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•  Ethics - Legal News


Former President Donald Trump arrived Monday morning at a federal courthouse in Florida for a closed hearing in his criminal case charging him with mishandling classified documents.

The hearing was scheduled to discuss the procedures for the handling of classified evidence in the case, which is currently set for trial on May 20. Trump faces dozens of felony counts accusing him of hoarding highly classified records at his Mar-a-Lago estate and obstructing FBI efforts to get them back.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon expects to hear arguments in the morning from defense lawyers and in the afternoon from prosecutors, each outside of the other’s presence.

“Defense counsel shall be prepared to discuss their defense theories of the case, in detail, and how any classified information might be relevant or helpful to the defense,” Cannon wrote in scheduling the hearing.

Trump’s motorcade arrived at the courthouse in Fort Pierce shortly after 9 a.m.

The hearing is one of several voluntary court appearances that Trump has made in recent weeks — he was present, for instance, at appeals court arguments last month in Washington — as he looks to demonstrate to supporters that he intends to fight the four criminal prosecutions he faces while also seeking to reclaim the White House this November.

Islamic scholar acquitted of rape by Swiss court

•  Ethics     updated  2023/05/24 09:36


A Swiss court on Wednesday acquitted noted Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan on charges of rape and “sexual constraint,” citing lack of material evidence more than a decade after the alleged actions, contradictory witness statements and what resembled love messages to the accused.

The court said it would pay Ramadan’s lawyers’ fees. It was a first victory for the former Oxford scholar with a worldwide reputation who had a brutal fall from grace with similar accusations still pending in France.

Ramadan faces potential trial in France over allegations by several other women that emerged more than five years ago.

Ramadan, a Swiss citizen, was jailed in February 2018 in France and handed preliminary rape charges over two alleged assaults in France, one in 2009 and another in 2012. A third woman filed a rape complaint against him in March. He was released on bail nine months later.

The outspoken scholar has consistently denied any wrongdoing and filed a lawsuit saying the allegations were false.

In the Swiss case, the court noted that it didn’t pass judgment on Ramadan’s sexual practices or his morality. A statement said the plaintiff’s accusations weren’t corroborated by any material elements, including traces of sperm or blood. It also considered the “the numerous internet exchanges” between the Swiss plaintiff and several people implicated in the French case were “of a nature to influence” what she and witnesses told the court.

The court said that messages the plaintiff exchanged with Ramadan immediately after the acts in question and for weeks later appear more like “messages of love and, above all, make no mention” of her allegations during a night at a hotel.



Just three years ago, Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, a Democrat, stood side by side, promising to push together for gun control proposals after a gunman killed nine people and wounded more than two dozen in the city’s nightclub district. It was a short-lived pledge.

Allies then, DeWine and Whaley are now facing each other in a partisan governor’s race defined by events that neither could have predicted at the time: the coronavirus pandemic and a U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.

They no longer see eye-to-eye on guns either. Their gun control proposals never came about, and since the Dayton mass shooting DeWine signed legislation loosening gun restrictions — including a so-called stand your ground bill eliminating the duty to retreat before using force and another making concealed weapons permits optional for those legally allowed to carry a weapon.

“The politics got hard and Mike DeWine folded,” Whaley said this year.

Both candidates survived contested primaries to face each other in November. DeWine overcame two far-right opponents who criticized him for his aggressive decisions early in the pandemic, including a business shut-down order and a statewide mask mandate. Despite more than four decades in Ohio politics, DeWine failed to secure 50% of the primary vote.

Whaley easily defeated former Cincinnati mayor John Cranley and is now trying to regain a seat last won by Democrats 16 years ago.

Since the primary, Whaley has hammered DeWine for signing those gun bills and for his anti-abortion positions, including his 2019 signing into law of Ohio’s anti-abortion “ fetal heartbeat bills.”

But despite criticism that DeWine took from members of his own party over his approach to the coronavirus and Democratic furor over the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling, most polls show DeWine comfortably ahead. Ultimately, that still comes down to DeWine’s long years in Ohio politics, said Tom Sutton, a political science professor at Baldwin-Wallace University.

Sutton noted that a September Marist poll found that 42% of adults statewide had either never heard of Whaley — who also ran briefly for governor in 2018 — or didn’t know how to rate her. Meanwhile, DeWine has previously won statewide races for lieutenant governor, U.S. senator, attorney general and governor.



The Supreme Court is telling California that it can’t bar indoor church services because of the coronavirus pandemic, but it can keep for now a ban on singing and chanting indoors.

The high court issued orders late Friday in two cases where churches had sued over coronavirus-related restrictions in the state. The high court said that for now, California can’t ban indoor worship as it had in almost all of the state because virus cases are high.

The justices said the state can cap indoor services at 25% of a building’s capacity. The justices also declined to stop California from enforcing a ban put in place last summer on indoor singing and chanting. California had put the restrictions in place because the virus is more easily transmitted indoors and singing releases tiny droplets that can carry the disease.

The justices were acting on emergency requests to halt the restrictions from South Bay United Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista and Pasadena-based Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry, which has more than 160 churches across the state.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that “federal courts owe significant deference to politically accountable officials” when it comes to public health restrictions, but he said deference “has its limits.”

Roberts wrote that California’s determination “that the maximum number of adherents who can safely worship in the most cavernous cathedral is zero?appears to reflect not expertise or discretion, but instead insufficient appreciation or consideration of the interests at stake.”

In addition to Roberts, Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Amy Coney Barrett also wrote to explain their views. Gorsuch and Justice Clarence Thomas would have kept California from enforcing its singing ban. Barrett, the court’s newest justice, disagreed. Writing for herself and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, she said it wasn’t clear at this point whether the singing ban was being applied “across the board.”

She wrote that “if a chorister can sing in a Hollywood studio but not in her church, California’s regulations cannot be viewed as neutral,” triggering a stricter review by courts. The justices said the churches who sued can submit new evidence to a lower court that the singing ban is not being applied generally.


Black Democrat urges governor to drop Black court nominee

•  Ethics     updated  2020/09/12 09:12


A Black Democratic state lawmaker who is challenging the appointment of a Black woman to the Florida Supreme Court contended Thursday that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is engaging in “racial tokenism” by choosing someone the court itself has already ruled is not eligible for the position.

State Rep. Geraldine Thompson said in an online news conference that DeSantis only chose Renatha Francis for the high court because she shares his conservative ideology, not because he is trying to achieve racial diversity.

Thompson says Francis doesn’t meet the constitutional requirement of being a Florida Bar member for at least 10 years, a point the Supreme Court noted two weeks ago when it ruled DeSantis had exceeded his authority by appointing an ineligible candidate. The court did not undo the appointment, however.

“He wants to throw the rulebook out the window and do whatever he wants to do,” Thompson said. “That’s not what our country is supposed to be about.”

Thompson wants the governor to rescind the appointment. She spoke a day after DeSantis defended his choice at an event Wednesday alongside several Black elected officials who support Francis' appointment. The governor appointed Francis in May with the understanding that she would not actually sit on the court until she is eligible. She will complete 10 years in the bar in two weeks.

DeSantis accused Thompson of blocking the appointment for political reasons. He noted that no other Blacks currently serve on the court. But Thompson argued that DeSantis only wanted the “right" Black person on the court. “It was clearly about ideology and sharing the same perspective he had," she said. “This is one of the worst and most egregious examples of racial tokenism that I have seen in my life.”

Francis, currently a circuit judge in Palm Beach County, would not be the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court but would be the first Caribbean-American to do so. She operated a bar and trucking company in Jamaica before moving to the United States as an adult and working her way through law school.

Thompson represents portions of the Orlando suburbs, including Disney World and Universal Studios.

At the event Wednesday, DeSantis accused Thompson of hypocrisy, saying that she had been among those pushing for a Black justice and now that he has appointed one, she doesn't like her. He said her opposition would force him to choose from a list that includes no Black candidates. Thompson countered that a governor can't simply ignore the Florida Constitution.




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