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Delay in Nevada gun buyer law draws protests at court debate
Court Watch | 2018/02/22 22:54
A lawyer seeking a court order to enforce a Nevada gun buyer screening law that has not been enacted despite voter approval in November 2016 blamed the state's Republican governor and attorney general on Friday for stalling the law.

"For either personal or political reasons," attorney Mark Ferrario told a state court judge in Las Vegas, Gov. Brian Sandoval and GOP state Attorney General Adam Laxalt "chose to stand back and really do nothing."

Nevada Solicitor General Lawrence Van Dyke countered that the law was fatally flawed as written because it requires Nevada to have the FBI expend federal resources to enforce a state law.

"State officials here have not tried to avoid implementing the law," Van Dyke said. "They have negotiated (and) talked with the FBI, and the FBI said no, four times."

Clark County District Court Judge Joe Hardy Jr. made no immediate ruling after more than 90 minutes of arguments on an issue that drew about 25 sign-toting advocates outside the courthouse calling for enactment of the measure.

"The people have spoken," said protest speaker Peter Guzman, president of the Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce. "To deny that voice is to deny democracy."

Some speakers, including Democratic state Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui, cited the slayings of 58 people by a gunman firing assault-style weapons from a high-rise casino shot into an concert crowd on the Las Vegas Strip last Oct. 1. Jauregui was at the concert.

Others pointed to gun-control measures being debated nationally following a shooting that killed 17 people last week at a school in Parkland, Florida.

In the courtroom, Ferrario referred to what he called a "movement toward increasing gun checks," while the Nevada law has stalled.

"This loophole that the citizens wanted to close remains open because the governor has failed to take appropriate action," the plaintiffs' attorney said.

Sandoval spokeswoman Mari St. Martin dismissed the accusations as "political posturing." She said the initiative specifically prohibits the state Department of Public Safety from handling background checks, leaving "no clear path forward" to enactment.


Pennsylvania congressional map battle lands in Supreme Court
Court Watch | 2018/02/19 22:54
A request by Republican leaders in the Pennsylvania Legislature to stop a new congressional map from being implemented is now in the hands of the nation's highest court.

The filing made late Wednesday asked Justice Samuel Alito to intervene, saying the state Supreme Court overstepped its authority in imposing a new map.

More litigation may follow, as Republicans are considering a separate legal challenge in federal court in Harrisburg this week.

The state Supreme Court last month threw out a Republican-crafted map that was considered among the nation's most gerrymandered, saying the 2011 plan violated the state constitution's guarantee of free and equal elections.

The new map the state justices announced Monday is widely viewed as giving Democrats an edge as they seek to recapture enough U.S. House seats to reclaim the majority.

House Speaker Mike Turzai and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati said the state's highest court made an unprecedented decision.

"The Pennsylvania Supreme Court conspicuously seized the redistricting process and prevented any meaningful ability for the Legislature to enact a remedial map to ensure a court drawn map," they wrote in a filing made electronically after business hours.

The challenge adds uncertainty as candidates are preparing to circulate nominating petitions to get their names on the May primary ballot.

A spokesman for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, responding to the lawmakers' filing, said Wolf was "focused on making sure the Department of State is fully complying with the court's order by updating their systems and assisting candidates, county election officials and voters preparing for the primary election."

It is the third time in four months that Turzai and Scarnati have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to put a halt to litigation over the 2011 map they took leading roles in creating.

Alito handles emergency applications from Pennsylvania and the other states covered by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Justices have the authority to deal with these applications on their own, or they can refer the matter to the entire court.

In November, Alito turned down a request for a stay of a federal lawsuit, a case that Turzai and Scarnati won in January.


Court gives government a win in young immigrants' cases
Court Watch | 2017/10/27 01:02
A federal appeals court handed the U.S. government a victory Tuesday in its fight against lawsuits opposing a decision to end a program protecting some young immigrants from deportation.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan directed Brooklyn judges to expeditiously decide if a court can properly review the decision to end in March the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. The government insists it cannot.

Activists are suing the government in New York, California, the District of Columbia and Maryland. DACA has protected about 800,000 people, many of them currently in college, who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children or came with families that overstayed visas.

A three-judge 2nd Circuit panel issued a brief order after hearing oral arguments. It said the government will not have to continue to produce documents or submit to depositions before the lower court decides whether the cases can proceed. It also said it will only decide the issue of whether to order the lower court to limit document production once those issues are addressed.

Attorney Michael Wishnie, who argued for plaintiffs suing the government, praised the appeals court for having "moved swiftly to address the government filings in this case."

And he noted that a Brooklyn judge gave the government until Friday to submit written arguments on the legal issues the appeals court said must be resolved before the case proceeds. The plaintiffs must submit their arguments by Nov. 1.

Earlier Tuesday, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Hashim M. Mooppan told the appeals court panel the government planned to ask the Brooklyn federal court by early next week to dismiss the lawsuits.

He said lawyers fighting the government were engaging in a "massive fishing expedition" for documents and testimony that would reveal the deliberative processes at the highest levels of the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department. He called it "wholly improper."

Mooppan seemed to get a sympathetic ear from appeals judges, with one of them saying the government's opponents seemed to be pursuing "a disguised application under the Freedom of Information Act."

"There are a lot of different ways this is very wrong, your honor. That might be one of them," Mooppan said.



Lawyers want Supreme Court to block Texas from executing man
Court Watch | 2017/10/23 01:00
Attorneys for an inmate convicted in a prison guard's death are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to halt his Thursday evening execution.

Robert Pruett's lawyers want justices to review whether lower courts properly denied a federal civil rights lawsuit that sought additional DNA testing in the case. They are also questioning whether a prisoner who claims actual innocence, as Pruett does, can be put to death.

If the execution is carried out Thursday, Pruett would be the sixth prisoner executed this year in Texas, which carries out the death penalty more than any other state. Texas put seven inmates to death last year. His execution would be the 20th nationally, matching the U.S. total for all of 2016.

Pruett avoided execution in April 2015, when a state judge halted his punishment just hours before he could have been taken to the death chamber. His lawyers had convinced the judge that new DNA tests needed to be conducted on the steel rod used to stab the 37-year-old Nagle.

The new tests showed no DNA on the tape but uncovered DNA on the rod from an unknown female who authorities said likely handled the shank during the appeals process after the original tests in 2002.

In June, Pruett's execution was rescheduled for October. Pruett's attorneys then unsuccessfully sought more DNA testing and filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in August, arguing Pruett had been denied due process. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the lawsuit last week, and Pruett's attorneys appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.
 


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