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Justice Secretary Wanda Vazquez became Puerto Rico’s new governor Wednesday, just the second woman to hold the office, after weeks of political turmoil and hours after the island’s Supreme Court declared Pedro Pierluisi’s swearing-in a week ago unconstitutional.

Accompanied by her husband, Judge Jorge Diaz, and one of her daughters, Vazquez took the oath of office in the early evening at the Supreme Court before leaving without making any public comment. She then issued a brief televised statement late Wednesday, saying she feels the pain that Puerto Ricans have experienced in recent weeks.

“We have all felt the anxiety provoked by the instability and uncertainty,” Vazquez said, adding that she would meet with legislators and government officials in the coming days. “Faced with this enormous challenge and with God ahead, I take a step forward with no interest other than serving the people ... It is necessary to give the island stability, certainty to the markets and secure (hurricane) reconstruction funds.”

The high court’s unanimous decision, which could not be appealed, settled the dispute over who will lead the U.S. territory after its political establishment was knocked off balance by big street protests spawned by anger over corruption, mismanagement of funds and a leaked obscenity-laced chat that forced the previous governor and several top aides to resign.

But it was also expected to unleash a new wave of demonstrations because many Puerto Ricans have said they don’t want Vazquez as governor.

“It is concluded that the swearing in as governor by Hon. Pedro R. Pierluisi Urrutia, named secretary of state in recess, is unconstitutional,” the court said in a brief statement.



The Kansas Supreme Court's chief justice plans to retire before the end of the year, allowing first-year Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly to leave a bigger mark on the state's highest court than her conservative Republican predecessors.

Chief Justice Lawton Nuss announced Friday that he would step down Dec. 17 after serving on the court since 2002 and as chief justice since 2010. During Nuss' tenure as chief justice, GOP conservatives increasingly criticized the court as too liberal and too activist for the state over rulings on abortion, capital punishment and public school funding.

His announcement came a little more than two weeks after Justice Lee Johnson, another target of criticism on the right, announced plans to retire in September. That means Kelly will have two appointments to the seven-member court since she took office in January when conservative GOP Govs. Sam Brownback and Jeff Colyer had only one appointee between them during the previous eight years.

Both justices voted repeatedly to direct legislators to increase education funding in recent years and were part of the 6-1 majority that declared in April that the state constitution protects access to abortion as a "fundamental" right. They also voted to overturn death sentences in capital murder cases, though Nuss concluded that the death penalty law itself is constitutional.



A Cyprus court on Friday extended the detention of seven of the 12 Israeli teenagers initially arrested as suspects in the rape of a 19-year-old British woman.

The court ordered the suspects to remain in police custody for another six days to give investigators time to finish looking into the woman’s reported rape at a hotel in the resort town of Ayia Napa.

Defense lawyer Nir Yaslovitzh says five other suspects were released from custody on Thursday and have returned to Israel.

Lawyer Yiannis Habaris told The Associated Press that police investigators confirmed that the five released Israelis had no connection with the case. Habaris represents four suspects, two of whom were among those who were released.

Habaris said investigators connected the seven remaining suspects to the case through witness statements as well as DNA evidence which link three of the seven to the alleged victim.

The Cypriot lawyer said the suspects offered investigators certain “explanations” into their whereabouts at the time of the alleged crime.

The court heard that the alleged victim was involved in a relationship with one of the seven suspects and had sexual contact with several of the remaining six over the course of a few days, Habaris said.

Habaris said investigators may decide to take the case to trial before a criminal court if any of the seven suspects aren’t released in the coming days.

Yaslovitzh, an Israeli lawyer who represents three of the 12 Israelis, alleged the release of the five damaged the accuser’s credibility because she told police a dozen individuals sexually assaulted her.

Yaslovitzh also urged Cypriot investigators to look into the woman’s actions at the hotel where the alleged crime occurred and where she was also working.

The seven suspects again covered their faces with their shirts as they entered and exited the courthouse. They face charges of rape and conspiracy to commit rape.

Yaslovitzh had said after the initial custody hearing that all 12 Israelis had come on holidays to Cyprus in three separate groups and didn’t know each other. Some had gone on vacation prior to being inducted into the Israeli army.




The Supreme Court cleared the way for the Trump administration to tap billions of dollars in Pentagon funds to build sections of a border wall with Mexico.

The court’s five conservative justices gave the administration the green light on Friday to begin work on four contracts it has awarded using Defense Department money. Funding for the projects had been frozen by lower courts while a lawsuit over the money proceeded. The court’s four liberal justices wouldn’t have allowed construction to start.

The justices’ decision to lift the freeze on the money allows President Donald Trump to make progress on a major 2016 campaign promise heading into his race for a second term. Trump tweeted after the announcement: “Wow! Big VICTORY on the Wall. The United States Supreme Court overturns lower court injunction, allows Southern Border Wall to proceed. Big WIN for Border Security and the Rule of Law!”

The Supreme Court’s action reverses the decision of a trial court, which initially froze the funds in May, and an appeals court, which kept that freeze in place earlier this month. The freeze had prevented the government from tapping approximately $2.5 billion in Defense Department money to replace existing sections of barrier in Arizona, California and New Mexico with more robust fencing.

The case the Supreme Court ruled in began after the 35-day partial government shutdown that started in December of last year. Trump ended the shutdown in February after Congress gave him approximately $1.4 billion in border wall funding. But the amount was far less than the $5.7 billion he was seeking, and Trump then declared a national emergency to take cash from other government accounts to use to construct sections of wall.

The money Trump identified includes $3.6 billion from military construction funds, $2.5 billion in Defense Department money and $600 million from the Treasury Department’s asset forfeiture fund.



Court logs show a Louisiana district court judge ordered a man's mouth be taped shut for repeatedly interrupting proceedings.

The Acadiana Advocate reports Michael C. Duhon was being sentenced July 18 for theft and money laundering.

Court minutes show Duhon objected when Judge Marilyn Castle asked him to stop submitting motions on his own behalf instead of through his attorney. After repeatedly requesting for Duhon to be quiet, Castle ordered the bailiff to tape Duhon's mouth shut.

The tape was removed after an objection from Duhon's public defense attorney, Aaron Adams, who requested the judge remove his client from the courtroom instead.

Castle sentenced Duhon to 11 years in prison and recommended he be transferred to a facility with mental health treatment options.

Another public defender in the courtroom faces contempt charges for recording the incident.



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