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Former Wabash County Superior Court Judge Christopher Goff was sworn in Monday as Indiana's newest state Supreme Court justice, joining a high court that's been completely remade since 2010 following a series of retirements.

Chief Justice Loretta Rush administered the oath of office for Goff during the swearing-in at the court's Statehouse offices.

Goff, 45, is now the court's youngest member. He succeeds Justice Robert Rucker, who retired in May after 18 years on the court. Rucker retired five years before reaching the court's mandatory retirement age of 75. In 1999, he became only Indiana's second black justice when Democratic Gov. Frank O'Bannon named him to the high court.

All five justices are now white and all have been appointed since 2010 by Republican governors to replace justices who retired.

Goff joins Rush and justices Steven David, Mark Massa and Geoffrey Slaughter on the court.

Gov. Eric Holcomb will preside over a ceremonial oath and public robing ceremony on Sept. 1 for Goff, who is expected to hear his first oral arguments with the court on Sept. 7.

Holcomb chose Goff in June to fill the court's vacancy from among three finalists selected by Indiana's Judicial Nominating Commission.



Vietnamese activist sentenced to 9 years in prison

•  Ethics     updated  2017/07/22 16:30


A Vietnamese court on Tuesday sentenced an activist to nine years in prison on charges of producing videos that defamed the country’s leadership, in the latest crackdown on dissent.

Tran Thi Nga was convicted of spreading propaganda against the state in the one-day trial at the People’s Court in Ha Nam province in northern Vietnam, her lawyer said.

Nga, 40, campaigned against environmental pollution, police brutality and illegal land confiscation, and called for a tougher stance toward China’s assertive territorial claims in the South China Sea.

The court also imposed five years of house arrest following her prison term, lawyer Ha Huy Son said.

“I think this is an unjust verdict,” Son said. “She did not commit the crime for which she was convicted by the court.”




North Carolina's highest court is speeding up a final decision on whether Republican legislators could strip down the election oversight powers of the state's new Democratic governor.

The state Supreme Court said Wednesday it will take up Gov. Roy Cooper's lawsuit against state legislative leaders. The decision bypasses an intermediate appeals court and schedules a Supreme Court hearing on Aug. 28.

GOP lawmakers have sought to dilute Cooper's powers since he narrowly beat incumbent GOP Gov. Pat McCrory last year.

The contested law takes away Cooper's ability to appoint a majority of the state elections board and make every county's elections board a Democratic majority. The law would make a Republican head of the decision-making state board in presidential election years when most people vote and ballot disputes are hottest.




The European Union is coming closer to imposing sanctions on Poland for the government's attempt to take control over the judiciary, a senior official warned Wednesday, but he said the bloc was still open to dialogue.

European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans spoke Wednesday in Brussels, shortly after Poland's lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to send a contentious draft law that would reorganize the nation's top Supreme Court for more work by a special parliamentary commission.

Timmermans said that the EU was closer to triggering Article 7 against Poland because its recent steps toward the judiciary "greatly amplify the threat to the rule of law" and threaten putting the judiciary "under full political control of the government." But he said that dialogue between the EU and Poland should continue while the legislation is being worked on.

The EU's Article 7 allows the bloc to strip a nation of its voting rights. Article 7 was envisioned to ensure democratic standards in EU members. It requires unanimity among all other member states.

The vote in Poland's parliament, which is dominated by the ruling Law and Justice party, was preceded by a heated debate and street protests. It was the latest in a string of conflicts over the policies of the conservative party, which won power in a 2015 election. The government is also under strong criticism from other EU leaders.

Lawmakers voted 434-6 with one abstention for the commission for justice and human rights to review and issue its opinion on the draft law, which gives politicians, not lawyers, the power over appointments to the Supreme Court and reorganizes its structure.

The head of the commission, Stanislaw Piotrowicz, said it wasn't clear when the commission would convene and when its opinion would be known. He said the number of amendments proposed by the opposition was aimed at obstructing its work.

In a heated debate Tuesday, the opposition proposed more than 1,000 amendments to the draft, which, it says, kills judicial independence and destroys the democratic principle of the separation of the judiciary from the executive power.

Idaho Supreme Court upholds grocery tax veto

•  Recent Cases     updated  2017/07/19 08:50


The Idaho Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's contentious veto of legislation repealing the state's 6 percent sales tax on groceries.

The high court's decision comes after 30 state lawmakers filed a lawsuit claiming Otter took too long to veto the grocery tax repeal because he waited longer than 10 days as outlined in the Idaho Constitution.

Otter, along with other top elected officials, countered he was just following a 1978 high court ruling that said the veto deadline only kicks after it lands on his desk. The lawsuit originally singled out Secretary of State Lawerence Denney because he verified the governor's veto. Otter was later named in the challenge at the Republican governor's request because he argued that it was his veto that sparked the lawsuit.

However, the justices disagreed with Otter. Nestled inside their 21-page ruling, the court overruled the previous 1978 decision — a rare move inside the courts due to a preference to follow prior judicial precedent— because they argued the Constitution clearly states the deadline starts when the Legislature adjourns for the year. That part of the Tuesday's decision will only apply to future legislative sessions and not the grocery tax repeal case nor any other prior vetoes.

"The 1978 decision did not interpret the Constitution; it purported to rewrite an unambiguous phrase in order to obtain a desired result," the justices wrote.

Otter's spokesman did not respond to request for comment, though Otter is currently hospitalized recovering from back surgery and an infection. Denney's office also did not return request for comment.

For many Idahoans, Tuesday's ruling won't result in changes at the grocery checkout line. They will continue paying the tax and the state won't be at risk of losing the tax revenue, which helps pay for public schools and transportation projects. Instead, it's the Idaho Legislature that will face dramatic changes when handling bills at the end of each session.




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