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The Oregon Department of Justice has hired a law firm to investigate allegations of discrimination and mismanagement at the state's economic development agency, Business Oregon.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that in an anonymous letter to Gov. Kate Brown earlier this month, a group of employees described hostile working conditions and accused leadership of gender bias and misusing taxpayer funds. The letter asked the governor to undertake an investigation and said the employees had retained Portland labor attorney Dana Sullivan "to help ensure employment rights are protected as a result of this complaint."

The Justice Department will be supervising the probe. Its agreement with the Portland office of Perkins Coie provides for a maximum cost of $50,000. The budget could go quickly, as the firm's partners command $525 to $630 an hour, and paralegals and associates bill out at $150 to $445 an hour.

The agreement specifically directs Perkins Coie to undertake "an attorney-client privileged investigation," meaning the Justice Department or Business Oregon could try to exempt the findings from disclosure under public records law. It also says the law firm could be called on to provide legal advice to the DOJ, the governor's office or the "benefitting agency" - Business Oregon.

The Justice department did not respond to questions about the agreement, whether it would make the findings public or whether that decision would be made by Business Oregon.



Arkansas officials asked the state's highest court on Monday to allow them to enforce a voter ID law in the May 22 primary despite a judge blocking the measure and calling it unconstitutional.

Secretary of State Mark Martin asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to put on hold a Pulaski County judge's ruling preventing the state from enforcing the 2017 law requiring voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot. Martin asked the high court for a ruling by noon Friday, noting that early voting for the primary begins May 7.

"Here, the trial court has changed the rules in the middle of the election," Martin's filing said. "An immediate stay is necessary; any further delay will harm the state."

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray sided with a Little Rock voter who sued the state and had argued the law enacted last year circumvents a 2014 Arkansas Supreme Court ruling that struck down a previous voter ID measure.

An attorney for the Little Rock voter said he hoped the court would not halt the ruling, noting evidence that nearly 1,000 votes weren't counted in the 2014 primary because of the previous voter ID law that was struck down later that year.




A bakery owned by a Christian family asked Britain's Supreme Court on Tuesday to overturn a ruling that it discriminated against a gay customer for refusing to make a cake supporting same-sex marriage.

Ashers Baking Co. in Northern Ireland refused in 2014 to make a cake iced with the "Sesame Street" characters Bert and Ernie and the slogan "Support Gay Marriage."

The owners argued they were happy to bake goods for anyone, but could not put messages on their products at odds with their Christian beliefs.

After the customer filed a lawsuit that received backing from Northern Ireland's Equalities Commission, lower courts ruled that the bakery's refusal was discriminatory.

Judges from the London-based Supreme Court heard the bakery's appeal at a special sitting in Belfast that is due to continue Wednesday.

David Scoffield, lawyer for the bakery's owners, argued Tuesday that the family should not be compelled to create a product "to which they have a genuine objection in conscience."



The Supreme Court agreed Monday to review the case of a Missouri death row inmate who says his rare medical condition could cause him to choke on his own blood during an execution.

The justices said they would hear the appeal of inmate Russell Bucklew. The court blocked Bucklew's execution in March after he argued that a tumor in his throat is likely to rupture and bleed during the administration of the drugs that would be used to kill him.

Bucklew argues that subjecting him to lethal injection would violate the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

The issue is whether Bucklew has to show there is another method of execution available that would reduce the risk of needless suffering.

Bucklew has proposed that the state use lethal gas instead of an injection of pentobarbital, if the execution is carried out. Missouri law still provides for the option of lethal gas, but the state no longer has a gas chamber and has not used the method since 1965.

Bucklew says it is likely he would essentially suffocate for two to three minutes if he is given a drug injection. The feeling of suffocation would last no more than 30 seconds using gas, he says.

But the federal appeals court in St. Louis ruled against him and concluded that he did not prove the alternate method would reduce his suffering. The Supreme Court has previously ruled that inmates challenging a method of execution have to show that there's an alternative that is likely to be less painful.

None of the 20 inmates executed since Missouri began using pentobarbital in 2013 have shown obvious signs of pain or suffering.




The Supreme Court has agreed to review the settlement of a class action lawsuit involving Google, where the settlement agreement largely directed money to organizations rather than search engine users.

The court agreed Monday to take the case. The lawsuit involves Google users who sued saying Google violated privacy rights by disclosing to websites the search terms users entered to get there.

Google agreed to an $8.5 million settlement. Attorneys were awarded about $2 million. Most of the remaining money was allocated to six groups that agreed to use the money to promote privacy protection on the internet. The groups included AARP, Carnegie Mellon University and centers associated with Harvard, the Illinois Institute of Technology and Stanford.



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