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Court: Zoo Animals Protected by Endangered Species Act

A federal appeals court said a family-owned zoo violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to care properly for its tigers and lemurs.

In Kuehl v. Sellner, the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a decision to send several exotic animals at the zoo to a better facility. It was a victory for animal rights activists, who said the decision means endangered species living in captivity deserve the same care as animals in the wild.

But the appeals court also denied their request for $239,979 in attorneys fees. In other words, taking care of tigers and lemurs can be very expensive.

Missouri Defends Campaign Donation Limits

Missouri's campaign finance reform law protects against political corruption, an attorney argued to the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Without the voter-approved restrictions on campaign contributions, the deputy attorney general said, political action committees and other entities could circumvent the law. Section 23 of the Missouri Constitution limits contributions to $2,600 per donor.

What's more, Ryan Bangert said, 70 percent of the voters can't be wrong. Unfortunately for them, a trial judge said something different.

Court Puts Flynt v. Executioners to Rest

Larry Flint became famous for pornography and later for litigation.

The long-time publisher came out from the shadows of Hustler magazine in People v. Flynt, which played out in a movie by the same name. "You may not like what he does, but are you prepared to give up his right to do it?" the tagline says.

Nearly 50 years later, Flynt is still doing it. This time he is litigating for access to records of state-sponsored executions in Flynt v. Lombardi.

Government Sues to Put Drug Company Out of Business

When the federal government started issuing press releases about an Arkansas drug company, it was about as lethal as the lawsuit that followed.

The Federal Drug Administration alerted health care professionals and patients not to use drugs from Cantrell Drug Company. Adding injury to insult, the U.S. Department of Justice also issued a press release when it sued the company for allegedly distributing adulterated drugs.

Dr. James McCarley, Jr., founder and chief executive of the company, responded by issuing his own press release and filing his own suit against the government.

Justice Diana Murphy has been honored this year by Minnesota Lawyer for her "Outstanding Service to the Profession." After spending 4 years on the bench in state court, then 14 years on the federal District Court in Minnesota, and then another 22 years on the federal appellate bench in the Eighth Circuit, she has spent almost half of her life on the bench, and she's 84 years old.

Judge Murphy was not only the first female justice on the Eighth Circuit, she was the only from 1994 to 2016.

Breaking Tradition, Senate Confirms Stras to 8th Circuit

The blue-slip rule -- a traditional endorsement by home-state Senators for judicial nominees -- has guided Senate confirmations for nearly a century. But not anymore.

The Senate confirmed Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras to the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals without a blue slip from one of the state's Senators. Stras is the first nominee to be confirmed without the traditional rite of passage in 80 years.

It would have been controversial except things have changed recently. The Republicans are charging ahead with President Trump's nominees, and Al Franken is not a Senator anymore.

Former law partner and Nebraska state chief deputy attorney general, Leonard Grasz, recently had his nomination to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed by the Senate.

Despite the ABA's rarely given "unqualified" rating of soon-to-be Judge Grasz, the 50 to 48 vote cut along partisan lines, much like the Senate Judiciary Committee's 11 to 9 vote. Judge Grasz is expected to be a conservative judge, and if the ABA is correct, potentially one that is a little too passionate.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved the nomination to the federal appellate bench of federal district court judge Ralph Erickson by a vote of 20-0. Now Erickson will need to win the approval of the full Senate before becoming eligible to accept the position as the Eighth Circuit's newest jurist.

Though nominated in a nearly bi-polar political climate, Erickson's nomination has received bipartisan support, which should mean he will be a lock for the full Senate vote.

Court Affirms Defunding Planned Parenthood

Women have the right to get an abortion anywhere in America, but they may have a hard time paying for one in Arkansas.

The U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals said in Does v. Gillespie that Arkansas can kick Planned Parenthood out of its network of Medicaid-approved health providers. Setting up a possible showdown in the U.S. Supreme Court, the Eighth Circuit has changed the abortion litigation landscape.

"The plaintiffs are asserting a right -- the absolute right to a particular provider of their choosing -- that (the law) does not grant them," Judge Steven Colloton wrote for the Eighth Circuit, which includes Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North and South Dakota.

Eighth Circuit: No Right to Proceed Pro Se

A federal appeals court rejected a man's demand to represent himself, ruling that a criminal defendant has no right to proceed pro se post-conviction or on appeal.

The U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals said the Sixth Amendment includes the right to proceed without counsel at trial, but does not include any right to appeal. Moreover, the court said in United States v. Tollefson, the limitation includes post-conviction proceedings.

Bruce Charles Tollefson argued that his court-appointed attorney provided ineffective assistance. However, the court said, he had no right to counsel anyway.

"Because Tollefson had no right to counsel during his post-conviction sentence reduction proceedings, he cannot assert a 'valid claim for ineffective assistance,'" Judge Diana E. Murphy wrote for the court.