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The coronavirus pandemic is forcing big changes at the tradition-bound Supreme Court. The justices will hear arguments this month by telephone for the first time since Alexander Graham Bell patented his invention in 1876.

Audio of the arguments will be broadcast live by the news media, another first. This will be just the second time that the justices will meet outside the court since the Supreme Court building opened in 1935. (The discovery of anthrax in a court mailroom in 2001 forced a temporary relocation to another federal courthouse less than a mile away.)

The first argument is Monday, and the court will hear a total of 10 cases over six days. Among the cases to be argued: President Donald Trump’s bid to keep certain financial records private and whether presidential electors are required to cast their Electoral College ballots for the candidate who won their state.



A would-be candidate for a seat on Georgia's highest court on Wednesday asked the state's lower appeals court to step in after a judge this week said the governor had the right to fill the position even though a judge who's resigning won't leave until November.

Georgia Supreme Court Justice Keith Blackwell, whose six-year term ends in December, told Gov. Brian Kemp last month that he planned to resign but would remain on the bench until Nov. 18. Kemp's office then told Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger that the Republican governor intended to fill the seat by appointment, and Raffensperger canceled the scheduled May 19 election for the position.

John Barrow, a former Democratic congressman from Athens, and former Republican state lawmaker Beth Beskin of Atlanta had both planned to challenge Blackwell. They filed separate lawsuits in Fulton County Superior Court saying the election had been illegally canceled and asking a judge to order Raffensperger to put it back on the calendar and allow candidates to qualify.

Judge Emily Richardson on Monday ruled that according to the Georgia Constitution and state law, Blackwell's seat became vacant Feb. 26, when Kemp signed a letter accepting the justice's resignation. Raffensperger was no longer required to hold an election for the seat once the governor signaled his intent to appoint someone to fill it, she wrote.

Even though the effective date of Blackwell’s resignation is after the May election, it is still within his current term, which ends Dec. 31, meaning Kemp has the authority under the state Constitution to fill the vacancy by appointment, Richardson wrote.

Barrow on Wednesday filed an emergency request with the Georgia Court of Appeals, arguing that Richardson was wrong and asking the court to take up the case. Beskin's lawyer, Cary Ichter, said in an email that they intend to do the same on Thursday.


A federal appeals court has ruled that a legal fight over a lost dog could continue in Mississippi, even after the dog's owner has died.

The dispute is over a German shepherd named Max who jumped out a window and escaped from his owner's Hattiesburg home in 2015. Max got loose when people were providing medical help to his owner, Charles Holt, who had fallen and could not get up.

Holt was more than 90 years old at the time. He was hospitalized after the fall. Max was captured weeks after he escaped, and he was impounded in an animal shelter. More weeks passed before Holt was notified that his dog was in the shelter, according to court papers. When Holt tried to reclaim his dog, the shelter refused, based on orders from the city.

A city court judge ordered the shelter to keep Max because the dog allegedly posed a threat to the people taking care of Holt. A county court judge later agreed with that decision.

Holt then filed a federal lawsuit saying the city had deprived him of his property, Max, without due process. A district court judge threw out his claim, and Holt appealed.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that although Holt has died, questions about his property claim survive. The appeals court sent it back to a district court for the possibility of further consideration.



The Colorado baker whose refusal to design a wedding cake for a gay couple led to a landmark Supreme Court ruling and made him a conservative hero now has a book deal.

Jack Phillips' memoir, currently untitled, will be released this summer by Salem Books Publishing. Salem Books is a Christian evangelical imprint of Regnery Publishing that announced the book Thursday and is calling it “a firsthand account of his experience on the front lines" of a cultural battle between religious and secular forces.

Phillips, who runs the Masterpiece Cakeshop in suburban Denver, became known nationally in 2012 after he cited religious objections in declining the request of two men who wanted a cake celebrating their marriage. The couple filed a complaint with the state's civil rights commission, which ruled that Phillips should not have refused service.

The baker appealed his case all the way to the Supreme Court, which in 2018 voted 7-2 that the commission violated Phillips’ rights under the First Amendment. The court did not rule on the larger issue of whether businesses can invoke religious objections to refuse service to gays and lesbians.



A Hong Kong court that had struck down a ban on face masks at protests said Friday that the government could enforce it for one week, as police readied for any unrest during keenly contested elections this weekend.

The High Court granted the temporary suspension “in view of the great public importance of the issues raised in this case, and the highly exceptional circumstances that Hong Kong is currently facing.”

Anti-government protests have rocked the semi-autonomous Chinese city for more than five months. Protesters remained holed up on a university campus, refusing to turn themselves in for arrest after intense clashes with police last weekend.


The court had ruled Monday that the ban, imposed last month under rarely used emergency powers to prevent protesters from hiding their identity, infringed on fundamental rights more than was reasonably necessary.

China’s parliament rebuked the court ruling this week, in what some interpreted as an indication it might overrule the decision.

In granting the one-week reprieve, the High Court said it was giving the government time to appeal the decision and seek a longer suspension from the Court of Appeal.



A high court in the Maldives on Thursday overturned a prison sentence for the country's former strongman, who had been jailed for not cooperating with a police investigation into allegations he was trying to overthrow the government.

The court set aside the jail term of one year, seven months and six days imposed by the Criminal Court on ex-President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Maumoon was jailed in June for not handing over his cellphone to investigators after being accused of being part of a plan to overthrow his half-brother, outgoing President Yameen Abdul Gayoom. Maumoon was among dozens of political opponents and officials jailed by Yameen during his five-year rule after trials criticized for alleged lack of due process.

Yameen lost last month's presidential election to joint opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. The court ruled Thursday that the lower court did not follow correct trial procedures.


A Hungarian appeals court has lowered to five years from seven the prison sentence of a Syrian man convicted of entering Hungary illegally and of complicity in throwing rocks at police during a 2015 border riot.

The case stems from rioting at the Hungary-Serbia border on Sept. 16, 2015, when dozens of police officers, migrants and some journalists were injured in clashes a day after Hungary closed the frontier, stranding hundreds of migrants.

Amnesty International said the “absurd” conviction exemplified “the erosion of the rule of law and human rights protections in Hungary.”

The appeals court in the southern city of Szeged said Thursday that Ahmed Hamed has to serve at least two-thirds of his sentence before he can be released.


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