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A Wisconsin judge's decision to become Facebook friends with a woman whose child custody case he was hearing created at least the appearance of bias, a state appeals court ruled Wednesday in ordering the case to be re-heard by another judge.

The case, which is the first of its kind in the state, contemplates whether judges' use of social media can compromise them. In its ruling, the 3rd District Court of Appeals didn't lay out any bright-line rules for judges, but it warned them to use caution when engaging with people online to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

"We caution that judges should recognize that online interactions, like real-world interactions, must be treated with a degree of care," appellate Judge Mark Seidl wrote in the ruling.

According to court documents, Angela Carroll filed a motion in Barron County in 2016 to adjust a custody arrangement she had reached with her son's father, Timothy Miller. She demanded sole legal custody, primary placement of the boy and an order forcing Miller to pay child support. She argued Miller had abused her, an accusation Miller denied.

The case landed with Judge Michael Bitney. Three days after Carroll and Miller submitted their final written arguments in 2017, Bitney accepted a Facebook friend request from Carroll.

She proceeded to like 18 of the judge's posts and commented on two of them. None of the posts were directly related to the pending custody case. Bitney didn't like or comment on any of Carroll's posts and didn't reply to her comments. He didn't deny reading them, however.

Carroll also shared one third-party photograph related to domestic violence. Nothing suggests the judge ever saw it, but the post could have appeared on his newsfeed, according to the documents.


Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has missed a month of Supreme Court arguments as she recovers from lung cancer surgery. But she’s not the first justice to be away for a while and her absence hardly compares with those of some of her predecessors.

The day before the Supreme Court began its term in October 1949, Justice William Douglas broke 14 ribs and suffered a punctured lung when he was thrown from his horse on a trail in the Cascade Mountains in Washington.

He didn’t return to the bench for nearly a half year, and his long recovery caused delays in several cases, including challenges to segregation.Like much of what goes on away from public view at the Supreme Court, how the justices deal with a colleague’s absence can be opaque. The individual justice decides whether to rule on cases even if she has missed arguments. Indeed, Chief Justice John Roberts already has announced that Ginsburg is participating in the cases she missed.

And only the justice can decide when an injury or illness is so severe that retirement is the only option. A quarter century after his riding accident, Douglas suffered a serious stroke, but refused to retire for months. His weakened state caused a backlog in the court’s work and the other justices refused to issues decisions in cases where Douglas had provided the fifth, majority-making vote.

“There aren’t any rules about this and so much is left to the individual justice,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, who argued a case during Ginsburg’s absence.

The 85-year-old Ginsburg could be back on the bench when the court next meets on Tuesday, and even as she has been away, she has not missed any votes.

In some state court systems, including California, the highest court can essentially borrow a judge from a lower court to temporarily replace an absent member, said Chemerinsky, the dean of the law school at the University of California, Berkeley.
The Supreme Court has no similar arrangement.

The nine justices are there for as long as they wish, and neither a retired justice nor an appellate judge can fill a void. The 25th Amendment to the Constitution sets out what happens if a president is incapacitated, but refuses to relinquish power.


The Illinois Supreme Court ruled Friday that a woman can sue Six Flags Great America for fingerprinting her child without telling her how the data would be used in violation of the state's biometric law, which privacy advocates consider to be the nation's strongest biometric data safeguards.

Stacy Rosenbach sued the amusement park north of Chicago in 2016, about two years after her son was electronically fingerprinted while buying a season pass. He was 14 at the time.

The lawsuit alleges the park violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, which requires businesses and other private entities to obtain consent from people before collecting or disclosing their biometric identifiers and to securely store biometric data they do collect. It also permits people to sue businesses they believe violated the act.

In its ruling for Six Flags, an appellate court determined in 2017 that Rosenbach never demonstrated a direct injury or adverse effect, such as stolen identity or a monetary loss.

The state Supreme Court, in overturning that decision, rejected the argument that individuals should have the right to sue if no real damage occurred after they handed over their biometric information. The court ruled that a violation of the law is damage enough.

"This is no mere 'technicality,'" as the appellate court suggested, Chief Justice Lloyd Karmeier wrote in the opinion. "The injury is real and significant."

Biometric data, fingerprints, facial and iris scans, are increasingly used in tagging photos on social media and recording employee arrivals at the workplace.

Illinois Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Todd Maisch said in a statement the ruling will hurt employers and the state economy. The organization has said that protecting consumers' data is important, but that the way the law is written places a burden on employers.

"We fear that today's decision will open the floodgates for future litigation at the expense of Illinois' commercial health," Maisch said.

Great America spokeswoman Tess Claussen declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.


Connecticut officials say state Supreme Court rulings declined sharply in 2018, possibly a result of a major shakeup of the court over the past two years that included the appointments of a new chief justice and four new associate justices.

The Connecticut Law Tribune reports the seven-member high court decided 86 cases in 2018, a 17 percent decrease from the 104 cases decided in 2017.

Paul Hartan is the chief administrative officer for state appeals courts. He says the learning curve of new justices likely contributed to the decline in rulings.

New justices appointed to fill vacancies since March 2017 include Gregory D'Auria, Raheem Mullins, Maria Araujo Kahn and Steven Ecker. Justice Richard Robinson became chief justice last May, succeeded Chase Rogers, who retired.



Doug and Mary Ketchum chose Memphis, Tennessee, as a place to live with their disabled adult daughter because it has clearer air than their former home in Utah.

That was the easy part. Their decision to support themselves by buying a liquor store has been considerably more complicated, and it is at the heart of a Supreme Court case that is being argued Wednesday.

The Ketchums say Tennessee makes it almost impossible for someone to break into the liquor business from out of state. They contend, and lower courts have agreed, that Tennessee law forcing people to live in the state for two years to get a license to sell alcohol and 10 years to renew a license is unconstitutional because it discriminates against out-of-state interests.

The state's association of liquor sellers, backed by 35 states and the District of Columbia, relies on the constitutional amendment that actually ended the Prohibition era in the United States to defend the two-year residency requirement. The 21st Amendment also left states with considerable power to regulate the sale of alcohol. Tennessee itself has essentially stopped defending the residency requirements and not even the retailers' group is defending the longer renewal provision.

The arguments at the court will focus on provisions of the Constitution. To the Ketchums, however, the case is more personal.

Thirty-two-year-old Stacie Ketchum has cerebral palsy. She suffered a bad case of pneumonia in 2015 that doctors attributed to the air quality where they were living in Utah, her father said. A cold air "inversion" holds all the smog in the valley where they lived, he said.

One of her lungs collapsed and filled with fluid, he said.

"We thought we were going to lose her a couple of times during that six weeks she was in the hospital," Doug Ketchum said. "The doctors told us she needed a better environment. We needed to get her someplace where there was clearer air, clearer water, probably a warmer climate, if we expect her to live another year or so."

The family looked for a new place to live. Ketchum, a network engineer, sent out resumes but received few responses. He did come across a broker on the internet who finds businesses for people. He did some research and found Kimbrough Wines & Spirits, a liquor store located on the ground floor of an apartment building in a commercial area east of downtown Memphis. The store is in a good location on a heavily traveled street and boasts a steady, diverse local clientele.


A court has ruled that a Delaware man acquitted of drug charges won't get the thousands of dollars seized in the drug bust back.           

WBOC media partner the Delaware State News reports that the Superior Court ruling issued last week says Jeffrey Crippen isn't entitled to the $13,584 because of the lack of documentation and proof that the money was legitimately earned.           

Dover police had searched Crippen's home in 2015. According to the Delaware Department of Justice, Crippen was acquitted of drug charges but sentenced to 10 years in prison for weapons charges.           

The court also said that the initial confiscation of the three bundles of cash was allowed based on legitimate probable cause.           

Crippen represented himself in the petition case. The report didn't include comment from him.


Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Bill Cunningham has announced that he will retire from the bench early next year.

News outlets report Cunningham, who is 74, announced on Thursday that his last day will be Feb. 1. He was first elected in 2006 to represent the First Supreme Court District, which encompasses 24 counties in western Kentucky.

Cunningham told The Paducah Sun that it was time to move on because "you stay too long and after a while you've seen too many tortured and battered children, too many dysfunctional families, too much crime, too much misery, too much human suffering."

Before being elected to the Supreme Court, Cunningham was a circuit judge and a commonwealth's attorney. He says he'd like to find a way to continue serving people in western Kentucky.


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