Abortion, free speech collide in Supreme Court dispute

Mark Sherman, Associated Press Updated 10:50 am, Sunday, March 18, 2018 Photo: Mark Sherman, AP Image 1of/1 CaptionClose Image 1 of 1 In this Feb. 8, 2018, photo, Blayne Wittig, executive director of Options for Women of California, left, a center in Concord, Calif., Debbie Whittaker, nurse manager, center, and Christine Vatuone, president and CEO of Informed Choices, talk at Informed Choices, a crisis pregnancy center in Grilroy, Calif. A California law regulating anti-abortion pregnancy centers has led to a Supreme Court clash at the intersection of abortion and free speech. The centers say a law requiring them to tell pregnant clients the state has family planning and abortion care available at little or no cost violates the centers’ free speech rights. Informed Choices is what Vatuone describes as a “life-affirming” pregnancy center. Even as it advertises “free pregnancy services” and promises in signs on its door and inside to discuss all options with pregnant women, Informed Choices exists to steer women away from abortion. less In this Feb. 8, 2018, photo, Blayne Wittig, executive director of Options for Women of California, left, a center in Concord, Calif., Debbie Whittaker, nurse manager, center, and Christine Vatuone, president ... more Photo: Mark Sherman, AP Abortion, free speech collide in Supreme Court dispute 1 / 1 Back to Gallery GILROY, Calif. (AP) — Informed Choices is what its president describes as a "life-affirming" pregnancy center on the edge of downtown Gilroy in northern California. Even as it advertises "free pregnancy services" and promises in signs on its door and inside to discuss all options with pregnant women, Informed Choices exists to steer women away from abortion. The state of California, prompted by abortion rights Continue Reading

IC alum central in Supreme Court case

By Nick Draper Published 5:00 am, Monday, March 12, 2018 Image 1of/1 CaptionClose Image 1 of 1 IC alum central in Supreme Court case 1 / 1 Back to Gallery To Illinois College alum Mark Janus, who is at the center of a history-making Supreme Court case, it’s about standing up for what he believes is right. It’s that belief that resulted in his fight against the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court’s decision could play a pivotal role in how union dues are handled for non-union employees. “My parents raised me believing that if you start something you need to finish it and that we need to stand up with our principles,” Janus said. “It’s part of what I learned in scouting as a boy scout growing up. After I got older and became a scout leader, it’s a lesson that I taught my scouts: That they have to stand up for what they believe in.” Janus is a lifelong native of Springfield, excluding his four-year education with Illinois College where he majored in business administration. He spent some time working for the Jacksonville Journal-Courier after his graduation in 1975 and then moved briefly to Peoria before coming back to work for his dad at his company Jaeger Beauty Supply Company. Recommended Video: Now Playing: Some Illinois lawmakers want Supreme Court to rule on Blagojevich case Media: Fox32 After the company closed, Janus went to work for the state in the Department of Commerce and Community Affairs, issuing small business loans for economic development purposes. He then went on to do accounting for a Springfield printing company, started his own business selling spiral binding, and then landed back at the state as a child-support specialist after selling his company. It was as a specialist he started noticing a line-item on his checks that read “union dues.” Continue Reading

Unions face critical case in Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is hearing arguments in a case that could deal a painful financial blow to organized labor. All eyes will be on Justice Neil Gorsuch Monday when the court takes up a challenge to an Illinois law that allows unions representing government employees to collect fees from workers who choose not to join. The unions say the outcome could affect more than 5 million government workers in 24 states and the District of Columbia. The court split 4-4 the last time it considered the issue in 2016. Gorsuch joined the court in April and has yet to weigh in on union fees. Organized labor is a big supporter of Democratic candidates and interests. Unions strongly opposed Gorsuch's nomination by President Donald Trump. Illinois government employee Mark Janus says he has a constitutional right not to contribute anything to a union with which he disagrees. Janus and the conservative interests that back him contend that everything unions representing public employees do is political, including contract negotiations. The Trump administration is supporting Janus in his effort to persuade the court to overturn its 1977 ruling allowing states to require fair share fees for government employees. The unions argue that so-called fair share fees pay for collective bargaining and other work the union does on behalf of all employees, not just its members. People can't be compelled to contribute to unions' political activities. The American Civil Liberties Union is on the unions' side against an individual's free speech claims. ACLU Legal Director David Cole said fair share fees do not violate nonunion workers' rights. Continue Reading

Tim Burns hopes to join state Supreme Court but has only had one case in Wisconsin court

MADISON - Tim Burns wants to sit on the state’s highest court, but he hasn’t spent much time in a Wisconsin courtroom.Burns, an attorney in the Madison office of the national law firm Perkins Coie, has had one case in state court in Wisconsin and six in federal court in the state, according to records.He has had dozens of other cases around the country, but much of his insurance law practice is done outside the courtroom.Burns' opponents are circuit court judges and they contend Burns’ lack of time in Wisconsin courtrooms means he shouldn’t sit on the state Supreme Court. Burns disagrees.“We have a broken court system and if you want to fix a broken court system, you probably don’t want to choose (as) the next justice (someone) who’s currently a cog in the broken machine,” Burns said. “You want someone who has looked at machines all over the country and different parts of the world and has an idea of how the court system could run better.” RELATED: Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate was blistered for ruling in 'standing while black' case RELATED: Rebecca Dallet out-fundraises opponents in Wisconsin Supreme Court raceRunning against Burns are Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet and Sauk County Circuit Judge Michael Screnock. Burns is running as a liberal and Screnock as a conservative, while Dallet is vying for liberal and moderate votes.The Feb. 20 primary will narrow the field to two for the April 3 general election.In a statement, Dallet said Burns' lack of time in Wisconsin courtrooms is a "huge problem," noting she has prosecuted thousands of cases and heard more than 10,000 cases as a judge. "I’ve seen every kind of case, every kind of litigant," she said in her statement. "I’ve made the tough decision to send someone to jail for life, and I’ve made the tough decision to give someone a second chance."Dallet, who spent 11 years as a Continue Reading

Death row inmate behind murder-for-hire killing of police officer’s wife loses in Supreme Court

By Keri Blakinger Updated 11:47 am, Monday, January 8, 2018 window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({ mode: 'thumbnails-c', container: 'taboola-interstitial-gallery-thumbnails-5', placement: 'Interstitial Gallery Thumbnails 5', target_type: 'mix' }); _taboola.push({flush: true}); window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({ mode: 'thumbnails-c', container: 'taboola-interstitial-gallery-thumbnails-10', placement: 'Interstitial Gallery Thumbnails 10', target_type: 'mix' }); _taboola.push({flush: true}); window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({ mode: 'thumbnails-c', container: 'taboola-interstitial-gallery-thumbnails-14', placement: 'Interstitial Gallery Thumbnails 14', target_type: 'mix' }); _taboola.push({flush: true}); Image 1of/14 CaptionClose Image 1 of 14 Joseph Prystash, sentenced to death more than two decades ago for his role as middleman, lost his appeal Monday before the U.S. Supreme Court. Joseph Prystash, sentenced to death more than two decades ago for his role as middleman, lost his appeal Monday before the U.S. Supreme Court. Image 2 of 14 Robert Fratta, a former Missouri City public safety officer, hired hit man Howard Guidry and getaway driver Joseph Prystash to kill his wife Farah in 1994. Upon his arrest, the Fratta's three young children - Bradley, Daniel and Amber, were raised by their maternal grandparents, Lex and Betty Baquer. less Robert Fratta, a former Missouri City public safety officer, hired hit man Howard Guidry and getaway driver Joseph Prystash to kill his wife Farah in 1994. Upon his arrest, the Fratta's three young children - ... more Image 3 of 14 Howard Paul Guidry sits with attorney Loretta Muldrow during opening arguments on Feb. 20, 2007, in his retrial in the killing of Farah Fratta in 1994. Howard Paul Guidry sits with attorney Loretta Muldrow during opening arguments on Feb. 20, 2007, in his retrial in the killing of Farah Continue Reading

The biggest cases on Supreme Court’s agenda as Neil Gorsuch’s first term begins

The Supreme Court term that, by law, begins on the first Monday in October includes several high-profile cases dealing with controversial social issues or with the potential to affect millions of Americans. The justices probably will not hear the dispute over President Trump's travel ban, originally scheduled for October, now that he has issued a new policy that has yet to be examined by lower courts. A look at some of the biggest cases the Supreme Court will hear in the new term (argument dates are in parentheses): Wedding cake for same sex couple (unscheduled): The case stems from a Colorado baker's religious objections to making a cake for a recently married same-sex couple. At issue is the baker's claim that he should not be forced to produce a message with which he disagrees and the Colorado law that bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The Trump administration is backing the baker. ___ Partisan redistricting (Tuesday): The legal fight over redistricting in Wisconsin has the potential reshape American politics. The justices could, for the first time, impose limits on drawing political maps for partisan advantage. Democratic voters sued over redistricting plans that entrenched Republicans' hold on state government in a state that is otherwise closely divided between the parties. ___ Employee rights (Monday): The term's first case pits employers against their workers. To be decided is whether businesses can enforce part of a contract with their employees that prohibits workers from taking complaints about pay, working conditions and other issues to court, and also forces them to engage in individual arbitration, rather than a group effort. Workers say the provision contained in millions of contracts violates federal labor laws. Employers argue that the federal law encouraging arbitration trumps the labor laws. The administration is supporting the employers, reversing the position taken by the Obama administration. ___ Continue Reading

WATCH: Judge Nap’s Prediction on New 2nd Amendment Case in Supreme Court

Judge Andrew Napolitano weighed in this morning on a high-profile Second Amendment case that has gone before the Supreme Court. The central issue is whether someone should be able to buy a firearm for someone else if both are legally allowed to own a gun. Supreme Court to Decide If One Person Can Buy Gun For Another The case stems from an attempt in 2009 by a former police officer to buy a discounted gun for his uncle. The federal government likened the purchase to a "straw buy," in which a person who can legally purchase a gun does so for a criminal. Napolitano explained that in this case, the gun could have only been used in the home for self-defense, not for concealed-carry. "The home, in American history and in American law and under the Constitution, is a sacred place, where the law doesn't always intrude ... It's a gun to be used in the home. Does the federal government really want to intrude that deeply in our lives?" he asked. The judge compared it to a situation where a person is prescribed a drug for the flu, then their child gets sick so they also take the medicine. His prediction? The justices will toss the conviction in a 5-4 ruling. Continue Reading

5-4 split is the rule in Supreme Court’s big cases

WASHINGTON - It comes down to this at the Supreme Court: If you've got Justice Anthony Kennedy on your side, you can pretty much do what you want. Without him, you're the author of an angry dissent. Thursday's decision to strike down restrictions on corporate campaign spending more than 60 years old was the third time in nine days that the court divided 5-4, with liberals on one side and conservatives on the other. The other cases involved an appeal from a death row inmate in Georgia and the prospect of broadcasting a gay marriage trial in California. As in dozens of earlier cases, Kennedy was in the majority each time. He was the author of the campaign finance decision. The rulings demonstrate the extent to which ideology - not fidelity to precedent or a particular interpretation of the Constitution - is the driving force on the court. The addition of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, replacing Justice David Souter, seems to have changed nothing in this regard. Indeed, it would have been shocking if President Barack Obama's first high court nominee immediately began to line up with the court's conservatives. The Bush administration officials who helped in the confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito would have been equally dismayed if President George W. Bush's two selections had not become reliable voting allies of conservative justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. The campaign finance case was different only in that Kennedy's vote was not seen as being up for grabs. His views had been known for some time, expressed in two dissents from earlier opinions that were overruled Thursday. Roberts and particularly Alito provided the crucial votes. Alito took the place of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who had voted to uphold the rules that the court jettisoned Thursday. Because Kennedy was a near-certain vote to overturn one opinion in its entirety and a portion of the other, critics of the ruling focused on Roberts as the leader of the court and Continue Reading


KENNEDY COUSIN Michael Skakel will ask the Supreme Court to overturn his murder conviction for the 1975 slaying of Connecticut teenager Martha Moxley, his lawyer said yesterday. Skakel should keep his fingers crossed, however, since the country's highest court agrees to hear just 5% of the cases it is asked to review. The nephew of Ethel Skakel Kennedy was sentenced to 20 years to life after a Norfolk jury found him guilty of slamming Martha repeatedly in the head with a golf club after she rejected his advances. Both were 15 years old at the time. Skakel's lawyer, Hope Seeley, issued a statement saying she was disappointed with the Connecticut Supreme Court's decision not to reconsider its prior ruling in which it declined to overturn the conviction. Seeley had argued that the statute of limitations was expired at the time Skakel was arrested for the crime in 2000. She said the court overruled a 23-year-old precedent set with another case to reach that decision. "Michael Skakel is innocent, and we will fight his wrongful conviction and incarceration," Seeley said. Martha's mother, Dorthy Moxley, who waged a public battle to get justice for Martha, said she doesn't think the high court will hear Skakel's case. "I feel he's very guilty and that he was represented very well," Moxley said. Skakel's outspoken trial attorney, Mickey Sherman, said he hopes the court agrees to take the case because he is confident Skakel is innocent. "I am convinced of it, I have always been convinced of it," Sherman said. He said Seeley's additional appeal arguments that he didn't provide effective assistance of counsel are necessary. "It's not about me. They [Skakel and his lawyer] have to do whatever they think is appropriate, and more power to them," Sherman said. [email protected] Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Olson: In Supreme Court’s gay marriage case, words of Justice Anthony Kennedy, potential swing vote, under microscope

As the lawyers say these days around 1 First St. NE — the Supreme Court building — it’s Anthony Kennedy’s world, we just live in it. The swing justice can make Tuesday’s marriage cases come out however he likes. Four liberal colleagues are likely to join any plausible theory he wants to use to get to a full-fledged constitutional right to same-sex marriage, if that’s where he wants to go. If. Some liberals’ hearts jumped into their throats Tuesday morning when Kennedy seemed to channel colleague Samuel Alito, asking whether the court could alter an institution that’s been around for “millennia.” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg jumped in right away to challenge the premise. She pointed out that marriage law has changed continuously as society’s ideas have changed. RELATED: SUPREME COURT KEY VOTE ON GAY MARRIAGE GIVES BOTH SIDES HOPE It was probably a false alarm. Like some others on the court, Kennedy likes to try on the “other” side’s points at oral argument, and he later reverted to form, describing exclusion from marriage as an infringement of human dignity. That fits his record as the author of the court’s major gay rights advances. Still, both sides should be nervous about a 5-to-4 outcome with Kennedy as pivot: — He’s mortal. More precisely, all justices are mortal, and the court is one liberal retirement away from a newcomer appointed by, say, President Scott Walker or Mario Rubio. —He’s cautious. Any theory he picks under which the challengers win — equal protection, sex discrimination — opens doors for challenges to other laws, with results he and others might find uncomfortable. Public opinion is moving fast. According to a Williams Institute poll, in only five states — Utah, Mississippi, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Alabama — is support for same-sex marriage still under 40%. Those polls, Continue Reading