TIME Courts

White House Fence Jumper’s Arraignment Delayed Over Mental-Health Concerns

New River Regional Jail booking photo of Omar Gonzalez
Alleged White House fence jumper Omar Gonzalez, 42, is shown in this New River Regional Jail booking photo released on September 23, 2014. Handout—Reuters

Judge orders a full mental-health competency evaluation

The indictment of Omar Gonzalez — the man who jumped the White House fence last month — was delayed on Tuesday, after a judge ruled that his mental competence to stand trial remained uncertain.

U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer made the decision after an earlier mental-health screening raised a few red flags, the Associated Press reported. Collyer ordered a full mental-health competency evaluation before Gonzalez is allowed to stand trial, a process that will likely delay the case by at least a few weeks.

Gonzalez is facing charges that include assault and unlawful possession of weapons after he reportedly scaled the fence of the White House’s North Lawn in mid-September, wielding a knife and assaulting two Secret Service agents. A subsequent search of his car revealed hundreds of rounds of ammunition, a hatchet and a machete.

Gonzalez apparently told a Secret Service agent after he was apprehended that he was concerned the atmosphere was collapsing and needed to inform the President.

TIME Courts

Court Justice Suspended Over Role in Porn Scandal

The court's action followed disclosures last week by Chief Justice Ronald Castille, a Republican, that McCaffery had sent or received 234 emails with sexually explicit content or pornography from late 2008 to May 2012

(HARRISBURG, Pa) — The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday suspended one of its members over his participation in a state government pornographic email scandal that involved employees of the attorney general’s office.

The court justices issued an order saying Justice Seamus McCaffery may not perform any judicial or administrative duties while the matter is reviewed by the Judicial Conduct Board, which investigates allegations of judicial misconduct.

The main order also noted allegations about McCaffery’s actions related to a traffic citation received by his wife, who is a lawyer, and referral fees she obtained while working for him as an administrative assistant. It also noted he “may have attempted to exert influence over a judicial assignment” in Philadelphia.

The Judicial Conduct Board was given a month to determine whether there is probable cause to file a misconduct charge against McCaffery, a Philadelphia Democrat elected to the seven-member bench in 2007.

McCaffery’s lawyer, Dion Rassias, said they were confident he will be cleared and will soon return to the bench.

The court’s action followed disclosures last week by Chief Justice Ronald Castille, a Republican, thatMcCaffery had sent or received 234 emails with sexually explicit content or pornography from late 2008 to May 2012. McCaffery apologized, calling it a lapse in judgment, but blasted Castille for “a vindictive pattern of attacks” against him.

A third justice, Michael Eakin, also a Republican, on Friday went public with a claim McCaffery had threatened to leak “inappropriate” emails Eakin had received if he didn’t side with McCaffery against Castille.

McCaffery denied threatening Eakin, who reported the matter to the Judicial Conduct Board. Neither Eakin nor McCaffery participated in the court’s decision.

Castille was among the four justices voting to suspend McCaffery with pay, along with Max Baer, Corry Stevens and Thomas Saylor. Justice Debra Todd dissented, saying she would have referred the matter, including the question of suspension, to the Judicial Conduct Board.

An internal review of how state prosecutors handled a child molestation case involving former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky turned up the email exchanges of pornographic images and videos. Four former employees of the prosecutors’ office have left their government jobs as a result.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who promised the Sandusky review during her 2012 campaign, has said current employees of the attorney general’s office also sent or received the emails and could face discipline.

Castille, responding to news reports that judges were involved, demanded any information Kane had concerning the participation of any justice, judge or district judge. Kane, a Democrat, turned over the emails linked to McCaffery, and Castille disclosed the results last Wednesday, saying no other justices were involved.

Castille said McCaffery sent most of the emails to an agent in the attorney general’s office, who then forwarded them to others.

McCaffery said “coarse language and crude jokes” were simply a part of his life as a Philadelphia policeman and a Marine.

TIME Courts

Justices Will Decide Privacy Case on Hotel Records

(WASHINGTON) — The Supreme Court agreed Monday to referee a dispute over police access to hotels’ guest information without first getting a search warrant.

The justices said they will hear an appeal by the city of Los Angeles of a lower court ruling that struck down an ordinance that requires hotel operators to open their guest registries at the demand of police.

The federal appeals court in San Francisco divided 7-4 in ruling that the ordinance violates the privacy rights of the hotels, but not their guests.

Courts in other parts of the country have upheld similar laws.

Cities argue that the ordinances help fight prostitution and illegal gambling, aid in the pursuit of fugitives and even could be a tool to track suspects following a terrorist attack.

Los Angeles has said the ordinance makes prostitutes and drug dealers less likely to use hotels if they know that the facilities must collect information about guests and make them available to police on a moment’s notice.

Judge Paul Watford wrote for the appeals court that the records are a hotel’s private property and “the hotel has the right to exclude others from prying into the contents of its records.”

In dissent, Judge Richard Clifton said that courts previously have ruled that hotel guests have no expectation of privacy in records of their names and room numbers. “A guest’s information is even less personal to the hotel than it is to the guest,” Clifton said.

The argument in the case known as Los Angeles v. Patel, 13-1175, will take place in the winter, with a decision expected by late June.

TIME Courts

The U.S. Supreme Court Upholds a California Ban on Foie Gras

Forbidden Foie Gras Goes Underground At California 'Duckeasies'
A worker performs "gavage," or force feeding, on ducks in the preparation of foie gras at Hudson Valley Farms in Ferndale, New York, U.S., on Sunday, July 15, 2012. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Haute diners in California will have to do without

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld California’s ban on foie gras, refusing to hear an appeal against the state’s kibosh on products made by “force feeding a bird for the purpose of enlarging the bird’s liver beyond a normal size,” Reuters reports.

Foie gras, French for “fatty liver,” is made by force-feeding corn to ducks and geese, a process that animal-rights activists have described as cruel and unethical. The birds’ unnaturally enlarged livers are then harvested for high-end dining.

A Los Angeles-based restaurant group, a foie gras producer in New York, and a group of foie gras farmers in Canada had challenged the ban, calling it a violation of federal protections barring states from interfering in interstate commerce, Reuters says.

The ban was passed in 2004 but went into effect in 2012, according to the Los Angeles Times.

[Reuters]

Read next: The Case Against Eating Ethically-Raised Meat

TIME justice

Supreme Court Halts Some Texas Abortion Restrictions

A group from Texas display their flags during a rally on the Mall for the March for Life anti-abortion demonstration on Jan. 22, 2014.
A group from Texas display their flags during a rally on the Mall for the March for Life anti-abortion demonstration on Jan. 22, 2014. Tom Williams—Roll Call/Getty Images

Justices suspended key parts of a law that has closed all but eight facilities providing abortions in the Lone Star state

The Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked key parts of a 2013 law in Texas that had closed all but eight facilities providing abortions in America’s second most-populous state.

In an unsigned order, the justices sided with abortion rights advocates and health care providers in suspending an Oct. 2 ruling by a panel of the New Orleans-based U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that Texas could immediately apply a rule making abortion clinics statewide spend millions of dollars on hospital-level upgrades.

The court also put on hold a separate provision of the law only as it applies to clinics in McAllen and El Paso that requires doctors at the facilities to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The admitting privileges remains in effect elsewhere in Texas.

Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas said they would have ruled against the clinics in all respects.

The 5th Circuit is still considering the overall constitutionality of the sweeping measure overwhelmingly passed by the GOP-controlled Texas Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry last year.

But even as it weighs the merits of the law, the appeals court said that it can be enforced in the meantime — opening the door for the emergency appeal to the Supreme Court.

The 5th Circuit decision had blocked an August ruling by Austin-based U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel, who had found that requiring hospital-style upgrades was less about safety than making access to abortion difficult. Yeakel’s ruling temporarily suspended the upgrade rules before they could go into effect Sept. 1 — and the order from the Supreme Court means they are on hold again.

Allowing the rules on hospital-level upgrades to be enforced — including mandatory operating rooms and air filtration systems — shuttered more than a dozen clinics across Texas.

Until the nation’s highest court intervened, only abortion facilities in the Houston, Austin, San Antonio and the Dallas-Fort Worth areas remained open. And none was left along the Texas-Mexico border or outside any of the state’s largest urban areas.

Some other clinics, meanwhile, had closed even earlier amid enforcement of the rule on admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. That portion has already been upheld twice by the appeals court.

The fight over the Texas law is the latest over tough new abortion restrictions that have been enacted across the country. The office of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican who is the favorite in next month’s governor’s race, is leading the defense of the law.

Critics call the measure a backdoor effort to outlaw abortions.

Attorneys for the state have denied that Texas women would be burdened by fewer abortion facilities, saying nearly 9 in 10 would still live within 150 miles of a provider. The law’s opponents, however, note that still leaves nearly a million Texas women embarking on drives longer than three hours to get an abortion.

Democrat Wendy Davis launched her campaign for governor behind the celebrity she achieved through a nearly 13-hour filibuster last summer that temporarily blocked the law in the state Senate.Justices stop parts of Texas abortion law

TIME Courts

Justice Kennedy Blocks Gay Marriage Ruling

Anthony Kennedy
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy speaks to faculty members at the University of Pennsylvania law school on Oct. 3, 2013, in Philadelphia. Matt Slocum—AP

(WASHINGTON) — Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy on Wednesday temporarily blocked an appeals court ruling that declared gay marriage legal in Idaho and Nevada.

Kennedy’s order came a little more than an hour after Idaho filed an emergency request for an immediate stay and about 10 minutes before the state said that state and county officials would otherwise have been required to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The order also applies to Nevada, where marriage licenses to same-sex couples were going to start to be issued later Wednesday.

The delay could last just a few days. Kennedy’s order requested a response from the plaintiffs involved in Idaho’s gay marriage lawsuit by the end of day Thursday.

The full court almost certainly would weigh in to extend the delay much beyond the weekend. That has been the justices’ practice in other cases in which a single justice initially blocked a ruling from taking effect.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco declared gay marriage legal in Idaho and Nevada on Tuesday. A day earlier, the Supreme Court let similar rulings from three other appeals courts become final and effectively raised to 30 the number of states where same-sex couples can marry, or soon will be able to do so.

Having allowed those other rulings to take effect without a full review by the Supreme Court, it would be surprising if the justices were to put the 9th circuit ruling on hold for any length of time.

The high court’s action Monday suggested that only an appellate ruling upholding a gay marriage ban would prompt the court to step in.

TIME Courts

Gay Marriage to Begin in Las Vegas, Idaho

Nevada state Senator Kelvin Atkinson rubs tears from the eyes of Sherwood Howard during a rally to celebrate an appeals court ruling that overturned Nevada's gay marriage ban Oct. 7, 2014, in Las Vegas.
Nevada state Senator Kelvin Atkinson rubs tears from the eyes of Sherwood Howard during a rally to celebrate an appeals court ruling that overturned Nevada's gay marriage ban Oct. 7, 2014, in Las Vegas. John Locher—AP

(LAS VEGAS) — A federal appeals court declared gay marriage legal in Idaho and Nevada on Tuesday, setting the stage for couples to marry in Las Vegas, the self-proclaimed wedding capital of the world.

State after state has joined the national tide in seeing same-sex unions made legal, given a push by the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal earlier this week to hear appeals. That effectively made gay marriage legal in 30 states and might have signaled it’s only a matter of time before same-sex couples can marry in all 50 states.

On Tuesday, Idaho and Nevada joined the group when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that gay couples’ equal protection rights were violated by the gay marriage bans in both states.

“This is a super sweet victory,” said Sue Latta, who along with Traci Ehlers sued Idaho last year to compel the state to recognize their 2008 marriage in California. Three other couples also joined the lawsuit to invalidate Idaho’s same-sex marriage ban.

“Taxes are easier, real estate is easier, parenting is easier, end-of-life planning is easier,” Latta said.

Logan Seven, 54, a limousine driver for Chapelle de l’amour wedding chapel in downtown Las Vegas, said he always wanted to get married on a beach, barefoot and in a white tuxedo.

“Trying to find the right man is the hard part,” he said Tuesday after his boss told him about the gay marriage ruling.

The Chicago native said he was surprised when he moved to Las Vegas and learned that the town that touts itself as a marriage capital didn’t allow gay marriages. “It’s a no-brainer,” Seven said. “Love is love.”

Couples in Idaho can start getting married immediately, likely tomorrow. In Nevada, a U.S. District Court judge still must issue a formal injunction overturning the state’s gay marriage ban.

That likely won’t stop weddings from going forward Wednesday in Las Vegas. Officials in the Clark County clerk’s office say the marriage license bureau in Las Vegas will begin accepting license applications at 2 p.m. Wednesday from same-sex couples.

Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel that laws that treat people differently based on sexual orientation are unconstitutional unless there is a compelling government interest. He wrote that neither Idaho nor Nevada offered any legitimate reasons to discriminate against gay couples.

“Idaho and Nevada’s marriage laws, by preventing same-sex couples from marrying and refusing to recognize same-sex marriages celebrated elsewhere, impose profound legal, financial, social and psychic harms on numerous citizens of those states,” Reinhardt wrote.

He rejected the argument that same-sex marriages will devalue traditional marriage, leading to more out-of-wedlock births.

“This proposition reflects a crass and callous view of parental love and the parental bond that is not worthy of response,” Reinhardt wrote. “We reject it out of hand.”

The appeals court panel did not rule on a similar case in Hawaii, which legalized gay marriage in December. Hawaii’s governor had asked the court to toss out a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban and an appeal to the 9th Circuit filed before Hawaii lawmakers legalized same-sex marriage.

All three judges on the panel were appointed by Democratic presidents. President Bill Clinton appointed Judges Marsha Berzon and Ronald Gould. President Jimmy Carter appointed Reinhardt.

The court also has jurisdiction in three other states that still have marriage bans in place: Alaska, Arizona and Montana. Lawsuits challenging bans in those states are still pending in lower courts and have not reached the 9th Circuit.

___

Kruesi reported from Boise, Idaho. Associated Press writers Paul Elias in San Francisco, Ken Ritter in Las Vegas and Rebecca Boone in Boise contributed to this report.

TIME Senate

Ted Cruz: We Must Amend U.S. Constitution to Defend Marriage

Conservatives Gather For Voter Values Summit
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks at the 2014 Values Voter Summit, Sept. 26, 2014 in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

The Texas senator called the Supreme Court's rejection of appeals to uphold same-sex marriage bans in five states "judicial activism at its worst"

Senator Ted Cruz (R—Tex.) announced Monday that he will introduce a constitutional amendment barring the federal government and the courts from overturning state marriage laws.

The announcement follows the Supreme Court’s decision Monday to reject the appeals requests of five states seeking to outlaw same-sex marriages, permitting gay unions to go ahead in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.

“By refusing to rule if the States can define marriage, the Supreme Court is abdicating its duty to uphold the Constitution,” Cruz said in a statement. “The fact that the Supreme Court Justices, without providing any explanation whatsoever, have permitted lower courts to strike down so many state marriage laws is astonishing.”

Cruz described the court’s denial of appeals, which paves the away for an expansion of legalized same-sex marriage to as many as 30 states, as “judicial activism at its worst” and “a broad interpretation of the 14th Amendment” guaranteeing equal protection under the law, with “far-reaching consequences.”

The Texas Republican isn’t the first to propose amending the constitution over same-sex marriage. In 2013, following the Supreme Court’s striking down of the Defense of Marriage Act, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R.-Kan.) introduced legislation for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (formerly R-Va.) proposed a similar amendment back in 2006.

TIME Courts

Judge Weighs Legal Fees in $190 Million Settlement

Lead attorney says it "is the largest single-physician sex abuse case on record"

(BALTIMORE) — A Baltimore judge is weighing what percentage of a $190 million settlement to earmark for lawyers representing more than 8,000 women.

A judge heard arguments Thursday from attorneys representing thousands of former patients of Dr. Nikita Levy, a gynecologist who was fired from a Johns Hopkins-affiliated clinic in February of 2013 after a colleague raised concerns that he was secretly recording women during exams with a spy camera. Levy committed suicide days after investigators raided his home and recovered hundreds of images and videos.

Hopkins agreed to pay the women $190 million in July, and the settlement was finalized on Sept. 19.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys, from eight firms, are asking for 35 percent of the settlement, roughly $66.5 million. But an attorney filed an objection to the proposed fees, arguing the number is too high.

On Thursday, the women’s lead attorney Jonathan Schochor argued that the case, which he said is the largest single-physician sex abuse case on record, proved such an undertaking for attorneys involved that $66.5 million is both fair and reasonable.

Schochor told Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Sylvester Cox that he and other attorneys spent thousands of hours interviewing women, many of them deeply traumatized, in order to prepare for the case and earn a settlement Schochor called “historic.” Schochor said his firm alone interviewed roughly 2,000 women.

“We find ourselves having to defend ourselves rather than celebrating with our clients,” Schochor said on Thursday. “We’re managing 9,000 clients, it’s a daunting undertaking.

“This is results-driven,” Schochor said of the proposed legal fee percentage, “and it’s the best result in the history of the United States.”

But Barry Diamond, an attorney representing one former patient of Levy’s, filed an objection to the proposed legal fees earlier this week alleging ethical violations on the part of the lawyers representing the women, and arguing that the fee is too high.

Diamond told Cox on Thursday that a lower fee for attorneys means more money for the plaintiffs. But he focused his argument primarily on what Diamond alleged is a conflict of interest: that Schochor and other attorneys represent both the class itself, comprised of between 8,000-9,000 women, and roughly 4,000 individual women within the class. Diamond argued that as a result, the attorneys could potentially prioritize benefits for their clients over other class members.

Cox did not rule from the bench, but told attorneys his decision is forthcoming.

TIME Politicians

Tom DeLay Celebrates ‘New Life’ Following Court Win

Tom Delay
Former Rep. Tom Delay, R-Texas, talks with reporters after a lunch meeting of the Texas Republicans in the capitol on the day his conviction for corruption was overturned by a Texas appeals court. Tom Williams—CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

He started by picking up a burger and fries

After former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay beat back money-laundering charges in Texas’ highest criminal court Wednesday, he drove with his family and friends to Willie’s Grill & Ice House in Sugar Land for a burger, fries and onion rings.

“Are you kidding me,” asked DeLay, laughing, when asked how he’s doing. “I feel great.”

DeLay has waited a long time to be removed from the yoke of legal troubles. In 2005, DeLay stepped down from his Majority Leader post after a Texas grand jury indicted him on charges that he improperly funneled donations to Texas House candidates. On Wednesday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upheld an earlier ruling throwing out his conviction in 2010. DeLay has also weathered various ethics charges raised against him by Democrats in 1996 and 1998 as well as and a federal lawsuit accusing the then-Majority Whip of racketeering in 2000.

DeLay told TIME that his legal fees for “all of that” is “well over $12 million.”

Unsurprisingly, DeLay blames the Democrats for his downfall, arguing that they exploited a “stupid” Republican Party law that requires members to give up leadership posts if they are indicted.

“This is part of the criminalization of politics that the left is very much involved in,” he says. “It’s not just me—They did it to [Texas] Gov. Rick Perry, I contend they did it to [Virginia] Gov. Bob McDonnell, they’re trying to do it [Wisconsin] Gov. Scott Walker and many others.”

The legal battles haven’t sapped his enthusiasm for politics, however. When asked if he would consider running for office, DeLay left the door open.

“I don’t know what the Lord has for me,” he said. “I’m just excited about my new life. And I can get on with it.”

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