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A top European court declined Thursday to rule in a high-profile discrimination case centered on an activist’s request to have a cake decorated with the “Sesame Street” characters Bert and Ernie and the words “Support Gay Marriage.”

The European Court of Human Rights said the case was inadmissible because activist Gareth Lee had failed to “exhaust domestic remedies” in his case against a Northern Ireland bakery.

It was the latest ruling in a long-running legal battle that began in 2014 when Ashers Baking Co. refused to make the cake Lee wanted.

The owners argued they were happy to bake goods for anyone but would not put messages on their products at odds with their Christian beliefs.

Lee said he was frustrated the case was thrown out on what he called “a technicality” and said that freedom of expression “must equally apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people.”

He originally ordered the cake to support a campaign to allow same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland. The campaign succeeded when Britain’s Parliament stepped in to bring the region into line with the rest of the country. Two women who tied the knot in February 2020 became the first gay couple to wed in Northern Ireland.


A rural Alaska man who threatened to kill the state’s two U.S. senators in a series of profanity-laced voice messages left at their offices in Washington, D.C., has pleaded guilty to making the threats in exchange for having other charges dropped.

Jay Allen Johnson, 65, entered his guilty pleas Monday in federal court in Fairbanks to two counts of threatening to kill a U.S. official. U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline accepted Johnson’s pleas and set sentencing for April 8.

Johnson, who has been in custody since his arrest Oct. 4, has asked for an earlier sentencing.

He faces up 10 years in jail on each charge and will be under a protective order for three years not to contact either U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski or Dan Sullivan, any of their family members or staff.

He also must forfeit two pistols, three revolvers, a shotgun and a rifle found at his home in the small community of Delta Junction. He’s not legally able to own handguns because he’s a felon for repeated drunken driving convictions.

In exchange for his guilty plea to the two counts, the government agreed to drop four other charges against Johnson, including making interstate threats and threatening to damage property by fire or explosives.


As COVID-19 cases continue rising across the state of Georgia, the court system in one of its counties has decided to pause jury trials.

Cobb County Superior Court Judge Robert D. Leonard issued an order Monday to cancel trial jurors through Jan. 21, WSB-TV reported.

“I did not make this decision lightly,” Leonard said. “We must keep in mind that jury service compels people of all walks of life, with all health conditions and vaccination status to attend court. Additionally, the likelihood of successfully getting through a lengthy jury trial when our community spread is at this record level is slim.”

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, 11,902 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Cobb County in the last two weeks.

Jury trials across Georgia were paused for much of the pandemic. Trials in Cobb County ultimately resumed last April.

Leonard also said that the State Court of Cobb County will be undertaking the same measures.

Grand jury proceedings will not be affected.


Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts says the federal judiciary needs to do more to ensure judges don’t participate in cases where they have financial conflicts of interest.

Roberts made the comments as part of his annual report on the federal judiciary released Friday evening.

Roberts pointed to a series of stories recently in The Wall Street Journal that found that “between 2010 and 2018, 131 federal judges participated in a total of 685 matters involving companies in which they or their families owned shares of stock.” Federal judges and Supreme Court justices are required under a federal ethics law to recuse themselves from cases where they have a personal financial interest.

“Let me be crystal clear: the Judiciary takes this matter seriously. We expect judges to adhere to the highest standards, and those judges violated an ethics rule,” Roberts wrote in the nine-page report.

Roberts is one of three justices on the nine-member Supreme Court to hold individual stocks. Those holdings sometimes result in the justices recusing themselves from a case or selling stock in order to participate. The other justices who own individual stocks are Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito. In the past those holdings have occasionally resulted in issues.


A federal appeals court has ruled that Tyson Foods can’t claim it was operating under the direction of the federal government when it tried to keep its processing plants open as the coronavirus spread rapidly within them during the early days of the pandemic.

So the Des Moines Register reports that a lawsuit filed by several families of four workers who died after contracting COVID-19 while working at Tyson’s pork processing plant in Waterloo will be heard in state court. The families allege that Tyson’s actions contributed to the deaths.

Tyson had sought to move the case to federal court because it said federal officials wanted it to keep its plants running. The company cited an executive order former President Donald Trump signed that designated meat processors as essential infrastructure.

“The fact that an entity — such as a meat processor — is subject to pervasive federal regulation alone is not sufficient to confer federal jurisdiction,” Judge Jane Kelly wrote in the decision.

The court also noted that Trump’s order was signed in late April 2020 after many of its workers were infected. More than 1,000 Tyson workers at the Waterloo plant tested positive for the virus that spring and at least six died.

Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson said the Springdale, Arkansas-based company is disappointed in the court ruling, but he defended the steps Tyson took to keep workers safe during the pandemic.

“We’re saddened by the loss of any of our team members to COVID-19 and are committed to protecting the health and safety of our people,” Mickelson said. “We’ve implemented a host of protective measures in our facilities and in 2021 required all of our U.S. team members to be vaccinated.”


The Mississippi Supreme Court is holding a ceremony Monday for Justice Kenny Griffis to begin a new term of office.

Griffis served 16 years on the state Court of Appeals. In February 2019, then-Gov. Phil Bryant appointed him to fill an open seat on the Supreme Court.

Griffis won an election to the Supreme Court in November 2020. The court has nine justices, and Griffis holds one of two seats with a delay of more than a year between the election and the beginning of the new term.

During the ceremony Monday at the Gartin Justice Building in Jackson, Griffis will take the oath for an eight-year term.

Griffis is a Meridian native who now lives in Ridgeland. He earned accounting and law degrees from the University of Mississippi. He is an adjunct professor at the Mississippi College School of Law and the University of Mississippi School of Law.

Griffis was chief judge of the 10-member Court of Appeals when Bryant moved him to the Supreme Court.


A federal trial set for January on litigation challenging North Carolina’s voter photo identification law has been delayed while the U.S. Supreme Court weighs whether legislative leaders should be permitted to help defend the law in court.

The Supreme Court said last month it would consider the request of House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger to formally step in to the case and defend the 2018 law along with state government attorneys.

The lawsuit was previously scheduled to go to trial in Winston-Salem on Jan. 24. In an order issued Thursday, presiding U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs said it makes sense to delay the start to avoid further confusion over voter ID. Otherwise, a Supreme Court ruling favoring GOP legislators could require a repeal trial.

“While the court is mindful that parties have been preparing for trial, there is no reason that such preparation must go to waste,” Biggs wrote. No new starting date was set.

Berger and Moore have argued that state attorneys led by Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, have not adequately represented the state to defend the law. Biggs and the full U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals have rejected the GOP leaders’ requests.

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