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The Alaska Supreme Court on Friday rejected as unconstitutional former Gov. Bill Walker’s proposal to use bonding to pay Alaska’s oil and gas tax credit obligations. The court, in a written ruling, said the plan, which was approved by the Legislature in 2018, is “unconstitutional in its entirety.”

The bill passed by lawmakers approved the creation of a state corporation that would be empowered to sell up to $1 billion in bonds to pay off remaining tax credit obligations. The Legislature previously voted to end the tax credit program geared toward small producers and developers, saying that the program had become unaffordable.

The state constitution limits the power to incur state debt. But a 2018 legal opinion by then-Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth said the proposed bonds would not be considered state debt subject to the constitutional restraints because they would be “subject-to-appropriation” bonds and contingent upon annual legislative appropriation decisions.

Superior Court Judge Jude Pate dismissed the lawsuit brought by resident Eric Forrer, who had challenged the bonding plan. Forrer appealed.

The Alaska Supreme Court, in its decision, said subject-to-appropriation bonds are “contrary to the plain text of the Alaska Constitution and the framers' intent.”

“If the State intends to utilize financing schemes similar to HB 331 in the future, it must first seek approval from the people — if not through a bond referendum then through a constitutional amendment,” the opinion states. HB 331 refers to the bonding bill.

Joe Geldhof, an attorney for Forrer, said “the real winner here" is Alaska's constitution and the citizens of the state who won't incur “needless debt based on a scheme.”

Gov. Mike Dunleavy's office, in a statement, said the departments of Revenue and Law are reviewing the decision to understand its impacts.



Anyone entering a Illinois courthouse should be wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of coronavirus, according to an Illinois Supreme Court order.

The state’s highest court issued an order Thursday including face masks in its rules governing who is admitted into courthouses “in the interests of the health and safety of all court users, staff, and judicial officers during these extraordinary circumstances.”

The order also says people with flu-like symptoms, those directed to quarantine by a medical professional or people who have close contact with someone subject to a quarantine should not enter courthouses.

State health officials on Sunday reported nearly 1,992 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 11 additional deaths.

Overall, the state has reported 233,355 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 8,019 relaed deaths.


The future of the Supreme Court is on the line, though it would be hard to tell from the Democratic National Convention that just concluded.

There was a fleeting glimpse of a younger Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a brief reference to the court by Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York and a mention of it by Ayesha Curry, in a segment with NBA star Stephen Curry and their two daughters.

Neither Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden nor vice presidential running mate Kamala Harris said a word about the high court in their acceptance speeches.

By contrast, President Donald Trump and other Republican candidates rarely miss a chance to talk up Trump's more than 200 federal court appointments, including Supreme Court justices  Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, with the prospect of more seats to fill in a second term.

“The most important thing a president can do is the appointment of federal judges and Supreme Court justices," Trump said at a recent campaign stop in Yuma, Arizona.

That's a refrain likely to be repeated at the Republican National Convention that begins on Monday and when Trump gives his acceptance speech later in the week.

The Democratic silence is all the more surprising because liberal groups are trying to motivate progressive voters by highlighting the GOP's success in restocking the federal bench with younger judges who might serve for decades.


A lawyer for a former Colombian paramilitary leader is asking a U.S. federal court to force Attorney General William Barr to immediately deport the former warlord to Italy after he completed a long drug sentence.

The emergency petition was filed Monday in Washington, DC federal court on behalf of Salvatore Mancuso, the former top commander of the United Defense Forces of Colombia, known as the AUC. It comes as Colombia is mounting a last-minute campaign to block Mancuso’s removal to Italy after it bungled an extradition request  that had to be withdrawn last month.

Mancuso’s lawyer argues that Barr, Chad Wolf, the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security, and four other senior officials at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have unlawfully kept Mancuso in federal custody beyond the maximum 90 days allowed for the removal of aliens. Included in the petition is a copy of a final administrative removal order dated April 15 that compels DHS and ICE to remove Mancuso to Italy, where he also has citizenship.

Immigration attorney Hector Mora attributes the delay to strong pressure from Colombia’s conservative government, which he claims is working closely with the U.S. State Department to bring Mancuso back to Colombia. If returned home, he argues his client is likely to be jailed, or even killed, despite having fulfilled his obligations under a 2003 peace deal he negotiated, which caps prison terms at eight years for militia leaders who confess their crimes.

“He and his family are terrified with his possible return to Colombia,” Mora wrote to ICE officials on March 27 ? the same day Mancuso completed a 12-year sentence in the U.S. for cocaine trafficking.

Mancuso, 55, was the most remorseful of the former right-wing militia leaders after demobilizing and his eagerness to discuss the paramilitaries’ war crimes has already shaken Colombia’s politics.


A federal appeals court on Friday lifted a judge's ruling that has blocked four Arkansas abortion restrictions from taking effect, including a ban on a common second trimester procedure and a fetal remains law that opponents say would effectively require a partner’s consent before a woman could get an abortion.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the 2017 preliminary injunction issued against the restrictions. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights had challenged the measures, suing on behalf of Dr. Frederick Hopkins, a Little Rock abortion provider.

The appeals panel said the case needs to be reconsidered in light of a recent decision on abortion by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The laws U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker blocked include a ban on a procedure known as dilation and evacuation, which abortion rights supporters say it is the safest and most common procedure used in second-trimester abortions. The state calls it barbaric and “dismemberment abortion,” saying it can have emotional consequences for the women who undergo it.

Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge praised the appeals court's ruling.

“Arkansas has taken a strong stance to protect the unborn from inhumane treatment,” Rutledge said in a statement. “As Arkansas’s chief legal officer, I have always advocated for the lives of unborn children and will continue to defend our state’s legal right to protect the unborn."

The 2017 decision also blocked new restrictions on the disposal of fetal tissue collected during abortions. The plaintiffs argued that it could also block access by requiring notification of a third party, such as the woman’s parents or her sexual partner, to determine what happens to the fetal remains.

The other restrictions included one that bans abortions based solely on the fetus’ sex and another that requires physicians performing abortions for patients under 14 to take certain steps to preserve embryonic or fetal tissue and notify police where the minor resides.


A Chinese scientist charged with visa fraud after authorities said she concealed her military ties to China in order to work in the U.S. made her first appearance Monday in federal court by video.

Juan Tang, 37, was appointed a federal public defender and U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Barnes ordered Tang to remain in custody, saying she is a flight risk, while her attorney prepares an argument to allow her release on bail.

The Justice Department last week announced charges against Tang and three other scientists living in the U.S., saying they lied about their status as members of China’s People’s Liberation Army. All were charged with visa fraud.

Prosecutors said Tang lied about her military ties in a visa application last October as she prepared to work at the University of California, Davis and again during an FBI interview in June. Agents found photos of Tang dressed in military uniform and reviewed articles in China identifying her military affiliation, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Tang sought refuge at the Chinese consulate in San Francisco after speaking with agents in June. U.S. marshals arrested her Friday and booked her into Sacramento County Jail, where she remains.

Heather Williams, a federal defender, said its common practice for people to seek help from their consulate when dealing with law enforcement abroad, and doing so did not make Tang guilty of anything, she said. Williams added that U.S. agents took Tang's passport, forcing her young daughter to travel to China alone.


The Vermont court system is studying ways to resume jury trials safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In late May, the Vermont Supreme Court established a Jury Restart Committee and named associate justices Karen Carroll and Harold Eaton as co-chairs. The report, submitted to the Supreme Court, includes 28 recommendations regarding the resumption of criminal jury trials.

These recommendations address community safety, public health and other issues relating to restarting criminal trials. The report does not address the resumption of civil jury trials.

The Supreme Court has asked Chief Superior Judge Brian Grearson and the State Court Administrator Patricia Gabel to review the committee’s report and provide the Court with an implementation plan.


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