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•  Notable Attorneys - Legal News


Minnesota Supreme Court Associate Justice David Stras, who was nominated by President Donald Trump to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday, once clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and believes in a limited role for the judiciary.

Stras, 42, a former University of Minnesota Law School professor, was on Trump's list of possible Supreme Court nominees. The 8th Circuit serves Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, and Arkansas.

The nomination is subject to Senate confirmation. Sen. Al Franken, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement he would take a close look at Stras' record. He criticized a nomination process that he said "relied heavily on guidance from far-right ... special interest groups."

Stras planned to issue a statement later Monday.

When Stras was appointed to the Minnesota court in 2010 by then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Thomas traveled to Minnesota to administer the oath.

"I remain mindful that the role of a judge is a limited one, and that judges can't solve every problem," Stras said then. "But at the same time, judges play a crucial role in safeguarding liberty and protecting the rights of all citizens."

Stras has held to those beliefs, said Peter Knapp, a professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law.




A federal appeals court says a gay couple's lawsuit seeking damages from a Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue them a marriage license can proceed. The ruling revives an issue that pulled the state into the center of a national debate over same-sex marriages following a historic Supreme Court ruling.

David Ermold and David Moore tried to get a marriage license in Rowan County, Kentucky, in June 2015 after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage bans were unconstitutional. But Kim Davis, the county clerk, refused to issue them a license because she said it violated her religious beliefs.

Ermold and Moore sued, along with several other couples. Davis lost, and spent five days in jail for refusing to follow a court order. The dispute thrust the embattled clerk into the national limelight and prompted same-sex marriage opponents across the country to rally behind her. A Republican congressman from Ohio gave her a ticket to former President Barack Obama's State of the Union address. And she met with Pope Francis in Washington, although that encounter quickly sent the Vatican scrambling to distance itself from the controversy.

Davis has since changed her party affiliation to Republican, saying the Democratic Party had abandoned her. Ermold and Moore want Davis to pay damages for the emotional distress caused by her refusal to issue them a license. Ermold and Moore were not the first couple to be denied a license. But they filmed their rejection and uploaded it to YouTube, which has been viewed more than 1.8 million times.

Liberty Counsel, a Florida-based law firm specializing in religious-liberty issues, has represented Davis throughout the case. The firm also represents former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who ordered state probate judges to continue to enforce that state's ban on same-sex marriage despite the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Moore was removed from his post because of his order. He is now running for U.S. Senate.





President Donald Trump is once again taking aim at a federal appeals court district that covers Western states, saying he is considering breaking up a circuit that is a longtime target of Republicans and is where his first travel ban was halted.

Yet it would take congressional action to break up the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Republicans have introduced bills this year to do just that.

Asked Wednesday during a White House interview by the Washington Examiner if he'd thought about proposals to break up the court, Trump replied, "Absolutely, I have."

"There are many people that want to break up the 9th Circuit. It's outrageous," he told the Examiner. He accused critics of appealing to the 9th district "because they know that's like, semi-automatic."

The comments echoed his Twitter criticism of the court Wednesday morning.

Trump called U.S. District Judge William Orrick's preliminary injunction against his order stripping money from so-called sanctuary cities "ridiculous" on Twitter. He said he planned to take that case to the Supreme Court. However, an administration appeal of the district court's decision must go first to the 9th Circuit.

Republicans have talked for years about splitting the circuit into two appellate courts, but earlier legislative proposals have failed, most recently in 2005. Those battles have often pitted lawmakers from California against members from smaller, more conservative states.

Critics say the court has a liberal slant, a high caseload and distances that are too far for judges to travel. The circuit is the largest of the federal appellate courts, representing 20 percent of the U.S. population. It includes California, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

The circuit has 29 judges, many more than the 5th, which is the next largest circuit with 17 judges. It was created in 1891 when the American West was much less populated.

Democrats have opposed the split. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., was a leading opponent in the 2005 push, which she said was politically motivated. She has suggested adding judges to the court instead.


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