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The Supreme Court began its term with the tumultuous confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, followed by a studied avoidance of drama on the high court bench — especially anything that would divide the five conservatives and four liberals.

The justices have been unusually solicitous of each other in the courtroom since Kavanaugh's confirmation, and several have voiced concern that the public perceives the court as merely a political institution. Chief Justice John Roberts seems determined to lead the one Washington institution that stays above the political fray. Even Roberts' rebuke of President Donald Trump, after the president criticized a federal judge, was in defense of an independent, apolitical judiciary.

The next few weeks will test whether the calm can last. When they gather in private on Jan. 4 to consider new cases for arguments in April and into next term, the justices will confront a raft of high-profile appeals.

Abortion restrictions, workplace discrimination against LGBT people and partisan gerrymandering are on the agenda. Close behind are appeals from the Trump administration seeking to have the court allow it to end an Obama-era program that shields young immigrants from deportation and to put in place restrictive rules for transgender troops.


Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn will be detained at least through Jan. 11, the Tokyo District Court said Monday, as the once revered auto industry figure faces allegations that have marked a stunning downfall.

Ghosn, who led Nissan Motor Co. for two decades and helped save the Japanese automaker from near bankruptcy, was arrested Nov. 19 on suspicion of falsifying financial reports. He also faces a breach of trust allegation, for which his detention had been approved previously through Jan. 1.

The Tokyo District Court said in a statement that it had approved prosecutors' request for a 10-day extension.

Ghosn has been charged in the first set of allegations, about under-reporting Ghosn's pay by about 5 billion yen ($44 million) in 2011-2015.

Those close to Ghosn and his family say he is asserting his innocence as the alleged underreported amount of money was never really decided or paid, and Nissan never suffered any monetary losses from the alleged breach of trust.

It is unclear when Ghosn may be released on bail. Tokyo prosecutors consider Ghosn, a Brazilian-born Frenchman of Lebanese ancestry, a flight risk.

In Japan, formal charges can mean a suspect will get detained for months, sometimes until the trial starts, because of fears of tampered evidence.

Another Nissan executive, Greg Kelly, was arrested on suspicion of collaborating with Ghosn on the under-reporting of income and was freed Dec. 25 on 70 million yen ($635,600) bail after more than a month of detention.

Kelly said in a statement released through his lawyers he had suffered while in detention because of his neck ailment and hoped to get medical treatment. He also said he was innocent and hoped to regain his reputation.

"I expect that the trial will start soon. I have not been involved in alleged false entry. I believe my innocence will be revealed in the trial," Kelly said.

Falsifying financial reporting is a serious crime in Japan, with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, a 10 million yen ($89,000) fine, or both. But some experts are puzzled that the allegations against Kelly and Ghosn are about underreporting income from Nissan. Nissan is in charge of filing such financial reports, not individual executives.

Past cases of companies and officials getting charged in Japan with falsifying such reports tend to be about misrepresenting company profits or other numbers that relate to the overall operations of the business, not executive compensation.


A Missouri death row inmate who lost substantial brain tissue during a surgery plans to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review his case, saying his planned execution by lethal injection could subject him to severe pain.

The Columbia Daily Tribune reported Thursday that Ernest Lee Johnson plans to argue that the loss of brain tissue could mean he has seizures and severe pain in reaction to Missouri’s execution drug.

Johnson was sentenced to death for killing three convenience store workers during a Columbia robbery in 1994.

Johnson’s appeal is moving through lower courts. But Johnson’s attorneys plan to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene because the high court is currently considering a similar case of another Missouri death row inmate with a rare medical condition that causes blood-filled tumors.

Both argue complications with their conditions and the execution drug could lead to cruel and unusual punishment.


Florida's new gun law is keeping courts busy, and the state Supreme Court also says lawsuits over hurricane disputes could be on the rise.

The Florida Supreme Court said Friday 100 petitions a month have been filed statewide to try to keep guns out of the hands of people at risk to themselves and others. The Legislature passed new gun restrictions in March following a school shooting in Parkland that left 17 dead.

The court also said to watch out for a rise in claims related to Hurricanes Irma and Michael, particularly involving indebtedness and contracts. Irma affected nearly the entire state in 2017, and Michael devastated communities from Mexico Beach to the Georgia border in October.

The court said four additional circuit court judges are needed next fiscal year, including one in the circuit that covers counties hit by Michael.



The partial government shutdown has prompted the chief judge of Manhattan federal courts to suspend work on civil cases involving U.S. government lawyers. The order suspends action in several civil lawsuits in which President Donald Trump is a defendant.

Judge Colleen McMahon said in a written order that the suspension will remain in effect until the business day after the president signs a budget appropriation law restoring Justice Department funding.

The Manhattan courts, with several dozen judges, are among the nation’s busiest courts.

In one case involving Trump, a judge last week ruled that a group of people suing Trump and his three eldest children can remain anonymous because they fear retaliation by the president or his followers.

Back from a 29-hour trip to visit U.S. troops in Iraq, President Donald Trump is returning his attention to the ongoing partial U.S. government shutdown, which is in its sixth day.

In a morning tweet, Trump says “we desperately need” a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, funding for which has been a flashpoint between the White House and Congress ever since Trump took office.

The president is calling on Democrats in Congress to fund his wall, saying the shutdown affects their supporters. He says: “Do the Dems realize that most of the people not getting paid are Democrats?”

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers are on unpaid furlough and even more are required to work without pay after Trump and Congress could not reach consensus on a short-term funding bill last week.


Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Bill Cunningham has announced that he will retire from the bench early next year.

News outlets report Cunningham, who is 74, announced on Thursday that his last day will be Feb. 1. He was first elected in 2006 to represent the First Supreme Court District, which encompasses 24 counties in western Kentucky.

Cunningham told The Paducah Sun that it was time to move on because "you stay too long and after a while you've seen too many tortured and battered children, too many dysfunctional families, too much crime, too much misery, too much human suffering."

Before being elected to the Supreme Court, Cunningham was a circuit judge and a commonwealth's attorney. He says he'd like to find a way to continue serving people in western Kentucky.



After 21 years on the Mississippi Supreme Court and 10 years as chief justice, Bill Waller Jr. says it's time for someone else to take the helm.

Waller's court has at times questioned problems with forensic evidence, but passed when asked to rule on the legality of Mississippi's cap on punitive damages. He said his biggest regret is not getting a statewide system of county courts.

Gov. Phil Bryant has announced that he will replace Waller with Court of Appeals Chief Judge Kenny Griffis, while Presiding Justice Michael Randolph will become the next leader of the nine-member Supreme Court, based on seniority. The outgoing chief justice, son of the late Gov. Bill Waller Sr., a Democrat who served from 1972 to 1976, said he still might run for governor himself.

Waller came on to the court in a different time, before the new judicial building was started, when most record-keeping was on paper and when a hot political battle was waging over limiting damages on civil lawsuits. Another change has been improvements in how inmates are represented in appeals, with the creation of the Office of Capital Post-Conviction Counsel and then the Office of Indigent Appeals.


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