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Gov. Mark Dayton appointed longtime Democratic state Rep. Paul Thissen to the Minnesota Supreme Court on Tuesday, the latest in a long line of partisans to join the state's highest court.

Thissen is an attorney and Minneapolis lawmaker who has served eight terms in the House — including one as House Speaker and two as its Minority Leader — and had eyes on the governor's office until he suspended his campaign in February. He'll resign from his House seat on Friday and join the court soon after.

He replaces Justice David Stras, who was nominated by Donald Trump to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and recently confirmed. Thissen's addition means Dayton has picked five of the seven members on the state's highest court, and while the court has not been openly partisan, it's a mark that will long outlast the Democratic governor's tenure ending early next year.

The other two members were appointed by former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

"Judicial appointments are one of, if not the most, important appointments I make," Dayton said, noting he had emphasized increasing the diversity throughout state courts during his time in office.

Thissen was one of four finalists on the shortlist to replace Stras that also included Lucinda Jesson, Dayton's former commissioner at the Department of Human Services who he appointed to the Minnesota Court of Appeals in 2016. Minnesota Tax Court Chief Judge Bradford Delapena and District Court Judge Jeffrey Bryan were also in the running.

Dayton and others said Thissen's blend of legal work and political experience made him the perfect choice for the Supreme Court.

"Under the intense pressures of end of session deal-making, he always stood firm on his own principled convictions and to the high standards of proper Minnesota governance," Dayton said.

Neither Dayton nor his predecessors have shied away from party allies when filling seats on the state's highest court. Dayton appointed longtime Democratic attorney David Lillheaug to the court in 2013. Lillehaug helped Dayton during his 2010 recount victory and also worked on former Sen. Al Franken's 2008 recount and other Democratic elections. Pawlenty named both his campaign attorney Christopher Dietzen and Minnesota Republican Party attorney Barry Anderson to the Supreme Court.


Thousands of fired-up Michigan Democrats endorsed Dana Nessel on Sunday in a hotly contested race for state attorney general, backing the former prosecutor-turned-civil rights lawyer to wrest back control of an office the party last held 16 years ago.

If elected in November, Nessel — who helped mount a successful legal challenge to the state's same-sex marriage ban — would be Michigan's first openly gay statewide officeholder. She defeated Pat Miles, the former U.S. attorney for western Michigan in the Obama administration, in a fight that drew a record number of delegates to Detroit.

"I want to bring empathy back to the office of Michigan attorney general," Nessel said after her victory inside a packed convention hall in the Cobo Center, where she became the rare candidate to win a convention fight despite not being supported by the influential United Auto Workers union and Michigan AFL-CIO, which had backed Miles. "With the help of not just Democrats in the state but independents and yes, even Republicans, I think we can do that and I look forward to being able to try."

The 48-year-old Nessel, who was a Wayne County assistant prosecutor for 11 years, co-owns a small Detroit law firm that among other things focuses on criminal defense, family law and adoptions for same-sex couples. Barring a surprise, she will be officially nominated at Democrats' next convention in August and face a Republican nominee — either state House Speaker Tom Leonard or state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker — in the November election. GOP Attorney General Bill Schuette cannot run again due to term limits and is instead vying for governor.

Nessel's win sets the stage for a female-dominated Democratic statewide ticket if favorite Gretchen Whitmer wins the gubernatorial primary election in August. Democrats, who flooded the convention despite icy, rainy weather, also endorsed Jocelyn Benson for secretary of state in an uncontested race, and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow is running for re-election to a fourth term.



Over two days of questioning in Congress, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg chief revealed that he didn’t know key details of a 2011 consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission that requires Facebook to protect user privacy.

With congressional hearings over and no immediate momentum behind calls for regulation, the biggest hammer still hanging over Facebook in the U.S. is a fresh FTC investigation . The probe follows revelations that pro-Trump data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica acquired data from the profiles of millions of Facebook users. Facebook also faces inquiries in Europe.

The 2011 agreement bound Facebook to a 20-year privacy commitment , and any violations of that pact could cost Facebook a ton of money, even by its flush-with-cash standards. If Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress is any indication, the company might have something to worry about.

Zuckerberg repeatedly assured lawmakers Tuesday and Wednesday that he believed Facebook is in compliance with that 2011 agreement. But he also flubbed simple factual questions about the consent decree.

“Congresswoman, I don’t remember if we had a financial penalty,” Zuckerberg said under questioning by Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette on Wednesday.

“You’re the CEO of the company, you entered into a consent decree and you don’t remember if you had a financial penalty?” she asked. She then pointed out that the FTC doesn’t have the authority to issue fines for first-time violations.

In response to questioning by Rep. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania, Zuckerberg acknowledged: “I’m not familiar with all of the things the FTC said.”

Zuckerberg also faced several questions from lawmakers about how long it takes for Facebook to delete user data from its systems. He didn’t know.

The 2011 consent decree capped years of Facebook privacy mishaps, many of which revolved around its early attempts to follow users and their friends around the web. Any violations of the 2011 agreement could subject Facebook to fines of $41,484 per violation per user per day. To put that in context, Facebook could theoretically owe $8 billion for one single day of a violation affecting all of its American users.

The current FTC investigation will look at whether Facebook engaged in “unfair acts” that cause “substantial injury” to consumers.


The Trump administration is looking for ways to deal with a recurring frustration: individual federal judges who have put the brakes on one major administration policy after another.

The administration is telling the Supreme Court in a case about President Donald Trump's travel ban that judges are increasingly using what are called nationwide injunctions to stop "a federal policy everywhere." The Justice Department says the high court should "reject the deeply misguided practice," which has also been used against the administration's crackdown on "sanctuary cities," President Donald Trump's announced ban on transgender military service members and, most recently, the effort to end legal protections for young immigrants.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has become the administration's leading critic of the injunctions. Sessions said Tuesday they have been used 20 times in Trump's first year in office, "as many as President Obama had in eight years." But Sessions didn't object to the practice in his prior life as a senator from Alabama. He had praised a single judge from Texas who put a nationwide block on an Obama immigration policy. The more common practice is for a judge to issue an order that gives only the people who sued what they want.

Legal scholars have attributed the rise of these broad judicial orders to a corresponding increase in executive action. In 2014, Obama acted to protect immigrant parents of U.S. children after Congress failed to pass an immigration overhaul. Similarly, Trump unilaterally sought to impose travel restrictions on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries a week after taking office.

The issue has a decidedly partisan tinge. During the Obama years, Republican officials and conservative interests sought out seemingly friendly judges, often in Texas, to challenge administration actions. Since Trump has been president, Democrats and liberal interests have filed lawsuits in places where they think federal judges will be receptive, like California, Hawaii and Washington.


A request by Republican leaders in the Pennsylvania Legislature to stop a new congressional map from being implemented is now in the hands of the nation's highest court.

The filing made late Wednesday asked Justice Samuel Alito to intervene, saying the state Supreme Court overstepped its authority in imposing a new map.

More litigation may follow, as Republicans are considering a separate legal challenge in federal court in Harrisburg this week.

The state Supreme Court last month threw out a Republican-crafted map that was considered among the nation's most gerrymandered, saying the 2011 plan violated the state constitution's guarantee of free and equal elections.

The new map the state justices announced Monday is widely viewed as giving Democrats an edge as they seek to recapture enough U.S. House seats to reclaim the majority.

House Speaker Mike Turzai and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati said the state's highest court made an unprecedented decision.

"The Pennsylvania Supreme Court conspicuously seized the redistricting process and prevented any meaningful ability for the Legislature to enact a remedial map to ensure a court drawn map," they wrote in a filing made electronically after business hours.

The challenge adds uncertainty as candidates are preparing to circulate nominating petitions to get their names on the May primary ballot.

A spokesman for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, responding to the lawmakers' filing, said Wolf was "focused on making sure the Department of State is fully complying with the court's order by updating their systems and assisting candidates, county election officials and voters preparing for the primary election."

It is the third time in four months that Turzai and Scarnati have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to put a halt to litigation over the 2011 map they took leading roles in creating.

Alito handles emergency applications from Pennsylvania and the other states covered by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Justices have the authority to deal with these applications on their own, or they can refer the matter to the entire court.

In November, Alito turned down a request for a stay of a federal lawsuit, a case that Turzai and Scarnati won in January.



Still early in his career as a justice that could span decades, Gorsuch has already established himself as among the most conservative members of the top U.S. court, and has not been shy about expressing his views, sometimes in idiosyncratic ways.

He also has made public appearances before conservative audiences, including a speech at the Republican president’s Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington, that have drawn rebukes by liberal critics who questioned his independence from the president who nominated him.

Gorsuch’s record so far suggests “he is going to be a reliably conservative vote,” said Carolyn Shapiro, a law professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law.

Trump, who as a candidate promised to pick a justice in the mold of the late conservative icon Antonin Scalia, has set out to move the federal judiciary to the right. Gorsuch’s appointment has been his biggest step yet toward that goal, restoring the high court’s 5-4 conservative majority.

Gorsuch’s April confirmation by the Republican-led Senate, despite strong Democratic opposition, provided one of Trump’s biggest political victories since taking office in January.

Writing about Gorsuch on Twitter on Tuesday, Trump said he was “very proud of him and the job he is doing,” and rejected a Washington Post report that he had considered rescinding Gorsuch’s nomination this spring after the jurist said attacks on the judiciary like those that had been made by Trump were “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”

The newspaper reported that Trump had vented angrily to advisers that Gorsuch may not be sufficiently loyal. Trump responded that he had “never even wavered.”

As the court rolls into 2018 with some big rulings ahead - on free speech, gay rights, voting rights and employee rights - legal experts said Trump will be able to rely on Gorsuch.

The new justice has delivered key votes backing Trump’s travel ban on people from several Muslim-majority countries and on the death penalty, and embraced certain kinds of public funding for churches.


A federal judge on Monday barred President Donald Trump's administration from proceeding with plans to exclude transgender people from military service.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled that the transgender service members who had sued over Trump's policy were likely to win their lawsuit. She directed a return to the situation that existed before Trump announced his new policy this summer, saying the administration had provided no solid evidence for why a ban should be implemented.

Trump had ordered a reinstatement of the longstanding policy that barred transgender individuals from joining the military; service members who were revealed to be transgender were subject to discharge. Under President Barack Obama, that policy was changed last year to allow transgender people to serve openly.

The Trump administration may appeal Kollar-Kotelly's decision, but for now, the proposed ban remains unenforceable under Kollar-Kotelly's preliminary injunction.

"We disagree with the court's ruling and are currently evaluating the next steps," said Justice Department spokesman Lauren Ehrsam.

She reiterated the department's view that the lawsuit was premature because the Pentagon was still in the process of reviewing how the transgender policy might evolve.

One of the attorneys handling the lawsuit, Shannon Minter of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said the ruling was an enormous relief to his clients.

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