by the island's government. The board also handles bankruptcy-like cases that allow the island to restructure its debts.


Asylum Seekers Attend Border Court Amid Outbreak
Human Rights | 2020/03/16 11:07
U.S. immigration courts sharply scaled back operations Monday but have stopped well short of a total shutdown demanded by employees, including judges and government attorneys.

Wearing face masks, about 30 asylum seekers who had been waiting in Mexico were escorted by authorities into a federal building in El Paso, Texas, some carrying children.

They reported, as instructed, to a border crossing at 4 a.m. Monday and were driven to the court in white vans. Journalists were barred from the courtroom on the grounds that it was too crowded.

A lawyer who attended said the judge appeared by video conference, and few, if any migrants wore masks once the hearing began.

“All of the benches are taken up,” Imelda Maynard said. “Most of the children are asleep in their parent’s arms.”

The Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review late Sunday postponed preliminary hearings for people who aren’t in custody through April 10. While significant, the order doesn’t extend to courts in immigration detention centers or to the government’s “Migrant Protection Protocols” policy to make asylum seekers wait in Mexico for hearings in the U.S. It also didn’t apply to final hearings which determine whether migrants are granted asylum.


Germany jails man for tricking women into electric shocks
Human Rights | 2020/01/17 10:02
A Munich court on Monday convicted a German man of more than a dozen offenses of attempted murder for tricking women and girls into giving themselves electric shocks while he watched over the internet.

The regional court in the Bavarian capital sentenced the man, identified only as David G. for privacy reasons, to 11 years' imprisonment.

Court spokesman Florian Gliwitzky told The Associated Press that the 31-year-old defendant would be sent to a secure psychiatric clinic for treatment.

Prosecutors said the man contacted women and girls as young as 13 online over a five-year period starting in 2013, claiming to be a doctor seeking paid volunteers for a medical experiment on pain perception. He then persuaded them to attach a home-made contraption to the electricity mains and their extremities while he watched and issued instructions. None of the victims was ever paid.

Judges concluded that 13 of the 88 cases constituted attempted murder because the defendant had told the women to hold the cables to their temples or feet, causing electricity to flow through their brains or hearts.

The court also convicted him of two counts of serious bodily harm and five counts of premeditated bodily harm, of breaching the victims' privacy by filming them, and of illegally claiming to have a medical degree.



Ohio counties tell court: Don’t let state stop opioid trial
Human Rights | 2019/10/03 11:52
Two Ohio counties are telling a court to deny their state attorney general’s request to delay a major trial over the toll of opioids.

Attorney General Dave Yost asked a federal appeals court in August not to let a district judge move ahead with a case scheduled to begin Oct. 21.

It would be the first federal trial of claims brought by a government seeking to hold the drug industry accountable for the opioid crisis.

The attorney general says the state’s similar claims should move ahead of those brought by Cuyahoga and Summit counties, home to Cleveland and Akron.

The counties say the state doesn’t have a say because it’s not part of this case. The judge in charge of the Oct. 21 trial has also denied the state’s request.




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