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  Court Watch - Legal News


The Wisconsin Supreme Court is to hear arguments in a case that could give school boards and other governmental bodies a way around the open meetings law.

The case up for argument Wednesday focuses on whether meetings of a committee created by employees of the Appleton Area School District to review books for use in a ninth grade class should have been open to the public.

More broadly the court will examine whether committees created in the same way that the one in Appleton was brought together allows them to be exempt from the law.

John Krueger, whose son attends the Appleton district, argued in a lawsuit that the review committee broke the state open meetings law by not posting a public notice of its meetings or allowing the public to attend. But the Waupaca County Circuit Court and state appeals court both sided with the district, setting up Krueger's appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Krueger raised concerns in 2011 about references to suicide and sex in the book "The Body of Christopher Creed" that students in a freshman communications arts class read. Krueger requested that an alternative class be offered that included books that had no profanity, obscenities or sexualized content.

Appleton's superintendent, Lee Allinger, asked two members of the district's department that handles curriculum and instruction to respond to Krueger's concerns. Those employees formed a 17-member committee including district administrators, teachers and staff to evaluate books used in the course.



Advocates for an endangered species of frog have won a victory in a case that's headed for the U.S. Supreme Court.

A federal appeals court in New Orleans has refused to revive an environmental case involving the "dusky gopher frog."

Last year, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a Louisiana business's attempt to keep the federal government from listing its timberland as essential for the frog's future.

On Monday the full court voted 8-6 against re-hearing the case.

The frogs now live in some parts of Mississippi but once were found in Alabama and Louisiana as well. Environmentalists say the Louisiana land in question contains a type of pond essential to the species' survival.

The case next goes to the Supreme Court.

The majority offered no comment Monday. Judge Edith Jones wrote a strongly worded 30-page dissent on behalf of the six-member minority. Among her arguments: the habitat in question contains one, but not all, of the features deemed necessary for the dusky gopher frog's survival.

Jones said the appeals court's majority applied federal law incorrectly and the landowner should not be prohibited from developing land where the frog cannot "naturally live and grow."

"She agreed with us that non-habitat can never be critical habitat," said Reed Hopper, an attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation, which represents landowner Markle Interests LLC. He confirmed that a Supreme Court appeal is planned.


Court documents show Hickory police were executing a "no knock" search warrant when a police officer was shot in the arm by a suspect who was shot and killed.

WSOC-TV in Charlotte reports documents showed that police were concerned that one of their officers might be hurt while carrying out the warrant. Hickory Police Chief Thurman Whisnant said that as soon as officers came through the door, they identified themselves and announced they were executing the warrant.

The search warrant listed more than a decade of convictions against 33-year-old William David Whetstone for assaults and drug charges.

Police said Whetstone disobeyed orders not to move, pulled a gun and shot an officer in the arm on Feb. 3. Two other officers then shot Whetstone, who died at the scene.



Judges are hearing more arguments about North Carolina Republican lawmakers' efforts to reduce Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's authority in choosing his Cabinet.

A three-judge panel scheduled arguments Friday on whether to extend their recent temporary block of a law requiring Senate confirmation of Cooper's Cabinet secretaries.

The GOP-controlled legislature passed the law shortly before Cooper took office, one of several provisions designed to limit Cooper's powers.

Cooper's attorneys say confirmation usurps his authority to carry out core executive functions. Republicans respond that the state Constitution gives senators "advice and consent" powers with gubernatorial appointees.

The governor wants the law blocked at least until a hearing scheduled for March.

In another gubernatorial power issue, a state appeals court on Thursday temporarily reinstated a law stripping Cooper of his oversight of elections.



A Kenyan court ruled Thursday that the government must not close the world's largest refugee camp and send more than 200,000 people back to war-torn Somalia, a decision that eases pressure on Somalis who feared the camp would close by the end of May.

Kenya's internal security minister abused his power by ordering the closure of Dadaab camp, Judge John Mativo said, adding that the minister and other officials had "acted in excess and in abuse of their power, in violation of the rule of law and in contravention of their oaths of office."

Rights groups Amnesty International, Kituo cha Sheria and the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights had challenged the government's order to close the camp, which has operated for more than a quarter-century.

Kenya's government quickly said it will appeal the ruling. "Being a government whose cardinal responsibility is first to Kenyans, we feel this decision should be revoked," spokesman Eric Kiraithe said.

The judge called the order discriminatory, saying it goes against the Kenyan constitution as well as international treaties that protect refugees against being returned to a conflict zone.

President Uhuru Kenyatta's government has not proved Somalia is safe for the refugees to return, the judge said, also calling the orders to shut down the government's refugee department "null and void."

Somalia remains under threat of attacks from homegrown extremist group al-Shabab. Some Kenyan officials have argued that the sprawling refugee camp near the border with Somalia has been used as a recruiting ground for al-Shabab and a base for launching attacks inside Kenya. But Kenyan officials have not provided conclusive proof of that.



A federal appeals court will decide whether to reinstate President Donald Trump's travel ban after a contentious hearing in which the judges hammered away at the administration's motivations for the ban, but also directed pointed questions to an attorney for two states trying to overturn it.

It was unclear which way the three judges of the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals would rule, though legal experts said the states appeared to have the edge.

"I'm not sure if either side presented a compelling case, but I certainly thought the government's case came across as weaker," said Stephen Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law.

A ruling could come as early as Wednesday and could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Trump tweeted early Wednesday: "If the U.S. does not win this case as it so obviously should, we can never have the security and safety to which we are entitled. Politics!"

The appeals court challenged the administration's claim that the ban was motivated by terrorism fears, but it also questioned the argument of an attorney challenging the executive order on grounds that it unconstitutionally targeted Muslims.

The contentious hearing before three judges on the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals focused narrowly on whether a restraining order issued by a lower court should remain in effect while a challenge to the ban proceeds. But the judges jumped into the larger constitutional questions surrounding Trump's order, which temporarily suspended the nation's refugee program and immigration from seven mostly Muslim countries that have raised terrorism concerns.



A federal appeals court considered Monday whether to automatically halt lower court orders publicly releasing video of fatal shootings by police to prevent potential violence.

Judges on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel acknowledged that the case involving a 2013 shooting of an unarmed man by police in the Los Angeles suburb of Gardena was largely moot because the video was released and widely published.

But in considering whether U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson abused his discretion by denying Gardena a stay of execution and releasing videos sought by The Associated Press and other news organizations, the court questioned if future video releases should be put on hold to offer a chance of appeal.

Judge Andrew Kleinfeld said stays are automatically granted in other types of cases. He repeatedly questioned a news media lawyer about why it was in the public interest to release videos that might incite violence and rioting.

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