The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday suspended one of its members over his participation in a state government pornographic email scandal that involved employees of the attorney general's office.
The court justices issued an order saying Justice Seamus McCaffery may not perform any judicial or administrative duties while the matter is reviewed by the Judicial Conduct Board, which investigates allegations of judicial misconduct.
The main order also noted allegations about McCaffery's actions related to a traffic citation received by his wife, who is a lawyer, and referral fees she obtained while working for him as an administrative assistant. It also noted he "may have attempted to exert influence over a judicial assignment" in Philadelphia.
The Judicial Conduct Board was given a month to determine whether there is probable cause to file a misconduct charge against McCaffery, a Philadelphia Democrat elected to the seven-member bench in 2007.
McCaffery's lawyer, Dion Rassias, said they were confident he will be cleared and will soon return to the bench.
The court's action followed disclosures last week by Chief Justice Ronald Castille, a Republican, that McCaffery had sent or received 234 emails with sexually explicit content or pornography from late 2008 to May 2012. McCaffery apologized, calling it a lapse in judgment, but blasted Castille for "a vindictive pattern of attacks" against him.
A third justice, Michael Eakin, also a Republican, on Friday went public with a claim McCaffery had threatened to leak "inappropriate" emails Eakin had received if he didn't side with McCaffery against Castille.
McCaffery denied threatening Eakin, who reported the matter to the Judicial Conduct Board. Neither Eakin nor McCaffery participated in the court's decision.
Castille was among the four justices voting to suspend McCaffery with pay, along with Max Baer, Corry Stevens and Thomas Saylor. Justice Debra Todd dissented, saying she would have referred the matter, including the question of suspension, to the Judicial Conduct Board.
A Utah judge will get his first chance in December to hear the evidence against a woman accused of killing six of her seven newborns and storing all of their bodies in her garage.
Attorneys for Megan Huntsman, 39, decided Monday not to waive their right to a preliminary hearing. That proceeding has been set for Dec. 11. At the conclusion of the hearing, a judge will decide if there is sufficient proof to send the case to trial.
Huntsman is in jail on $6 million bail, charged with six counts of first-degree murder. She has not yet entered a plea. She made a brief appearance in court Monday, but didn't speak.
Huntsman's estranged husband discovered the infants' bodies on April 12 while cleaning out the home they had shared in Pleasant Grove, Utah, a city of about 35,000 south of Salt Lake City.
Police say Huntsman strangled or suffocated the infants from 1996 to 2006, and that a seventh baby found in her garage was stillborn. Investigators believe Huntsman was addicted to methamphetamine and didn't want to care for the babies.
DNA results have revealed that all seven babies were full term and that her now-estranged husband, Darren West, was the biological father of the infants.
Huntsman lived with West during the 10-year period the children were killed, but he is not considered a suspect in the deaths. He went to prison in 2006 and spent more than eight years behind bars after pleading guilty to drug charges.
West made the grisly discovery while cleaning out the garage. He called police to report finding a dead infant in a small white box covered with electrician's tape. Six other bodies were found wrapped in shirts or towels inside individual boxes in the garage after police obtained a search warrant.
The Supreme Court will consider reinstating the conviction and death sentence for a California man in a 29-year-old triple murder in San Diego.
The justices said Monday they will hear California's appeal of a federal appeals court ruling that overturned the conviction and sentence for Hector Ayala.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said Ayala was denied a fair trial because prosecutors excused all seven black and Hispanic jurors who might have served.
The jury convicted Ayala of killing three people during a drug robbery at a San Diego garage in 1985. The case will be argued in the winter.
President Barack Obama says the Supreme Court's recent gay marriage orders may have the biggest impact of any ruling of his presidency.
Obama told The New Yorker that the court's Oct. 6 rejection of appeals from states seeking to preserve gay marriage bans is the best of his tenure.
The former law professor says although the court was not ready to expand gay marriage rights nationwide, "it was a consequential and powerful signal of the changes that have taken place in society and that the law is having to catch up."
The rejection effectively made gay marriages legal in 30 states and could lead to an expansion nationwide.
Obama says he doesn't see himself ever serving on the Supreme Court because it would be too "monastic" for him.
Arizona's authority to confront its illegal immigration woes was again reined in Wednesday when a federal appeals court threw out a 2006 voter-approved law denying bail to people in the country illegally who are charged with certain crimes.
The decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals follows other battles over the state's immigration policies, including rulings that struck down much of Arizona's landmark 2010 immigration enforcement law.
A small number of the state's immigration laws have been upheld, including a key section of its 2010 law that requires police to check people's immigration status under certain circumstances.
But the courts have slowly dismantled other laws that sought to draw local police into immigration enforcement as frustrations in the state grew over what critics said was inadequate border protection by the federal government.
Prominent writers say free speech is under threat after a British court halted publication of a celebrity's memoir of child abuse because his ex-wife argued that it would harm their son.
Three appeals court judges last week temporarily stopped publication of the book, which has already been printed and was due to be published this fall.
They described the author as a "talented young performing artist" whose ex-wife lives abroad with their son.
She argued the book would cause "psychological harm" to the boy, who has Asperger's syndrome and other disabilities.
The judges granted an injunction stopping publication of key sections of the book pending a full trial.
On Friday writers including Tom Stoppard, David Hare and Stephen Fry called the ruling "a significant threat to freedom of expression."
Texas abortion clinics that closed under tough new restrictions began reopening Wednesday after winning a reprieve at the U.S. Supreme Court, but the facilities were scheduling women with uncertainty and skeleton staffs.
A five-sentence ruling late Tuesday blocked parts of a sweeping Texas abortion law that required clinics to meet hospital-level operating standards starting Oct. 3. That had left only eight abortion facilities in the nation's second-most populous state.
Celebration among some abortion providers, however, was muted by logistics and fears that the victory is only temporary. Women seeking abortions kept phone lines busy at the Routh Street Women's Clinic in Dallas, where a former staff of 17 people is down to to single digits after the procedure was halted by the law earlier this month.
The high court only suspended the restrictions for now pending appeals, and offered no explanation for the decision.
"Some of them will come back, and some of them probably aren't," said Ginny Braun, the Dallas clinic director, about former employees that took other jobs in the past two weeks. "As one person eloquently put it this morning, whiplash is no longer a sustainable life choice for her."
Along the Texas-Mexico border, the only abortion clinic in 300 miles will resume abortion services in McAllen starting Friday, said Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder of Whole Woman's Health. But staffing and financial difficulties prevent any immediate reopening of clinics in Austin and Fort Worth, and the prospects of reopening another in Beaumont are even dimmer, she said.
Hagstrom Miller said she has laid off more than 50 employees since last year, and that the on-again, off-again status of her clinics have led to taking on $500,000 in debt over the last six months.