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A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit alleging that the mayor of Philadelphia discriminated against Italian Americans in renaming the city’s Columbus Day holiday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

A U.S. District judge ruled a year ago that the plaintiffs, a council member and three Italian American heritage groups, hadn’t been harmed by Mayor Jim Kenney’s executive order, and therefore none of them had standing to sue over the issue.

Judge David Porter, writing for the three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday, said the government “does not violate the Equal Protection Clause every time it affirms or celebrates an ethnicity. Otherwise, Columbus Day itself would arguably have been an equal protection violation — but of course it wasn’t.”

As it stands, “Irish American city employees who wish to celebrate St. Patrick must take a personal day,” and the city doesn’t close for Yom Kippur or give time off for the Lunar New Year, the court said.

The plaintiffs might have a case if the city celebrated every ethnicity but “conspicuously excluded” Italian Americans, but not from selective celebration of particular ethnicities alone, the court said. For plaintiffs seeking redress for such an “offense,” the court said, “their remedy is political, not legal.”

Attorney George Bochetto, who filed the lawsuit, told The Philadelphia Inquirer in an email Friday evening that the plaintiffs are disappointed but he has “every intention” of appealing the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Many Italian Americans have embraced the 15th century explorer — once hailed as the discoverer of America — as a cultural hero and emblem of the city’s deep Italian heritage. Kenney has said that despite centuries of veneration, Columbus had a “much more infamous” history, enslaving Indigenous people and imposing harsh punishments.

Bochetto’s lawsuit on the holiday argued there was a pattern of the city targeting Italian Americans, citing attempts to cover and remove a Columbus statue in south Philadelphia and removal of a statue of ex-mayor and police commissioner Frank Rizzo at the municipal services building near City Hall after it became a target for protests.

Bochetto won a separate lawsuit against the city last month when a state court ordered the removal of a box covering the south Philadelphia Columbus statue. The statue, which dates to 1876 and was presented to the city by the Italian American community to commemorate the nation’s centennial, was covered in June 2020 after it became a focus of racial justice protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Kenney argued for removal of the statue as a matter of public safety, and a city arts panel and a historical commission agreed, but a judge reversed the city’s decision, citing a lack of evidence that the statue’s removal was necessary to protect the public. Before its removal, the box covering the statue had been painted in green, white and red bands, mirroring the Italian flag, at the request of the city council member who represents the district.


An Ohio prison inmate who has spent nearly four decades on death row in the murder of a convenience store clerk has been resentenced to a term that could allow his release on parole.

Lucas County Judge Stacy Cook vacated Gregory Esparza’s death sentence and imposed a new term of 30 years to life with credit for time served, The (Toledo) Blade reported. Two months ago, Cook had declared capital punishment unconstitutional in the case because prosecutors had failed to disclose evidence in his original trial.

“God is good for everyone,” Esparza said to relatives Friday as he was escorted from the courtroom back to the county jail.

Esparza, now 60, was convicted in 1984 of aggravated murder and aggravated robbery with gun specifications in the February 1983 death of Melanie Gerschutz. The 38-year-old wife and mother was working the cash register at Island Variety in East Toledo when she was shot during a robbery of $110 from the register.

Esparza’s initial appeals were denied but a public records request in 1991 turned up a large number of police reports, interviews, and other documents never given to his defense attorneys. A federal appeals court in 1995 overturned the death sentence citing a “defective indictment,” but the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision. A 2016 appeal was denied on the grounds that federal courts had assessed the 1991 evidence, but a state appellate court later said no court had yet addressed the 1991 evidence in the context of capital punishment.


The South Carolina Supreme Court struck down Thursday a ban on abortion after cardiac activity is detected — typically around six weeks — ruling the restriction violates the state constitution’s right to privacy.

The decision comes nearly two years after Republican Gov. Henry McMaster signed the measure into law. The ban, which included exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest or pregnancies that endangered the patient’s life, drew lawsuits almost immediately. Since then, legal challenges have made their way through both state and federal courts.

“The State unquestionably has the authority to limit the right of privacy that protects women from state interference with her decision, but any such limitation must be reasonable and it must be meaningful in that the time frames imposed must afford a woman sufficient time to determine she is pregnant and to take reasonable steps to terminate that pregnancy. Six weeks is, quite simply, not a reasonable period of time for these two things to occur, and therefore the Act violates our state Constitution’s prohibition against unreasonable invasions of privacy,” Justice Kaye Hearn wrote in the majority opinion.

Currently, South Carolina bars most abortions at 20 weeks. Varying orders have given the law’s supporters and opponents both cause for celebration and dismay. Those seeking abortions in the state have seen the legal window expand to the previous limit of 20 weeks before returning to latest restrictions and back again.

Federal courts had previously suspended the law. But the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade allowed the restrictions to take place — for just a brief period. The state Supreme Court temporarily blocked it this past August as the justices considered a new challenge.


Lawyers for a 97-year-old former secretary to the SS commander of Nazi Germany’s Stutthof concentration camp asked Tuesday for their client to be acquitted, arguing that she didn’t know about the atrocities committed at the camp located in what is now northern Poland.

Irmgard Furchner has been on trial for over a year at the Itzehoe state court in northern Germany. In her closing statement, Furchner said she was sorry for what had happened and regretted that she had been there at the time, according to a court spokesman.

Her lawyers requested her acquittal, arguing that the evidence hadn’t shown beyond doubt that Furchner knew about the systematic killings at the camp, meaning there was no proof of intent as required for criminal liability.

Prosecutors accused Furchner of being part of the apparatus that helped the Nazis’ Stutthof camp function during World War II. In their closing arguments last month, they called for her to be convicted as an accessory to murder and given a two-year suspended sentence.

Tens of thousands of people died at Stutthof and its satellite camps, or on death marches at the end of World War II.

Furchner, who made headlines last year when she absconded from trial, is being tried in juvenile court because she was under 21 at the time of the alleged crimes.

The court said a verdict is expected on Dec. 20.


Kansas providers might not be ready for months to do telemedicine abortions even though a state-court judge has blocked the state from enforcing its ban on teleconferencing with patients seeking pregnancy-ending medications.

Planned Parenthood Great Plains said Wednesday it is evaluating its options following the order last week from Shawnee County District Judge Teresa Watson. It operates three clinics in Kansas providing abortions.

A spokesperson for Wichita clinic operator Trust Women said it hopes to resume telemedicine abortions but will move slowly. It provided them for a few months in 2018, filing a lawsuit challenging the ban just before it took effect at the start of 2019.

“There is a lot of infrastructure that needs to go into place to make sure it’s the right way to do it,” said Zack Gingrich-Gaylord, the Trust Women spokesperson, citing more staffing as a big need.

Kansas has required doctors to be physically present when a patient takes the first dose of what often is two doses of pregnancy-ending medication.

The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in April 2019 that access to abortion is a “fundamental” right under the state constitution, but Watson refused in July 2019 to block enforcement of the ban while Trust Women’s legal challenge moved forward. The state Court of Appeals overturned that decision in May and ordered Watson to reconsider not blocking the ban’s enforcement.


The Justice Department asked a federal appeals court on Friday to shut down the work of an independent arbiter who was appointed last month to review documents seized during an FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate.

The appeal is the latest salvo in weeks of litigation over the scope of duties of the arbiter, also known as a special master, who was assigned to inspect the records taken in the Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago and weed out any that may be protected by claims of legal privilege.

The special master process has caused some delays to the Justice Department’s investigation into the holding of top-secret documents at the home. But a major hurdle was cleared last month when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit lifted a temporary bar on the department’s ability to use the seized classified documents as part of its criminal probe.

The move permitted a core aspect of the probe to resume, greatly reducing the odds that the process could have a significant impact on the investigation. Even so, department lawyers returned to the court Friday to ask for the entire special master review to be shut down, saying the judge who made the appointment had no basis for doing so and that Trump was not entitled to an independent review of the seized records or to claim privilege over them.

“Plaintiff has no plausible claim of executive privilege as to any of the seized materials and no plausible claim of personal attorney-client privilege as to the seized government records — including all records bearing classification markings,” according to the department’s brief.

“Accordingly,” they added, ”the special-master review process is unwarranted.”

The Justice Department says it seized about 13,000 records, including roughly 100 with classification markings, during its court-authorized search in August. The department is conducting a criminal investigation into the retention of those records as well as into whether anyone obstructed its probe.

As part of the investigation, the FBI has interviewed multiple Trump aides, including a lawyer for him who served as a custodian of the records and who in June presented investigators with a signed letter asserting that all the classified records the Justice Department had asked for in a subpoena had been located and turned over.


With abortion restrictions, looser gun rules and deeper tax reductions likely in the balance, North Carolina Republican lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper are fighting in campaign trenches over whose policy agenda will win out in Cooper’s final two years in office.

Democrats and their allies led by Cooper are bidding to prevent Republicans next month from holding veto-proof majorities for the first time since late 2018. Cooper was often powerless then to block laws except through litigation.

As in other divided-government states following the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, abortion looms large in several key General Assembly races. With enough Democratic legislators behind the governor, Cooper’s vetoes foiled limited abortion changes approved by the GOP-controlled legislature in 2019 and 2021.

Republican leaders are prepared to consider additional abortion restrictions next year but say there’s no consensus yet on details. That uncertainty and the slight electoral adjustment Republicans need — three more House seats and two in the Senate to regain veto-proof majorities — feed into Democratic campaign narratives.

“In North Carolina, women still have reproductive freedom,” Cooper said at a recent event with Democratic female legislative candidates. “And as governor, I aim to keep it that way. But I cannot do it alone — I have to have a number in the legislature who would be willing to stand with me.”

Republican leaders, who have played down the abortion issue during fall campaigning, are optimistic about reaching those thresholds.

They say voters are focused on the national economy and 40-year inflation highs under Joe Biden’s presidency. GOP candidates are running ads blaming Washington for higher prices and talk about what Republicans in Raleigh have done to counter them, such as cutting income taxes.

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