President Barack Obama faces a monumental choice today over whether to put the force of his office behind the idea that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry.
Government sources say the Justice Department will by day's end articulate a legal position in the so-called Proposition 8 case, a ban by California voters over same-sex marriage that is now being challenged in the Supreme Court.FULL STORY
The U.S. Supreme Court has just blocked a lawsuit over the federal government's sweeping electronic monitoring of foreigners suspected of terrorism or spying.
The 5-4 conservative majority on Tuesday morning concluded that the plaintiffs – a group of attorneys, journalists and others – lacked "standing" or jurisdiction to proceed, without a specific showing they have been monitored. The National Security Agency has in turn refused to disclose monitoring specifics, which detractors call "Catch-22" logic.FULL STORY
[Updated 8:20 p.m: To clarify the nature of the filed court document]
Federal prosecutors Friday filed felony charges against former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., alleging the illegal misuse of about $750,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses and gifts.
The formal charges of conspiracy, making false statements, and mail and wire fraud, were made public in federal court only days after Jackson had signed a plea deal with prosecutors who were investigating potential financial improprieties.
After the charges were filed Friday, Jackson issued a statement accepting responsibility for making mistakes and bad decisions. He did not dispute prosecutors' allegations.
[Original post, 4:05 p.m.]
Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and a co-conspirator have admitted to concealing about $750,000 in campaign funds for their personal use, according to a plea deal filed in federal court Friday.
Jackson, D-Illinois, admitted to conspiracy and other charges related to the misappropriated campaign funds, according to the court documents.
CNN reported last week that Jackson had signed a plea deal with prosecutors investigating potential financial improprieties, but the details of the alleged improprieties weren't then available.
Jackson, who represented Illinois' 2nd Congressional District beginning in 1995, resigned in late November after winning election to a tenth term in the House. He had not been seen in Washington or his district since last spring, and his office slowly revealed that he was receiving treatment for a mood disorder, depression and gastrointestinal issues at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.FULL STORY
Conservative judge Robert Bork died early Wednesday at the age of 85 at his home in Virginia, two sources close to his family tell CNN today.
In 1987, President Ronald Reagan nominated Bork as a Supreme Court justice, only to have the nomination fall apart in a contentious confirmation battle after left-leaning groups opposed Bork's conservative judicial philosophies.FULL STORY
The Supreme Court agreed today to decide whether the key enforcement provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 should be scrapped, amid arguments it is a constitutionally unnecessary vestige of the civil rights era.
Known as Section 5, the provision gives the federal government open-ended oversight of states and localities with a history of voter discrimination. Any changes in voting laws and procedures in the covered states must be "pre-cleared" by federal authorities in Washington.
A federal appeals court refused Tuesday to revisit the divisive issue of same-sex marriage in California, months after judges gave gay and lesbian couples constitutional blessing to wed.
In February, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Proposition 8, California's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, unconstitutional. In a split decision, the panel found that Proposition 8 "works a meaningful harm to gays and lesbians" by denying their right to civil marriage in violation of the 14th Amendment.
But backers of the proposition asked for a larger panel of judges to rehear the case.
With the full appeals court declining to rehear the panel's decision, supporters of the ban could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court - something they have previously said they are willing to do.
The February three-judge appeals court panel ruling upheld a 2010 decision by a U.S. district judge in San Francisco. However, in the appeals court decision, Circuit Judges Stephen Reinhardt and Michael Daly Hawkins said that they were speaking only to Proposition 8, and that states would have to decide the marriage issue themselves.FULL STORY
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer was robbed at by an intruder armed with a machete last week, while vacationing in the Caribbean island of Nevis, where the family own a vacation home, a court spokeswoman said Monday.
His wife and two other guests were in the home at the time, but officials say no one was hurt in the incident.FULL STORY
The Supreme Court has ruled unanimously for a drug suspect who had an electronic tracking device attached to his car by police, who did not first obtain an extended warrant.
The justices on Monday said secretly placing the device and monitoring the man's movements for several weeks constituted a government "search" and therefore the man's constitutional rights were violated.FULL STORY
The U.S. Supreme Court has given an Alabama death row prisoner another chance to appeal his conviction after a mailroom mistake initially left him unable to pursue further claims in court.
Cory Maples' case now goes back to lower courts.
Maples was convicted in the 1995 murder of two companions, Stacy Alan Terry and Barry Dewayne Robinson II, with whom he had been drinking heavily. Court records showed that Maples took a .22-caliber rifle in his Decatur, Alabama, home and shot both men twice in the head, execution-style. He later confessed to police but offered no explanation for the crimes. The defendant was convicted, and the jury recommended the death sentence by a vote of 10-2.FULL STORY
A federal judge has disclosed that former presidential candidate John Edwards has a life-threatening heart condition, a court source told CNN.
Attorneys for Edwards were in a North Carolina courtroom Friday seeking a delay in his criminal corruption trial, scheduled to begin this month. The attorneys also sought a delay last month, saying Edwards had an unspecified medical issue.
Edwards – a former U.S. senator from North Carolina who sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 and 2008 – was indicted in June on six counts including conspiracy, issuing false statements and violating campaign contribution laws. He pleaded not guilty.
If convicted on all counts, he could face up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1.5 million.
In September, the trial was delayed until January 30 after Edwards' attorneys said he needed more time, in part due to his position as the sole caretaker of his two youngest children, ages 11 and 13, after his wife, Elizabeth, passed away in December 2010.
A chief issue in the upcoming trial is whether money given to support Edwards' mistress, Rielle Hunter, by the then-candidate's benefactors should have been considered campaign donations, a contention Edwards' team has disputed. They maintain the money was a gift to Hunter.FULL STORY
The California Supreme Court ruled that "official proponents" of California's Proposition 8 – which defines marriage as being only between one man and one woman – can defend the ballot initiative in court when public officials refuse to do so.
This means a federal court fight over the constitutionality of same-sex marriage can continue.
Proposition 8 was approved in a California 2008 ballot, setting up a federal lawsuit by various gay couples seeking to wed. State leaders including current Gov. Jerry Brown have refused to defend the law in court, setting up the debate over who could defend Proposition 8.
Charles Cooper, attorney for Proposition 8's ballot sponsors, had said the official sponsors should be allowed to step in when the state refuses to defend such measures. The conservative group ProtectMarriage.com has been leading the legal fight to defend the initiative.FULL STORY
The sweeping healthcare reform bill championed by President Obama has been upheld as constitutional by a federal appeals court Wednesday.
The decision is not part of a half-dozen other appeals pending at the Supreme Court. The justices could decide this week whether to take on one or more of those legal challenges to the law, brought by more than a two dozen states and a coalition of private groups and individuals.
A federal appeals court has blocked enforcement of parts of a controversial immigration enforcement law in Alabama.
The injunction issued Friday from the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta came after the U.S. Justice Department - supported by a coalition of immigrant rights groups - requested the legislation, known as HB 56, be put on hold until the larger constitutional questions can be addressed, a process that could take some months at least.
The Obama administration argues the Constitution does not permit states to deter illegal immigration, saying an issue with foreign policy implications is the exclusive mandate of the federal government.
Alabama's law, passed by the legislature this summer, would allow state and local officials to check the immigration status of public school students; to detain suspected illegal aliens without bond; and make it a crime for immigrants who lack proper documents to conduct business with the state for things like driver's licenses.
Among selected provisions blocked from being enforced are:
– Section 10, requiring immigrants to carry an alien registration card;
– Section 28, allowing public school students to be questioned about their immigration status.
Among selected provisions Alabama will be allowed to enforce are:
– Section 30, blocking undocumented immigrants from entering into a "business transaction";
– Section 12, allowing local law enforcement to stop, detain or arrest upon reasonable suspicion anyone "unlawfully present" in the state
A federal appeals court has thrown out the 17-year sentence given to Jose Padilla, convicted of conspiracy by aiding terror groups overseas. The court upheld Padilla's convictions but said the sentences imposed by a federal judge were too lenient.
The Obama administration Thursday evening asked a federal appeals court to reconsider its order last week blocking the U.S. military from enforcing its "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays and lesbians serving in the military.
U.S. officials have been moving ahead with dismantling the policy but had objected to having the courts force the government to officially repeal it at this time.
At issue in the complex legal fight is whether "don't ask, don't tell" can remain in effect – even in name only – while the legal fight over its constitutionality is being carried out in the federal courts. Judges have been at odds over the enforcement issue for months.
The case has put the Obama administration in an unusual position of supporting a repeal, but at the same time filing court motions to prevent it from happening faster than planned. Military officials suggest the policy compliance changes eliminating "don't ask, don't tell" could be finished in a few weeks.FULL STORY
The United States Supreme Court has tossed out an Arizona law that provides extra taxpayer-funded support for office seekers who have been outspent by privately funded opponents or by independent political groups.
A conservative 5-4 majority of justices on Monday said the law violated free speech, concluding the state was trying to "level the playing field" through a public finance system.
Arizona lawmakers had argued there was a compelling state interest in equalizing resources among competing candidates and interest groups.
The cases are McComish v. Bennett (10-239) and Arizona Free Enterprise Club's Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett (10-238). Read more about the case on CNN's Political Ticker.
A federal court has given the Obama administration the go-ahead to continue embryonic stem cell research.
The controversial 2-1 decision Friday is a victory for supporters of federally funded testing for a range of diseases and illnesses.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia lifted an injunction imposed last year by a federal judge, who said all embryonic stem cell research at the National Institutes of Health amounted to destruction of embryos, in violation of congressional spending laws.
The case is Sherley v. Sebelius (10-5287).See CNN's full coverage of the court's stem cell research decision
A federal appeals court in San Francisco on Wednesday refused to allow same-sex marriages in California while a case on the issue works its way through the courts.
Last year, a federal judge declared that Proposition 8, a voter-approved measure banning same-sex marriages in California, was unconstitutional.
The civil rights challenge is now at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, where the issue is still unresolved.
Several gay and lesbian couples asked the court to be allowed to wed in the meantime. However, the three-judge appellate panel issued a brief order Wednesday that rejected the motion "at this time."
A federal judge is set to formally approve three criminal counts being dropped from the corruption case of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a judicial source in Chicago tells CNN.
The racketeering, racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud charges were part of a broader indictment against Blagojevich, who faces re-trial in April.
The former governor still faces trial on 17 public corruption-related charges. He is accused of, among other things, trying to gain financially and politically as he weighed who to name U.S. senator when Barack Obama was elected president.
The first trial ended in August, when jurors convicted Blagojevich of lying to federal agents on one of 24 counts brought against him by the federal government. They deadlocked on all the other counts, and federal authorities soon thereafter signaled their intent to request a new trial.
A federal court in Arizona has issued an order recusing all district and magistrate judges from hearing Jared Lee Loughner's criminal case "to avoid the appearance of impropriety."
Loughner is accused of shooting 20 people Saturday outside a grocery store in Tucson. Among the six killed was federal District Judge John Roll. U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was severely wounded.