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Court won't reconsider making public family slain autopsies
Court Issues | 2018/04/25 17:33
The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday once again rejected requests for unredacted autopsy reports from the unsolved slayings of eight family members.

The court ruled 5-2 without comment against reconsidering its December decision that the Pike County coroner in southern Ohio does not have to release the reports with complete information.

The case before the court involved seven adults and a teenage boy from the Rhoden family who were found shot to death at four homes near Piketon, in rural southern Ohio, on April 22, 2016. No arrests have been made or suspects identified.

Heavily redacted versions of the autopsy reports released in 2016 showed all but one of the victims were shot multiple times in the head, but details about any other injuries and toxicology test results weren't released.

In the 4-3 December ruling, Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, writing for the majority, said Ohio law regarding coroner records clearly exempts the redacted material as "confidential law enforcement investigatory records."

Once a criminal investigation ends, confidential information in autopsy reports can become public records, but the process leading to a suspect can sometimes take time, O'Connor wrote.


Supreme Court upholds challenged patent review practice
Court Issues | 2018/04/25 00:33
The Supreme Court has upheld a challenged practice that is used to invalidate patents without the involvement of federal courts.

The justices on Tuesday rejected a bid to strike down a process established by Congress in 2011 to speed up patent reviews.

The justices voted 7-2 in favor of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's patent review process. It has been used to invalidate hundreds of patents since it was established in 2012.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Neil Gorsuch dissented.



Italy's high court refuses to release migrant rescue ship
Court Issues | 2018/04/24 00:33
Italy's highest court has rejected a request by a German group to release its migrant rescue boat seized eight months ago by prosecutors investigating allegations that non-governmental organizations colluded with migrant smugglers.

The German group, Jugend Rettet, said Tuesday that it was devastated by the Cassation Court's ruling and that "we will fight for the right to rescue people in danger at sea."

Doctors Without Borders said the ruling "sends a working signal (that) Europe will continue to criminalize humanitarian organizations conducting search-and-rescue operations ... rather than strengthening capacities to save lives at sea."

Prosecutors told the court that the Iuventa was seized based on three episodes in which crew members had contact with migrant smugglers. The group's spokesman, Philipp Kulker, said in Berlin that the evidence had been fabricated.



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.


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