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Texas officials fighting to block widespread mail-in voting during the pandemic claimed victory after the state's highest court ruled Wednesday that a lack of immunity to the coronavirus doesn't qualify someone to cast a ballot by mail.

The decision was unanimous by the Texas Supreme Court, which is stocked with nine Republican justices, including one who revealed last week that she had tested positive for COVID-19. Texas generally limits mail balloting only to voters who are over 65 years old or have a disability.

Justice Eva Guzman wrote the court was unified in the conclusion that “fear of contracting a disease is not a physical condition."

The Texas Democratic Party blasted the decision, and moved its hopes to a similar challenge playing out in federal court. But not all saw the decision as a total loss: the top elections lawyer in Houston, Harris County attorney Douglas Ray, said he believed the ruling leaves room for each voter to decide themselves whether they qualify, and gives clerks basically no ability to second-guess the reasoning.

In Texas, voters do not have to describe their disability when requesting a mail-in ballot.

Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who earlier this month lost lower court decisions that would have expanded mail-in ballots to all of the state's 16 million registered voters, has argued that fear of getting the virus alone doesn't qualify as a disability. He applauded the court for keeping the status quo with just weeks until the state is set to hold primary runoff elections in July.



President Donald Trump’s selection of Judge Brett Kavanaugh as a new Supreme Court nominee last Monday culminates a three-decade project unparalleled in American history to install a reliable conservative majority on the nation’s highest tribunal, one that could shape the direction of the law for years to come.

“They’ve been pushing back for 30 years, and, obviously, the announcement is a big step in the right direction,” said Curt Levey, president of the Committee for Justice, a conservative activist group that’s been working toward this goal full time since 2005. “It’ll be the first time we can really say we have a conservative court, really the first time since the 1930s.”

This presumes that Trump can push Kavanaugh through a closely divided Senate heading into a midterm election season, hardly a given. More so than any nomination in a dozen years, Trump’s choice of a successor for Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the influential swing vote retiring at the end of the month, holds the potential of changing the balance of power rather than simply replacing a like-minded justice with a younger version.

But if the president succeeds in confirming his selection, the new justice is expected to join Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch in forming a much more consistently conservative majority than before.

That has not happened by accident. A network of activists and organizations has worked assiduously since the 1980s to reach this point, determined to avoid the disappointment they felt after Republican appointees like Earl Warren, William J. Brennan Jr., David H. Souter, Sandra Day O’Connor and Kennedy proved more moderate or liberal once they joined the court.



Spain's National Court has sentenced seven men and a woman to between two and 13 years in prison for beating up two police officers and their girlfriends, but rejected the prosecutors' argument that the defendants should face terror charges.

The call for terror charges caused outrage at the trial because the incident took place two years ago in an area of northern Spain with a strong Basque identity.

The Basque region is trying to put behind it decades of violence at the hands of armed separatist group ETA, which killed more than 800 people, including police, before giving up its armed campaign in 2011.

The court said in sentencing Friday that terrorist intent was not proven and that the accused did not belong to a terrorist organization.



Wondering when Supreme Court nominations became so politically contentious? Only about 222 years ago — when the Senate voted down George Washington's choice for chief justice.

"We are in an era of extreme partisan energy right now. In such a moment, the partisanship will manifest itself across government, and there's no reason to think the nomination process will be exempt from that. It hasn't been in the past," University of Georgia law professor Lori Ringhand said.

This year's brouhaha sees Senate Democrats and Republicans bracing for a showdown over President Donald Trump's nominee, Neil Gorsuch. It's the latest twist in the political wrangling that has surrounded the high court vacancy almost from the moment Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016.

Each side has accused the other of unprecedented obstruction. Republicans wouldn't even hold a hearing for Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama's nominee. Democrats are threatening a filibuster, which takes 60 votes to overcome, to try to stop Gorsuch from becoming a justice. If they succeed, Republicans who control the Senate could change the rules and prevail with a simple majority vote in the 100-member body.

As she lays out in "Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings and Constitutional Change," the book she co-wrote, Ringhand said, "There were more rejected nominees in the first half of the nation's history than in the second half. That controversy has been partisan in many cases, back to George Washington."

"Confirmations have been episodically controversial," said Ringhand, who is the Georgia law school's associate dean. "The level of controversy has ebbed and flowed."

John Rutledge, a South Carolinian who was a drafter of the Constitution, was the first to succumb to politics. The Senate confirmed Rutledge as a justice in 1789, a post he gave up a couple of years later to become South Carolina's chief justice.

In 1795, Washington nominated Rutledge to replace John Jay as chief justice. By then, Rutledge had become an outspoken opponent of the Jay Treaty, which sought to reduce tensions with England. A year after ratifying the treaty, the Senate voted down Rutledge's nomination.


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