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The chief justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court has won re-election to another 10-year term.

Chief Justice John Weimer was automatically reelected when nobody signed up to challenge him by Friday’s qualifying deadline for the Nov. 8 ballot, The Advocate reported.

Weimer, 67, a former professor at Nicholls State University, first won election to the state’s high court in 2001. He won reelection in 2002 and 2012. In the latter race, he ran unopposed and returned campaign checks to contributors to his campaign.

On Wednesday, he was one of the first candidates to pay the qualifying fees and file the paperwork for the fall election. Weimer’s current term ends Dec. 31.

U.S. District Judge John deGravelles of Baton Rouge lifted a stay July 13 that had blocked the November election for the state Supreme Court’s 6th District, which Weimer represents. The stay arose out of a lawsuit filed in 2019 by the NAACP.

The lawsuit contends that two of the seven Supreme Court districts should have a Black majority in a state where about one-third of the state’s residents are African American. Only one Supreme Court district currently has a Black majority, the one represented by Justice Piper Griffin in New Orleans.

The 6th District, with about 600,000 residents, consists of 12 coastal parishes: Assumption, Iberia, Lafourche, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Martin, St. Mary, Terrebonne, and a portion of the west bank of Jefferson.

The federal court had stopped all Supreme Court races in May. Only Weimer was up for reelection this year. Justices run in staggered terms every two years. The next justice is not on the ballot until 2024.



Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a 15-week abortion ban into law Thursday as the state joined a growing conservative push to restrict access ahead of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that could limit the procedure nationwide.

The new law marks a significant blow to abortion access in the South, where Florida has provided wider access to the procedure than its regional neighbors.

The new law, which takes effect July 1, contains exceptions if the abortion is necessary to save a mother’s life, prevent serious injury or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality. It does not allow for exemptions in cases where pregnancies were caused by rape, incest or human trafficking. Under current law, Florida allows abortions up to 24 weeks.

“This will represent the most significant protections for life that have been enacted in this state in a generation,” DeSantis said as he signed the bill at the “Nación de Fe” (“Nation of Faith”), an evangelical church in the city of Kissimmee that serves members of the Latino population.

DeSantis, a Republican rising star and potential 2024 presidential candidate, signed the measure after several women delivered speeches about how they chose not to have abortions or, in the case of one, regretted having done so.

Some of the people in attendance, including young children, stood behind the speakers holding signs saying “Choose life,” while those who spoke stood at a podium to which was affixed a sign displaying an infant’s feet and a heartbeat reading, “Protect Life.”

Debate over the proposal grew deeply personal and revealing inside the Florida legislature, with lawmakers recalling their own abortions and experiences with sexual assault in often tearful speeches on the House and Senate floors.



A second defendant has pleaded guilty in federal court to a hate crime and making false statements in connection with a 2018 racially-motivated assault in the Seattle area.

U.S. Attorney Nick Brown said Jason DeSimas, 45, of Tacoma, Washington, is one of four men from across the Pacific Northwest being prosecuted for punching and kicking a Black man at a bar in Lynnwood, Washington.

U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones scheduled sentencing for July 8.

According to the plea agreement, DeSimas was a prospective member of a white supremacist group. DeSimas believed that he and his group could go into bars and initiate fights, so that the rest of the members of the group could join in.

On Dec. 8, 2018, the men went to a bar in Lynnwood, Washington and assaulted a Black man who was working as a DJ. The group also assaulted two other men who came to the DJ’s aid. The attackers shouted racial slurs and made Nazi salutes during the assault.

DeSimas also admitted making false statements to the FBI during the investigation of the case.

Under terms of the plea agreement, both sides will recommend a 37-month prison term. The judge is not bound by the recommendation.

Daniel Delbert Dorson, 24, of Corvallis, Oregon, has already pleaded guilty in the case and is scheduled for sentencing Aug. 19. Jason Stanley, 44, of Boise, Idaho, and Randy Smith, 39, of Eugene, Oregon, are also charged in the case and are in custody awaiting trial.



The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Friday that local health departments do not have the authority to close schools due to emergencies like the coronavirus pandemic, delivering a win to private and religious schools that challenged a Dane County order.

The conservative majority of the court, in a 4-3 decision, also ruled that a school closure order issued last year by Public Health Madison & Dane County infringed on constitutional religious rights.

The ruling is another victory for conservatives who challenged state and local orders issued during the pandemic to close businesses and schools, limit capacity in bars, restaurants and other buildings and require masks to be worn. All of those restrictions have either expired or been rescinded by courts.

Friday’s ruling will have no immediate impact because the 2020-21 school year has ended, but it will limit the powers of health departments in the future by preventing them from ordering school closures.

“Even as the COVID-19 pandemic recedes, the court’s decision provides a critical correction that ought to prevent future abuses of power in an emergency,” said Rick Esenberg, president of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty. That group brought the lawsuit on behalf of five private schools and eight families in Dane County, School Choice Wisconsin Action and the Wisconsin Council of Religious and Independent Schools.

Dane County Health Director Janel Heinrich said the ruling “hinders the ability of local health officers in Wisconsin to prevent and contain public health threats for decades to come.”

The lawsuit targeted an order issued in August by the county health department prohibiting in-person instruction for grades 3-12 at any public or private school. The Supreme Court in early September put that order on hold while it considered the case.

While many private and public schools in the county resumed in-person classes, Madison’s school district remained entirely virtual until March. Its school year ended this week.

The law in question allows local health departments to do what is “reasonable and necessary” to suppress a disease outbreak. It does not specifically grant authority to close schools. There is a law giving that power to the state Department of Health Services secretary.



South Carolina’s Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that a state law requiring sex offenders to register for life, without prior judicial review, is unconstitutional.

In a unanimous ruling, justices wrote that “requirement that sex offenders must register for life without any opportunity for judicial review violates due process because it is arbitrary and cannot be deemed rationally related to the General Assembly’s stated purpose of protecting the public from those with a high risk of re-offending.”

Justices set a 12-month timeline to implement the ruling, to give state lawmakers time to “correct the deficiency in the statute regarding judicial review.”

The case stems from a lawsuit originally brought by Dennis Powell, who was arrested in 2008 for criminal solicitation of a minor after authorities said he had graphic online conversations with someone he thought was a 12-year-old girl, but who was actually an undercover officer.

After pleading guilty, Powell was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to register as a sex offender, which South Carolina’s statute mandates as a lifelong situation.

South Carolina’s sex offender statute requires biannual registration, in-person at a sheriff’s office, but provides for no periodic review by a judge, a situation the Supreme Court called “the most stringent in the country.”

“The lifetime inclusion of individuals who have a low risk of re-offending renders the registry over-inclusive and dilutes its utility by creating an ever-growing list of registrants that is less effective at protecting the public and meeting the needs of law enforcement,” justices wrote. “There is no evidence in the record that current statistics indicate all sex offenders generally pose a high risk of re-offending.”

The court ruled that Powell should be immediately removed from the state’s sex offender registry. Powell had also challenged a portion of the statute that permits the registry to be published online, which the court upheld.

Attorneys for both Powell and the State Law Enforcement Division did not immediately return text messages seeking comment on the ruling.


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