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Determined to hold around two dozen Senate seats in 2018, Democrats will use the coming series of confirmation hearings to try to distinguish themselves from President-elect Donald Trump's billionaire nominees and convince working-class voters who elected him that he's not on their side.

While Democrats have little leverage to stop the Republican's picks in the Senate, they still plan a fight. To highlight what they say is the hypocrisy of Trump's campaign promise to be a champion for the economically struggling little guy, they'll focus on the nominees' wealth, ties to Wall Street and willingness to privatize Medicare, among other issues. In some cases, they'll seek to drag out the process by demanding more information and ensuring a full airing of potential conflicts of interest.

"We're going to give each of them a thorough examination to determine whether they'll actually stand up for workers against the special interests or rig the system even more," said incoming Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, echoing some of Trump's own campaign rhetoric.

Democrats gave up their ability to block Trump's nominees in 2013, when then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid changed Senate rules and reduced the number of votes needed to end filibusters. Now in the majority, Republicans can confirm the nominees along partisan lines.

The limits of the Democratic minority have already been tested, as California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who will be the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee in the new session, has repeatedly asked Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley for more time to review documents ahead of Jan. 10-11 hearings for Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump's choice for attorney general. Grassley, an Iowa Republican, has declined to delay the hearings.




Family members noticed a change in the man charged with firing an assault rifle in a Washington pizza parlor after he hit a 13-year-old pedestrian with his car in October, his parents said.

Edgar Maddison Welch shifted from energetic and outgoing to melancholy and quiet, Terri Welch and Harry Welch Jr. told The Washington Post at their son's public defender's office Monday.

"He was very traumatized. We feel that accident changed him," Harry Welch said, and his wife said they have wondered whether it could have been a catalyst for the incident at Comet Ping Pong.

Police and prosecutors say that on Dec. 4, Maddison Welch went into the restaurant and fired an AR-15 rifle multiple times inside. No one was hurt.

He told police "he had read online that the Comet restaurant was harboring child sex slaves," and he wanted to investigate, according to court documents.

The couple from North Carolina was in town to attend a Tuesday court hearing for their son, whom they have not spoken with since the shooting. The 28-year-old Welch, of Salisbury, North Carolina, has been in jail since the shooting. He faces charges including assault with a dangerous weapon.

Harry Welch said his son felt guilty after the crash and worried about the long-term effects for the child, who had to be airlifted to a hospital with broken bones and a head injury. His parents said Maddison Welch began having nightmares but did not to seek help.


Supreme Court upholds broad reach of bank fraud law

•  Legal Exams     updated  2016/12/15 08:37


The Supreme Court is upholding the broad reach of a federal law prohibiting bank fraud.

The unanimous ruling on Monday came in the case of a California man who illegally siphoned about $307,000 out of a Taiwanese businessman's Bank of America bank account.

Justice Stephen Breyer rejected Lawrence Shaw's claim that the law applies only when a defendant intends to cheat the bank itself ? not a bank customer. Breyer said the bank has property interests in the customer's account and that Shaw misled the bank to steal the customer's money.

The justices sent the case back to a lower court to decide whether the jury instructions in Shaw's case were correct.

Supreme Court rejects 2 death row appeals

•  Bar Associations     updated  2016/12/11 08:37


The Supreme Court has denied appeals from death row inmates in Louisiana and South Carolina who questioned their lawyers' actions.

The justices on Monday did not comment on the cases of James Tyler of Louisiana and Sammie Stokes of South Carolina.

Tyler's lawyer conceded his client's guilt in the hope of drawing a life sentence, even though Tyler repeatedly objected to that strategy y.

Stokes' lawyer had previously prosecuted him for assaulting his ex-wife. The lawyer never informed the judge of his earlier role, not even when the ex-wife took the stand against Stokes.




The Supreme Court is taking up a pair of cases in which African-American voters maintain that Southern states discriminated against them in drawing electoral districts.

The justices are hearing arguments Monday in redistricting disputes from North Carolina and Virginia.

The claim made by black voters in both states is that Republicans created districts with more reliably Democratic black voters than necessary to elect their preferred candidates, making neighboring districts whiter and more Republican.

A federal court struck down two North Carolina districts as unconstitutional because they relied too heavily on race. In Virginia, a court rejected a constitutional challenge to 12 state legislative districts. The justices have frequently considered the intersection of race and politics.




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