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South Carolina’s highest court on Thursday tossed out a school mask mandate in the state’s capital city, saying it contradicts a state budget measure aimed at preventing face covering requirements.

State Attorney General Alan Wilson had sued the city of Columbia after its City Council passed the ordinance requiring masks at elementary and middle schools. City leaders said the mask requirement, which carries a $100 violation fine, was meant to protect children too young to be approved for the coronavirus vaccine.

But Wilson argued the city’s mask rule conflicts with the budget requirement that went into effect July 1 and bans school districts from using appropriated funds to require face coverings.

On Thursday, the state Supreme Court sided unanimously with the attorney general. The Columbia ordinance is written so that the burden of enforcing the mask rule falls on school employees, “all of whom have an obvious connection to state-appropriated funds,” wrote Justice John Kittredge.

That means school employees have to choose between violating state or city laws, the opinion reads.

“The City has made clear that every school employee is in the crosshairs,” Kittredge wrote. “Simply put, whether intentionally or inadvertently, the City threatens all school personnel with far-reaching and unknown legal liability unless all school personnel ensure obedience to the ordinances.”

Attorneys for Columbia had argued days prior that city and school authorities could draw from separate pots of money, such as local funds, to enforce mask-wearing. They also claimed the legislature overstepped constitutional boundaries by putting the mask rule — a policy unrelated to state finances — in the budget, which aims to raise and spend money.


A prominent conservative attorney representing more than a dozen defendants charged in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol is seriously ill and hasn’t appeared in court for more than a week, throwing some cases into disarray.

Attorney John Pierce has been sending an associate — who is not licensed to practice law — to appear before judges in his absence. Pierce’s illness has left some clients without counsel for the time being and is putting the cases at a “standstill,” prosecutors said in court papers this week.

On Thursday in one of Pierce’s cases in federal court in Washington, a judge said he would appoint an attorney who could advise the client in Pierce’s absence. That was after the associate at Pierce’s law firm, who is not licensed as a lawyer and faces criminal charges himself in another matter, was unable to say when Pierce might be able to return.

At a hearing later Thursday for Pierce’s newest client, Pierce’s associate was joined by a licensed attorney he said he had found to step in until Pierce returns.

Prosecutors repeatedly raised concerns this week that Pierce’s absence and the actions of his associate, Ryan Marshall, on the attorney’s behalf could cause problems in his cases, saying that Marshall had already done things he wasn’t allowed to do.

“Although Mr. Marshall has now appeared several times in Mr. Pierce’s place, he is not a licensed attorney and thus cannot appear in this Court, represent Mr. Pierce’s clients, or provide them with legal advice or services,” they wrote in one filing.

They also said it’s “unclear if and when Mr. Marshall will be able to obtain a bar license” since he is facing felony criminal charges including fraud in Pennsylvania state court.

Phone numbers for Pierce’s law firm did not appear to be working Thursday and it was not immediately clear how to reach Marshall.

Marshall told a judge Thursday in the case against a Kentucky man, Peter Schwartz, that Pierce remains hospitalized but is starting to feel better and expects to be released within a week. He didn’t elaborate on Pierce’s illness, but Marshall told a prosecutor last week that one of Pierce’s friends informed him that the attorney was sick with the coronavirus while another friend told him he was not, according to court documents.


A Texas law banning most abortions in the state took effect Wednesday, with the Supreme Court silent on an emergency appeal to put the law on hold.

If allowed to remain in force, the law would be the most far-reaching restriction on abortion rights in the United States since the high court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion across the country in 1973.

The Texas law, signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in May, prohibits abortions once a heartbeat can be detected in a fetus, usually around six weeks and before most women know they’re pregnant.

In a statement after the law took effect, President Joe Biden said it “blatantly violates the constitutional right established under Roe v. Wade and upheld as precedent for nearly half a century.” And he said the law “outrageously” gives private citizens the power “to bring lawsuits against anyone who they believe has helped another person get an abortion.”

In a phone call with reporters early Wednesday, Marc Hearron, a lawyer for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said that “as of now, most abortion is banned in Texas.” Hearron said his group and the abortion providers it represents were still hoping to hear from the Supreme Court.


A three-judge panel of federal judges has granted the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature’s request to intervene in a redistricting lawsuit brought by Democrats.

A request by the Legislature to intervene in a second similar redistricting case, brought by voting advocacy groups, is pending. The court said its preference would be to consolidate the two cases and asked those involved to show by Sept. 7 why that should not be done.

On Monday, Wisconsin’s five Republican congressmen also asked to intervene in the case brought by Democrats. The congressmen, just as the Legislature did, want the case to be dismissed. The motion was filed by U.S. Reps. Scott Fitzgerald, Mike Gallagher, Glenn Grothman, Bryan Steil and Tom Tiffany.

A third redistricting lawsuit, brought by conservatives, is pending before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which has not yet said whether it will take it or require it to first go through lower state courts.

The federal court on Friday granted the Legislature’s request to intervene in the lawsuit. It set a Sept. 13 deadline to respond to the Legislature’s request to dismiss the case.

In the order granting the Legislature’s request, the judges said federal courts have routinely allowed state lawmakers and legislatures to intervene in redistricting cases.

All three lawsuits say it’s unlikely the Legislature and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers will agree on new maps, so the courts should be prepared to draw them instead.

“If (Democrats’) prediction is correct, and Wisconsin fails to enact a law establishing new districts before the election, it’s hard to see how this court could proceed without input from the Legislature,” judges James Peterson, Amy St. Eve and Edmond Chang wrote.

Mel Barnes, an attorney with the group Law Forward that brought the other federal lawsuit on behalf of advocacy groups, said she expected the two cases to be consolidated with multiple parties asking for federal courts to draw maps.


In a win over FIFA at sport’s highest court, Empoli midfielder Nedim Bajrami won the right Monday to switch national teams from Switzerland to Albania.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport said its panel upheld an appeal by Bajrami and the Albania soccer federation against a FIFA judge rejecting their request in May.

The urgent ruling clears the 22-year-old Bajrami to be selected for Albania in World Cup qualification games this week against Poland and Hungary. Its group is currently led by England.

Bajrami has Albanian family roots but grew up in Switzerland and represented its teams from youth level through to the Under-21s.

“The panel considered that Nedim Bajrami never played with the Swiss (senior) national team and already held Albanian nationality,” the court said.

Bajrami split with Switzerland in March when he declined selection for the U21 European Championship.



Arizona’s top court is eliminating the longstanding practice of allowing lawyers in criminal and civil trials in state courts to remove potential jurors without explanation, a move that proponents said would help prevent discrimination in the selection of trial jurors.

So-called peremptory challenges will end Jan. 1., under a groundbreaking rule change ordered Tuesday and released Friday by the Arizona Supreme court.

In the meantime, a court task force will recommend possible changes to current court rules that also allow opposing sides in trials to ask judges to remove potential jurors for valid reasons such as stated bias or inability to serve, the order said.

Peremptory challenges are a hot-button legal issue nationally as illustrated by jury selection in the trial that resulted in the conviction of a former Minneapolis police officer in George Floyd’s death.

Robert Chang, a Seattle University law professor, said during an interview Saturday that he believed Arizona’s impending outright elimination of peremptory challenges is believed to be a first such step by a U.S. state, though others such as Washington and California have recently moved to place new restrictions on the challenges.

“Arizona clearly has gone further,” said Chang, the director of a legal center that endorsed a competing Arizona rule-change proposal to restrict but not eliminate peremptory challenges. “Arizona’s move is big, and it will be fascinating to see what other states and courts do.”

The Arizona court rejected the competing proposal and, as is its practice when it acts on requests to change rules, did not comment on its reasoning for its actions.

However, the two state Court of Appeals judge who proposed the rule change in January said it was “a clear opportunity to end definitively one of the most obvious sources of racial injustice in the courts.”

While many lawyers view peremptory challenges as a way to “structure a jury favorable to his or her cause,” that interest should be secondary “if elimination of racial, gender and religious bias in the court system a controlling goal,” Judges Peter Swann and Paul McMurdie wrote in their proposal.

The current system of allowing a side to object to the other side’s peremptory challenge of a potential juror if discrimination is thought to be the unstated motive is ineffective and inefficient, according to the proposal by the two former trial judges.

Their proposal drew some support but also strong opposition from within the state’s legal community while it was under consideration by the Supreme Court.


A 27-year-old man has been convicted of second-degree murder and a hate-crime offense in the death of a transgender teen in Washington state two years ago.

A Clark County Superior Court jury returned the verdict Friday against David Bogdanov, The Columbian newspaper reported.

Prosecutors said Bogdanov met 17-year-old Nikki Kuhnhausen in downtown Vancouver in June 2019, and that he strangled her with a phone charger cable after engaging in sexual contact in the back seat of his car and discovering she was transgender.

Kuhnhausen’s family and supporters exclaimed “Yes!” quietly and tearfully as the hate-crime verdict was read in court.

“We were all holding hands while we were awaiting the verdict to be read and that was really powerful,” said Linden Walls, a member of the group Justice for Nikki. “It felt like we were all together … and the sense of relief that came that we got justice for Nikki, that we were able to push this and the jury could see it and did the right thing.”

Bogdanov, of Vancouver, claimed self-defense, testifying that he wrapped the cord around her shoulder to prevent her from reaching a gun he had near the driver’s seat after he ordered her to get out of the car. The cord slipped to her neck, he said.

He faces a range of 11 to 19½ years in prison when he is sentenced Sept. 9, prosecutors said. His attorneys declined to comment until after the sentencing.

After Kuhnhausen’s death, Bogdanov dumped her body down the side of Larch Mountain, booked a one-way flight to Ukraine and called a friend to “get rid” of his car, according to trial testimony. He returned to the U.S. about six weeks later.

In a Facebook post following the verdict, the group Justice for Nikki applauded the findings.

“The long buildup to this trial, and the defense’s attempts to somehow paint Nikki, who was a 17-year-old girl, as being ‘responsible’ for the defendant’s violent actions, were excruciating for us, and particularly for Nikki’s mother Lisa,” the group wrote. “There’s no excuse for what happened to Nikki. This hate crime wounded our community.”

In March 2020, Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law House Bill 1687 — dubbed the Nikki Kuhnhausen Act — that prevents a criminal defense based on discovery of a victim’s actual or perceived gender identity or sexual orientation.

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