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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.




Bolivians asked a U.S. appeals court Tuesday to restore a $10 million jury verdict against a former president and defense minister of the South American nation over killings by security forces during 2003 unrest there.

Lawyers for a group of indigenous Bolivians told a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that a Florida judge was wrong to set aside last year's verdict.

The jury found against former Bolivian President Gonzalo "Goni" Sanchez de Lozada and former defense minister, Jose Carlos Sanchez Berzain. Both have been living in the U.S. after fleeing Bolivia in 2003.

We have faith that the court of appeals will see what the Bolivian people and the American jury also saw: that Goni and Sánchez Berzaín are responsible for these killings, and that justice must be done," said Teófilo Baltazar Cerro, a plaintiff whose pregnant wife Teodosia was shot and killed during the unrest.

The judges did not indicate when they would rule. In the lawsuit, relatives of eight Bolivians who died claimed the two officials planned to kill thousands of civilians to crush political opposition during civil unrest known as the "Gas War." The lawsuit was filed under the Torture Victim Protection Act, which authorizes suits in the U.S. for extrajudicial killings.

The unrest erupted in the fall of 2003 as street protests in Bolivia over use of the country's vast natural gas reserves boiled over. Demonstrators threw up street blockades of flaming debris and rubble in several places including on the outskirts of the capital of La Paz, and violent clashes between police and security forces with the civilian protesters turned deadly.

At times, government forces intent on clearing street barricades fired on demonstrators, mainly in the El Alto municipality adjacent to La Paz, leading to deaths. Other fatalities were reported in confrontations between security forces and Bolivian miners marching to the capital in support of the protesters. Many of the civilian victims were indigenous Aymara Bolivians.


he U.S. Supreme Court said Monday it will leave in place a court decision that derailed the impeachment trials of three West Virginia Supreme Court justices accused of corruption.

The case was one of a long list of those the Supreme Court announced it wouldn’t hear, and as is usual the high court made no comment in declining to take the case. Monday was the Supreme Court’s first day of arguments after its summer break.

The case the high court declined to review was a decision by five acting justices of West Virginia’s highest court who ruled last year that prosecuting then-state Supreme Court Chief Justice Margaret Workman in the state Senate would violate the state constitution’s separation of powers clause.

That ruling in Workman’s case was later applied to also halt impeachment proceedings against two other justices who have since left the court: Robin Davis and Allen Loughry. Davis retired after the House approved impeachment charges against her. Loughry resigned after being convicted of felony fraud charges in federal court.

West Virginia House lawmakers had impeached the justices in 2018 over questions involving lavish office renovations that evolved into accusations of corruption, incompetence and neglect of duty. But the acting justices’ ruling halted state Senate impeachment trials.

Workman remains on the court but is no longer chief justice. The current chief justice, Elizabeth Walker, was also impeached by the House, but was cleared at her Senate trial, which took place before the acting justices’ ruling in Workman’s case.

House of Delegates Speaker Roger Hanshaw had said previously that the hope in asking the Supreme Court to take the case was not to seek permission to restart impeachment proceedings but to correct legal errors in the decision.


The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has asked the Supreme Court to review the case of a Maryland man convicted in a case chronicled on the podcast "Serial."

News outlets report the group filed an amicus brief in the case of Adnan Syed. The brief says Syed was not given a proper opportunity to investigate an unbiased and credible alibi witness.

It also says the decision by Maryland's highest court to deny Syed a new trial and reinstate his conviction in the murder of his ex-girlfriend will impact criminal defendants "far beyond Maryland's borders."



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.
 

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