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New Jersey court proposes tossing out old open-warrant cases
Legal Network | 2018/07/20 13:43
The highest court in New Jersey is taking steps to do away with hundreds of thousands of open warrants for minor offenses such as parking tickets as part of an overhaul of the state's municipal court system.

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner on Thursday assigned three Superior Court judges to hold hearings on the proposal to dismiss at least 787,764 open warrants for offenses more than 15 years old that were never prosecuted.

"Those old outstanding complaints and open warrants in minor matters raise questions of fairness, the appropriate use of limited public resources by law enforcement and the courts, the ability of the state to prosecute cases successfully in light of how long matters have been pending and the availability of witnesses, and administrative efficiency," Rabner wrote in his order.

NJ.com reported that the order covers open warrants issued before 2003 for failure to appear in low-level cases, including 355,619 parking ticket cases, 348,631 moving violations and some cases related to town ordinance violations.

The open warrant and the underlying unpaid ticket would be dismissed. The order indicates that more serious charges such as speeding and drunken driving would not be included.

Throwing out old low-level cases was among 49 recommendations following a Supreme Court committee's review of the municipal court system. The committee cited a growing "public perception" that municipal courts "operate with a goal to fill the town's coffers," which the panel called contrary to the purpose of the courts.



Kavanaugh: Watergate tapes decision may have been wrong
Legal Network | 2018/07/19 13:43
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh suggested several years ago that the unanimous high court ruling in 1974 that forced President Richard Nixon to turn over the Watergate tapes, leading to the end of his presidency, may have been wrongly decided.

Kavanaugh was taking part in a roundtable discussion with other lawyers when he said at three different points that the decision in U.S. v. Nixon, which marked limits on a president's ability to withhold information needed for a criminal prosecution, may have come out the wrong way.

A 1999 magazine article about the roundtable was part of thousands of pages of documents that Kavanaugh has provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of the confirmation process. The committee released the documents on Saturday.

Kavanaugh's belief in robust executive authority already is front and center in his nomination by President Donald Trump to replace the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. The issue could assume even greater importance if special counsel Robert Mueller seeks to force Trump to testify in the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

"But maybe Nixon was wrongly decided — heresy though it is to say so. Nixon took away the power of the president to control information in the executive branch by holding that the courts had power and jurisdiction to order the president to disclose information in response to a subpoena sought by a subordinate executive branch official. That was a huge step with implications to this day that most people do not appreciate sufficiently...Maybe the tension of the time led to an erroneous decision," Kavanaugh said in a transcript of the discussion that was published in the January-February 1999 issue of the Washington Lawyer.


Pennsylvania court to hear objections to church abuse report
Legal Network | 2018/07/11 00:02
Pennsylvania's highest court on Friday decided against immediately releasing an investigative grand jury's report into allegations of decades of child sexual abuse in six Roman Catholic dioceses, instead saying it would hear arguments from priests and others that making it public would violate their constitutional rights.

The state Supreme Court gave lawyers for those who object to being named in the nearly 900-page report and want to prevent its disclosure until Tuesday to lay out their arguments in writing, and the attorney general's office until July 13 to respond.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro has said he wants the report made public as soon as possible, noting that unindicted people who were cited in the report in a way that "could be construed as critical" were given an unrestricted right to file responses that are expected to be released along with the report. His spokesman declined comment on the court orders.

More than two dozen current and retired members of the clergy have argued to the court that the report is replete with errors and mischaracterizations that would violate their constitutional rights to due process and to protect their reputations.


For new Supreme Court justice, a host of big issues awaits
Legal Network | 2018/07/01 18:10
Justice Anthony Kennedy's successor will have a chance over a likely decades-long career to tackle a host of big issues in the law and have a role in shaping the answers to them.

Most court-watchers and interest groups are focused on abortion and whether a more conservative justice may mean more restrictions on abortions get upheld or even whether the 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion decision affirming a woman's right to abortion might someday be overturned.

But Kennedy's replacement will quickly confront a host of issues, some prominent and others not. Whomever President Donald Trump chooses, the person is expected to move the court to the right. Conservative groups, seeing a court friendlier to their views, might look at the new court and think it's time to bring challenges to liberal laws currently on the books. And conservative state lawmakers may also attempt to pass legislation testing boundaries they wouldn't have while Kennedy was on the court.

The Supreme Court in the term that ended Wednesday had two cases before it dealing with whether electoral maps can give an unfair advantage to a political party. The justices ducked that question, sending cases from Wisconsin and Maryland back to lower courts for further review. Kennedy had been the justice who left the door open to court challenges to extreme partisan redistricting, but he never found a way to measure it that satisfied him. A case involving North Carolina's heavily Republican congressional districting map now in a lower court could provide an opportunity for the justices to revisit the issue as soon as next term.

Another unresolved issue recently before the court is whether a business can cite religious objections in order to refuse service to gay and lesbian people. The court could have tackled that issue in a case argued this term about a Colorado baker who wouldn't make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. Instead, the justices found that a member of the Colorado commission that looked at the case displayed an anti-religious bias against the baker but left for another day the broader question.

The justices could have added another case on the issue to the list of cases they'll begin hearing arguments in this fall, a case that involved a flower shop owner who cited her religious beliefs in declining to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding. For now they've sent that case back to a lower court. That same case or another one like it could quickly be in front of the court again.



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