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On the evening before he was to argue a case before the Supreme Court years ago, Jeffrey Fisher broke his glasses. That left the very nearsighted lawyer with an unappealing choice. He could wear contacts and clearly see the justices but not his notes, or skip the contacts and see only his notes.

It wasn’t hard to decide. “I couldn’t imagine doing argument without seeing their faces,” Fisher said.

He won’t have a choice next month. Because of the coronavirus pandemic the high court is, for the first time in its 230-year history, holding arguments by telephone. Beyond not being able to see the justices' nods, frowns and hand gestures, the teleconference arguments in 10 cases over six days present a range of challenges, attorneys said, but also opportunities.

Roman Martinez, who will argue in a free speech case, said the lack of visual cues may change what sense is most important. “Maybe it will concentrate the mind on listening,” he said.

The unprecedented decision to hold arguments by phone was an effort to help slow the spread of the virus. Most of the justices are at risk because of their age; six are over 65. And hearing arguments by phone allows them to decide significant cases by the court’s traditional summer break.

The attorneys arguing before the court include lawyers for the federal government and states as well as those in private practice. Only a few are women. Most have made multiple arguments and are familiar to the justices, although at least one lawyer is giving his first argument before the court. The Trump administration's top Supreme Court lawyer, Solicitor General Noel Francisco, will argue twice.



The Supreme Court is making it harder for noncitizens who are authorized to live permanently in the United States to argue they should be allowed to stay in the country if they've committed crimes.

The decision Thursday split the court 5-4 along ideological lines. The decision came in the case of Andre Barton, a Jamaican national and green card holder. In 1996, when he was a teenager, he was present when a friend fired a gun at the home of Barton's ex-girlfriend in Georgia. And in 2007 and 2008, he was convicted of drug possession in the state.

His crimes made him eligible to be deported, and the government sought to remove him from the country in 2016. Barton argued he should be eligible to stay. Justice Brett Kavanaugh noted in his opinion for the court's conservatives that it was important that Barton's 1996 crime took place in the first seven years he was admitted to the country.

Kavanaugh wrote that “when a lawful permanent resident has amassed a criminal record of this kind,” immigration law makes them ineligible to ask to be allowed to stay in the country.




In an historic setting, the Washington Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Thursday while sitting alone in their separate chambers using Zoom technology in a case that addresses the safety of inmates in the state’s prisons during the coronavirus outbreak.

At the same time, conservative lawmakers, law enforcement officials and some victims plan to hold news conferences on both sides of the state to protest the release of some offenders.

At least 24 corrections employees and 13 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, almost 100 offenders were placed in isolation and more than 1,000 are being quarantined. The majority of the positive cases occurred at the Monroe Correctional Complex where seven staff and 12 inmates have the disease.

After the virus hit the facility, the second largest in Washington, inmates filed a petition with the Supreme Court asking the justices to order Gov. Jay Inslee and Corrections Secretary Stephen Sinclair to release inmates who are older than 60, have underlying conditions and are within 60 days of their release date.

In an unanimous ruling on April 10, the justices ordered the state to devise a plan to protect inmates from the disease. Several days later, Inslee announced plans to release almost 1,000 non-violent offenders who are close to their release date.

As of Wednesday, about 41 inmates received work release furloughs, 293 had their sentences commuted and another 600 were on a list to be considered for a release into the community using electronic monitoring.

The corrections department has also told the court that it has imposed a list of measures designed to keep incarcerated people healthy, including mandatory face masks and hand-sanitizer dispensers.

Lawyers for the inmates say their efforts fall short. They say the prisons are too crowded to allow for social distancing.



The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review an appellate decision that mandates a new sentencing hearing for the man who tackled U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and broke his ribs.

The Supreme Court's denial this week doesn’t constitute an opinion on the merits of the appeal by Rene Boucher, the Daily News reported.

Attorneys for Boucher argued that a resentencing hearing violates his constitutional rights entitling him to due process and protecting him against double jeopardy. Boucher has already served a 30-day sentence for the 2017 attack outside the senator’s home.

Boucher tackled Paul in anger over a lawn maintenance issue along their property line, breaking six of Paul’s ribs. Paul suffered bouts of pneumonia and underwent surgery to remove part of his damaged lung.



A federal judge issued a limited temporary restraining order on Governor Kelly's order banning religious gatherings of ten or more people. The ruling was made by Judge John W. Broomes Saturday evening.

Kelly responded, saying, "This is not about religion. This is about a public health crisis,” Kelly said. “This ruling was just a preliminary step. There is still a long way to go in this case, and we will continue to be proactive and err on the side of caution where Kansans’ health and safety is at stake.”

A telephone conference call had be arranged to hear arguments from attorneys. Broomes also set a time for a preliminary injunction hearing on Wednesday at the federal courthouse in Wichita.
Court issues temporary restraining order on Gov. Kelly's order

The churches and their pastors filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against Kelly, arguing that the directive violates their religious and free-speech rights, as well as their right to assembly.

A federal judge issued a limited temporary restraining order on Governor Kelly's order banning religious gatherings of ten or more people.

The ruling was made by Judge John W. Broomes Saturday evening.

Kelly responded, saying, "This is not about religion. This is about a public health crisis,” Kelly said. “This ruling was just a preliminary step. There is still a long way to go in this case, and we will continue to be proactive and err on the side of caution where Kansans’ health and safety is at stake.”

A telephone conference call had be arranged to hear arguments from attorneys. Broomes also set a time for a preliminary injunction hearing on Wednesday at the federal courthouse in Wichita.

The churches and their pastors filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against Kelly, arguing that the directive violates their religious and free-speech rights, as well as their right to assembly.



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