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•  National News - Legal News


Labor union members plan to hand out personal protective equipment outside the sports complex where members of the New Hampshire House will be meeting this week.

The 400-member House is meeting Wednesday and Thursday in Bedford, where they will sit 10 to 12 feet apart to prevent spread of COVID-19. Democrats with serious medical conditions went to court seeking remote access to the sessions, but a federal judge declined Monday to order  Republican Speaker Sherm Packard to accommodate them.

While the House will provide members with masks and hand sanitizer, members of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades and the AFL-CIO of New Hampshire also will be at the facility’s entrances with similar supplies, including mask and gloves.

One New Hampshire school is planning to hold remote learning for two weeks following the winter vacation, despite Gov. Chris Sununu’s executive order requiring schools to offer in-person instruction to all students for at least two days, starting March 8.

The decision regarding Profile School in Bethlehem, which would be in effect as of March 1, is not expected to conflict with the order, Kim Koprowski, chairperson of the school board, said Monday, the Caledonian-Record reported. The school serves students in grades 7 through 12.

“My understanding of it is there were a handful of schools in the state that are totally remote and he is trying to push those to go to two days a week,” she said. “Since we have been doing that all year, we’ve been face to face, with the exception of a remote period. You could call us hybrid. We should be good.”

A message seeking comment was left Tuesday with the state Education Department. The executive order allows schools to return to remote learning for 48 hours if necessary due to COVID-19 infections. After that, state approval would be required.

Koprowski said that although COVID-19 numbers are trending down, “they are still not at the level they were last fall before Thanksgiving and Christmas.”




Wildlife advocates on Thursday asked a federal court to overturn a U.S. government decision that stripped Endangered Species Act protections for wolves across most of the nation.

Two coalitions of advocacy groups filed lawsuits in U.S. District Court in Northern California seeking to restore safeguards for a predator that is revered by wildlife watchers but feared by many livestock producers.

The Trump administration announced just days ahead of the Nov. 3 election  that wolves were considered recovered. They had been wiped out out across most of the U.S. by the 1930s under government-sponsored poisoning and trapping campaigns.

A remnant population in the western Great Lakes region has since expanded to some 4,400 wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

More than 2,000 occupy six states in the Northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest after wolves from Canada were reintroduced in Idaho and Yellowstone National Park starting in 1995. Protections for wolves in the Rockies were lifted over the last decade and hunting of them is allowed.

But wolves  remain absent across most of their historical range  and the groups that filed Thursday’s lawsuits said continued protections are needed so wolf populations can continue to expand in California and other states.

The lawsuits could complicate an effort to reintroduce wolves in sparsely populated western Colorado under a November initiative approved by voters, a state official told wildlife commissioners Thursday. If endangered species protections were restored, wolves would again fall under authority of the federal government, not the state.

In response to the lawsuits, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Vanessa Kauffman said in a statement that the gray wolf “has exceeded all conservation goals for recovery” and is no longer threatened or endangered under federal law.

Some biologists who reviewed the administration’s plan to strip protections from wolves said it lacked scientific justification.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuits include the Sierra Club, WildEarth Guardians, Humane Society of the U.S. and numerous other environmental and advocacy groups.

A small population of Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest remain protected as an endangered species. Wolves in Alaska were never under federal protection.




Amid insurrection and impeachment, the Supreme Court's big news Thursday was a decision in a bankruptcy case. Wednesday brought arguments over the Federal Trade Commission's ability to recapture ill-gotten gains.

At this fraught moment in U.S. history, the court is doing its best to keep its head down, going about its regular business and putting off as many politically charged issues as it can, including whether President Donald Trump's tax returns must be turned over to prosecutors in New York.

Still, the justices have not been able to completely avoid controversy in recent days. On Tuesday, the court's conservative majority that includes three Trump appointees cleared the way for the administration to execute a woman for the first time in 67 years and also allowed the administration to reinstate a requirement that pregnant women wanting an abortion pick up a pill in person from a medical facility, despite the risks of contracting COVID-19.

The court's work continues even though the coronavirus pandemic is preventing the justices from meeting in person, either for their private conferences or argument sessions. Chief Justice John Roberts has received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, but not every member of the court has, the court said.

The building itself has been closed to the public since March because of the pandemic. Since the weekend, it has been ringed by hard-to-climb fences that also surround the Capitol.

But arguments this week took place as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening, although the ability to listen live to the arguments is a product of the pandemic. Justices made pop culture references to Taylor Swift and the Netflix series “Dirty Money.”

They issued a unanimous decision in a bankruptcy case from Chicago, and they are convening again in private on Friday to discuss new cases to add to their docket.

The workmanlike approach is typical of the court, but it also aligns with the repeated efforts of Roberts to keep his court out of politics as much as possible, especially during Trump's presidency.



A federal appeals court has cleared the way for the only woman on federal death row to be executed before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

The ruling, handed down Friday by a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, concluded that a lower court judge erred when he vacated Lisa Montgomery’s execution date in an order last week.

U.S. District Court Judge Randolph Moss had ruled the Justice Department unlawfully rescheduled Montgomery’s execution and he vacated an order from the director of the Bureau of Prisons scheduling her death for Jan. 12.

Montgomery had been scheduled to be put to death at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, in December, but Moss delayed the execution after her attorneys contracted coronavirus visiting their client and asked him to extend the time to file a clemency petition.

Moss concluded that the under his order the Bureau of Prisons could not even reschedule Montgomery’s execution until at least Jan. 1. But the appeals panel disagreed.

Meaghan VerGow, an attorney for Montgomery, said her legal team would ask for the full appeals court to review the case and said Montgomery should not be executed on Jan. 12.

Montgomery was convicted of killing 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett in the northwest Missouri town of Skidmore in December 2004. She used a rope to strangle Stinnett, who was eight months pregnant, and then cut the baby girl from the womb with a kitchen knife, authorities said. Montgomery took the child with her and attempted to pass the girl off as her own, prosecutors said.

Montgomery’s lawyers have argued that their client suffers from serious mental illnesses. Biden opposes the death penalty and his spokesman, TJ Ducklo, has said he would work to end its use. But Biden has not said whether he will halt federal executions after he takes office Jan. 20.



Relatives of the 10 Hong Kongers accused of fleeing the city by speedboat during a government crackdown on dissent say they've been informed that their family members pleaded guilty, according to a support group.

The families of the detainees were informed by court-appointed lawyers Tuesday that a court in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen will deliver the verdicts on Wednesday, according to the 12 Hongkongers Concern Group, which is assisting the families.

It was not clear whether the 10 would also be sentenced on Wednesday, but Chinese courts often issue sentences at the same time as verdicts.

The 10 defendants all faced charges of illegally crossing the border, while two of them faced additional charges of organizing the attempt, according to an indictment issued in Shenzhen. The trials began on Monday afternoon, according to a statement issued by the Shenzhen Yantian District court.

Separate hearings were expected for two minors who were also aboard the boat that was apparently heading for Taiwan when it was stopped by the Chinese coast guard on Aug. 23.

The defendants are believed to have feared they would be prosecuted for their past activities in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. Hong Kong media reports said at least one may have had a warrant out for his arrest under a tough new national security law imposed on the semi-autonomous territory by Beijing in June.

Relatives of the defendants say that they have been prevented from hiring their own lawyers and that the accusations are politically motivated. The defendants can be sentenced to up to a year in prison for crossing the border and seven years for organizing the trip.

They were picked up after entering mainland Chinese waters for crossing the maritime border without permission. While Hong Kong is part of China, travelers must still pass through immigration when going to and from the mainland. The defendants apparently needed to pass through Chinese waters to get to open seas.




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