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One of Virginia’s largest courts will restart jury trials next week, six months after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Tidewater-area judges to halt them. Norfolk Circuit Court is one of four courts statewide that the Virginia Supreme Court has allowed to conduct jury trials again, The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk reported.

The Supreme Court banned all lower courts from conducting jury trials starting in mid-May, but Norfolk already had postponed them in mid-March. Courts can petition the high court to restart jury trials.

Potential jurors in Norfolk Circuit Court will be kept in small groups, have to wear face masks and practice social distancing. Once in court, they won’t sit in jury boxes but in seats 6 feet (1.8 meters) apart, and they’ll decide verdicts in an empty court room, rather than in a special side room normally used.

Norfolk’s judges already have been holding in-person hearings of several types, including bench trials in which a judge renders a verdict. The Supreme Court also has allowed jury trials again in Alleghany, Henrico and Stafford counties.


A North Carolina court ruled Friday that outstanding restitution, fees or other court-imposed monetary obligations can't prevent convicted felons from voting if they've completed all other portions of their sentence.

The ruling, which may face appeals, could pave the way for an influx of thousands of felons to have their voting rights restored amid hotly contested races for the presidency and U.S. Senate in the battleground state. It wasn't immediately clear how many were affected by the ruling, but lawyers for the plaintiffs said it was in the thousands. A statement issued by Forward Justice, one of the advocacy groups involved in the challenge, said that the ruling would allow some convicted felons to start registering to vote immediately.

“This ruling is a major victory for the thousands of North Carolinians who have been denied access to the ballot due to an inability to pay financial obligations," said Dennis Gaddy, executive director of Community Success Initiative, one of the organizations behind the legal challenge.

Asked whether the state government defendants would appeal, Laura Brewer, a spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office, said lawyers were reviewing the ruling.

The three-judge panel of Wake County Superior Court, which was considering a challenge to state law governing the restoration of voting rights, declined to settle the lawsuit's arguments that probation, parole and post-release supervision are also unfair impediments to voting for those who have completed their incarceration. The judges said further proceedings were needed to address those issues.

In North Carolina, felons can register to vote again once they complete all aspects of their sentence, which can range from prison time to court fees or restitution.

In a 2-1 decision, the judges ruled that a portion of state law requiring felons to pay all monetary obligations before voting again violates the state constitution because it conditions the ability to cast a ballot on one's financial means.

In the majority opinion, the judges note that the state constitution requires that one's property, or financial means, must not affect their ability to vote. Yet, under current state law, “the ability for a person convicted of a felony to vote is conditioned on whether that person possesses, at minimum, a monetary amount equal to any fees, fines and debts assessed as a result of that person's felony conviction,” the judges wrote in the opinion.



A judge was wrong to dismiss a legislator's challenge to a rule banning firearms inside New Hampshire's 400-member House of Representatives, the state Supreme Court said in an opinion released Friday.

The court disagreed with a superior court judge's conclusion that the issue presented a political question, not a legal one. It sent the case back to the judge. Neither court has addressed whether the House rule is constitutional.

For the last decade, rules on allowing guns in Representatives Hall, including the anteroom and public gallery overlooking it, have flipped back and forth, depending on which party held the majority. After four years in the minority, Democrats regained control of the House in 2018, and one of their first actions was to restore the rule that Republicans had thrown out in 2015.

Republican Rep. John Burt, of Goffstown, said the ban was as absurd as banning women or minorities from the House. He sued the speaker of the House of Representatives, but the judge dismissed the complaint, saying that the Legislature had the authority to make its own rules.

Attorneys argued the case before the state Supreme Court in early March, shortly before New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu declared a state of emergency because of the coronavirus pandemic. Legislative leaders suspended activities. The House eventually reconvened in June at the Whittemore Center at the University of New Hampshire in Durham to finish out the session.


Vermont has extended the emergency rules for how its courts operate during the pandemic until the start of the new year.

The judicial emergency declared in March means that jury trials are not being held and many court hearings are taking place online or over the phone, the court said.

People must go through a health screening before entering a courthouse, wear a facial covering and stay at least 6 feet away from others.

The Vermont Supreme Court has also tweaked its rules to allow individuals participating in proceedings other than hearings to access court buildings.


A U.N.-backed tribunal on Tuesday convicted one member of the Hezbollah militant group and acquitted three others of involvement in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon said Salim Ayyash was guilty as a co-conspirator of five charges linked to his involvement in the suicide truck bombing. Hariri and 21 others were killed and 226 were wounded in a huge blast outside a seaside hotel in Beirut on Feb. 14, 2005.

However, after a years-long investigation and trial, three other Hezbollah members were acquitted of all charges that they also were involved in the killing of Hariri, which sent shock waves through the Mideast.

None of the suspects were ever arrested and were not in court to hear the verdicts.

The tribunal’s judges also said there was no evidence the leadership of the Hezbollah militant group and Syria were involved in the attack, despite saying the assassination happened as Harairi and his political allies were discussing calling for an “immediate and total withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon,” Presiding Judge David Re said.

When launched in the wake of the attack, the tribunal raised hopes that for the first time in multiple instances of political violence in Lebanon, the truth of what happened would emerge and those responsible would be held to account.

But for many in Lebanon, the tribunal failed on both counts. Many of the suspects, including the man convicted Tuesday, are either dead or out of reach of justice. And the prosecution was unable to present a cohesive picture of the bombing plot or who ordered it.

The verdicts come at a particularly sensitive time for Lebanon, following the devastating explosion at the Port of Beirut two weeks ago, and as many in Lebanon are calling for an international investigation into that explosion.


A federal appeals court in Washington on Friday revived House Democrats' lawsuit to force former White House counsel Don McGahn to appear before a congressional committee, but left other legal issues unresolved with time growing short in the current Congress.

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit voted 7-2 in ruling that the House Judiciary Committee can make its claims in court, reversing the judgment of a three-judge panel that would have ended the court fight.

The matter now returns to the panel for consideration of other legal issues. The current House of Representatives session ends on Jan. 3. That time crunch means “the chances that the Committee hears McGahn’s testimony anytime soon are vanishingly slim," dissenting Judge Thomas Griffith wrote. Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson also dissented.

The Judiciary Committee first subpoenaed McGahn in April 2019 as it examined potential obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump during special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Trump directed McGahn not to appear and the Democratic-led panel filed a federal lawsuit to force McGahn to testify.

A trial judge ruled in November that the president’s close advisers do not have the absolute immunity from testifying to Congress that the administration claimed. Griffith and Henderson formed the majority when the appellate panel said in February that the Constitution forbids federal courts from refereeing this kind of dispute between the other two branches of government.

On Friday, the full court said the panel reached the wrong decision. Lawmakers can ask the courts “for judicial enforcement of congressional subpoenas when necessary," Judge Judith Rogers wrote. Congress needs detailed information about the executive branch for both oversight and impeachment, she wrote.

House lawmakers had sought McGahn’s testimony because he was a vital witness for Mueller, whose report detailed the president’s outrage over the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and Trump’s efforts to curtail it.

In interviews with Mueller’s team, McGahn described being called at home by the president on the night of June 17, 2017, and being directed to call the Justice Department and say Mueller had conflicts of interest and should be removed. McGahn declined the command, deciding he would resign rather than carry it out, the report said.


A federal appeals court Friday threw out Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s death sentence in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, saying the judge who oversaw the case did not adequately screen jurors for potential biases.

A three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new penalty-phase trial on whether the 27-year-old Tsarnaev should be executed for the attack that killed three people and wounded more than 260 others.

“But make no mistake: Dzhokhar will spend his remaining days locked up in prison, with the only matter remaining being whether he will die by execution,” Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson wrote in the ruling, more than six months after arguments were heard in the case.

An attorney for Tsarnaev said they are grateful for the court’s “straightforward and fair decision: if the government wishes to put someone to death, it must make its case to a fairly selected jury that is provided all relevant information.”

“It is now up to the government to determine whether to put the victims and Boston through a second trial, or to allow closure to this terrible tragedy by permitting a sentence of life without the possibility of release,” David Patton said in an email.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Boston said they were reviewing the opinion and had no immediate comment. Prosecutors could ask the full appeals court to hear the case or go straight to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The mother of Krystle Campbell, the 29-year-old killed in the attack, expressed outrage at the court’s decision.

“I just don’t understand it,” Patricia Campbell told  The Boston Globe. “It’s just terrible that he’s allowed to live his life. It’s unfair. He didn’t wake up one morning and decide to do what he did. He planned it out. He did a vicious, ugly thing.”

Former Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority officer Dic Donohue, who was severely injured in a gunfight with the brothers, said the ruling was not surprising to him.

“And in any case, he won’t be getting out and hasn’t been able to harm anyone since he was captured,” he tweeted.

Tsarnaev’s lawyers acknowledged at the beginning of his trial that he and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, set off the two bombs at the marathon finish line. But they argued that Dzhokar Tsarnaev is less culpable than his brother, who they said was the mastermind behind the attack.

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