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Prominent Chinese rights lawyer tried in closed proceedings
Court Watch | 2018/12/27 09:19
The trial of a prominent human rights lawyer began in northern China on Wednesday with about two dozen plainclothes officers stationed outside a courthouse and at least one supporter taken away by police.

Reporters, foreign diplomats and supporters were prevented from approaching the municipal court in Tianjin city where lawyer Wang Quanzhang was being tried. Wang's wife, Li Wenzu, was kept from attending the proceedings by security agents who had blocked the exit of her apartment complex since Tuesday.

Li told The Associated Press by phone Wednesday that Liu Weiguo, Wang's government-appointed lawyer, confirmed the trial had started. But he did not tell her whether it was now over or whether a verdict had been reached.

The court said in a statement on its website that it "lawfully decided not to make public" the trial hearings because the case involved state secrets. A decision will be announced at a future date, the court said.

Wang is among more than 200 lawyers and legal activists who were detained in a sweeping 2015 crackdown. A member of the Fengrui law firm, among the most recognized in the field broadly known in China as "rights defending," he was charged with subversion of state power in 2016. He has been held without access to his lawyers or family for more than three years.

Fengrui has pursued numerous sensitive cases and represented outspoken critics of the ruling Communist Party. Wang represented members of the Falun Gong meditation sect that the government has relentlessly suppressed since banning it as an "evil cult" in 1999. Group leaders have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms and ordinary followers locked up as alleged threats.


Mississippi chief justice: Time for another to lead court
Law Firm News | 2018/12/26 20:17
After 21 years on the Mississippi Supreme Court and 10 years as chief justice, Bill Waller Jr. says it's time for someone else to take the helm.

Waller's court has at times questioned problems with forensic evidence, but passed when asked to rule on the legality of Mississippi's cap on punitive damages. He said his biggest regret is not getting a statewide system of county courts.

Gov. Phil Bryant has announced that he will replace Waller with Court of Appeals Chief Judge Kenny Griffis, while Presiding Justice Michael Randolph will become the next leader of the nine-member Supreme Court, based on seniority. The outgoing chief justice, son of the late Gov. Bill Waller Sr., a Democrat who served from 1972 to 1976, said he still might run for governor himself.

Waller came on to the court in a different time, before the new judicial building was started, when most record-keeping was on paper and when a hot political battle was waging over limiting damages on civil lawsuits. Another change has been improvements in how inmates are represented in appeals, with the creation of the Office of Capital Post-Conviction Counsel and then the Office of Indigent Appeals.



Cancer the latest health woe for resilient Justice Ginsburg
Court Issues | 2018/12/26 04:18
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is resting in a New York hospital following surgery to remove two malignant growths in her left lung, the third time the Supreme Court’s oldest justice has been treated for cancer and her second stay in a hospital in two months.

Worries over Ginsburg’s health have been a constant of sorts for nearly 10 years, and for liberals, particularly in the last two. Ginsburg, the leader of the court’s liberal wing and known to her fans as the Notorious RBG, has achieved an iconic status rare for Supreme Court justices.

If she did step down, President Donald Trump would have another opportunity to move a conservative court even more to the right. “Wishing Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg a full and speedy recovery!” Trump tweeted after the court’s announcement Friday.

But Ginsburg has always bounced back before, flaunting her physical and mental fitness. After past health scares, she has resumed the exercise routine popularized in a book written by her personal trainer and captured in a Stephen Colbert video. Weeks after cracking three ribs in a fall at the Supreme Court in November, the 85-year-old Ginsburg was asking questions at high court arguments, speaking at a naturalization ceremony for new citizens and being interviewed at screenings of the new movie about her, “On the Basis of Sex.”

Ginsburg will remain in the hospital for a few days, the court said. She has never missed arguments in more than 25 years as a justice. The court next meets on Jan. 7.

While it’s hard to refer to good luck and cancer diagnoses in the same breath, this is the second time for Ginsburg that cancerous growths have been detected at an apparently early stage through unrelated medical tests.

The nodules on her lung were found during X-rays and other tests Ginsburg had after she fractured ribs in a fall in her Supreme Court office on Nov. 7, the court said. In 2009, routine follow-up screening after Ginsburg’s colorectal cancer 10 years earlier detected a lesion on her pancreas. Doctors operated and removed the growth they’d previously spotted, plus a smaller one they hadn’t seen before. The larger growth was benign, while the smaller one was malignant.



Supreme Court rejects Trump plea to enforce asylum ban
Legal Interview | 2018/12/24 04:19
A divided Supreme Court won’t let the Trump administration begin enforcing a ban on asylum for any immigrants who illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Chief Justice John Roberts joined his four more liberal colleagues Friday in ruling against the administration in the very case in which President Donald Trump had derided the “Obama judge” who first blocked the asylum policy.

New Justice Brett Kavanaugh and three other conservative justices sided with the administration. There were no opinions explaining either side’s votes.

The court’s order leaves in place lower court rulings that blocked Trump’s proclamation in November automatically denying asylum to people who enter the country from Mexico without going through official border crossings.

Trump said he was acting in response to caravans of migrants making their way to the border. The administration had also complained that the nationwide order preventing the policy from taking effect was too broad. But the court also rejected the administration’s suggestion for narrowing it.

Lee Gelernt, an American Civil Liberties Union leading the court challenge, said the high court’s decision “will save lives and keep vulnerable families and children from persecution. We are pleased the court refused to allow the administration to short-circuit the usual appellate process.”

The high court action followed a ruling Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar that kept the ban on hold pending the outcome of a lawsuit challenging it. The case could take months to resolve.



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