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North Carolina Republican legislators now want to give up on the law they approved two years ago that reduces the number of Court of Appeals judges from 15 to 12 as retirements and other vacancies arise.

A state Senate judiciary committee Tuesday recommended unanimously a bill that would keep the court's size at 15 after all. Bill sponsors say the measure, if agreed to by the full General Assembly, should end as moot a lawsuit filed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper challenging the 2017 law. A key House GOP leader said later that he believed party members in his chamber are inclined to go along with the repeal.

A trial-judge panel actually sided with Republicans last year in upholding the law, but the state Supreme Court scheduled oral arguments in the case for March 4. With registered Democrats a strong majority on the Supreme Court, there's uncertainty about whether they'll be inclined to uphold the law.

"I think we still feel the rationale for the bill was appropriate, but this will end the lawsuit with the governor, and so that's why we're going forward with it," said Sen. Warren Daniel, a Burke County Republican and a chief bill sponsor.

The law is one of several approved by the GOP-controlled legislature since December 2016 — just before Cooper took office — that have eroded Cooper's powers. In this case, it would prevent Cooper from filling three vacancies when they occur, because the seat would be simply eliminated.

No vacancies have occurred on the intermediate-level court since the law took effect, but the first could come next month. Court of Appeals Judge Bob Hunter, a registered Republican, must step down March 31 after meeting the state-mandated judicial retirement age of 72 the day before.



A renowned Michigan opera singer and his husband have appeared in a Texas court to face charges of sexually assaulting another man in 2010.

University of Michigan professor and countertenor David Daniels and William Scott Walters each made an initial appearance in a Harris County court Monday and were released on $15,000 bonds. A Harris County District Attorney spokesman says they were ordered to surrender their passports.

Daniels and Walters were arrested in Ann Arbor, Michigan, last month on warrants arising from the criminal complaint of Samuel Schultz. He told The Associated Press the couple drugged and assaulted him when he was living in Houston as a 23-year-old graduate student.

Lawyer Matt Hennessy says his clients are innocent and looking forward to a court hearing on Schultz's "false claims."





Three months after a ruling halted the impeachment process involving most of West Virginia's Supreme Court justices, the state Senate president is seeking a second opinion.

Senate President Mitch Carmichael said Friday at the annual Legislative Lookahead forum he's asked state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey to look into handling a possible appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Carmichael, a Republican, is still steamed at a panel of state Supreme Court stand-ins that ruled impeachment efforts of the justices were a violation of the separation of powers doctrine. The process was officially derailed when the presiding judge didn't show up to Justice Margaret Workman's trial in the state Senate in light of the court's ruling blocking it.

"We believe it is totally, completely wrong," Carmichael said. The acting justices ruled the Senate lacked jurisdiction to pursue Workman's trial and later applied the decision to trials involving justices Robin Davis and Allen Loughry, who had petitioned the court to intervene.

Davis retired after the House approved impeachment charges against her. Loughry resigned after being convicted of felony fraud charges in federal court.




A man accused of killing 22-year-old British tourist Grace Millane made his first appearance in a New Zealand court Monday.

The 26-year-old man stared at the ground while a judge addressed him during the brief appearance at the Auckland District Court. The man has not yet entered a plea on murder charges and the court has temporarily blocked his name from being published.

Millane's father, David Millane, traveled to New Zealand last week after his daughter vanished, and Judge Evangelos Thomas addressed him and other family members.

"I don't know what to say to you at this time, but your grief must be desperate," he said, according to television station Three. "We all hope justice will be fair and swift and ultimately bring you some peace."

The case has riveted people both in Britain and New Zealand.

Described by her father as fun-loving and family-oriented, Millane had been traveling in New Zealand as part of a planned yearlong trip abroad that began in Peru. She went missing Dec. 1 and failed to get in touch with her family on her birthday the next day, or on the days that followed, which alarmed them.

Before she vanished, Millane had been staying at a backpacker hostel in Auckland and left some of her belongings there. Detective Inspector Scott Beard said she met a man for a couple of hours in the evening before surveillance cameras showed them entering the CityLife hotel at about 9:40 p.m.

A week after Millane disappeared, police detained a man for questioning and later charged him with murder.



Dutch motivational speaker Emile Ratelband may feel like a 49-year-old but according to Dutch law he is still 69.

A Dutch court on Monday rejected Ratelband’s request to shave 20 years off his age in a case that drew worldwide attention.

“Mr. Ratelband is at liberty to feel 20 years younger than his real age and to act accordingly,” Arnhem court said in a press statement . “But amending his date of birth would cause 20 years of records to vanish from the register of births, deaths, marriages and registered partnerships. This would have a variety of undesirable legal and societal implications.”

Ratelband went to court last month, arguing that he didn’t feel 69 and saying his request was consistent with other forms of personal transformation which are gaining acceptance in the Netherlands and around the world, such as the ability to change one’s name or gender.

The court rejected that argument, saying that unlike in the case of a name or gender, Dutch law assigns rights and obligations based on age “such as the right to vote and the duty to attend school. If Mr. Ratelband’s request was allowed, those age requirements would become meaningless.”

Ratelband, perhaps unsurprisingly given his background as self-described advocate of positive thinking, was undeterred by the court’s rejection and vowed to appeal.

“This is great!” he said. “The rejection of (the) court is great ... because they give all kinds of angles where we can connect when we go in appeal.”

He said he was the first of “thousands of people who want to change their age.”

The court said it acknowledged “a trend in society for people to feel fit and healthy for longer, but did not regard that as a valid argument for amending a person’s date of birth.”

Ratelband also insisted his case did have parallels with requests for name and gender changes.

“I say it’s comparable because it has to do with my feeling, with respect about who I think ... I am, my identity,” he said.

The court said Ratelband failed to convince the judges that he suffers from age discrimination, adding that “there are other alternatives available for challenging age discrimination, rather than amending a person’s date of birth.”


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