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For a Supreme Court that says it has an allergy to politics, the next few months might require a lot of tissues.

The court is poised to issue campaign-season decisions in the full bloom of spring in cases dealing with President Donald Trump’s tax and other financial records, abortion, LGBT rights, immigration, guns, church-state relations and the environment.

The bumper crop of political hot potatoes on the court’s agenda will test Chief Justice John Roberts’ insistence that the public should not view the court as just another political institution.

“It’s interesting that all of this is coming together in an election year. The chief justice has made it clear that people should view the court as a nonpolitical branch of government and people tend to have the opposite view when they see these big cases,” said Sarah Harrington, who has argued 21 cases in front of the high court.

The justices are gathering on Friday for the first time in nearly a month to put the finishing touches on opinions in cases that were argued in the fall and decide what new cases to take on. Most prominent among the possibilities is the latest dispute over the Obama-era health care overhaul.


Roger Stone, a longtime confidant of President Donald Trump, was sentenced to more than three years in prison Thursday for obstructing a congressional investigation in a case that has sparked fears about presidential interference in the justice system.

Soon after Judge Amy Berman Jackson pronounced sentence, Trump publicly decried Stone’s conviction as unfair and prominent Republican legislators were giving tacit support for a pardon. But Trump said he wasn’t ready to act just yet.

“I want the process to play out. I think that’s the best thing to do because I would love to see Roger exonerated,” he said. “I’m going to watch the process. I’m going to watch very closely. … At some point I’ll make a determination.”

The case was marked by the Justice Department’s extraordinary about-face on a sentencing recommendation and a very public dispute between Trump and Attorney General William Barr, who said the president was undermining the department’s historical independence and making “it impossible for me to do my job.”

The president responded by asserting that he was the “chief law enforcement officer of the federal government.”

Stone was convicted in November on all seven counts of an indictment that accused him of lying to Congress, tampering with a witness and obstructing the House investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to tip the 2016 election.

He was the sixth Trump aide or adviser to be convicted on charges brought as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election.


Lesotho’s prime minister failed to show up in court on Friday to be charged with murder in the killing of his estranged wife, and police said he might have gone to neighboring South Africa for an undisclosed ailment.

Prime Minister Thomas Thabane's current wife, Maesaiah, also has been charged with murder in the 2017 death of Lipolelo Thabane. She had briefly fled the kingdom for South Africa, avoiding a police summons.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Paseka Mokete, who led the investigation, said he had heard rumors that the 80-year-old prime minister had gone to South Africa for a medical check-up.

“I have spoken to Thabane’s lawyer and he told me he is not aware of the prime minister’s whereabouts,” Mokete said. “We are now waiting for him to return so that he can be charged.”

It would be premature to seek an arrest warrant for the prime minister as police did when Maesaiah Thabane refused to honor a police summons last month, Mokete said.

On Thursday, Mokete confirmed to The Associated Press that the prime minister would appear at Maseru Magistrates Court to face a murder charge and an attempted murder charge in connection with a shooting of a friend of Lipolelo Thabane.

Thomas Thabane is the first sitting prime minister in Lesotho to be charged with any crime. He has announced he would step down by the end of July, if not sooner, amid pressure from the ruling party, which says he is no longer fit to rule.


A judge was wrong to conclude that court approval is needed for a guardian’s request to remove a woman from life support, the New Hampshire Supreme Court said in an opinion released Wednesday.

The 69-year-old woman, identified as “L.N.,” was admitted to Concord Hospital in 2018 after suffering a stroke. Doctors said damage to her brain was irreversible.

L.N.’s court-appointed guardian said while L.N. never specifically stated her end-of-life preferences, the two had discussed the subject in general. The guardian’s sense was that L.N. would want to be allowed to have a natural death.

A circuit court judge ruled the guardian would need prior court approval before deciding to end L.N.’s life support. The judge also said a question remained as to whether L.N. would regain an ability to communicate. The guardian appealed.

State law doesn’t specifically mention life-sustaining treatment requiring a judge’s prior approval. The supreme court concluded the guardian’s general authority includes the decision to end life support, in appropriate circumstances.


A federal appeals court has ruled that Florida cannot bar felons who served their time from registering to vote simply because they have failed to pay all fines and fees stemming from their cases.

A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld a Tallahassee federal judge's decision that the law implementing Amendment 4 amounted to an unfair poll tax.

Amendment 4 was passed overwhelmingly by voters in 2018 to allow as many as 1.6 million ex-felons to regain their right to vote.

The Republican-led Legislature passed a law saying they had to pay any fines and fees first. GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis plans to ask the full 11th Circuit to reconsider the ruling.




In a major legal defeat for the Russian government, a Dutch appeals court on Tuesday reinstated an international arbitration panel’s order that it should pay $50 billion compensation to shareholders in former oil company Yukos.

The ruling overturned a 2016 decision by The Hague District Court that quashed the compensation order on the grounds that the arbitration panel did not have jurisdiction because the case was based on an energy treaty that Russia had signed but not ratified.

The Hague Court of Appeal ruled that the 2016 decision “was not correct. That means that the arbitration order is in force again.”

“This is a victory for the rule of law. The independent courts of a democracy have shown their integrity and served justice. A brutal kleptocracy has been held to account,” Tim Osborne, the chief executive of GML, a company made up of Yukos shareholders, said in a statement.

The Russian Justice Ministry said in a statement after the verdict that Russia will appeal. It charged that the Hague appeals court “failed to take into account the illegitimate use by former Yukos shareholders of the Energy Charter Treaty that wasn’t ratified by the Russian federation.”

The arbitration panel had ruled that Moscow seized control of Yukos in 2003 by hammering the company with massive tax claims. The move was seen as an attempt to silence Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin.

The 2014 arbitration ruling said that Russia was not acting in good faith when it levied the massive claims against Yukos, even though some of the company’s tax arrangements might have been questionable.



The New Hampshire Supreme Court has rejected the appeal of a man serving 43 years in prison for orchestrating the murder of someone he mistakenly believed was a police informant.

Paulson Papillon was convicted of second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the 2015 death of Michael Pittman in Manchester.

Papillon argued that he shouldn't have been allowed to represent himself at trial, that there was insufficient evidence to convict him and that some of the evidence against him was illegally admitted.

The state Supreme Court agreed Friday on the last point but said the error was harmless.

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