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A group of elected officials in southwest Virginia violated the state's open government law during meetings about dissolving a public library system, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled on Thursday in a case long delayed by a lawmaker's use of a privilege of his office.

State Del. Jeff Campbell, who is also an attorney in private practice, represented the Smyth County Board of Supervisors in the lawsuit brought by the head of a nonprofit that promotes the library.

The court ruled that the board had improperly entered into closed sessions and exceeded the scope of subjects it was allowed to discuss in closed meetings. The justices also found that the circuit court had erred by not awarding attorneys fees and costs to the group suing the board.

Paul Morrison, attorney for the president of the Friends of the Smyth-Bland Regional Library, said while he was pleased with the decision, the fact that the case took so long to come to a resolution means the board now has many new members. The ones who made the error won't have to face the fallout, he said.

“It sounds so cliché to say justice delayed is justice denied, but it’s really true,” he said.

Attorneys who serve in Virginia’s General Assembly or work there have broad discretion to obtain continuances in their cases “as a matter of right” under certain conditions. The Associated Press, citing court records obtained through a public records request, has previously reported that Campbell routinely uses that privilege to delay court proceedings, and has done so at least nine times in a domestic violence case against a former NASCAR driver.



The Supreme Court is passing for now on deciding whether juries must find all facts necessary to impose a death sentence or whether judges can play a role, an issue Nebraska and Missouri death row inmates had asked the court to take up.

The high court on Monday declined to hear appeals brought by Nikko Jenkins and Craig Wood. The court, as is usual, didn't comment in turning away the cases.

Wood is on death row in Missouri after being convicted of kidnapping, raping and killing 10-year-old Hailey Owens in 2014. The jury that convicted Would couldn’t decide whether to sentence him to death or life in prison without parole. That left the decision up to the judge who oversaw Wood’s trial.

Jenkins is on death row in Nebraska after killing four people in Omaha shortly after his 2013 release from prison, where he had served 10 years for two carjackings. Jenkins pleaded no contest to the killings and a three-judge panel was appointed to sentence him. Jenkins waived his right to have a jury assess aggravating circumstances and the panel sentenced him to death.


Anyone needing proof of the power and significance of the Wisconsin Supreme Court can look no further than the lines of mask-wearing voters that stretched for hours in Milwaukee during an election held despite a stay-at-home order because of the coronavirus pandemic.

An election-eve decision by the court overturning the governor’s order to postpone the vote made the state an outlier in pushing ahead with voting, ignoring pleadings from health experts and local officials about the danger of spreading the virus.

The fact that Wisconsin went forward when other states delayed their elections, and that many voters were willing to endure long waits to cast ballots, reflects the hotly disputed role the court has taken in a state with outsize importance in national politics.

Republicans and Democrats both see Wisconsin as crucial to winning national elections and gaining control of Congress. Historically, elections in the state are decided by close margins and power has flipped between the parties.

Since conservatives have held a majority on the state Supreme Court, the Republican-dominated Legislature has been able to enact laws that enhanced the GOP’s position, including voter ID laws and limits on labor unions, despite legal challenges from Democrats. The court would play a pivotal role in reviewing the drawing of new district lines for legislative and congressional offices following the 2020 census, which has a major impact on the balance of political power.

On the ballot Tuesday for a 10-year term was one of the justices in the court’s 5-2 conservative majority, Dan Kelly.

Democrats charged that holding the election when many voters might stay home would unduly benefit Republicans, who generally fare better in low-turnout ballots. Wisconsin’s Supreme Court elections are nonpartisan in name only.

No turnout information was available from Tuesday’s vote. The results can’t be posted until April 13, allowing time for counting absentee ballots.


International Criminal Court judges authorized a far-reaching investigation Thursday of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed by Afghan government forces, the Taliban, American troops and U.S. foreign intelligence operatives.

The appellate ruling marked the first time the court’s prosecutor has been cleared to investigate U.S. forces, and set the global tribunal on a collision course with the Trump administration.

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda pledged to carry out an independent and impartial investigation and called for full support and cooperation from all parties.

“The many victims of atrocious crimes committed in the context of the conflict in Afghanistan deserve to finally have justice,” Bensouda said. “Today they are one step closer to that coveted outcome.”

Washington, which has long rejected the court’s jurisdiction and refuses to cooperate with it, condemned the decision while human rights groups and lawyers for victims applauded it.

A five-judge appellate panel upheld an appeal by prosecutors against a pretrial chamber’s rejection in April last year of Bensouda’s request to open a probe in Afghanistan.


Lesotho’s prime minister failed to show up in court on Friday to be charged with murder in the killing of his estranged wife, and police said he might have gone to neighboring South Africa for an undisclosed ailment.

Prime Minister Thomas Thabane's current wife, Maesaiah, also has been charged with murder in the 2017 death of Lipolelo Thabane. She had briefly fled the kingdom for South Africa, avoiding a police summons.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Paseka Mokete, who led the investigation, said he had heard rumors that the 80-year-old prime minister had gone to South Africa for a medical check-up.

“I have spoken to Thabane’s lawyer and he told me he is not aware of the prime minister’s whereabouts,” Mokete said. “We are now waiting for him to return so that he can be charged.”

It would be premature to seek an arrest warrant for the prime minister as police did when Maesaiah Thabane refused to honor a police summons last month, Mokete said.

On Thursday, Mokete confirmed to The Associated Press that the prime minister would appear at Maseru Magistrates Court to face a murder charge and an attempted murder charge in connection with a shooting of a friend of Lipolelo Thabane.

Thomas Thabane is the first sitting prime minister in Lesotho to be charged with any crime. He has announced he would step down by the end of July, if not sooner, amid pressure from the ruling party, which says he is no longer fit to rule.


A Spanish court ruled Thursday that a former head of Mexico’s state oil company must remain in custody while an extradition case is heard against him.

A judge ruled that Emilio Lozoya is a flight risk, according to a statement from the National Court in Madrid.

Mexico issued international arrest warrants against Lozoya last year as a result of corruption investigations. Lozoya has denied wrongdoing.

When he was arrested Wednesday in the southeastern Spanish port of Malaga, Lozoya had a driving license bearing his photograph but a different name, according to the court statement. The judge took that as an attempt to evade justice.

Spanish authorities said Lozoya had entered Spain two days earlier, but a search had been on for him throughout Europe since May.

He is one of the most high-profile detentions for alleged corruption under Mexico’s current president, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has vowed to crack down on graft.

Lozoya was the director of Pemex between 2012 and 2016, during the administration of former President Enrique Peña Nieto. He had also been a key member of Peña Nieto’s presidential campaign.

Last year, López Obrador’s administration issued a number of orders for his arrest. One tied him to the bribery scandal of Brazilian construction behemoth Odebrecht and another to the sale of a fertilizer plant to Pemex at allegedly inflated prices.



WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange made a brief court appearance Monday in his bid to prevent extradition to the United States to face serious espionage charges.

He and his lawyers complained they weren't being given enough time to meet to plan their battle against U.S. prosecutors seeking to put him on trial for WikiLeaks' publication of hundreds of thousands of confidential documents.

The 48-year-old was brought to court from Belmarsh Prison on the outskirts of London. He saluted the public gallery, which was packed with ardent supporters including the musician MIA, when he entered the courtroom. He later raised his right fist in defiance when he was taken to holding cells to meet with lawyer Gareth Peirce.

Peirce said officials at Belmarsh Prison are making it extremely difficult for her to meet with Assange.

“We have pushed Belmarsh in every way —- it is a breach of a defendant's rights,” she said.

Assange refrained from making political statements. He confirmed his name and date of birth, and at one point said he didn't understand all of the proceedings against him during the brief hearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court.

He faces 18 charges in the U.S., including conspiring to hack into a Pentagon computer. He has denied wrongdoing, claiming he was acting as a journalist entitled to First Amendment protection.

Many advocacy groups have supported Assange's claim that the charges would have a chilling effect on freedom of the press.


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