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  Supreme Court - Legal News


The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a New York state law that had restricted who could obtain a permit to carry a gun in public. Under the law in place since 1913, New York residents needed to show proper cause, or an actual need, to carry a concealed handgun in public for self-defense..

The justices said that law conflicts with the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. It drew swift reaction from New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat who called the decision reckless and said she was prepared to call the Legislature back into session to form a response.

“We do not need people entering our subways, our restaurants and movie theaters with concealed weapons,” she said. “We don’t need more guns on our streets.”

New York and a half a dozen other states with similar laws now must decide their next steps. As with New York, California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island all have legislatures controlled by Democrats who could propose measures to ensure that guns will not be allowed in certain places.aws.


The North Carolina Supreme Court reinstated a man’s murder and robbery convictions in the death of his co-worker on Friday, reversing an appellate ruling that had declared the circumstantial evidence at trial was too weak for guilty verdicts.

A divided panel of the state Court of Appeals last August had vacated the 2019 convictions of David Myron Dover in the 2016 stabbing death of 79-year-old Arthur “Buddy” Davis in Kannapolis. Dover and Davis worked at the same automobile sales store. Their boss found Davis in his home, stabbed more than a dozen times. Dover was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

In a 5-2 ruling, the state’s highest court said the trial judge had been right to deny Dover’s motion to dismiss the case after prosecutors presented their evidence.

According to court opinions, Dover had a substance abuse problem and had asked his girlfriend to look in a trash can near his house for about $3,000 in cash to help him post bail on a charge unrelated to Davis. Evidence from cellphone records also shows his phone was in the vicinity of Davis’ home, even as Dover told police initially he had been at home the night before Davis was found dead.

“Here substantial evidence supports the reasonable inference that defendant murdered the victim and took $3,000” from Davis, Chief Justice Paul Newby wrote in the majority opinion. The evidence also was sufficient to infer that Dover had gone to Davis’ home that night, Newby wrote, and case law establishes that when an accused person makes conflicting statements about a crime, it may be considered a circumstance of someone “possessed of a guilty conscience” seeking to divert suspicion.


The Supreme Court ruled Monday that Native Americans prosecuted in certain tribal courts can also be prosecuted based on the same incident in federal court, which can result in longer sentences.

The 6-3 ruling is in keeping with an earlier ruling from the 1970s that said the same about a more widely used type of tribal court.

The case before the justices involved a Navajo Nation member, Merle Denezpi, accused of rape. He served nearly five months in jail after being charged with assault and battery in what is called a Court of Indian Offenses, a court that deals exclusively with alleged Native American offenders.

Under federal law Courts of Indian Offenses can only impose sentences of generally up to a year. The man was later prosecuted in federal court and sentenced to 30 years in prison. He said the Constitution’s “Double Jeopardy” clause should have barred the second prosecution.

But the justices disagreed.

“Denezpi’s single act led to separate prosecutions for violations of a tribal ordinance and a federal statute. Because the Tribe and the Federal Government are distinct sovereigns, those” offenses are not the same, Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote for a majority of the court. “Denezpi’s second prosecution therefore did not offend the Double Jeopardy Clause.”

The Biden administration had argued for that result as had several states, which said barring federal prosecutions in similar cases could allow defendants to escape harsh sentences.

The case before the justices involves a tribal court system that has become increasingly rare over the last century. Courts of Indian Offenses were created in the late 1800s during a period when the federal government’s policy toward Native Americans was to encourage assimilation. Prosecutors are federal officers answerable to federal authorities, not tribal authorities.

Federal policy toward Native Americans shifted in the mid-1930s, however, to emphasize a greater respect for tribes’ native ways. As part of that, the government has encouraged tribes to create their own tribal courts, and the number of Courts of Indian Offenses has steadily decreased. Today there are five regional Courts of Indian Offenses that serve 16 tribes in Colorado, Oklahoma, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. They are generally tribes with a small number of members or limited resources. Nationwide there are more than 570 federally recognized tribes.

The court said in 1978 that the Double Jeopardy clause did not bar the federal government from prosecuting a Native person in federal court after a tribal court prosecution, so the only question for the court this time was whether the rule should be different for Courts of Indian Offenses.

In July 2017, Denezpi traveled with a female member of the Navajo Nation to Towaoc, Colorado, which is a part of the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation. While there, Denezpi raped the woman.

Denezpi was first charged in a Court of Indian Offenses with assault and battery, among other things. He eventually agreed to a so-called Alford plea in the case, not admitting guilt but acknowledging that prosecutors had enough evidence that he would likely be convicted at trial. He was sentenced to time served, 140 days in jail. His prosecution in federal court followed.


West Virginia’s Supreme Court has overturned a man’s 2017 murder conviction, citing errors by a trial judge.

In an opinion released Thursday, the court ordered a new trial for Oscar Combs Sr., who was convicted in the 2013 death of Teresa Lynn Ford of the Mercer County community of Matoaka.

The court said in an opinion written by Chief Justice John Hutchison that Combs did not receive a fair trial because now-retired Wyoming County Circuit Judge Warren McGraw gave improper instructions to the jury and allowed evidence to be submitted at trial from Combs’ murder trial in a separate, earlier case.

According to circuit court records, Ford had told a friend that she was going to meet Combs to sell him her van. Combs was seen driving Ford’s van in the days after her disappearance. He later sold the vehicle to a used car dealer.

Ford’s remains were found near Combs’ home in Wyoming County. Combs was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole.


Kansas’ highest court on Wednesday upheld a Republican redistricting law that makes it harder for the only Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation to win reelection in a big victory for the GOP.

The state Supreme Court declined for now to declare that overly partisan gerrymandering violates the Kansas Constitution. The ruling sets district boundaries less than a month before the state’s June 10 filing deadline for congressional candidates.

The court’s opinion was two paragraphs long, saying only that the voters and voting rights group challenging the map “have not prevailed on their claims” that the map violated the state constitution and that a full opinion would come later.

The brief decision was written by Justice Caleb Stegall, who is seen as the most conservative of the court’s seven justices, five of whom were appointed by Democratic governors. During arguments from attorneys on Monday, he questioned whether anyone could clearly define improper partisan gerrymandering.

Lawsuits over new congressional district lines have proliferated across the U.S., with Republicans looking to recapture a U.S. House majority in this year’s midterm elections. Congressional maps in at least 17 states have inspired lawsuits, according to the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice.

In the past, congressional district lines have been reviewed by federal judges and not the state Supreme Court. The conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision in 2019 that complaints about partisan gerrymandering are political issues and not for the federal courts to resolve.

The state’s Republican-appointed solicitor general argued in defending the GOP-drawn map that because the state constitution doesn’t specifically mention gerrymandering or congressional redistricting, the Kansas Supreme Court should reject the legal challenges. He and other state officials said that the justices had no guidance on how to define improper political gerrymandering.


A unanimous Supreme Court ruled Monday that Boston violated the free speech rights of a conservative activist when it refused his request to fly a Christian flag on a flagpole outside City Hall.

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the court that the city discriminated against the activist, Harold Shurtleff, because of his “religious viewpoint,” even though it had routinely approved applications for the use of one of the three flagpoles outside City Hall that fly the U.S., Massachusetts and Boston flags.

Occasionally, the city takes down its own pennant and temporarily hoists another flag.

Shurtleff and his Camp Constitution wanted to fly a white banner with a red cross on a blue background in the upper left corner, called the Christian flag, to mark Constitution Day, Sept. 17, in 2017.

The city had approved 284 consecutive applications to fly flags, usually those of other nations, before it rejected Shurtleff’s because it was a Christian flag. The city said he could fly a different banner, but Shurtleff refused, and lower courts upheld the city’s decision.

But the high court said the lower courts and the city were wrong. The case hinged on whether the flag-flying is an act of the government, in which case Boston can do whatever it wants, or private parties like Shurtleff, Breyer wrote.


The fertile mind of Justice Stephen Breyer has conjured a stream of hypothetical questions through the years that have, in the words of a colleague, “befuddled” lawyers and justices alike.

Breyer, 83, seemed a bit subdued as he sat through the last of more than 2,000 arguments Wednesday in which he has taken part during 28 years on the high court. His wife, Joanna, also was in the courtroom.

But at the end of the case about Oklahoma’s authority to prosecute people accused of crimes on Native American lands, an emotional Chief Justice John Roberts paid tribute to Breyer for his prowess during arguments.

“For 28 years, this has been his arena for remarks profound and moving, questions challenging and insightful, and hypotheticals downright silly,” Roberts said.

A day earlier, Breyer provided only the most recent example, inventing a prison inmate named John the Tigerman in a case involving transporting an inmate for a medical test. Breyer called him “the most dangerous prisoner they have ever discovered.”

Just since Breyer announced in late January that he was retiring, he has asked lawyers to answer questions involving spiders, muskrats and “4-foot-long cigars smoked through hookahs” — none of which, it’s fair to say, had any actual links to the cases at hand.

Breyer once granted an interview to The Associated Press in which he acknowledged that his questions sometimes stretch the bounds of credulity.

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