Category Archives: Courts

AZ Supreme Court sends Prop. 305 to the ballot (unless the AZ Lege sabotages it)

The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled Voters can decide whether to keep school-voucher expansion:

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that voters get to have a say on Proposition 305, a ballot initiative that asks if they want to keep or do away with an expansion of the state’s school voucher-style program.

The Empowerment Scholarship Account program currently allows only certain students to apply for the program, including special-needs students and those from poor-performing schools. The program gives parents public money and allows them to spend it on private school tuition, educational materials and therapies.

Last year, Gov. Doug Ducey and Republican lawmakers narrowly passed legislation (the “vouchers on steroids” bill) to expand eligibility to all 1.1 million public students but capping the program at about 30,000.

A mostly grassroots group of parents and public-education advocates called Save Our Schools Arizona collected enough signatures to refer the expansion to the November 2018 ballot.

But supporters of the expansion — the “Kochtopus” and their Tea-Publican lackeys in the legislature — waged a legal battle to try to keep the initiative off the November ballot.

The decision from the high court deals a final court blow to those supporters and upholds a lower court decision.

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Trial of proof-of-citizenship voter registration law ends, decision of court to follow

Closing arguments in the Kansas proof-of-citizenship voter registration law case were Monday. Testimony ends in Kansas voting law trial. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson said she couldn’t say when she would issue an opinion but that she was aware this year’s elections were quickly approaching. She gave attorneys until April 16 for any final legal filings in the case.

The GOP’s voter suppression specialist, Secretary of State Kris Kobach (above), returned to court on Tuesday for a contempt hearing for violating the judge’s orders. Judge harshly criticizes Kobach during contempt hearing:

A visibly angry federal judge on Tuesday blasted Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach for his office’s failure to ensure that certain voters are notified that they are eligible to vote in the upcoming election while a lawsuit over a state voting law makes its way through the courts.

U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson criticized Kobach during a hearing on a motion from The American Civil Liberties Union to hold Kobach in contempt of court for not updating the state’s election guide or ensuring that county election officials send postcards to residents who registered to vote at driver licensing offices without providing proof of citizenship. Tuesday’s hearing came after seven days of testimony in the ACLU’s challenge of the state’s voter registration law.

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SCOTUS rejects GOP appeal of PA congressional map, more redistricting cases to follow

The legal strategy of challenging GOP gerrymandering under state constitutional provisions rather than federal law has proven successful in Pennsylvania. Abstention doctrine applies, i.e., the federal courts lack jurisdiction to hear appeals from state Supreme Court decisions interpreting state constitution provisions.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the appeal from GOP legislative leaders in the state of Pennsylvania challenging the Supreme Court of the state of Pennsylvania imposing new congressional districts after having struck down GOP gerrymandered districts as unconstitutional under the state constitution. Supreme Court refuses to stop new congressional maps in Pennsylvania:

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday turned down a request from Republican legislative leaders in Pennsylvania to block a redrawn congressional map that creates more parity between the political parties in the state.

The practical impact is the 2018 elections are likely to be held under a map much more favorable to Democrats, who scored an apparent victory last week in a special election in a strongly Republican congressional district. The 2011 map that has been used this decade has resulted in Republicans consistently winning 13 of the state’s 18 congressional seats.

Monday’s action was the second time that the court declined to get involved in the partisan battle that has roiled Pennsylvania politics. The commonwealth’s highest court earlier this year ruled that a map drawn by Republican leaders in 2011 “clearly, plainly and palpably” violated the free-and-equal-elections clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

The U.S. Supreme Court deliberated nearly two weeks before turning down the request to stop the map from being used in this fall’s elections. Generally the justices stay out of the way when a state’s highest court is interpreting its own state constitution.

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Playboy president seeks to profit from porn star – and more!

When last we checked in on the reality TV show “the playboy president and the porn star,” Stormy clouds over the Trump White House: 60 Minutes and a court date, adult film star Stormy Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, had filed a lawsuit (and attached exhibits) (.pdf) to void a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) with Donald Trump, identified by the alias David Dennison in the NDA, drafted and entered into by Michael Cohen, the “top attorney” and “fixer” for the Trump organization.

Last Friday, Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti, in an interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” repeatedly said that his client had been threatened, but wouldn’t disclose by who. He also declined to give details on the nature of the threats. Stormy Daniels’ lawyer says she was threatened with physical harm:

“Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski then asked whether Clifford was “threatened in any way.”

Avenatti responded, “Yes.”

“Was she threatened with physical harm,” Brzezinski then asked.

“Yes,” Avenatti said.

“Was her life threatened?” Brzezinski inquired.

“I’m not going to answer that. People will have to tune in,” he said, referring to an interview Clifford did with CBS’s “60 Minutes” that is scheduled to air March 25.

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Arizona loses on denying drivers licenses to DACA recipients

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected the last-ditch plea by Attorney General Mark Brnovich to uphold a 2012 executive order by then-Gov. Jan Brewer to deny licenses to DACA recipients, an order current Gov. Doug Ducey has left in place. The justices gave no reason for their ruling. U.S. Supreme Court allows ‘Dreamers’ to drive:

Arizona’s “dreamers” will keep their licenses to drive – at least as long as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program remains in existence.

Monday’s ruling ends years of efforts by the state to claim that the decision by the Obama administration to allow those in the program to remain in this country and work does not mean they are “authorized” to be here.
That verbiage is significant.

It was shortly after the action by Obama that Brewer directed the state Department of Transportation to deny licenses to DACA recipients. She cited a 1996 Arizona law that says state licenses are available only to those whose presence in this country is “authorized by federal law.”

Brewer argued that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has no legal authority to permit DACA recipients to remain and work. And what that meant, Brewer said, is they were not “authorized” to be here.

That argument failed to persuade federal appellate judges who said Arizona cannot decide for itself who is legally entitled to be in the country. In fact, Judge Harry Pregerson wrote that the state policy “appears intended to express animus toward DACA recipients.”

With today’s high court action, that ruling is now final.

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Stormy clouds over the Trump White House: 60 Minutes and a court date

On March 6, 2018, adult film star Stormy Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, filed a lawsuit (and attached exhibits) (.pdf) to void a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) with Donald Trump, identified by the alias David Dennison in the NDA, drafted and entered into by Michael Cohen, the “top attorney” and “fixer” for the Trump organization, on October 28, 2016.

Stormy Daniels received $130,000 in payment (consideration) for the NDA through Essential Consultants, LLC, formed on October 17, 2016 by Cohen, to hide the true source of funds that Cohen claims that he paid from his own personal funds from his home-equity line of credit. Trump lawyer Michael Cohen says he paid Stormy Daniels with his home-equity line.

Note: This is a violation of the Rules for Professional Conduct for attorneys, which has resulted in complaints being filed against Michael Cohen (discussed below).

Earlier this week Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, made a settlement offer to Donald Trump and his attorney Michael Cohen: Stormy Daniels offered to return a $130,000 payment she received from President Trump’s lawyer in 2016, in a bid to speak freely about a months-long affair she alleges she and the president began having in 2006. The deadline to accept the settlement offer or to proceed to trial has since expired.

The trial court has now set the hearing date. Hearing set in Stormy Daniels’ lawsuit against Trump: The hearing date has been set for July 12 at the Los Angeles County Superior Court.

The lawsuit said Trump never signed a hush agreement to keep Daniels quiet late in the 2016 campaign about an alleged sexual encounter between the two before Trump was president.

The lawsuit said Cohen had signed it on Trump’s behalf and therefore the agreement was void.

The lawsuit also accuses Cohen of continuing the efforts to “intimidate Ms. Clifford into silence and ‘shut her up'” by initiating a “bogus” arbitration proceeding last month without notifying Daniels or allowing due process.

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