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The Arizona Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a lower court decision dismissing the last in a series of challenges that sought to decerify Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the state.

The high court ruling is the second time the majority-Republican court has turned aside an appeal of a court loss by backers of President Donald Trump seeking to overturn the results of the election. In all, eight lawsuits challenging Biden’s Arizona win have failed. It comes the day before a divided Congress is set to certify Biden’s victory.

Tuesday’s ruling from a four-judge panel of the high court agreed with a trial court judge in Pinal County that plaintiff Staci Burk lacked the right to contest the election. That’s because she wasn’t a registered voter at the time she filed her lawsuit, as required in state election contests. Both courts also agreed that she made her legal challenge too late, after the five-day period for filing such an action had passed.

Burk said in her lawsuit that she was a qualified Arizona voter, but officials said they discovered she wasn’t registered to vote. She later said she mistakenly thought “qualified electors” were people who were merely eligible to vote, and that her voter registration was canceled because election workers were unable to verify her address.

The Supreme Court said the fact that she wasn’t a registered voter was fatal to her ability to file an election challenge and that Burk admitted she knew she wasn’t registered.

“There is nothing before the Court to indicate that Appellant timely contacted the appropriate authorities to correct any problems with her voter registration,” Chief Justice Robert Brutinel wrote. “An election challenge ... is not the proper vehicle to reinstate voter registration.”

Biden won the state over Republican President Donald Trump by more than 10,000 votes and the results were certified last month.

The lawsuit brought by Burk, who isn’t a lawyer but represented herself, is nearly identical to a lawsuit dismissed in early December in federal court in Phoenix.

Burk’s lawsuit alleged Arizona’s election systems have security flaws that let election workers and foreign countries manipulate results. Opposing attorneys said the lawsuit used conspiracy theories to make allegations against a voting equipment vendor without any proof to back up claims of widespread election fraud in Arizona.

No evidence of voter or election fraud has emerged in Arizona. Despite that, Republicans who control the Legislature are pushing to review how Maricopa County, the state’s most populous, ran its election. Two subpoenas issued by the state Senate seeking an audit and to review voting machines, ballots and other materials are being challenged by Maricopa County.

Two of the failed legal challenges focused on the use of Sharpies to complete ballots were dismissed. Another lawsuit in which the Trump campaign sought inspection of ballots was dismissed after the campaign’s lawyer acknowledged the small number of ballots at issue wouldn’t have changed the outcome.

A judge dismissed a lawsuit in which the Arizona Republican Party tried to determine whether voting machines had been hacked.

Then a separate challenge by Arizona GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward was tossed out by a judge who concluded the Republican leader failed to prove fraud and that the evidence presented at trial wouldn’t reverse Trump’s defeat. The state Supreme Court upheld that decision in an earlier ruling.

And a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by conservative lawyer Sidney Powell, who alleged widespread election fraud through the manipulation of voting equipment. Burk’s lawsuit repeated some of Powell’s allegations word-for-word.


A late-term maneuver by President Donald Trump to use lower drug prices paid overseas to limit some of Medicare’s own costs suffered a legal setback Wednesday that appears likely to keep the policy from taking effect before the president leaves office.

U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake in Baltimore issued a nationwide injunction that prevents the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, from carrying out the so-called “most favored nations” rule as scheduled on Jan. 1. The judge wrote in her temporary order that CMS had failed to follow required procedures for notice and comment before imposing such sweeping changes.

The Trump regulation would tie what Medicare pays for certain drugs administered in a doctor’s office to the lowest price paid among a group of economically advanced countries. It would apply to 50 medications that account for the highest spending under Medicare’s “Part B” benefit for outpatient care.

That group includes cancer drugs and other medications delivered by infusion or injection. Trump announced his new policy at the White House before the Thanksgiving holiday, saying, “the drug companies don’t like me too much. But we had to do it.”

A coalition of groups including the Association of Community Cancer Centers and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of American quickly sued to block the rule. Some opponents have likened the Trump policy to a form of socialist price controls.

Blake wrote that the plaintiffs had established a reasonable likelihood their arguments accusing the administration of cutting corners in a rush to regulate would carry the day in a trial. Federal law says that government agencies must provide adequate opportunity for affected parties to comment on proposed regulations. The administration had sought to use emergency authority as a work-around.

The case is hardly trivial, the judge said. “This case deals with a regulation that would for the first time implement the use of a price control mechanism not provided for by Congress,” Blake wrote.

The Health and Human Services department said it is reviewing the ruling, and had no immediate comment.

Trump came into office accusing drug companies of “getting away with murder” and promising to slash costs for American patients. But his administration was unable to drive major drug pricing legislation through Congress.

Even if the Trump rule is ultimately blocked, the idea of using international prices to lower costs for Americans is very much alive. It’s at the heart of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s legislation to empower Medicare to negotiate drug prices. And President-elect Joe Biden also supports the approach.

Blake was nominated to be a U.S. district judge by former Democratic President Bill Clinton.



A divided Supreme Court has dismissed as premature a challenge to President Donald Trump’s plan to exclude people living in the country illegally from the population count used to allot states seats in the House of Representatives.

The court’s decision Friday, led by its conservative justices, is not a final ruling on the matter and, while it allows Trump to pursue the plan for now, it’s not clear whether he will receive final numbers from the Census Bureau before he leaves office next month.

If the president still has not received final census numbers by the time Joe Biden takes office Jan. 20, Trump’s plan will be effectively dead because Biden is extremely unlikely to pursue it. It’s also possible the Biden administration would take steps to try to reverse decisions made under Trump.

For now, though, the high court said it was too soon to rule on the legality of Trump’s plan because it’s not yet clear how many people he would seek to exclude and whether the division of House seats would be affected.

The court said in an unsigned opinion that “we express no view on the merits of the constitutional and related statutory claims presented. We hold only that they are not suitable for adjudication at this time.” At least five of the court’s six conservative justices had to join the opinion to make a majority on the nine-member court.

The three liberal justices dissented, saying the effort to exclude people in the country from the population for divvying up House seats is unlawful.

“I believe this Court should say so,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote, joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.

It’s not clear that Friday’s decision will have much practical effect. Documents leaked to the House committee that oversees the Census Bureau suggest the apportionment numbers won’t be ready until after Jan. 20, when Trump leaves office and Biden becomes president. The Census Bureau has acknowledged the discovery of data irregularities in recent weeks that put the Dec. 31 deadline in federal law for transmitting numbers to the president in jeopardy.

Dale Ho, the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who argued the case for the challengers, said the decision was about the timing of the case, not whether the plan complies with federal law.

“This ruling does not authorize President Trump’s goal of excluding undocumented immigrants from the census count used to apportion the House of Representatives. The legal mandate is clear — every single person counts in the census, and every single person is represented in Congress. If this policy is ever actually implemented, we’ll be right back in court challenging it,” Ho said.

No president has tried to do what Trump outlined in a memo in July — remove millions of noncitizens from the once-a-decade head count of the U.S. population that determines how many seats each state gets in the House of Representatives, as well as the allocation of some federal funding.

States with large populations of people who are in the country illegally could lose seats in the House under Trump’s plan, and the president signaled in his memo that punishing states that “encourage illegal aliens” is one reason he issued it.

By the administration’s estimate, California could lose two to three House seats if people living in the country illegally were excluded based on what the administration said are more than 2 million such California residents.

His administration has defended his authority to exclude at least some people living in the country illegally, including perhaps people who are in immigration detention or those who have been ordered to leave the country.

But during arguments last month, acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall, Trump’s top Supreme Court lawyer, would not rule out larger categories of immigrants, including those who have protection from deportation under the DACA program.



The Senate has confirmed an Indiana prosecutor to replace Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett on a federal appeals court based in Chicago.

Thomas Kirsch, who currently serves as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana, will replace Barrett as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. Kirsch was confirmed Tuesday on a 51-44 vote.

Three Democrats — Arizona Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin — voted for him in what was otherwise a party-line vote. Four Republican senators and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris did not vote.

President Donald Trump named Kirsch as Barrett’s replacement before she was confirmed to the high court in October, and the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced his nomination last week. Kirsch graduated from Indiana University and earned his law degree from Harvard.

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, who is expected to become the top Democrat on Judiciary in the next Congress, said Kirsch’s quick nomination and confirmation showed that Trump and Senate Republicans were intent on forcing through as many conservative judges as possible.

“They have kept the nominations assembly line going,″ Durbin said.

Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., said Kirsch “is a man of character, he’s a man of integrity, and he believes in the rule of law.”

Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said Kirsch’s nomination is “further entrenching the lack of diversity that is characteristic of President Trump’s judicial nominees,” noting that the appeals court he will join is the only all-white federal appeals court in the country.


President Donald Trump’s legal team suffered yet another defeat in court Friday as a federal appeals court in Philadelphia roundly rejected the campaign’s latest effort to challenge the state’s election results.

Trump’s lawyers vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court despite the judges’ assessment that the “campaign’s claims have no merit.”

“Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy. Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here,” 3rd Circuit Judge Stephanos Bibas, a Trump appointee, wrote for the three-judge panel, all appointed by Republican presidents.

The case had been argued last week in a lower court by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who insisted during five hours of oral arguments that the 2020 presidential election had been marred by widespread fraud in Pennsylvania. However, Giuliani failed to offer any tangible proof of that in court.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann, another Republican, had said the campaign’s error-filled complaint, “like Frankenstein’s Monster, has been haphazardly stitched together” and denied Giuliani the right to amend it for a second time.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals called any revisions “futile.” Chief Judge D. Brooks Smith and Judge Michael Chagares were on the panel with Bibas, a former University of Pennsylvania law professor. Trump’s sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, sat on the court for 20 years, retiring in 2019.

“Voters, not lawyers, choose the president. Ballots, not briefs, decide elections,” Bibas said in the opinion, which also denied the campaign’s request to stop the state from certifying its results, a demand he called “breathtaking.”

In fact, Pennsylvania officials had announced Tuesday that they had certified their vote count for President-elect Joe Biden, who defeated Trump by more than 80,000 votes in the state. Nationally, Biden and running mate Kamala Harris garnered nearly 80 million votes, a record in U.S. presidential elections.


The Supreme Court seemed likely Tuesday to leave in place the bulk of the Affordable Care Act, including key protections for pre-existing health conditions and subsidized insurance premiums that affect tens of millions of Americans. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, among the conservative justices, appeared in two hours of arguments to be unwilling to strike down the entire law — a long-held Republican goal that has repeatedly failed in Congress and the courts — even if they were to find the law’s now-toothless mandate for obtaining health insurance to be unconstitutional.

The court’s three liberal justices are almost certain to vote to uphold the law in its entirety and presumably would form a majority by joining a decision that cut away only the mandate, which now has no financial penalty attached to it. Congress zeroed out the penalty in 2017, but left the rest of the law untouched.

“Would Congress want the rest of the law to survive if the unconstitutional provision were severed? Here, Congress left the rest of the law intact,” Roberts said. “That seems to be a compelling answer to the question.” For his part, Kavanaugh said recent decisions by the court suggest “that the proper remedy would be to sever the mandate and leave the rest of the act in place.”

A week after the 2020 election, the justices heard arguments by telephone in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic in the court’s third major case over the 10-year-old law, popularly known as “Obamacare.” Republican attorneys general in 18 states and the administration want the whole law to be struck down, which would threaten coverage for more than 23 million people.

California, leading a group of Democratic-controlled states, and the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives are urging the court to leave the law in place.

Kavanaugh is one of three justices appointed by President Donald Trump on a court that is more conservative than the ones that sustained the law in previous challenges in 2012 and 2015. The others are Neil Gorsuch and new Justice Coney Barrett, who joined the court late last month following her hurried nomination and confirmation to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The three Trump appointees have never ruled on the substance of the health care law. Barrett, though, has been critical of the court’s earlier major health care decisions sustaining the law, both written by Roberts.

The Supreme Court could have heard the case before the election, but set arguments for a week after. The timing could add a wrinkle to the case since President-elect Joe Biden strongly supports the health care law.

The case turns on a change made by the Republican-controlled Congress in 2017 that reduced the penalty for not having health insurance to zero. Without the penalty, the law’s mandate to have health insurance is unconstitutional, the GOP-led states argue.


The Supreme Court on Tuesday suggested it could halt what has been a gradual move toward more leniency for children who are convicted of murder. In cases over more than a decade, the court has concluded that children should be treated differently from adults, in part because of their lack of maturity. But the court, which has become more conservative over the last few years, could decide not to go any further.

The justices on Tuesday were hearing a case about sentencing juveniles to life without parole. The court has previously said that should be rare, and the question before the justices has to do with what courts must do before deciding to impose a life without parole sentence on a juvenile. During arguments, which the justices heard by phone because of the coronavirus pandemic, Justice Samuel Alito suggested the court has gone too far. “What would you say to any members of this court who are concerned that we have now gotten light years away from the original meaning of the Eighth Amendment and who are reluctant to go any further on this travel into space?” Alito asked at one point, referencing the amendment’s prohibition against “cruel and unusual” punishment.

Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Neil Gorsuch also indicated they take issue with the court’s most recent case about juvenile life sentences. The case the court was hearing Tuesday is the latest in a series of cases going back to 2005, when the court eliminated the death penalty for juveniles. Five years later, the court barred life-without-parole sentences for juveniles, except in cases where a juvenile has killed someone. Then, in 2012, the justices in a 5-4 decision said juveniles who kill can’t automatically be sentenced to life with no chance of parole. A related decision four years later said those sentences should be reserved “for all but the rarest of juvenile offenders, those whose crimes reflect permanent incorrigibility.”

The justices are now being asked whether a juvenile has to be found to be “permanently incorrigible,” incapable of being rehabilitated, before being sentenced to life without parole. But the court has changed significantly in recent years. More conservative justices have replaced Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose votes were key to the 2012 decision.

The specific case before the justices involves Mississippi inmate Brett Jones, who was 15 and living with his grandparents when he fatally stabbed his grandfather. The two had a fight in the home’s kitchen after Bertis Jones found his grandson’s girlfriend in his grandson’s bedroom. Brett Jones, who was using a knife to make a sandwich before the fight, stabbed his grandfather first with that knife and then, when it broke, with a different knife. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Jones, who is now 31, says he is not “permanently incorrigible” and should therefore be eligible for parole. Mississippi says the Eighth Amendment doesn’t require that Jones be found to be permanently incorrigible to receive a life-without-parole sentence, just that Jones’ youth when he committed his crime be considered. The case is Jones v. Mississippi, 18-1259.


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