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January 21, 2021

Facebook's oversight board has taken on a major case, as it's set to review the company's decision to boot the president of the United States from its platform.

Facebook announced Thursday it has referred its decision to indefinitely suspend former President Donald Trump's account to the Facebook independent Oversight Board, which has accepted the case.

"We believe our decision was necessary and right," Nick Clegg, Facebook's vice president of global affairs and communications, said. "Given its significance, we think it is important for the board to review it and reach an independent judgment on whether it should be upheld. While we await the board's decision, Mr. Trump's access will remain suspended indefinitely."

Facebook suspended Trump's account in the wake of the deadly riot at the Capitol building by his supporters, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg saying the "risks of allowing the president to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great" as he attempted to "undermine the peaceful and lawful transfer of power." Facebook said the suspension would continue "indefinitely" and "at least" until he was out of office.

The oversight board pledged to offer a "thorough and independent assessment" of the case and provide "policy recommendations from the board on suspensions when the user is a political leader." Facebook noted that whatever decision the board reaches will be binding and can't be overruled by the company's executives. A decision will come within 90 days.

Twitter also took action against Trump over the Capitol riot by permanently banning his account. But NBC News' Dylan Byers notes that referring the case to the oversight board allows Facebook to "outsource" this final decision. Brendan Morrow

December 1, 2020

Justices on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reportedly sounded "deeply skeptical" over prosecutors' arguments during a Tuesday hearing on Bill Cosby's sexual assault conviction.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday after Cosby's attorneys appealed his 2018 conviction, and "many of the seven justices seemed doubtful of the prosecution's assertions," USA Today reports. Cosby's attorneys argue that five accusers shouldn't have been permitted to testify against him as "prior bad acts" witnesses during his trial on charges of sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004, and his attorney said Tuesday that as a result of this testimony, the "presumption of innocence just didn't exist for him," per Variety.

During the hearing, Variety reports several justices seemed "deeply skeptical" about the five witnesses testifying during the trial, with Justice Max Baer telling Cosby's attorney, "I tend to agree this evidence was extraordinarily prejudicial to your client." The judges also appeared "dubious" over the prosecution's argument that this testimony demonstrated a common pattern of behavior, Variety writes. Justice Christine Donohue reportedly said, "Frankly I don't see it."

Chief Justice Thomas Saylor also asked the prosecution how the "conduct you describe" can amount to a "common scheme" when "there's literature that says that" the steps outlined are "common to 50 percent of these assaults," The Associated Press reports.

At least four of the seven members of the state Supreme Court ultimately "sharply" questioned the prosecution during the hearing, CNN reports. Cosby is serving a sentence of between three and 10 years in prison following his conviction. According to the USA Today, a ruling isn't expected for months. Brendan Morrow

May 13, 2020

It's another big day of oral arguments at the Supreme Court.

After the court on Tuesday remotely heard arguments concerning President Trump's effort to block subpoenas for his financial records, the court on Wednesday will hear arguments in two other highly-watched cases. These concern Electoral College members who cast their ballot for someone other than the person who won their state's popular vote.

In the cases the Supreme Court will look at at, one of these "faithless electors" in Colorado cast his vote in 2016 for John Kasich rather than Hillary Clinton even though she won the popular vote in that state, while three electors in Washington state voted for Colin Powell rather than Clinton, who was again the winner there, NBC News reports. The Colorado elector sued over the state scrapping his vote and replacing him with an elector who then voted for Clinton, while the electors in Washington sued over fines they were hit with.

These electors argue that the states' laws removing or fining "faithless electors" are unconstitutional, The Hill reports, and how the court comes down on whether electors must support the winner of their state could be highly significant heading into the 2020 presidential election. Previously, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decided in the Colorado case that electors are permitted to vote for any candidate, but in the Washington case, the law that says electors have to vote for the winner of their state was upheld by the state Supreme Court, per NBC.

These oral arguments will once again be heard remotely and take place over the phone, with viewers at home being able to listen in live. This is the Supreme Court's last day of arguments for May, according to The Associated Press, and a decision is expected in the summer. Brendan Morrow

May 12, 2020

The Supreme Court is about to continue its remote oral arguments with the most highly-anticipated case yet.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear arguments on President Trump's attempt to block subpoenas for his financial records from the House of Representatives and prosecutors in New York. Lawmakers and prosecutors are seeking documents from Trump's accounting firm, as well as Capital One and Deutsche Bank.

Trump's lawyers have claimed the New York prosecutors can't subpoena his accounting firm for these documents while he's in office and that the House Oversight and Reform committees doesn't have a legitimate purpose for the records, The New York Times reports. The New York subpoena was issued as part of an investigation into hush money payments made to two women who claim they had affairs with Trump, which he denies. A House lawyer has said lawmakers do have a legitimate legislative purpose for the records and that there's "nothing unprecedented" about its subpoenas, CNN reports.

The Times notes that the Supreme Court's previous decisions requiring former President Richard Nixon to turn over Oval Office tapes and requiring former President Bill Clinton to respond to a sexual harassment lawsuit may "suggest that Mr. Trump could face an uphill fight in winning his argument that he is entitled to complete immunity from criminal process of any kind so long as he is in office," although the congressional subpoenas "may more sharply divide the justices."

You'll be able to listen into the arguments in the case as they unfold, as the Supreme Court recently began to hold arguments over the phone and make the audio available live for the first time ever due to the coronavirus pandemic. The arguments will begin at 10:00 a.m. Eastern, and a decision, CNN reports, is expected to arrive in the summer. Brendan Morrow

May 6, 2020

Facebook has announced the names of 20 people who will serve on its so-called Supreme Court, an independent body that will make decisions on content moderation.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg going back to 2018 has discussed a plan to create this independent oversight group to which decisions on whether content is removed from Facebook can be appealed, and on Wednesday, Facebook appointed the first people to serve on it. Among them is Helle Thorning-Schmidt, former prime minister of Denmark, Alan Rusbridger, former editor-in-chief of The Guardian, and two law professors whose names, NBC News notes, have been floated as nominees for the actual Supreme Court: Pamela Karlan and Michael McConnell.

Facebook said the oversight board will "exercise independent judgment over some of the most difficult and significant content decisions" and that going forward, it will play an "increasingly important role in setting precedent and direction for content policy at Facebook." The company also pledged that it will implement the board's decisions "unless doing so could violate the law." The board, which will eventually consist of up to 40 people, will also hear appeals on Instagram content.

Coupled with the announcement, four co-chairs of the oversight board penned an op-ed in The New York Times Wednesday, in which they stressed their independence from Facebook and promised to make their decisions "without regard to the economic, political or reputational interests of the company." Noting they won't be able to hear all the appeals they get, they said their focus will be on "identifying cases that have a real-world impact, are important for public discourse and raise questions about current Facebook policies."

Facebook's Supreme Court, according to The Verge, will start picking cases to hear in the summer. Read the full list of names here. Brendan Morrow

October 9, 2018

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh isn't wasting any time.

After being sworn in on Monday night, Kavanaugh is set to join the court Tuesday to hear his first oral arguments. His first cases have to do with a law requiring that if individuals are convicted of firearms possession, and they have already been convicted of three violent felonies, they are to receive a longer sentence, per The New York Times. The question before the court is what, exactly, constitutes a violent felony under that law.

After that, Kavanaugh will hear arguments regarding whether the Department of Homeland Security has the authority to detain certain undocumented immigrants with criminal backgrounds without a bond hearing while their case is dealt with, per The Atlantic. Kavanaugh's next case will then have to do with whether the manufacturer of a ship's equipment can be held liable for asbestos-related injuries Navy sailors sustain if the asbestos was added later by companies that aren't in business anymore, USA Today reports.

The Supreme Court's term began on Oct. 1, but Kavanaugh is joining a week late after Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) called for a supplemental background investigation in light of multiple sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh, which he denies. On Saturday, the Senate confirmed Kavanaugh 50-48, and he is now expected to shift the court to the right for decades to come. Kavanaugh, however, said Monday night that he would be "independent and impartial" on the court. Brendan Morrow

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