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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has missed a month of Supreme Court arguments as she recovers from lung cancer surgery. But she’s not the first justice to be away for a while and her absence hardly compares with those of some of her predecessors.

The day before the Supreme Court began its term in October 1949, Justice William Douglas broke 14 ribs and suffered a punctured lung when he was thrown from his horse on a trail in the Cascade Mountains in Washington.

He didn’t return to the bench for nearly a half year, and his long recovery caused delays in several cases, including challenges to segregation.Like much of what goes on away from public view at the Supreme Court, how the justices deal with a colleague’s absence can be opaque. The individual justice decides whether to rule on cases even if she has missed arguments. Indeed, Chief Justice John Roberts already has announced that Ginsburg is participating in the cases she missed.

And only the justice can decide when an injury or illness is so severe that retirement is the only option. A quarter century after his riding accident, Douglas suffered a serious stroke, but refused to retire for months. His weakened state caused a backlog in the court’s work and the other justices refused to issues decisions in cases where Douglas had provided the fifth, majority-making vote.

“There aren’t any rules about this and so much is left to the individual justice,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, who argued a case during Ginsburg’s absence.

The 85-year-old Ginsburg could be back on the bench when the court next meets on Tuesday, and even as she has been away, she has not missed any votes.

In some state court systems, including California, the highest court can essentially borrow a judge from a lower court to temporarily replace an absent member, said Chemerinsky, the dean of the law school at the University of California, Berkeley.
The Supreme Court has no similar arrangement.

The nine justices are there for as long as they wish, and neither a retired justice nor an appellate judge can fill a void. The 25th Amendment to the Constitution sets out what happens if a president is incapacitated, but refuses to relinquish power.


An Ohio attorney has been ordered to pay $300,000 to two women whose photos from when they were young girls were manipulated to create fake child pornography used by the attorney in court cases.

Cleveland.com reports a federal appeal court in Cincinnati ruled Wednesday that a bankruptcy judge's 2017 opinion that attorney Jack Boland didn't need to pay the judgment ignored the women's reputation and privacy rights.

Boland once served as an expert witness who would testify that innocent photographs can be manipulated while arguing defendants may not have knowingly viewed or possessed child pornography.

Images of the girls, who are now adults, were taken from a stock photo book. Their guardians sued Boland in federal court in 2007. A $300,000 judgment was rendered in 2011.
Boland declined to comment.


A Thai court said Thursday that it will decide whether to dissolve a political party that broke tradition by nominating a member of the royal family as its candidate for prime minister in next month's general election.

The Constitutional Court made the announcement a day after the Election Commission recommended that the Thai Raksa Chart Party be dissolved for its Feb. 8 nomination of Princess Ubolratana Mahidol.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn issued a royal order hours after his sister's nomination, stating that the nomination was inappropriate and unconstitutional because the monarchy was above politics. The party responded by professing its loyalty to the monarch and accepting his order.

Dissolving the party would likely increase already sharp political divisions and deepen concerns about the fairness of next month's poll.

The Constitutional Court said in a statement that the charges are being forwarded to the party, which will have seven days to respond. It scheduled the next hearing for Feb. 27.

The Election Commission said the party should be dissolved because its candidate was "in conflict with the system of rule of democracy with king as head of state."
Ubolratana's bid to become prime minister was particularly notable because she allied herself with Thai Raksa Chart, part of the political machine of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 military coup and is loathed by many royalists and others in the country's traditional establishment, who accuse him of corruption and disrespect for the monarchy.


The International Court of Justice ruled Wednesday that it has jurisdiction to hear part of a case brought by Iran against the United States that seeks to claw back around $2 billion worth of frozen Iranian assets.

The U.S. Supreme Court awarded the money to victims of a 1983 bombing in Lebanon and other attacks linked to Iran.

At hearings last year, the United States raised five objections to the court’s jurisdiction and the admissibility of the case, which Iran filed in 2016.

The ruling came amid high tensions between Washington and Tehran after President Donald Trump pulled America out of the nuclear deal last year.

The United Nations’ highest court upheld one U.S. objection to its jurisdiction, but it rejected another and said the third objection should be discussed at a later stage in the case. The judges also rejected two U.S. objections to the admissibility of the case.

The case will now proceed to the merits phase and is expected to take months or years to complete.

Tehran filed the case in 2016 based on the 1955 Treaty of Amity between Iran and the U.S., a bilateral agreement that Washington withdrew from last year.

The little-known treaty regulating commerce between the two countries was among numerous ones signed in the wake of World War II as the Truman and Eisenhower administrations tried to assemble a coalition of nations to counter the Soviet Union. It includes a clause that sends unresolved disputes about interpretation of the treaty to the world court.


A renowned Michigan opera singer and his husband have appeared in a Texas court to face charges of sexually assaulting another man in 2010.

University of Michigan professor and countertenor David Daniels and William Scott Walters each made an initial appearance in a Harris County court Monday and were released on $15,000 bonds. A Harris County District Attorney spokesman says they were ordered to surrender their passports.

Daniels and Walters were arrested in Ann Arbor, Michigan, last month on warrants arising from the criminal complaint of Samuel Schultz. He told The Associated Press the couple drugged and assaulted him when he was living in Houston as a 23-year-old graduate student.

Lawyer Matt Hennessy says his clients are innocent and looking forward to a court hearing on Schultz's "false claims."



The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine started making its case in federal court on Monday against the ban on medication-assisted treatment in county jail amid the opioid crisis.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills recently lifted the Maine Department of Corrections' ban on medication-assisted treatment. The ACLU's lawsuit filed in September argued that it's unconstitutional and harmful for Maine jails to prohibit such treatment.

Madawaska resident Brenda Smith sued, asking to continue using medication-assisted treatment to keep her opioid use disorder in remission. Smith, who is expected to report to Aroostook County Jail this year, testified Monday in U.S. District Court in Portland during a court case that is expected to last all week.

Smith wept on the stand while describing how access to the medicine is critical to stabilizing her life. ACLU lawyers said they will spend the week making the case that such access is a constitutional issue, as well as a protected right under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

"It makes me feel normal, like I'm a normal human being," Smith said.

Smith's lawsuit against the jail comes at a time when jails and prisons across the country are starting to provide addiction medications to inmates, as resistance from long-skeptical corrections officials appears to be loosening amid the national drug epidemic.

Attorneys for the jail have pushed back at the idea that a ban on medically assisted treatment is a violation of a prisoner's rights. Attorney Peter Marchesi, an attorney representing the jail Monday, has previously said medical staff members at the jail have the ability to manage prisoners' withdrawal symptoms.

Monday's court action also included an expert witness, Dr. Ross MacDonald, who has overseen medical care for New York City's jail system. The medical literature supports medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder, and it's important to have that option available to prisoners, he said.


A historian who has spent years looking into the unsolved lynching of two black couples in rural Georgia more than 70 years ago hopes some answers may finally be within his grasp.

A federal appeals court on Monday upheld a lower court ruling to unseal the transcripts of the grand jury proceedings that followed a monthslong investigation into the killings.

Roger and Dorothy Malcom and George and Mae Murray Dorsey were riding in a car that was stopped by a white mob at Moore's Ford Bridge, overlooking the Apalachee River, in July 1946. They were pulled from the car and shot multiple times along the banks of the river.

Amid a national outcry over the slayings, President Harry Truman sent the FBI to rural Walton County, just over 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Atlanta. Agents investigated for months and identified dozens of possible suspects, but a grand jury convened in December 1946 failed to indict anyone.

Anthony Pitch, who wrote a 2016 book on the lynching — "The Last Lynching: How a Gruesome Mass Murder Rocked a Small Georgia Town" — has sought access to the grand jury proceedings, hoping they may shed some light on what happened.

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