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  Court Watch - Legal News


The Supreme Court said Friday it will hear President Donald Trump’s pleas to keep his tax, bank and financial records private, a major confrontation between the president and Congress that also could affect the 2020 presidential campaign.

Arguments will take place in late March, and the justices are poised to issue decisions in June as Trump is campaigning for a second term. Rulings against the president could result in the quick release of personal financial information that Trump has sought strenuously to keep private. The court also will decide whether the Manhattan district attorney can obtain eight years of Trump’s tax returns as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

The subpoenas are separate from the ongoing impeachment proceedings against Trump, headed for a vote in the full House next week. Indeed, it’s almost certain the court won’t hear the cases until after a Senate trial over whether to remove Trump has ended.

Trump sued to prevent banks and accounting firms from complying with subpoenas for his records from three committees of the House of Representatives and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.

In three separate cases, he has so far lost at every step, but the records have not been turned over pending a final court ruling. Now it will be up to a court that includes two Trump appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, to decide in a case with significant implications reagrding a president’s power to refuse a formal request from Congress.


The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the state must count thousands of signatures that were submitted in favor of holding a referendum on a new law expanding the procedures optometrists can perform.

In a 4-3 ruling, justices said election officials incorrectly applied new ballot measure restrictions when they refused to review the signatures submitted by referendum supporters.

The new law allows optometrists to perform several procedures that previously only ophthalmologists could perform, including injections around the eye, the removal of lesions from the eyelids and certain laser eye surgeries. The law's supporters say optometrists are already trained to perform the procedures but were being forced to refer patients elsewhere. It has drawn heavy opposition from ophthalmologists who say the change puts patients at risk.

The secretary of state's office in August said most of the signatures submitted for the referendum weren't counted since canvassers didn't file required paperwork. But the court ruled that the requirement wasn't in effect at the time the signatures were gathered.



Bill Cosby lost his bid to overturn his sexual assault conviction Tuesday, as an appeals court upheld the verdict in the first celebrity trial of the #MeToo era.

In its ruling, the Superior Court affirmed the right of prosecutors to call other accusers to bolster their case — the same issue fought over in movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault trial, now set for Jan. 6.

Cosby’s lawyers had complained that the judge had let five women testify at last year’s retrial in suburban Philadelphia, although he had let just one woman testify at the first trial in 2017.

But the Superior Court said their testimony was evidence of Cosby’s “unique sexual assault playbook” and undermined any claim that he “was unaware of or mistaken about victim’s failure to consent.”

The prosecutor who took the case to trial praised Constand for inspiring other victims to come forward against powerful men. She went to police long before the #MeToo movement saw prominent men in entertainment, business, media and other fields brought down over their treatment of women.

“She came to law enforcement almost 15 years ago seeking justice for what was done to her,” Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said Tuesday. “The world is forever changed because of Andrea’s bravery.”

Lawyers for Cosby had argued eight issues on appeal. They challenged the judge’s decision to air Cosby’s damaging deposition testimony from a related lawsuit; said he had a binding promise from a former prosecutor that he would never be charged; and said a juror had prejudged Cosby’s guilt.


The Ohio Supreme Court this week agreed to hear a case over whether educators were reckless in failing to prevent an injury to a student even though they had been notified she was being bullied by a fellow kindergartner.

The court will consider whether teachers and principals can be sued when a student is bullied under their supervision, The (Toledo) Blade reported.

In this case, one girl reportedly punctured another girl’s cheek with a pencil at Toledo’s DeVeaux Elementary School several years ago.

A Lucas County court concluded a teacher and two principals were protected from the resulting lawsuit by statutory immunity. But a 2-1 ruling by a state appeals court panel resurrected the lawsuit on the recklessness issue.

State law makes educators immune from liability unless they act with “malicious purpose, in bad faith, or in a wanton or reckless manner.”

The appeals court panel concluded there was some evidence of ongoing verbal and physical abuse in the Toledo case but no sign that attempts were made to keep the two girls apart.

The school employees said they spoke with both students after being told about the teasing and bullying. The teacher said she saw no sign of the injury and didn’t learn about it until days afterward.

Their lawyers argue that unless the court decision is overturned, even diligent educators could face costly litigation that could deter others from staying in that field.


The Supreme Court won’t revive a lawsuit against a firearms website over a suburban Milwaukee spa shooting.

The justices rejected an appeal Monday from the daughter of one of three people shot to death by a man who illegally bought a semi-automatic pistol and ammunition from someone he met through Armslist.com.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court dismissed the suit, ruling that federal law protects website operators from liability for posting content from a third party. The state court rejected arguments that websites that enable gun deals must take reasonable care to prevent sales to people prohibited from purchasing firearms. The Wisconsin shooter was under a court order that prohibited him from possessing guns.



The Supreme Court is raising doubts about Alaska’s $500-a-year limit on contributions to political candidates. The justices are ordering a lower court to take a new look at the issue.

The court says in an unsigned opinion Monday that federal judges who had rejected a challenge to the contribution cap did not take account of a 2006 high court ruling invalidating low-dollar limits on political contributions in Vermont.

The Alaska challengers argue that the state is alone in imposing such low limits even on gubernatorial candidates “who must campaign across Alaska’s vast expanse and widely dispersed media markets.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in a short separate opinion that Alaska’s reliance on the energy industry may make the state unusually vulnerable to political corruption and justify low limits.



The Arizona Supreme Court has agreed to consider a case involving privacy rights and a warrantless search of the cellphone of a man who was on felony probation.

The court agreed Tuesday to review a state Court of Appeals ruling last March in favor of allowing prosecutors to present evidence that a probation surveillance officer obtained from the man’s phone.

A Pima County Superior Court judge previously hadn’t allowed the evidence to be considered in proceedings related to an indictment accusing Bryan Lietzau of sexual conduct with a minor.

The Court of Appeals ruling overturned the trial judge, ruling that Lietzau had “significantly diminished privacy rights as a probationer” and had accepted search conditions when he agreed to probation on an aggravated harassment conviction.

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