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President Donald Trump's ban on travelers from several mostly Muslim countries is the topic of arguments Wednesday at the Supreme Court, with a Trump administration lawyer facing questions during the first half of arguments.

The travel ban case is the last case the justices will hear until October.

A little over 20 minutes into arguments, Justice Anthony Kennedy asked Solicitor General Noel Francisco, who was defending the ban, whether statements Trump made during the presidential campaign should be considered in evaluating the administration's ban. Francisco told the justices that they shouldn't look at Trump's campaign statements, which included a pledge to shut down Muslim entry into the U.S.

But Kennedy, whose vote is pivotal in cases that divide the court along ideological lines and whose vote the administration will almost certainly need to win, pressed Francisco on that point. Speaking of a hypothetical "local candidate," he asked if what was said during the candidate's campaign was irrelevant if on "day two" of his administration the candidate acted on those statements.

The Trump administration is asking the court to reverse lower court rulings striking down the ban. The policy has been fully in effect since December, but this is the first time the justices are considering whether it violates immigration law or the Constitution.

The court will consider whether the president can indefinitely keep people out of the country based on nationality. It will also look at whether the policy is aimed at excluding Muslims from the United States.

People have been waiting in line for a seat for days, and on Wednesday morning opponents of the ban demonstrated outside the court holding signs that read "No Muslim Ban. Ever." and "Refugees Welcome," among other things. In another sign of heightened public interest, the court is taking the rare step of making an audio recording of the proceedings available just hours after the arguments end. The last time the court did that was the gay marriage arguments in 2015.



The founding document of Alcoholics Anonymous, known to adherents as the "Big Book," is heading back to auction after a lawsuit disputing its ownership was settled.

Auction house Profiles in History announced Wednesday that the manuscript and manifesto is going up for auction on May 5 in Los Angeles. It is expected them to fetch between $2 million and $3 million.

The 161-page typed document with yellowing pages, considered to be nearly scripture by some AA followers, give the first outline of the group's 12-step recovery program. It is filled with handwritten notes and scribbles from the founding fathers of AA, including William Wilson, more commonly known as "Bill W."

It had been slated to be auctioned last June, but Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. disputed that Alabama resident Ken Roberts had the rights to it. Roberts bought the manuscript at auction in 2007 for $850,000.

Details of the settlement were not released, but Profiles in History said Alcoholics Anonymous had waived its rights to the manuscript.

Wilson's widow Lois owned the papers after his death in 1971, and she passed them on to her friend Barry Leach. Alcoholics Anonymous said Leach signed and notarized a letter in 1979 saying the manuscript would belong to the organization after his death. He died in 1985, but the manuscript did not make its way to Alcoholics Anonymous, which did not know about the notarized letter at the time.

Its ownership history in the ensuing years is not entirely clear until 2004, when Sotheby's auctioned it for $1.57 million. Then it sold to Roberts in 2007.


Justice Samuel Alito, who handles emergency appeals from Pennsylvania, rejected the request from GOP legislative leaders and voters to put on hold an order from the state Supreme Court intended to produce new congressional districts in the coming two weeks.

The Pennsylvania high court ruled last month that the current map of 18 districts violates the state constitution because it unfairly benefits Republicans.

The decision comes just four days before the Republican-controlled Legislature's deadline for submitting a replacement map for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf to consider. So far, there has been a notable lack of bipartisan movement on getting such a deal.

Pennsylvania's congressional delegation has been 13-5 in favor of Republicans during the three election cycles since the GOP-drawn 2011 map took effect, and experts have said those 13 seats are several more than would have been produced by a nonpartisan map.

Democrats have about 800,000 more registered voters than Republicans and hold all three elected statewide row offices, but Republicans enjoy solid majorities in both chambers of the Legislature.

Under the process laid out two weeks ago by four of the seven Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices, all Democrats, the Legislature has until Friday to approve a new map, after which Wolf will have until Feb. 15 to decide whether to endorse it and submit it to the justices.

Senate Republican Leader Jake Corman said Monday he's had "zero" discussions with Wolf and legislative leaders about new district boundaries and could not guarantee he will meet the deadline.

The state Supreme Court said it expects new districts to be in place by Feb. 19, and the new map is expected to be in play for the May 15 congressional primaries.


A Pakistani official says former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has filed petitions with the Supreme Court to challenge his disqualification and removal from office.

Environment Minister Mushahidullah Khan, who is in Sharif's party, said Tuesday that the former prime minister's lawyers filed three petitions to review the verdict.

The court disqualified Sharif after documents leaked from a Panama-based law firm showed that his family held previously undisclosed overseas assets. A five-judge panel last month disqualified Sharif, accusing him of concealing assets.

Last week Sharif held a series of rallies across the country, criticizing the court ruling and seeking to whip up popular support.



A circuit court judge in Kentucky says he will run for an open seat on the state Supreme Court.

Judge David Tapp will run for the 3rd Supreme Court District that spans 27 counties in south-central Kentucky. Justice Daniel Venters holds the seat now and says he will not seek re-election.

Tapp has been a circuit court judge for Pulaski, Rockcastle and Lincoln counties since 2005. He has received national attention for his drug court program, which relies on medically assisted treatment for some addicts. In May, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell appointed Tapp to a national juvenile justice advisory board.

Kentucky judicial races are nonpartisan, and their political affiliations do not appear on the ballot.



President Donald Trump's bold threat to push "Obamacare" into collapse may get harder to carry out after a new court ruling.

The procedural decision late Tuesday by a federal appeals panel in Washington has implications for millions of consumers. The judges said that a group of states can defend the legality of government "cost-sharing" subsidies for copays and deductibles under the Affordable Care Act if the Trump administration decides to stop paying the money.

Trump has been threatening to do just that for months, and he amped up his warnings after the GOP's drive to repeal and replace "Obamacare" fell apart in the Senate last week. The subsidies help keep premiums in check, but they are under a legal cloud because of a dispute over the wording of the ACA. Trump has speculated that he could force Democrats to make a deal on health care by stopping the payments.

The court's decision is "a check on the ability of the president to sabotage the Affordable Care Act in one very important way," said Tim Jost, professor emeritus at Washington and Lee University School of Law in Virginia, a supporter of the ACA who has followed the issue closely.

Because of the ruling, legal experts said, states can now sue if the administration cuts off the subsidies. Also, they said, the president won't be able to claim he's merely following the will of a lower court that found Congress had not properly approved the money.

The Justice Department had no comment on the decision. The White House re-issued an earlier statement saying, "the president is working with his staff and his Cabinet to consider the issues raised by the...payments."

Trump has made his feelings clear on Twitter. "If ObamaCare is hurting people, & it is, why shouldn't it hurt the insurance companies," he tweeted early Monday.

He elaborated in an earlier tweet, "If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies...will end very soon!"

In a twist, the appeals court panel seemed to take such statements into account in granting 17 states and the District of Columbia the ability to intervene on behalf of consumers.


North Carolina's highest court is speeding up a final decision on whether Republican legislators could strip down the election oversight powers of the state's new Democratic governor.

The state Supreme Court said Wednesday it will take up Gov. Roy Cooper's lawsuit against state legislative leaders. The decision bypasses an intermediate appeals court and schedules a Supreme Court hearing on Aug. 28.

GOP lawmakers have sought to dilute Cooper's powers since he narrowly beat incumbent GOP Gov. Pat McCrory last year.

The contested law takes away Cooper's ability to appoint a majority of the state elections board and make every county's elections board a Democratic majority. The law would make a Republican head of the decision-making state board in presidential election years when most people vote and ballot disputes are hottest.

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