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Attorneys say Gov. Doug Ducey's appointment of now-former Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery to the Arizona Supreme Court puts Montgomery in a new role that could silence his public advocacy on policy issues.

Montgomery for years has been a power-broker at the Arizona Legislature on criminal-justice issues while being an outspoken critic of marijuana legalization.

Ducey, in announcing his fifth appointment to the state high court, said he's confident that he picked a justice who will interpret the law, not someone to write it.

Arizona's judicial conduct code limits what judges can do off the bench, and attorneys interviewed by the Arizona Capitol Times said it'd be a departure from tradition for Montgomery to continue his past advocacy now that he's on the bench.

Danny Seiden, a former Ducey aide who once served as a special assistant county attorney to Montgomery, said Montgomery is now in a "less powerful" position as a justice compared to an elected county attorney.

"Prosecutors have a ton of power in the process," Seiden said. "That's why they're elected, that's why they have to face the people and stand for their charging decisions and policymaking role in the process. But when you're a judge, you really just interpret statutes . You don't make policy."

Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona, said it'd be a departure from tradition for Montgomery to do otherwise.

"I assume that there was this separation of powers and they should not play a role in lobbying," Soler said.

But Montgomery's background creates questions how he'll behave as a justice, Soler said.

"Justices need to be fair and impartial, and I think that during the last nine years he's really shown that he lets his personal biases drive his prosecutorial practices and policies, so I think that's certainly going to be a big question for us — is he going to be fair and impartial?" she said.

Republican attorney Kory Langhofer said it will be telling to see how Montgomery navigates issues like criminal justice reform.


A New Orleans Saints fan’s lawsuit against the NFL and game officials over the failure to call a crucial penalty against the Los Angeles Rams in a January playoff game was dismissed Friday by the Louisiana Supreme Court.

The ruling appeared to be a death blow to the last remaining lawsuit over what’s come to be known as the “NOLA No-Call.” It also means that, barring a reversal, Commissioner Roger Goodell and game officials will not have to be questioned under oath in New Orleans, as a lower court had previously ordered.

There were no dissents among the seven court members in the reversal of the lower court’s ruling.

Attorney Antonio LeMon had sued, alleging fraud and seeking damages over game officials’ failure to flag a blatant penalty: a Rams player’s helmet-to-helmet hit on a Saints receiver with a pass on the way. The lack of a penalty call for pass interference or roughness helped the Rams beat the Saints and advance to the Super Bowl.

LeMon was reviewing the decision Friday afternoon and was expected to comment later on whether he might seek a rehearing.

The unsigned opinion invoked precedent in a nearly 75-year-old case, stating that Louisiana law gives the ticket to a “place of public amusement” is a license to witness a performance. “Applying this reasoning to the case at bar, we find plaintiffs’ purchase of a ticket merely granted them the right of entry and a seat at the game,” the ruling said. “Plaintiffs have not alleged that these rights were revoked or denied in any way.”

LeMon, who filed with three other ticket-holders, had argued that the circumstances of the game — and his lawsuit — are unique. The suit wasn’t simply filed over a missed call, his filing said. Among its allegations are claims that fraud and “implicit or unconscious bias” on the part of game officials from the Los Angeles area led to the decision not to flag the penalty.


Mexico’s Supreme Court has ordered the country’s Health Department to set regulations complying with a law allowing medical use of marijuana and derivatives.

The law took effect in June 2017 but has yet to be put into practice.

The high court says in a statement that the Health Department should have modified its regulations within six months of the law taking effect.

It ruled in favor of a legal challenge on behalf of a child who received a prescription for THC to treat his epilepsy but had been unable to access the drug.

The court said late Wednesday that his right to health care was violated because regulations on medicinal marijuana were not in place. The Health Department said in a statement that it would comply with the ruling.
 


Wealthy financier and registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein is due in court following an arrest in New York on new sex-trafficking charges involving allegations that date to the early 2000s, according to law enforcement officials.

One of the officials said Epstein is accused of paying underage girls for massages and molesting them at his homes in Florida and New York.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the pending case.

A message was sent to Epstein’s defense attorney seeking comment. Epstein is being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website.

Epstein’s arrest, first reported by The Daily Beast, comes amid renewed scrutiny of a once-secret plea deal that ended a federal investigation against him.

That deal, which is being challenged in Florida federal court, allowed Epstein, who is now 66, to plead guilty to lesser state charges of soliciting and procuring a person under age 18 for prostitution.

Averting a possible life sentence, Epstein was instead sentenced to 13 months in jail. The deal also required he reach financial settlements with dozens of his once-teenage victims and register as a sex offender.



Court decisions directing the removal of a cross from a public park in Florida should get another look, after a Supreme Court ruling that upheld a different cross in Maryland, the high court said Friday.

The justices sent the Florida case back to a lower court to decide whether previous decisions that the cross should be removed were correct or if the cross should stay given the Supreme Court’s latest opinion.

In the Maryland case decided last week, the justices let stand a war memorial in the shape of a cross that is located on a public highway median and maintained by public officials. The approximately 40-foot-tall cross was completed in 1925 and honors soldiers who died in World War I. Seven of the court’s nine justices sided with supporters of the cross in ruling it should stand.

A majority of justices signed on to an opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito that said “when time’s passage imbues a religiously expressive monument, symbol or practice with this kind of familiarly and historical significance, removing it may no longer appear neutral.” Alito also wrote that the Maryland cross’ connection to World War I was important in upholding it because crosses, which marked the graves of American soldiers, became a symbol closely linked to the war.

The Florida case involves a cross that was first put up in Pensacola’s Bayview Park in 1941 for a community Easter service. It has been the site of annual Easter services since. The cross was at first made of wood but was replaced in 1969 by a 34-foot-tall concrete cross.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Washington-based American Humanist Association sued over the cross on behalf of four current or former residents, arguing that it violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment, which prohibits the government from favoring one religion over others. A trial court and appeals court agreed.

Luke Goodrich, an attorney at the Washington-based Becket Fund For Religious Liberty, which is representing the city of Pensacola and defending the cross, said he believes the Supreme Court’s recent Maryland case is “very helpful” to their case. He pointed to a line in Alito’s opinion that suggests a “presumption of constitutionality for longstanding monuments, symbols and practices.” And he said the cross is “part of the history and culture of the city of Pensacola.” While the Pensacola cross was not, like the Maryland cross, put up to memorialize World War I veterans, it was put up on the eve of World War II and has become a gathering place, Goodrich said.


A federal appeals court has ruled that the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers is not entitled to damages from BP for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

At issue were the accounting practices the team used to argue that the 2010 spill caused the team's revenues to fall. The Bucs had sought $19.5 million in damages.

On Friday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court's decision against the team.

The court found that the Bucs' revenue in May-June 2010 was not significantly lower than its revenue during that same span a year later. In order to qualify for damages, it had needed to show that its revenues rebounded by at least 10% in 2011.

The team's stadium is about 360 miles (580 kilometers) southeast of the site of the spill.


Nissan’s former chairman, Carlos Ghosn, appeared in a Japanese courtroom Thursday for a hearing ahead of his trial on accusations of financial misconduct.

It was the first of a series of hearings to iron out logistics for Ghosn’s actual trial. The trial date has not been set, and experts say it could be months away.

Ghosn, who led the Japanese automaker for two decades, was arrested in November and charged with underreporting his income and breach of trust. He was released on bail in March, rearrested in April on fresh accusations and then released again on bail on April 25.

Ghosn insists he is innocent and says he was targeted in a “conspiracy” by others at Nissan Motor Co.

Nissan, which is allied with Renault SA of France, has seen profits nose-dive amid the fallout from Ghosn’s arrest.

Ghosn has hired a strong legal team as he fights to clear his name. One of his top lawyers, Junichiro Hironaka, was seen walking into the courtroom Thursday with Ghosn.

One of the conditions of Ghosn’s release on bail is that he is forbidden to contact his wife. Prosecutors say that’s to prevent evidence tampering.

Ghosn’s lawyers challenged that restriction, saying it is a violation of human rights, but the Supreme Court rejected their appeal Tuesday.

The lawyers can appeal again to have the restriction removed.

In a briefing Thursday, Deputy Chief Prosecutor Shin Kukimoto welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision.

“For married people to be together is important, but I feel there was enough reason for the Supreme Court to support us in this restriction,” he said.

Kukimoto declined comment on the hearing, which was closed to reporters and the public.

Kukimoto also said the maximum penalty upon conviction of all 15 counts of the charges Ghosn is facing is 15 years in prison and a fine of 150 million yen ($1.4 million).

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