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A bitter and expensive fight for an Arkansas Supreme Court seat that drew more than $1 million in outside spending and a flurry of attack ads will drag on for another six months, with an incumbent justice heading into a runoff in November against an attorney backed by an out-of-state Republican group.

Justice Courtney Goodson and David Sterling, the chief counsel for the state Department of Human Services, advanced to a runoff in the November election for the state's highest court in Tuesday's non-partisan judicial election. The two were the top candidates in a three-person race for Goodson's seat, with Appeals Court Judge Kenneth Hixson finishing third.

Goodson had faced a barrage of attack ads and mailers from the Judicial Crisis Network, a Washington group that had targeted her during her unsuccessful bid for chief justice two years ago. The group, which doesn't disclose its donors, spent more than $935,000 on TV ads bashing Goodson and Hixson, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, which tracks judicial campaign spending.

"Today was a huge victory for honest people who are fed up with the lies dark money is spreading about me," Goodson told The Associated Press Tuesday night.

The ads led to a court fight over whether they should be broadcast and Goodson said she planned to continue that legal battle. Days before the primary, a state judge ordered Little Rock area TV stations to stop airing one ad, while another judge said the spot could resume running in northwest Arkansas. Goodson has filed a similar lawsuit aimed at halting the lawsuits in the Fort Smith area. Some media and free speech advocates have opposed Goodson's lawsuits, saying judges should not decide what is broadcast during elections.

The ad that sparked the court fight criticizes Goodson over gifts received from donors and a pay raise the court requested last year. An Associated Press Fact Check of the ad found that some of its claims are misleading. The Judicial Crisis Network continued its criticism of Goodson Wednesday.

"The citizens of Arkansas want and deserve integrity on the state's Supreme Court - Justice Goodson can't run from her record of pay increases, favoritism and residing in a swamp of conflicts of interest," Carrie Severino, the group's chief counsel and policy director, said in a statement.



The clerk of court in one North Carolina county says she never meant to require any of her employees to work for her re-election even though that's what a leaked memo said.

After the memo was published, Surry County Clerk of Court Teresa O'Dell told the Mount Airy News that she doesn't require staff to work for her campaign. She acknowledged that the memo "seemed to indicate otherwise" and sent a follow-up note.

A memo distributed March 27th said employees would be required to campaign for her, including taking vacation time so they weren't doing political work while on the clock.

She also told staffers that she wouldn't be in the office before the primary.

O'Dell is facing a challenge from Neil Brendle in the May 8 Republican primary.




Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is calling fellow conservatives to continue the work of the late Justice Antonin Scalia to keep the power of the courts and other branches of government in check.

Thomas tells 1,700 people at a dinner in honor of Scalia that the Supreme Court has too often granted rights to people that are not found in the Constitution. He cited the decision in 2015 that made same-sex marriage legal across the country.

Thomas said he and his longtime friend and colleague formed an "odd couple" of a white New Yorker and a black man from Georgia.

He paraphrased Lincoln's Gettysburg address to exhort the audience to "be dedicated to the unfinished business for which Justice Scalia gave his last full measure of devotion."




Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland praised lawyers for their work with low-income Washingtonians Thursday in his first public remarks since his nomination last month.

Garland was on familiar turf, speaking at the federal courthouse in Washington, where he is chief judge of the appeals court.

Giving people living in poverty access to the courts is critical for society, Garland said. "Without equal justice under law," Garland said, using the phrase engraved above the entrance to the Supreme Court, "faith in the rule of the law, the foundation of our civil society, is at risk."

Garland's nomination is stalled in the Senate, where GOP leaders say the next president should choose the replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia. He has met with roughly 40 senators so far, with no sign that Republicans will allow hearings on his nomination, much less a vote.

At those meetings, Garland has typically said nothing for public consumption.

His appearance Thursday was part of the White House's effort to familiarize the country with the nominee by having him speak on a noncontroversial topic, free legal assistance for the poor.




A Virginia high school discriminated against a transgender teen by forbidding him from using the boys' restroom, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday in a case that could have implications for a North Carolina law that critics say discriminates against LGBT people.
 
The case of Gavin Grimm has been especially closely watched since North Carolina enacted a law last month that bans transgender people from using public restrooms that correspond to their gender identity. That law also bans cities from passing anti-discrimination ordinances, a response to an ordinance recently passed in Charlotte.  

In the Virginia case, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — which also covers North Carolina — ruled 2-1 to overturn the Gloucester County School Board's policy, saying it violated Title IX, the federal law that prohibits discrimination in schools. A federal judge had previously rejected Grimm's sex discrimination claim, but the court said that judge ignored a U.S. Department of Education regulation that transgender students in public schools must be allowed to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity.

"We agree that it has indeed been commonplace and widely accepted to separate public restrooms, locker rooms, and shower facilities on the basis of sex," the court wrote in its opinion. "It is not apparent to us, however, that the truth of these propositions undermines the conclusion we reach regarding the level of deference due to the department's interpretation of its own regulations."

Maxine Eichner, a University of North Carolina law professor who is an expert on sexual orientation and the law, said the ruling — the first of its kind by a federal appeals court — means the provision of North Carolina's law pertaining to restroom use by transgender students in schools that receive federal funds also is invalid.

"The effects of this decision on North Carolina are clear," she said, adding that a judge in that state will have no choice but to apply the appeals court's ruling.

Other states in the 4th Circuit are Maryland, West Virginia and South Carolina. While those states are directly affected by the appeals court's ruling, Eichner said the impact will be broader.

"It is a long and well-considered opinion that sets out the issues," she said. "It will be influential in other circuits."

Appeals court Judge Paul V. Niemeyer, who was appointed to the appeals court by Republican President George H.W. Bush, wrote in a dissenting opinion that the majority's opinion "completely tramples on all universally accepted protections of privacy and safety that are based on the anatomical differences between the sexes."

The majority opinion was written by Judge Henry F. Floyd and joined by Judge Andre M. Davis, both appointees of Democratic President Barack Obama. The Richmond-based court was long considered the nation's most conservative federal appeals court, but a series of vacancies in the last few years has allowed Obama to reshape it. Including the two senior judges, the court now has 10 judges appointed by Democrats and seven by Republicans.


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