Here are some of the legal news stories making headlines this week:
The foreperson in the Fulton County, Georgia grand jury investigation into former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results has indicated that the jurors recommended that the district attorney bring charges stemming from the probe.
- For the past two years, Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis’s office has conducted a probe into Trump’s alleged interference in the 2020 election. Last month, a special purpose grand jury empaneled to investigate the matter concluded its work and submitted to Willis a final report. (This grand jury was only tasked with investigative duties.) Most of the report has remained under seal following a judge’s order, but brief segments from the report were released last week.
- Emily Kohrs served as foreperson of the grand jury. Through a number of media interviews, Kohrs has offered a glimpse into the grand jury’s work and the results of the investigation.
- In a televised interview on NBC, Kohrs suggested that the grand jury recommended that the district attorney bring charges against over a dozen people. “There are certainly names that you will recognize, yes. There are names also you might not recognize,” Kohrs said. In addition, in an unsealed segment of the grand jury’s report, the jurors recommended that the district attorney bring perjury charges against unnamed witnesses. Kohrs expanded on that recommendation during the interview, saying, “I remember at least one and probably more than one moment where an answer made me pause, because it did not match something that either I had heard previously or something that I had seen.”
- In an interview with the New York Times, Kohrs was asked whether the grand jury recommended that the district attorney charge Trump. Kohrs replied, “You’re not going to be shocked. It’s not rocket science…It is not going to be some giant plot twist.”
- And during a conversation with the Associated Press, Kohrs recounted some of her experiences hearing witness testimony. For example, Kohrs said that former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson was much more forthcoming than former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows (Meadows is Hutchinson’s former boss), and Kohrs said that Rudy Giuliani and Senator Lindsey Graham were polite and funny, although she said that Giuliani invoked privileges to avoid answering a number of questions.
- It remains to be seen whether Willis will bring charges from the probe. The special purpose grand jury was only tasked with investigating the matter. A different grand jury would make indictment decisions.
The Supreme Court is back in session.
- The justices heard oral arguments in a case with major implications for the tech industry. Gonzalez v. Google is a challenge to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides immunity to online companies for liability arising from content posted on their websites. The case was brought by the family of Nohemi Gonzalez, a woman who was killed in a 2015 terrorist attack carried out by ISIS in Paris, France. The Gonzalez family seeks to hold Google liable for the attack for allegedly permitting its algorithms to recommend ISIS recruitment content to users. The justices appeared inclined to leave the Section 230 protections in place, arguing that Congress, not the courts, should be the body to decide whether to alter the law to scale back these protections. “We’re a court. We really don’t know about these things. These are not like the nine greatest experts on the internet,” Justice Elena Kagan said.
- Next week, the justices will hear oral arguments in a pair of cases challenging the Biden administration’s student loan relief program. Last year, Biden announced an initiative to cancel up to $10,000 in federal loans for many borrowers and cancel up to $20,000 in federal loans for recipients of Pell Grants (loans that are available for students from low-income families). A number of legal challenges followed, including the two cases now before the Supreme Court. The challengers here include six states with Republican attorneys general and two individuals who are unable to collect the full benefits of the policy. In deciding these cases, the Court will likely need to address issues over whether the challengers have standing to bring the lawsuits as well as whether the Department of Education has the authority to enact the policy.
- The justices recently canceled a scheduled hearing for oral arguments in a case pertaining to Title 42, a public health law that has been used by the Trump and Biden administrations to restrict individuals from entering the United States in order to stop the spread of disease. Oral arguments in a case relating to the policy were scheduled to be heard on March 1, but the justices canceled the hearing after U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar submitted a brief asking them to dismiss the case as moot. The Biden administration has now released a new proposal, under which most migrants would be prohibited from applying for asylum if they crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally or did not first apply for asylum in another country. According to the Department of Homeland Security, the proposal “encourage[s] migrants to avail themselves of lawful, safe, and orderly pathways into the United States, or otherwise to seek asylum or other protection in countries through which they travel, thereby reducing reliance on human smuggling networks that exploit migrants for financial gain.”
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