Supreme Court Notebook

U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear Drew ­Peterson's appeal

CHICAGO (AP) - The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear former Chicago-area police officer Drew Peterson's appeal of his murder conviction in the drowning death of his third wife.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports the high court refused Monday to take up Peterson's bid to have his murder conviction overturned. His appeal request was filed in June.

The 64-year-old Peterson, a former Bolingbrook police officer, is serving a 38-year sentence for Kathleen Savio's 2004 death and another 40-year sentence after being convicted of plotting to kill the prosecutor in the case.

The Illinois Supreme Court declined to overturn Peterson's murder conviction last year .

Peterson is being held at a federal prison in Indiana. He's also a suspect in the 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, but hasn't been charged.

Supreme Court won't hear case over California beach access

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court is refusing to hear an appeal from a California billionaire who doesn't want to open a road on his property so that the public can access a beach.

The justices said Monday that they will not take up Vinod Khosla's appeal of a California appeals court decision. The case had the potential to upend California's longstanding efforts to keep beaches open to the public.

Khosla bought the property in the San Francisco Bay Area for $32.5 million in 2008 and later blocked the public from accessing it. That prompted a lawsuit by the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation.

A state appeals court ruled last year that Khosla needed to apply for a coastal development permit before denying public access.

Khosla - a venture capitalist who co-founded the Silicon Valley technology company, Sun Microsystems - closed a gate, put up a no-access sign and painted over a billboard at the entrance to the property that had advertised access to the beach, according to the appellate ruling.

The secluded beach south of Half Moon Bay, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) south of San Francisco, is only accessible by a road that goes over Khosla's land.

The previous owners of the property had allowed public access to the beach for a fee. But Khosla's attorneys say the cost to maintain the beach and other facilities far exceeded revenue from the fees.

The government cannot demand that people keep their private property open to the public without paying them to do so, Khosla's attorneys said in their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The state appeals court ruling would "throw private property rights in California into disarray," the appeal argued, saying other property owners along California's coast would prefer to exclude the public.

The Surfrider Foundation said Khosla's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was premature because he had not yet applied for a permit and received a decision from the state.

"This win helps to secure beach access for all people, as is enshrined in our laws," said Angela Howe, legal director of the foundation. "The Surfrider Foundation will always fight to preserve the rights of the many from becoming the assets of the few."

Attorneys for Vinod Khosla did not immediately return an email message seeking comment.

3 justices at annual Mass ahead of Supreme Court's new term

WASHINGTON (AP) - Three members of the Supreme Court attended an annual Mass held in advance of the opening of the high court's term.

Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Stephen Breyer attended the Red Mass on Sunday at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired from the court in June, also attended.

Senate Republicans had hoped to confirm President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh before the opening of the Supreme Court's term Monday. But a vote on Kavanaugh's nomination has been delayed following allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman in high school. The FBI is now investigating.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Solicitor General Noel Francisco, the administration's top Supreme Court lawyer, also attended the Mass.

Kennedy warns of dangers to democracy, won't talk Kavanaugh

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose retirement created the vacancy that produced the no-holds-barred confirmation fight over Brett Kavanaugh, said Friday maintaining civil discourse is critical to democracy's survival.

Kennedy never spoke directly about Kavanaugh, who was once his law clerk, or the bitter battle unfolding in Congress. But it was on the minds of his audience, a group of high school students and teachers who said civil discourse isn't what they're seeing in Washington.

"Nobody's behaving like adults," said Maya Steinhart, a 17-year-old high school senior who will vote for the first time in November. "It's absolute chaos and it makes no sense and it's terrifying and it's not working."

Kennedy's appearance in Sacramento, his hometown, was to celebrate Constitution Day and teach high school students about the importance of understanding the document. He did not take questions from the audience or the press, saying he was "very careful" not to comment on the Kavanaugh nomination.

Kennedy announced his retirement from the high court in June, offering President Donald Trump a chance to appoint a second conservative justice and tipping the balance of the high court. Kennedy was often viewed as the court's swing vote.

During remarks, he offered his thoughts about the troubles befalling democracies around the globe from Africa to South America. America spent the end of the 20th century proudly exporting democracy around the globe, but perhaps did not focus on how to maintain it, he said.

"Perhaps we didn't do too good a job teaching the importance of preserving democracy by an enlightened civic discourse," he said. "In the first part of this century we're seeing the death and decline of democracy."

Ellen Wong, a government teacher at the Sacramento high school Kennedy attended, said it's hard to teach her students' civil discourse in today's political environment.

"I want them to have faith in the system, I want them to appreciate the rule of law, I want them to know the Constitution and want to defend it," she said. "And they're watching in real time people at the helm not being civil."

Everett Turley, a student at another high school, put it a different way.

"It's a shame that we can't communicate better," he said. "It's no longer a civilized debate, more so just a yell fest."

Turley, who is 17, won't be eligible to vote in November, but he said he prefers not to identify with either political party.

His classmate Marley Fortin, also a senior, said she was disappointed by the partisan tone of Thursday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, when Kavanaugh and one of his accusers, Christine Blasey Ford, testified.

"There's no compromise on any side," she said.

Kennedy, for his part, urged the students to keep studying the Constitution and passing it on.

"You have to transmit it to the next generation," he said.

Published: Tue, Oct 02, 2018

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