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  Court Watch - Legal News


California’s Supreme Court is considering Wednesday whether President Donald Trump must disclose his tax returns if he wants to be a candidate in the state’s primary election next spring.

The high court is hearing arguments even though a federal judge already temporarily blocked the state law requiring presidential candidates to release their tax returns in order to be included in the state’s primary.

The justices’ consideration comes the same week that a federal appeals court in New York ruled that Trump’s tax returns can be turned over to state criminal investigators there, although that ruling is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The California Republican Party and chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson filed the state lawsuit challenging Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signing in July of the law aimed at the Republican president.

It’s a clear violation of the California Constitution, opponents argued, citing a 1972 voter-approved amendment they said guarantees that all recognized candidates must be on the ballot.

Previously, “California politicians rigged the primary election, putting up ‘favorite son’ nominees for partisan political advantage,” they wrote, suggesting that Democratic lawmakers are doing the same thing now by different means.


Georgia's Supreme Court has overturned the murder convictions of a man found guilty of intentionally running over a woman with his car.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the court reversed 28-year-old Dewey Calhoun Green's 2015 malice and felony murder convictions on Thursday. The court said key witness testimony that may've affected the jury's verdict was excluded from trial. It's unclear whether the case will be retried.

Prosecutors previously argued that Green rear-ended 53-year-old Janice Pitts' SUV before backing up and intentionally running her over as she surveyed the damage.

The newspaper reports an accident reconstructionist who had planned on testifying the crash could've been unintentional wasn't permitted to take the stand because the defense didn't submit written reports of his opinions. The court now says he was erroneously barred from testifying.



After revelations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, Maryland legislators passed a law that many believe has a laudable purpose: preventing foreign interference in local elections.

But its sweeping scope sparked a First Amendment outcry from more than a half dozen newspapers, including The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun.

Now, a federal appeals court is being asked to decide whether the law goes too far. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is set to hear arguments in the case Wednesday.

The newspapers and the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association argue in a lawsuit that the statute violates the First Amendment because it requires them to collect and self-publish information about the sponsors of online political ads. It also requires them to keep records of the ads for inspection by the state Board of Elections.

U.S. District Judge Paul Grimm ruled in January that parts of the law appear to encroach on the First Amendment and granted a preliminary injunction to prevent the state from enforcing those provisions.

At issue is a requirement for online platforms to create a database identifying the purchasers of online political ads and how much they spend. The law, written to catch ads in smaller state and local elections, applies to digital platforms with 100,000 or more monthly U.S. visitors.



WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appeared in a U.K. court Monday to fight extradition to the United States on espionage charges, and he lost a bid to delay proceedings so that his legal team would have more time to prepare his case.

Assange defiantly raised a fist to supporters who jammed the public gallery in Westminster Magistrates Court for a rare view of their hero. He appears to have lost weight but looked healthy, although he spoke very softly and at times seemed despondent and confused.

Assange and his legal team failed to convince District Judge Vanessa Baraitser that a delay in the already slow-moving case was justified. The full extradition is still set for a five-day hearing in late February, with brief interim hearings in November and December.

Assange hadn’t been seen in public for several months and his supporters had raised concerns about his well-being. He wore a blue sweater and a blue sports suit for the hearing, and had his silvery-gray hair slicked back.

After the judge turned down his bid for a three-month delay, Assange said in halting tones he didn’t understand the events in court.

He said the case is not “equitable” because the U.S. government has “unlimited resources” while he doesn’t have easy access to his lawyers or to documents needed to prepare his battle against extradition while he is confined to Belmarsh Prison on the outskirts of London.

U.S. authorities accuse Assange of scheming with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to break a password for a classified government computer.

Lawyer Mark Summers, representing Assange, told the judge that more time was needed to prepare Assange’s defense because the case has many facets, including the very rare use of espionage charges against a journalist, and will require a “mammoth” amount of planning and preparation

“Our case will be that this is a political attempt to signal to journalists the consequences of publishing information. It is legally unprecedented,” he said.

He also accused the U.S. of illegally spying on Assange while he was inside the Ecuadorian Embassy seeking refuge and taking other illegal actions against the WikiLeaks founder.


Lawyers are scheduled to make arguments Thursday before the Arizona Court of Appeals as Jodi Arias seeks to overturn her murder conviction in the 2008 death of her former boyfriend.

Arias argues a prosecutor's misconduct and a judge's failure to control news coverage during the case deprived her of the right to a fair trial.

A lawyer defending the conviction on behalf of the state said overwhelming evidence of Arias' guilt should outweigh mistakes that were made by the prosecutor who won the case.

Arias, who will not be in the courtroom during her appellate hearing, is serving a life sentence for her first-degree murder conviction in the death of Travis Alexander at his home in Mesa.

Prosecutors said Arias violently attacked Alexander in a jealous rage after he wanted to end their affair and planned a trip to Mexico with another woman. Arias has acknowledged killing Alexander but claimed it was self-defense after he attacked her.

The guilt phase of Arias' trial ended in 2013 with jurors convicting her but deadlocking on punishment. A second sentencing trial ended in early 2015 with another jury deadlock, leading a judge to sentence Arias to prison for life.

The case turned into a media circus as salacious and violent details about Arias and Alexander were broadcast live around the world.



An Arkansas judge says his court will decide individual outcomes in 19 adoption cases involving an Arizona official accused of human smuggling.

Paul Petersen, a Republican assessor of an Arizona county, was arrested Tuesday and charged with human smuggling, sale of a child, fraud, forgery and conspiracy to commit money laundering in Utah, Arizona and Arkansas.

Prosecutors say 44-year-old Petersen paid thousands of dollars to pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to travel to the U.S. and give birth for adoption.

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that Washington County Circuit Court Judge Doug Martin ordered Friday that statewide adoption cases against Petersen will be decided in his court. Petersen's attorney said Tuesday that his client's actions are "proper business practices."


A federal appeals court has denied an effort led by Ohio's attorney general to stop a bellwether trial over the opioid crisis from starting this month in Cleveland.

The 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that Ohio didn't object when lawsuits filed by Summit and Cuyahoga (ky-uh-HOH'-guh) counties were included in what has become a sprawling case involving around 2,600 local governments and other entities.

The attempt by state attorneys general was led by Ohio's Dave Yost. They argued in August that states have the sole authority to pursue claims against drug companies on behalf of their citizens.

But a three-judge panel based in Cincinnati noted that preparations are far along for the first federal opioid crisis trial, scheduled to start Oct. 21.

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