National Roundup

New Jersey
State Supreme Court removes judge for abuse of power

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey’s Supreme Court has removed a state Superior Court judge from office because she abused her power by interfering in a custody dispute involving a former intern.

The move comes after Judge Liliana DeAvila-Silebi decided not to fight the removal recommendation made by a judicial panel appointed by the top court.

Officials say DeAvila-Silebi falsely claimed the intern had a court order allowing her to regain custody of her child from his grandmother for Mother’s Day weekend in May 2015. Officials say no such order existed.

The panel also says DeAvila-Silebi provided a list of calls that had been cropped to conceal whether the calls were incoming or outgoing.

U.S. attorneys general discuss social media ­privacy concerns

WASHINGTON (AP) — A meeting between top state law enforcement officials and Attorney General Jeff Sessions about how the government can safeguard the privacy of social media users ended Tuesday without a decision on whether to investigate.

The gathering at the Justice Department was scheduled to discuss whether tech giants are “stifling the free exchange of ideas” and examine whether they “may be hurting competition.”

But California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a Democrat, says the one-hour meeting mainly focused on consumer protection and data privacy issues.

Attorneys general from Alabama, California, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, Tennessee, Utah and Washington, D.C., attended. Five other states sent senior deputies.

Justice Department officials said the meeting “centered on ways the Department and state governments can most effectively safeguard consumers using online digital platforms.”

Although there wasn’t an immediate decision on whether to open an investigation, the attorneys general discussed the nuances and interpretation of privacy and what might constitute a monopoly in the tech sector, Becerra said.

“The conversation really zeroed in on privacy,” he said after the meeting. “I think everyone sees the growth of the industry as something that has become of interest to regulators and enforcers. How it might apply, that is still the open question.”

The Justice Department said it will review the “insight” shared by the attorneys general and expects conversations on the topic to continue.

ACLU asks ­another city to repeal ­panhandling law

CHILLICOTHE, Ohio (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union is asking another Ohio city to repeal a law that makes panhandling a minor criminal offense.

At issue is an ordinance in Chillicothe in southern Ohio that addresses “suspicious persons” and which prohibits soliciting donations by an individual.

The Chillicothe Gazette reported Wednesday that the ACLU asked the city in a letter last month to overturn the law. The civil rights group pointed to U.S. Supreme Court rulings that say requests for monetary contributions are protected speech.

Mayor Luke Feeney has asked city council to review the ordinance in question.

The paper says Columbus changed its approach to panhandling by focusing on people who walk up to individuals at ATMs or panhandle at specific locations such as highway exits.

West Virginia
Ex-justice blames impeachment on gender bias

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — An impeached former West Virginia Supreme Court justice has filed a federal lawsuit accusing elected officials of gender bias and other violations.

Former Justice Robin Davis’ 40-page lawsuit filed Wednesday said she would not have been impeached “had she not been a woman.” It seeks to halt her upcoming impeachment trial in the state Senate.
The lawsuit names Gov. Jim Justice and multiple legislators as defendants.

The impeachments stemmed from questions involving renovations to the justices’ offices. Those questions evolved into accusations of corruption, incompetence and neglect of duty. Democratic lawmakers, who hold minorities in the House and Senate, have characterized the impeachments as an unprecedented power grab by the GOP.

Justice Menis Ketchum, a Democrat, resigned before the Republican-led House of Delegates voted to impeach the remaining four justices. Davis, also a Democrat, then resigned in time to trigger an election for the remainder of her term. She and three others await Senate trials starting next month: Allen Loughry, who is suspended, and Margaret Workman and Beth Walker.

The lawsuit says the impeachments enabled the governor to replace elected justices “with Republican men and create a ‘conservative court’ for years to come.” U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins and former House Speaker Tim Armstead have been appointed as interim justices until a Nov. 6 special election.

Davis’ lawsuit also alleges the House violated the constitutional separation of powers by adopting the “invalid” and “unsupported” impeachment articles. It says a Judiciary Investigation Commission previously dismissed code of judicial conduct complaints against her, Workman and Walker.

Davis was impeached for $500,000 in office renovations, mostly for construction costs. There also was $28,000 spent for rugs, $23,000 in design services and an $8,100 desk chair.

Davis and others also were impeached for their roles in allowing senior status judges to be paid higher than allowed wages and for abusing their authority for failing to control office expenses and not maintaining policies over matters such as state vehicles, working lunches and the use of office computers at home.

Meanwhile, Workman has asked the state Supreme Court to halt her upcoming Senate trial. A panel of temporary justices has been appointed to hear the case.

The governor’s office declined comment on Davis’ lawsuit. Republican Delegates Michael Folk and Pat McGeehan say Workman and Davis are trying to obstruct the Legislature’s impeachment duty.