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A Pennsylvania judge has recommended the state’s high court impose civil contempt penalties against a Republican-majority county government that this summer secretly allowed a third party to copy data from voting machines used in the 2020 election lost by former President Donald Trump.

Commonwealth Court President Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer’s 77-page report issued late Friday said the July inspection and copying of computer data from machines rented by Fulton County was a willful violation of a court order designed to prevent evidence from being spoiled.

She recommended that the justices find that the county, based on the actions of Republican Commissioners Stuart Ulsh and Randy Bunch, “engaged in vexatious, obdurate, and bad faith conduct” in their lawsuit against the Department of State over whether a 2021 inspection by another outside group meant the machines could no longer be used.

Cohn Jubelirer, an elected Republican, recommended that the county be ordered to pay some of the state’s legal fees and that the Dominion Voting Systems Inc. machines in question be turned over to a third party for safekeeping at the county’s expense.

Dominion has been the subject of right-wing conspiracy theories about the election supposedly being stolen from Trump. It has since filed a number of defamation lawsuits against his allies and right-wing broadcasters.

Messages seeking comment were left Friday and Saturday for Pottstown lawyer Thomas J. Carroll, who represents Fulton County, Ulsh and Bunch. Messages were left Saturday for Ulsh, and Bunch did not answer his phone.

The judge noted that during a three-day hearing earlier this month, Ulsh and Bunch invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination “in response to the vast majority of questions asked of them on direct examination.”

Cohn Jubelirer’s report was commissioned by the state Supreme Court after lawyers for acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman sought a contempt order. The request for the order was based on Bunch and Ulsh’s disclosure in separate litigation in September that Speckin Forensics LLC of Lansing, Michigan, had copied hard drives in July from Democracy Suite 5.5A voting machines that Fulton County had rented from Dominion.

The Department of State ordered the county to stop using its rented Dominion machines after Bunch and Ulsh allowed one group, Wake TSI, access to them as part of an effort to help Trump’s failed efforts to reverse his defeat. Fulton County, Bunch and Ulsh sued to challenge the state’s order that the machines could not be used in future elections, and Fulton County has since been using other machines.


A judge blocked the Environmental Protection Agency from appealing a key ruling in a long-running lawsuit claiming negligence by the federal government in Flint’s lead-contaminated water in 2014-15.

U.S. District Judge Judith Levy ruled in 2020 that Flint residents could sue the EPA. Now, two years later, she said she won’t put the case on hold to allow the government to appeal that decision to a higher court.

Levy said more work must be done by lawyers to develop the case.

“The United States characterizes this complex case as one of merely a series of discrete, clean legal questions — questions it says are all independently controlling, wrongly decided, and subject to reasonable disagreement,” the judge said. “But this is far from the case.”

An appeal in the middle of things fits “only where the quick resolution of a clean question of law could meaningfully speed up the litigation,” Levy said Wednesday.

Starting in April 2014, Flint pulled water from the Flint River for 18 months without treating it to reduce corrosion. The water caused lead to be released from old pipes and into kitchen taps, bathrooms and water heaters.

Much of the blame rested with regulators in Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration who didn’t require corrosion control. The state agreed to pay much of a $626 million settlement with Flint residents, mostly children, who were exposed to the water.

But residents are also suing the EPA, which was aware of complaints about the water and had authority to aggressively intervene. The EPA’s inspector general found that a regional office failed to establish clear roles and responsibilities.

A federal agency has defenses to negligence claims in court, but Levy so far has rejected them. A separate but similar lawsuit against the EPA is being heard by U.S. District Judge Linda Parker.


Delaware’s Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from a day care worker sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to suffocating a 4-month-old girl.

A three-judge panel on Wednesday rejected DeJoynay Ferguson’s claims that her due process rights were violated because a Superior Court judge was unwilling to consider mitigating evidence and arguments she presented. Ferguson also claimed the judge had sentenced her “with a closed mind” and “for the sole purpose of retribution.”

“While it is clear that the judge was not persuaded by Ferguson’s mitigation evidence, on this record we cannot conclude that the judge ignored, or failed to consider, the mitigation evidence and argument she offered, or sentenced her with a closed, vindictive, or biased mind,” Justice James Vaughn Jr. wrote for the court.

Ferguson, 22, pleaded guilty last year to first-degree murder by abuse or neglect, six counts of first-degree child abuse, and two counts of second-degree child abuse. The plea followed an indictment charging her with murder and 52 counts of child abuse involving five children at the Little People Child Development Center in Bear. The guilty pleas involve three of the five children.

According to court records, Ferguson began working at the day care center in January 2019, when she was 18, and began systematically abusing children months later after being left to handle the infant room by herself “with minimal experience or training.”

Video surveillance showed Ferguson smothering three children on 28 different days, sometimes multiple times a day, and physically abusing two other children.


A rare Democrat in a deeply Republican state, U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids of Kansas is one of the most vulnerable incumbents seeking reelection this year. In the final months of her congressional campaign, she is focusing on Republicans’ strict opposition to abortion rights.

An online ad she released last week highlights how Amanda Adkins, the Republican favored to emerge from Tuesday’s primary for a rematch with Davids in November, opposed abortion without exceptions. The ad points to Adkins’ support of an amendment to the Kansas Constitution on the ballot Tuesday that would make clear there is no right to abortion in the states.

“There were a lot of people who would not have known that I have an opponent who is extreme on this issue,” Davids, who beat Adkins in 2020, said in an interview. “It’s not hypothetical anymore.”

That’s a sign of how the Supreme Court’s decision in June to repeal a woman’s federal constitutional right to abortion has scrambled the political dynamics heading into the fall elections, when control of Congress is at stake. A half-dozen of the most vulnerable House members — all of them women, all representing swaths of suburban voters — see the issue as one that could help them win in an otherwise difficult political climate.

In addition to Davids, these incumbents include Reps. Angie Craig of Minnesota, Cindy Axne of Iowa, Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria of Virginia, and Susan Wilds of Pennsylvania. They all face Republican opponents who support the high court’s abortion ruling. Some are contending with rivals who back efforts to ban abortion in all circumstances, including when the mother’s life is at risk.

It’s unclear whether the focus on abortion alone may be enough to mean reelection for many of these Democrats, who are running at a time of high inflation and frustration with President Joe Biden’s performance.

“In a close, toss-up election, which I think all of these are, it can make a difference,” said national pollster Christine Matthews, a self-described moderate who has worked for Republicans. “It’s not going to be what drives everyone to make a vote choice, but it will drive some people to make a vote choice.”

Twenty-two percent of U.S. adults named abortion or women’s rights in an open-ended question as one of up to five problems they want the government to address in the next year, according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll conducted in June. That has more than doubled since December.


National Women’s Soccer League Commissioner Jessica Berman said reproductive rights will be considered when the league looks at locations for possible expansion teams.

The league, which currently has 12 teams, is looking to add two more in 2024.

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month removed constitutional protections for abortion, which is likely to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states. There are concerns some states could also move to limit some birth control options and procedures like in-vitro fertilization.

“It’s one of the things that we’re actually currently analyzing, which is looking even at our current markets to see where we have some differentiation between our values and what we stand behind relative to where we have teams located, and what are the solutions we can put in place that we feel comfortable we can commit to and execute on,” she said. “Certainly in the context of expansion that would be part of the analysis.”

The NWSL’s board of governors met this week to look at the state of the league and discuss changes. Among the items discussed was the intention to expand the league to 14 teams.

The league has teams in Texas, where abortion is effectively banned, and in Kentucky, where a ban has been challenged in court. It also has a team in Florida, which has banned abortions after 15 weeks.


A federal appeals court has upheld part of a 2020 Connecticut police accountability law that allows public disclosure of state trooper personnel files and internal investigations.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York on Thursday rejected a challenge by the Connecticut State Police Union, which argued the law violates the 2018-2022 troopers’ contract by stripping away its exemptions from state freedom of information laws.

The union said Friday that it is considering asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its case.

The contract section in question says troopers’ personnel files and documents in internal investigations that end with no finding of wrongdoing are not subject to disclosure.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court upheld a ruling by a judge in a lower court who rejected the union’s request to bar the law section from taking effect during its court challenge. Senior U.S. District Judge Charles Haight Jr. in New Haven also said the union’s case was not likely to succeed because the law serves a legitimate public purpose in increasing law enforcement accountability and transparency.

Andrew Matthews, executive director of the state police union, said troopers oppose the law because it allows records involving unfounded allegations to become public, possibly tarnishing a trooper’s reputation despite no findings of wrongdoing.

If the union asks the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its appeal and justices reject the request, the case would return to the lower court judge who expressed doubt about the union’s case. Also, the state police contract expires June 30 and new contract negotiations are underway.

Proponents of the 2020 law said it answered the calls for reform after the police killings of George Floyd and other Black people. It also created a new state inspector general to investigate police use-of-force cases statewide, limited circumstances in which deadly use of force can be justified, and allowed lawsuits in state courts against officers in certain cases.


The leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion striking down the constitutional right to abortion has unleashed a wave of threats against officials and others and increased the likelihood of extremist violence, an internal government report says.

Violence could come from either side of the abortion issue or from other types of extremists seeking to exploit tensions, according to a memo directed to local government agencies from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis.

It’s an added element to what is already a volatile environment in the U.S., where authorities have warned repeatedly over the past two years that the threat posed by domestic extremists, such as the gunman who committed the racist attack over the weekend in Buffalo, has surpassed the danger from abroad.

The memo, dated May 13 and obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, seeks to differentiate between illegal activity and the intense but legal outpouring of protests that are all but guaranteed when the Supreme Court issues its ruling at the end of its term this summer, regardless of the outcome.

“DHS is committed to protecting Americans’ freedom of speech and other civil rights and civil liberties, including the right to peacefully protest,” the agency said in a written response to questions about the memo.

Those protests could turn violent. The memo warns that people “across a broad range of various ... ideologies are attempting to justify and inspire attacks against abortion-related targets and ideological opponents at lawful protests.”

Violence associated with the abortion debate would not be unprecedented nor would it necessarily be confined to one side or the other, the memo says.

Opponents of abortion have carried out at least 10 killings as well as dozens of arson and bomb attacks against medical facilities in their long campaign to overturn Roe v. Wade.

DHS said there is also a potential for violence from the other side, citing recent damage to buildings used by abortion opponents in Wisconsin and Oregon.

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