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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.


Officials acted properly when they fired a North Carolina probation and parole officer who had been accused of campaigning for elected office while on community service leave and other misconduct, the state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

The three-judge panel upheld the decision of an administrative law judge who determined just cause existed for the state Department of Public Safety to dismiss Eric Erickson, who ran unsuccessfully for Charlotte City Council in 2017. He was also found to have sought special treatment for his personal vehicle.

According to the opinion, evidence shows Erickson used community service leave in September 2017 to campaign and run errands. Erickson was granted leave for volunteering at the local elections board, but state personnel policy says that leave may be used to work at a polling site to help people vote.

An auto inspection garage owner said that Erickson, on a leave day, asked if he could place his campaign yard sign outside of the business, and attempted to get a law enforcement exemption for window tinting on his personal vehicle by suggesting it was used for undercover work. Erickson’s supervisors also testified that he had failed to report his secondary work with a security firm.

Erickson appealed his firing. He questioned whether the judge improperly allowed hearsay evidence and whether there was enough evidence to warrant the firing.

Court of Appeals Judge Jeff Carpenter, writing the unanimous opinion, rejected the hearsay argument, saying such challenges must be made at the time the evidence is presented.

The panel said there was “substantial evidence” to support the administrative law judge’s findings and final decision, Carpenter said. The window-tinting request and failure to report secondary employment “were acts and omissions reflecting upon petitioner’s integrity and honesty,” he wrote, and the evidence showed the community service leave was used “for improper campaigning purposes.”

Erickson finished third out of four candidates in the 2017 Democratic primary for a council seat, according to election results.


The Supreme Court says the U.S. territory of Guam can pursue a $160 million lawsuit against the federal government over the cost of cleaning up a landfill on the island.

The justices on Monday unanimously overturned a lower court decision that had said Guam had waited too long to pursue the claim.

The case before the justices involves a long-running dispute over the Ordot Dump on Guam. The lawsuit says the Navy built the dump during the 1940s and then deposited toxic military waste there before turning over control to Guam in 1950.

Guam operated the dump for decades. The U.S. has said Guam “vastly expanded” it and “failed to provide even rudimentary environmental safeguards.” In 2002, the government sued Guam over pollution from the dump. Guam ultimately agreed in 2004 to close the dump and take steps to stop pollution from the dump, among other things.

In 2017, Guam sued the United States, arguing that it’s responsible for some of the costs of the cleanup, which Guam estimates to be more than $160 million. A trial court had allowed the lawsuit to go forward, but an appeals court had dismissed it.

In an email, Guam’s attorney Gregory Garre said: “We are thrilled with the Court’s decision in favor of Guam today, which paves the way for the United States to pay its fair share for the cleanup of the Ordot Dump.” The case is Territory of Guam v. United States, 20-382.


A judge in Rapid City, South Dakota Tuesday granted a 90-day extension to the defense attorney of a man accused of murdering three people last year to be notified whether prosecutors will seek the death penalty.

The defense attorney for 36-year-old Arnson Absolu, a New York City man charged with three counts of premeditated first-degree murder for a series of alleged murders in August, asked the judge for the extension so he could investigate circumstances that may mitigate a death penalty sentence and meet with prosecutors, the Rapid City Journal reported. Absolu has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which are punishable by the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

The Pennington County State’s Attorney Office will make a decision on whether to pursue the death penalty after it meets with Absolu’s defense attorney, Timothy Rensch.

If Absolu is convicted, the judge or jury could consider the death penalty if there are aggravating circumstances, such as a murder-for-hire, murder that involved “torture, depravity of the mind or an aggravated battery,” and if the defendant was distributing hard drugs.

The judge or jury would also consider mitigating circumstances, such as the defendant’s childhood experience, mental health or developmental disorders.



Eight years after carving the heart out of a landmark voting rights law, the Supreme Court is looking at putting new limits on efforts to combat racial discrimination in voting.

The justices are taking up a case about Arizona restrictions on ballot collection and another policy that penalizes voters who cast ballots in the wrong precinct.

The high court’s consideration comes as Republican officials in the state and around the country have proposed more than 150 measures, following last year’s elections, to restrict voting access that civil rights groups say would disproportionately affect Black and Hispanic voters.

A broad Supreme Court ruling would make it harder to fight those efforts in court. Arguments are set for Tuesday via telephone, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It would be taking away one of the big tools, in fact, the main tool we have left now, to protect voters against racial discrimination,” said Myrna Perez, director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s voting rights and elections program.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, said the high court case is about ballot integrity, not discrimination. “This is about protecting the franchise, not disenfranchising anyone,” said Brnovich, who will argue the case on Tuesday.

President Joe Biden narrowly won Arizona last year, and since 2018, the state has elected two Democratic senators.

The justices will be reviewing an appeals court ruling against a 2016 Arizona law that limits who can return early ballots for another person and against a separate state policy of discarding ballots if a voter goes to the wrong precinct.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the ballot-collection law and the state policy discriminate against minority voters in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act and that the law also violates the Constitution.

The Voting Rights Act, first enacted in 1965, was extremely effective against discrimination at the ballot box because it forced state and local governments, with a history of discrimination, including Arizona, to get advance approval from the Justice Department or a federal court before making any changes to elections.


The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered lower federal courts in Colorado and New Jersey to reexamine state restrictions on indoor religious services to combat the coronavirus in light of the justices’ recent ruling in favor of churches and synagogues in New York.

The high court’s unsigned decisions did not rule that limits imposed by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy were improper. But they did throw out federal district court rulings that rejected challenges to the limits.

The High Plains Harvest Church in the rural town of Ault in northern Colorado sued Polis, while a Catholic priest and a rabbi challenged the restrictions in New Jersey.

Last month, the Supreme Court split 5-4  in holding that New York could not enforce certain limits on attendance at churches and synagogues. The high court subsequently ordered a new look at California worship service restrictions that had been challenged.

Colorado told the justices last week that it had amended a public health order “to remove capacity limits from all houses of worship at all times in response to this Court’s recent decisions.”

That should have settled the matter because “there is no reason to think Colorado will reverse course—and so no reason to think Harvest Church will again face capacity limits,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote in a brief dissent that was joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.  No justice noted a dissent from the New Jersey decision.

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