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The Kansas Supreme Court signed off Friday on an increase in spending on public schools that the Democratic governor pushed through the Republican-controlled Legislature, but the justices refused to close the protracted education funding lawsuit that prompted their decision.

The new school finance law boosted funding roughly $90 million a year and was enacted in April with bipartisan support. The court ruled that the new money was enough to satisfy the Kansas Constitution but also said it was keeping the underlying lawsuit open to ensure that the state keeps its funding promises.

"The State has substantially complied with our mandate," the court said in its unsigned opinion, referencing a decision last year that the state wasn't spending enough.

Gov. Laura Kelly had hoped the Supreme Court would end the lawsuit, which was filed by four local school districts in 2010. The districts' attorneys argued the new law would not provide enough new money after the 2019-20 school year and wanted the court to order additional increases.

Kansas spends more than $4 billion a year on its public schools — about $1 billion more than it did during the 2013-14 school year — because of the court's decisions. Some Republican lawmakers, particularly conservatives, have complained that the court has infringed on lawmakers' power under the state constitution to make spending decisions.


Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom and three of his former colleagues on Monday took their fight against being extradited to the U.S. to New Zealand’s top court.

The Supreme Court began hearing arguments in the seven-year-old case after Dotcom and the others lost several previous court rulings.

But even if the men lose their latest appeal, they have legal options which could keep their case alive in the New Zealand court system and delay any extradition for several more years.

U.S. authorities in 2012 shut down Dotcom’s file-sharing website Megaupload and filed charges of conspiracy, racketeering and money laundering. If found guilty, the men could face decades in prison.

Megaupload was once one of the internet’s most popular sites. U.S. prosecutors say it raked in at least $175 million, mainly from people using it to illegally download songs, television shows and movies.

Ira Rothken, one of Dotcom’s lawyers, said in an interview that if anyone did something illegal in relation to Megaupload, it was the users.

“This case is all about trying to hold Megaupload and Kim Dotcom and the others responsible for the acts of users,” Rothken said. “And we’re saying you can’t do that. You can’t do that in the United States and you can’t do that in New Zealand.”

The Supreme Court has scheduled five days to hear the appeal. After that, it could take them several months to issue their decision.

Should the Supreme Court uphold the earlier court rulings and find the men are eligible for extradition, then New Zealand’s Justice Minister Andrew Little would need to make the final decision on whether the extraditions should proceed. And Little’s decision could also be appealed in the courts.

Dotcom, who was arrested in 2012 during a dramatic police raid on his mansion and incarcerated for a month, was released on bail more than seven years ago.

In addition to Dotcom, who founded Megaupload and was its biggest shareholder, the U.S. is also seeking to extradite former Megaupload officers Mathias Ortmann, Bram van der Kolk and Finn Batato. The indictment was filed in the U.S. District Court in eastern Virginia.

Dotcom did not attend Monday’s hearing, although the other three men did. Rothken said Dotcom was at his home in Queenstown and was being kept informed of developments.



A longtime Utah judge has been suspended without pay for six months after making critical comments online and in court about President Donald Trump, including a post bashing his “inability to govern and political incompetence.”

Judge Michael Kwan’s posts on Facebook and LinkedIn in 2016-2017 violated the judicial code of conduct and diminished “the reputation of our entire judiciary,” wrote Utah State Supreme Court Justice John A. Pearce in an opinion posted Wednesday.

Kwan’s Facebook account was private but could have been shared by friends, Pearce wrote.

“Judge Kwan’s behavior denigrates his reputation as an impartial, independent, dignified, and courteous jurist who takes no advantage of the office in which he serves,” Pearce said.

Kwan has been a justice court judge in the Salt Lake City suburb of Taylorsville since 1998. He deals with misdemeanor cases, violations of ordinances and small claims.

He was first appointed by elected city officials to a six-year term and was retained in the position by voters.

Kwan argued the suspension was inappropriate and an unlawful attempt to regulate his constitutionally protected speech, Pearce wrote in the opinion.

Kwan’s attorney, Greg Skordas, said the judge is disappointed with the severity of the suspension but accepted that he would get some reprimand.

Like many people after the 2016 election, Kwan felt strongly about the results and said some things “in haste,” Skordas said.

He knows judges are held to a higher standard and must be careful, the lawyer said.

“He certainly regrets making those statements and is committed to not doing anything like that again,” Skordas said.

It’s unknown what Kwan’s political affiliation is because he chooses to keep his voter registration private, an option available to any state voter, said Justin Lee, Utah director of elections.

Skordas said he doesn’t know Kwan’s political party but noted the judge has been reprimanded previously during his career for comments critical of politicians from both major parties.

Pearce referred to those past reprimands while justifying the severity of the suspension.


A Russian court on Friday extended the arrest for a former U.S. Marine charged with espionage, who complained in court about abuse in custody.

Paul Whelan was arrested at the end of December in a hotel room in the Russian capital of Moscow where he was attending a wedding. He was charged with espionage, which carries up to 20 years in prison in Russia.

Whelan denies the charges of spying for the U.S. that his lawyers said stem from a sting operation. Whelan’s lawyer has said his client was handed a flash drive that had classified information on it that he didn’t know about.

The court ruled Friday to keep the Michigan resident, who also holds British, Irish and Canadian citizenship, behind bars for three more months.

Whelan told reporters in court that he has been threatened and subjected to “abuses and harassment” in prison.

“I haven’t had a shower in two weeks. I can’t use a barber, I have to cut my own hair,” a visibly agitated Whelan said from the defendant’s dock. “This is typical prisoner of war isolation technique. They’re trying to run me down so that I will talk to them.”

Andrea Kalan, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, said Friday that they are disappointed with the ruling, arguing there is “no evidence of any wrongdoing.”

“The mature, civilized course would be to let Paul go home to his elderly parents, who are wondering if they’ll see their son alive again,” Kalan said.

Rights activist Eva Merkachova, who is authorized to visit Moscow prisons, told the RIA Novosti news agency on Friday that the prison administration at the Lefortovo detention center where Whelan is being kept did not let her speak to the American because they were speaking English.

She said she and another activist were told by a prison guard that they can only speak Russian on the premises and that Lefortovo refused to let in a certified translator.


The Supreme Court is siding with a member of the Crow tribe who was fined for hunting elk in Wyoming's Bighorn National Forest.

The Supreme Court on Monday sided with Clayvin Herrera. He argued that when his tribe gave up land in present-day Montana and Wyoming to the federal government in 1868, the tribe retained the right to hunt on the land.

The justices rejected Wyoming's argument that the Crow tribe's hunting rights ceased to exist after Wyoming became a state in 1890 or after Bighorn National Forest was established in 1897.

Herrera wound up with a fine of more than $8,000 after he posted photos online of his kill.



The Supreme Court decided Monday that one state cannot unwillingly be sued in the courts of another, overruling a 40-year precedent and perhaps, foreshadowing an argument over the viability of other high court decisions.

The outcome left one dissenting justice wondering “which cases the court will overrule next.”

The justices divided 5-4 to end a long-running dispute between California officials and Nevada inventor Gilbert Hyatt.

Hyatt is a former California resident who sued California’s tax agency for being too zealous in seeking back taxes from him. Hyatt won a judgment in Nevada courts.

But Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court’s conservative justices that the Constitution forbids states from opening the doors of their courts to a private citizen’s lawsuit against another state. In 1979, the high court concluded otherwise.

The four liberal justices dissented, saying they would have left alone the court’s decision in Nevada v. Hall. Justice Stephen Breyer said there are good reasons to overrule an earlier case, including that it is no longer workable or a vestige of an otherwise abandoned legal doctrine.

But Breyer said that justices should otherwise adhere to the principle of stare decisis, Latin for to stand by things decided.

“It is far more dangerous to overrule a decision only because five members of a later court come to agree with earlier dissenters on a difficult legal question,” Breyer wrote. He included a reference to the court’s 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey that reaffirmed the right to abortion the court declared in Roe v. Wade in 1973.

The future of abortion rights at the court is a matter of intense interest as several states have enacted increasingly restrictive abortion laws in the hope that a more conservative Supreme Court majority will uphold them.

In his majority opinion, Thomas cited other Supreme Court precedent that held “stare decisis is not an inexorable command.”

The Hyatt case had been to the Supreme Court twice before. In 2016, the justices split 4-4 over the same question that was finally answered on Monday.

The case is Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt, 17-1299.


A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the Trump administration can make asylum seekers wait in Mexico for immigration court hearings while the policy is challenged in court, handing the president a major victory, even if it only proves temporary.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — a frequent target of the president’s complaints — reversed a decision by a San Francisco judge that would have prevented asylum seekers from being returned to Mexico during the legal challenge.

The case must still be considered on its merits and could end up at the Supreme Court. But allowing the policy to remain in effect in the meantime lets the administration carry out an unprecedented change to U.S. asylum practices.

The administration has said it plans to rapidly expand the policy across the border, which would have far-reaching consequences for asylum seekers and Mexican border cities that host them while their cases wind through clogged U.S. immigration courts. Cases can take several years to decide.

The policy was challenged by 11 Central Americans and advocacy groups that argued it jeopardized asylum seekers by forcing them to stay in Mexico, where crime and drug violence are prevalent.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg agreed April 8 and said the policy should be halted because it failed to evaluate the dangers migrants faced in Mexico.

The administration introduced its “Migrant Protection Protocols” policy on Jan. 29 in San Diego and later expanded it to Calexico, California, and El Paso, Texas. Under the policy, asylum seekers report to a border crossing in the morning. The U.S. government provides transportation to immigration court and returns them to the border after the hearing.

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