Tag: judge

Lake George board, superintendent violated open meeting law, judge rules

LAKE GEORGE – A ruling from a state Supreme Court justice determined the central school district’s superintendent and board of education violated an open meetings law, but did not give Lake George United for Education what they wanted — their assistant principal back.

Justice Thomas Nolan’s Sept. 30 decision concluded that the breach of the open meetings law doesn’t void or reverse the board’s March 2018 resolution to remove Assistant Principal Cody Conley in favor of hiring a curriculum coordinator.

“The topic that was discussed was one permitted to be discussed in executive session,” Nolan wrote in his decision. “This does not evince, in this court’s judgment, either conscious or malicious or deliberate effort by the Board to violate the law or that the Board has engaged in a documented, persistent pattern of such violations.”

The decision, as first reported by the Post-Star of Glens Falls, the judge declined to award legal fees to LGUE, a community group that filed the Article 78 lawsuit against the school board and Superintendent Lynne Rutnik.

The decision did not satisfy Patricia Dow, the lead petitioner on the LGUE lawsuit.


“While LGUE is disappointed that the Supreme Court was unwilling to impose any consequences on the superintendent and board of education for depriving the public of its statutory right to observed the regular business of the board, we are grateful that the court agreed that the law was violated,” Dow said in a written statement.

Dow said that the board and superintendent misled the public when they announced their executive session was held to discuss an employee’s history, not a position elimination and Nolan agreed.

However, in her statement, Dow also said that the superintendent didn’t consult the district’s professional staff  before deciding to eliminate Conley’s position, showing the superintendent was “unwilling to collaborate with district professionals on how best to deliver critically needed services to our students.”

Rutnik has said the reason for not consulting staff was because the decision “was too difficult to make with a great deal of objectivity.”

Even though Dow didn’t get everything that the suit was meant to achieve, LGUE has won over voters. All of the 2018 board member are gone. One of the last, Tom Seguljic, lost his bid for re-election this year.

The board is now packed with members of LGUE including Jeannine Beiber, who husband was a petitioner on the suit against the district, and Melissa Seale who was an original petitioner. (She dropped her name from the suit at some point.) Also on the board from LGUE are President Tricia Connor Biles, Katie Bruenig, Maryanne MacKenzie and Rosemarie Earl. The only person on the board who is independent of LGUE is Lin King whose term ends in 2022.

Rutnik did not return a Times Union phone call to discuss how the LGUE-led board could affect her employment with the district when her contract expires 2024. She did release a statement, however.

“This decision presents an opportunity for the LGCSD board of education and

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Amy Coney Barrett to say she will judge cases on law not personal views | US news

Amy Coney Barrett, Donald Trump’s latest controversial nominee for the US supreme court, will tell senators in her high-stakes confirmation hearing this week that she will approach cases based on the law, not her personal views, as Democrats urged her to step aside on upcoming contentious cases.

Barrett, a fervent Catholic with a record of opposing abortion rights, will say that courts “should not try” to create policy, during Monday’s opening remarks, which were obtained by multiple media outlets on Sunday.

Barrett, a Trump-appointed judge now serving on the US seventh circuit court of appeals, will also say that she’s “done my utmost to reach the result required by the law, whatever my own preferences might be” in her present position. Senate Democrats are expected to grill Barrett on this.

Trump nominated Barrett to replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September at the age of 87. If the Republican-controlled Senate confirms her, which is considered likely, it will create a 6-3 conservative majority in the country’s highest court.

Many conservatives hope such a majority will overturn Roe v Wade, a 1973 supreme court ruling that legalized abortion across the US.

The Senate has never confirmed a supreme court justice so close to a presidential election. Democrats have tried unsuccessfully to delay the confirmation proceedings, because of the close-looming election and coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 214,000 people in the US and infected more than 7.7 million.

Multiple attendees at the Rose Garden ceremony where Trump announced Barrett’s nomination two weeks ago have been diagnosed with Covid-19, including the president himself.

Republicans are rushing to confirm Barrett in advance of the 3 November election, in time to weigh a high-profile case that can undermine the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. And if they confirm Barrett before the election, she would hear any challenges involving the election and voting.

Republicans are also working quickly because they might not be able to confirm her after the election. If Democrat Joe Biden wins the presidency, and Democrats amass senate seats, Barrett’s nomination is likely to hit roadblocks.

In her remarks, Barrett will say that she has decided to uphold the same approach as her mentor, the late supreme court justice Antonin Scalia, whom she described as devoted to his family, “resolute in his beliefs, and fearless of criticism”. The mother-of-seven will also extensively discuss her family. She will say that she won’t let the law define her identity or overshadow other parts of her life.

She will remark that courts are “not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life”.

“The policy decisions and value judgments of government must be made by the political branches elected by and accountable to the People … the public should not expect courts to do so, and courts should not try.”

Barrett will also say that serving as a justice would be the “honor of a lifetime”.

“I have been nominated to fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat,

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Judge throws out Trump campaign’s Pennsylvania lawsuit

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We’ve heard a lot about voter suppression as we approach Election Day. So what is it and how does it manifest itself? The Associated Press explains. (Oct. 5)

AP Domestic

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A federal judge in Pennsylvania on Saturday threw out a lawsuit filed by President Donald Trump’s campaign, dismissing its challenges to the battleground state’s poll-watching law and its efforts to limit how mail-in ballots can be collected and which of them can be counted.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan — who was appointed by Trump — in Pittsburgh also poured cold water on Trump’s claims that election fraud.

Trump’s campaign said it would appeal at least one element of the decision, with barely three weeks to go until Election Day in a state hotly contested by Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

The lawsuit was opposed by the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, the state Democratic Party, the League of Women Voters, the NAACP’s Pennsylvania office and other allied groups.

“The ruling is a complete rejection of the continued misinformation about voter fraud and corruption, and those who seek to sow chaos and discord ahead of the upcoming election,” Wolf’s office said in a statement.

Ohio officials refute Trump: President claims ‘rigged election’ after wrong ballots sent to 50K voters

The state’s attorney general, Josh Shapiro, a Democrat whose office fought the Trump campaign’s claims, called the lawsuit a political stunt designed to sow doubt in the state’s election.

“We told the Trump campaign and the president, ‘put up or shut up’ to his claims of voter fraud in Pennsylvania,” Shapiro told The Associated Press. “It’s important to note they didn’t even need to prove actual voter fraud, just that it was likely or impending, and they couldn’t even do that.”

Trump’s campaign said in a statement that it looked forward to a quick decision from the appeals court “that will further protect Pennsylvania voters from the Democrats’ radical voting system.”

The lawsuit is one of many partisan battles being fought in the state Legislature and the courts, primarily over mail-in voting in Pennsylvania, amid concerns that a presidential election result will hang in limbo for days on a drawn-out vote count in Pennsylvania.

2020 election live updates: Biden hopes Trump makes sure he’s COVID ‘clear’ before events; Christie out of hospital

In this case, Trump’s campaign wanted the court to bar counties from using drop boxes or mobile sites to collect mail-in ballots that are not “staffed, secured, and employed consistently within and across all 67 of Pennsylvania’s counties.” Trump’s campaign said it would appeal the matter of drop boxes.

More than 20 counties — including Philadelphia and most other heavily populated Democratic-leaning counties — have told the state elections office that they plan to use drop boxes and satellite election offices to help collect the massive number of mail-in ballots they expect to receive.

Trump’s campaign also wanted the court to free county election officials to disqualify

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Judge throws out Trump campaign’s challenge to Pennsylvania’s poll-watching law | National politics

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Election 2020 Lawsuits Glance

In this Sept. 29, 2020, file photo Philadelphia City Council President Darrell L. Clarke fills out an application for a mail-in ballot before voting at the opening of a satellite election office at Temple University’s Liacouras Center in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania has seen a frenzy of election-related lawsuits as state officials prepare for some 3 million people, about half the expected turnout, to cast mail-in ballots. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)




HARRISBURG, Pa. — A federal judge in Pennsylvania on Saturday threw out a lawsuit filed by President Donald Trump’s campaign, dismissing its challenges to the battleground state’s poll-watching law and its efforts to limit how mail-in ballots can be collected and which of them can be counted.

Elements of the ruling by U.S. District Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan could be appealed by Trump’s campaign, with barely three weeks to go until Election Day in a state hotly contested by Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Trump’s campaign wanted the court to free county election officials to disqualify mail-in ballots where the voter’s signature may not match their signature on file and to remove a county residency requirement in state law on certified poll watchers.

It also wanted the court to bar counties from using drop boxes or mobile sites to collect mail-in ballots that are not “staffed, secured, and employed consistently within and across all 67 of Pennsylvania’s counties.”

The lawsuit was opposed by the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, and the state Democratic Party.

The decision comes as Trump claims he can only lose the state if Democrats cheat and, as he did in 2016′s campaign, suggests that the Democratic bastion of Philadelphia needs to be watched closely for election fraud.

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Nearly 85,000 Inmates Entitled to Stimulus Checks; Judge Finds Exclusion Is ‘Likely Contrary to Law’

After the Internal Revenue Service deemed incarcerated individuals ineligible for a stimulus check, a judge found the agency was most likely doing so against the law and ruled it must reissue payments that were previously denied or forcibly returned.



text, letter: President Donald Trump's name appears on the coronavirus economic assistance checks that were sent to citizens across the country April 29 in Washington, D.C. On September 24, a judge ruled that incarcerated individuals otherwise eligible for a payment cannot have their payments withheld.


© Chip Somodevilla/Getty
President Donald Trump’s name appears on the coronavirus economic assistance checks that were sent to citizens across the country April 29 in Washington, D.C. On September 24, a judge ruled that incarcerated individuals otherwise eligible for a payment cannot have their payments withheld.

Nearly 85,000 incarcerated individuals received payments worth $100 million, according to a report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). After issuing the payments, the IRS instructed anyone who received them to either repay the direct deposit or return the voided check, as they were made in error. But the federal judge ruled on September 24 that incarceration status doesn’t disqualify a person from receiving a stimulus check.

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The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was passed unanimously in Congress and was signed into law in March, provided for $1,200 payments to individuals and $2,400 to joint filers. Aside from the income threshold, the CARES Act identified an “eligible individual” as anyone other than a “nonresident alien individual,” a person who is claimed as a dependent on another person’s tax return, or a trust or estate.

“Incarcerated persons who otherwise qualify for an advance refund are not excluded as an ‘eligible individual,'” U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton wrote in her ruling. “The IRS’s decision to exclude incarcerated persons from advance refund payments is likely contrary to law.”

Hamilton’s ruling came about three months after a lawsuit was filed on behalf of Colin Scholl and Lisa Strawn challenging the IRS’ decision to deem incarcerated individuals ineligible for payments. In it, they requested class status for those who were incarcerated from March 27 and an injunction requiring the IRS to automatically issue payments to those incarcerated people who are eligible. Along with the injunction, Hamilton also granted the plaintiffs’ the class status.

HEROES vs. HEALS Act: How Stimulus Packages Differ Ahead Of Second Coronavirus Relief Aid

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This isn’t the first time the issue of whether incarcerated individuals qualify for a stimulus check has arisen. In 2009, stimulus checks worth $250 were sent to some incarcerated individuals as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Of the 3,900 incarcerated individuals who received payments, 2,200 of them got to keep their checks because the law contained language allowing them to, the Associated Press reported at the time.

Under ARRA, people receiving certain federal benefits were eligible for a payment if they received the benefit within the three months before the package’s enactment. While incarcerated people are generally ineligible for federal benefits, if a person wasn’t incarcerated in the three months before the package’s enactment, he or she would have still been eligible for a stimulus check, Mark Lassiter, a spokesman for the Social Security Administration,

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Barr blasted by federal judge for lacking diversity on panel studying law enforcement

A federal judge last week blocked a Justice Department commission studying issues plaguing the law enforcement community from releasing its report because the panel excluded civil-rights leaders.

U.S. District Judge John Bates ruled that the much-ballyhooed Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires government committees to receive input from “fairly balanced” viewpoints.

Judge Bates, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote in his 45-page opinion that the commission was full of law enforcement officials, but none of the members have “a criminal defense, civil rights, or community organization background.”

The judge also scolded the Justice Department for holding closed-door meetings and failing to notify the public when meetings would take place. So far, the commission has held more than 20 meetings, according to Judge Bates’ opinion.

“Especially in 2020, when racial justice and civil rights issues involving law enforcement have erupted across the nation, one may legitimately question whether it is sound policy to have a group with little diversity of experience, examine, behind closed doors, the sensitive issues facing law enforcement and the criminal justice system in America today,” he wrote.

The commission was expected to release its report later this month, ahead of the 2020 presidential election. President Trump has made law enforcement and public safety one of the central themes of his reelection campaign.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) filed the lawsuit earlier this year seeking more diversity on the commission. Attorney General William P. Barr and the Justice Department were both named as defendants.

Justice Department lawyers had argued that the commission was not subject to the Federal Advisory Committee Act. Department, but did not challenge claims it would run afoul of the law, if applicable.

Judge Bates ruled that the LDF had suffered an injury because its voice was denied access to the commission. He ordered both parties to submit additional briefs on how to ensure the commission has a “fairly balanced” membership.

“Because Attorney General Barr appointed the Commissioners at the same time as establishing the Commission, and only selected from those with law enforcement backgrounds, it does not appear that LDF and its representatives had an opportunity to formally apply for Commission membership,” Judge Bates wrote.

Mr. Barr unveiled the commission in January, following an executive order in October 2019. It is tasked with studying mental illness, homelessness, substance abuse and other issues that impact law enforcement efforts to reduce crime.

At the time, the Justice Department said the panel would explore “modern issues affecting law enforcement that most impact the ability of the American people to reduce crime.”

All of the commission’s 18 members work in law enforcement, and no defense attorneys, civil rights organizations or academics were included. The commission has 15 working groups, but they are largely made up of police officials or prosecutors.

Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s president and director-counsel, hailed the decision as “an important step in the right direction.”

“The country has been demanding accountability for police

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Judge: Vanity plate law likely violates First Amendment

AP

October 4, 2020 | 4:01 PM

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A Rhode Island law allowing the Division of Motor Vehicles to reject vanity license plates that are “offensive to good taste” likely violates the First Amendment, a federal judge ruled.

The judge issued a preliminary injunction Friday in support of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law, which gives the DMV administrator the authority to deny vanity plates based on whether he or she thinks they “might carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency.”

The lawsuit was filed in March against Walter Craddock, state DMV administrator, by the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island on behalf of Sean Carroll.

Carroll, a Tesla owner, was ordered by the DMV to turn in his plate “FKGAS” or have his registration canceled after the division received a complaint about the plate.

Carroll said the plate was his daughter’s suggestion, intending a meaning of “fake gas” to refer to the electric car. He doesn’t contest, however, that the plate could also be perceived as sending a different message that included profanity; he was supportive of that one, too.

The division has approved over 41,000 vanity plates, denied dozens of others, and maintains a list of more than 1,000 prohibited license plate combinations. The suit noted the arbitrary nature of the list and the DMV’s decisions; the judge agreed.

The state argued that the case should be dismissed, saying that licenses plates reflected government speech, not private speech, the law was reasonable, and that Carroll hadn’t established his case.

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Judge halts Trump and Barr law enforcement report, citing commission’s lack of diversity

A federal judge’s ruling on Thursday stopped next month’s expected release of a report from a presidential commission created to study American law enforcement. Judge John Bates ruled that the commission, comprised solely of current and former law enforcement officials, lacked the diversity necessary to address issues plaguing policing. 

None of the 18 commissioners appointed to “study a broad range of issues regarding law enforcement and the criminal justice system,” and then make recommendations to the president through the report, have any background in “criminal defense, civil rights, or community organization,” Bates noted in his decision. 

“Especially in 2020,” Bates wrote, “when racial justice and civil rights issues involving law enforcement have erupted across the nation, one may legitimately question whether it is sound policy to have a group with little diversity of experience examine, behind closed doors, the sensitive issues facing law enforcement and the criminal justice system in America today.”

The court ruled in favor of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), which brought a lawsuit against both the commission and Attorney General William Barr. LDF argued that the government had violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), which requires transparency and “fairly balanced” membership on advisory committees. LDF alleged that it was “denied access to representation on the Commission,” by the government, and did not have an opportunity to formally apply for Commission membership.

Bates concluded that the government did not satisfy the obligations of “forming and conducting a commission in 2020 to examine the sensitive and important issues affecting American law enforcement and the communities they serve.” The court thereby ordered that “Commission proceedings be halted — and no work product released — until the requirements of FACA are satisfied.”

“Any federal committee designed to make recommendations about law enforcement must include representation from people and communities impacted by police violence, civil rights organizations, the criminal defense bar, and other stakeholders,” Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s President and Director-Counsel, said in a statement following Bates’ decision. 

Barr established the “Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice” in January, following an October executive order from President Trump. 

Months later, George Floyd died after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes, sparking a mass call for reform. Over the following three months, from May 26 to August 31, police continued to kill Black men and women at disproportionate rates. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Black people make up roughly 13.4% of the U.S. population — but they accounted for about 20% of people killed by police during that time period. 

In announcing the commission in January, Barr wrote that the “most troubling” issue facing police is the “continued lack of trust and respect for law enforcement that persists in many communities.” Adding, “So while it is important that we always strive to better our police, police also deserve better from us. Nobody wins when law enforcement do not have the trust of the people they protect.”

Barr noted that

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Judge halts work of Trump police commission after NAACP complaint

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While discussing the shooting of Jacob Blake on ‘The Ingraham Angle,’ President Trump said some police officers who shoot unarmed suspects ‘choke.’

USA TODAY

A federal judge Thursday halted the work of a national law enforcement advisory commission authorized by President Donald Trump as part of a legal challenge to the group’s composition and claims that it lacked representation from police reform and civil rights groups.

The order issued by U.S. District Judge John Bates comes weeks before the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice was due to deliver to Attorney General William Barr its findings on challenges facing local police.

While the The commission was directed to produce a “fresh evaluation of the salient issues affecting American law enforcement and the communities they protect,” civil rights advocates claimed that it has served to support “unfounded yet repeated public assertions” by the president and the attorney general that there is lack of respect for police.

 “That purpose is evident in the composition of the commission, which is stacked with members that are exclusively from a law enforcement background,” the NAACP Defense & Educational Fund Inc. claimed in its initial complaint. “Not a single member of the commission is a defense attorney, criminologist or other relevant academic, public-health practitioner, mental health or addiction-recovery treatment provider, offender reentry coordinator, social worker, or formerly incarcerated individual.”

Attorney General William Barr stands by President Trump as he speaks to Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth and Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis Sept. 1, 2020 in Kenosha, Wis. (Photo: Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Bates, in a 45-page opinion, concluded that the government had not met its obligation to “ensure transparency and fairly balanced (committee) membership … during this time of great turmoil over racial injustice and allegations of police misconduct.”

“The attorney general stressed the need to hear from a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives such as “community organizations, civic leadership, civil rights and victim’s rights organizations, criminal defense attorneys, academia, social service organizations, and other entities that regularly interact with American law enforcement,” Bates wrote. “Despite these stated goals, however, the commission’s membership consists entirely of current and former law enforcement officials.”

The judge also took issue with the commission’s proceedings, describing them as “far from transparent.”

“Especially in 2020, when racial justice and civil rights issues involving law enforcement have erupted across the nation, one may legitimately question whether it is sound policy to have a group with little diversity of experience examine, behind closed doors, the sensitive issues facing law enforcement and the criminal justice system in America today,” Bates wrote.

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Trump Law Enforcement Commission Report Blocked by U.S. Judge

(Bloomberg) — A U.S. judge blocked a federal commission from releasing a final report on ways to improve policing, faulting the panel for doing its work behind closed doors and failing to include people with diverse views.

President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr created the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice last year. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge John Bates in Washington ruled the panel had violated the law, in part because it was comprised entirely of current and former law enforcement officials.

The commission failed to obey a mandate of the Federal Advisory Committee Act that such groups be “fairly balanced” in the viewpoints represented and that they conduct meetings that are open to the public. The decision is a win for the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, which filed the suit challenging it.

“Especially in 2020, when racial justice and civil rights issues involving law enforcement have erupted across the nation, one may legitimately question whether it is sound policy to have a group with little diversity of experience examine, behind closed doors, the sensitive issues facing law enforcement and the criminal justice system in America today,” Bates said.

The Justice Department didn’t immediately return an email seeking comment.

The case is NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, 20-cv-01132, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

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