Tag Archives: court

Britney Spears conservatorship case back in court amid turmoil

Three weeks after Britney Spears’ dramatic comments in court condemning the conservatorship, a judge and others will convene for a hearing.

LOS ANGELES — Three weeks after Britney Spears’ dramatic comments in court condemning the conservatorship that has controlled her life for 13 years, a Los Angeles judge and others with legal power over the pop star will convene for a hearing Wednesday to deal with the aftermath.

Spears’ remarks led to the resignation of her court-appointed lawyer, the withdrawal of an estate-management company that was supposed to oversee her finances, and a volley of accusations between her father and a professional conservator over who’s to blame for the legal circumstances Spears said are “abusive” and need to end.

Spears is not expected to speak again at the afternoon hearing, in which all the parties are expected to take part remotely, but she may weigh in as she seeks to hire a lawyer of her choice.

At the June 23 hearing, her first public words in court on the matter, Spears said she was being forced to take medication and use an intrauterine device for birth control, said she was not allowed to marry her boyfriend, and said she wanted to own her own money.

“I just want my life back,” Spears said.

She was harshly critical of her father, who serves as conservator of her finances, and had more measured criticism for Jodi Montgomery, the court-appointed professional who serves as conservator of her person, overseeing her life choices.

James Spears said in a legal filing that the court needs to investigate the allegations and Montgomery’s role, pointing out that his daughter’s personal life has been beyond his control since he resigned as conservator of her person in 2019, a role he played for 11 years. He opposed Montgomery’s request for money to hire security because of recent death threats, saying he has been subjected to similar threats for years.

Montgomery denied that Britney Spears was prevented from marrying or forced to use birth control. She lashed back at James Spears, saying that Britney Spears has expressed no desire to oust her as she has with her father.

Montgomery said she is committed to staying on the job and is putting a care plan in place to help end the conservatorship, something she said James Spears has expressed no desire to do.

“Mr. Spears, as the Conservator of the Estate, and Ms. Montgomery, as the Conservator of the Person, should be working as a team to ensure that Ms. Spears’ best interest are being met, that she is on a path to recovery and termination of her conservatorship, and that she is living her best life possible,” Montgomery said in a court filing. “Instead, Mr. Spears has decided it is time to start the finger-pointing and media attacks … The mud-slinging by Mr. Spears and his new ‘It wasn’t me!’ strategy — after being her sole or co-conservator for more than 13 years — leaves Ms. Montgomery no other choice but to defend herself.”

Despite nearly two years on the job, Montgomery’s status is still technically temporary. She appeared to be on track for permanent appointment before recent events.

Britney Spears will still be represented at Wednesday’s hearing by her longtime court-appointed lawyer, Samuel Ingham III, who filed documents last week saying he resigned, effective as soon as she got a new attorney, which at the June hearing she said she wanted.

The Bessemer Trust, a financial company that Spears had sought as a replacement for her father last year but was instead appointed to work alongside him, also withdrew from the conservatorship last week, saying it no longer wanted to take part in a legal arrangement that she didn’t want.

[embedded content]

Read more
This post originally posted here CBS8 – Entertainment

Down’s Syndrome protester launch court fight over abortion law

Heidi Crowter, 26, is bringing legal action over a ruling that allows the abortion of babies with the condition up until birth. She is fighting the Department of Health and Social Care in the hope of removing a section of the Abortion Act she believes to be an “instance of inequality”. Ms Crowter, from Coventry, said: “I am someone who has Down’s syndrome and I find it extremely offensive that a law doesn’t respect my life, and I won’t stand for it. “I want to change the law and I want to challenge people’s perception of Down’s syndrome. I want them to look at me and say, ‘This is just a normal person.’

“That’s what this is about. It’s about telling people that we’re just humans with feelings.”

In England, Wales and Scotland there is a 24-week time limit on having an abortion.

But terminations can be allowed up until birth if there is “a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental ­abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped”, which includes Down’s syndrome.

At a two-day High Court hearing that began yesterday, lawyers on behalf of Ms Crowter argued the law is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, and therefore unlawfully discriminatory.

A demonstration was held ­outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London ahead of the landmark case, during which ­dozens of people held banners, some of which read: “Love doesn’t count chromosomes.” 

Maire Lea-Wilson, 33, whose son Aidan has Down’s syndrome, is also bringing the case. She said: “I was 34 weeks pregnant when I discovered Aidan had Down’s syndrome, and I was asked if ­ I wanted to terminate the pregnancy.

“I want Aidan to grow up knowing he’s not someone people have to cope with. He’s not a burden to society, he is a wonderful human being in his own right.

“I want the law to change ­ so that the rules for a typical baby apply for those with Down’s syndrome.”

The Government said the case should be dismissed on the grounds there is no evidence of a connection between the law and discrimination against those with Down’s syndrome, and that it does not constitute “negative stereotyping”.

A spokesman said: “The Government is deeply committed to eliminating disability discrimination. There is a broad range of measures in domestic law which are aimed at disability discrimination and advancing equality of opportunity.”

It is expected the court will give its ruling at a later date.

Author: Hanna Geissler
Read more here >>> Daily Express :: Health
Read More

Neverwinter Sharandar Episode 3: The Odious Court is Available Now

The conclusion to the Sharandar storyline arrives to Neverwinter with Episode 3: The Odious Court! For this final episode we are greeted by the arrival of Etrien the Bard, a familiar face who has come to request your assistance. Far from the hellish landscapes where we first met Etrien, she has now returned to her ancient home, concerned over the recent attacks inflicted upon Sharandar. While the threats from the Night and Annis Hags were supposedly dealt with, Etrien brings news of a group of Dryads forced out of their home in the Mended Grove, who seek help.

For those willing to assist the displaced Dryads, a series of dubious tasks will lead brave adventurers to uncover the nature of the supposed Dryad leader, Lithoceae. With the help of the Iliyanbruen elves, and a healthy dose of suspicion, adventurers will reveal the final pieces to this story. It will fall upon you, the heroes of Neverwinter, to make a decisive stand against corrupting forces and those that wield them!

The launch of this final episode will also make way for the release of Vault of Stars: Twisted Denizens on July 20. This hardcore mode brings updated challenges to those who believe they have mastered the dungeon and bested the Queen of Air and Darkness. Using the K-Team private queue system, Twisted Denizens introduces a special set of rare spawns in Alcoves of Light—rooms only available when running Vault of Stars in this new mode. Those willing to face these foes will have a chance to obtain the necessary components needed to craft the Ring of Darkness and Ring of Air.

While completing the original Vault of Stars with no deaths awards the Flawless Victory achievement, a Twisted Denizens run with no deaths will result in a Perfect Run achievement. Players who find all three Alcoves of Light will also achieve “Head Towards the Light”. In addition to these dungeon achievements, the release of Episode 3: The Odious Court will also allow players to complete “Defender of the Feywild”.

For those who do not meet the minimum 40k Item level required for the new Sharandar campaign, the first two weeks of the release of Episode 3 will remove this requirement and welcome all willing adventurers. The Feywild requires your help once again! – will you stand up for the ancient elven homeland? The Odious Court is now live on Xbox One!

Author: Julia Fredrickson, Community Manager, Neverwinter
Read more here >>> Xbox Wire

US Supreme Court tilts to the right — but how far will it go?

America’s highest court has undeniably shifted to the right in its first term following the death of liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, experts say, with a core bloc of conservative justices wielding their influence to shift decisions.

But the Supreme Court’s nine justices have handed down nearly 70 decisions this term that, taken as a whole, paint a more nuanced picture than some conservatives may have hoped when Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in last year as Ginsburg’s replacement — for instance, rejecting a challenge to Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law that Republicans have long hoped to overturn.

Other cases, however, have thrown the 6-3 conservative majority’s power into sharp relief, such as a ruling upholding two Arizona voting laws that opponents said discriminated against racial minorities, which was decided on the term’s last day and split neatly along ideological lines.

The court’s appetite for compromise will be put to the test when it returns in the autumn to an agenda that already includes contentious issues such as abortion and gun rights.

“Undoubtedly, having Amy Coney Barrett, who is pretty conservative, replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was very liberal, that clearly does make a difference,” said Ilya Somin, a law professor at George Mason University and an adjunct scholar at the libertarian Cato Institute.

“On the other hand . . . it is wrong to say that this is a monolithically conservative court which is going to radically revamp huge areas of constitutional law,” he added.

Legal experts point to a group of four Republican-appointed justices — chief justice John Roberts and Donald Trump appointees Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Barrett — as having the ability to decide cases.

Diagonal correlation matrix showing the percent of the time Supreme Court justices agreed with each other in decisions made during the October 2020 term. Chief Justice John Roberts voted with Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan about as often as he voted with Justice Clarence Thomas

“Any two of them can join with the three Democrats, and have joined with the three Democrats,” said Lee Epstein, a law professor at Washington University in St Louis. “It is not . . . a court where the Democrats are going to lose every single case.”

One widely-cited ruling is the court’s 7-2 opinion dismissing the latest Republican challenge to the Affordable Care Act. Stephen Breyer wrote the majority opinion, joined by the two other liberal justices — Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — and four conservative colleagues. The seven justices agreed the plaintiffs had no grounds to sue given they had not suffered any harm under Obama’s flagship healthcare reforms. Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito dissented.

Another is the court’s unanimous decision siding with student athletes who brought an antitrust challenge against the National Collegiate Athletic Association. The nine justices agreed that restrictions set by the NCAA on scholarships and other benefits were unfair.

“The mix of justices these days is fascinating,” said Jonathan Turley, a professor at the George Washington University Law School. “Most of the opinions did not show the type of clear demarcation or robotic responses that critics have suggested.”

Progressives are nevertheless fearful that the court could lurch further to the right next year, when the bench will hear cases on two of the most politically divisive issues in America: abortion and guns.

Decisions on both are expected in the spring or summer of 2022 — just months before the midterm elections, when both chambers of Congress will be up for grabs.

Line chart of % of cases in each term showing Uptick in unanimous or near-unanimous Supreme Court decisions

The abortion case challenges Roe vs Wade, the 1973 decision that enshrined a constitutional right to an abortion. It centres on a Mississippi state law that bans abortions after 15 weeks. The gun case questions how far states can go in regulating gun rights, particularly when weapons are carried outside of one’s home.

Legal experts say they expect the conservative majority to rule in a way that satisfies the “pro-life” or anti-abortion movement, as well as gun owners who bristle at any limitations on their Second Amendment rights.

Progressive activists are already on alert after the court’s ruling on the Arizona voting laws. “When it comes to cases dealing with democracy and the right to vote, the Republican justices act as a bloc,” said Brian Fallon, executive director of left-leaning group Demand Justice. “Democrats need to treat this like the emergency situation it is.”

It is unclear how far the bench will be willing to go in upsetting previous Supreme Court decisions in the term ahead — particularly at a time when Roberts and the associate justices have indicated they want the court to be seen as an august, independent institution outside the realm of partisan politics.

“By any metric, it is the most conservative court in recent memory,” said Debo Adegbile, a partner at the law firm Wilmer Hale. “But the court is an institution. It is an institution that has to think about its legitimacy and credibility in a very fractured political environment and in a very fractured nation.”

Somin of George Mason University said he thought it was “likely” that the conservative majority moved the needle in a “more conservative direction . . . but it matters a lot exactly how much they will move it, and that is far from clear”.

“My guess is they want to allow restrictions on abortion, loosen restrictions on guns, and so on,” said Epstein of Washington University in St Louis. “But how far are they willing to go?”

Additional reporting by Christine Zhang in New York

Author: Lauren Fedor in Washington
Read more here >>> International homepage

Supreme Court, NCAA decisions embolden advocates for college athlete compensation in California

California’s landmark law allowing college athletes to sign paid endorsement deals started a national movement.

CALIFORNIA, USA — This story was originally published by CalMatters.

Advocates for college athlete compensation in California are on a hot streak. First the state passed a first-in-the-nation law allowing players to sign paid endorsement deals, and 20 states followed its example. Now, with both a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision and a National Collegiate Athletic Association rule change challenging the idea that students shouldn’t make money from athletics, legislators are pushing to move up the effective date of the California law to this fall and expand it to cover community college athletes.

“The amateurism ideals have been weakening over time, not only with just player movements, advocate movements, but also because of litigation that’s currently playing out,” said Eddie Comeaux, a professor of higher education at UC Riverside who studies college athletics.

The NCAA has previously barred athletes from earning money for their performance, aside from scholarships. But the Supreme Court’s 9–0 ruling June 21 allows colleges to also cover as much as $ 6,000 per year in education-related expenses for athletes, such as laptops and study abroad programs. While it didn’t directly strike down the NCAA’s amateurism model, a concurring opinion from Justice Brett Kavanaugh signaled a willingness to do so, spurring hope among advocates that more avenues for player compensation could be on the horizon. 

Then Wednesday, the NCAA announced that it won’t penalize athletes for taking advantage of state laws like California’s that allow them to profit from the use of their name, image and likeness. 

“With the variety of state laws adopted across the country, we will continue to work with Congress to develop a solution that will provide clarity on a national level,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a press release. 

“The Supreme Court’s ruling basically told the NCAA you’ve got to follow the law, you’re not immune to antitrust, you cannot be a monopoly,” said state Sen. Nancy Skinner, the author of the Fair Pay to Play Act,  which passed the California Legislature in 2019. She’s now pushing a bill that amends the law to take effect Sept. 1, rather than in 2023. It passed the Assembly’s higher education committee this week, and would need to receive a two-thirds vote by the Assembly and be signed by the governor to become law.

State laws giving college athletes the ability to pursue money-making opportunities also went into effect Thursday in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, New Mexico and Mississippi. 

College athlete endorsements on social media could eventually become a $ 2 billion dollar market, said Thilo Kunkel, director of the Sport Industry Research Center at Temple University and the founder of an app called Sprter, which helps players build and monetize their personal brands. Kunkel said his research found that the average college athlete with a few thousand followers could expect to make around $ 2,000 a year in additional income from social media endorsements. 

“Most people won’t get rich off of them, but, you know, if you’re making $ 2,000 extra a year, it’s 50 bucks a week, it’s a little bit here, it’s a little bit there,” he said. 

Athletes on the Sprter app can sign endorsement deals, sell social media shoutouts and book in-person experiences such as a training session with fans. It’s just one of a number of ventures already sprouting up as the new NCAA rules take effect this week. Hanna and Haley Cavinder, twin sisters who play for Fresno State’s basketball team, told ESPN they had already signed their first endorsement deal with Boost Mobile on Wednesday.

Unlike the original Fair Play to Pay Act, Skinner’s new bill would afford California’s community college athletes the same freedom to profit from their name, image and likeness as their peers at four-year universities. The bill has the support of the California Community College Chancellor’s office. 

“Students should not have to sit by and watch others profit off of their hard work and labor without being equitably compensated for it, just because they participate in college athletics – and that includes our many community college student-athletes as well,” spokesperson Rafael Chávez said in a statement to CalMatters. 

John Beam, the athletic director and head football coach at Oakland’s Laney College, said the inclusion of the state’s community college athletes would be a huge win. He said that while not all athletes will be able to take advantage of the money-making opportunities, it’s an important first step to restoring a sense of humanity to how college athletes are treated. 

“We have kids that are hungry every day and I can’t bring, you know, Cup of Noodles in to give them,” Beam said. “We’re not talking about a meal plan, we’re talking about survival food. So I’m hoping that it trickles down to allow us to really care for our student athletes like we should.”

Athletes including Elias Escobar, a football player at Laney College, said the ability to make some extra cash could help with basic needs such as rent, food and gas money for his commute to campus. 

Being an athlete, Escobar said, is “like a full-time job and I’m not getting paid for it.” 

“There were times I didn’t even go to class because I didn’t have any gas money to put in my car, or like, I’m going to school and not eating all day,” he said.

California’s two public university systems, the University of California and California State University, said they were monitoring the bill. “UC continues to work with Senator Skinner, and members of the state Legislature, to ensure that the University is prepared for an accelerated implementation date of Sept. 1,” spokesperson Ryan King said in a statement.

Some advocates for college players want to go even further. A bill this year by state Sen. Sydney Kamlager would have required colleges to pay their athletes a royalty for use of their name, image and likeness if the revenue a sports program generates is more than double the amount it awards in athletic scholarships.  The bill, introduced when Kamlager was an Assemblymember, would also have beefed up enforcement of Title IX, the federal law barring sex discrimination in sports and other educational programs, and placed a cap on salaries for college coaches. 

It stalled in the Assembly. But the recent decisions by the Supreme Court and NCAA could pave the way for California to take more aggressive action on athlete compensation going forward, said Ramogi Huma, the executive director of the National College Players Association, which advocates for the rights of college athletes.  

“A 9-0 decision saying that this is an exploitative industry and college athletes deserve more compensation should be a green light for the state of California to once again reshape college sports in a way that’s more equitable for players,” Huma said. 

Reagan is an intern with the CalMatters College Journalism Network, a collaboration between CalMatters and student journalists from across California. This story and other higher education coverage are supported by the College Futures Foundation.

WATCH RELATED: California to let college athletes sign endorsement deals, defying NCAA (Sept. 2019)

[embedded content]

Author: Matthew Reagan
Read more here >>> CBS8 – Sports

Supreme Court Term Marked by Conservative Majority in Flux

The chief justice’s power waned, and the three Trump justices grew more influential. The term ended with an exclamation point, with the court imposing new limits on the Voting Rights Act.

WASHINGTON — There were two very different Supreme Courts in the term that just ended.

For much of the last nine months, the court seemed to have defied predictions that the newly expanded conservative majority of six Republican appointees would regularly steamroll their three liberal colleagues.

Rather than issuing polarized decisions split along ideological lines, the court was fluid and unpredictable. There was no longer a single swing justice whose vote would often decide close cases, as Justice Anthony M. Kennedy had until he retired in 2018, or as Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. did in the term that ended last summer.

Instead, the center of the court came to include four conservative justices who in various combinations occasionally joined the court’s three-member liberal wing to form majorities in divided cases.

But on Thursday, in rulings that gave states new latitude to restrict voting rights and limited disclosure requirements for big donors to charities, the court made clear that the conservative supermajority is still there, perhaps to emerge in a more assertive way in the term that starts in October, when the justices will take up blockbuster cases on abortion and gun rights.

Over the course of what was until its end a relatively placid term, there were six decisions that split 6 to 3 along ideological lines in argued cases with signed majority opinions.

Overall, the three-member liberal bloc was in the majority in 13 of the 28 divided decisions, having attracted at least two votes from the court’s six-member conservative majority. Those votes most frequently came from Chief Justice Roberts and the three newest justices, all appointed by President Donald J. Trump: Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, who joined the court in October.


Conservative Justices Most Likely to Join the Democratic Appointees

The three-member liberal bloc was in the majority in 13 of 28 nonunanimous decisions this term. How often each member of the conservative bloc joined them:




Kavanaugh

85% (11/13 cases)

Barrett

70% (7/10)

Roberts

69% (9/13)

Gorsuch

62% (8/13)

Thomas

46% (6/13)

Alito

23% (3/13)

Kavanaugh

85% (11/13 cases)

Barrett

70% (7/10)

Roberts

69% (9/13)

Gorsuch

62% (8/13)

Thomas

46% (6/13)

Alito

23% (3/13)


Note: Justice Barrett did not vote in all cases.·Source: The Supreme Court Database by Lee Epstein and Andrew D. Martin, Washington University in St. Louis, and Kevin Quinn, University of Michigan.

After steering the court through the term that ended a year ago, Chief Justice Roberts is no longer in the driver’s seat, said Lisa S. Blatt, a lawyer with Williams & Connolly who argues frequently before the court. “The loss of control by the chief justice felt palpable,” she said.

But even as Chief Justice Roberts lost power, some of the values associated with him — incrementalism and deep concern for institutional legitimacy — remained evident in at least some of the court’s work.

“Notwithstanding President Trump’s three appointments, this term suggests that it’s too early to write an obituary for the Roberts court,” said David Cole, the national legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union. “With the notable exception of its Voting Rights Act decision, in many of its most important decisions, the court adopted the sort of minimalism Roberts has long championed, and by deciding cases narrowly, reached agreement across the predicted partisan divides.”

Many of the term’s more important decisions were unanimous or lopsided. When there were dissents or aggrieved concurrences, the disgruntlement often came from the right.

The court’s ruling that the N.C.A.A. cannot bar modest payments to student-athletes was unanimous. So was, at least on the bottom line, its decision in favor of a Catholic social services agency that refused to screen same-sex couples as potential foster parents.

In that second case, though, three conservative members of the court — Justices Gorsuch, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Clarence Thomas — issued scathing concurring opinions accusing the majority of issuing a ruling so narrow as to be useless.

The same pattern held in some decisions decided by large majorities. The one protecting the free speech rights of a cheerleader who sent vulgar Snapchat messages was 8 to 1, with only Justice Thomas dissenting. The decision rejecting the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act was 7 to 2, with Justices Alito and Gorsuch dissenting.

There were, of course, some significant cases even before Thursday in which the Republican and Democratic appointees divided 6 to 3 along the usual lines. In one, the court ruled against a California regulation that allowed labor unions to recruit farm workers on private property. In another, the court ruled that juvenile offenders need not be deemed beyond hope of rehabilitation before they are sentenced to die in prison.

Overall, Mr. Cole said, the court was sensitive to individual rights, particularly ones favored by the right.

“The new court is definitely conservative, but that doesn’t mean it is necessarily hostile to civil liberties,” he said. “It protected many liberties that conservatives favor, including religious liberty, property rights, free speech, the privacy of the home and the right of the wealthy to donate to charities anonymously.”

The court was unanimous 46 percent of the time when all nine justices participated, about five percentage points higher than its average since 2010.


Most Common Vote Splits

The justices were more likely to vote in unison than past courts.




2020 term

5-4 cases

80-year average

6-3 cases

7-2 cases

8-1 cases

9-0 cases

0% of cases

10%

20%

30%

40%

50%

2020 term

5-4 cases

80-year average

6-3 cases

7-2 cases

8-1 cases

9-0 cases

0%

of cases

10%

20%

30%

40%


Source: The Supreme Court Database by Lee Epstein and Andrew D. Martin, Washington University in St. Louis, and Kevin Quinn, University of Michigan.

“This term bears the mark of the chief justice in several respects — narrow decisions that seem full of compromise but also decisions that confirm his decidedly conservative stripes,” said Allison Orr Larsen, a professor at William & Mary Law School. “Given the highly-charged cases to come next year, I would expect more of the latter and less of the former.”

Justice Kavanaugh was in the majority more than any other member of the court. Indeed, over his Supreme Court career, which began in 2018 after a tumultuous and highly partisan confirmation fight, he has been in the majority 87 percent of the time in divided cases, beating the career records of all justices appointed since 1937.

In the last term, Justice Kavanaugh was in the majority in divided cases 93 percent of the time, followed by the chief justice, at 86 percent, and the two other Trump appointees, Justices Barrett and Gorsuch, at 79 and 75 percent. Those four justices make up the new center of the court, according to data compiled by Lee Epstein and Andrew D. Martin of Washington University in St. Louis and Kevin Quinn of the University of Michigan.


How the Justices’ Ideological Scores Shifted

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the three justices nominated by President Trump clustered in the ideological center-right of the court.




MORE LIBERAL

MORE CONSERVATIVE

Kavanaugh

Sotomayor

Ginsburg

Breyer

Kagan

Roberts

Gorsuch

Alito

Thomas

2019 term

2020 term

Barrett

2019

2020

Thomas

Alito

Gorsuch

Barrett

Kavanaugh

MORE

CONSERVATIVE

Roberts

MORE

LIBERAL

Kagan

Breyer

Ginsburg

Sotomayor

MORE LIBERAL

MORE CONSERVATIVE

Kavanaugh

Sotomayor

Ginsburg

Breyer

Kagan

Roberts

Gorsuch

Alito

Thomas

2019

term

2020

term

Barrett

2019

2020

Thomas

Alito

Gorsuch

Barrett

Kavanaugh

MORE

CONSERVATIVE

Roberts

MORE

LIBERAL

Kagan

Breyer

Ginsburg

Sotomayor


Justices are sorted left to right by their Martin-Quinn scores, which estimate ideology based on voting patterns.·Source: The Supreme Court Database by Lee Epstein and Andrew D. Martin, Washington University in St. Louis, and Kevin Quinn, University of Michigan.

Before the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September and the arrival of Justice Barrett the next month, voting patterns at the court were more predictable, with four-member liberal and conservative wings and Chief Justice Roberts in the middle.

This term, several justices mostly shared a generally cautious approach, Ms. Blatt said.

“Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kavanaugh and Barrett strike me as institutionalist,” she said, “meaning they recognize that their place in our constitutional structure depends in large part on the public’s acceptance of the court as an independent branch of government free from politics.”

Justice Barrett is still coming into focus, and early voting patterns can be deceiving. Studies have shown that there are “freshman effects” on the Supreme Court that do not always predict long-term trends. Early in their tenures, for instance, justices are less apt to dissent.

Data on argued cases do not take account of the court’s “shadow docket,” which includes rulings on emergency applications decided after only rushed briefings, without oral arguments and often in late-night orders that contain little or no reasoning. During the Trump administration, such rulings spiked, and the court decided many important cases in such cursory fashion.

Some of those decisions demonstrated the impact of the arrival of Justice Barrett more vividly than the regular docket. Before Justice Ginsburg died, the court sustained state restrictions on attendance at religious services prompted by the coronavirus pandemic. The votes were 5 to 4, with Chief Justice Roberts joining what was then a four-member liberal wing to form majorities in cases from California and Nevada.

After Justice Barrett joined the court, it started to strike down similar restrictions, again by a 5-to-4 vote, with the chief justice now in dissent. Those rulings did more than decide isolated disputes. They articulated a new understanding of the scope of the Constitution’s protection of the free exercise of religion, one that critics said should have been the product of more sustained and careful deliberation.

Something similar happened in a series of emergency applications in election disputes, where shifting majorities of justices tended to rule that federal courts should not change voting procedures enacted by state legislatures even as they declined to interfere when state courts or agencies change those procedures.

But the court in December soundly rejected a lawsuit by Texas asking it to throw out the election results in four battleground states that Mr. Trump had lost. Two months later, the court rejected Mr. Trump’s last-ditch effort to shield his financial records from prosecutors in New York, with no noted dissents.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer, 82, “played a starring role this term,” Ms. Blatt said. Indeed, Justice Breyer — the target of pressure from some activists on the left to retire at the end of the term to ensure that his successor would be considered by the Senate while Democrats control the chamber — wrote consequential majority opinions in several cases, including the ones on the Affordable Care Act and students’ First Amendment rights.


Agreement Among the Justices

While the highest levels of agreement were among justices in the same ideological blocs, some pairs, particularly among the more conservative justices, agreed much less often than they did last term.




91%

Breyer-Sotomayor

Highest

agreement

Kavanaugh-Roberts

91

Gorsuch-Thomas

83

Sotomayor-Thomas

Lowest

agreement

26%

Alito-Kagan

26

Gorsuch-Sotomayor

26

Alito-Sotomayor

22

Last term

68%

Kagan-Roberts

Agreed less

than last term

39%

85

Alito-Thomas

61

50

Gorsuch-Sotomayor

26

79

Gorsuch-Roberts

57

24%

Kagan-Thomas

Agreed more

than last term

48%

65

Gorsuch-Thomas

83

74

Breyer-Sotomayor

91

65

Alito-Roberts

78

Highest agreement

Breyer-Sotomayor

91%

Kavanaugh-Roberts

91

Gorsuch-Thomas

83

Lowest agreement

Sotomayor-Thomas

26%

Alito-Kagan

26

Gorsuch-Sotomayor

26

Alito-Sotomayor

22

Last term

Agreed less

than last term

68%

Kagan-Roberts

39%

85

Alito-Thomas

61

50

Gorsuch-Sotomayor

26

79

Gorsuch-Roberts

57

Agreed more

than last term

24%

Kagan-Thomas

48%

65

Gorsuch-Thomas

83

74

Breyer-Sotomayor

91

65

Alito-Roberts

78


Source: The Supreme Court Database by Lee Epstein and Andrew D. Martin, Washington University in St. Louis, and Kevin Quinn, University of Michigan.

On the whole, Justice Breyer’s voting record in the last term tilted left. He voted with Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court’s most liberal member, 91 percent of the time in divided cases in which all of the justices participated, up 18 percentage points from the previous term. Only one other pair of justices agreed that often: Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kavanaugh, also at 91 percent.

At the other end of the spectrum, Justices Alito and Sotomayor agreed just 22 percent of the time. And there were signs of division on the right side of the court. Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, Mr. Trump’s first two appointees, agreed 65 percent of the time, down 20 percentage points from the previous term.

The court decided just 54 argued cases with signed opinions, the second-smallest number since the 1860s. The smallest was in the last term, at 53.


The Court is Deciding Fewer Cases

The number of decisions in argued cases has fallen fairly steadily since the 1980s.




150

100

50

54 decisions

1980

1990

2000

2010

2020

150

100

50

54 decisions

1980

1990

2000

2010

2020


Source: The Supreme Court Database by Lee Epstein and Andrew D. Martin, Washington University in St. Louis, and Kevin Quinn, University of Michigan.

The court’s docket in the term that starts in October may not be larger, but it will contain at least two potentially far-reaching cases: a challenge to the constitutional right to abortion established in Roe v. Wade and the most important Second Amendment case in more than a decade.

Marin K. Levy, a law professor at Duke, said the decision issued on Thursday upholding voting restrictions in Arizona “fundamentally changed how this term will be remembered.”

“It puts an exclamation point on what had otherwise been a fairly quiet term,” she said. “It also sets the tone for next year, when the court will hear cases on hot-button topics including gun regulation and abortion.”

Author: Adam Liptak and Alicia Parlapiano
Read more here >>> NYT > Top Stories

Bill Cosby releases statement thanking court that overturned his conviction

Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction was overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Wednesday, leading to his release from prison.

WASHINGTON — Bill Cosby thanked fans, supporters and Pennsylvania’s highest court Wednesday, hours after his sexual assault conviction was overturned, leading to his release from prison after three years. 

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court said Wednesday that District Attorney Kevin Steele, who made the decision to arrest Cosby, was obligated to stand by his predecessor’s promise not to charge Cosby, though there was no evidence that agreement was ever put in writing. That led to Cosby’s release.

“I have never changed my stance nor my story. I have always maintained my innocence,” Cosby said in a post on Twitter. “Thank you to all my fans, supporters and friends who stood by me through this ordeal. Special thanks to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for upholding the rule of law.”

Earlier in the day, Cosby returned to his Elkins Park, Pa., home on the outskirts of Philadelphia and faced a gaggle of media assembled outside during a press conference. He didn’t speak, only looking toward his legal representatives when asked for comment. 

Members of his legal team said Cosby is “extremely happy to be home” and declared that “what we saw today is justice.”

“We are thrilled to have Mr. Cosby home,” said Jennifer Bonjean, a representative for Cosby. “He served three years of an unjust sentence. He did it with dignity and principle and he was a mentor to other inmates. He was really, as I say, ‘doin’ time time was not doin’ him.'” 

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court said Wednesday that District Attorney Kevin Steele, who made the decision to arrest Cosby, was obligated to stand by his predecessor’s promise not to charge Cosby, though there was no evidence that agreement was ever put in writing.

Bonjean continued saying, “He had every right to rely on the prosecutors’ word and they pulled the rug out from underneath him.

“When that happens there cannot be a just sentence. And, if there had been a just verdict and a just sentence, we wouldn’t be here fighting. And I think it’s really important that we keep our eye on the ball that our constitution is sacred. And that we need to uphold that at all times. And I’m glad that the Pennsylvania supreme court saw that,” she added.

The comedian spent nearly three years in prison before being released early from his 3-10 year sentence.

RELATED: Bill Cosby out of prison after serving nearly 3 years

Author: Douglas Jones
This post originally appeared on CBS8 – Entertainment

US Supreme Court to hear case involving Austin's ordinance on billboards

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A case involving the City of Austin will be heard before the U.S. Supreme Court during the next term, starting October 2021.

The City of Austin, Texas v. Reagan National Advertising of Texas Inc. will take a look at the City’s ordinance regarding billboards.

Austin’s local ordinance allows businesses to use digital billboards on-premises, but digital off-premises signs are not permitted.

Reagan National Advertising of Texas Inc. applied for permits to digitize 84 off-premises billboards and sued the City when the permits were denied, according to the Supreme Court docket.

The Supreme Court will answer the question of whether Austin’s distinction between on and off-premises signs is unconstitutional.

A spokesperson for the City told KXAN it believes Austin’s ordinances allow “ample room for free speech in advertising.”

“The City welcomes the United States Supreme Court’s action taking up review of the constitutionality of our local ordinance regulating billboards. Cities all across the country, including Austin, must grapple with balancing the public policy needs of ensuring traffic safety and protecting local aesthetic values, while also allowing ample room for free speech in advertising. We believe our ordinances do that and are pleased that the Court now has given us an opportunity to explain why what we’ve done achieves the correct balance.”

City of Austin spokesperson

Author: Andrew Schnitker
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin