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Gay-rights advocates filed a court challenge Thursday to the government's unusual plan to canvass Australians' opinion on gay marriage next month, while a retired judge said he would boycott the survey as unacceptable.

The mail ballot is not binding, but the conservative government won't legislate the issue without it. If most Australians say "no," the government won't allow Parliament to consider lifting the nation's ban on same-sex marriage.

Lawyers for independent lawmaker Andrew Wilkie and marriage equality advocates Shelley Argent and Felicity Marlowe, applied to the High Court for an injunction that would prevent the so-called postal plebiscite from going ahead.

"We will be arguing that by going ahead without the authorization of Parliament, the government is acting beyond its power," lawyer Jonathon Hunyor said.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the government had legal advice that the postal ballot would withstand a court challenge.

"I encourage every Australian to exercise their right to vote on this matter. It's an important question," Turnbull said.

Gay-rights advocates and many lawmakers want Parliament to legislate marriage equality now without an opinion poll, which they see as an unjustifiable hurdle to reform.

Retired High Court judge Michael Kirby, a gay man who supports marriage equality, dismissed the ballot as "irregular and unscientific polling."

"It's just something we've never done in our constitutional arrangements of Australia, and it really is unacceptable," Kirby told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Kirby would not comment on the legality of the government proceeding with the 122 million Australian dollar ($96 million) ballot without Parliament's approval, but said: "I'm not going to take any part in it whatsoever."

Plebiscites in Australia are referendums that don't deal with questions that change the constitution. Voting at referendums is compulsory to ensure a high voter turnout and that the legally-binding result reflects the wishes of a majority of Australians.



An increase in court automation fees approved by the state Legislature aims to provide Wyoming courtrooms with adequate technology.

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports people using Wyoming courts since July 1 have had to pay $15 more in automation fees than they did before. The fees are for filing probate and civil matters in district court, filing civil matters in circuit court and filing petitions in the state Supreme Court.

People also have to pay $25 instead of $20 if they have been found guilty in a criminal case or are placed on probation.

State agencies that are parties in a legal proceeding are exempt until July 2018.

Wyoming Court Administrator Lily Sharpe says the money will primarily help update audio and visual systems in 69 courtrooms across the state.


An appeals court has rejected former Sheriff Joe Arpaio's bid to have a jury, rather than a judge, decide whether he is guilty of a criminal contempt-of-court charge for disobeying a court order in a racial profiling case.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that Arpaio didn't show that his request warranted its intervention in the case.

The former six-term sheriff of metro Phoenix faces the misdemeanor charge for defying a 2011 court order in a racial profiling case to stop his signature immigration patrols.

Arpaio has acknowledged prolonging the patrols, but insists his disobedience wasn't intentional. If convicted, the 84-year-old could be sentenced up to six months in jail.  His trial is scheduled to begin on June 26.



The suspect in this week's racially motivated shooting rampage in Fresno shouted Friday that natural disasters will increasingly hit the United States as he was ushered into a cramped courtroom for his first appearance before a judge.

Kori Ali Muhammad, 39, was supposed to be officially informed about the first-degree murder charge he is accused of in the shooting death of an unarmed security guard.

Authorities have said he then killed three more people in the rampage, targeting white victims, before he was caught.

But the reading of the charge never happened because Muhammad had another outburst, yelling "Let black people go" and a phrase similar to "in reparations" that was not clearly enunciated.

His court appointed lawyer, Eric Christensen, then told the judge: "I believe this gentleman may not be mentally competent to proceed."

Muhammad yelled again and the judge canceled the proceedings, setting bail at $2.6 million and ordering a mental evaluation for Muhammad.

Police have said Muhammad told them that learning he was wanted for the Williams' killing prompted him to try to kill as many white people as possible before he was caught.

He shot three other white men at random Tuesday, police said, including a Pacific Gas & Electric utility worker sitting in a truck and two men who had come out of a Catholic Charities building.


A Poor Guide for Trump's High Court Choices

  Legal Podcast  -   POSTED: 2016/11/26 16:58

To the chagrin of the vast majority of professors of constitutional law, President-elect Donald Trump has promised to appoint judges to the Supreme Court and throughout the federal judiciary who believe that the Constitution’s original meaning provides authoritative guidance in resolving cases and controversies.

Trump said that his kind of judges would uphold the Second Amendment right of individuals to own firearms, and would overturn Roe v. Wade. That, he emphasized on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” would return the question of abortion to the states—which, given public opinion data, would likely leave abortion legal in most of the country.

Hillary Clinton hoped as president to pursue a markedly different course. In the third presidential debate, she had little to say about the Constitution. But she did signal agreement with President Obama that “empathy” is the leading judicial virtue, stating her plan to “appoint Supreme Court justices who understand the way the world really works, who have real-life experience.”

Like Obama, Clinton assumes that the exercise of empathy from the bench yields progressive results. Her justices, she declared, would reverse Citizens United so that the government could lawfully regulate independent political spending by for-profit corporations, while also protecting voting rights, abortion, and same-sex marriage. To the delight of the vast majority of the nation’s law professors, Clinton indicated that she believes in a “living” Constitution—one that evolves to accommodate progressive policy preferences.


A Lexington man's conviction for violating the city's ban on begging has reached the Kentucky Supreme Court, which heard arguments in the case Friday.

Police cited Dennis Champion, who was holding a homemade sign asking for money, for violating Lexington's panhandling ordinance during the holiday season in 2014.

Champion's attorney, Linda Horsman, argued that the ordinance violates her client's free-speech rights. She said the ordinance singles out beggars, while people standing along roadways soliciting for charitable organizations are spared from citation.

Assistant Fayette County Attorney Jason Rothrock said the ordinance was aimed at protecting the safety of motorists and panhandlers and ensuring the efficient flow of traffic.

A day before the state's high court heard the Lexington case, Louisville's panhandling law was struck down by a district judge.


A federal appeals court on Tuesday dealt another defeat to New Jersey's yearslong attempt to legalize sports betting, setting aside the state's challenge to a federal betting ban.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling invalidated a law passed by New Jersey in 2014 that would have allowed sports betting at casinos and racetracks. The court found New Jersey's law repealing prohibitions against sports gambling violated the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which forbids state-authorized sports gambling.

"Because PASPA, by its terms, prohibits states from authorizing by law sports gambling, and because the 2014 law does exactly that, the 2014 law violates federal law," the court wrote.

Currently, only Nevada offers legal sports betting on individual games. Delaware offers multigame parlay betting in which players must pick several games correctly to win. Both were given exemptions when PASPA was passed.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and supporters in the state Legislature have sought to legalize sports gambling to help prop up the struggling casino and horse racing industries. It's estimated up to hundreds of billions of dollars are bet illegally on sports every year in the U.S.

Monmouth Park, in Oceanport on New Jersey's coast, is the only venue currently set up to offer sports gambling, if it were legalized.

The dispute has a lengthy legal history. New Jersey voters approved legal sports gambling in 2011, but the four major professional sports leagues and the NCAA sued the state the following year. The leagues claimed the expansion of betting to New Jersey would damage the integrity of their games and lead to more game-fixing.

Sports betting supporters have called the leagues' stance hypocritical, saying the leagues condone and profit from sports fantasy leagues in which participants assemble rosters of players from different teams and compete against others.


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