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The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Alabama neared 1,000 on Monday as reported deaths continued to climb and a federal judge ruled the state could not prohibit abortions during the outbreak.

Total COVID-19 infections in Alabama stood near 950 late Monday, the state Department of Public Health reported. The official death count stood at six, but the tally did not include most of the seven deaths reported by the East Alabama Medical Center, a hospital in Opelika.

The hospital said Sunday that only one of the deaths was included in the state total and the rest were being submitted to an official state process. The Department of Public Health said in a statement that a department physician reviews the records of COVID-19 patients to determine whether a death should be attributed to the virus.

Johns Hopkins University listed Alabama’s death count as 10 on Monday.

A federal judge on Monday granted a temporary restraining order to prevent Alabama from shutting down abortion clinics as a nonessential medical service during the outbreak. Alabama had ordered a postponement of medical procedures except in cases of a medical emergency or “to avoid serious harm from an underlying condition or disease, or necessary as part of a patient’s ongoing and active treatment.” Abortion clinics said they went to court after the state refused to clarify that the clinics could continue to operate.


Texas’ highest criminal court on Thursday delayed the scheduled execution of a second death row inmate as the state tries to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ordered a 60-day delay of Tracy Beatty’s scheduled March 25 execution “in light of the current health crisis and the enormous resources needed to address that emergency.”

Beatty was sentenced to death for the 2003 slaying of his 62-year-old mother, Carolyn Click, near Tyler, in East Texas. The ruling noted that the court previously upheld Beatty’s conviction and sentence.

The court on Monday ordered a 60-day delay in the execution of John William Hummel, who had been scheduled to die on Wednesday for the 2009 stabbing of his pregnant wife, Joy Hummel, 45, and fatal bludgeoning of his father-in-law, Clyde Bedford, 57, with a baseball bat.

Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday declared a state of emergency, ordering schools closed until April 3, banning dine-in eating at restaurants, and ordering bars and gyms to close. Abbott said state government would remain open.

The order also banned public gatherings of 10 or more people, which could have affected the state’s ability to carry out executions, which involve a number of people, including correctional officers, attorneys, physicians, and family members or friends of the inmates and victims.


The New Mexico Game and Fish Department has been ordered to release information about hunters to individuals who sought the records as part of separate court cases.

A state district judge is ordering the agency to turn over the names and addresses of those who won big game draws between 2015 and 2019 to a Los Alamos County resident who had petitioned the court for the information.

In the second case, the state Court of Appeals said the email addresses of individuals who applied for hunting licenses between 2015 and 2016 must be turned over to former Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn.

The agency said Thursday that both courts concluded that information collected from the public in connection with the administration of the agency's public duties fall within the definition of public records and are subject to disclosure.

“The department argued against the release, but ultimately lost,” Game and Fish Director Michael Sloane said. “We value the privacy of our customers’ personal information but recognize that is the courts' interpretation of the current IPRA law.”

The department said it wanted to notify its customers that the information was being released and offered the number of the state attorney general's complaint hotline in case anyone is harassed by solicitors or others as a result of the disclosure.

In 2017, Dunn had requested the names and email addresses of more than 300,000 applicants for New Mexico hunting licenses. James Whitehead of Los Alamos had requested draw results, names and addresses of all successful applicants and units applied for and units drawn.


Pacific Gas & Electric on Monday won court approval to raise $23 billion to help pay its bills over destructive California wildfires after Gov. Gavin Newsom dropped his opposition to a financing package designed to help the nation’s largest utility get out of bankruptcy.

The milestone reached during an unusual court hearing held by phone moves PG&E closer to its goal of emerging from one of the most complex bankruptcy cases in U.S. history by June 30.

Newsom has said he fears P&E is taking on too much debt to be able to afford an estimated $40 billion in equipment upgrades needed to reduce the chances of its electricity grid igniting destructive wildfires in the future.

The utility’s outdated system triggered a series of catastrophic wildfires in 2017 and 2018 that killed so many people and burned so many homes and businesses that the company had to file for bankruptcy early last year.

But the recent volatility in the financial markets caused by the coronavirus pandemic apparently softened Newsom’s stance after PG&E lined up commitments from investors promising to buy up to $12 billion in company stock.

Those guarantees are looming larger, given the turmoil that has caused the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 index to plunge by roughly 25% during the past three weeks. Because of the company’s already shaky condition, PG&E’s stock has been hit even harder, with shares losing nearly half their value during the same stretch. The stock fell 12% Monday to close at $8.95, its lowest price since early December.

Given the potential for upheaval in the financial markets to persist, PG&E lawyer Paul Zumbro told U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali that the commitments are “critically important.” A representative for Newsom said the governor agreed.

“People often talk tough when there is a level playing field, but in circumstances, almost all people want to make deal,” said Eric Snyder, a bankruptcy lawyer who has been following PG&E’s case.


Gov. John Bel Edwards sued Louisiana's state treasurer Friday for blocking a $25 million fund transfer the governor and lawmakers earmarked for government operating expenses, asking the courts to settle who has ultimate authority over the dollars.

Republican state Treasurer John Schroder repeatedly said if the Democratic governor wanted to spend the unclaimed property dollars included in the state's budget, he'd have to take him to court. After months of disagreement, Edwards complied, filing the lawsuit requesting a judge to declare Schroder's actions are illegal.

Lawmakers appropriated the unclaimed property dollars in Louisiana's $30 billion-plus operating budget. But Schroder has refused to shift the money for spending, and he similarly blocked a $15 million fund transfer last year.

“He doesn't have the discretion not to abide by an appropriation that has been lawfully made by the Legislature,” the governor said ahead of the lawsuit's filing in Baton Rouge district court.

Louisiana collects unclaimed dollars from old savings accounts, payroll checks, stocks and dividends, insurance proceeds, oil royalty payments and utility deposits on behalf of residents. The treasurer's office, designated as custodian of the property, tries to locate people owed the cash and return the money.

Though governors and lawmakers for decades have spent money from the unclaimed property escrow account on programs and services, Schroder said he and his office's lawyers don't believe Louisiana law permits the transfers.


The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday permanently blocked a central portion of a 2016 voter identification law that it said had required a “misleading” and “contradictory” sworn statement from people lacking a photo ID.

The 5-2 ruling upholds a decision by a lower court judge, who had blocked the affidavit requirement from being used in the 2018 general election. It had remained on hold since then.

Missouri is one of several states where Republican-led legislatures have passed voter photo ID laws touted as a means of preventing election fraud. In Missouri’s case, the state law was accompanied by a constitutional amendment, approved by 63% of voters in November 2016, that authorized the implementation of a photo ID law.

Voter photo ID laws have been opposed by Democrats, who contend they can disenfranchise poor, elderly, disabled and minority voters who are less likely to have photo IDs.

Missouri’s law allowed voters lacking a valid government-issued photo identification to cast a regular ballot if they presented another form of ID — such as utility bill, bank statement or paycheck containing their name and address — and signed a sworn statement affirming their identity. The sworn statement also included a section acknowledging that they didn’t have “a form of personal identification approved for voting” but were aware they could get a free ID card from the state.

The law said voters lacking a photo ID also could cast a provisional ballot, which would count if they later returned with a photo ID or their signatures matched the ones on file with election authorities.

The Supreme Court said the sworn statement was inaccurate because it required people to say they didn’t possess a valid form of identification for voting while simultaneously requiring them to show a non-photo identification that would allow them to vote.

“Although the State has an interest in combating voter fraud, requiring individuals ... to sign a contradictory, misleading affidavit is not a reasonable means to accomplish that goal,” Judge Mary Russell wrote in the majority opinion.

The Supreme Court also upheld the lower court’s decision to block the secretary of state’s office from disseminating any materials indicating that a photo ID is required to vote.



The Iowa Supreme Court says names of car owners ticketed by automated speed cameras are not public records.

The court considered a lawsuit filed by former Ottumwa police sergeant Mark Milligan who was ticketed in 2016 driving a city-owned car. He filed an open records request for names of car owners caught on camera and ticketed and those not ticketed.

Officials driving government cars often aren't ticketed. The city denied his request, but a judge ordered their release.

The city appealed. The supreme court concluded Friday that speed camera tickets are city citations not filed in court and therefore aren't public record.


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