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Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold D. Melton announced Friday that he is stepping down on July 1.

Melton said in a statement that he doesn’t yet know what he’ll do next, but that he is exploring opportunities “for the next season of life that will allow me to best serve our legal community and my extended family.”

Melton, 54, was appointed to the state’s highest court in 2005 by former Gov. Sonny Perdue. He became chief justice in 2018.

He is leaving in the middle of his judicial term, and Republican Gov. Brian Kemp will appoint a replacement.

Melton is currently the only African American serving on the Georgia Supreme Court. In recent months, Melton has grappled with the coronavirus pandemic’s effect on state courts. He has been renewing a declaration of judicial emergency every 30 days that limits what court cases can be conducted in person, leading to a backlog of cases.

Melton’s statement said the court “is well-positioned to continue the high calling that has clearly been set before us. I have such a peace and confidence that justice will continue to be served.”



Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is praising federal courts nationwide for their flexibility in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, acknowledging in his annual year-end report the role technology has played in keeping courts running.

The high court has in the past been slow to embrace technology, but the justices conducted their first arguments by phone in May because of the pandemic and allowed the world to listen live, an unprecedented step. Other courts around the country have held video and audio hearings. Roberts did not speculate in his report whether changes made as a result of the pandemic would have a lasting impact or when the high court might resume-in person sessions.

At least some justices have received the first doses of the coronavirus vaccine, however, court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said in an email Thursday in response to a question from The Associated Press. Officials have said the justices are being provided with doses of the coronavirus vaccine under a directive by President Donald Trump that established continuity of government as a reason for vaccine prioritization.

“Although we look forward to returning to normal sittings in our Courtroom, we have been able to stay current in our work. Other appellate courts around the country have responded with similar considered flexibility,” Roberts wrote in the seven-page report released Thursday evening.



On this, even President Donald Trump’s most fevered critics agree: he has left a deep imprint on the federal courts that will outlast his one term in office for decades to come.

He used the promise of conservative judicial appointments to win over Republican skeptics as a candidate. Then as president, he relied on outside conservative legal organizations and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to employ an assembly line-like precision to install more than 230 judges on the federal bench, including the three newest justices of the Supreme Court. Trump never tired of boasting about it.

Indeed, undeterred by Democratic criticism, the Senate was still confirming judges more than a month after Trump lost his reelection bid to Joe Biden.

“Trump has basically done more than any president has done in a single term since (President Jimmy) Carter to put his stamp on the judiciary,” said Jonathan Adler, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law in Cleveland, Ohio, adding that Congress created around 150 new judgeships during Carter’s presidency.

The impact will be enduring. Among the Trump-appointed judges, who hold lifetime positions, several are still in their 30s. The three Supreme Court picks could still be on the court at the 21st century’s midpoint, 30 years from now.

Beyond the Supreme Court, 30 percent of the judges on the nation’s court of appeals, where all but a handful of cases reach their end, were appointed by Trump.

But numbers don’t tell the entire story. The real measure of what Trump has been able to do will be revealed in countless court decisions in the years to come on abortion, guns, religious rights and a host of other culture wars issues.

When it came to the president’s own legal challenges of the election results, however, judges who have him to thank for their position rebuffed his claims. But in many other important ways, his success with judicial appointments already is paying dividends for conservatives.

When the Supreme Court blocked New York from enforcing certain limits on attendance at churches and synagogues in areas designated as hard hit by COVID-19, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the newest member of the court, cast the decisive fifth vote. Previously, the court had allowed restrictions on religious services over the dissent of four justices, including the other two Trump nominees, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Five Trump appointees were in the majority of the 6-4 decision by the full 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in September that made it harder for felons in Florida to regain the right to vote. The Atlanta-based court had a majority of Democratic-appointed judges when Trump took office.



The Supreme Court has rejected a lawsuit backed by President Donald Trump to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory, ending a desperate attempt to get legal issues rejected by state and federal judges before the nation’s highest court and subvert the will of voters.

Trump bemoaned the decision late Friday, tweeting: “The Supreme Court really let us down. No Wisdom, No Courage!”

The high court’s order earlier Friday was a stark repudiation of a legal claim that was widely regarded as dubious, yet embraced by the president, 19 Republican state attorneys general and 126 House Republicans.

Trump had insisted the court would find the “wisdom” and “courage” to adopt his baseless position that the election was the product of widespread fraud and should be overturned. But the nation’s highest court emphatically disagreed.

Friday’s order marked the second time this week that the court had rebuffed Republican requests that it get involved in the 2020 election outcome and reject the voters’ choice, as expressed in an election regarded by both Republican and Democratic officials as free and fair. The justices turned away an appeal from Pennsylvania Republicans on Tuesday.

On Monday, the Electoral College meets to formally elect Biden as the next president. Trump had called the lawsuit filed by Texas against Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin “the big one” that would end with the Supreme Court undoing Biden’s substantial Electoral College majority and allowing Trump to serve another four years in the White House.

In a brief order, the court said Texas does not have the legal right to sue those states because it “has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another State conducts its elections.”

Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, who have said previously the court does not have the authority to turn away lawsuits between states, said they would have heard Texas’ complaint. But they would not have done as Texas wanted — setting aside those four states’ 62 electoral votes for Biden — pending resolution of the lawsuit.

Trump complained that “within a flash,” the lawsuit was “thrown out and gone, without even looking at the many reasons it was brought. A Rigged Election, fight on!”

Three Trump appointees sit on the high court. In his push to get the most recent of his nominees, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, confirmed quickly, Trump said she would be needed for any post-election lawsuits. Barrett appears to have participated in both cases this week. None of the Trump appointees noted a dissent in either case.

The four states sued by Texas had urged the court to reject the case as meritless. They were backed by another 22 states and the District of Columbia.

Republican support for the lawsuit and its call to throw out millions of votes in four battleground states was rooted in baseless claims of fraud, an extraordinary display of the party’s willingness to countermand the will of voters. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana were among those joining to support the action.

“The Court has rightly dismissed out of hand the extreme, unlawful and undemocratic GOP lawsuit to overturn the will of millions of American voters,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday night.


The Supreme Court sounded skeptical Monday that President Donald Trump could categorically exclude people living in the country illegally from the population count used to allot seats among the states in the House of Representatives.

But it also appeared possible that the justices could avoid a final ruling on the issue until they know how broadly the Trump administration acts in its final days in office and whether the division of House seats is affected.

No president has tried to do what Trump outlined in a memo in July — remove millions of noncitizens from the once-a-decade head count of the U.S. population that determines how many seats each state gets in the House of Representatives, as well as the allocation of some federal funding.

The court, meeting by telephone because of the coronavirus pandemic, heard arguments in its second case in two years related to the 2020 census and immigrants.

The census already is facing novel questions over deadlines, data quality and politics, including whether the incoming Biden administration would do anything to try to reverse decisions made under Trump.


The Nevada Supreme Court made Joe Biden’s win in the state official on Tuesday, approving the state’s final canvass of the Nov. 3 election.

The unanimous action by the seven nonpartisan justices sends to Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak results that will deliver six electoral votes from the western U.S. battleground state to Biden.

The court action drew extra scrutiny amid legal efforts by the state GOP and Trump campaign to prevent sending vote-by-mail ballots to all 1.82 million active registered voters and then to stop the counting of the 1.4 million votes that were cast.

Nevada’s six Democratic presidential electors are scheduled to meet Dec. 14 in the state capital of Carson City.

Biden won Nevada by 33,596 votes, according to results approved by elected officials in Nevada’s 17 counties — including Clark County, which encompasses Las Vegas, and Washoe County, which includes Reno.

Biden got 50.06% of the vote and Trump 47.67%. Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican who has avoided the public eye in recent weeks, presented the results to the court.

She noted the first-ever use of all-mail balloting statewide in a general election, same-day voter registration and early voting. “The result was more of a hybrid model where voters had a choice of how to participate,” she said, adding that a record number of voters participated.

Certification of the vote does not stop several lawsuits pending in state and federal courts.

They include bids by two Republican congressional candidates and a state Senate challenger to obtain re-votes in those races, an open-records case by the state GOP, and a U.S. District Court action alleging that thousands of ineligible people voted.

A federal judge in that case declined a bid for an immediate injunction that would have stopped the use of a signature verification scanner during the vote count.

Jesse Binnall, an attorney for the Trump campaign who is handling an election challenge pending before a state court judge, said Tuesday he intends to prove that so many fraudulent votes were cast statewide that Trump won Nevada.

Turnout among the state’s more than 1.8 million active registered voters was almost 77.3%, including mail, early voting and Election Day ballots cast amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to secretary of state data.

That was up from a turnout of 76.8% during the presidential election in 2016, when Democrat Hillary Clinton carried Nevada by a little under 2.5% over Trump. Nevada was one of several states due to certify the election on Tuesday.


Judges in Georgia and Michigan quickly dismissed Trump campaign lawsuits Thursday, undercutting a campaign legal strategy to attack the integrity of the voting process in states where the result could mean President Donald Trump’s defeat. The rulings came as Democrat Joe Biden inched closer to the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House, and Trump and his campaign promised even more legal action based on unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud.

Speaking in the White House briefing room Thursday, the president launched into a litany of claims, without proof, about how Democrats were trying to unfairly deprive him of a second term. “But we think there’ll be a lot of litigation because we can’t have an election stolen like this,” Trump said.

Earlier Thursday, a Biden campaign lawyer called the lawsuits meritless, more political strategy than legal. “I want to emphasize that for their purposes these lawsuits don’t have to have merit. That’s not the purpose. ... It is to create an opportunity for them to message falsely about what’s taking place in the electoral process,” lawyer Bob Bauer said, accusing the Trump campaign of “continually alleging irregularities, failures of the system and fraud without any basis.”

Trump is used to suing and being sued. A USA Today analysis found that he and his businesses were involved in at least 3,500 state and federal court actions in the three decades before he became president.  In this election, the court battles so far have been small-scale efforts to get a closer look at local elections officials as they process absentee ballots. A Michigan judge noted that the state’s ballot count is over as she tossed the campaign’s lawsuit.

In Georgia, a state judge dismissed a case over concerns about 53 absentee ballots in Chatham County after elections officials in the Savannah-area county testified that all of those ballots had been received on time. Campaign officials said earlier they were considering similar challenges in a dozen other counties around the state.  In Pennsylvania, meanwhile, the Trump campaign won an appellate ruling to get party and campaign observers closer to election workers who are processing mail-in ballots in Philadelphia.

But the order did not affect the counting of ballots that is proceeding in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, as elections officials are dealing with an avalanche of mail ballots driven by fears of voting in person during a pandemic. The lawsuits in multiple states highlight that the Trump campaign could be confronting a political map in which it might have to persuade courts in two or more states to set aside enough votes to overturn the results. That’s a substantially different scenario than in the contested presidential election of 2000, which eventually was effectively settled by the Supreme Court, when the entire fight was over Florida’s electoral votes and involved a recount as opposed to trying to halt balloting.

Biden, for his part, has said he expects to win the election, but he counseled patience Thursday, saying: “Each ballot must be counted.” Trump campaign officials, meanwhile, accused Democrats of trying to steal the election, despite no evidence anything of the sort was taking place. Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, in a call with reporters Thursday morning, said that “every night the president goes to bed with a lead” and every night new votes “are mysteriously found in a sack.” It is quite common in presidential elections to have vote counting continue after election day.

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