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Kavanaugh predicts ‘concrete steps soon’ to address ethics concerns
Law Firm News | 2023/09/08 18:23
Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh told a judicial conference on Thursday he hopes there will be “concrete steps soon” to address recent ethics concerns surrounding the court, but he stopped short of addressing calls for justices to institute an official code of conduct.

“We can increase confidence. We’re working on that,” Kavanaugh told the conference attended by judges, attorneys and other court personnel in Ohio. He said all nine justices recognize that public confidence in the court is important, particularly now.

Public trust in the court is at a 50-year low following a series of divisive rulings, including the overturning of Roe v. Wade federal abortion protections last year, and published reports about the justices’ undisclosed paid trips and other ethical concerns.

“There’s a storm around us in the political world and the world at large in America,” Kavanaugh said. “We, as judges and the legal system, need to try to be a little more, I think, of the calm in the storm.”

Justice Clarence Thomas acknowledged recently that he took three trips last year aboard a private plane owned by Republican megadonor Harlan Crow even as he rejected criticism over his failure to report trips in previous years.

Reporting by the investigative news site ProPublica also revealed that Justice Samuel Alito failed to disclose a private trip to Alaska he took in 2008 that was paid for by two wealthy Republican donors, one of whom repeatedly had interests before the court.


Opponents of Maine’s new abortion law won’t seek to nullify it
Law Firm News | 2023/08/14 17:21
Groups opposed to Maine’s new law expanding abortion access won’t attempt to nullify the statute through a so-called People’s Veto referendum.

Republican Rep. Laurel Libby, leader of the Speak Up for LIFE group, said Wednesday that allies have decided to focus their resources on electing candidates who are opposed to abortions instead of collecting signatures and running a referendum campaign.

“At the end of the day, we want to put our effort into the most effective place possible,” Libby, a Republican from Auburn, told The Associated Press. That means flipping legislative seats, she said, particularly in the Maine House.

Wednesday marked the deadline to notify state officials of a People’s Veto, a constitutional provision allowing citizens to repeal legislation through a statewide vote. To move forward, more than 67,000 signatures would have been needed.

Mills presented the bill expanding abortion access after a Yarmouth woman came forward with her story about having to travel to Colorado for an abortion after learning at week 32 of her pregnancy that her unborn son had a fatal condition that would not allow him to survive.

Critics said the law’s language was broader than necessary if the goal was simply to allow abortions in instances of a fatal fetal anomaly later in a pregnancy. They also said the bill put too much power in the hands of doctors.

Passage was considered a foregone conclusion in the Legislature where Democrats controlled both chambers, and there were enough co-sponsors to ensure passage. But the vote was close in the House after emotional testimony.

Beside Maine, six states leave the decision to get an abortion to doctors and their patients, without restrictions. They are Alaska, Colorado, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont, plus Washington, D.C.


First over-the-counter birth control pill gets FDA approval
Law Firm News | 2023/07/13 17:09
U.S. officials have approved the first over-the-counter birth control pill, which will let American women and girls buy contraceptive medication from the same aisle as aspirin and eyedrops.

The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday it cleared Perrigo’s once-a-day Opill to be sold without a prescription, making it the first such medication to be moved out from behind the pharmacy counter. The company won’t start shipping the pill until early next year, and there will be no age restrictions on sales.

Hormone-based pills have long been the most common form of birth control in the U.S., used by tens of millions of women since the 1960s. Until now, all of them required a prescription.

Medical societies and women’s health groups have pushed for wider access, noting that an estimated 45% of the 6 million annual pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. Teens and girls, women of color and those with low incomes report greater hurdles in getting prescriptions and picking them up.

Some of the challenges can include paying for a doctor’s visit, getting time off from work and finding child care.

“This is really a transformation in access to contraceptive care,” said Kelly Blanchard, president of Ibis Reproductive Health, a non-profit group that supported the approval. “Hopefully this will help people overcome those barriers that exist now.”

Ireland-based Perrigo did not announce a price. Over-the-counter medicines are generally much cheaper than prescriptions, but they typically aren’t covered by insurance.

Forcing insurers to cover over-the-counter birth control would require a regulatory change by the federal government, which women’s advocates are urging the Biden administration to implement.

Many common medications have made the switch to non-prescription status in recent decades, including drugs for pain, heartburn and allergies. Birth control pills are available without a prescription across much of South America, Asia and Africa.


Man gets life sentence for raping 9-year-old Ohio girl
Law Firm News | 2023/07/06 23:56
A man who confessed to raping and impregnating a 9-year-old Ohio girl has been sentenced to life in prison in a case that became a national flashpoint on abortion rights because the girl had to travel out of state to end the pregnancy.

Gerson Fuentes, 28, was sentenced to life in prison, but his plea deal stipulates that he can seek parole after serving 25 to 30 years. He would then have to register as a sex offender.

Common Pleas Court Judge Julie Lynch, who was not required to approve the plea agreement, said the girl’s family “begged” the judge to back it. Lynch called the deal a “very hard pill for this court to swallow.”

“Anyone who’s ever been in this courtroom for the last 20 years knows how this court feels about these babies, young people, being violated,” Lynch said. “However, today, by the request of the family, this court will be sentencing without comment.”

The maximum sentence would have been life without parole. Settling the case before trial will spare the survivor from having to testify in court.

Zachary Olah, an attorney who represented Fuentes, told The Columbus Dispatch after the hearing that his client has been cooperative since the beginning.

“He was anxious to get this resolved,” Olah said.

The girl, who turned 10 before having the abortion, confirmed that Fuentes attacked her, Franklin County prosecutors have said, and Fuentes confessed to Columbus police detectives. DNA testing of the aborted fetus confirmed Fuentes was the father, prosecutors said.

Fuentes, who is from Guatemala and was living in Columbus, had been held without bond since his arrest. If he eventually wins parole, he would likely be deported given that authorities have said they have not found any evidence he is authorized to live in the U.S. legally.


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