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October 16, 2018

The police cannot simply kill your dog because you have failed to license it with the city, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday, reversing a lower court decision.

The case in question involved a police raid on the Detroit home of Nikita Smith in response to a report that marijuana was sold there. While executing the search warrant, officers fatally shot Smith's three dogs, one of which was pregnant. An officer allegedly commented after shooting a dog, "Did you see that? I got that one good." The raid turned up 25.8 grams of marijuana, and Smith was given a misdemeanor charge that was later dismissed.

She sued over the death of her dogs, and a district court ruled the suit could not go forward because Smith did not have "legitimate possessory interest" in the dogs "because they were unlicensed." The appeals court disagreed, holding that just "as the police cannot destroy every unlicensed car or gun on the spot, they cannot kill every unlicensed dog on the spot." Smith's suit can now proceed.

"The opinion establishes that pet owners' Fourth Amendment rights do not depend on a license," said Smith's lawyer, Chris Olson. "More importantly, the opinion foreclosed a post hoc 'get out of jail free card' for police officers that unreasonably shoot dogs every day in this country." Bonnie Kristian

12:22 p.m.

Maine became the fourth state — joining California, Mississippi, and West Virginia — to end most non-medical exemptions for mandatory childhood vaccines, The Hill reports.

The state's governor, Janet Mills (D), signed the bill, which eliminates religious and philosophical exemptions and will go into effect 90 days after the state legislate adjourns. Now, only doctors and pediatric primary care givers can determine if there is need for a medical exemption.

Maine reportedly has one of the highest rates of non-medical vaccine exemptions in the country. Last year, The Hill writes, the kindergarten vaccination opt-out rate was 5.6 percent, more than three times the national average. But with a confirmed case of measles in the state, it appears Maine's government was not taking any chances. "It has become clear that we must act to ensure the health of our communities," state Rep. Ryan Tipping (D) said.

Still, there are opponents to the new bill, with a particular emphasis on how it effects religious freedom. "We are pushing religious people out of our great state," state Sen. Lisa Keim (R) said earlier this month. "And we will be closing our the door on religious who may consider making Maine their home. We are fooling ourselves if we don't believe an exodus would come about." Tim O'Donnell

11:35 a.m.

Intelligence officials are concerned about the new authority Attorney General William Barr holds concerning classified information, The Washington Post reports.

On Thursday, by way of executive order, President Trump granted Barr the power to reveal government secrets during the aatorney general's review of what the White House calls "surveillance activities during the 2016 election." Trump has long maintained that the U.S. government was spying on his campaign in an attempt to undermine the election process.

It is reportedly unprecedented for an official who does not head an intelligence agency to have the ability to disclose such information, which has some people worried that Barr could selectively declassify information, distorting the roles of the FBI and CIA during their investigations into 2016 Russian election interference. Others are concerned that Barr could compromise sources "deep inside the Russian government."

The Post reports that Trump's decision stems from his greater sense of trust in Barr than in the Director of National Intelligence, Daniel Coats. "This is a complete slap in the face to the director of national intelligence," James Baker, the former FBI general counsel said. Michael Morell, a former CIA deputy director, described the situation as "another destruction of norms that weakens our intelligence community." Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

10:51 a.m.

President Trump has tabbed Ken Cuccinelli as the new director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

While Cuccinelli's hiring was reported as early as Tuesday, it remained unclear what exactly Cuccinelli's role in the Department of Homeland Security would be. He'll replace the agency's current director, L. Francis Cissna, whom The Washington Post describes as having "deep expertise" when it comes to immigration law, but was forced out following criticism from Trump senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller.

Cuccinelli is considered an immigration hardliner and is known for his "combative" television appearances and enthusiastic support for Trump's immigration proposals. He has, however, drawn ire from both Republicans and Democrats. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has reportedly vowed to block Cuccinelli from getting confirmed for any position. McConnell reportedly blames Cuccinelli for promoting insurgent candidates running against sitting Republicans during the 2014 midterm elections. Tim O'Donnell

10:29 a.m.

Some of the momentum gathered by states seeking to implement more restrictive abortion measures in recent weeks was halted when a federal judge on Friday issued a preliminary injunction, blocking a Mississippi law that bans abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat.

Attorneys for the state's only abortion clinic said the law would effectively make all abortions illegal because most women are not yet aware of their pregnancy when a fetal heartbeat is first discovered. The bill makes an exception when the mother's health is at risk. The law, which is one in a series of Republican-sponsored abortion bills throughout the United States, was scheduled to take effect in July.

The judge, Carlton Reeves, wrote that a woman's free choice "outweighs any interest the state might have in banning abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat." Reeves also blocked a 2018 Mississippi law that would have banned abortion at 15 weeks. The state is still appealing that decision. Reeves wrote that the fact Mississippi lawmakers passed another ban after the first was struck down "smacks of defiance to this court." Tim O'Donnell

8:14 a.m.

As anticipated, President Trump on Friday declared a national emergency in response to rising tensions between the United States and Iran, allowing him to complete the sale of over $8 billion worth of weapons to Iran's regional rival, Saudi Arabia, as well as the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, all despite congressional objections.

Congress had blocked the sale of offensive weaponry to Saudi Arabia and the UAE for months as a result of those countries' air campaigns in Yemen and other human rights abuses. But Trump used a loophole to circumvent Congress and go ahead with the sale.

The emergency declaration was met with bipartisan disapproval. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), said there is no new emergency reason to supply Saudi Arabia with arms and "doing so only perpetuates the humanitarian crisis" in Yemen. Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas) called the decision "unfortunate" and said he would have preferred the Trump administration "utilize the long-established and codified arms sale review process."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the sales were necessary to deter Iran, but the decision to side step Congress was a "one-time event." Tim O'Donnell

7:44 a.m.

A federal judge in California issued a preliminary injunction on Friday temporarily blocking the government from constructing a wall in two sectors along the U.S.-Mexico border using funds diverted from the Defense Department, throwing a wrinkle into President Trump's national emergency declaration.

Construction was set to begin on Saturday, but the order — which applies specifically to two areas along the border near Yuma, Arizona, and El Paso, Texas, where a total of 51 miles of fencing was set to be built — will put that on hold. The construction of additional segments, announced too late for Friday's decision, will reportedly be taken up in June.

The judge, Haywood S. Gilliam, wrote that Congress's "absolute" control over federal funding is an "essential" feature of the United States government and that Trump's emergency declaration would "pose serious problems under the Constitution's separation of powers principles." The American Civil Liberties Union called the decision a "win for our system of checks and balances." Gilliam's ruling was in response to a lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition. Tim O'Donnell

May 24, 2019

The Supreme Court has blocked lower court rulings that required Ohio and Michigan's electoral maps to be immediately redrawn, NBC News reported Friday.

Previous court rulings had determined Ohio's map of congressional districts, and Michigan's map of congressional and state legislative districts, needed to be redrawn ahead of the 2020 election due to unconstitutional gerrymandering, in both cases favoring Republicans. But the Supreme Court on Friday put these orders on hold.

The justices are currently reviewing two gerrymandering cases, one concerning North Carolina and one concerning Maryland, during which they will decide whether the court has a role in such a matter. Verdicts are expected to be reached in these cases by the end of next month. Read more at The Washington Post. Brendan Morrow

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