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Pandemic means a silent June at the Supreme Court
Court Watch | 2020/06/04 16:56
It’s the time of the year when Supreme Court justices can get testy. They might have to find a new way to show it.

The court’s most fought-over decisions in its most consequential cases often come in June, with dueling majority and dissenting opinions. But when a justice is truly steamed to be on a decision’s losing side, the strongest form of protest is reading a summary of the dissent aloud in court. Dissenting justices exercise what a pair of scholars call the “nuclear option” just a handful of times a year, but when they do, they signal that behind the scenes, there’s frustration and even anger.

The coronavirus pandemic has kept the justices from their courtroom since March and forced them to change their ways in many respects. Now, in their season of weighty decisions, instead of the drama that can accompany the announcement of a majority decision and its biting dissent, the court’s opinions are being posted online without an opportunity for the justices to be heard.

University of Maryland, Baltimore County political science professor William Blake, who co-authored the article calling oral dissents the nuclear option, says a June without them would be a “missed opportunity.” They are “a chance to see the justices as exhibiting emotions,” not just the logic of their opinions, he said.


Wisconsin Supreme Court agrees to hear voter purge case
Court Watch | 2020/06/02 23:54
The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a case seeking to purge about 129,000 voter registrations from the rolls ahead of the November presidential election after previously deadlocking on whether to get involved.

Democrats oppose the voter purge, arguing it is intended to make it more difficult for their voters to cast ballots. Conservatives who brought the lawsuit argue that the integrity of the vote is at stake, saying that when records indicate voters may have moved, their registrations should be deactivated.

The case is closely watched in battleground Wisconsin, a state President Donald Trump won by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016. Winning Wisconsin is a key part of the strategy for both Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

he voter purge case was brought on behalf of three voters by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a conservative law firm. It won in Ozaukee County, with a judge ordering in January that the purge take place immediately. The Supreme Court deadlocked then when asked to immediately take the case. In February, a state appeals court reversed the lower court’s ruling, stopped the purge and dismissed the case.

That set up the latest request made in March for the Supreme Court to hear the case, which it agreed to do on Monday. It is likely to hear arguments this summer or early fall and could issue a ruling before the November election.


USCIS Preparing to Resume Public Services on June 4
Topics | 2020/05/30 18:36
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is preparing some domestic offices to reopen and resume non-emergency public services on or after June 4. On March 18, USCIS temporarily suspended routine in-person services at its field offices, asylum offices and application support centers (ASCs) to help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). USCIS is following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines to protect our workforce and the public.

While certain offices are temporarily closed, USCIS continues to provide limited emergency in-person services. Please call the USCIS Contact Center for assistance with emergency services.

As services begin to reopen, offices will reduce the number of appointments and interviews to ensure social distancing, allow time for cleaning and reduce waiting room occupancy. Appointment notices will contain information on safety precautions that visitors to USCIS facilities must follow.

If you are feeling sick, please do not go to your appointment. Follow the instructions on your appointment notice to reschedule your appointment for when you are healthy. There is no penalty for rescheduling your appointment if you are sick.



Big Oil loses appeal, climate suits go to California courts
Court Issues | 2020/05/26 01:34
Big Oil lost a pair of court battles Tuesday that could lead to trials in lawsuits by California cities and counties seeking damages for the impact of climate change.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments by energy companies and ruled state courts are the proper forum for lawsuits alleging producers promoted petroleum as environmentally responsible when they knew it was contributing to drought, wildfires, and sea level rise associated with global warming.

The lawsuits claim Chevron, Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and other companies created a public nuisance and should pay for damage from climate change and help build sea walls and other infrastructure to protect against future impact construction that could cost tens of billions of dollars.

The ruling overturned a decision by one federal judge, who had tossed out lawsuits brought by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland.

“It is time for these companies to pay their fair share,” San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement applauding the ruling. “They should not be able to stick taxpayers with the bill for the damage they knew they were causing. We will continue to hold these companies accountable for their decades-long campaign of public deception about climate change and its consequences.”

While the rulings were victories for the coastal counties and cities all in the San Francisco Bay Area except for the tiny city of Imperial Beach in San Diego County and cheered by environmental groups, it could take years before they ever get to a jury, if they make it that far.


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