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Prosecutors across Ohio are concerned that a ruling under review by Ohio's top court could delay and shorten sentences for suspects caught with cocaine and force costly changes upon law enforcement.

The state Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday on whether to uphold an appeals court decision calling into question how prosecutors have handled cocaine cases for years. It all comes eastdown to weight.

A state appeals court in Toledo ruled last year prosecutors should have determined how much pure cocaine a suspect arrested in a drug sting had with him or her instead of sentencing him based on the weight of the entire amount.

The appeals court ruled that Ohio's drug laws say that what matters is the weight of the cocaine only — not filler material such as baking soda that's often added by drug dealers to stretch out their supply and increase profits.

Prosecutors along with the state Attorney General's office argue that such a narrow interpretation creates a new distinction for cocaine that isn't applied to any other illegal drugs.



A divided Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to halt enforcement of President Barack Obama's sweeping plan to address climate change until after legal challenges are resolved.

The surprising move is a blow to the administration and a victory for the coalition of 27 mostly Republican-led states and industry opponents that call the regulations "an unprecedented power grab." By temporarily freezing the rule the high court's order signals that opponents have made a strong argument against the plan. A federal appeals court last month refused to put it on hold.

The court's four liberal justices said they would have denied the request. The plan aims to stave off the worst predicted impacts of climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions at existing power plants by about one-third by 2030. Appellate arguments are set to begin June 2. The compliance period starts in 2022, but states must submit their plans to the Environmental Protection Administration by September or seek an extension.

Many states opposing the plan depend on economic activity tied to such fossil fuels as coal, oil and gas. They argued that power plants will have to spend billions of dollars to begin complying with a rule that may end up being overturned.

Implementation of the rules is considered essential to the United States meeting emissions-reduction targets in a global climate agreement signed in Paris last month. The Obama administration and environmental groups also say the plan will spur new clean-energy jobs.



The chant "Pay back the money" filtered into South Africa's highest court on Tuesday, as judges heard a case in which President Jacob Zuma is accused of violating the constitution in a scandal over state spending on his private home.
 
Inside court, lawyers argued before 11 judges over whether the president broke the law by failing to follow a 2014 recommendation from the state watchdog agency that he pay back some of the more than $20 million in security upgrades to his rural home.

Outside, several thousand opposition party supporters demonstrated against what they described as corruption by the head of state, shouting that he should return state money used to improve his private home.

Zuma's office, on Feb. 3, said he was willing to reimburse some money, an about-turn to his previous position that he did nothing wrong. His critics said he was trying to avoid the embarrassment of a court hearing and a repeat of last year's heckling during his State of the Nation address, to be held on Thursday.

"The president's capitulation is gratifying but it is not enough," said Wim Trengrove, a lawyer for the opposition, adding that the president was "pushed into a corner" after two years of legal wrangling.

Opposition parties, the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters, insisted on forging ahead with the court case, saying it would set a precedent for the accountability of future presidents. Much of the day's arguments hinged on the legal powers of the Public Protector, one of several oversight bodies created according to South Africa's 1996 constitution. Copies of the constitution were seen throughout the courtroom and were frequently consulted by those in the packed room.

The National Assembly, dominated by Zuma's party, the African National Congress, is also under scrutiny for failing to hold the president to account, because a parliamentary committee absolved the president of wrongdoing. The ministry of police released a similar report, arguing that the upgrades were essential security features. Grilled by the Constitutional Court justices, lawyers representing the president and the National Assembly acknowledged that both reports were questionable, but they would not concede that their clients breached the constitution.


Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane's law license will remain suspended after the state's highest court on Friday denied her request to have it reinstated while she fights criminal charges of leaking secret grand jury material and lying about it.

The court's unanimous rejection could pave the way to an unprecedented vote in the state Senate on whether to remove her from office.

A Kane spokesman said the first-term Democrat was disappointed, but not surprised.

A Senate vote could happen in the coming weeks after a special committee spent about three months exploring the question of whether Kane could run the 800-employee law enforcement office without a law license. Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, said senators will discuss the matter when they reconvene in the Capitol next week.

"It's an important issue," Corman said. "It's really unprecedented, so I think it deserves to be addressed."

In seeking to have her license reinstated, Kane argued that Justice Michael Eakin should not have participated in the suspension vote because of his involvement in a salacious email scandal.

In its one-page order, the Democrat-controlled court said Kane did not seek the recusal of Eakin "at the earliest possible time." As a result, the justices said, Kane gave up her ability to object on that basis to the court's unanimous decision in September to suspend her license.

Kane has released hundreds of emails, including some that Eakin sent and received through a private email account in the name of John Smith. Eakin, a Republican, has been suspended with pay by his fellow justices while he awaits trial before an ethics court that could result in his being kicked off the bench.


California voters embraced the idea of building the nation's first real high-speed rail system, which promised to whisk travelers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in under three hours, a trip that can take six hours or more by car. Eight years after they approved funding for it, construction is years behind schedule and legal, financial and logistical delays plague the $68 billion project.

The bullet train's timeline, funding and speed estimates are back in the spotlight for a longstanding lawsuit filed by residents whose property lies in its path.

In the second phase of a court challenge filed in 2011, attorneys for a group of Central Valley farmers will argue in Sacramento County Superior Court on Thursday that the state can't keep the promises it made to voters in 2008 about the travel times and system cost. Voters authorized selling $9.9 billion in bonds for a project that was supposed to cost $40 billion.

In recent months, rail officials have touted construction of a viaduct in Madera County, the first visible sign of construction. Though officials have been working for years to acquire the thousands of parcels of land required for the project, they currently have just 63 percent of the parcels needed for the first 29 miles in the Central Valley.


Chief Justice John Roberts says he is concerned that partisan political battles over Supreme Court nominations have led to a widespread misunderstanding about the role of the court.

Roberts told an audience at New England Law School in Boston late Wednesday that the heated confirmation process — along with misleading attacks on the court's opinions — lea the public to believe the court is just as politically motivated as other branches of government.

"When you have a sharply political divisive hearing process, it increases the danger that whoever comes out of it will be viewed in those terms," he said, according to a video of his remarks provided by the school.

"If the Democrats and Republicans have been fighting so fiercely about whether you're going to be confirmed, it's natural for some member of the public to think, 'Well you must be identified in a particular way as a result of that process,'" he said.

Roberts, now in his 11th year on the court, said criticism of the court doesn't bother him, but he said much of it seems to be based on a perception that the justices are influenced by politics.

"If we uphold a particular political decision, that remains the decision of the political branches, and the fact that it may lead to criticism of us is often a mistake," he said. "We do have to be above or apart from the criticism because we, of course, make unpopular decisions — very unpopular decisions."



A former court clerk who pleaded guilty to embezzlement must pay back more than $1 million, at $600 a month, a Mississippi judge has ruled.

“We can all do the math,” Pike County Circuit Court Judge David Strong told Greta Dubuclet Patterson, 46. “We all understand that $600 a month is not going to get you to a million anytime soon.”

It would take more than 141 years at that rate, The Enterprise-Journal reported. But Strong told the former McComb court clerk on Friday that if she misses a payment, she’ll go to prison or a restitution center, where she would live and be driven to and from work.

Patterson pleaded guilty in?December.?Strong sentenced her to restitution and 10 years of house arrest, suspending eight years. Friday’s hearing decided how much she must repay.

District Attorney Dee Bates said a city investigation found that Patterson had embezzled more than $1 million since 2009.

Mayor Whitney Rawlings said he really wanted Patterson to go to prison, but Bates told him that he couldn’t get both restitution and prison time.



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