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Australia's highest court will deliver its ruling next week on whether to overturn the convictions of Cardinal George Pell, the most senior Catholic convicted of child sex abuse.

The 78-year-old Pell is one year into a six-year sentence for molesting two 13-year-old choirboys in Melbourne’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral while he was the city’s archbishop in the late 1990s.

The High Court said Thursday a single judge will deliver the verdicts of all seven at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the east coast city of Brisbane. It had heard his appeal March 11-12 before the court's hearings were canceled due to the coronavirus risk.

The court's decision could be the last chance for Pope Francis’ former finance minister to clear his name.

A Victoria state County Court jury convicted Pell on all charges in December 2018. The Victoria Court of Appeal in August last year rejected his appeal against the jury verdicts in a 2-1 majority decision.

Pell's lawyer, Bret Walker, told the High Court last month that if it found the Victorian appeals court had made a mistake in upholding the convictions, Pell should be acquitted.


A recently compiled report shows that Supreme Court justices get neither big bucks nor valuable gifts when they speak at public universities. But public and press access granted by the justices is idiosyncratic.

Two justices — Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito — have limited access to their appearances, even on occasion forbidding recording of their speeches for archival purposes.

The report by the non-partisan organization Fix the Court praised all the justices for going out of their way to speak at state universities, and not just the elite private schools that they and their law clerks have attended. The report found that roughly one-third of all the colleges and universities visited by the justices were public institutions.

Fix the Court found some slip-ups on disclosure of reimbursed travel expenses — none of them major — by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Clarence Thomas. When Fix the Court pointed out the omissions, both justices said, through the court press office, that they would amend their disclosure forms.

For the most part, the travel and lodging expenses are routine. The justices travel commercial. Occasionally, a university owns a private plane that it sends to transport a justice to a place that is not easily accessible from Washington, D.C. But these flights are rare. Justice Alito even declined one such offer.



A Tennessee judge who recently came off probation for mishandling cases improperly stripped a mother’s parental rights without proper notice or a hearing, a state court said.

The Tennessee Court of Appeals described the father as abusive to the mother and a danger to their children, who had been put in foster care. The mother was living in another state when Tennessee's Department of Children’s Services petitioned to terminate their parental rights.

The court ordered a new hearing for the woman as a matter of “fundamental fairness." It described the handling of the case by Campbell County General Sessions Court Judge Amanda Sammons as “both odd and of grave concern,” The Knoxville News Sentinel reported.

The mother evidently still hasn't been told she lost her parental rights, said the court opinion filed on March 18.

The court said Sammons persisted in the termination hearings even though department could not prove the mother had been notified. An attorney appointed to the mother told the judge he had not contacted the mother either. Despite this, she terminated the rights of both parents, identified as David and Cecilia S., in June 2019.

A two-judge appellate panel got the case after the father appealed. Its ruling upheld the denial for the father, citing drug use.

Sammons was suspended in 2016 after being indicted on felony misconduct charges for allegedly lying and misusing her authority. Those charges were dismissed by a judge who ruled her actions misguided but not criminal. She returned to court after three years of probation.


The Supreme Court sided unanimously Monday with North Carolina in a copyright fight with a company that has documented the salvage of the pirate Blackbeard's ship off the state's coast.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court that the company's copyright infringement lawsuit, which she called “a modern form of piracy," could not go forward because the Constitution generally protects states from lawsuits in federal courts.

The 21st century dispute arose over the Queen Anne's Revenge, which ran aground more than 300 years ago.

The ship is the property of the state, but under an agreement North Carolina-based Nautilus Productions has for nearly two decades documented the ship's salvage. In the process, the company copyrighted photos and videos.

North Carolina first posted photos on a state website, and later put videos on a YouTube channel and included a photo in a newsletter. Nautilus sued in federal court, but the federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, ruled North Carolina could not be sued.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that states could not be sued in federal court over patent infringements. Patent and copyright protections come from the same constitutional provision that outlines Congress' powers. Kagan noted that the earlier case, known as Florida Prepaid, “all but prewrote our decision today."

Among artifacts that have been brought to the surface are cannons and the anchor, but roughly 40 percent of the Queen Anne's Revenge remains on the ocean floor. The ship was sailing under the French flag when Blackbeard, the Englishman Edward Teach, captured the vessel in the fall of 1717 and made it his flagship.


The Supreme Court reported Friday that the nine justices are healthy and trying to stay that way.

To that end, when the court held its regularly scheduled private conference Friday morning, some of the justices participated remotely, and those who were in the building did not engage in the tradition of shaking hands, court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said.

The court plans to issue opinions Monday in cases argued during the fall and winter without taking the bench, Arberg said. The last time that happened was when the court decided Bush v. Gore late in the evening of Dec. 12, 2000, essentially settling the disputed 2000 presidential election in favor of Republican George W. Bush.

Arberg wouldn't say who showed up in person Friday to the justices' conference room, adjacent to Chief Justice John Roberts' office. Six of the nine justices are 65 and older, at higher risk of getting very sick from the illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who turned 87 on Sunday, and Stephen Breyer, 81, are the oldest members of the court.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, 54, flew on a commercial flight last week between Washington, D.C., and Louisville, Kentucky, for a ceremony in honor of U.S. District Judge Justin Walker, a former law clerk whom President Donald Trump named to the federal bench last year.


Illinois Supreme Court Justice P. Scott Neville Jr. has won the primary election to keep his seat on the state’s highest court, emerging from a field of a six other Democrats.

No Republicans ran, making him the presumed winner in November for the 10-year term.

Democrat Charles Freeman, who died earlier this month at 86, held the post from 1990 to 2018, when he retired. He was the court’s first black judge. Neville, who is black, was appointed to complete the term. He was formerly an Illinois First District Appellate Court justice, “Illinois’ population is diverse, and our courts, at all levels, should reflect our diversity,” Neville said in a Wednesday statement. “I applaud Cook County’s voters because your votes indicate that you are committed to diversity.”

The other challengers included five 1st District appellate justices: Cynthia V. Cobbs, Shelly A. Harris, Nathaniel Roosevelt Howse, Margaret Stanton McBride and Jesse G. Reyes. Also running was former private-practice attorney Daniel Epstein.

Neville was in the lead late Tuesday with Reyes trailing him, but the race was too close for The Associated Press to call.

In the other Supreme Court race, David K. Overstreet defeated state appellate court colleague John Barberis Jr. for the Republican nomination in the southern Illinois district held by retiring Republican Justice Lloyd Karmeier. In November, Overstreet faces another appellate court justice, Judy Cates, who was unopposed in the Democratic primary.


State courts in Iowa and Nebraska are taking some precautions to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. An order from Nebraska's Supreme Court chief justice says those at elevated risk of transmitting COVID-19 are barred from attending trials.

In Iowa, state courts may conduct meetings and hearings remotely. For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for some people, it can lead to more severe illness, including pneumonia.

Federal courts in Nebraska are nixing all jury trials and grand juries for the rest of the month.


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