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Court to Trump: Blocking Twitter critics is unconstitutional
Lawyer Blog News | 2019/07/15 01:37
President Donald Trump lost a major Twitter fight Tuesday when a federal appeals court said that his daily musings and pronouncements were overwhelmingly official in nature and that he violated the First Amendment whenever he blocked a critic to silence a viewpoint.

The effect of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision is likely to reverberate throughout politics after the Manhattan court warned that any elected official using a social media account “for all manner of official purposes” and then excluding critics violates free speech.

“The government is not permitted to ‘amplify’ favored speech by banning or burdening viewpoints with which it disagrees,” the appeals court said.

Because it involved Trump, the ruling is getting more attention than a January decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that found a Virginia politician violated the First Amendment rights of one of her constituents by blocking him from a Facebook page.

Still, the appeals court in New York acknowledged, not every social media account operated by a public official is a government account, and First Amendment violations must be considered on a case-by-case basis.

“The irony in all of this is that we write at a time in the history of this nation when the conduct of our government and its officials is subject to wide-open, robust debate,” Circuit Judge Barrington D. Parker wrote on behalf of a three-judge panel.

The debate generates a “level of passion and intensity the likes of which have rarely been seen,” the court’s decision read.

“This debate, as uncomfortable and as unpleasant as it frequently may be, is nonetheless a good thing,” the 2nd Circuit added. “In resolving this appeal, we remind the litigants and the public that if the First Amendment means anything, it means that the best response to disfavored speech on matters of public concern is more speech, not less.”

The Department of Justice is disappointed by the ruling and is exploring possible next steps, agency spokesperson Kelly Laco said.

“As we argued, President Trump’s decision to block users from his personal twitter account does not violate the First Amendment,” Laco said in an emailed statement.

Appeal options include asking the panel to reconsider, or seeking a reversal from the full 2nd Circuit or from the U.S. Supreme Court.

The decision came in a case brought by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. It had sued on behalf of seven individuals blocked by Trump after criticizing his policies.


Supreme Court Rejects Challenge To Regulation Of Gun Silencers
Lawyer Blog News | 2019/06/11 04:13
The Supreme Court is rejecting a challenge to federal regulation of gun silencers, just days after a gunman used one in a shooting rampage that killed 12 people in Virginia.

The justices did not comment Monday in turning away appeals from two Kansas men who were convicted of violating federal law regulating silencers. The men argued that the constitutional right “to keep and bear arms” includes silencers.

Kansas and seven other states joined in a court filing urging the justices to hear the appeal. The states said the court should affirm that the Second Amendment protects “silencers and other firearms accessories.”

President Donald Trump’s administration asked the court to stay out of the case and leave the convictions in place.

Shane Cox, owner of a military surplus store, was convicted of making and transferring an unregistered silencer, and customer Jeremy Kettler was convicted of possessing one, all in violation of the 85-year-old National Firearms Act. Both men were sentenced to probation.


Estranged husband, girlfriend in court for missing mom case
Lawyer Blog News | 2019/06/01 23:44
A missing mother of five's estranged husband and his girlfriend are set to make their first court appearances in Connecticut after being charged with evidence tampering and hindering prosecution .

Fotis Dulos and Michelle Troconis are scheduled to be arraigned Monday at Norwalk Superior Court.

Both were arrested Saturday night in connection with the investigation into the May 24 disappearance of 50-year-old Jennifer Dulos in New Canaan. She was last seen dropping off her children at school and is still missing.
Details of the charges have not been released.

Jennifer and Fotis Dulos have been embroiled in a contentious divorce and child custody case for the past two years. It wasn't clear if Dulos and Troconis have criminal court lawyers who could respond to the allegations.


Feds: US Supreme Court should turn down 'Bridgegate' appeal
Lawyer Blog News | 2019/05/16 15:59
The U.S. solicitor general's office has recommended that the U.S. Supreme Court not hear the appeal of two convicted defendants in the "Bridgegate" case, nudging the four-year legal saga of New Jersey's most famous traffic jam toward a conclusion.

"Further review is not warranted," the brief filed late Wednesday said. The Supreme Court is expected to decide whether to hear the case by the end of its term next month.

Bridget Kelly and Bill Baroni want the court to hear the appeal of their 2016 convictions for causing gridlock near the George Washington Bridge to punish a mayor for not endorsing their boss, former Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

Christie wasn't charged, but the revelations from the scandal and conflicting accounts of when he knew about the plot combined to sabotage his 2016 presidential aspirations.

Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff at the time of the 2013 lane realignments in the town of Fort Lee, and Baroni, deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, had their sentences reduced this spring after a federal appeals court tossed some convictions last fall. Kelly petitioned the Supreme Court to consider the rest of the convictions, and Baroni joined in the appeal.

They argued that while their actions may have been ethically questionable, they weren't illegal because neither derived personal benefit, and the Port Authority, which operated the bridge, wasn't deprived of tangible benefits as a result of the scheme.


Supreme Court says 1 state can’t be sued in another’s courts
Lawyer Blog News | 2019/05/10 22:51
The Supreme Court decided Monday that one state cannot unwillingly be sued in the courts of another, overruling a 40-year precedent and perhaps, foreshadowing an argument over the viability of other high court decisions.

The outcome left one dissenting justice wondering “which cases the court will overrule next.”

The justices divided 5-4 to end a long-running dispute between California officials and Nevada inventor Gilbert Hyatt.

Hyatt is a former California resident who sued California’s tax agency for being too zealous in seeking back taxes from him. Hyatt won a judgment in Nevada courts.

But Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court’s conservative justices that the Constitution forbids states from opening the doors of their courts to a private citizen’s lawsuit against another state. In 1979, the high court concluded otherwise.

The four liberal justices dissented, saying they would have left alone the court’s decision in Nevada v. Hall. Justice Stephen Breyer said there are good reasons to overrule an earlier case, including that it is no longer workable or a vestige of an otherwise abandoned legal doctrine.

But Breyer said that justices should otherwise adhere to the principle of stare decisis, Latin for to stand by things decided.

“It is far more dangerous to overrule a decision only because five members of a later court come to agree with earlier dissenters on a difficult legal question,” Breyer wrote. He included a reference to the court’s 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey that reaffirmed the right to abortion the court declared in Roe v. Wade in 1973.

The future of abortion rights at the court is a matter of intense interest as several states have enacted increasingly restrictive abortion laws in the hope that a more conservative Supreme Court majority will uphold them.

In his majority opinion, Thomas cited other Supreme Court precedent that held “stare decisis is not an inexorable command.”

The Hyatt case had been to the Supreme Court twice before. In 2016, the justices split 4-4 over the same question that was finally answered on Monday.


EPA reaffirms glyphosate safe for users as court cases grow
Lawyer Blog News | 2019/05/01 21:53
The Environmental Protection Agency reaffirmed Tuesday that a popular weed killer is safe for people, as legal claims mount from Americans who blame the herbicide for their cancer.

The EPA’s draft conclusion Tuesday came in a periodic review of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. The agency found that it posed “no risks of concern” for people exposed to it by any means — on farms, in yards and along roadsides, or as residue left on food crops.

The EPA’s draft findings reaffirmed that glyphosate “is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”

Two recent U.S. court verdicts have awarded multimillion-dollar claims to men who blame glyphosate for their lymphoma. Bayer, which acquired Roundup-maker Monsanto last year, advised investors in mid-April that it faced U.S. lawsuits from 13,400 people over alleged exposure to the weed killer.

Bayer spokesmen did not immediately respond Tuesday to an email seeking comment.

Nathan Donley, a scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity environmental group, said the agency is relying on industry-backed studies and ignoring research that points to higher risks of cancer.

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, classified glyphosate as ”probably carcinogenic to humans.” The agency said it relied on “limited” evidence of cancer in people and “sufficient” evidence of cancer in study animals.

The EPA draft review says the agency found potential risk to mammals and birds that feed on leaves treated with glyphosate, and risk to plants. The agency is proposing adding restrictions to cut down on unintended drift of the weed killer, including not authorizing spraying it by air when winds are above 15 mph.


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