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Officials acted properly when they fired a North Carolina probation and parole officer who had been accused of campaigning for elected office while on community service leave and other misconduct, the state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

The three-judge panel upheld the decision of an administrative law judge who determined just cause existed for the state Department of Public Safety to dismiss Eric Erickson, who ran unsuccessfully for Charlotte City Council in 2017. He was also found to have sought special treatment for his personal vehicle.

According to the opinion, evidence shows Erickson used community service leave in September 2017 to campaign and run errands. Erickson was granted leave for volunteering at the local elections board, but state personnel policy says that leave may be used to work at a polling site to help people vote.

An auto inspection garage owner said that Erickson, on a leave day, asked if he could place his campaign yard sign outside of the business, and attempted to get a law enforcement exemption for window tinting on his personal vehicle by suggesting it was used for undercover work. Erickson’s supervisors also testified that he had failed to report his secondary work with a security firm.

Erickson appealed his firing. He questioned whether the judge improperly allowed hearsay evidence and whether there was enough evidence to warrant the firing.

Court of Appeals Judge Jeff Carpenter, writing the unanimous opinion, rejected the hearsay argument, saying such challenges must be made at the time the evidence is presented.

The panel said there was “substantial evidence” to support the administrative law judge’s findings and final decision, Carpenter said. The window-tinting request and failure to report secondary employment “were acts and omissions reflecting upon petitioner’s integrity and honesty,” he wrote, and the evidence showed the community service leave was used “for improper campaigning purposes.”

Erickson finished third out of four candidates in the 2017 Democratic primary for a council seat, according to election results.


The Supreme Court says the U.S. territory of Guam can pursue a $160 million lawsuit against the federal government over the cost of cleaning up a landfill on the island.

The justices on Monday unanimously overturned a lower court decision that had said Guam had waited too long to pursue the claim.

The case before the justices involves a long-running dispute over the Ordot Dump on Guam. The lawsuit says the Navy built the dump during the 1940s and then deposited toxic military waste there before turning over control to Guam in 1950.

Guam operated the dump for decades. The U.S. has said Guam “vastly expanded” it and “failed to provide even rudimentary environmental safeguards.” In 2002, the government sued Guam over pollution from the dump. Guam ultimately agreed in 2004 to close the dump and take steps to stop pollution from the dump, among other things.

In 2017, Guam sued the United States, arguing that it’s responsible for some of the costs of the cleanup, which Guam estimates to be more than $160 million. A trial court had allowed the lawsuit to go forward, but an appeals court had dismissed it.

In an email, Guam’s attorney Gregory Garre said: “We are thrilled with the Court’s decision in favor of Guam today, which paves the way for the United States to pay its fair share for the cleanup of the Ordot Dump.” The case is Territory of Guam v. United States, 20-382.


A judge in Rapid City, South Dakota Tuesday granted a 90-day extension to the defense attorney of a man accused of murdering three people last year to be notified whether prosecutors will seek the death penalty.

The defense attorney for 36-year-old Arnson Absolu, a New York City man charged with three counts of premeditated first-degree murder for a series of alleged murders in August, asked the judge for the extension so he could investigate circumstances that may mitigate a death penalty sentence and meet with prosecutors, the Rapid City Journal reported. Absolu has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which are punishable by the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

The Pennington County State’s Attorney Office will make a decision on whether to pursue the death penalty after it meets with Absolu’s defense attorney, Timothy Rensch.

If Absolu is convicted, the judge or jury could consider the death penalty if there are aggravating circumstances, such as a murder-for-hire, murder that involved “torture, depravity of the mind or an aggravated battery,” and if the defendant was distributing hard drugs.

The judge or jury would also consider mitigating circumstances, such as the defendant’s childhood experience, mental health or developmental disorders.



Eight years after carving the heart out of a landmark voting rights law, the Supreme Court is looking at putting new limits on efforts to combat racial discrimination in voting.

The justices are taking up a case about Arizona restrictions on ballot collection and another policy that penalizes voters who cast ballots in the wrong precinct.

The high court’s consideration comes as Republican officials in the state and around the country have proposed more than 150 measures, following last year’s elections, to restrict voting access that civil rights groups say would disproportionately affect Black and Hispanic voters.

A broad Supreme Court ruling would make it harder to fight those efforts in court. Arguments are set for Tuesday via telephone, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It would be taking away one of the big tools, in fact, the main tool we have left now, to protect voters against racial discrimination,” said Myrna Perez, director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s voting rights and elections program.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, said the high court case is about ballot integrity, not discrimination. “This is about protecting the franchise, not disenfranchising anyone,” said Brnovich, who will argue the case on Tuesday.

President Joe Biden narrowly won Arizona last year, and since 2018, the state has elected two Democratic senators.

The justices will be reviewing an appeals court ruling against a 2016 Arizona law that limits who can return early ballots for another person and against a separate state policy of discarding ballots if a voter goes to the wrong precinct.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the ballot-collection law and the state policy discriminate against minority voters in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act and that the law also violates the Constitution.

The Voting Rights Act, first enacted in 1965, was extremely effective against discrimination at the ballot box because it forced state and local governments, with a history of discrimination, including Arizona, to get advance approval from the Justice Department or a federal court before making any changes to elections.


The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered lower federal courts in Colorado and New Jersey to reexamine state restrictions on indoor religious services to combat the coronavirus in light of the justices’ recent ruling in favor of churches and synagogues in New York.

The high court’s unsigned decisions did not rule that limits imposed by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy were improper. But they did throw out federal district court rulings that rejected challenges to the limits.

The High Plains Harvest Church in the rural town of Ault in northern Colorado sued Polis, while a Catholic priest and a rabbi challenged the restrictions in New Jersey.

Last month, the Supreme Court split 5-4  in holding that New York could not enforce certain limits on attendance at churches and synagogues. The high court subsequently ordered a new look at California worship service restrictions that had been challenged.

Colorado told the justices last week that it had amended a public health order “to remove capacity limits from all houses of worship at all times in response to this Court’s recent decisions.”

That should have settled the matter because “there is no reason to think Colorado will reverse course—and so no reason to think Harvest Church will again face capacity limits,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote in a brief dissent that was joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.  No justice noted a dissent from the New Jersey decision.


A hearing on the Trump campaign’s federal lawsuit seeking to prevent Pennsylvania officials from certifying the vote results was set to begin Tuesday after a judge denied the campaign’s new lawyer’s request for a delay.

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and the president’s personal attorney, entered the federal courthouse in Williamsport to cheers across the street from several dozen supporters of President Donald Trump.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann had told lawyers for Donald J. Trump for President Inc. and the counties and state election official it has sued that they must show up and “be prepared for argument and questioning” at the federal courthouse.

Giuliani filed Tuesday morning to represent Trump in the case. He has not entered an appearance in federal court since 1992, according to online court records. That was the year before he was elected mayor.

The Trump campaign wants to prevent certification of results that give President-elect Joe Biden the state’s 20 electoral votes, suing over election procedures that were not uniform across the state. Giuliani has promised a raft of lawsuits and to provide Trump with evidence of voter fraud in the drive to overturn the election result.

Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, a Democrat, has asked to have the lawsuit thrown out, calling its allegations in court filings “at best, garden-variety irregularities.”

Brann scheduled the hearing to discuss the campaign’s request for a temporary restraining order as well as the defendants’ request to have the case dismissed.

After Pittsburgh lawyers dropped out of representing Trump’s campaign on Friday, Philadelphia election lawyer Linda Kerns and two Texas lawyers also filed to withdraw Monday.

Camp Hill lawyer Mark Scaringi, a losing candidate in the 2012 Republican U.S. Senate primary, notified the judge he was stepping in but did not get the delay he sought.

The Associated Press has declared Biden the winner of the presidential contest, but Trump has refused to concede and is blocking Biden’s efforts toward a smoother transition of power. With Georgia the only uncalled state, Biden has collected at least 290 electoral votes — just enough that overturning Pennsylvania’s result would not open an avenue to a second term for Trump.

Biden’s margin in Pennsylvania is now more than 73,000 votes.

There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, and experts say Trump’s various lawsuits have no chance of reversing the outcome in a single state, let alone the election. In fact, election officials from both political parties have stated publicly that the election went well, and international observers confirmed there were no serious irregularities.

The issues Trump’s campaign and its allies have pointed to are typical in every election: problems with signatures, secrecy envelopes and postal marks on mail-in ballots, as well as the potential for a small number of ballots miscast or lost.



NO WINNER: President Donald Trump carried the prized battleground of Florida, then he and Democrat Joe Biden shifted their focus to three Northern industrial states — Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — that could prove crucial in determining who wins the White House. A late burst of votes in Wisconsin from Milwaukee gave Biden a small lead, but the state remained too early to call early Wednesday. Michigan and Pennsylvania also remained too early to call with hundreds of thousands of outstanding votes in both states.

COURT CHALLENGE: Trump says he’ll take the presidential election to the Supreme Court, but it’s unclear what he means in a country in which vote tabulations routinely continue beyond Election Day and states largely set the rules for when the count has to end. Trump says “we want all voting to stop,” but the voting is over. It’s only counting that is taking place across the nation. No state will count absentee votes that are postmarked after Election Day. Biden’s campaign called Trump’s statement “outrageous, unprecedented, and incorrect.”

STATUS QUO: Their hopes fading for Senate control, Democrats had a disappointing election night as Republicans swatted down an onslaught of challengers and fought to retain their majority. Several races remained undecided, and at least one headed to a runoff in January. It was a jarring outcome for Democrats, who had devised an expanded political map, eager to provide a backstop against Trump and his party’s grip on the Senate. The voters’ choices will force a rethinking of Democratic Party strategy, messaging and approach from the Trump era.

HOUSE CONTROL: Democrats are driving toward extending their control of the House for two more years but with a potentially shrunken majority. They have lost six incumbents and failed to oust any Republican lawmakers in initial returns. The only gains for Democrats have been two North Carolina seats vacated by GOP incumbents after a court-ordered remapping. Though Democrats seem likely to retain House control, the results have been disappointing for the party, which had hoped to make modest gains of perhaps 15 seats.

BALLOT MEASURES: A nationwide push to relax drug laws took a significant step forward. Voters in Arizona and New Jersey added their states to the list of places legalizing marijuana for adults. And Oregon became the first state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of hard drugs such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. Louisiana voters approved an amendment saying there is no state constitutional right to abortion, but Colorado voters defeated abortion limitations. Florida voters approved a measure to gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. And Mississippi voters approved a new flag.

QUOTABLE: “We’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court — we want all voting to stop.” — Trump declared even though voting had ended and it’s only counting that is taking place across the nation.

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