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Immigration attorneys have sported swim goggles and masks borrowed from friends to meet with clients in detention centers. Masked judges are stocking their cramped courtrooms with hand sanitizer for hearings they want to do by phone.

While much of daily life has ground to a halt to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, the Trump administration is resisting calls from immigration judges and attorneys to stop in-person hearings and shutter all immigration courts. They say the most pressing hearings can be done by phone so immigrants aren’t stuck in detention indefinitely.

Rules change daily as the virus spreads and federal officials struggle to figure out how and whether they can keep the massive system running. Officials say they have not ruled out a total shutdown but are closing specific courts and delaying hearings.

The U.S. Justice Department on Monday postponed hearings for asylum-seekers waiting in Mexico, but only after judges in San Diego canceled hearings in defiance of orders to keep them running amid the pandemic. The government has delayed hearings for immigrants who aren’t in detention but is moving forward for those who are.

Suspected coronavirus infections have forced immigration courts in New York, New Jersey and Colorado to temporarily shut down in the past week. As a precaution, the government announced the closure of several more Wednesday. Others that previously closed had reopened Thursday, including in Seattle. A handful of courts are only accepting documents.


A court on Wednesday barred the British government from providing U.S. prosecutors with evidence against two Islamic State militants suspected in the beheadings of Western hostages, citing the prospect the men could face the death penalty if tried and convicted in America.

The ruling by the British Supreme Court blocks an earlier decision by the country’s authorities to cooperate with the U.S. by sharing information about El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey.

The British men, captured two years ago by a Kurdish-led, U.S.-backed militia, are accused of participation in a brutal Islamic State group known for beheadings and barbaric treatment of American aid workers, journalists and other hostages in Syria.

The court decision is a setback for the U.S. Justice Department, where officials for years have been investigating the killings. U.S. officials have not announced any charges against the men, but have spoken publicly about their desire to see members of the cell, known as “The Beatles” for their British accents, face justice. The men were transferred to U.S. custody last October as Turkey invaded Syria to attack Kurds who have battling the Islamic State alongside American forces.

“We are disappointed with the UK Supreme Court’s decision and are considering the appropriate next steps,” said Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi. “As our investigation of these individuals continues, we will work with our UK counterparts on a path forward, consistent with our shared commitment to ensuring that those who commit acts of terror are held accountable for their crimes.”

It was not clear what those next steps would be, or whether the decision might prompt the Justice Department to remove the possibility of the death penalty from any eventual prosecution. Attorney General William Barr said in a private meeting last year with victims’ relatives that he wanted to see the militants brought to justice.


A Tennessee judge who recently came off probation for mishandling cases improperly stripped a mother’s parental rights without proper notice or a hearing, a state court said.

The Tennessee Court of Appeals described the father as abusive to the mother and a danger to their children, who had been put in foster care. The mother was living in another state when Tennessee's Department of Children’s Services petitioned to terminate their parental rights.

The court ordered a new hearing for the woman as a matter of “fundamental fairness." It described the handling of the case by Campbell County General Sessions Court Judge Amanda Sammons as “both odd and of grave concern,” The Knoxville News Sentinel reported.

The mother evidently still hasn't been told she lost her parental rights, said the court opinion filed on March 18.

The court said Sammons persisted in the termination hearings even though department could not prove the mother had been notified. An attorney appointed to the mother told the judge he had not contacted the mother either. Despite this, she terminated the rights of both parents, identified as David and Cecilia S., in June 2019.

A two-judge appellate panel got the case after the father appealed. Its ruling upheld the denial for the father, citing drug use.

Sammons was suspended in 2016 after being indicted on felony misconduct charges for allegedly lying and misusing her authority. Those charges were dismissed by a judge who ruled her actions misguided but not criminal. She returned to court after three years of probation.


The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review whether a 2015 lawsuit alleging gross failures in the foster-care system should be treated as a class-action matter.

The high court decision means the case will proceed to trial as a class-action lawsuit, the Arizona Republic reported.

A trial date has not yet been scheduled before U.S. District Court Judge Roslyn Silver. Any changes to the system resulting for the lawsuit will apply to all children in Arizona foster care, as well as those in the future.

Attorneys for the Arizona Department of Child Safety and the state's Medicare provider argue the lawsuit conflates problems that individual children have encountered with systemwide failures.

New York-based nonprofit Children's Rights has brought similar lawsuits in other states, arguing the problems are systemic and can only be solved with judicial intervention.

Silver's decision to classify the matter as a class action was upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Department of Child Safety has argued that it has made substantial improvements, citing a 23% decrease of children in state custody and to a higher rate of children leaving the system, either because the children were returned to their parents or were adopted.



The Supreme Court sided unanimously Monday with North Carolina in a copyright fight with a company that has documented the salvage of the pirate Blackbeard's ship off the state's coast.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court that the company's copyright infringement lawsuit, which she called “a modern form of piracy," could not go forward because the Constitution generally protects states from lawsuits in federal courts.

The 21st century dispute arose over the Queen Anne's Revenge, which ran aground more than 300 years ago.

The ship is the property of the state, but under an agreement North Carolina-based Nautilus Productions has for nearly two decades documented the ship's salvage. In the process, the company copyrighted photos and videos.

North Carolina first posted photos on a state website, and later put videos on a YouTube channel and included a photo in a newsletter. Nautilus sued in federal court, but the federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, ruled North Carolina could not be sued.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that states could not be sued in federal court over patent infringements. Patent and copyright protections come from the same constitutional provision that outlines Congress' powers. Kagan noted that the earlier case, known as Florida Prepaid, “all but prewrote our decision today."

Among artifacts that have been brought to the surface are cannons and the anchor, but roughly 40 percent of the Queen Anne's Revenge remains on the ocean floor. The ship was sailing under the French flag when Blackbeard, the Englishman Edward Teach, captured the vessel in the fall of 1717 and made it his flagship.


The Supreme Court is leaving in place a decision that a man freed after more than 40 years in prison can't sue for damages.

The high court on Monday turned away a lawsuit by Louis Taylor. Taylor was convicted of starting a 1970 fire at the Pioneer Hotel in Tucson, Arizona, that killed nearly 30 people. He was serving a life sentence when he was freed in 2013 after an expert determined the fire was not arson, a finding the government disputed.

In order to be released, Taylor entered a no contest plea to the original charges against him. Lower courts ruled that because of the no contest plea Taylor could not sue for damages.

As is usual, the Supreme Court did not comment in turning away the case. The high court announced its decision not to hear the case and many others in an order posted online. The court previously postponed arguments that had been scheduled for this week and next because of the coronavirus and closed the Supreme Court to the public.


The Mississippi Supreme Court has affirmed the conviction of a man who injured his wife by dousing her with hot grease after she said she was planning to leave him.

Justices handed down a unanimous decision Thursday in the appeal of Kendall Woodson, 42, of Greenwood, the Greenwood Commonwealth reported.

“We cannot find any arguable issue for appeal or reversible error committed by the trial court,” Justice David Ishee wrote in upholding the conviction.

Woodson was convicted in 2017 of domestic aggravated assault and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He is in the Holmes/Humphreys County Correctional Facility in Lexington.

Woodson and his wife had been married for 20 years at the time of the assault. According to court records, Anita Woodson testified that she got home from work around 12:45 a.m. on Aug. 6, 2015. During an argument, she told her husband she was going to leave him the next day.

She fell asleep, then woke up when Kendall Woodson pulled her up by the hair, began beating her and poured hot cooking oil on her head, while threatening to kill her. Anita Woodson was severely burned and received a concussion.


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