National Roundup


Suit challenges ban on marijuana campaign money

CHICAGO (AP) - Two Libertarian political candidates have asked a federal court to declare unconstitutional an Illinois ban on political contributions from the state's new medical marijuana industry.

The candidates - Claire Ball of Addison and Scott Schluter of Marion - filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Chicago last week in which they say they support marijuana legalization and want to solicit campaign donations from marijuana businesses. Illinois law bars such contributions.

Ball is running for state comptroller. Schluter is running for state representative in southern Illinois' 117th District. They argue that banning campaign donations from marijuana businesses infringes on the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech, citing among other cases the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 decision in the case known as Citizens United.

The lawsuit acknowledges that preventing corruption is a legitimate reason for governments to restrict campaign donations. However, it says "medical cannabis cultivators and producers are not singularly more corrupting than similarly situated individuals."

The lawsuit names Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and members of the Illinois Board of Elections. The office has until Dec. 10 to respond to the lawsuit, Madigan spokeswoman Annie Thompson said Tuesday.

Ball and Schluter are represented by attorneys with the Liberty Justice Center in Chicago and the Pillar of Law Institute in Washington.

Illinois now has 15 medical marijuana cultivation centers authorized to grow the plant for legal sales. Nearly a dozen marijuana dispensaries have active licenses and 3,300 patients have been approved for the program.

The Medical Cannabis Alliance of Illinois, an industry group, hasn't had a chance to consider the lawsuit, said spokeswoman Kim Morreale McAuliffe.

North Carolina

@ROUND UP Briefs Headline:Gov. opposes transgender bathroom lawsuit

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper has rejected a call by Gov. Pat McCrory to side with a Virginia school district against a discrimination lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union that would allow a transgender high school student to use the men's bathroom.

President Barack Obama's administration filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the lawsuit last month.

McCrory, a Republican, wrote to Cooper, a Democrat, last week asking him to join the South Carolina attorney general in an opposing friend-of-the-court brief, multiple media outlets report.

"This extreme position directly contradicts the express language of federal law and threatens local control of our schools," McCrory wrote in his request. "It also disregards the safety and privacy concerns of parents and students."

A spokeswoman for the attorney general's office said Monday that Cooper reviewed McCrory's request and that the state won't be joining South Carolina's friend-of-the-court brief.

Cooper is seeking the Democratic nomination to oppose McCrory next year. His political campaign also released a statement noting that McCrory recently called for Obama to stop sending Syrian refugees to North Carolina in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks and then sought campaign money on the issue.

"This week, (McCrory has) found another group to politicize," spokesman Jamal Little said. "Next week, who knows who'll be the target of a governor whose only path to re-election is dividing North Carolina."

The Virginia student, born female, identifies as male and wants to use male restrooms. The School Board adopted a policy last year that requires students to use private restrooms or restrooms designated for their biological sex. The student's lawsuit was filed in federal court in Norfolk, Virginia.

McCrory said he's concerned that if the federal district court rules in favor of the Virginia student and the Obama administration, North Carolina school districts could be affected.


Suit seeks to restore parental rights to mother

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Fifty years after a St. Louis gospel singer said she was told that her daughter died at birth - a claim disputed by authorities - and months after the 76-year-old woman learned that her daughter was still alive, a judge is being asked to restore the birth mother's parental rights.

Attorney Albert Watkins announced the petition Tuesday in St. Louis Circuit Court in which Melanie Diane Gilmore seeks to invalidate her 1983 adoption and re-establish Zella Jackson Price as her legal mother.

Gilmore was born prematurely on Nov. 25, 1965, at Homer G. Phillips Hospital, which mostly served black residents until it closed in 1979. Price said a nurse told her that her daughter had died, but she was not allowed to see the deceased infant and never received a death certificate. She said she was stunned earlier this year when she learned that her daughter was very much alive. DNA testing confirmed with near 100-percent certainty that they are mother and daughter.

But authorities questioned Price's claim and now believe she abandoned the baby. U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan said in August that medical and adoption records showed discrepancies in Price's story. He said there is no evidence that the baby was stolen.

Price did not respond to an interview request.

Watkins said Price has never wavered from her story, and he stands by her. He said medical records from 50 years ago are inconsistent and incomplete.

"The ambiguities contained in the discovered medical records are beyond the pale and cannot be reconciled with facts," he said.

Watkins said giving parental rights back to Price would allow Gilmore to be an heir to Price's estate. It also gives him, as Gilmore's attorney, legal access to more details about her birth. But the suit was necessary beyond pragmatic reasons, he said.

"This is, on an emotional level, something really important to both of them," Watkins said.

Price's baby-stealing claim prompted concern that other black women from that era were perhaps also victims of baby theft. The St. Louis Department of Health urged any women with concerns to come forward, and more than 300 did.

Many of those women made similar claims: They were told their children had died at Homer G. Phillips, often by a nurse instead of a doctor, and were not allowed to see the bodies or provided death certificates. Watkins suspected that a baby theft ring was operating at the hospital, preying primarily on young, poor black women, with the stolen babies sold for illegal adoptions.

But there have been no substantiated claims of baby theft.

Gilmore was living in Springfield, Oregon, when her daughter sent a Facebook message to Price that led to the reunion.

Published: Thu, Nov 26, 2015