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Yankton lawyer Jason Ravnsborg wins GOP attorney general nod
Press Releases | 2018/06/24 07:01
South Dakota Republicans on Saturday chose Yankton lawyer Jason Ravnsborg to run against Democratic former U.S. Attorney Randy Seiler in the race for state attorney general.

GOP delegates voted to nominate Ravnsborg at their state party convention, where the attorney general contest was the main show for attendees. Democrats nominated Seiler as their candidate at a party gathering last week.

Ravnsborg won out over state Sen. Lance Russell in a second round of voting after Lawrence County State's Attorney John Fitzgerald was dropped from consideration following his third-place showing in the initial ballot.

"We've been working hard," Ravnsborg said after he won. "I've been to every county in our state at least twice."

Ravnsborg has proposed expanding programs that allow lower-level prisoners to work while serving their sentences and establishing a meth-specific prison and mental health facility in the western part of the state. He said he has leadership and management experience and touted his support among county sheriffs to delegates.

Ravnsborg, 42, of Yankton, is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. He's looking to succeed outgoing Attorney General Marty Jackley as the state's chief lawyer and law enforcement officer.

The high-profile office has served as a frequent springboard for gubernatorial hopefuls and takes on the state's top legal cases, such as South Dakota's recent successful push to get the U.S. Supreme Court to allow states to make online shoppers pay sales tax.

Russell, a former state's attorney and current chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had said he wanted to be attorney general to address rising crime and improve government transparency. Fitzgerald has been the Lawrence County state's attorney since 1995 and campaigned on his experience.




Court: Government can't block immigrant teens from abortion
Press Releases | 2018/04/01 18:35
A federal court in Washington has told the Trump administration that the government can't interfere with the ability of pregnant immigrant teens being held in federal custody to obtain abortions.

A judge issued an order Friday evening barring the government from "interfering with or obstructing" pregnant minors' access to abortion counseling or abortions, among other things, while a lawsuit proceeds. The order covers pregnant minors being held in federal custody after entering the country illegally.

Lawyers for the Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for sheltering children who illegally enter the country unaccompanied by a parent, have said the department has a policy of "refusing to facilitate" abortions. And the director of the office that oversees the shelters has said he believes teens in his agency's care have no constitutional right to abortion.

The American Civil Liberties Union brought a lawsuit on behalf of the minors, which the judge overseeing the case also Friday allowed to go forward as a class action lawsuit.

"We have been able to secure justice for these young pregnant women in government custody who will no longer be subject to the government's policy of coercion and obstruction while the case continues," said ACLU attorney Brigitte Amiri after the judge's order became public.

The government can appeal the judge's order. A Department of Justice spokesman didn't immediately respond to an emailed request for comment Friday evening.

The health department said in a statement Saturday that it "strongly maintains that taxpayers are not responsible for facilitating the abortion of unaccompanied minors who entered the country illegally and are currently in the government's care." It said it is "working closely with the Justice Department to review the court's order and determine next steps."

The ACLU and Trump administration have been sparring for months over the government's policy. In a high-profile case last year, the ACLU represented a teen who entered the U.S. illegally in September and learned while in federal custody in Texas that she was pregnant.

The teen, referred to in court paperwork as Jane Doe, obtained a state court order permitting her to have an abortion and secured private funding to pay for it, but federal officials refused to transport her or temporarily release her so that others could take her to get the procedure.

The teen was ultimately able to get an abortion in October as a result of the lawsuit, but the Trump administration has accused the ACLU of misleading the government during the case, a charge the ACLU has denied.


Court eyes Massachusetts church-state dispute
Press Releases | 2017/09/16 16:07
An attorney says a Massachusetts town should not be barred from giving public funds to support the restoration of a historic building just because it happens to be a church.

Nina Pickering-Cook told Massachusetts' highest court on Thursday that communities' ability to protect their historic resources shouldn't change because the structures are owned by a religious entity.

At issue is whether the town of Acton violated Massachusetts' constitution when it approved more than $100,000 in community preservation grants to restore stained-glass windows and identify other needs at a church.

Douglas Mishkin is an attorney for the taxpayers who brought the lawsuit. Mishkin told the court that active houses of worship are clearly prohibited from getting taxpayer dollars.

The Supreme Judicial Court is expected to rule in the coming months.


Challenge filed in court to Australian gay marriage ballot
Press Releases | 2017/08/06 23:09
Gay-rights advocates filed a court challenge Thursday to the government's unusual plan to canvass Australians' opinion on gay marriage next month, while a retired judge said he would boycott the survey as unacceptable.

The mail ballot is not binding, but the conservative government won't legislate the issue without it. If most Australians say "no," the government won't allow Parliament to consider lifting the nation's ban on same-sex marriage.

Lawyers for independent lawmaker Andrew Wilkie and marriage equality advocates Shelley Argent and Felicity Marlowe, applied to the High Court for an injunction that would prevent the so-called postal plebiscite from going ahead.

"We will be arguing that by going ahead without the authorization of Parliament, the government is acting beyond its power," lawyer Jonathon Hunyor said.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the government had legal advice that the postal ballot would withstand a court challenge.

"I encourage every Australian to exercise their right to vote on this matter. It's an important question," Turnbull said.

Gay-rights advocates and many lawmakers want Parliament to legislate marriage equality now without an opinion poll, which they see as an unjustifiable hurdle to reform.

Retired High Court judge Michael Kirby, a gay man who supports marriage equality, dismissed the ballot as "irregular and unscientific polling."

"It's just something we've never done in our constitutional arrangements of Australia, and it really is unacceptable," Kirby told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Kirby would not comment on the legality of the government proceeding with the 122 million Australian dollar ($96 million) ballot without Parliament's approval, but said: "I'm not going to take any part in it whatsoever."

Plebiscites in Australia are referendums that don't deal with questions that change the constitution. Voting at referendums is compulsory to ensure a high voter turnout and that the legally-binding result reflects the wishes of a majority of Australians.


High court won't hear appeal on mortgage ratings
Press Releases | 2015/11/03 17:49
The Supreme Court won't hear an appeal from shareholders who claim the Standard & Poor's ratings firm made false statements about its ratings of risky mortgage investments that helped trigger the financial crisis.

The justices on Monday let stand a lower court ruling that threw out a lawsuit filed by the Boca Raton Firefighters & Police Pension Fund against S&P's parent company, McGraw-Hill.

A federal appeals court ruled 2-1 that statements about the integrity and credibility of S&P's credit ratings used routine, generic language that did not mislead investors.

The shareholders argued that false statements regarding a central aspect of the company's business were enough to violate federal securities laws.



Penn State ex-officials' case heads to appeals court hearing
Press Releases | 2015/08/13 06:30
The criminal case against three former high-ranking Penn State administrators is headed to a Pennsylvania appellate courtroom, nearly four years after two of them were first charged. A decision against them could clear the way for trial.

The group of Superior Court sessions in a state Capitol courtroom on Tuesday will address the actions of Penn State's then-general counsel, Cynthia Baldwin, as the men were being investigated for an alleged cover-up of child sex abuse complaints against Jerry Sandusky.

The judges are expected to conduct three separate half-hour sessions, one each for former university president Graham Spanier, former vice president Gary Schultz and former athletic director Tim Curley.

The appellate court file is sealed, so the precise nature of the legal dispute is somewhat clouded. But the appeals were launched after a January order by Dauphin County Judge Todd Hoover that rejected their arguments attacking the fairness and legality of the process that led to charges.



Court scraps Dutch data retention law, cites privacy concern
Press Releases | 2015/03/12 19:05
A judge scrapped the Netherlands' data retention law Wednesday, saying that while it helps solve crimes it also breaches the privacy of telephone and Internet users.

The ruling by a judge in The Hague followed a similar decision in April by the European Union's top court that wiped out EU data collection legislation it deemed too broad and offering too few privacy safeguards.

The Security and Justice Ministry said it was considering an appeal.

Under the Dutch law, telephone companies were required to store information about all fixed and mobile phone calls for a year. Internet providers had to store information on their clients' Internet use for six months.

The written judgment by Judge G.P. van Ham conceded that scrapping the data storage "could have far-reaching consequences for investigating and prosecuting crimes" but added that this could not justify the privacy breaches the law entails.

The judge did not set a deadline for disposing of the data.

Privacy First, one of the organizations that took the government to court, said the ruling "will bring to an end years of massive privacy breaches" in the Netherlands.

The government said after last year's European court ruling that it would amend its law.


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