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  Court Watch - Legal News


Conservative justices who control the Wisconsin Supreme Court attacked liberal groups' claims Wednesday that Republican legislators met illegally when they passed laws limiting Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' and Attorney General Josh Kaul's powers during a lame-duck session last year, saying the Legislature can decide when it wants to meet.

That lame-duck session led to multiple legal challenges, including one by a coalition of liberal groups led by the League of Women Voters.

The coalition contends that the lame-duck session was illegal because the Legislature convened the vote as a so-called extraordinary session. Such sessions are previously unscheduled floor votes initiated by majority party leaders. The coalition maintains that the Wisconsin Constitution allows lawmakers to convene only at times laid out in a resolution they pass at the beginning of every two-year period or at the governor's call.

Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess agreed in March and invalidated all the laws passed during the lame-duck session. Republican lawmakers asked the Supreme Court to overturn that ruling.

The justices held oral arguments in the case Wednesday morning. The Republicans' attorney, Misha Tseytlin, began the proceeding by arguing that the Legislature can convene whenever it wishes.

The coalition's attorney, Jeffrey Mandell, argued that state law doesn't provide for extraordinary sessions. Justice Rebecca Bradley immediately cut him off, saying the Legislature has been meeting in extraordinary sessions for 40 years and no one has ever argued they were illegal. Mandell responded that sometimes it takes a "catalyzing event" to trigger a challenge.


Consumers can pursue a lawsuit complaining that iPhone apps cost too much, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday, adding to Apple’s woes that already include falling iPhone sales and a European investigation.

The lawsuit could have major implications for the tech giant’s handling of the more than 2 million apps in Apple’s App Store, where users get much of the software for their smartphones. While most of those apps are free to download, some impose fees for people to use the software and subscribe to the services.

In those cases, Apple charges a commission of 30%, a practice that the lawsuit contends unfairly drives up the price for the apps. Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote the majority opinion that agreed the antitrust lawsuit can move forward in a lower court.

The court’s four liberal justices joined Kavanaugh, one of President Donald Trump’s two high court appointees, to reject a plea from Apple to end the lawsuit at this early stage. The decision did not involve the merits of the suit.

Apple argues it’s merely a pipeline between app developers and consumers, and that iPhone users have no claims against Apple under antitrust law and a 1977 Supreme Court decision. Tens of thousands of developers create the software and set the price, Apple says.

“We’re confident we will prevail when the facts are presented and that the App Store is not a monopoly by any metric,” Apple said in statement issued in response to Monday’s ruling. The lawsuit could take years to wind to its conclusion.



A divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that consumers can pursue an antitrust lawsuit that claims Apple has unfairly monopolized the market for the sale of iPhone apps.

New Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the court’s four liberals in rejecting a plea from Cupertino, California-based Apple to end the lawsuit. Apple charges a 30% commission to software developers whose more than 2 million apps are sold through Apple’s App Store, and iPhone users who must purchase software for their smartphones exclusively through the App Store bear that cost in turn.

IPhone users filed the suit. Kavanaugh wrote the majority opinion.

“In other words, Apple as retailer pockets a 30% commission on every app sale,” said Kavanaugh, one of President Donald Trump’s two high court appointees.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s other pick, wrote a dissent for four conservative justices. The consumers’ complaint against Apple is the kind of case earlier high court rulings said was not allowed under federal laws that prohibit unfair control of a market, Gorsuch wrote.

Apple had argued it’s merely a pipeline between app developers and consumers, and that iPhone users have no claims against Apple under antitrust law.

The suit could force Apple to cut the commission it charges software developers. A judge could triple the compensation to consumers under antitrust law if Apple ultimately loses the suit.


Opponents of a Georgia law banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected vow to take their fight from the state Capitol to the courthouse.

Signed Tuesday by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, the measure is one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws and would effectively ban the procedure around six weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.

Staci Fox, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast, said at a news conference that she had one message for Kemp: “We will see you, sir, in court.”

The organization also planned to campaign to unseat lawmakers who supported it, saying they would “be held accountable for playing politics with women’s health.”

The legal director of the ACLU of Georgia, Sean Young, has said the measure is unconstitutional, and the group plans to challenge it in court.

“Under 50 years of Supreme Court precedent, this abortion ban is clearly unconstitutional,” Young said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. “Every federal court that has heard a challenge to a similar ban has ruled that it’s unconstitutional.”

Kemp said he approved the bill “to ensure that all Georgians have the opportunity to live, grow, learn and prosper in our great state.”

The signing caps weeks of tension and protests at the state Capitol and begins what could be a lengthy and costly legal battle. “We will not back down,” Kemp said, acknowledging the likelihood of a legal challenge. “We will always continue to fight for life.”

Anti-abortion activists and lawmakers across the country have been energized by the new conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court that includes President Donald Trump appointees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. They are pushing abortion bans in an attack on the high court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion nationwide until a fetus is developed enough to live outside a woman’s uterus.


Georgia's outdated voting machines are in the spotlight as election integrity advocates try to convince the state's highest court that a judge shouldn't have dismissed a lawsuit challenging the outcome of November's race for lieutenant governor.

The lawsuit says tens of thousands of votes were never recorded in the race and the contest was "so defective and marred by material irregularities" as to place the result in doubt. It contends an unexplained undervote in the race was likely caused by problems with the state's paperless touchscreen voting machines.

Republican Geoff Duncan beat Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico by 123,172 votes to become lieutenant governor. Amico is not a party to the lawsuit, which was filed in November by the Coalition for Good Governance, an election integrity advocacy organization; Smythe Duval, who ran for secretary of state as a Libertarian; and two Georgia voters. It was filed against Duncan and election officials.

A judge dismissed the lawsuit in January. In an appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court, lawyer Bruce Brown argues the judge erred by not allowing discovery prior to trial. But even without evidence that might have turned up in discovery, it's clear that the election was flawed enough to "place in doubt the result," he wrote.


Clarence Thomas has been a Supreme Court justice for nearly three decades. It may finally be his moment.

Many Americans know Thomas largely from his bruising 1991 confirmation hearing, when he was accused of sexual harassment charges by former employee Anita Hill — charges he denied. People may know he’s a conservative and has gone years without speaking during arguments at the court. But scholars say it would be wise to pay closer attention to Thomas.

Thomas is now the longest-serving member of a court that has recently gotten more conservative, putting him in a unique and potentially powerful position, and he’s said he doesn’t plan on retiring anytime soon. With President Donald Trump’s nominees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh now on the court, conservatives are firmly in control as the justices take on divisive issues such as abortion, gun control and LGBT rights.

Thomas, for the first time, is on a court where there are at least four votes for some “pretty radical” decisions, said political science professor Corey Robin, the author of a Thomas book due out in September. Robin says the question will be whether the court’s more conservative justices — Thomas, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Samuel Alito — can get Chief Justice John Roberts, a more moderate conservative, to go along.

Thomas, 70, became the high court’s longest-serving justice, the “senior associate justice,” when Justice Anthony Kennedy retired last summer . But unlike Kennedy, who sat at the court’s ideological center and was most often the deciding vote when the court split 5-4, Thomas is consistently on the court’s far right.

That’s won him praise from Trump . As a presidential candidate, he called Thomas “highly underrated.” Trump said Thomas has “been so consistent for so long, and we should give him credit.”

More than 20 of the men and women Thomas mentored as law clerks have gone on to hold political appointments in the Trump administration or been nominated to judgeships by Trump . Thomas and his wife, Virginia, herself a well-known conservative activist, have dined with the president and first lady.

Elizabeth Wydra, president of the liberal Constitutional Accountability Center, acknowledged that Thomas’ views may now have more sway, something she described as “terrifying to many progressives.”


Court records show that video police recovered from an Illinois woman's cellphone showing her bruised 5-year-old son prompted the boy's father to lead investigators to the child's body.

JoAnn Cunningham and Andrew Freund Sr. of Crystal Lake are charged with murder in Andrew "AJ" Freund's death. Investigators found his body April 24 in a shallow grave.

An affidavit from a McHenry County Sheriff's detective says the video from March shows AJ lying naked on a mattress, covered in bruises and bandages.

The affidavit says the couple forced AJ to take a cold shower April 14 as punishment for lying about soiling his underwear. Freund told investigators they put the boy to bed and Cunningham later found him unresponsive. Freund says he put AJ's body in a plastic container and later buried him.


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