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Challenge filed in court to Australian gay marriage ballot

Gay-rights advocates filed a court challenge Thursday to the government’s unusual plan to canvass Australians’ opinion on gay marriage next month, while a retired judge said he would boycott the survey as unacceptable. The mail ballot is not binding, but the conservative government won’t legislate the issue without it. If most Australians say “no,” the government won’t allow Parliament to consider lifting the nation’s ban on same-sex marriage. Lawyers for independent lawmaker Andrew Wilkie and marriage equality advocates Shelley Argent and Felicity Marlowe, applied to the High Court for an injunction that would prevent the so-called postal plebiscite from going ahead. “We will be arguing that by going ahead without the authorization of Parliament, the government is acting beyond its power,” lawyer Jonathon Hunyor said. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the government had legal advice that the postal ballot would withstand a court challenge. “I encourage every Australian to exercise their right to vote on this matter. It’s an important question,” Turnbull said. Gay-rights advocates and many lawmakers want Parliament to legislate marriage equality now without an opinion poll, which they see as an unjustifiable hurdle to reform. Retired High Court judge Michael Kirby, a gay man who supports marriage equality, dismissed the ballot as “irregular and unscientific polling.” “It’s just something we’ve never done in our constitutional arrangements of Australia, and it really is unacceptable,” Kirby told Australian Broadcasting Corp. Kirby would not comment on the legality of the government proceeding with the 122 million Australian dollar ($96 million) ballot without Parliament’s approval, but said: “I’m not going to take any part in it whatsoever.” Plebiscites in Australia are referendums that don’t deal with questions that change the constitution. Voting at referendums is compulsory to ensure a high voter turnout and that the legally-binding result reflects the wishes of a majority of Australians. Source: Legal News Post Challenge filed in court to Australian gay marriage ballot

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NJ Supreme Court Reverses Decades-Old Divorce Law

The New Jersey Supreme Court has reversed a decades-old law in a landmark decision that makes the child the focus of divorce relocation proceedings. The law centers on divorced parents who want to leave New Jersey with the child against the other parent’s wishes. NJ.com reports the previous law focused on whether the move would “cause harm” to the child. After Tuesday’s ruling, divorced parents now must prove the move is in the child’s best interest. The decision centers on a 2015 case where a father tried to keep his daughters from moving to Utah with his ex-wife. The attorney for the father says the ruling will make a large impact in future proceedings. The attorney for the children’s mother has not responded to requests for comment. Source: Legal News Post NJ Supreme Court Reverses Decades-Old Divorce Law

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Top Vatican official to face Australian court on sex charges

The most senior Vatican official ever charged in the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis is expected to make his first court appearance in Australia on Wednesday, as he vows to clear his name in a scandal that has rattled Rome. Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic and Pope Francis’ top financial adviser, was charged last month with sexually abusing multiple people years ago in his Australian home state of Victoria. The details of the allegations against the 76-year-old cardinal have yet to be released to the public, though police have described the charges as “historical” sexual assault offenses – meaning crimes that occurred years ago. Pell is to appear at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court for a hearing that will likely last just minutes and deal largely with administrative matters, such as setting future court dates. Despite the routine nature of the hearing, it is expected to draw hordes of journalists, abuse survivors and spectators. Pell took a leave of absence from his duties in Rome to return to Australia to fight the charges. He has vehemently denied the allegations, saying last month, “The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me.” The pope has said he will wait for Australian justice to run its course before making a judgment of Pell himself. For years, Pell has faced allegations that he mishandled cases of clergy abuse when he served as archbishop of Melbourne and, later, Sydney. But more recently, Pell became the focus of a clergy sex abuse investigation, with Victoria detectives flying to the Vatican to interview him last year. Source: Legal News Post Top Vatican official to face Australian court on sex charges

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Judge says Kobach has shown pattern of misleading court

A federal judge says Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has demonstrated a pattern of misleading the court about the facts and record in a voting rights case. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson refused Tuesday to reconsider a $1,000 fine and order requiring Kobach to submit to a deposition by the American Civil Liberties Union. A magistrate judge had fined Kobach for misrepresenting the contents of documents he took into a November meeting with then President-elect Donald Trump and a separate draft amendment to the National Voter Registration Act. Robinson cited three earlier instances where Kobach mischaracterized the record or exhibits. She says sanctions are necessary to deter him from misleading the court in the future. Kobach is vice chairman of President Donald Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Source: Legal News Post Judge says Kobach has shown pattern of misleading court

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Indiana's newest Supreme Court justice joins high court

Former Wabash County Superior Court Judge Christopher Goff was sworn in Monday as Indiana’s newest state Supreme Court justice, joining a high court that’s been completely remade since 2010 following a series of retirements. Chief Justice Loretta Rush administered the oath of office for Goff during the swearing-in at the court’s Statehouse offices. Goff, 45, is now the court’s youngest member. He succeeds Justice Robert Rucker, who retired in May after 18 years on the court. Rucker retired five years before reaching the court’s mandatory retirement age of 75. In 1999, he became only Indiana’s second black justice when Democratic Gov. Frank O’Bannon named him to the high court. All five justices are now white and all have been appointed since 2010 by Republican governors to replace justices who retired. Goff joins Rush and justices Steven David, Mark Massa and Geoffrey Slaughter on the court. Gov. Eric Holcomb will preside over a ceremonial oath and public robing ceremony on Sept. 1 for Goff, who is expected to hear his first oral arguments with the court on Sept. 7. Holcomb chose Goff in June to fill the court’s vacancy from among three finalists selected by Indiana’s Judicial Nominating Commission. Source: Legal News Post Indiana's newest Supreme Court justice joins high court

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