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Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas Calls For Reconsideration of SCOTUS Verdict In New York Times v. Sullivan

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on Tuesday urged the court to reconsider its landmark precedent that made it harder for public figures to sue for defamation even as he joined in a decision to end a defamation suit against comedian Bill Cosby.

The 1964 high court ruling in the libel case known as New York Times v. Sullivan has served as a powerful protection for media reporting on public figures. But Thomas, one of the high court’s most conservative justices, said it is not rooted in the U.S. Constitution.

That ruling and the court’s later ones extending it “were policy-driven decisions masquerading as constitutional law,” Thomas wrote, expressing views that appear to be aligned with those expressed previously by President Donald Trump.

Thomas made the comments in a concurring opinion agreeing with his fellow justices in refusing to consider reviving a defamation lawsuit against Cosby by Kathrine McKee, an actress and former Las Vegas showgirl who said he falsely called her a liar after she accused him of raping her in 1974.

McKee was represented in the case by attorney Charles Harder, who represented Trump in a defamation suit brought against the president by adult film actress Stormy Daniels. Daniels has said she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006, which he denies. McKee had appealed a court ruling in Massachusetts that threw out her lawsuit.

In January 2018, Trump called current defamation laws “a sham and a disgrace” following the publication of a book about the White House by author Michael Wolff called “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” which among other things questioned the president’s mental health.

The high court’s unanimous 1964 ruling held that in order to win a libel suit, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the offending statement was made with “actual malice,” meaning knowledge that it was false or reckless disregard as to whether it was false.

The case involved a lawsuit against the New York Times, a newspaper that Trump often criticizes for its coverage of him.

Thomas wrote that “we should carefully examine the original meaning of the First and Fourteenth Amendments,” referring to the constitutional provisions protecting freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the application of those rights to the states.

“If the Constitution does not require public figures to satisfy an actual-malice standard in state-law defamation suits, then neither should we,” Thomas wrote.

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White Former Police Officer Acquitted In Death of Black Unarmed Teenager

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In this March 12, 2019 file photo, former East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld, charged with homicide in the shooting death of Antwon Rose II, walks to the Dauphin County Courthouse in Harrisburg, Pa. A witness in the shooting of Rose by Rosfeld said Wednesday March 20, 2019 at his trial in Pittsburgh, that he saw the officer standing on the sidewalk, panicking, saying, "I don't know why I shot him. I don't know why I fired." (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A jury has acquitted a white former police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager outside Pittsburgh.


Former East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld was charged with homicide for killing 17-year-old Antwon Rose II last June. Rose was riding in an unlicensed taxi that was involved in a drive-by shooting. Rosfeld pulled the car over and shot Rose in the back, arm and side of the face as the teen ran away.

Rosfeld testified that he thought Rose or another passenger in the car had a gun pointed at him.

The jury saw video of the fatal confrontation. The verdict came Friday after fewer than four hours of deliberations.

The shooting triggered protests in the Pittsburgh area last year.

The family of a black teenager who was shot in the back and killed by a white police officer outside Pittsburgh remained stoic after the man was acquitted.

Antwon Rose II’s sister had tears streaming down her face after the jury cleared former East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld of a homicide charge late Friday. Her mother urged her not to cry.

The jury deliberated fewer than four hours before reaching its verdict. There were tears and gasps from black people gathered in an overflow courtroom, and several broke out in song: “Antwon Rose was a freedom fighter, and he taught us how to fight.”

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Mississippi Governor Signs One of America’s Strictest Abortion Laws In The Nation, Welcomes Lawsuits

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Mississippi’s governor has signed one of the strictest abortion laws in the nation.

Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill Thursday outlawing most abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, about six weeks into pregnancy.

The Center for Reproductive Rights calls the bill “blatantly unconstitutional” and says it will sue Mississippi to block the bill from taking effect July 1.

Mississippi is one of several states where Republican leaders are considering abortion-restriction bills this year. Abortion opponents are emboldened by new conservatives on the Supreme Court and are seeking cases to challenge the court’s 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

Bryant tweeted that he will fight for “innocent babies, even under the threat of legal action.”

Developing story, more to come…

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Oil/Gas Drilling Blocked On Federal Land In Wyoming Over Climate Change

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A federal judge has temporarily blocked oil and gas drilling on 300,000 acres of federal land in Wyoming, ruling that the Interior Department “did not sufficiently consider climate change” in its assessments of whether to lease federal land for individual projects, the Washington Post reports.


BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A judge has blocked oil and gas drilling on almost 500 square miles (1,295 sq. kilometers) in Wyoming and says the government must consider the cumulative climate change impact of leasing public lands across the U.S. for oil and gas exploration.

The order marks the latest in a string of rulings over the past decade faulting the U.S. for its inadequate consideration of greenhouse gas emissions when issuing leases for oil, gas and coal.

But U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras appeared to go a step further than previous rulings. Contreras said late Tuesday the U.S. Bureau of Land Management must consider nationwide emissions from past, present and future oil and gas leases.

The ruling was in a lawsuit challenging leases issued in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado in 2015 and 2016.

Developing story, more to come…

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