Court blocks Ind. defunding of Planned Parenthood

Indiana stepped between women and their physicians when it enacted a law that blocked Medicaid funds for Planned Parenthood just because the organization provides abortions, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago upheld a lower court's finding that Indiana violated federal regulations when it enacted a law that denied Planned Parenthood Medicaid funds for general health services including cancer screenings.

The ruling is the latest setback in conservative efforts in several states to cut off funding for abortion providers that judges say go too far, intruding on women's right to choose their own medical care.

On Friday, a federal judge blocked Arizona from applying a similar law to Planned Parenthood. Also last week, Texas released new rules for a state women's health program requiring officials to shut down the program entirely if a court asks the state to include providers tied to groups like Planned Parenthood. The state broke the program off from Medicaid funding after federal officials determined it violated women's right to choose their own doctor.

And earlier this month, Oklahoma withdrew federal funding to three Planned Parenthood clinics in Tulsa that for 18 years has allowed them to provide food and nutritional counseling to low-income mothers.

Ken Falk, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana that handled the case, said that while people often associate Planned Parenthood with abortion, it also is a critical provider of non-abortion-related health services to both women and men.

Iowa court official accused of gay marriage fraud

An Iowa court official is accused of helping a same-sex couple from Florida to get a marriage certificate without stepping foot in the state.

The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation says Grundy County Deputy Clerk of Court Brigitte Van Nice was arrested Wednesday and charged with two counts of forgery and one count of perjury.

A complaint says Van Nice received an online ordination last year allowing her to perform weddings. She started talking with two Florida men who were interested in getting married in Iowa, one of six states that allow same-sex marriage.

The complaint says Van Nice filed a false document in February claiming that she officiated their marriage and that two people witnessed it.

A message left for Van Nice wasn't returned early Thursday.

Court upholds RI lawyer's corruption conviction

A federal appeals court has upheld the corruption conviction of a former North Providence town attorney who facilitated bribes to three town councilmen.

Robert Ciresi was convicted in April 2011 of bribery, extortion and conspiracy charges. The jury found he arranged and delivered a $25,000 bribe to then-Councilman John Zambarano after the town council rezoned a plot of land so a supermarket could be built there. Ciresi also helped put Zambarano in touch with a middleman on a separate $75,000 bribe related to a mill development.

Among other issues, Ciresi’s lawyers argued to the appeals court that the lower court incorrectly allowed prosecutors to play for the jury audiotapes that were made of Zambarano discussing Ciresi’s role in the scheme, arguing it constituted hearsay evidence.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday disagreed and upheld the conviction, as well as Ciresi’s sentence of five years and three months in prison.

Justices step back from Pa. court funding dispute

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is declining a request by county governments that the justices force the General Assembly to provide more money for state courts and bring more uniformity to the court system.

The court ruled unanimously on Wednesday against the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania and 10 counties. The decision could end litigation over funding levels and uneven standards across the state that goes back a quarter century.

Chief Justice Ronald Castille's written opinion says there's been progress in recent years and the justices believe that "further enhancements" of the state courts should be a product of cooperation among the three branches of government.

An association spokesman says he's disappointed, while spokesmen for state House and Senate leaders didn't immediately respond to messages.

High court won't stop Texas voting map

The Supreme Court is allowing Texas to use congressional districts that were drawn by a lower federal court for the November election. The court declined without comment Wednesday a request from a Latino rights group to block use of those districts. The groups said the districts discriminate against minorities. The court-drawn map is intended for use only in this year's election. The League of United Latin American Citizens said the map has the same flaws identified by federal judges in Washington who last month rejected political boundaries drawn by Texas lawmakers as discriminatory. The interim congressional map was used in Texas' primaries in May and was devised to let the state hold elections while courts considered challenges to redistricting plans adopted by the Legislature following the 2010 census.

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