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Scott E. Asphaug said Wednesday he is stepping down as U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon effective July 17.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Wednesday he is leaving to become the Justice Department’s resident legal advisor in Nairobi, Kenya, until his retirement in two years.

Chief U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Oregon, Marco A. Hernandez, said Wednesday he will appoint Natalie K. Wight as interim U.S. attorney pending her confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

President Joe Biden nominated Wight last month to succeed Asphaug. Wight most recently served as deputy chief of the organized and violent crime section of the office, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. She’s a 1992 graduate of Portland’s Cleveland High School, has been working in the District of Oregon since 2012 and with the U.S. Department of Justice since 2003.

Asphaug, a 17-year member of the U.S. Department of Justice, will work with Kenyan counterparts on justice issues while assigned to the department’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training. Asphaug was named acting U.S. attorney in February 2021, and in late December, was appointed interim by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland.


The Supreme Court’s decision overturning a gun-permitting law in New York has states with robust firearms restrictions scrambling to respond on two fronts — to figure out what concealed-carry measures they might be allowed to impose while also preparing to defend a wide range of other gun control policies.

The language in the court’s majority opinion heightened concern that other state laws, from setting an age limit on gun purchases to banning high-capacity ammunition magazines, may now be in jeopardy.

“The court has basically invited open season on our gun laws, and so I expect litigation across the board,” said New Jersey acting Attorney General Matt Platkin, a Democrat. “We’re going to defend our gun laws tooth-and-nail because these gun laws save lives.”

The court ruling issued Thursday specifically overturned a New York law that had been in place since 1913 and required that people applying for a concealed carry permit demonstrate a specific need to have a gun in public, such as showing an imminent threat to their safety. The court’s conservative majority said that violated the Second Amendment, which they interpreted as protecting people’s right to carry a gun for self-defense outside the home.

While the ruling does not address any other laws, the majority opinion opens the door for gun rights advocates to challenge them in the future, said Alex McCourt, the director of legal research for the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions.

Pro-firearms groups in several states said they plan to do just that.

Attorney Chuck Michel, president of the California Rifle and Pistol Association, said the group is preparing to expand its legal challenges based on the high court changing the legal standard used to assess whether gun control laws are constitutional.

Courts must now consider only whether a gun control regulation is consistent with the Second Amendment’s actual text and its historical understanding, according to Thursday’s ruling. Before that, judges also could consider a state’s social justification for passing a gun control law.

Michel said the standard will affect three prominent California laws. Legal challenges to the state’s limits on assault weapons, its requirement for background checks for buying ammunition and its ban on online ammunition sales are pending before a federal appellate court.


Abortion rights protesters rallied in cities around the United States on Saturday, vowing to fight to ensure that abortion remains a legal option for women nationwide.

Hundreds gathered in Chicago, Atlanta, Houston and other cities days after a draft U.S. Supreme Court opinion was leaked to the public suggesting the court is poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide. The draft opinion, which comes amid nearly 50 years of federal abortion protections, could change before the ruling is finalized in coming weeks.

“To think that, after all this time, people still want to control what women can do and our rights to make our personal healthcare decisions is just really outrageous,” Carole Levin, chair of Courts Matter Illinois, told WMAQ-TV during the rally in Chicago.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker attended the rally and vowed to protect reproductive rights in Illinois.

“I’m proud Illinois is an island for reproductive freedom in the Midwest,” he said. “Our shores remain open for any person left marooned by these extremist politicians.”

In the nation’s capital, abortion rights protesters stood outside the Supreme Court, holding signs that said abortion is a human right, or “Abort the Court.” Protesters who oppose abortion demonstrated across the street.

In Atlanta, demonstrators carried signs in favor of abortion rights as they marched through that city’s downtown and chanted, “Not the church and not the state, women must decide our fate.”

In Houston, thousands attended a reproductive rights rally headlined by Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who is running for Texas governor. Texas is one of several states that would automatically ban abortion, leaving no exceptions for rape or incest, if the high court overturns the nationwide right to abortion.

An investigation is underway to determine who leaked the Supreme Court draft opinion to Politico.


A group of New York voters asked a federal court Monday to reinstate Congressional district maps tossed out by state judges last week because they were gerrymandered to favor Democrats.

The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan, argued that even if those maps were unconstitutional, as state appeals judges found, it is too late to draft new ones.

The plaintiffs pointed to a federal court order from 10 years ago that set New York’s congressional primaries on the fourth Tuesday in June, in order to make sure military and overseas voters had ample time to receive and return mail ballots.

A state judge last week ordered the state’s congressional and state Senate primaries delayed until Aug. 23 in order for new maps to be drawn, from their previously scheduled date of June 28.

The suit said that kind of delay isn’t allowed under the 2012 court order. Therefore, it said, there’s no time for a new map-drawing process, which has been given over to a single researcher, and the court must reinstate original maps drawn by the state Legislature.

“New York’s decision to wait several more weeks before adopting a new congressional plan as its federally mandated June 28 primary rapidly approaches is untenable,” the lawsuit says. “The state has an obligation to redistrict in a timely manner. Since it has failed to do so, this court must act.”

The plaintiffs were represented by Democratic attorney Marc Elias, who has pursued lawsuits over redistricting maps in other states.


Texas’ oldest death row inmate was executed Thursday for killing a Houston police officer during a traffic stop nearly 32 years ago.

Carl Wayne Buntion, 78, was executed at the state penitentiary in Huntsville. He was condemned for the June 1990 fatal shooting of Houston police officer James Irby, a nearly 20-year member of the force.

The U.S. Supreme Court had declined a request by Buntion’s attorneys to stop his execution.

“I wanted the Irby family to know one thing: I do have remorse for what I did,” Buntion said while strapped to the Texas death chamber gurney. “I pray to God that they get the closure for me killing their father and Ms. Irby’s husband.

“I hope to see you in heaven some day and when you show up I will give you a big hug.”

Buntion, joined by his spiritual adviser, began praying Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd...” as the lethal dose of the powerful sedative pentobarbital began. He took a deep breath, coughed once, then took three less pronounced breaths before all movement stopped.


A federal judge has ordered two lawyers who filed a class action lawsuit alleging the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump to pay more than $180,000 in attorney’s fees for defendants Dominion Voting Systems, Facebook and others, saying the lawsuit was intended to manipulate “gullible members of the public” and helped spur the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

The now-dismissed suit relied on baseless conspiracy theories spread by the former president and his supporters. It named elected officials in four swing states, Facebook and Denver-based Dominion, whose election machines were at the center of some of the most fevered speculation.

U.S. Magistrate Judge N. Reid Neureiter ruled in August that attorneys Gary D. Fielder and Ernest J. Walker should pay penalties. Neureiter’s Monday order, first reported by Colorado Politics, awarded individual fees — but he stayed the awards pending an appeal of the dismissed lawsuit to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

The penalties included $62,930 to Dominion and $50,000 to Facebook, which the suit alleged censored conservative voices leading up to the election.

Neureiter scolded the attorneys, saying they’d appealed for public donations to hire legal experts for their case though none were hired, and that the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was promoted by the lies it repeated.

He said the suit repeated “unverified and uninvestigated defamatory rumors that strike at the heart of our democratic system and were used by others to foment a violent insurrection that threatened our system of government.”

Repeated audits and recounts found no significant fraud in the presidential election. Trump’s own administration said the election was clean. Still, Trump and his allies filed dozens of suits. Ultimately they lost more than 50 of the election lawsuits.

Fielder and Walker were not connected with other Trump lawyers. They argued in court that they were trying to protect democracy.

Telephone messages and emails seeking comment from Fielder and Walker on Wednesday were not immediately returned.


The Michigan Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear the appeal of an LGBTQ-rights ballot committee that contended officials wrongly disqualified tens thousands of voter signatures it submitted for an initiative to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The decision, issued in a short order, came months after the Board of State Canvassers declined to certify the petitions. Election officials had determined Fair and Equal Michigan had about 263,000 valid signatures, roughly 76,000 short.

The proposal would have revised the state’s 1976 civil rights law to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations. Organizers wanted to place the measure before the Republican-led Legislature, where similar legislation has long stalled. If lawmakers did not act, it would have gone to a statewide vote in November 2022.

“While we are disappointed that the court won’t act to recognize legally-valid signatures thrown out by the state, it’s clear the best opportunity to achieve LGBTQ equal rights in Michigan is to place full focus on Attorney General Dana Nessel’s historic case currently before the Michigan Supreme Court,” Fair and Equal Michigan Co-Chair Trevor Thomas said in a statement.

The court previously agreed to consider whether the state’s existing ban against sexual discrimination covers sexual orientation and gender identity. The lawsuit was filed by Rouch World, a Sturgis-based wedding venue and park, and Marquette-based Uprooted Electrolysis after they refused services to a same-sex couple and a transgender woman who subsequently filed complaints with the state Department of Civil Rights.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a federal civil rights law protects gay, lesbian and transgender people from discrimination in employment. Supporters of the Michigan measure have said it would protect against discrimination in housing and public accommodations and provide broader, Michigan-specific employment protections than federal law provides.

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