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The Oregon Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal from 13 counties in a long-running $1 billion lawsuit over timber revenue and what constitutes “the greatest permanent value” when it comes to forest management.

The denial ends a six-year legal battle over logging practices on 700,000 acres and is a victory for the state Department of Forestry and environmental groups. The decision leaves in place a lower court ruling saying that Oregon can manage forests for a range of values that include recreation, water quality and wildlife habitat — not just logging revenue.

“It’s the end of the road for what has been a false narrative for far too long … that it’s the public forestland’s obligation to provide the bulk of the revenues for local communities,” Ralph Bloemers, who represented fishing and conservation groups in the case, told Oregon Public Broadcasting.

The counties gave forestland to the state decades ago and Oregon manages the land and funnels timber revenue to the counties.

But 13 counties took Oregon to court, alleging the state was not maximizing logging on the forests. A Linn County jury found in the counties’ favor in 2019 and awarded more than $1 billion in damages, but an appeals court struck down the verdict earlier this year.

A representative for the counties called the high court’s inaction “disappointing.”

“The underlying issue of forest practices on public lands is left unresolved,” Linn County Commissioner Roger Nyquist said in a statement.

Linn is one of several Oregon counties and special taxing districts that receive a cut of logging profits from forestland they gave to the state in the 1930s and 1940s. Oregon agreed to manage those lands, which were mostly burned and logged over at the time of donation, “so as to secure the greatest permanent value of those lands to the state.”

Oregon has sent millions of dollars to the counties over the years, bolstering local budgets. But 13 counties took the state to court, saying “greatest permanent value” meant managing forests for maximum timber revenue.

The Oregon Department of Justice, which represented the state government in the case, issued a written statement Friday calling the Supreme Court’s decision a “victory for Oregon’s environment and for sound forest management in general.”

“Our forests serve a range of environmental, recreational, and economic purposes,” the statement reads. “By allowing what we argued was the correct decision of the Court of Appeals to stand, we have a swifter resolution and finality after a 6-year dispute.”


Wisconsin’s conservative-controlled Supreme Court ruled Friday that absentee ballot drop boxes may be placed only in election offices and that no one other than the voter can return a ballot in person, dealing a defeat to Democrats who said the decision would make it harder to vote in the battleground state.

However, the court didn’t address whether anyone other than the voter can return his or her own ballot by mail. That means that anyone could still collect multiple ballots for voters and, instead of using a drop box, put them in the mail.

Republicans have argued that practice, known as ballot harvesting, is ripe with fraud although there has been no evidence of that happening in Wisconsin. Democrats and others argue that many voters, particularly the elderly and disabled, have difficulty returning their ballots without the assistance of others.

Supporters argue drop boxes are a better option than mailing ballots because they go directly to the clerks and can’t be lost or delayed in transit.

The decision sets absentee ballot rules for the Aug. 9 primary and the fall election; Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers are seeking reelection in key races.

Johnson and other Republicans hailed it as a win for voter integrity.

“This decision is a big step in the right direction,” Johnson said.

Evers and other Democrats said the ruling will make it more difficult for people to vote.

“It’s a slap in the face of democracy itself,” said Democratic Party Chairman Ben Wikler.

The court’s 4-3 ruling also has critical implications in the 2024 presidential race, in which Wisconsin will again be among a handful of battleground states. President Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in 2020 by just under 21,000 votes, four years after Trump narrowly won the state by a similar margin.


The legal record will show that executives of the Cannabis retailer Ascend Wellness did not exert political pressure on Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration by attending a December fundraiser and then meeting with state officials, its lawyer said.

Ascend Wellness filed a lawsuit in state court in January claiming that cannabis company MedMen failed to follow through on a $75 million deal to sell its New York operations to Ascend Wellness.

MedMen argued in court that Ascend was using “political pressure and undue influence to force” the state board’s approval.

But attorney Mylan Denerstein, who is representing Ascend, said Thursday that counsel for MedMen has agreed to withdraw that allegation.

“After we provided documentary evidence proving Medmen’s assertions were demonstrably wrong, they indicated they will withdraw their false allegations,” Denerstein said.

Court filings didn’t show MedMen had withdrawn its allegations as of Tuesday morning. MedMen didn’t immediately respond to request for comment Tuesday.

MedMen filed a counterclaim last month arguing Ascend Wellness executives attended a Manhattan fundraiser for Hochul, a Democrat, and met with state officials two days later on Dec. 10 — days before the state cannabis control board approved its deal with MedMen on Dec. 16.


BNSF railroad wants a federal judge to prevent two of its unions from going on strike next month over a new attendance policy that would penalize employees for missing work.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based railroad went to court after the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation union both threatened to strike over the new policy that is set to go into effect on Feb. 1.

The unions said they are surveying their 17,000 members who work for BNSF to see if workers will support a strike.

The heads of the two unions, BLET National President Dennis Pierce and SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson, said in a joint statement that the new policy would violate their contracts with BNSF and could provide an incentive for workers to show up when they are sick in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This unprecedented BNSF policy repudiates direct and clear contract language, and in application, will attempt to force our members to report for duty without regard for their medical condition as we struggle to come out of a pandemic,” Pierce and Ferguson said.


A Brooklyn man who prosecutors say twice pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group and encouraged deadly “lone-wolf” attacks in New York City’s subways and elsewhere was sentenced Wednesday to 20 years in prison.

Zachary Clark’s penalty was announced in Manhattan federal court by Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald.

The judge said she wanted to send the message that “provide or attempt to provide materials or support to a foreign terrorist organization and you will spend a very long time in jail.”

The bearded Clark, in an orange prison jumpsuit and black glasses, tried along with his lawyer to persuade Buchwald that he had reformed himself behind bars since his November 2019 arrest, in part by attending drug and anger-management programs.

But the judge remained unconvinced. “I have no confidence Mr. Clark can be a productive and law abiding citizen,” Buchwald said as she ordered supervision for life once he is freed.

Clark, 42, pleaded guilty in August to attempting to provide support to the Islamic State group. The 20-year sentence was the maximum.

Prosecutors had requested it, noting that he posted maps and images of the subway system online in encrypted chat rooms, encouraged Islamic State supporters to attack it and urged “lone-wolf” attacks in the United States and elsewhere.




The Supreme Court appeared ready Tuesday to uphold voting restrictions in Arizona in a key case that could make it harder to challenge a raft of other voting measures Republicans have proposed following last year’s elections.

All six conservative justices, appointed by Republican presidents, suggested they would throw out an appellate ruling that struck down the restrictions as racially discriminatory under the landmark Voting Rights Act. The three liberal members of the courts, appointed by Democrats, were more sympathetic to the challengers.

Less clear is what standard the court might set for how to prove discrimination under the law, first enacted in 1965.  The outcome could make it harder, if not impossible, to use the Voting Rights Act to sue over measures making their way through dozens of Republican-controlled state legislatures that would make it more difficult to vote.

Civil rights group and Democrats, argue that the proposed restrictions would disproportionately affect minority voters, important Democratic constituencies.

Democrats in Congress, meanwhile, have proposed national legislation that would remove obstacles to voting erected in the name of election security.


A federal appeals court has rejected Maine’s law requiring cable companies to give subscribers the option of purchasing access to individual cable channels rather than bundled packages.

A federal judge already delayed the law from going into effect in 2019, and the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston agreed that the law raises constitutional concerns.

Comcast, joined by Disney, Fox Cable and NBC/Universal, Fox Cable and others, sued the state over the law.

The appeals court noted that state acknowledged there’s an insufficient record to justify that the law could withstand muster when it came to First Amendment arguments raised by the cable companies. Cable companies contended they were unfairly singled out, among other things.

Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey had no immediate comment on the ruling, which was issued Wednesday.

Comcast contended the law would mean limited choices and higher prices than the current packages it offers to consumers.

It argued it would’ve been forced to overhaul ordering, distribution and billing systems along with providing new digital cable boxes to many customers. It also contended it would have had to renegotiate contracts with programmers and content providers.

The law was adopted in response to consumer frustration over the growing cost of cable TV packages.

Independent Rep. Jeff Evangelos, the bill’s sponsor, said TV viewers complain about paying for unwanted channels. The Democratic-controlled Legislature passed the law largely on party lines.


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