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Trump closes in on Supreme Court pick; 3 judges top list
U.S. Legal News | 2018/07/05 04:44
President Donald Trump is closing in on his next Supreme Court nominee, with three federal judges leading the competition to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Trump's top contenders for the vacancy at this time are federal appeals judges Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh and Raymond Kethledge, said a person familiar with Trump's thinking who was not authorized to speak publicly.

Working closely with a White House team and consulting with lawmakers and outside advisers, Trump has spent the week deliberating on the choice. He conducted interviews on Monday and Tuesday and has spoken to seven possible candidates. He has not yet publicly indicated that he has narrowed the list and could still consider others in the mix.

With customary fanfare, Trump plans to announce his selection Monday night, kicking off a contentious nomination process as Republicans seek to shift the court to the right and Democrats strive to block the effort.

Vice President Mike Pence has also met with some of the contenders for the Supreme Court vacancy created by Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, The Associated Press has learned.

The meetings took place in recent days, according to a person familiar with the search process. The person did not specify which candidates Pence met with and spoke on condition of anonymity Wednesday to describe the private search process.



The Latest: Trump promises 'great' pick for Supreme Court
Court Feed News | 2018/07/05 04:41
President Donald Trump is promising to select a "great" Supreme Court nominee to fill the vacancy of retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy

The president said Tuesday at a "Salute to Service" dinner in West Virginia that he "hit a home run" with Justice Neil Gorsuch, whom he picked for the nation's high court last year. Trump says, "We're going to hit a home run here."

Trump spoke to three potential Supreme Court nominees Tuesday before departing the White House.

On Monday, the president interviewed federal appeals judges Raymond Kethledge, Amul Thapar, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. That's according to a person with knowledge of the meetings who was not authorized to speak publicly about them.

The White House says President Donald Trump spoke Tuesday to three potential Supreme Court nominees.

White House spokesman Raj Shah disclosed the conversations. He did not detail with whom Trump had spoken Tuesday or say how many potential nominees Trump has now interviewed.

Trump has said he'll announce his pick July 9 and will chose from a list of 25 candidates.

Trump on Monday interviewed federal appeals judges Raymond Kethledge, Amul Thapar, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. That's according to a person with knowledge of the meetings who was not authorized to speak publicly about them.

He also spoke Monday to Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah. The senator's office characterized the call as an interview, but the White House would only say the two spoke.


Feds say ex-firm of Stormy Daniels' lawyer owes unpaid taxes
U.S. Legal News | 2018/07/04 11:40
The Justice Department says Stormy Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, made "misrepresentations" in a bankruptcy case involving his former law firm that owes more than $440,000 in unpaid federal taxes.

Avenatti's former firm, Eagan Avenatti LLP, had agreed in January to pay about $2.4 million in back taxes and penalties as part of a resolution of a bankruptcy case involving the firm.

Court documents show some of the money was paid, but attorneys for the government said in May that the firm still owed a portion of the unpaid tax money.

On Tuesday, the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles filed a motion asking a federal judge to compel the payment of $440,291 in unpaid taxes and more than $11,700 in interest. Lawyers from the U.S. attorney's office represent the government in bankruptcy court when there's a debt to a government agency, like back taxes or unpaid student loans.

Avenatti, who has garnered national attention as the attorney for Daniels, the porn actress who is suing President Donald Trump following an alleged 2006 affair, said Wednesday that the court filing was "part of a smear campaign" and stressed that he doesn't personally owe any of the money.


Trump has 2 or 3 more candidates to interview for court
Class Action News | 2018/07/03 17:02
President Donald Trump has interviewed four prospective Supreme Court justices and plans to meet with a few more as his White House aggressively mobilizes to select a replacement for retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Eager to build suspense, Trump wouldn't divulge whom he's talking to in advance of his big announcement, set for July 9. But he promised that "they are outstanding people. They are really incredible people in so many different ways, academically and in every other way. I had a very, very interesting morning."

Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump met with four people for 45 minutes each Monday and will continue meetings through the rest of the week. She said Tuesday he has "two or three more that he'll interview this week and then make a decision."

The interviews were with federal appeals judges Raymond Kethledge, Amul Thapar, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, said a person with knowledge of the meetings who was not authorized to speak publicly about them. The Washington Post first reported the identities of the candidates Trump spoke with.

The president spent the weekend at his Bedminster golf club, consulting with advisers, including White House counsel Don McGahn, as he considers his options to fill the vacancy with a justice who has the potential to be part of precedent-shattering court decisions on abortion, health care, gay marriage and other issues.

McGahn will lead the overall selection and confirmation process, the White House said Monday, repeating the role he played in the successful confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch last year.

McGahn will be supported by a White House team that includes spokesman Raj Shah, taking a leave from the press office to work full time on "communications, strategy and messaging coordination with Capitol Hill allies." Justin Clark, director of the Office of Public Liaison, will oversee White House coordination with outside groups.

Trump's push came as the Senate's top Democrat tried to rally public opposition to any Supreme Court pick who would oppose abortion rights. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer issued a campaign-season call to action for voters to prevent such a nominee by putting "pressure on the Senate," which confirms judicial nominees.

With Trump committed to picking from a list of 25 potential nominees that he compiled with guidance from conservatives, Schumer said any of them would be "virtually certain" to favor overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that affirmed women's right to abortion. They would also be "very likely" to back weakening President Barack Obama's 2010 law that expanded health care coverage to millions of Americans, he said.

Schumer said that while Democrats don't control the Senate — Republicans have a 51-49 edge — most senators back abortion rights. In an unusually direct appeal to voters, he said that to block "an ideological nominee," people should "tell your senators" to oppose anyone from Trump's list.

"It will not happen on its own," the New Yorker wrote in an opinion column in Monday's New York Times. "It requires the public's focus on these issues, and its pressure on the Senate."

Schumer's column appeared a day after Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she would oppose any nominee she believed would overturn Roe v. Wade. Collins, who appeared on ABC's "This Week" and CNN's "State of the Union," said she would only back a judge who would show respect for settled law such as the Roe decision, which has long been anathema to conservatives.


California high court: Yelp can't be ordered to remove posts
U.S. Legal News | 2018/07/03 00:02
Online review site Yelp.com cannot be ordered to remove posts against a San Francisco law firm that a judge determined were defamatory, a divided California Supreme Court ruled Monday in a closely watched case that internet companies warned could be used to silence online speech.

In a 4-3 opinion, justices agreed, saying removal orders such as the one attorney Dawn Hassell obtained against Yelp "could interfere with and undermine the viability of an online platform."

The decision overturned a lower court ruling that Yelp had said could lead to the removal of negative reviews from the popular website.

Hassell said Yelp was exaggerating the stakes of her legal effort. Her attorney, Monique Olivier, said in a statement that the ruling "stands as an invitation to spread falsehoods on the internet without consequence."

She said her client was considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hassell's 2013 lawsuit accused a client she briefly represented in a personal injury case of defaming her on Yelp by falsely claiming that her firm failed to communicate with the client, among other things.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Donald Sullivan found the online statements defamatory and ordered the client and Yelp to remove them. Hassell said the client failed to answer her lawsuit or remove the posts, so she had to seek a court order demanding that Yelp do it.

A second judge and a state appeals court upheld Sullivan's order.

"Ms. Hassell did exactly what she should have done," Olivier said Monday. "After both the defamer and Yelp refused to remove untrue and damaging statements, she obtained a judgment against the defamer, and sought to enforce that judgment by requiring Yelp to remove the defamation."

Yelp said the lower court ruling would give businesses unhappy about negative reviews a new legal pathway for getting them removed.

Yelp said the removal order violated a 1996 federal law that courts have widely interpreted as protecting internet companies from liability for posts by third-party users and prohibiting the companies from being treated as the speaker or publisher of users' posts.

Three of the California Supreme Court justices agreed.

"In substance, Yelp is being held to account for nothing more than its ongoing decision to publish the challenged reviews," Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said in an opinion joined by associate justices Ming Chin and Carol Corrigan.

Associate Justice Leondra Kruger said in a separate opinion that she agreed that the removal order against Yelp was invalid, but for a different reason. Hassell did not name Yelp as a defendant, so the company did not get its "own day in court," Kruger said.


Prosecutor to press court to release church abuse report
Law & Politics | 2018/07/02 00:02
Pennsylvania's highest court is being pressed to publicly release a major grand jury report on allegations of child sexual abuse and cover-ups in six of the state's Roman Catholic dioceses.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro will ask the court to swiftly decide lingering legal issues before it, his office said Friday. He expects to make that request Monday.

"The people of Pennsylvania have a right to see the report, know who is attempting to block its release and why, and to hear the voices of the victims of sexual abuse within the Church," Shapiro said in a statement.

The state Supreme Court is blocking the release of the report as the result of legal challenges filed under seal by people apparently named in the report. The court has declined to make those filings or dockets public, or name the people who filed the challenges.

The Supreme Court's chief justice, Thomas Saylor, declined comment through a spokeswoman, and lawyers for the unnamed people challenging the report did not respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, seven news organizations, including The Associated Press, on Friday filed a motion to intervene in the case in a bid to argue that the court should release the report, contending that it is required by law. If the court decides it needs more time to consider the legal challenges, it could immediately order the report's release with only those parts that are in question shielded from view, lawyers for the news organizations wrote.

The court also should be consistent with practice in other grand jury matters and make public the filings and dockets in the case, with redactions if necessary, the news organizations wrote.

Victim advocates have said the report is expected to be the largest and most exhaustive such review by any state. The grand jury spent two years investigating allegations of child sex abuse in the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton, churches with some 1.7 million members.


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