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  Civil Rights - Legal News


A federal court jury has decided that New Jersey police did not violate the civil rights of a man who died shortly after a physical altercation during his arrest 7 1/2 years ago.

After a trial, jurors in federal court in Camden sided with the city Oct. 19 in a lawsuit filed by relatives of 32-year-old Vineland resident Phillip White, according to court records.

Officers had responded in March 2015 to reports of a man “freaking out” on the street and eventually subdued White after a struggle captured on video by a bystander. The video showed an officer hitting White and a police dog being used during the arrest.

White died on the way to the hospital, and an autopsy cited a toxic level of the drug Phencyclidine, or PCP, in his system. Injuries from the K9’s actions were noted but deemed superficial by a medical examiner.

Cumberland County prosecutors said in 2016 that a grand jury had declined to indict the two Vineland officers involved. White’s relatives filed a $10 million lawsuit against the city and the two officers, one of whom was later dismissed as a defendant.'

“We believe very strongly in our client and our client’s cause, but the jury didn’t see it that way,” said Michael Galpern, an attorney for White’s mother, Pamela, told NJ Advance Media for NJ.com. He said the defense was considering whether to appeal.

An attorney for Vineland and its police department declined comment, NJ.com reported.


The U.S. Justice Department overreached in suing Mississippi over its mental health system, the state’s solicitor general has argued to a federal appeals court.

A Justice Department attorney countered that there’s ample precedent to show the department has the power to enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Wednesday in New Orleans. The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported that judges on the conservative court appeared receptive to limiting the Justice Department’s role.

A ruling against the department could ultimately push the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that could have nationwide implications.

The federal government issued a letter in 2011 saying Mississippi had done too little to provide mental health services outside mental hospitals. The Justice Department sued Mississippi in 2016.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves ruled in 2019 that Mississippi had violated the ADA by having inadequate resources in communities to treat people with mental illnesses.

Evidence showed people were repeatedly admitted to state hospitals for lengthy stays, only to later return to the hospitals without long-term improvement.

Mississippi Solicitor General Scott Stewart — the same attorney who argued an abortion case before the U.S. Supreme Court that overturned Roe v. Wade — told the appeals panel Wednesday that since Reeves’ ruling, the state has improved its mental health system. Stewart said limiting the federal government’s ability to intervene is important because lawsuits can cost states thousands of dollars.


When the U.S. Supreme Court repealed in June a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, Wisconsin’s 1849 law that bans the procedure except when a mother’s life is at risk became newly relevant.

Republicans in the Legislature blocked an attempt by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to overturn the law. Yet there’s disagreement inside the GOP over how to move forward when they return to the state Capitol in January.

The state’s powerful Republican Assembly speaker, Robin Vos, supports reinforcing the exception for a mother’s life and adding protections for instances involving rape and incest. Others, including GOP state Rep. Barbara Dittrich, say the law should stay as it is, without exceptions for rape and incest.

For decades, Republicans like Vos and Dittrich appealed to conservative voters — and donors — with broad condemnation of abortion. But the Supreme Court’s decision is forcing Republicans from state legislatures to Congress to the campaign trail to articulate more specifically what that opposition means, sometimes creating division over where the party should stand.

Dittrich says consensus among her Republican colleagues on an alternative to the 1849 law would be a “tremendous challenge.” “We once heard that the Democrats were the big-tent party,” she said in an interview. “Now I would say the Republican Party is more the big-tent party on some of these issues.”

Of course, supporters of abortion rights are now a distinct minority in Republican politics. Just two GOP members of Congress — Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine — publicly support passing legislation to reinstate the protections of a woman’s right to choose that the Supreme Court struck down in overruling Roe v. Wade. In Colorado, U.S. Senate candidate Joe O’Dea is the rare Republican running this year who backs codifying Roe.

But the debate over even a limited set of circumstances in which abortion could be legal spurred some division within the GOP in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

In Indiana, after a decade of stalled legislation on abortion, empowered Republicans passed the first near-total abortion ban since the Supreme Court ruling. But even that measure drew dissent within the GOP. Exemptions for rape and incest up to 10 weeks prevailed after 50 Republicans joined with all Democrats to include them.


The Iowa Supreme Court on Friday cleared the way for lawmakers to severely limit or ban abortion in the state, reversing a decision by the court just four years ago that guaranteed the right to abortion under the Iowa Constitution.

The court, now composed almost entirely of Republican appointees, concluded that a less conservative court wrongly decided abortion is among the fundamental privacy rights guaranteed by the Iowa Constitution and federal law.

Friday’s ruling comes amid expectations that the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide. If that happens, Iowa lawmakers could ban abortion without completing the lengthy process of amending the state constitution.

The Iowa decision stemmed from a lawsuit filed by abortion providers who challenged a 2020 law that required a 24-hour waiting period before a woman can get an abortion. A judge who struck down the law cited the state high court’s 2018 ruling. The judge also concluded that the law violated rules prohibiting passage of bills with more than one subject.

The state Supreme Court returned the waiting-period case to district court.


When organizers earlier this year settled on a summer opening for a new women’s health clinic in Wyoming, they felt upbeat about their plans even as they knew they would face opposition to what will be the only such clinic to offer abortions in the state.

There were the expected protests and harassing messages. Things got more tense after a leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that, if finalized, would likely make abortions illegal in Wyoming and half of the states.

Then last week, their building was damaged by a fire police believe was deliberately set.

None of it has derailed plans to open the clinic — a rarity in heavily Republican parts of the United States where most abortion providers at the moment are fighting just to stay in business, let alone expand services.

“We can’t be bullied into submission,” Julie Burkhart, the clinic founder, said as she watched from across the street as Casper police and firefighters investigated the blaze.

For years, Wyoming prided itself on live-and-let-live Western conservatism that took a hands-off approach to setting social policy in government, abortion included. That’s changing, however.

In March, Gov. Mark Gordon, a Republican, signed a bill that put Wyoming among the states that would outlaw abortion should the Supreme Court overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that made abortion legal nationwide. The only exceptions would be in the event of rape or incest, to save the mother’s life or to save the mother from severe, non-mental health problems.

Gordon, who’s running for re-election this year, hasn’t made abortion and other culture war issues a feature of his campaigns or time in office. But a recent rightward shift of both the Supreme Court and state Legislature has elevated abortion into an issue in Wyoming.


Abortion rights supporters demonstrating at hundreds of marches and rallies Saturday expressed their outrage that the Supreme Court appears prepared to scrap the constitutional right to abortion that has endured for nearly a half-century and their fear about what that could mean for women’s reproductive choices.

Incensed after a leaked draft opinion suggested the court’s conservative majority would overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, activists spoke of the need to mobilize quickly because Republican-led states are poised to enact tighter restrictions.

In the nation’s capital, thousands gathered in drizzly weather at the Washington Monument to listen to fiery speeches before marching to the Supreme Court, which was surrounded by two layers of security fences.

The mood was one of anger and defiance, three days after the Senate failed to muster enough votes to codify Roe v. Wade.

“I can’t believe that at my age, I’m still having to protest over this,” said Samantha Rivers, a 64-year-old federal government employee who is preparing for a state-by-state battle over abortion rights.

Caitlin Loehr, 34, of Washington, wore a black T-shirt with an image of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s “dissent” collar on it and a necklace that spelled out “vote.”

“I think that women should have the right to choose what to do with their bodies and their lives. And I don’t think banning abortion will stop abortion. It just makes it unsafe and can cost a woman her life,” Loehr said.

A half-dozen anti-abortion demonstrators sent out a countering message, with Jonathan Darnel shouting into a microphone, “Abortion is not health care, folks, because pregnancy is not an illness.”

From Pittsburgh to Los Angeles, and Nashville, Tennessee, to Lubbock, Texas, tens of thousands participated in events, where chants of “Bans off our bodies!” and “My body, my choice!” rang out. The gatherings were largely peaceful, but in some cities there were tense confrontations between people on opposing sides of the issue.

Polls show that most Americans want to preserve access to abortion — at least in the earlier stages of pregnancy — but the Supreme Court appeared to be poised to let the states have the final say. If that happens, roughly half of states, mostly in the South and Midwest, are expected to quickly ban abortion.


California taxpayers would help pay for abortions for women who can’t afford them under a new spending proposal Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday to prepare for a potential surge of people from other states seeking reproductive care if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

California already pays for some abortions through its Medicaid program, the taxpayer-funded health insurance plan for the poor and the disabled.

But some women don’t qualify for Medicaid and don’t have private health insurance. When that happens, clinics will sometimes perform abortions for free, known as “uncompensated care.” Wednesday, Newsom said he wants the state to give $40 million worth of grants to clinics to help offset those costs.

An abortion can cost between a few hundred dollars and a few thousand dollars in California, depending on how far along the pregnancy is and what kind of insurance a patient has.

“California will not stand idly by as extremists roll back our basic constitutional rights; we’re going to fight like hell, making sure that all women – not just those in California – know that this state continues to recognize and protect their fundamental rights,” Newsom said in a news release.

While the grants could potentially pay for abortions for women from other states, the money would not pay for those women to travel or stay in California.

A bill in the Democratic-controlled state Legislature would set up a fund to help pay for the logistics of getting an abortion in California, including things such as travel, lodging and child care. The California Legislative Women’s Caucus has asked Newsom for $20 million to put into that fund. But Newsom’s announcement on Wednesday did not include that money.

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