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Wildlife advocates on Thursday asked a federal court to overturn a U.S. government decision that stripped Endangered Species Act protections for wolves across most of the nation.

Two coalitions of advocacy groups filed lawsuits in U.S. District Court in Northern California seeking to restore safeguards for a predator that is revered by wildlife watchers but feared by many livestock producers.

The Trump administration announced just days ahead of the Nov. 3 election  that wolves were considered recovered. They had been wiped out out across most of the U.S. by the 1930s under government-sponsored poisoning and trapping campaigns.

A remnant population in the western Great Lakes region has since expanded to some 4,400 wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

More than 2,000 occupy six states in the Northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest after wolves from Canada were reintroduced in Idaho and Yellowstone National Park starting in 1995. Protections for wolves in the Rockies were lifted over the last decade and hunting of them is allowed.

But wolves  remain absent across most of their historical range  and the groups that filed Thursday’s lawsuits said continued protections are needed so wolf populations can continue to expand in California and other states.

The lawsuits could complicate an effort to reintroduce wolves in sparsely populated western Colorado under a November initiative approved by voters, a state official told wildlife commissioners Thursday. If endangered species protections were restored, wolves would again fall under authority of the federal government, not the state.

In response to the lawsuits, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Vanessa Kauffman said in a statement that the gray wolf “has exceeded all conservation goals for recovery” and is no longer threatened or endangered under federal law.

Some biologists who reviewed the administration’s plan to strip protections from wolves said it lacked scientific justification.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuits include the Sierra Club, WildEarth Guardians, Humane Society of the U.S. and numerous other environmental and advocacy groups.

A small population of Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest remain protected as an endangered species. Wolves in Alaska were never under federal protection.



Courts in two rural counties were wrong when they dismissed lawsuits filed by the state seeking to have three casinos declared public nuisances, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The decision meant the state can resume cases challenging operations at VictoryLand in Macon County as well as White Hall Entertainment and Southern Star Entertainment in Lowndes County.

Neither the state attorney general’s office nor an attorney on the side of a company involved with the casinos immediately replied to messages seeking comment.

The state, which has repeatedly attempted to shut down gambling halls with electronic games resembling slot machines, filed separate lawsuits in 2017 asking courts to declare that the casinos, located east and west of Montgomery, were public nuisances because they promoted illegal gambling.

The defendants asked courts to dismiss the lawsuits, arguing that state courts did not have the power to hear the cases and claiming the attempted shutdowns were wrong since the state did not include Wind Creek casinos operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in the case.

A county judge sided with the casino operators and dismissed the Macon County lawsuit last year, and the justices considered both cases for purposes of appeal since they involved issues that were virtually identical.

In a 74-page opinion written by Associate Justice Kelli Wise, the court ruled the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, based in Atmore, was not an “indispensable party” to the dispute and did not have to be included in the complaints. A federal court has already barred the the state from trying to make public nuisance claims against the tribe's operations, Justice Brady Mendheim wrote in a separate opinion.

in Atmore, was not an “indispensable party” to the dispute and did not have to be included in the complaints. A federal court has already barred the the state from trying to make public nuisance claims against the tribe's operations, Justice Brady Mendheim wrote in a separate opinion.

While the county judges both determined they lacked the legal power to consider the cases, helping lead to the dismissals, the state argued the courts can consider the suits. The justices agreed and sent the cases back to circuit court.




A lawn care company hoping to harvest a significant tax break has failed to break ground at the Michigan appeals court.

TruGreen said it should qualify for a certain tax exemption on seed, fertilizer, insecticides and other products used to enhance the lawns of customers. It wants to be treated like farmers who till and plant or raise livestock.

TruGreen latched on to a key phrase in Michigan law referring to “things of the soil.” But the appeals court, in a 2-1 decision  Friday, said the company’s services don’t qualify.

“TruGreen plants grass and cares for it. ... The term ‘things of the soil’ pertains to the products of farms and horticultural businesses, not blades of well-tended grass,” said Judge Elizabeth Gleicher.

Judge Brock Swartzle wrote a 13-page dissent, chiding Gleicher and Judge Douglas Shapiro. He said there is no phrase in the law applying the tax exemption strictly to “agricultural production.”

Lawmakers “instead chose a logically broader one, ‘things of the soil,’” Swartzle said. “Under the plain meaning and statutory context of the use-tax exemption, TruGreen remains on solid ground.”



A federal appeals court is ordering a U.S. district judge in New Mexico to reconsider a case involving a fight over critical habitat for the endangered jaguar in the American Southwest.

Groups representing ranchers had sued, arguing that a 2014 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to set aside thousands of acres for the cats was arbitrary and violated the statute that guides wildlife managers in determining whether certain areas are essential for the conservation of a species.

With the order released this week, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned an earlier ruling that had sided with the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Jaguars are currently found in 19 countries. Several individual male jaguars have been spotted in Arizona and New Mexico over the last two decades but there's no evidence of breeding pairs establishing territories beyond northern Mexico.

Shrinking habitats, insufficient prey, poaching and retaliatory killings over livestock deaths are some of the things that have contributed to the jaguar’s decline in the Southwest over the past 150 years.

Under a recovery plan finalized last year, Mexico as well as countries in Central and South America would be primarily responsible for monitoring jaguar movements within their territory. Environmentalists have criticized the plan, saying the U.S. government is overlooking opportunities for recovery north of the international border.



A court ruling is ending a legal fight over the voluntary merger of two school districts in south Mississippi.

The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled Thursday that opponents waited too long to file a lawsuit, the Hattiesburg American reported.

In April 2017, the Lumberton Public School District and the Lamar County School District voted to consolidate. The plan included some territory and affected some students in Pearl River County.

The Mississippi Board of Education approved the plan in June 2017, and the two districts consolidated in July 2018. Lamar County schools officials agreed to keep Lumberton schools open and have Lumberton students attend those schools. The officials also hired Lumberton teachers.

Pearl River County officials filed a lawsuit to oppose the Lamar and Lumberton merger. They aregued that students who live in Pearl River County should attend school in Pearl River County. A chancery judge ruled against the Pearl River County plaintiffs, and they appealed to the state Supreme Court. The consolidation remains in place.



A Spanish court has raised the sentence against a former bank president found guilty of trying to smuggle a painting by Pablo Picasso out of the country.

The Madrid court announced the decision Tuesday to raise the sentence against fined ex-Bankinter head Jaime Botín to three years instead of 18 months. The move came after the prosecution detected an error in the original sentence handed down last month.

The court also raised the amount Botín was fined from 52.4 million euros ($57. 9 million) to 91.7 million euros.

The trial last year heard how a team of Spanish police experts flew to the French island of Corsica in 2015 to retrieve the painting, Picasso’s masterpiece “Head of a Young Woman.” The Spanish government had ruled in 2012 that the painting, which is valued at some 24 million euros ($26.5 million), could not be taken out of the country.

The work was owned by Botín, an uncle of Ana Botín, president of the powerful Santander banking group.

Corsican authorities said they had been tipped off about an attempted smuggling of the prized painting from Spain by boat. They said the oil painting, which comes from the Cubist master’s “pink period” and features a woman with long black hair, was seized when the boat’s captain was unable to produce a proper certificate.

On the boat, authorities found a document in Spanish confirming that the work was of “cultural interest” and was banned from leaving Spain, Picasso’s homeland, without permission.


Tucked in a windowless room of Chicago’s immigration court, one of the nation’s largest legal advocacy groups for immigrants runs a free help desk.

Their pace is dizzying. Most days, there’s a line outside the door, with some cases taking years to resolve. Attorneys have no printer and make copies by hand. They rarely take breaks, even to use the bathroom.

A visit to the operation — one of five nationwide — illustrates the growing burden on attorneys in the immigration courts system, where there’s no right to appointed counsel, no electronic filing, a crushing backlog and ever-shifting Trump administration policies that have created unparalleled turmoil.

“Attorneys are spending so much time on work that is effectively meaningless,” said Ashley Huebner with the Chicago-based National Immigrant Justice Center, which staffs the legal help desk. “It’s unnecessary, bureaucratic red tape gone crazy.”

Notices to appear in court list times or dates when courts aren’t in session. Immigrants who don’t get copies of their asylum paperwork at the border must file formal Freedom of Information Act requests, which can take time and money. And the Trump administration has all but shut down interactions between government and immigration attorneys outside court, even for mundane matters like finding out when there’s a hearing.

The legal help desk is inside the main immigration court in a downtown high-rise. The National Immigrant Justice Center began a privately funded version of the program in 2013, which was expanded in 2016 with federal funding. Currently, the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review administers similar desks in four other cities: Los Angeles, Miami, New York and San Antonio.



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