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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.



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."



A Rapid City contractor has tested positive for drugs while in a Pierre court pleading guilty to assault.

The Capital Journal reports that 30-year-old Jesse Lange pleaded guilty to felony assault of a worker for the grain bin business Lange operates with his father. His attorney, Brad Schreiber, says there was an element of self-defense in the motel room altercation last year.

But state Judge Mark Barnett, watching Lange, asked a court official to get a urine test kit and said Lange appeared high. An official said the test was positive for meth and ecstasy.

Lange's guilty plea couldn't be accepted, and he was jailed for violating the conditions of his bond for the assault charge. Barnett says another arraignment could be held once the drugs have left Lange's system.

Supreme Court turns down appeal in exotic swine case

The Michigan Supreme Court has turned down an appeal in a dispute over exotic pigs in the Upper Peninsula.

A Marquette County judge in 2016 said 10 pigs violated state restrictions on Russian boars and should be destroyed. The appeals court affirmed that decision, and the Supreme Court won't intervene.

The Department of Natural Resources designated Russian boars and other exotic swine as an invasive species. The state says they've escaped from hunting ranches and small farms and ravaged the environment.

Lawyers for game ranch owner Greg Johnson of Negaunee Township say the pigs can be traced to domestic breeds.



The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday once again rejected requests for unredacted autopsy reports from the unsolved slayings of eight family members.

The court ruled 5-2 without comment against reconsidering its December decision that the Pike County coroner in southern Ohio does not have to release the reports with complete information.

The case before the court involved seven adults and a teenage boy from the Rhoden family who were found shot to death at four homes near Piketon, in rural southern Ohio, on April 22, 2016. No arrests have been made or suspects identified.

Heavily redacted versions of the autopsy reports released in 2016 showed all but one of the victims were shot multiple times in the head, but details about any other injuries and toxicology test results weren't released.

In the 4-3 December ruling, Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, writing for the majority, said Ohio law regarding coroner records clearly exempts the redacted material as "confidential law enforcement investigatory records."

Once a criminal investigation ends, confidential information in autopsy reports can become public records, but the process leading to a suspect can sometimes take time, O'Connor wrote.



Jurors weren't allowed to hear testimony that Bill Cosby's chief accuser was once hooked on hallucinogenic mushrooms or had her sights set on becoming a millionaire, but that hasn't stopped the defense from airing the explosive claims about Andrea Constand in the court of public opinion.

With Cosby's sexual assault retrial heading for deliberations this week, the 80-year-old comedian's lawyers and publicists are increasingly playing to an audience of millions, not just the 12 people deciding his fate.

They're hitting at Constand's credibility in the media with attacks that Judge Steven O'Neill is deeming too prejudicial or irrelevant for court, and they're holding daily press briefings portraying Cosby as the victim of an overzealous prosecutor and an unjust legal system.

Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt has decried Constand's allegations of drugging and molestation as "fantastical stories" and deemed District Attorney Kevin Steele an "extortionist" for spending taxpayer money on the case.

Lawyer Dennis McAndrews, who's been in court following the retrial, said prominent defendants like Cosby almost always play to the court of public opinion when there's no gag order, but that his team's approach hasn't been "particularly effective or convincing."

"It is so strident, and it is so hyperbolic, I think most people will turn it off," said McAndrews, who prosecuted chemical heir John E. du Pont for murder in 1997 and is not associated with either side in the Cosby case.

O'Neill is expected to rule Monday on what could be the Cosby team's last line of attack in the courtroom: whether jurors can hear deposition testimony that Cosby's lawyers say could have insights into what led Constand to accuse him.

Constand's confidante, Sheri Williams, gave the testimony as part of Constand's 2005 lawsuit against Cosby, which he wound up settling for nearly $3.4 million. Cosby's lawyers said that testimony is vital because Williams is not responding to subpoena attempts.


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