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The historic courthouse in downtown Miami is set to reopen after an engineering inspection spurred by the collapse of a nearby beachfront condominium.

The 27-story Dade County Courthouse, built in 1928, never completed its required 40-year safety recertification until recent months. It was closed in July amid widespread safety concerns about older buildings after the June 24 collapse of the Champlain Towers South condo in Surfside, which killed 98 people.

Miami-Dade County officials now say the courthouse will reopen Dec. 6 after engineers finished inspections of columns in the basement. The Miami Herald reports the only remaining hurdle is obtaining a city permit for recent work there.

An Oct. 15 engineering report by the county-hired firm EXP found no structural concerns with steel columns in the flood-prone basement.

Chief Judge Nushin Sayfie emphasized that the county is endorsing the building’s readiness.

“Our first priority was and continues to be the safety of all who work at and visit the Dade County Courthouse,” she said. The courthouse, which handles the bulk of civil cases in Florida’s most populous county, is set to be replaced by a new $267 million building to be completed by the end of 2024.


A judge ruled Friday that a man charged with killing four people in a shooting at a Southern California real estate office isn’t competent to stand trial because of injuries he suffered in a shootout with police.

Aminadab Gaxiola Gonzalez was shot in the head, and his attorney had said he might be incapable of understanding the charges against him. He didn’t speak at the hearing and didn’t show any obvious reaction to the proceedings, the Orange County Register reported.

The case is now suspended indefinitely.

The county district attorney’s office said every medical expert who has evaluated Gaxiola Gonzalez has concluded he isn’t competent to help his lawyers because of “deficits” caused by the wound.

“He will now be evaluated by medical professionals who will assist the court to determine his future placement and medical treatment plan in an effort to restore his competency,” said a statement from the District Attorney’s office. “He will continued to be housed in a lock down facility.”

Police say that on March 31, Gaxiola Gonzalez opened fire at a mobile home brokerage company, Unified Homes, in Orange southeast of Los Angeles.

Authorities had to use bolt cutters to break bicycle locks that had been used to shut the gates at the business complex.

Family members of the victims were in the courtroom where Orange County Superior Court Judge Cheri Pham told them that the case couldn’t proceed unless the defendant is found competent.


Chief Justice John Roberts has rejected a Supreme Court stay request from the St. Louis-based natural gas company Spire Inc. to allow it to keep operating a pipeline through Illinois and Missouri.

Roberts did not comment Friday in refusing to temporarily pause a lower court order affecting the operation of the Spire STL Pipeline. The company could be forced to stop operating the pipeline on Dec. 13 unless the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission extends an emergency order granted in September.

Scott Smith, president of Spire STL Pipeline, said in a statement that the company was disappointed in the decision.

“Shutting down the Pipeline could potentially lead to widespread, prolonged, and life-threatening natural-gas service disruptions for residents and businesses in the greater St. Louis region,” Smith said. “Spire STL Pipeline will continue to fully cooperate with the FERC and other stakeholders to keep this critical infrastructure in service to ensure continued access to reliable, affordable energy for homes and businesses in the greater St. Louis region.”

Smith said Spire “retains the ability to return to the Supreme Court for emergency relief if new developments further threaten its ability to serve its customers.”

The environmental group opposing Spire has said the company’s concerns are overblown because FERC is likely to allow the pipeline to continue to operate through the winter.
The pipeline runs for 65 miles (105 kilometers), from Scott County, Illinois, to near St. Louis, where it connects with a national network. FERC granted approval in 2018.

Spire has called it vital for providing “reliable and critical energy access to 650,000 homes and businesses throughout the St. Louis region.” But the Environmental Defense Fund contended in a lawsuit that the pipeline harms land in its path, and that taxpayers will foot the bill for decades to come.

In June, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that FERC “failed to adequately balance public benefits and adverse impacts” in approving the pipeline. The panel also wrote that evidence showed the pipeline “is not being built to serve increasing load demand and that there is no indication the new pipeline will lead to cost savings.”

The ruling vacated approval of the pipeline, prompting FERC’s 90-day order allowing its continued operation.


A former juvenile court judge in Wisconsin has reached a deal with prosecutors to resolve a host of child pornography charges filed against him earlier this year.

Court records show that former Milwaukee County Children’s Court Judge Brett Blomme agreed to plead guilty to two counts of distributing child pornography in federal court in Madison, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Friday. Each count carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison.

The deal would resolve seven child pornography counts against him in state court. Each of those counts carries a maximum 25-year prison sentence.

According to a criminal complaint, the state Department of Justice began investigating Blomme in February after receiving a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that he had uploaded child pornography through the Kik messaging application 27 times in October and November.

He was charged in state court in Dane County in March. A federal grand jury indicted him in May.

The state Supreme Court barred Blomme from serving as a judge after he was charged in state court.

Blomme’s attorney, Chris Van Wagner, said he’s trying to schedule a date in September for Blomme to enter his pleas.

“He’s ashamed and embarrassed,” Van Wagner told The Associated Press by phone. “He wants people to forgive him, which isn’t easy. He just asks that people remember that nobody is as bad as their worst decision or as good as their greatest victory.”


President Joe Biden may have averted a flood of evictions and solved a growing political problem when his administration reinstated a temporary ban on evictions because of the COVID-19 crisis. But he left his lawyers with legal arguments that even he acknowledges might not stand up in court.

The new eviction moratorium announced Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could run into opposition at the Supreme Court, where one justice in late June warned the administration not to act further without explicit congressional approval.

Landlords from Alabama whose bid to lift the earlier pause on evictions failed returned to federal court in Washington late Wednesday, asking for an order that would allow evictions to resume.

The administration is counting on differences between the new order, scheduled to last until Oct. 3, and the eviction pause that lapsed over the weekend to bolster its legal case. At the very least, as Biden himself said, the new moratorium will buy some time to protect the estimated 3.6 million Americans who could face eviction from their homes.

Some legal scholars who doubt the new eviction ban will stand up say its legal underpinnings are strikingly similar to the old one.

“Meet the new moratorium, same as the old moratorium!” Ilya Somin, a George Mason University law professor who backed Biden over former President Donald Trump last year, wrote on Reason.com.

Nicholas Bagley, a University of Michigan law professor, said he expects landlords “all over the country to turn immediately to the courts in an effort to secure a preliminary injunction,” an order that would effectively allow evictions to resume.

The basic legal issue is whether the CDC has the authority in the midst of a public health crises to impose a pause on evictions, under existing federal law that dates to 1944.

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled in May the CDC exceeded its power under that law, a decision Bagley called “measured and sensible.” But Friedrich kept her ruling in favor of the Alabama landlords on hold pending appeal.


A divided federal appeals court on Thursday ruled that an aerial surveillance program used as a crime-fighting tool by the Baltimore Police Department was unconstitutional and said police must stop using any data obtained through the now-defunct program.

In its ruling, the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the use of planes equipped with wide-angle high-tech cameras to surveil the city amounted to a warrantless search that violated the Fourth Amendment.

“The AIR (Aerial Investigation Research) program records the movements of a city. With analysis, it can reveal where individuals come and go over an extended period. Because the AIR program enables police to deduce from the whole of individuals’ movements, we hold that accessing its data is a search, and its warrantless operation violates the Fourth Amendment,” Chief Judge Roger Gregory wrote for the majority in the 8-7 ruling.

The police department’s use of the aerial surveillance in a pilot program last year prompted an outcry among some privacy advocates. The six-month program tracked the movements of virtually all Baltimore residents during daylight hours.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Maryland sued in federal court on behalf of a group of Black activist leaders in Baltimore, arguing that the program jeopardized the privacy rights of residents. A judge rejected a request for an injunction to temporarily block the program.

In November, a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit upheld the lower court ruling, finding that the program was carefully designed to “slow the recurrent increases in violent crime in Baltimore” and was “merely a tool used to track short-term movements in public, where the expectation of privacy is lessened.”

The ACLU appealed that ruling to the full court, which reversed the panel’s ruling Thursday.



Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman formally launched a run for attorney general Monday, becoming the latest challenger to embattled GOP incumbent Ken Paxton.

Guzman, a Republican who spent more than a decade on Texas’ highest court before stepping down this month, joins Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush in what may be the state’s most contested primary in 2022.

Guzman is a longtime judge who became the first Latina to join the Texas Supreme Court in 2009. Both Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. John Cornyn are also former justices who were later elected attorney general.

Paxton did not draw a primary challenger in 2018 but now has at least two as his legal problems mount. He is under FBI investigation following an extraordinary revolt by his top aides, who accused him of abusing his office in the service of a donor, and he is still awaiting trial on separate charges of securities fraud.

The Texas bar association is also investigating whether Paxton’s failed efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election based on bogus claims of fraud amounted to professional misconduct. Paxton has pleaded not guilty to the fraud charges and has denied the other accusations as politically motivated.


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