The Supreme Court agreed Friday to wade into the issue of sales tax collection on internet purchases in a case that could force consumers to pay more for certain purchases and allow states to recoup what they say is billions in lost revenue annually.
Under previous Supreme Court rulings, when internet retailers don't have a physical presence in a state, they can't be forced to collect sales tax on sales into that state. Consumers who purchase from out-of-state retailers are generally supposed to pay the state taxes themselves, but few do. A total of 36 states and the District of Columbia had asked the high court to revisit the issue.
Large brick-and-mortar retailers like Walmart and Target have long bemoaned the fact that they have to collect sales tax on online purchases because they have physical stores nationwide. Meanwhile, smaller online retailers, who don't have vast networks of stores, don't have to collect the tax where they don't have a physical presence.
Internet giant Amazon.com fought for years against collecting sales tax but now does so nationwide, though third-party sellers on its site make their own decisions. But the case before the Supreme Court does directly affect other online retailers, including Overstock.com, home goods company Wayfair and electronics retailer Newegg, who are part of the case the court accepted.
States say the court's previous rulings have also hurt them. According to one estimate cited by the states in a brief they filed with the high court, they'll lose out on nearly $34 billion in 2018 if the Supreme Court's previous rulings stand. The Government Accountability Office, which provides nonpartisan reports to Congress, wrote in a report last year that state and local governments would have been able to gain between $8.5 billion and $13 billion in 2017 if they could require out-of-state sellers to collect tax on sales into the state. All but five states charge a sales tax.
Jailed former South Korean President Park Geun-hye called herself a victim of "political revenge" in her first public remarks since her high-profile corruption trial began in May, news reports said, as her lawyers resigned Monday in an apparent protest over the court's decision to extend her detention.
The moves appeared to be aimed at applying pressure on the court and rallying her small number of conservative supporters in a development that could intensify a political divide and delay the trial.
The Seoul Central District Court said Park's seven lawyers resigned collectively Monday, three days after it approved an additional six-month arrest warrant for her. Court officials said they will appoint lawyers for Park if her lawyers do not reverse their decision or Park doesn't name a new defense.
A verdict had been expected possibly before the end of the year. If Park has new lawyers, the trial is likely to be delayed because they will need to become familiarized with a massive amount of court and investigation documents, reportedly estimated at more than 100,000 pages.
Park, who was removed from office and arrested in late March, faces a range of corruption and other charges that could lead to a lengthy prison term. Among the key charges are that she colluded with a longtime friend to take tens of millions of dollars from companies in bribes and extortion.
During a court session Monday, Park reiterated her innocence, saying she hopes she will be the last person to suffer "political revenge" orchestrated in the name of justice. She also described her past months of detention as a "wretched and miserable time," and said she had never abused her power or accepted illicit requests for favors while in office, Yonhap news agency reported.
Other South Korean media carried similar reports about Park's comments. The Seoul court said it couldn't confirm them, while calls to her former main lawyer were not answered.
Park denied most of the allegations many times before her March arrest, but Monday's comments were her first in court since her trial started.
When Salvadoran immigrant Joselin Marroquin-Torres became flustered in front of a federal immigration judge in New York and forgot to give her asylum application, a woman she had just met stood up to provide it.
"Thank you," the judge said. "What is your relation to Joselin?"
"I am a friend," responded retired chemist Marisa Lohse, who has accompanied dozens of immigrants to such hearings.
Lohse is among hundreds of volunteers, including preachers, law students and retirees, who've stepped up to accompany people in the U.S. illegally to court hearings and meetings with immigration officials, guiding them through an often intimidating process.
Some of them say the accompaniment is more important than ever since Republican President Donald Trump expanded the definition of deportable offenses to include all immigrants living in the country illegally, giving rise to immigrants being apprehended during routine check-ins with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
"We want to increase the accompaniment because the crisis is more severe. The pain, the fear, is bigger," said Guillermo Torres, from Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice in Los Angeles.
The group escorts mostly women and children to immigration court hearings, where judges decide who can stay in the U.S. and who must leave. Volunteers also accompany immigrants who are required to periodically check in with federal agents because they have pending cases or have been ordered deported.
ICE said it didn't have national statistics on how often immigrants have been arrested during those check-ins. Immigration lawyers and advocacy groups said they believe such arrests are increasing. Trump has said the arrests and deportations are necessary to keep the country safe.
A federal appeals court ruled for the first time Tuesday that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects LGBT employees from workplace discrimination, setting up a likely battle before the Supreme Court as gay rights advocates push to broaden the scope of the 53-year-old law.
The 8-to-3 decision by the full 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago comes just three weeks after a three-judge panel in Atlanta ruled the opposite, saying employers aren't prohibited from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation.
The 7th Circuit is considered relatively conservative and five of the eight judges in the majority were appointed by Republican presidents, making the finding all the more notable.
The case stems from a lawsuit by Indiana teacher Kimberly Hively alleging that the Ivy Tech Community College in South Bend didn't hire her full time because she is a lesbian.
In an opinion concurring with the majority, Judge Richard Posner wrote that changing norms call for a change in interpretation of the Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin or sex.
"I don't see why firing a lesbian because she is in the subset of women who are lesbian should be thought any less a form of sex discrimination than firing a woman because she's a woman," wrote the judge, who was appointed by Republican Ronald Reagan.
The decision comes as President Donald Trump's administration has begun setting its own policies on LGBT rights. Late in January, the White House declared Trump would enforce an Obama administration order barring companies that do federal work from workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual identity. But in February, it revoked guidance on transgender students' use of public school bathrooms, deferring to states.
Hively said after Tuesday's ruling that she agreed to bring the case because she felt she was being "bullied." She told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that the time has come "to stop punishing people for being gay, being lesbian, being transgender."
"This decision is game changer for lesbian and gay employees facing discrimination in the workplace and sends a clear message to employers: it is against the law to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation," said Greg Nevins, of Lambda Legal, which brought the case on behalf of Hively.
Ivy Tech said in a statement that its policies specifically bar discrimination based on sexual orientation and that it denies discriminating against Hively, a factual question separate from the 7th Circuit's finding regarding the law.