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Lawyer: Incapacitated woman who gave birth not in coma
Court Watch | 2019/01/20 08:03
A lawyer for the family of an incapacitated Arizona woman who gave birth in a long-term care facility said she is not in a coma as previously reported.

The Arizona Republic reported Friday that attorney John Micheaels said the 29-year-old woman has “significant intellectual disabilities” and does not speak but has some ability to move, responds to sounds and is able to make facial gestures.

Phoenix police have said the woman was the victim of a sexual assault and have disclosed little other information.

A Jan. 8 statement by San Carlos Apache Tribe officials said the woman, a tribal member, gave birth while in a coma.

News media outlets have reported that the woman, who has not been publicly identified, was in a vegetative state at the facility where she spent many years.

“The important thing here is that contrary to what’s been reported, she is a person, albeit with significant intellectual disabilities. She has feelings and is capable of responding to people she is familiar with, especially family,” Micheaels told the newspaper.


Court: No new offshore drilling work during federal shutdown
Court Watch | 2019/01/18 16:17
A federal judge in South Carolina has turned back the Trump administration's attempt to continue preparatory work for offshore drilling during the federal government's partial shutdown, issuing a ruling in a federal lawsuit challenging the overall expansion plans.

In his order, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel halted federal agencies "from taking action to promulgate permits, otherwise approve, or take any other official action" for permits to conduct testing that's needed before drilling work can begin.

The ruling comes a few days after President Donald Trump's decision this week to recall workers at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management so they could continue to process testing permits for possible drilling off the Atlantic coastline. The recall drew an objection from the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee chairman, Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva (gri-HAWL-vah) of Arizona. He called on Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to reverse course or provide a briefing on the legal justification for the move.

Earlier this month, South Carolina joined a federal lawsuit opposing the administration's plans to conduct offshore drilling tests using seismic air guns. Gergel is overseeing that case, initially filed by environmental groups and municipalities along the state's coast.

The suit challenges permits for the testing that precedes the drilling itself. It claims the National Marine Fisheries Service violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act in issuing the permits.




US presses ahead with border wall in court despite shutdown
Court Watch | 2019/01/16 08:13
A federal attorney in South Texas said in court this week that during the ongoing partial government shutdown, he only has been allowed to work on cases related to President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall.

The Texas Civil Rights Project on Thursday released a transcript of a Tuesday hearing in a case where the U.S. government has sued a local landowner for her property along the U.S.-Mexico border. Many other civil cases have been delayed during the shutdown, which was triggered by Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to build a wall.

According to the transcript, U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez noted that government attorneys working on border wall cases have not been furloughed despite the shutdown.

The prosecutor, Eric Paxton Warner, responded, “This is all I’m allowed to work on, Your Honor.”

Warner and a spokeswoman for the local U.S. attorney’s office did not return messages. A spokesman for the Department of Justice says each U.S. attorney had the authority to determine which civil cases should move forward or be delayed, but that civil cases would be delayed “to the extent this can be done without compromising to a significant degree the safety of human life or the protection of property.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said last year that it planned to start building in February. But unlike on other parts of the border, most border land in South Texas is owned privately. That requires the government to seize it through eminent domain, suing private landowners in cases that can take months or years. Some landowners who would be affected have already vowed to fight the government in court.

Efren Olivares, a lawyer for the Texas Civil Rights Project, accused the government of being “fixated” on a border wall at the expense of other matters.

“As someone who is also handling family reunification cases in which government lawyers are telling us they can’t do anything to help us because of the government shutdown, it’s extremely upsetting and frustrating,” he said.

The case that led to Tuesday’s hearing was opened 11 years ago, during the last major effort to build border barriers under the Secure Fence Act. It involves a chunk of land in Los Ebanos, a town of roughly 300 people situated along a bend in the Rio Grande, the river separating the U.S. and Mexico in Texas.

Olivares said the U.S. government already obtained the land it sought from the landowner, Pamela Rivas, but both sides haven’t agreed yet on compensation.


Supreme Court will hear Wisconsin drunk driving case
Court Watch | 2019/01/13 08:20
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to a Wisconsin drunk driving law that has parallels in other states.

Wisconsin law says law enforcement officials can draw blood from an unconscious driver without a warrant if they suspect the person was driving drunk.

The case the court agreed Friday to hear involves Gerald Mitchell. He was arrested in Sheboygan for driving while intoxicated in 2013 in Wisconsin. Mitchell was too drunk to take a breath test and became unconscious after being taken to a hospital. His blood was then drawn without a warrant. Mitchell was ultimately convicted of driving while intoxicated.

Mitchell says the blood draw was a search that violated his constitutional rights, but Wisconsin’s Supreme Court upheld his convictions. Mitchell says 29 states have similar laws.


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