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Trump tabs Minnesota Justice Stras for federal appeals court
Legal News Digest | 2017/05/08 23:16
Minnesota Supreme Court Associate Justice David Stras, who was nominated by President Donald Trump to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday, once clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and believes in a limited role for the judiciary.

Stras, 42, a former University of Minnesota Law School professor, was on Trump's list of possible Supreme Court nominees. The 8th Circuit serves Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, and Arkansas.

The nomination is subject to Senate confirmation. Sen. Al Franken, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement he would take a close look at Stras' record. He criticized a nomination process that he said "relied heavily on guidance from far-right ... special interest groups."

Stras planned to issue a statement later Monday.

When Stras was appointed to the Minnesota court in 2010 by then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Thomas traveled to Minnesota to administer the oath.

"I remain mindful that the role of a judge is a limited one, and that judges can't solve every problem," Stras said then. "But at the same time, judges play a crucial role in safeguarding liberty and protecting the rights of all citizens."

Stras has held to those beliefs, said Peter Knapp, a professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law.



2 inmates seek execution stays from Arkansas high court
Legal News Digest | 2017/04/14 01:21
The first two inmates facing lethal injection under Arkansas' unprecedented multiple execution plan are seeking a stay from the state Supreme Court.

Attorneys for Don Davis and Bruce Ward asked justices Wednesday to block their executions, scheduled for Monday, while the U.S. Supreme Court takes up a case concerning access to independent mental health experts by defendants. The U.S. high court is set to hold oral arguments in that case April 24, a week after the two are set to be put to death.

The inmates' attorneys say they were denied access to independent mental health experts in their cases.

The two men are among seven inmates Arkansas plans to put to death over a 10-day period. The filing is among a flurry of lawsuits aimed at halting the executions.


Dems force 1-week delay on panel vote on Supreme Court pick
Legal News Digest | 2017/04/01 15:48
Senate Democrats on Monday forced a one-week delay in a committee vote on President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, who remains on track for confirmation with solid Republican backing.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, announced that, as expected, Democrats have requested a postponement. The committee vote on Judge Neil Gorsuch now will be held April 3.

As the committee readies to vote, three additional Democrats said they are likely to vote against the Denver-based appeals court judge. Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono said they will vote against Gorsuch, and Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy tweeted that he still was undecided but inclined to oppose him. Leahy is a senior member of the Judiciary panel and a former chairman.

That means at least 17 Democrats and independents, led by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, have announced their opposition to the Denver-based appeals court judge, arguing that Gorsuch has ruled too often against workers and in favor of corporations.

The Democrats who have announced their opposition have also said they will try to block the nominee, meaning Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will have to hold a procedural vote requiring 60 votes to move forward. The Senate GOP has a 52-48 majority, meaning McConnell will need support from at least eight Democrats or independents.

It was unclear whether he would be able to get the 60 votes. If he doesn't, McConnell seems ready to change Senate rules and confirm him with a simple majority.

Republicans had hoped that they'd see some support from the 10 Democrats running for re-election in states won by Trump in the presidential election, but four of those senators — Nelson, Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin — have already said they will oppose the nominee.

Leahy, however, signaled that he may be willing to break from Schumer and vote with Republicans on the procedural vote, while also signaling in a separate tweet he'd vote against Gorsuch in the final, up or down vote.



Supreme Court rejects appeal from flight-sharing company
Legal News Digest | 2017/01/09 20:23
The Supreme Court won't hear an appeal from a company that wants to offer flight-sharing services using a model similar to Uber.

The justices on Monday left in place a lower court ruling that said Boston-based Flytenow could not operate a website that connected private pilots with passengers willing to share fuel costs and other flight expenses.

The Federal Aviation Administration shut down the website in 2015 after finding that the service violated flight regulations.

Cost-sharing arrangements have long been allowed through word of mouth, bulletin boards and email. But the FAA said using a website was like advertising and subjected those pilots to the same elaborate safety regulations as commercial airlines.

Flytenow argued that it was applying modern technology to a practice that has been around for decades.


Grassley: GOP can't stonewall a Clinton Supreme Court pick
Legal News Digest | 2016/10/21 20:58
Republicans "can't just simply stonewall" nominees to the Supreme Court even if the president making the choice is Democrat Hillary Clinton, says the GOP chairman of the Judiciary Committee in a reaffirmation of the Senate's advise-and-consent role on judicial picks.

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley's comments on Tuesday was a response to fellow Republican Sen. John McCain, who a day earlier vowed that Republicans would unite against any nominee Clinton puts forward if she becomes president. That unprecedented pledge raised the possibility that the Supreme Court would have to operate for four years of a Clinton term with one or more vacancies, rather than nine justices.

The court has had one vacancy for months since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February. Republicans have refused to consider President Barack Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland, arguing that the next president should fill the opening.

"I think we have a responsibility to very definitely vet — if you want to use the word vet — whoever nominee that person puts forward," Grassley told radio reporters in Iowa. "We have the same responsibility for (Donald) Trump. We know more the type of people Trump would nominate because he's listed 20. They fall into the category of strict constructionists. As I heard about Hillary on the last debate, the type of people she's going to appoint, I would say they're judicial activists."

He added that the new president should make the choice and "if that new president happens to be Hillary. We can't just simply stonewall."

McCain's comments came in an interview with Philadelphia talk radio host Dom Giordano to promote the candidacy of Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., one of the more vulnerable GOP incumbents as Republicans scramble to hold onto their Senate majority.



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