court reports
December 11, 2017

A 32-year-old private investigator in Louisiana has pleaded guilty to attempting to use President Trump's Social Security number to access Trump's tax returns through a U.S. Department of Education financial aid website, The Associated Press reports. Jordan Hamlett was indicted in November 2016, arguing in court that he had no "intent to deceive" when he made an effort to access then-candidate Trump's tax records several weeks earlier. Hamlett claimed that his attempts to obtain the returns had been motivated "out of sheer curiosity."

Federal agents initially questioned Hamlett two weeks before the presidential election and were unaware at the time if his attempts to access Trump's tax returns had been successful or not. The agents "feared a public release of Trump's tax returns could influence the election," AP writes.

Trump's tax returns have remained a tantalizing mystery for many opponents of the president, as Trump is the first commander in chief in decades to refuse to release the forms. Hamlett's lawyer, though, argues that his client was operating as a "white hat" hacker, and that Hamlett had tried to notify the IRS about the vulnerabilities in the system. Hamlett faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Jeva Lange

August 12, 2017

U.S. District Judge William Martinez threw out a lawsuit by former radio host David Mueller against pop star Taylor Swift on Friday.

The suit claimed Swift personally sought to have Mueller fired after he allegedly groped her during a meet-and-greet in 2013; Martinez determined there was insufficient evidence of Mueller's claim against Swift, but his suits against Swift's mother and radio promotions director will be allowed to proceed to a jury decision.

Swift herself has been adamant she was not involved in Mueller's firing. "I'm not going to allow you or your client to make me feel in any way that this is my fault, because it isn't," she said in testimony. "I am being blamed for the unfortunate events of his life that are a product of his decisions, and not mine."

Meanwhile, Swift's suit against Mueller was advanced Friday by her bodyguard's testimony that "she moved, [and] pushed [her] skirt down" to escape the grope. Bonnie Kristian

May 29, 2016

A federal judge ordered the release of internal Trump University documents as part of an ongoing lawsuit against the presumptive Republican presidential nominee's company, The Washington Post reported Saturday. Donald Trump's attorneys had argued that the documents, including "playbooks" for salespeople, revealed trade secrets.

Judge Gonzalo Curiel issued the ruling hours after Trump disparaged his Latino heritage and called him a biased "hater" at a San Diego rally. In the order, Curiel said Trump "has placed placed the integrity of these court proceedings at issue."

The unaccredited real estate seminar business faces multiple lawsuits alleging its practices are deceptive. Julie Kliegman

May 16, 2016

The Supreme Court declined Monday to rule on a challenge to ObamaCare's contraceptive mandate from religious groups, instead throwing out previous rulings in favor of the Obama administration and sending the case back down to the lower courts, Reuters reports.

The surprise move is a good sign for the groups, which are dissatisfied with the Obama administration's workaround to providing contraceptive care to employees of companies that object to the health-care law's mandate on faith-based grounds. They argued that filling out the letter objecting to contraceptive coverage goes against their faith, as it allows employees to receive contraceptive coverage from insurers.

The Supreme Court "expresses no view on the merits of the cases," the justices wrote in a unanimous decision. The lower courts, Talking Points Memo reports, will look at implementing alternative accommodation to the contraceptive mandate.

Vox's Sarah Kliff best summed up the Supreme Court's move. Julie Kliegman

May 14, 2016

Sheriff Joe Arpaio of the Phoenix area, known nationally for being notoriously hard on unauthorized immigrants, was found to be in contempt of court Friday for disobeying a federal judge's order in a racial profiling case, The New York Times reports.

Self-branded as "America's Toughest Sheriff," the six-term official was found, along with current and former aides, to have participated in "multiple acts of misconduct, dishonesty, and bad faith" in racially profiling Latinos at traffic stops, said Judge G. Murray Snow. The case may be referred for criminal contempt after a May 31 hearing, which could stick Arpaio with fines and even jail time.

Arpaio, 83, plans to run for a seventh term in the Maricopa County office in November. Julie Kliegman

May 9, 2016

The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, along with a same-sex couple, is suing the state over its new anti-LGBT law, The Associated Press reports.

The law, set to take effect in July, purports to protect religious freedom by permitting businesses to deny serving same-sex couples. The bill, like similar anti-LGBT legislation in North Carolina, has prompted a lot of backlash, including criticism from President Obama.

"Our grandparents experienced discrimination for being black, and my parents probably did as well," said Nykolas Alford, who filed the suit with his fiancé, Stephen Thomas. "My parents were born in the '60s and grew up in the '70s and '80s, and so it's always been a part of our lives. We thought this movement was over, you know? We thought that we would be fine. We thought that we would be equal, and here we are today saying that we're not, and we want equality." Julie Kliegman

May 9, 2016

North Carolina filed a lawsuit against the federal government Monday over its opposition to the state's controversial bathroom law, which requires transgender people to use public restrooms associated with their biological sex and prohibits local governments from banning anti-LGBT discrimination in public places.

The Justice Department gave North Carolina a Monday deadline to ditch the law, arguing that it violates the Civil Rights Act, or else potentially face losing access to hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding.

Gov. Pat McCrory (R) has repeatedly defended the law, even as high-profile businesses and artists have pledged to boycott the state. He told Fox News Sunday the federal government was "being a bully." Julie Kliegman

April 25, 2016

A former student of Dennis Hastert's, known as Individual A in a federal indictment of the former House speaker, filed a lawsuit Monday demanding $1.8 million, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

The alleged victim of Hastert's sexual abuse, then 14, argued he didn't receive all of the $3.5 million his former wrestling coach agreed to pay him in compensation for hiding the abuse from decades ago in a motel while on a wrestling trip.

"For many years to follow, Plaintiff suffered severe panic attacks which lead [sic] to periods of unemployment, career changes, bouts of depression, hospitalization, and long-term psychiatric treatment," the lawsuit read.

After pleading guilty to hush money charges, Hastert is set to be sentenced Wednesday. Prosecutors have alleged he sexually abused at least four boys, but he has not been charged due to the statutes of limitations. Julie Kliegman

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