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A voucher program that would provide West Virginia parents state money to pull their children out of K-12 public schools is blatantly unconstitutional and would disproportionately impact poor children and those with disabilities, a lawyer representing parents who sued the state argued Tuesday in West Virginia’s Supreme Court.

The Hope Scholarship Program, which was passed by the GOP-controlled state legislature last year and would have been one of the most far-reaching school choice programs in the country, “negatively and intentionally” impacts West Virginia’s system of free schools, lawyer Tamerlin Godley told justices during oral arguments.

“It decreases enrollment, and thus funding,” said Godley, who is representing two parents of children who receive special education supports in West Virginia public schools. “It utilizes public funding for subsidizing more affluent families that have chosen private and homeschooling and it silos the poor and special needs children who cannot use the vouchers.”

Signed by Republican Gov. Jim Justice last year, the program was set to go into effect this school year but was blocked by Circuit Court Judge Joanna Tabit in July. In a lawsuit supported by the West Virginia Board of Education and Superintendent of Schools, three parents of special education students said the scholarship program takes money away from already underfunded public schools and is prohibitive because there aren’t local private schools that could meet their children’s needs. One family has since withdrawn from the case.

The state immediately appealed the ruling. It’s unclear when justices will make a decision on the program, although the court’s current term ends in November.

The law that created the Hope Scholarship Program allows families to apply for state funding to support private school tuition, homeschooling fees and a wide range of other expenses. More than 3,000 students had been approved to receive around $4,300 each during the program’s inaugural cycle, according to the West Virginia State Treasurer’s Office.

Families could not receive the money if their children were already homeschooled or attending private school. To qualify, students had to have been enrolled in a West Virginia public school last year or set to begin kindergarten this school year.


Sport’s highest court has been asked to judge a case that aims to remove Ecuador from the World Cup by no later than Nov. 10 — just 10 days before the team should face host Qatar in the opening game.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport said it registered appeals by the Chilean and Peruvian soccer federations against a FIFA ruling this month that Ecuador defender Byron Castillo was in fact eligible to play in the eight qualifying games he was selected for.

CAS gave no timetable for appointing judges and organizing a hearing, though said both parties appealing asked for a final award by Nov. 10.

Chile officials claim to have documents proving Castillo is actually Colombian and that Ecuador should forfeit all eight games he played in as 3-0 losses.

That legal argument was dismissed by FIFA’s disciplinary committee in June and upheld by FIFA appeal judges two weeks ago.

Ecuador placed fourth in the South American qualifying group in March and claimed a direct World Cup entry. Days later it was drawn into Group A with Qatar – playing the host on Nov. 20 in Doha -- Netherlands and Senegal.

If the qualifying games were forfeited, the revised points totals would lift Chile to fourth from seventh.

Peru placed fifth and has asked CAS to get Ecuador’s entry as the next highest placed South American team. Peru already lost an intercontinental playoff to Australia in June.


A federal appeals court asked a Washington D.C. appeals court Tuesday to help it decide whether the United States should be substituted for former President Donald Trump as the defendant in a defamation lawsuit brought by a woman who says he raped her over a quarter century ago.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan in a 2-to-1 decision reversed a lower court ruling that had concluded Trump must face the lawsuit brought in Manhattan federal court by columnist E. Jean Carroll.

But it stopped short of saying the U.S. can be substituted for Trump as the defendant in the lawsuit. Instead, it asked The D.C. Court of Appeals, the highest court in the District of Columbia, to decide whether Trump’s public statements denying Carroll’s rape claims occurred within the scope of his employment as president.

Carroll maintains Trump defamed her with public comments he made after she wrote in a 2019 book that Trump raped her during a chance encounter in the mid-1990s in a Manhattan department store. Trump denied the rape and questioned Carroll’s credibility and motivations.

The 2nd Circuit said Trump would be entitled to immunity by having the U.S. substituted as the defendant in the lawsuit if it was decided that his statements came within the scope of his employment.


An Arizona man who convinced recent immigrants from mainly Asian countries to pay him thousands of dollars each to help them gain U.S. citizenship has been sentenced to nearly six years in prison by a federal judge in Las Vegas, authorities announced.

Court documents show Douglas Lee Thayer, 70, of Mohave Valley collected payments of between $7,000 and $20,000 from at least 160 recent immigrants by promising them the company he ran would find a family to adopt them as adults. He told the victims he would then get them new birth certificates and other documents that would let them gain U.S. citizenship.

A federal jury in Las Vegas convicted Thayer of two criminal counts of mail fraud on April. 18, and he was sentenced on Friday. He is set to surrender to start his sentence next month.

According to the indictment and a sentencing memorandum from federal prosecutors, Thayer ran a Las Vegas-based business called U.S. Adult Adoption Services. After the Justice Department announced in 2016 that it had shut down a similar scheme in Sacramento, California, Thayer offered refunds to the Asian and Hispanic immigrants.

He had charged more than $1 million in fees, but the refunds were only a fraction of what he collected, and prosecutors said he netted more than $850,000.

The owner of the Sacramento business was later sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors said Thayer’s victims were particularly vulnerable because they mostly were recent immigrants who spoke little English and knew little if anything about immigration law. The government does not provide an easier path to citizenship for immigrants who are adopted as adults by Americans.

“This prison sentence should serve as a warning that taking advantage of vulnerable victims, regardless of citizenship status, will be investigated and prosecuted,” U.S. Attorney for Nevada Jason Frierson said in a statement.

In pushing for a harsh sentence, Assistant U.S. Attorney Simon Kung said in his sentencing memo to U.S. District Judge Gloria M. Navarro that Thayer “has spent his entire life committing crimes,” included armed robbery, attempted murder and rape, narcotics and the latest, fraud.

“Despite spending more than 20 years in prison prior to the instant offense, he has not been deterred from crime,” Kung wrote.

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