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A permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross two national forests, including parts of the Appalachian Trail, was thrown out Thursday by a federal appeals court that harshly criticized regulators for approving the proposal.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond blasted the U.S. Forest Service for granting a special use permit to build the natural gas pipeline through parts of the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests, and granting a right of way across the Appalachian Trail.

"A thorough review of the record leads to the necessary conclusion that the Forest Service abdicated its responsibility to preserve national forest resources," Judge Stephanie Thacker wrote for the panel in the unanimous ruling.

The court said the agency had "serious environmental concerns" about the project that were "suddenly, and mysteriously, assuaged in time to meet a private pipeline company's deadlines."

The ruling also quoted "The Lorax" by Dr. Seuss, saying the Forest Service is trusted to "speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues."

Aaron Ruby, a spokesman for Dominion Energy, the project's lead developer, said the developers "strongly disagree" with the court's ruling and plan to immediately appeal by seeking a hearing before the full 4th Circuit court.

"If allowed to stand, this decision will severely harm consumers and do great damage to our economy and energy security," Ruby said in a statement. "Public utilities are depending on this infrastructure to meet the basic energy needs of millions of people and businesses in our region."


A Canadian prosecutor urged a Vancouver court to deny bail to a Chinese executive at the heart of a case that is shaking up U.S.-China relations and worrying global financial markets.

Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of telecommunications giant Huawei and daughter of its founder, was detained at the request of the U.S. during a layover at the Vancouver airport last Saturday — the same day that Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping of China agreed over dinner to a 90-day ceasefire in a trade dispute that threatens to disrupt global commerce.

The U.S. alleges that Huawei used a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment in Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. It also says that Meng and Huawei misled American banks about its business dealings in Iran.

The surprise arrest, already denounced by Beijing, raises doubts about whether the trade truce will hold and whether the world’s two biggest economies can resolve the complicated issues that divide them.

“I think it will have a distinctively negative effect on the U.S.-China talks,” said Philip Levy, senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and an economic adviser in President George W. Bush’s White House. “There’s the humiliating way this happened right before the dinner, with Xi unaware. Very hard to save face on this one. And we may see (Chinese retaliation), which will embitter relations.”

Canadian prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley said in a court hearing Friday that a warrant had been issued for Meng’s arrest in New York Aug. 22. He said Meng, arrested en route to Mexico from Hong Kong, was aware of the investigation and had been avoiding the United States for months, even though her teenage son goes to school in Boston.




The Supreme Court is telling a lower court to take another look at a case challenging mandatory fees lawyers pay to a state bar association.

The case the justices sent back for further consideration Monday involves North Dakota attorney Arnold Fleck, who sued after learning that bar fees were being used to oppose a ballot measure he supported. Fleck says he should have to affirmatively consent to paying for the bar association's political activities instead of being able to opt out.

North Dakota's fees range from $325 to $380. Lawyers who don't want to support the bar's political activities can deduct about $10.

The justices say the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals should reconsider the case in light of a recent Supreme Court ruling about fees paid to unions.


Roughly two years after a new trial was ordered, Maryland's highest court on Thursday heard arguments in their review of the high-profile case of a man whose murder conviction was chronicled in the hit "Serial" podcast that attracted millions of armchair detectives.

Tasked with upholding the retrial order for Adnan Syed or reviewing a decision that could reinstate a conviction, Maryland's Court of Appeals heard about an hour's worth of arguments in the long-running case. Syed was convicted in 2000 of strangling his high school sweetheart and burying her body in a Baltimore park. He's been serving a life sentence ever since.

But a Baltimore judge vacated his conviction two years ago and a court ordered a new trial after concluding that his trial lawyer was ineffective. The state appealed. Earlier this year, the special appeals court upheld the lower court's ruling. The state appealed that decision, too.

On Thursday, state prosecutor Thiru Vignarajah acknowledged that the late trial lawyer for Syed did not contact an alibi witness but he asserts that the attorney understood the "gist" of what that witness, Asia McClain, might have told her at the time. The attorney in question, Cristina Gutierrez, died of a heart attack in 2004, about four years after Syed was convicted of murdering 18-year-old Hae Min Lee.

"The record is not silent on whether or not Ms. McClain was contacted. The state agrees with that. The record is silent on the critical question of why," he said, suggesting that it is not clear why Gutierrez decided to take one investigative path over another and asserting that it's wrong to conclude that Syed's constitutional right to effective counsel was violated.

In 2016, a lower court ordered a retrial for Syed on grounds that Gutierrez didn't contact McClain and provided ineffective counsel.

The defense team countered that it's entirely irrelevant why Gutierrez failed to contact McClain, who said she saw Syed at a library about the same time prosecutors say his ex-girlfriend was killed in 1999.

Defense attorney Catherine Stetson told Maryland's highest court that Syed's original lawyer's failure to contact the witness were "objectively unreasonable" and any possible reasons don't matter. She said Gutierrez "had an obligation to pursue that witness," among others.

By late Thursday morning, the appeals panel of seven judges wrapped up the day's oral arguments. It's not clear when their review of the Syed case will be completed.

The arguments in the Maryland appeals court brought spectators from out of state. Chris Hendrixson drove from Cincinnati, Ohio, to observe the hearing and perhaps meet some of the people he's heard about on the podcast.


The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court on Friday to issue an unusually quick ruling on the Pentagon's policy of restricting military service by transgender people. It's the fourth time in recent months the administration has sought to bypass lower courts that have blocked some of its more controversial proposals and push the high court, with a conservative majority, to weigh in quickly on a divisive issue.

Earlier this month, the administration asked the high court to fast-track cases on the president's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which shields young immigrants from deportation. Administration officials also recently asked the high court to intervene to stop a trial in a climate change lawsuit and in a lawsuit over the administration's decision to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 census.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a frequent target of criticism by President Donald Trump, is involved in three of the cases. Trump's recent salvo against the "Obama judge" who ruled against his asylum policy — not one of the issues currently before the Supreme Court — prompted Chief Justice John Roberts to fire back at the president for the first time for feeding perceptions of a biased judiciary.

Joshua Matz, publisher of the liberal Take Care blog, said the timing of the administration's effort to get the Supreme Court involved in the issues at an early stage could hardly be worse for Roberts and other justices who have sought to dispel perceptions that the court is merely a political institution, especially since the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. At an especially sensitive moment for the Supreme Court, the Trump administration is "forcing it into a minefield that many justices would almost surely prefer to avoid," Matz said.

The Supreme Court almost always waits to get involved in a case until both a trial and appeals court have ruled in it. Often, the justices wait until courts in different areas of the country have weighed in and come to different conclusions about the same legal question.

So it's rare for the justices to intervene early as the Trump administration has been pressing them to do. One famous past example is when the Nixon administration went to court to try to prohibit the publication of the Pentagon Papers, the secret history of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.


Veteran Alabama law enforcement officer Mark Pettway grew up in a black neighborhood called “Dynamite Hill” because the Ku Klux Klan bombed so many houses there in the 1950s and ’60s.

Now, after becoming the first black person elected sheriff in Birmingham - on the same day voters elected the community’s first black district attorney - Pettway sees himself as part of a new wave of officers and court officials tasked with enforcing laws and rebuilding community trust fractured by police shootings, mass incarceration, and uneven enforcement that critics call racist.

In a state where conservative politicians typically preach about getting tough on crime, Jefferson County’s new sheriff ran and won on an alternative message. He favors decriminalizing marijuana, opposes arming school employees, supports additional jailhouse education programs to reduce recidivism and plans for deputies to go out and talk to people more often, rather than just patrolling.

“Going forward we need to think about being smarter and not being harder,” said the Democrat Pettway, 54.

While the nation’s law enforcement officers are still mostly white men, and groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and Black Lives Matter call for sweeping changes in the criminal justice system, minorities appear to be making gains nationwide.

In Pettway’s case, strong turnout by African-American voters, combined with national concern over police shootings of unarmed people of color, helped him defeat longtime Sheriff Mike Hale, a white Republican, said professor Angela K. Lewis, interim chair of political science at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Winners in other cities attributed their success to similar factors.

Houston voters elected 17 black women as judges in the midterms. Even before the election, nearly the entire criminal justice system in the Georgia city of South Fulton, near Atlanta was run by black women, including the chief judge, prosecutor, chief clerk and public defender. They’re offering more chances for criminal defendants to avoid convictions through pre-trial programs and increased use of taxpayer-funded lawyers to protect the rights of the accused.

Chief Judge Tiffany C. Sellers of South Fulton’s municipal court said officials also explain court procedures in detail to defendants, many of whom haven’t been in court before and are scared.


Oregon is urging the U.S. Supreme court to uphold the 112-year sentence given to a man who killed his parents before fatally shooting two students and wounding two dozen others at a high school 20 years ago.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports 36-year-old Kipland Kinkel filed a petition in early August to the nation's highest court for a review of his sentence in the May 1998 shootings in Springfield, Oregon.

Oregon solicitor general Benjamin Gutman filed a brief this month in response, saying the sentence shouldn't be overturned because the Oregon Supreme Court found it reflected his "irreparable corruption rather than the transience of youth."

Attorneys Thaddeus Betz and Marsha Levick have argued their client never got the chance to demonstrate that he's not "permanently incorrigible" before the state imposed the sentence.


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