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Court weighs punishment for judge for courthouse affair
Legal Network | 2018/04/23 00:33
A Massachusetts judge who engaged in sexual acts with a social worker in his chambers has damaged the public's faith in the judicial system and can no longer command the respect necessary to remain on the bench, the head of the state's Commission on Judicial Conduct said Tuesday.

Howard V. Neff III, executive director of the commission, told the Supreme Judicial Court that an indefinite suspension that would allow lawmakers to decide whether to remove Judge Thomas Estes from the bench is the only proper punishment for behavior Neff called "egregious."

"Unless this court sets a precedent that makes it absolutely clear that this type of conduct will not be tolerated ... there is little hope that public trust in the administration of public justice in Massachusetts will be restored," Neff said.

Estes admits he had a sexual relationship with Tammy Cagle, who worked in the special drug court where he sat. But Estes denies allegations Cagle made in a federal lawsuit, including that he coerced her into performing oral sex on him and played a role in getting her removed from the drug court when she tried to end the relationship.

Estes, who's married and has two teenage boys, attended Tuesday's hearing but left the courthouse without speaking to reporters. The court did not immediately decide Estes' punishment. He is asking for a four-month suspension.


Supreme Court seems divided over Texas redistricting
Court Issues | 2018/04/22 00:34
The Supreme Court appeared divided Tuesday over Texas' appeal to preserve congressional and legislative districts that a lower court struck down as racially discriminatory.

The justices heard arguments in the latest round of court action over Texas electoral districts that began in 2011.

At issue are two congressional districts and statehouse districts in four counties, and what the challengers say are efforts by Texas Republicans who control the state government to restrain the political influence of a growing Hispanic and African-American population.

The liberal justices seemed favorable to minority voters and civil rights groups that sued over the districts. The court's conservatives appeared to lean toward the state, which also has the support of the Trump administration. Justice Anthony Kennedy said nothing to indicate where his potentially decisive vote would fall.

The justices last year kept the challenged districts in place, even after the lower court ruling. Texas held primary elections in those districts in March.

Max Renea, Hicks, a lawyer for the plaintiffs told the justices Tuesday that even if his side wins at the high court, it is unlikely that new districts would be used before the 2020 elections, the last voting cycle before the next census.

The case is the third major dispute this term that is focused on redistricting, the drawing of electoral maps following the once-a-decade census. The high court's other cases, from Maryland and Wisconsin, focus on the drawing of political districts for partisan advantage.

The Texas situation is unusual. Based on the 2010 census, Texas was awarded four new congressional districts, attributable mainly to the influx of Hispanics.

After the state's original electoral maps were found to be probably unconstitutional, a three-judge federal court produced interim districting plans that were used in the 2012 elections.

In 2013, Republicans rushed to permanently adopt those maps to use for the rest of the decade.

But opponents criticized the adopted maps as a quick fix that didn't purge all districts of the impermissible use of race.

In 2017, the same judges who approved the interim maps in 2012 agreed with the challengers that the maps were the product of intentional discrimination.


Supreme Court wrestles with administrative law judge case
Press Release | 2018/04/21 00:34
The Supreme Court wrestled Monday with a case brought by a former financial adviser known for his "Buckets of Money" strategy who is challenging the appointment of the administrative law judge who ruled against him.

The case involves the Securities and Exchange Commission's administrative law judges, who conduct hearings on alleged securities law violations and issue initial decisions. The federal government employs administrative law judges in more than 30 agencies, however, giving the case the potential to have a broader impact.

During arguments Monday, Justice Anthony Kennedy wanted to know "what effect, if any" the case would have on administrative law judges in other agencies. Attorney Mark Perry suggested that the court's decision could impact some 150 administrative law judges in 25 agencies.

The question the justices are being asked to decide is whether the SEC's administrative law judges are SEC employees or instead "inferior officers" of the United States. The answer is important in determining who can appoint them to their positions.

The case before the Supreme Court involves former financial adviser Raymond J. Lucia, who as a radio show host, author and seminar leader promoted a retirement strategy he called "Buckets of Money." Lucia's strategy was that in retirement investors should first sell safer investments, giving riskier investments time to grow.




Lake County courts to switch to online filing system in May
Topics | 2018/04/19 00:34
Court officials in northwestern Indiana's Lake County plan to switch next month to an online filing system that's already used by nearly three-quarters of Indiana's counties.

Lake County's circuit and superior courts will switch May 21 to the Odyssey case management system that's supported by the Indiana Supreme Court. Courts in 65 of Indiana's 92 counties currently use that state-funded system.

Mark Pearman is executive director of Lake County's Data Processing Department. He tells The (Northwest Indiana) Times the state is providing the county with the Odyssey software at no cost.

Pearman says that in August, new cases filed with the Lake County Clerk's Office will be scanned into the Odyssey system. The county's court system is scheduled to switch to a completely paperless record system in January.



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