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October 27, 2020

The Justice Department's move to defend President Trump in writer E. Jean Carroll's defamation lawsuit has been denied by a federal judge.

Judge Lewis Kaplan on Tuesday rejected the DOJ's attempt to step into the lawsuit filed by Carroll, who has accused Trump of rape, and said he can be personally sued by the writer, CNN and The New York Times report.

Trump has denied Carroll's allegation that he raped her in the 1990s. She filed a defamation lawsuit against him in 2019, but the DOJ last month tried to take over the case in an unusual move. The Justice Department hoped to move the case to federal court and substitute in the United States as the defendant instead of Trump, according the Times. But Kaplan denied this request, saying that Trump's statements denying Carroll's allegation weren't made in his official capacity as president.

"His comments concerned an alleged sexual assault that took place several decades before he took office, and the allegations have no relationship to the official business of the United States," Kaplan said. The judge also said that Trump "is not an 'employee of the government,' as Congress defined that term," and that even if he were, his "allegedly defamatory statements" would "not have been within the scope of his employment." Brendan Morrow

August 18, 2020

Movie theaters won't be able to reopen in New Jersey just yet.

A judge on Tuesday upheld New Jersey's order requiring movie theaters to stay closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, report Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

AMC Theatres and Regal Cinemas, which closed their locations across the United States in March due to the coronavirus crisis, last month filed a lawsuit against New Jersey's governor for not yet allowing them to reopen. They argued that they should be able to reopen the same way churches have and that the state was making "unconstitutional and unlawful distinctions" in violation of their First Amendment rights.

But Judge Brian Martinotti on Tuesday declined to issue an injunction that would let the theaters reopen, deciding that New Jersey is simply "promoting the significant governmental interest of protecting public health by keeping closed areas that present heightened risks for COVID-19 transmission."

This decision comes just days before both AMC and Regal are scheduled to begin reopening their theaters in areas of the U.S. where they're allowed to do so ahead of the planned September limited release of the new Christopher Nolan movie Tenet.

But in some states like New York and New Jersey, there's still no green light to reopen. Earlier this week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said a movie theater "poses a high risk" and that they're "not that high on the list of essentials." And New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D), asked recently about when theaters might be able to reopen, said, "I honestly don't know. That is complicated." Brendan Morrow

July 30, 2020

President Trump is now openly floating a delay to the 2020 presidential election.

Trump in a tweet on Thursday continued to baselessly claim that mail-in voting will result in a "fraudulent" election this November while arguing absentee voting is fine, even though experts note they're effectively the same, and analysis shows mail-in voting is largely just as secure and accurate as in-person voting. This time, though, Trump went a step further by tossing out the possibility of postponing the election entirely.

"Delay the election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???" he wrote.

Delaying the election is something Trump does not have the power to do. "The Constitution empowers Congress, not the president, to select Election Day," Common Cause director of voting and elections Sylvia Albert explained to The Washington Post. "No laws passed by Congress have delegated these powers to the president, even in an emergency, so Congress is the only entity that has the power to change the date of the election." A delay to the presidential election has never happened before.

Former Vice President Joe Biden previously predicted that Trump would attempt to postpone the presidential election, saying in an interview, "Mark my words, I think he is going to try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can't be held." At the time, the Trump campaign referred to these comments from Biden as "incoherent, conspiracy theory ramblings," and Trump himself said, "Why would I do that? November 3rd. It's a good number." Brendan Morrow

July 14, 2020

A Harvey Weinstein settlement that was criticized as "one-sided and unfair" by some of his accusers has been rejected.

U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein on Tuesday rejected a proposed $46.8 million settlement of Weinstein sexual misconduct cases and blasted its "obnoxious" terms, Variety reports.

The settlement would have used insurance money to set up a $18.9 million fund for alleged victims of Weinstein, who was convicted on sexual assault and rape charges earlier this year, but also would have provided money to cover costs for Weinstein and his associates. On Monday, lawyers for several Weinstein accusers rebuked the settlement as a "cruel hoax." They said Weinstein and others from his company would "be absolved from liability" and collectively receive about $15 million, coming out as the "main winners."

"This is the most one-sided and unfair settlement we have ever seen proposed to a court," the lawyers said, per The Wrap. "Under no set of circumstances should the uber-wealthy former directors, including Harvey and Bob Weinstein, receive more money than a class of rape and sexual assault survivors."

The judge, according to Variety, decided that the settlement "improperly nullifies claims of non-participating parties," and he objected to Weinstein and others getting "millions in attorneys' fees" from it.

"The idea that Harvey Weinstein can get a defense fund ahead of the claimants is obnoxious," the judge said. "The idea you can regulate the claims of people not in the settlement — I can't subscribe to that."

Hellerstein additionally said that the accusations are different enough that this should not be a class action case, Variety reports. The attorneys who had objected to the settlement in a statement on Tuesday celebrated the move, saying they "are pleased that Judge Hellerstein swiftly rejected the one-sided proposal," adding, "we look forward to pursuing justice against Harvey Weinstein and his many enablers." Brendan Morrow

June 18, 2020

The Supreme Court has ruled against President Trump on ending DACA.

In a 5-4 decision on Thursday, the court blocked the Trump administration from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program protecting undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. before turning 16 from being deported, NBC News reports.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, stating that the administration's effort to end DACA was "arbitrary and capricious" and that it violated Administrative Procedure Act, so the rescission of DACA "must be vacated." Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor joined Roberts. The opinion notes, however, that "the dispute before the court is not whether DHS may rescind DACA. All parties agree that it may. The dispute is instead primarily about the procedure the agency followed in doing so."

This decision came days after another loss for the Trump administration when earlier this week, the court ruled that gay and transgender Americans are protected from workplace discrimination under the Civil Rights Act, rejecting the administration's argument. Brendan Morrow

May 4, 2020

The secretary of the Senate will not be releasing information related to a complaint Tara Reade says she made against former Vice President Joe Biden as he requested.

Biden last week after breaking his silence on the allegation from Reade, a former staffer, that he sexually assaulted her in 1993, requested that the secretary of the Senate release any documents related to a complaint she says she made. Biden, who denied the allegation, had requested a search of the National Archives but told the secretary of the Senate, "the Archives now states that the records would have remained under the control of the Senate." Biden requested the release of "not only a complaint if one exists, but any and all other documents in the records that relate to the allegation."

On Monday, however, the secretary of the Senate responded to Biden's request saying the office has "no discretion to disclose" the information, Axios reports. The statement cited "strict confidentiality requirements."

Reade says she filed a complaint against Biden with the Senate personnel office in the 1990s, although she says the complaint did not mention assault. Biden said in regard to the allegation last week, "It is not true. I'm saying unequivocally, it never, never happened. And it didn't. It never happened." The Biden campaign on Monday responded to the Senate secretary with several questions, including if there is anyone to whom the records could be disclosed legally. Brendan Morrow

May 17, 2019

A second federal appeals court has ruled against the Trump administration's attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit on Friday ruled in a 2-1 decision that the administration was "arbitrary and capricious" in its efforts to end DACA, which provides protections for some undocumented immigrants brought into the United States as children, The Washington Post reports.

The court said that the Trump administration's attempt to end the program violated the law because the administration did not provide "a reasoned explanation for the change in policy." This overturns a previous ruling from a Maryland judge last year that the administration could proceed in ending the program, The Associated Press reports.

The appeals court decision comes after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last year blocked the Trump administration from ending DACA, allowing the program to remain in effect. The legal battle will likely be taken up by the Supreme Court, as the Trump administration has asked for, although AP notes a decision probably would not come until 2020. Brendan Morrow

November 28, 2016

Unable to cast a vote for President-elect Donald Trump, a Republican member of the Electoral College confirmed to Politico on Monday that he is stepping down. "Since I can't in good conscience vote for Donald Trump, and yet have sinfully made a pledge that I would, the best option that I see at this time is to resign my position as an elector," Texan Art Sisneros wrote in what Politico described as a "little-noticed blog post over the weekend."

Sisneros, who previously suggested he would vote against Trump, explained in the post that he can't vote for the president-elect because he doesn't think Trump is "biblically qualified to serve in the office of the presidency." "I believe voting for Trump would bring dishonor to God," Sisneros wrote. He compared the American people's decision to elect Trump to demanding "Skittles for dinner."

Sisneros said he resigned in time to give electors a chance to fill his spot with "someone that can vote for Trump" before they meet on Dec. 19. Becca Stanek

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