National Roundup

 New Mexico

4 justices won’t hear judicial  pay-raise case 
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Four of the five New Mexico Supreme Court justices have bowed out from hearing a lawsuit challenging Gov. Susana Martinez’s veto that denied judges an 8 percent pay raise.
The lawsuit was filed Monday by a coalition of judicial associations, individual judges and two state senators.
Supreme Court Clerk Joey Montoya tells the Albuquerque Journal that the fifth justice, Richard Bosson, will serve as acting chief justice to preside over the case and appoint temporary justices to hear it.
Man accused of rapes at ‘spiritual cleansing’ events
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — Prosecutors say two women were raped by a man who lured them to Orange County motel rooms for so-called “spiritual cleansings” that involved rubbing whole eggs on their bodies.
The Orange County Register reports 39-year-old Alberto Flores Ramirez of San Clemente faces two counts of rape and four other sexual offense charges. He could get 75 years to life in prison if convicted.
The incidents are alleged to have occurred in 2012. Prosecutors say Ramirez convinced the women that he is a spiritual healer and he could perform a ritual with an egg that cleanses negative energy. After he booked motel rooms and performed the ritual, he allegedly attacked the women.

Court: State law on discrimination covers pregnancy 
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that employers cannot discriminate against pregnant women under the state’s civil rights act.
In a 6-to-1 opinion handed down Thursday, the court overturned a lower court in the case of a woman who worked for a South Florida property developer.
She alleged that after she became pregnant, the company began extra scrutiny of her work and refused to schedule her after she returned from maternity leave.
The lower court had ruled that the Florida Civil Rights Act does not cover pregnant woman. The Supreme Court’s opinion takes a broader view of the law, ruling that discrimination on the basis of pregnancy extends to the protection of an individual based on gender.
Man sentenced for stealing cars from health clubs 
PHOENIX (AP) — A transient who pleaded guilty to numerous charges in the thefts of luxury cars from Phoenix health clubs last year has been sentenced to 18 years in prison.
A Maricopa County Superior Court spokesman says 46-year-old Richard Cory Barker was sentenced Thursday by Judge Joseph Welty.
Phoenix police believe Barker followed the victims into two workout facilities, broke into their lockers as they worked out and removed personal property including car keys.
Police say Barker sold one of the vehicles for $8,900 after advertising it online and giving the buyer a fake title.
Undercover officers posed as potential buyers for one of the stolen vehicles and arrested Barker.
He pleaded guilty to charges that included theft of means of transportation, forgery and trafficking in stolen property.

Court: Religious jobs exempt from some labor laws 
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled that religious institutions may hire and fire people from strictly religious jobs as they see fit but could face legal action if an employment contract is involved.
In two decisions handed down Thursday, the justices reinstated lawsuits brought by two former staff members at the Lexington Theological Seminary. In both cases, Chief Justice John D. Minton concluded that the staff members had employment contracts with the school and should be able to pursue litigation over their dismissals.
Minton concluded that without the contracts, the seminary would be allowed to dismiss former professors Laurence H. Kant and Jimmy Kirby under what is known as the “ministerial exception” to labor laws.
The exception allows religious institutions to make employment decisions based on the institution’s beliefs.
Judge has narrow ruling in public records case 
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A state judge has ruled that elected officials cannot use the Wyoming Public Records Act to obtain massive amounts of internal documents from other government agencies.
District Judge Peter Arnold issued the narrow ruling recently in a lawsuit filed by state schools Superintendent Cindy Hill against Gov. Matt Mead and the state Department of Education director.
While Arnold ruled Hill can’t seek the documents as superintendent, he noted she can still seek them as a private individual. 
Justices send execution case to lower court 
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Supreme Court says it is not the place for death-row inmates to go if they want a stay of execution.
Justices said Thursday that the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals should take up stay requests from two inmates scheduled to die in the next two weeks. The appeals court had said previously it didn’t have the authority because the inmates hadn’t met all technical requirements under the law.
Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner have sued the state seeking more information about the drugs that would be used to kill them. They say they need stays of execution so they can continue their challenge.
The justices wrote that the Court of Criminal Appeals erred in not taking up the request.
South Carolina
Man fined $525 for drink refill at hospital cafeteria
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — A man who helped himself to a refill of his 89-cent drink at a Veterans Affairs hospital found it cost a lot more than he expected when he was fined $525.
WCSC-TV reports there are signs in the cafeteria telling people refills are not free. When Christopher Lewis of North Charleston, S.C., refilled his drink without paying Wednesday, a federal police officer gave him a ticket.
Lewis is a construction worker and says he never noticed the signs and has refilled his drink without paying before.
The medical center said in a statement that Lewis was ticketed for shoplifting, but that the VA doesn’t determine the amount of the fine.