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•  Recent Cases - Legal News


Gov. Gina Raimondo nominated two women Tuesday to the Rhode Island Supreme Court, including one who, if confirmed, would become not only the first Black justice, but also the first person of color on the state's highest court.

Superior Court Judge Melissa Long was nominated to replace Justice Francis X. Flaherty, who announced his retirement in October.

Long was appointed by Raimondo to the Superior Court in 2017. Before that, she was deputy secretary of state and director of administration in the secretary of state's office. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia and the George Mason University School of Law.

Raimondo also nominated state Sen. Erin Lynch Prata to the high court. She is the chairperson of the Senate Judiciary Committee and would replace Justice Gilbert Indeglia, who retired in June. She has degrees from Boston College and the Catholic University of America law school.

If Long and Lynch Prata are confirmed, the five-member court will be majority female for the first time. Raimondo also announced several other judicial nominations.

The Democratic governor named Linda Rekas Sloan to the Superior Court. If approved, Rekas Sloan would be the first Asian-American on the court.

The governor also named Central Falls Municipal Judge Elizabeth Ortiz to the Family Court bench, making Ortiz the first Latina nominated to the court that oversees child custody, divorce and juvenile matters.

“I am thrilled to appoint this group of talented public servants to our state’s highest courts,” Raimondo said in a statement. “As governor, one of my most important and sacred responsibilities is to appoint high-caliber judges who reflect the diversity of the Rhode Islanders they serve. I am confident that each of these nominees will fairly and honorably uphold the laws and values of our state.”



The Supreme Court said Friday it will review a 2016 Arizona law that bars anyone but a family member or caregiver from returning another person’s early ballot. The law itself, however, remains in effect through the presidential election and until the justices rule.

The court will begin hearing arguments again next week after a summer break. The Arizona case was one of four cases the court, now eight justices because of the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, agreed to hear in its new term that begins Monday. As is usual, the justices did not comment in taking the cases. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the justices will not be returning to the courtroom to hear arguments but instead will continue hearing arguments by telephone. The court has been closed to the public since March.

In the Arizona case, a federal appeals court ruled in January that Arizona’s law banning so-called “ballot harvesting” violates the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution, but the court put its ruling on hold while the Supreme Court was asked to take the case.  The appeals court also found that Arizona’s policy of discarding ballots if a voter went to the wrong precinct violates the law. The court said both have a discriminatory impact on minority voters in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

The high court in recent years has weakened the Voting Rights Act, throwing out the most powerful part of the landmark law in 2013. It could use the current case to go even further. The case began after Republicans in Arizona passed the law making it a felony to return someone else’s ballot to election officials in most cases and Democrats sued.

Both parties had used ballot collection in Arizona to boost turnout during elections by going door to door and asking voters if they have completed their mail-in ballot. Democrats used the method aggressively in minority communities and argued their success prompted the new GOP-sponsored law. Republicans argued the law was aimed at preventing election fraud. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, said in a statement he is pleased the court will hear the case.

The justices also said Friday they will review a longstanding effort by the Federal Communications Commission to relax restrictions in individual media markets on ownership of different forms of media — TV stations and newspapers — over fears that it would leave fewer outlets controlled by minorities.  The court also will take up cases involving how immigration officials evaluate the claims of asylum seekers and a lawsuit by the city of Baltimore against BP Inc. and other energy companies seeking money for their contribution to climate change, although the issue before the justices is a technical one involving where the case should be heard.  The Supreme Court has already filled its argument calendar through December, so none of the cases will be argued before January 2021.



Britain’s Supreme Court has dismissed two appeals by Chinese telecoms firms Huawei and ZTE over mobile data patent disputes.

The disputes center on the licensing of patented technology considered essential to mobile telecoms. The patents are meant to ensure fair competition and access to technology like 4G.

In the first case, Unwired Planet, an intellectual property company that licenses patents, had brought legal action against Huawei for infringement of five U.K. patents that Unwired acquired from Ericsson.

The second appeal concerned legal action brought by another patent licensing company, Conversant Wireless, against Huawei and ZTE for infringement of four of its U.K. patents.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld lower court rulings on the cases and dismissed appeals by Huawei and ZTE.

In a statement, Conversant said the ruling was a landmark judgment that will have “significant implications worldwide” for telecommunications patent licensing.

The ruling meant that companies like Huawei cannot insist that patent holders like Conversant prove their patents in every jurisdiction of the world, which would be “both practically and economically prohibitive,” the company added.

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