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The Supreme Court will consider Monday whether banning homeless people from sleeping outside when shelter space is lacking amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

The case is considered the most significant to come before the high court in decades on homelessness, which has reached record levels in the United States.

In California and other Western states, courts have ruled that it’s unconstitutional to fine and arrest people sleeping in homeless encampments if shelter space is lacking.

A cross-section of Democratic and Republican officials contend that makes it difficult for them to manage encampments, which can have dangerous and unsanitary living conditions.

But hundreds of advocacy groups argue that allowing cities to punish people who need a place to sleep will criminalize homelessness and ultimately make the crisis worse as the cost of housing increases.

Dozens of demonstrators gathered outside the court Monday morning with silver thermal blankets and signs like “housing not handcuffs.”

The Justice Department has also weighed in. It argues people shouldn’t be punished just for sleeping outside, but only if there’s a determination they truly have nowhere else to go.

The case comes from the rural Oregon town of Grants Pass, which started fining people $295 for sleeping outside to manage homeless encampments that sprung up in the city’s public parks as the cost of housing escalated.

The measure was largely struck down by the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which also found in 2018 that such bans violated the Eighth Amendment by punishing people for something they don’t have control over. The 9th Circuit oversees nine Western states, including California, which is home to about one-third of the nation’s homeless population.

The case comes after homelessness in the United States grew a dramatic 12%, to its highest reported level as soaring rents and a decline in coronavirus pandemic assistance combined to put housing out of reach for more Americans, according to federal data. The court is expected to decide the case by the end of June.

Some news organizations described details including what Manhattan neighborhoods potential jurors lived in, what they did for a living, what academic degrees they had earned, how many children they had, what countries they grew up in and what their spouses did for a living.

On Fox News Channel Wednesday night, host Jesse Watters did a segment with a jury consultant, revealing details about people who had been seated on the jury and questioning whether some were “stealth liberals” who would be out to convict Trump.



The judge in Donald Trump’s hush money trial ordered the media on Thursday not to report on where potential jurors have worked and to be careful about revealing information about those who will sit in judgment of the former president.

Judge Juan Merchan acted after one juror was dismissed when she expressed concerns about participating in the trial after details about her became publicly known.

The names of the jurors are supposed to be a secret, but the dismissed juror told Merchan she had friends, colleagues and family members contacting her to ask whether she was on the case. “I don’t believe at this point I can be fair and unbiased and let the outside influences not affect my decision-making in the courtroom,” she said.

Merchan then directed journalists present in the courthouse not to report it when potential jurors told the court their specific workplaces, past or present. That put journalists in the difficult position of not reporting something they heard in open court.

Some media organizations were considering whether to protest having that onus placed on them. Generally, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution bars judges from ordering journalists not to disclose what they hear and see in courtrooms open to the public, though there are exceptions, such as when military security is at stake.

New York criminal defense lawyer Ron Kuby said that while judges typically can’t control what the media reports, other options are available to protect juror anonymity, including restricting what reporters see and hear in the courtroom.

“There are actions the judge could take,” he said. “Courts have extraordinary powers to protect jurors from tampering and intimidation. It is really where a court’s power is at its peak.”

The court action underscored the difficulty of trying to maintain anonymity for jurors in a case that has sparked wide interest and heated opinions, while lawyers need to sift through as much information as possible in a public courtroom to determine who to choose.

Despite the setback, 12 jurors were seated by the end of Thursday for the historic trial. Trump is charged with falsifying his company’s business records to cover up an effort during the 2016 presidential election campaign to squash negative publicity about alleged marital infidelity. Part of the case involves a $130,000 payment made to porn actor Stormy Daniels to prevent her from making public her claims of a sexual meeting with Trump years earlier. Trump has denied the encounter.

New York state law requires trial attorneys to get the names of jurors, but the judge has ordered the lawyers in Trump’s case not to disclose those names publicly. The jurors’ names haven’t been mentioned in court during three days of jury selection.

Still, enough personal information about the jurors was revealed in court that people might be able to identify them anyway.

Some news organizations described details including what Manhattan neighborhoods potential jurors lived in, what they did for a living, what academic degrees they had earned, how many children they had, what countries they grew up in and what their spouses did for a living.

On Fox News Channel Wednesday night, host Jesse Watters did a segment with a jury consultant, revealing details about people who had been seated on the jury and questioning whether some were “stealth liberals” who would be out to convict Trump.



The Supreme Court on Monday allowed a lawsuit to go forward against a Black Lives Matter activist who led a protest in Louisiana in which a police officer was injured. Civil rights groups and free speech advocates have warned that the suit threatens the right to protest.

The justices rejected an appeal from DeRay Mckesson in a case that stems from a 2016 protest over the police killing of a Black man in Baton Rouge.

At an earlier stage of the case, the high court noted that the issue was “fraught with implications for First Amendment rights.”

The justices did not explain their action Monday, but Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a brief opinion that said lower courts should not read too much into it.

The court’s “denial today expresses no view about the merits of Mckesson’s claim,’' Sotomayor wrote.

At the protest in Baton Rouge, the officer was hit by a “rock-like” object thrown by an unidentified protester, but he sued Mckesson in his role as the protest organizer.

A federal judge threw out the lawsuit in 2017, but a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the officer should be able to argue that Mckesson didn’t exercise reasonable care in leading protesters onto a highway, setting up a police confrontation in which the officer, identified in court papers only as John Doe, was injured.

In dissent, Judge Don Willett wrote, “He deserves justice. Unquestionably, Officer Doe can sue the rock-thrower. But I disagree that he can sue Mckesson as the protest leader.”

If allowed to stand, the decision to allow the suit to proceed would discourage people from protesting, the American Civil Liberties Union wrote, representing Mckesson.

“Given the prospect that some individual protest participant might engage in law-breaking, only the most intrepid citizens would exercise their rights if doing so risked personal liability for third-parties’ wrongdoing,” the ACLU told the court.

Lawyers for the officer had urged the court to turn away the appeal, noting that the protest illegally blocked the highway and that Mckesson did nothing to dissuade the violence that took place.

Justice Thomas misses Supreme Court session Monday with no explanation

Legal Career News - POSTED: 2024/04/15 07:36

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was absent from the court Monday with no explanation.

Thomas, 75, also was not participating remotely in arguments, as justices sometimes do when they are ill or otherwise can’t be there in person.

Chief Justice John Roberts announced Thomas’ absence, saying that his colleague would still participate in the day’s cases, based on the briefs and transcripts of the arguments. The court sometimes, but not always, says when a justice is out sick.

Thomas was hospitalized two years ago with an infection, causing him to miss several court sessions. He took part in the cases then, too.

He is the longest serving of the current justices, joining the Supreme Court in 1991.



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Europe’s highest human rights court ruled Tuesday that countries must better protect their people from the consequences of climate change, siding with a group of older Swiss women against their government in a landmark ruling that could have implications across the continent.

The European Court of Human Rights rejected two other, similar cases on procedural grounds — a high-profile one brought by Portuguese young people and another by a French mayor that sought to force governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But the Swiss case, nonetheless, sets a legal precedent in the Council of Europe’s 46 member states against which future lawsuits will be judged.

“This is a turning point,” said Corina Heri, an expert in climate change litigation at the University of Zurich.

Although activists have had success with lawsuits in domestic proceedings, this was the first time an international court ruled on climate change — and the first decision confirming that countries have an obligation to protect people from its effects, according to Heri.

She said it would open the door to more legal challenges in the countries that are members of the Council of Europe, which includes the 27 EU nations as well as many others from Britain to Turkey.

The Swiss ruling softened the blow for those who lost Tuesday.

“The most important thing is that the court has said in the Swiss women’s case that governments must cut their emissions more to protect human rights,” said 19-year-od Sofia Oliveira, one of the Portuguese plaintiffs. “Their win is a win for us, too, and a win for everyone!”

The court — which is unrelated to the European Union — ruled that Switzerland “had failed to comply with its duties” to combat climate change and meet emissions targets.


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