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Vermont has extended the emergency rules for how its courts operate during the pandemic until the start of the new year.

The judicial emergency declared in March means that jury trials are not being held and many court hearings are taking place online or over the phone, the court said.

People must go through a health screening before entering a courthouse, wear a facial covering and stay at least 6 feet away from others.

The Vermont Supreme Court has also tweaked its rules to allow individuals participating in proceedings other than hearings to access court buildings.


Families and survivors had their first chance to confront the white supremacist who slaughtered 51 worshippers in a mass shooting at two New Zealand mosques as his four-day sentencing hearing began Monday.

“You killed your own humanity, and I don’t think the world will forgive you for your horrible crime,” said a tearful Maysoon Salama, the mother of 33-year-old Atta Elayyan, who was killed in March 2019 attacks. “You thought you can break us. You failed miserably.”

The gunman, 29-year-old Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant, pleaded guilty in March to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one count of terrorism — the first terrorism conviction in New Zealand’s history. He could become the first person in New Zealand to be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, the toughest sentence available.

Tarrant was brought into the Christchurch High Court shackled and wearing a gray prison outfit. In the dock, unshackled and surrounded by five officers, he showed little emotion throughout the hearing. He occasionally looked around the room, tapped his fingers, and watched the survivors as they spoke.

The courtroom was only half full due to coronavirus distancing requirements, while many others watched from adjacent courtrooms where the hearing was streamed. Survivors and family members occasionally wept and comforted each other.

Two dozen victims and family members told the court about the pain of losing husbands, wives, sons and brothers. Some had family members around them for support, others spoke through translators or on pre-recorded videos from abroad.


The future of the Supreme Court is on the line, though it would be hard to tell from the Democratic National Convention that just concluded.

There was a fleeting glimpse of a younger Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a brief reference to the court by Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York and a mention of it by Ayesha Curry, in a segment with NBA star Stephen Curry and their two daughters.

Neither Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden nor vice presidential running mate Kamala Harris said a word about the high court in their acceptance speeches.

By contrast, President Donald Trump and other Republican candidates rarely miss a chance to talk up Trump's more than 200 federal court appointments, including Supreme Court justices  Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, with the prospect of more seats to fill in a second term.

“The most important thing a president can do is the appointment of federal judges and Supreme Court justices," Trump said at a recent campaign stop in Yuma, Arizona.

That's a refrain likely to be repeated at the Republican National Convention that begins on Monday and when Trump gives his acceptance speech later in the week.

The Democratic silence is all the more surprising because liberal groups are trying to motivate progressive voters by highlighting the GOP's success in restocking the federal bench with younger judges who might serve for decades.


Less than 24 hours before a court order would have required five Seattle media companies to turn over unpublished protest photos and videos to police, the state Supreme Court has granted them a temporary respite.

A Washington state Supreme Court commissioner on Thursday postponed a King County judge’s order that would have required The Seattle Times and local television stations KIRO, KING, KOMO and KCPQ, to comply with a Seattle police subpoena by handing over photos and video taken during racial injustice protests.

Instead, Commissioner Michael E. Johnston agreed with the news companies’ motion for an emergency stay while the high court considers the media groups’ appeal of King County Superior Court Judge Nelson Lee’s July 31 order, The Seattle Times reported.

“On balance, I am not persuaded that the potential harm to SPD (Seattle Police Department) outweighs the potential harm to the news media,” Johnston wrote in his ruling.

Lee had given the news companies until Aug. 21 to produce to his court their unpublished images from a 90-minute period when protests turned chaotic in downtown Seattle on May 30.

Last month, the Seattle Police Department contended it was at a standstill in its investigation of arson and thefts that day, leading detectives to seek and obtain a subpoena for the images. Investigators say the images could help identify people who torched five Seattle Police Department vehicles and stole two police guns from police vehicles during the mayhem.

The news groups countered that Washington’s so-called “shield law” protected the images from disclosure. As in most states, journalists in Washington are shielded from law enforcement subpoenas except under limited circumstances. The laws are an extension of the First Amendment, meant to guard against government interference in news gathering.

Lee, a former King County prosecutor, ruled that the rare public safety concerns of the case overrode the shield law’s protections, subjecting the news photos and video to the subpoena. Under his order, Lee or a special master of his choosing would have screened the media images privately to decide whether any should be turned over to police.

The ruling drew criticism from First Amendment groups, the American Civil Liberties Union, press organizations and members of the Seattle City Council, who asked City Attorney Pete Holmes to drop the subpoena. Seattle police officials, however, have defended the subpoena as necessary to solve the investigation and retrieve the weapons, which remain missing.

On Aug. 11, the news groups appealed directly to the Supreme Court, asking the panel to halt enforcement of the subpoena until the court resolved the news groups’ contentions that Lee erred in his ruling.

“The equities favor the news media, though I am deeply mindful of the public safety concerns attendant to stolen police firearms and intentional destruction of law enforcement vehicles and other property,” Johnston wrote.

The Supreme Court will decide at “the earliest opportunity as to whether to retain the (media companies’) appeal or refer it to the Court of Appeals,” Johnston’s ruling stated.


A lawyer for a former Colombian paramilitary leader is asking a U.S. federal court to force Attorney General William Barr to immediately deport the former warlord to Italy after he completed a long drug sentence.

The emergency petition was filed Monday in Washington, DC federal court on behalf of Salvatore Mancuso, the former top commander of the United Defense Forces of Colombia, known as the AUC. It comes as Colombia is mounting a last-minute campaign to block Mancuso’s removal to Italy after it bungled an extradition request  that had to be withdrawn last month.

Mancuso’s lawyer argues that Barr, Chad Wolf, the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security, and four other senior officials at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have unlawfully kept Mancuso in federal custody beyond the maximum 90 days allowed for the removal of aliens. Included in the petition is a copy of a final administrative removal order dated April 15 that compels DHS and ICE to remove Mancuso to Italy, where he also has citizenship.

Immigration attorney Hector Mora attributes the delay to strong pressure from Colombia’s conservative government, which he claims is working closely with the U.S. State Department to bring Mancuso back to Colombia. If returned home, he argues his client is likely to be jailed, or even killed, despite having fulfilled his obligations under a 2003 peace deal he negotiated, which caps prison terms at eight years for militia leaders who confess their crimes.

“He and his family are terrified with his possible return to Colombia,” Mora wrote to ICE officials on March 27 ? the same day Mancuso completed a 12-year sentence in the U.S. for cocaine trafficking.

Mancuso, 55, was the most remorseful of the former right-wing militia leaders after demobilizing and his eagerness to discuss the paramilitaries’ war crimes has already shaken Colombia’s politics.


Britney Spears on Tuesday asked a court to keep her father from reasserting the broad control over her life and career that he has had for most of the past 12 years.

In documents filed by her court-appointed lawyer that give a rare public airing to the wishes of the 38-year-old pop superstar, she asked that her father not return to the role of conservator of her person, which gave him power over her major life decisions from 2008 until 2019, when he temporarily stepped aside, citing health problems.

“Britney is strongly opposed to James return as conservator of her person,” the document says.

James Spears has kept his separate role as conservator over his daughter’s finances. For the first 11 years of the conservatorship, he served as co-conservator with attorney Andrew M. Wallet, who resigned from the role early last year.

That briefly left James Spears with sole power over Britney Spears’ life, money and career, a situation she says she very much wants to avoid repeating.

An email seeking comment from James Spears’ attorney was not immediately returned.

Spears says she wants Jodi Montgomery, who has been serving as conservator of her person temporarily, to do so permanently, but she says that doesn’t mean she is waiving her right to seek an end to the entire arrangement.

The documents also reveal that Britney Spears has no plans to perform again anytime soon. She last performed live in October 2018, and early in 2019, canceled a planned Las Vegas residency.

The filing gave a rare glimpse at Britney Spears’ own wishes in the conservatorship that has had vast power over her for over a decade. She has almost never spoken publicly about the matter, and court hearings and documents in the case are cloaked in secrecy, though last year she addressed the court at her request, suggesting she was seeking changes.

In the papers, Britney Spears praises the conservatorship and its work overall, saying it “rescued her from a collapse, exploitation by predatory individuals and financial ruin” and that it made her “able to regain her position as a world class entertainer.”

The document was filed a day before a status hearing on the conservatorship, expected to be closed to the media and public.

Britney Spears’ attorney said that he expects James Spears will aggressively contest being marginalized, and said that Britney Spears has suggested they retain a lawyer with expertise in complex financial court fights.

The conservatorship, known in some states as a guardianship, gave James Spears power over his daughter’s career choices and much of her personal life, including her relationship with her teenage sons. Spears’ ex-husband Kevin Federline has custody of the boys, but she has frequent visits with them.


A U.N.-backed tribunal on Tuesday convicted one member of the Hezbollah militant group and acquitted three others of involvement in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon said Salim Ayyash was guilty as a co-conspirator of five charges linked to his involvement in the suicide truck bombing. Hariri and 21 others were killed and 226 were wounded in a huge blast outside a seaside hotel in Beirut on Feb. 14, 2005.

However, after a years-long investigation and trial, three other Hezbollah members were acquitted of all charges that they also were involved in the killing of Hariri, which sent shock waves through the Mideast.

None of the suspects were ever arrested and were not in court to hear the verdicts.

The tribunal’s judges also said there was no evidence the leadership of the Hezbollah militant group and Syria were involved in the attack, despite saying the assassination happened as Harairi and his political allies were discussing calling for an “immediate and total withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon,” Presiding Judge David Re said.

When launched in the wake of the attack, the tribunal raised hopes that for the first time in multiple instances of political violence in Lebanon, the truth of what happened would emerge and those responsible would be held to account.

But for many in Lebanon, the tribunal failed on both counts. Many of the suspects, including the man convicted Tuesday, are either dead or out of reach of justice. And the prosecution was unable to present a cohesive picture of the bombing plot or who ordered it.

The verdicts come at a particularly sensitive time for Lebanon, following the devastating explosion at the Port of Beirut two weeks ago, and as many in Lebanon are calling for an international investigation into that explosion.

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