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The Supreme Court on Monday left in place the conviction of a Massachusetts woman who sent her boyfriend text messages urging him to kill himself.

Michelle Carter is serving a 15-month sentence after being convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the 2014 death of her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III. A judge determined that Carter, who was 17, caused the death of the 18-year-old Roy when she ordered him in a phone call to get back in his carbon monoxide-filled truck that he’d parked in a Kmart parking lot.

The phone call wasn’t recorded, but the judge relied on a text Carter sent her friend in which she said she told Roy to get back in. In text messages sent in the days leading up to Roy’s death, Carter also encouraged Roy to follow through with his suicide plan and chastised him when he didn’t, Massachusetts courts found.

The case has garnered national attention and sparked legislative proposals in Massachusetts to criminalize suicide coercion.

Carter’s lawyers argued in their Supreme Court appeal that the conviction should be thrown out because it was an “unprecedented” violation of her free speech rights that raised crucial questions about whether “words alone” are enough to hold someone responsible for another person’s suicide.

The lawyers also argued there was simply not enough evidence to prove Carter urged Roy to to get back in his truck to die, or that he would have lived if she had called for help or taken other actions to try and save his life.

Joseph Cataldo, one of Carter’s lawyers, said Monday’s decision was an “injustice” and that the legal team is weighing its next steps. He didn’t elaborate.

“The Court passed on the rare chance to clarify an outdated and confusing exception to the First Amendment, which has divided courts around the country,” said Daniel Marx, another one of Carter’s lawyers. “It also missed an invaluable opportunity to address the toxic combination of mental illness, adolescent psychology, and social media that was at the heart of this suicide case and will likely lead to additional tragedies in the future.”

The court’s decision was welcomed by Bristol District Attorney Thomas Quinn III, whose office prosecuted the case.

“The US Supreme Court’s decision today brings closure to the family of Conrad Roy for his tragic death. I hope that the finality of this decision brings some solace to them,” he said in a statement.


Crews could start building a private border wall in South Texas within the coming days following a federal judge’s ruling Thursday that lifted a restraining order against the project.

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane’s order was the second federal ruling in two days in favor of border barriers. On Wednesday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a lower court’s stay that had prevented President Donald Trump’s administration from diverting $3.6 billion from military construction projects to fund 175 miles (280 kilometers) of border wall.

While the White House on Thursday celebrated the appeals court’s ruling, saying it rightfully lifted an “illegitimate nationwide injunction,” Crane’s ruling actually went against the U.S. government’s position.

Fisher Industries, a North Dakota-based construction firm, wants to install 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) of steel posts about 35 feet (10 meters) from the U.S. bank of the Rio Grande, the river that forms the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas. The company’s president, Tommy Fisher, wants to spend $40 million on the private border wall — originally promoted by a pro-Trump online fundraising group — to prove that his company can build barriers more effectively.

The U.S. government sued to stop Fisher on the grounds that building so close to the Rio Grande risked changing the flow of the river and potentially pushing floodwaters into Mexico, in violation of treaty obligations. The U.S. attorney’s office argued the project could shift the river and the international boundary, which violated the president’s authority “to conduct the foreign relations of the United States.”

Existing segments of fencing and the small sections that the government is currently building typically run along the Rio Grande levee or through property a significant distance away from the river. The U.S. is currently working to seize private land  to build more sections of wall in Texas.

Crane issued a restraining order in December, but lifted that order Thursday. He also declined to grant a restraining order at the request of the National Butterfly Center, a nonprofit located next to the South Texas construction site. The butterfly center and environmentalists warn building a border barrier so close to the river could worsen erosion and potentially damage other land.


President Donald Trump got a reprieve in a former “Apprentice” contestant’s lawsuit over his response to her sexual assault allegations, when appeals judges gave him permission to appeal to New York’s highest court and put proceedings on hold in the meantime.

Trump’s lawyers have been trying to get Summer Zervos’ defamation suit delayed through his presidency or dismissed altogether.

Courts so far have said no, but Trump’s attorneys can now try to persuade the top-level state Court of Appeals to hear the case. Tuesday’s ruling also holds off other pretrial action until the high court decides. Trump had been due to undergo sworn pretrial questioning by Jan. 31, under an agreement the two sides reached last fall.

Trump’s lawyers said they were pleased with the ruling.

“We believe that the Court of Appeals will agree that the U.S. Constitution bars state court actions while the president is in office,” Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP said in a statement.



The Vermont Supreme Court will be hearing a case that tests the validity of nearly a dozen newly merged school districts.
   
The court is scheduled to hear the case Jan. 15 that will look at the education reform law, known as Act 46, that encouraged, provided incentives for and compelled some school districts to merge.

Lawyers from 33 school districts, seven select boards, one planning commission and several residents, are seeking to block the law. It took effect last July 1.

The people and groups who brought the suits will argue the law is unconstitutional.


Two members of the Kansas attorney general's staff who were finalists for a previous appointment and four lower-court judges are seeking to fill a vacancy on the state Supreme Court.

A lawyer-led state nominating commission is scheduled to interview 17 candidates for the high court Jan. 16 and 17. The commission will name three finalists for Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly to consider, and she will have until March 17 to pick one.

The vacancy was created by former Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss' retirement last week. The next senior justice, Marla Luckert, became chief justice.

It will be Kelly's second appointment to the seven-member court within three months. Last week, the governor appointed Shawnee County District Judge Evelyn Wilson to replace retired Justice Lee Johnson.

The two finalists for that spot were Deputy Attorney General Dennis Depew and Assistant Solicitor General Steven Obermeier.


The Michigan Supreme Court says it won't take an expedited appeal from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a dispute over flavored e-cigarettes.

The court says any appeal should follow a traditional course to the Court of Appeals.

A Court of Claims judge in October blocked Whitmer's ban on flavored e-cigarettes, saying health officials can't justify short cuts to adopt the new regulations.

The judge also expressed concern about the impact on adults who might be vaping to avoid regular cigarettes.

Whitmer said the ban was necessary to keep flavored e-cigarettes away from teens.



In a ruling hailed as an “immense victory for climate justice,” the Netherlands’ top court ruled Friday in favor of activists who have for years been seeking legal orders to force the Dutch government into cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Activists in a packed chamber of the Supreme Court in The Hague erupted into applause and cheers as Presiding Judge Kees Streefkerk rejected the government’s appeal against earlier rulings ordering the government to cut emissions by at least 25% by the end of 2020 from benchmark 1990 levels.

The Supreme Court upheld lower courts’ rulings that protection from the potentially devastating effects of climate change was a human right and that the government has a duty to protect its citizens.

Urgenda, the Dutch climate and sustainability organization that filed the original case, hailed the ruling as “a groundbreaking decision that confirms that individual governments must do their fair share to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

“I am extremely happy that the highest court in the Netherlands has confirmed that climate change is a real, severe problem and that government should do what they themselves have declared for more than 10 years is necessary, namely between 25% and 40% reduction of CO2,” Urgenda director Marjan Minnesma told The Associated Press outside the court.

Faiza Oulahsen of Greenpeace in the Netherlands called the ruling “an immense victory for climate justice.”

Reacting to the decision at his weekly press conference, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said: “I can guarantee we will do everything we can to achieve the goal.”


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