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•  Legal Exams - Legal News


A Pennsylvania woman facing charges that she helped steal a laptop from the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the attack on the U.S. Capitol will be released from jail, a federal judge decided Thursday.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin Carlson directed that Riley June Williams be released into the custody of her mother, with travel restrictions, and instructed her to appear Monday in federal court in Washington to continue her case.

“The gravity of these offenses is great,” Carlson told Williams. “It cannot be overstated.”

Williams, 22, of Harrisburg, is accused of theft, obstruction and trespassing, as well as violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. Carlson noted Williams has no prior criminal record.

The FBI says an unidentified former romantic partner of Williams tipped them off that she appeared in video from the Jan. 6 rioting and the tipster claimed she had hoped to sell the computer to Russian intelligence.

Williams’ defense lawyer, Lori Ulrich, told Carlson the tipster is a former boyfriend who had been abusive to Williams and that “his accusations are overstated.”

Video from the riot shows a woman matching Williams’ description exhorting invaders to go “upstairs, upstairs, upstairs” during the attack, which briefly disrupted certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

“It is regrettable that Ms. Williams took the president’s bait and went inside the Capitol,” Ulrich told the judge.

Williams surrendered to face charges on Monday. She was expected to leave the county jail in Harrisburg later Thursday, and will be on electronic monitoring to await trial.

Heavican said the court’s online payment systems allowed residents to pay traffic tickets and court fines without leaving their homes, and the judiciary also offered an online education system to help judges, lawyers, guardians and others meet continuous education requirements.

New attorneys were sworn into office via online ceremonies across the state, Heavican said. In Dawson County, one judge is broadcasting court proceedings on YouTube.

Heavican said schools and private organizations have hosted trials in counties whose courthouses are too small for adequate social distancing to prevent transmission of the coronavirus. He said jury trials were held at the University of Nebraska-Kearney, Grand Island Central Community College and local K-12 schools and the Lincoln Masonic Lodge.

Heavican also touted the benefits of probation services and problem-solving courts. He said probation costs nearly $2,000 per person, per year, and problem-solving courts costs about $4,000, compared to $41,000 for a person in prison. “Do the math,” he said. “Probation is the taxpayers’ friend.”



The Senate has confirmed an Indiana prosecutor to replace Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett on a federal appeals court based in Chicago.

Thomas Kirsch, who currently serves as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana, will replace Barrett as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. Kirsch was confirmed Tuesday on a 51-44 vote.

Three Democrats Arizona Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin ? voted for him in what was otherwise a party-line vote. Four Republican senators and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris did not vote.

President Donald Trump named Kirsch as Barrett’s replacement before she was confirmed to the high court in October, and the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced his nomination last week. Kirsch graduated from Indiana University and earned his law degree from Harvard.

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, who is expected to become the top Democrat on Judiciary in the next Congress, said Kirsch’s quick nomination and confirmation showed that Trump and Senate Republicans were intent on forcing through as many conservative judges as possible.

“They have kept the nominations assembly line going,″ Durbin said.

Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., said Kirsch “is a man of character, he’s a man of integrity, and he believes in the rule of law.”

Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said Kirsch’s nomination is “further entrenching the lack of diversity that is characteristic of President Trump’s judicial nominees,” noting that the appeals court he will join is the only all-white federal appeals court in the country.



A divided Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday refused to hear President Donald Trump’s lawsuit attempting to overturn his loss to Democrat Joe Biden in the battleground state, sidestepping a decision on the merits of the claims and instead ruling that the case must first wind its way through lower courts.

In another blow to Trump, two dissenting conservative justices questioned whether disqualifying more than 221,000 ballots as Trump wanted would be the proper remedy to the errors he alleged.

The defeat on a 4-3 ruling was the latest in a string of losses for Trump’s post-election lawsuits. Judges in multiple battleground states have rejected his claims of fraud or irregularities.

Trump asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to disqualify more than 221,000 ballots in the state’s two biggest Democratic counties, alleging irregularities in the way absentee ballots were administered. His lawsuit echoed claims that were earlier rejected by election officials in those counties during a recount that barely affected Biden’s winning margin of about 20,700 votes.

Trump's attorney Jim Troupis said he would immediately file the case in circuit court and expected to be back before the Supreme Court “very soon.”

“It was clear from their writings that the court recognizes the seriousness of these issues, and we look forward to taking the next step,” he said in a statement. Trump’s team made the filing late Thursday evening.

In asking the conservative-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court to take the case directly, Trump had argued that there wasn’t enough time to wage the legal battle by starting with a lower court, given the looming Dec. 14 date when presidential electors cast their votes.

Swing Justice Brian Hagedorn joined three liberal justices in denying the petition without weighing in on Trump’s allegations. Hagedorn said the law was clear that Trump must start his lawsuit in lower courts where factual disputes can be worked out.

“We do well as a judicial body to abide by time-tested judicial norms, even ? and maybe especially ? in high profile cases,” Hagedorn wrote. “Following this law is not disregarding our duty, as some of my colleagues suggest. It is following the law.”

Trump filed a similar lawsuit in federal court on Wednesday. Chief Justice Patience Roggensack, in a dissent where she was joined by Justice Annette Ziegler, said she would have taken the case and referred it to lower courts for factual findings, which could then be reported back to the Supreme Court for a ruling.



Until six weeks ago, defenders of the Affordable Care Act could take comfort in some simple math. Five Supreme Court justices who had twice preserved the Obama-era health care law remained on the bench and seemed unlikely votes to dismantle it.

But Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death in mid-September and her replacement by Amy Coney Barrett barely a month later have altered the equation as the court prepares to hear arguments Tuesday in the third major legal challenge in the law’s 10-year existence.

Republican attorneys general in 18 states, backed by the Trump administratio n, are arguing that the whole law should be struck down because of a change made by the Republican-controlled Congress in 2017 that reduced the penalty for not having health insurance to zero.

A court ruling invalidating the entire law would threaten coverage for more than 23 million people. It would wipe away protections for people with preexisting medical conditions, subsidized insurance premiums that make coverage affordable for millions of Americans and an expansion of the Medicaid program that is available to low-income people in most states.

“No portion of the ACA is severable from the mandate,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told the court in a written filing. The Republicans are pressing this position even though congressional efforts to repeal the entire law have failed, including in July 2017 when then-Arizona Sen. John McCain delivered a dramatic thumbs-down vote to a repeal effort by fellow Republicans.

Barrett is one of three appointees of President Donald Trump who will be weighing the latest legal attack on the law popularly known as “Obamacare.” Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh are the others. It’s their first time hearing a major case over the health law as justices, although Kavanaugh took part in the the first round of suits over it when he was a federal appeals court judge.

Of the other justices, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stepehen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor have voted to uphold the law. Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas have voted for strike it all down.

The case is being argued at an unusual moment, a week after the presidential election, with Democrat Joe Biden on the cusp of winning the White House. Control of the Senate also is hanging in the balance.

The political environment aside, the practical effects of the repeal of the tax penalty have surprised many health care policy experts. They predicted that getting rid of the penalty would lead over time to several million people dropping coverage, mostly healthier enrollees, and as a result, premiums for the law’s subsidized private insurance would rise because remaining customers would tend to be in poorer health.



The Supreme Court will allow absentee ballots in North Carolina to be received and counted up to nine days after Election Day. The justices, by a 5-3 vote Wednesday, refused to disturb a decision by the State Board of Elections to lengthen the period from three to nine days because of the coronavirus pandemic, pushing back the deadline to Nov. 12. The board’s decision was part of a legal settlement with a union-affiliated group.

Republicans had asked the high court to step in. Under the Supreme Court’s order, mailed ballots postmarked on or before Election Day must be received by 5 p.m. on Nov. 12 in order to be counted.  Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the three liberal justices in the majority. Three conservative justices, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas, dissented. New Justice Amy Coney Barrett took no part in the case “because of the need for a prompt resolution and because she has not had time to fully review the parties’ filings,” court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat whose office defended the deadline extension in court, hailed the high court’s decision in a statement. “North Carolina voters had a huge win tonight at the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court upheld the State Board of Elections’ effort to ensure that every eligible vote counts, even during a pandemic,” he said. “Voters must have their mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day, but now we all have certainty that every eligible vote will be counted. Let’s vote!”

Republican state Senate leader Phil Berger said the high court’s order will undermine public confidence in government. “The question is simple: May unelected bureaucrats on a state panel controlled by one political party overrule election laws passed by legislatures, even after ballots have already been cast? If public confidence in elections is important to our system of government, then hopefully the answer to that question is no,” Berger said in a statement.

State and national Republican groups, including President Donald Trump’s campaign, had filed separate but similar appeals asking the high court to make the state revert to a Nov. 6 deadline for accepting late-arriving ballots that were postmarked by Election Day. That three-day timeframe was specified in state law.

The appeals, including one led by the state’s Republican legislative leaders, argued that the deadline change put in place by the State Board of Elections usurped legislators’ constitutional authority to set rules for elections. They also said the change made after early voting started would create unequal treatment of voters who had cast ballots under previous, stricter rules.

The State Board of Elections had lengthened the period as part of a late September legal settlement with the North Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans, a union-affiliated group represented by Marc Elias, a lawyer prominent in Democratic circles. The legal settlement, which also loosened requirements for fixing absentee ballots that lacked a witness signature, was approved by a state judge. The settlement said counties should have longer to accept ballots because of possible mail delays.



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