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A federal appeals court has cleared the way for Florida doctors to talk with patients about whether they own guns.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that key provisions of a 2011 law that restricted such speech violate the First Amendment.

Three-judge panels of the same court had issued conflicting rulings in a long-running challenge to the law brought by 11,000 medical providers and others. The case has become known as Docs vs. Glocks.

Backed by Gov. Rick Scott, the law prohibited doctors from asking patients about gun ownership unless it was medically necessary. Doctors say asking about guns is a safety issue and could save lives.

While ruling that much of the law violates free-speech rights, the court said some parts could remain in place.



Maryland's ban on 45 kinds of assault weapons and its 10-round limit on gun magazines were upheld Tuesday by a federal appeals court in a decision that met with a strongly worded dissent.

In a 10-4 ruling, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., said the guns banned under Maryland's law aren't protected by the Second Amendment.

"Put simply, we have no power to extend Second Amendment protections to weapons of war," Judge Robert King wrote for the court, adding that the Supreme Court's decision in District of Columbia v. Heller explicitly excluded such coverage.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, who led the push for the law in 2013 as a state senator, said it's "unthinkable that these weapons of war, weapons that caused the carnage in Newtown and in other communities across the country, would be protected by the Second Amendment."

"It's a very strong opinion, and it has national significance, both because it's en-banc and for the strength of its decision," Frosh said, noting that all of the court's judges participated.

Judge William Traxler issued a dissent. By concluding the Second Amendment doesn't even apply, Traxler wrote, the majority "has gone to greater lengths than any other court to eviscerate the constitutionally guaranteed right to keep and bear arms." He also wrote that the court did not apply a strict enough review on the constitutionality of the law.



The Wisconsin Supreme Court is to hear arguments in a case that could give school boards and other governmental bodies a way around the open meetings law.

The case up for argument Wednesday focuses on whether meetings of a committee created by employees of the Appleton Area School District to review books for use in a ninth grade class should have been open to the public.

More broadly the court will examine whether committees created in the same way that the one in Appleton was brought together allows them to be exempt from the law.

John Krueger, whose son attends the Appleton district, argued in a lawsuit that the review committee broke the state open meetings law by not posting a public notice of its meetings or allowing the public to attend. But the Waupaca County Circuit Court and state appeals court both sided with the district, setting up Krueger's appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Krueger raised concerns in 2011 about references to suicide and sex in the book "The Body of Christopher Creed" that students in a freshman communications arts class read. Krueger requested that an alternative class be offered that included books that had no profanity, obscenities or sexualized content.

Appleton's superintendent, Lee Allinger, asked two members of the district's department that handles curriculum and instruction to respond to Krueger's concerns. Those employees formed a 17-member committee including district administrators, teachers and staff to evaluate books used in the course.



Advocates for an endangered species of frog have won a victory in a case that's headed for the U.S. Supreme Court.

A federal appeals court in New Orleans has refused to revive an environmental case involving the "dusky gopher frog."

Last year, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a Louisiana business's attempt to keep the federal government from listing its timberland as essential for the frog's future.

On Monday the full court voted 8-6 against re-hearing the case.

The frogs now live in some parts of Mississippi but once were found in Alabama and Louisiana as well. Environmentalists say the Louisiana land in question contains a type of pond essential to the species' survival.

The case next goes to the Supreme Court.

The majority offered no comment Monday. Judge Edith Jones wrote a strongly worded 30-page dissent on behalf of the six-member minority. Among her arguments: the habitat in question contains one, but not all, of the features deemed necessary for the dusky gopher frog's survival.

Jones said the appeals court's majority applied federal law incorrectly and the landowner should not be prohibited from developing land where the frog cannot "naturally live and grow."

"She agreed with us that non-habitat can never be critical habitat," said Reed Hopper, an attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation, which represents landowner Markle Interests LLC. He confirmed that a Supreme Court appeal is planned.


India's top court on Tuesday upheld the corruption conviction of the head of the ruling party in Tamil Nadu state, ending her chances of becoming the southern state's next chief minister.

The Supreme Court set aside a lower court order that had cleared Sasikala Natarajan of corruption charges.

India's politics are often dominated by outsized personalities and their friends and relatives, creating an environment where corruption is endemic.

Sasikala was the personal assistant to Jayaram Jayalalitha, a former movie star who became Tamil Nadu's top politician, or chief minister. Jayalalitha died in office in December triggering a succession battle within her AIADMK party.

Jayalalitha inspired intense loyalty among her political supporters who called her "Mother." Some of that charisma rubbed off on Sasikala, who was hailed as "Little Mother."

The corruption case, filed in 1996, accused Jayalalitha, Sasikala and two of Sasikala's kin of possessing assets disproportionate to their known sources of income. It was moved to neighboring Karnataka state due to fairness concerns, and the defendants were found guilty in 2014, but nine months later, were acquitted by the Karnataka high court following an appeal. That decision was challenged in the Supreme Court.

Jayalalitha died before the top court could give its decision, but on Tuesday, the judges ordered Sasikala and the two remaining co-defendants to complete their four-year jail terms.

The conviction means Sasikala is barred from contesting an election for six years after completing her jail sentence, thus removing her from the political scene for the next 10 years.



North Carolina's Supreme Court on Monday again blocked a state law approved by Republicans that strips the new Democratic governor of powers to oversee elections.

A lower appeals court briefly let the law to take effect last week, allowing a revamped state elections board to meet for the first time Friday. It's one of the changes passed in late December that shift power over running elections away from Gov. Roy Cooper.

"We are pleased the Supreme Court has put the injunction back in place until the judges can hear and decide the full case" early next month, Cooper spokeswoman Noelle Talley wrote in an email.

The law ends the practice of allowing the governor's political party to hold majorities on all state and county elections boards. Instead of Democrats holding sway over running elections and resolving voting disputes, elections board positions would be evenly divided between major-party partisans.

Republicans would control elections during even-numbered years, when big races for president, legislature or other major statewide offices are held. The measure also merges the state ethics and elections boards into one.

Lawyers representing state House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, and Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, did not respond to emails seeking comment after the Supreme Court's decision.

Cooper, Moore and Berger are also fighting in court over another new law aiming to restrict the Democrat's ability to alter the state's recent conservative direction.

A panel of three state trial court judges is considering whether to continue blocking a law requiring Senate confirmation of Cooper's Cabinet secretaries.

The law requiring Senate consent to Cooper's top appointees came during a surprise special session barely a week after Republican incumbent Pat McCrory conceded to Cooper in their close gubernatorial race.


Court documents show Hickory police were executing a "no knock" search warrant when a police officer was shot in the arm by a suspect who was shot and killed.

WSOC-TV in Charlotte reports documents showed that police were concerned that one of their officers might be hurt while carrying out the warrant. Hickory Police Chief Thurman Whisnant said that as soon as officers came through the door, they identified themselves and announced they were executing the warrant.

The search warrant listed more than a decade of convictions against 33-year-old William David Whetstone for assaults and drug charges.

Police said Whetstone disobeyed orders not to move, pulled a gun and shot an officer in the arm on Feb. 3. Two other officers then shot Whetstone, who died at the scene.


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