National Roundup

North Dakota
Appeals court rejects claim of fired Minot city attorney

MINOT, N.D. (AP) - An appeals court has rejected a former Minot city attorney's claim that she was fired in 2014 in retaliation for a whistleblower complaint over sexual harassment.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland in February 2017 dismissed Colleen Auer's complaint for lack of evidence, and she appealed to 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Minot Daily News reports that court has upheld Hovland's ruling.

Auer was employed by the city from March 31, 2014, until her firing on May 2, 2015. Auer alleged she was fired for reporting sex-based harassment.

The appeals court concluded Auer's allegations were "unreasonable."

Tennessee
Abortion change vote case appealed to high court

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Opponents of a state constitutional amendment that passed in 2014 to allow tougher abortion restrictions are appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court after a circuit appellate court denied a recount.

The appeal in the Amendment 1 case was filed earlier this month.

A 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals opinion in January said the state's vote tabulating method was reasonable and true to the meaning of the state constitution and didn't infringe on plaintiffs' voting rights.

The order overturned an April 2016 district court ruling that sided with eight voters that sued the state by ordering the recount. The judge called Tennessee's vote-counting unconstitutional and fundamentally unfair. The recount was put on hold pending the appeal.

Tennessee officials have said they followed their longstanding practice of counting amendment votes.

Arizona
Courts step up efforts against sexual harassment

PHOENIX (AP) - Arizona's top judge says the state's court system is stepping up efforts against sexual harassment involving judges and court employees.

An order signed Wednesday by Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Scott Bales adopts policies prohibiting discrimination and harassment in the workplace, mandates reporting of violations, requires investigations and says judges and court managers must provide educational opportunities about rights and processes.

Also, presiding judges in all 15 counties must review their courts' own county-level policies, Bales said during an interview Saturday.

Some of the newly adopted policy provisions were included in a 1992 policy against sexual harassment, but Bales said that "the cascading reports" in late 2017 of sexual misconduct in the entertainment industry and other parts of society prompted a fresh look.

"It struck me that we both needed to revisit that policy and do some broader educational efforts throughout the judiciary," Bales said. She noted that federal and state court systems across the country are engaged in similar efforts. "I think people recognize this is an important issue that needs to be get attention by the courts just as in other places in our society."

Bales said the results of Arizona's review include a broader prohibition on harassment while "giving particular attention to sexual harassment" with an approach generally tracking recommendations by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Sexual harassment hasn't been a frequent reason for disciplinary action against judges but there is a need to call attention to the issue, Bales said. "People should know what their rights are and their avenues for relief."

Also, the state court system includes not only hundreds of judges but approximately 10,000 employees, he said. "It's very appropriate to have policies in place for all of them," he said.

Parallel to the steps aimed at the judiciary and courthouse workforces, there's also been a broader effort across the legal profession, Bales said.

That effort had the court's education division and the State Bar of Arizona put on a free webinar on sexual harassment in May.

Despite longstanding bans on sexual harassment, the State Bar's description of the webinar said, "... recent headlines, as well as our day-to-day experiences have demonstrated that our laws and workplace policies simply aren't enough."

Utah
No charge of endangerment for gun left on baby changing table

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah authorities say a woman won't be charged with reckless endangerment after leaving a loaded gun on a baby changing table in a suburban Salt Lake City aquarium bathroom.

Prosecutors said Sunday the charge doesn't apply because the woman didn't purposely put people in danger by leaving the weapon behind.

Police say she put the .380-caliber pistol on the folded-up changing table to use the bathroom at the Living Planet Aquarium July 10, but was distracted by her children on the way out and forgot it.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill tells the Salt Lake Tribune the case exposes a gap in state law.

He says he'll send the case to city prosecutors for a possible lesser change, like trespassing by violating the aquarium's post ban on guns.

Connecticut
Infowars host Alex Jones moves to ­dismiss Sandy Hook lawsuit

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Right-wing radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is moving to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed by the families of some of the 26 people killed in the 2012 Connecticut school shooting.

In written arguments filed Friday, Jones' lawyers argue he was acting as a journalist in the tradition of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in questioning the official narrative of the Sandy Hook shooting.

Jones, who says he now believes the shootings happened, says such journalism would be chilled if "reporters were subject to liability if they turned out to be wrong."

Six families and an FBI agent who was a first responder filed suit this spring in state court.

The families say Jones' comments have tormented them and subjected them to harassment and death threats by his followers.

Published: Tue, Jul 24, 2018

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