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Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday criticized a court order that allows for the questioning of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on how a citizenship question came to be added to the 2020 census.

The court's actions, the attorney general said in a speech to the conservative Heritage Foundation, represent an improper attempt "to hold a trial over the inner-workings of a Cabinet secretary's mind."

With his remarks, Sessions waded into a simmering legal dispute that may ultimately be resolved by the Supreme Court, which solidified its conservative majority with the recent addition of Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The conflict centers on a judge's order that Ross may be deposed by lawyers challenging whether a question on citizenship legally can be included on the census. Plaintiffs in two lawsuits, including more than a dozen states and big cities, have sued, saying the question will discourage immigrants from participating in the census.

The judge, Jesse M. Furman, has said Ross can be questioned about how the citizenship inquiry was added to the census because he was "personally and directly involved in the decision, and the unusual process leading to it, to an unusual degree." A New York-based federal appeals court backed Furman's ruling last week, but Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a temporary stay.


Poland's president swore in 27 new Supreme Court judges Wednesday, stepping up the conflict over control of the judiciary and ignoring another top court that said the appointments should be suspended pending an opinion by European Union judges.

Andrzej Duda appointed judges to the civil and penal chambers of the court as well as to its new chamber of extraordinary control, according to his top aide, Pawel Mucha. Reporters were not allowed to witness the ceremony.

"We are implementing another stage of the reform of the justice system that is so important to us," Mucha said, adding: "We are acting in the public interest."

The new judges are part of the sweeping changes that the ruling conservative Law and Justice party has been applying to the justice system since winning power in 2015. It says that judges active during the communist era, before 1989, must be replaced. Many of the court's judges have been forced to retire early under a new law that put their retirement age at 65, from the previous 70.

But critics say the changes violate the constitution and are putting Poland's courts under the party's political control. They also say Duda is acting against the supreme charter and warn he may be brought to account before a special tribunal.

The former head of the Constitutional Tribunal, designed to try actions by politicians, Andrzej Zoll, said Duda must be "brought to account in the future," saying his actions are against the rule of law and could lead to anarchy.



The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear former Chicago-area police officer Drew Peterson's appeal of his murder conviction in the drowning death of his third wife.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports the high court refused Monday to take up Peterson's bid to have his murder conviction overturned. His appeal request was filed in June.

The 64-year-old Peterson, a former Bolingbrook police officer, is serving a 38-year sentence for Kathleen Savio's 2004 death and another 40-year sentence after being convicted of plotting to kill the prosecutor in the case.

The Illinois Supreme Court declined to overturn Peterson's murder conviction last year. Peterson is being held at a federal prison in Indiana. He's also a suspect in the 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, but hasn't been charged.



Brett Kavanaugh's angry denunciation of Senate Democrats at his confirmation hearing could reinforce views of the Supreme Court as a political institution at a time of stark partisan division and when the court already is sharply split between liberals and conservatives.

The Supreme Court nominee called the sexual misconduct allegations against him a "calculated and orchestrated political hit" by Democrats angry that Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election. Kavanaugh went further than Clarence Thomas, who in 1991 attacked the confirmation process but didn't single out a person or political party, when he confronted allegations that he sexually harassed Anita Hill.

The comments injected a new level of bitter partisanship in an already pitched battle over the future of the Supreme Court and replacing Justice Anthony Kennedy, frequently the decisive and swing vote on the most important issues of the day. Kavanaugh is more conservative than Kennedy and his ascendance to the high court would entrench conservative control of the bench for years.

"No matter what happens ... I think the court is the ultimate loser here. I think Judge Kavanaugh could have made the exact same points without making reference to the Clintons or Democrats, without going down that road," said Josh Blackman, a law professor at the South Texas College of Law in Houston. "It's an optics thing. I don't think he'll vote any differently because of what happened in the past 10 days, but what will change is how people perceive it."

In his pointed remarks, Kavanaugh said he was a victim of character assassination orchestrated by Democrats. "This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups," he said.



Eleven states are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Connecticut's appeal in the murder case of Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel and reinstate his conviction.

The states filed a friend-of-the-court brief on Monday, saying a ruling in Connecticut's favor is needed to thwart excessive appeals that focused on mistakes made by defense lawyers. The court has not yet decided whether to hear Connecticut's appeal.

Skakel, a nephew of Robert F. Kennedy's widow, Ethel Kennedy, cited his trial lawyer's failure to contact an alibi witness in his successful appeal to the Connecticut Supreme Court.

The state court in 2016 upheld Skakel's 2002 murder conviction in the bludgeoning death of Martha Moxley in their wealthy Greenwich neighborhood in 1975, when they were teenagers. But the court reversed that ruling in May and vacated the conviction, after a justice in the 4-3 majority retired and a new justice sided with Skakel - a move that has also drawn scrutiny.

Connecticut prosecutors argue the state high court did not properly weigh the overall performance of Skakel's defense, which they described as vigorous. They say the U.S. Supreme Court needs to correct a misperception by other state and federal courts that any mistake by defense counsel demonstrates incompetence and warrants a new trial.

The friend-of-the-court brief, filed by Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes' office, said allowing the nitpicking of defense lawyer performance produces a variety of problems, including flooding the courts with appeals as a result of lower legal standards and making it harder for defendants to find lawyers willing to undergo such scrutiny.


A juvenile has been waived to adult court to face charges in the fatal shooting of an Indiana University doctor and educator last year.

Online court records say 16-year-old Tarius Blade faces three felony burglary charges in the Nov. 20, 2017, slaying of Dr. Kevin Rodgers.

Blade was arrested in December along with Ka'Ron Bickham-Hurst, then 18. Court records show Bickham-Hurst has agreed to plead guilty to three burglary charges.

Two other men were arrested last month. Eighteen-year-old Nehemiah Merriweather was charged with felony murder and two counts of burglary and 17-year-old Devon Seats was charged with murder, felony murder and two counts of burglary.

The 61-year-old Rodgers was the program director emeritus of the emergency medicine residency at the Indiana University School of Medicine.


The name of the physician picked to attend a state inmate's execution can remain secret, even from drug makers suing to ban the use of their products in the twice-postponed lethal injection, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled Monday.

In a twist, lawyers for three pharmaceutical companies who won the right to obtain the name last week — and had promised to sue the doctor once they got it — told a judge in Las Vegas that they welcomed Monday's high court order.

Attorney Todd Bice, representing drug firm Alvogen, told Clark County District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez the high court decision to protect the doctor's identity, coupled with a recent sworn statement from Nevada prisons chief James Dzurenda, bolsters companies' arguments that their business would be hurt if their drugs are used.

"We aren't going to get into the identity of the doctor. We do intend to argue strongly that having your name associated with capital punishment is harmful to reputations," Bice said. "The director testified that it would be ruinous of the doctor's reputation."

Gonzalez had ruled last week that drug companies could learn the name, but it would not be disclosed to the public.

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