President Barack Obama unveiled his final budget Tuesday, a $4.1 trillion proposal that calls for tax hikes on the rich, pumps up funding to combat climate change, and calls for new initiatives in education and health care. 

     The State Department's delay in releasing a cache of emails former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stored on a private server has put a federal judge "between a rock and a hard place," the judge said Tuesday.

     California Gov. Jerry Brown wants to whittle down a pillar of our legal system - the right to an unbiased jury.
     The governor unveiled his budget last month, and with it, a plan to slash the number of peremptory challenges in misdemeanor trials from 10 to six. Peremptory challenges allow attorneys to excuse jurors without offering an explanation. They are also our best tool to weed out racism in the jury box. That's because they allow us to excuse potential jurors we suspect, but cannot prove, are harboring prejudice.
     The governor argues that cutting peremptory challenges will save money and boost courtroom efficiency, though there are no studies to support his claim. Both prosecutors and defense attorneys know it's a bad gamble that comes at the expense of racial equality and due process. That's why both groups opposed the twice-failed measure in the state Legislature.
     Participating in a jury is a fundamental civil right. Yet most juries are made up of white, middle class citizens. Hobbling our ability to shape diverse, unbiased juries will disproportionately hurt African American and Latino defendants, who are already over represented in our nation's prisons. At a time when the nation is focused on addressing racism in our criminal justice system, this proposal is a step backward.
     But don't take my word for it-the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly held that peremptory challenges are an essential means for ensuring fairness. The purpose of the challenges, the Court said, is "to assure the parties that the juror before whom they try the case will decide on basis of the evidence placed before them, and not otherwise."
     Peremptory challenges not only ensure ethnic diversity, but diversity of opinion, reflecting the value of the community as a whole.
     In Holland v. Illinois, Justice Scalia wrote that "peremptory challenges, by enabling each side to excuse those jurors it believes will be most partial toward the other side, are a means of eliminating extremes of partiality on both sides, thereby assuring the selection of a qualified and unbiased jury."
     Peremptory challenges have been vital to justice from the beginning of the system. They date back to Roman law, when both parties would propose 100 jurors and each side was allowed 50 challenges, leaving 100 jurors to try the case.
     English common law allowed the prosecution unlimited peremptory challenges but limited the defense to 35. Peremptory challenges in the U.S. are grounded in the Sixth Amendment, which guarantees the right to a fair and impartial jury.
     This is a constitutional right not only for those facing serious charges, but misdemeanors as well. After all, there is nothing "minor" about misdemeanor sentences, which can include up to a year in jail or, for sex offenses, a lifetime of registration.
     Lawyers are forbidden from using peremptory challenges to eliminate jurors based on race or gender. However, they allow us to remove both the biased and the disinterested alike. That's critical, because jurors who simply do not want to serve, but have failed in their attempts to be excused by the judge, are less likely to pay attention to the evidence and arguments. Their verdicts are less well-considered, a fact that hurts everyone.
     Not only does the governor's plan erode due process, it also makes little financial sense. Jury selection will take longer, because prosecutors and defense attorneys will be forced to establish cause for each dismissal. Potential jurors, many of them taking time off without pay, will undergo more detailed questioning from both prosecutors and defense attorneys.
     Both prosecutors and defense attorneys-two groups who are rarely on the same side-have opposed this dangerous bargain before. The phony reform plan failed to pass the California Legislature in 2014 under SB 794. It failed again in 2015 as SB 213. In both cases, the author pulled the proposed legislation due to lack of support.
     Now, the governor is hoping citizens won't notice this erosion of justice hidden in the pages of his proposed budget. Let him know that the right to a fair trial is at the heart of our criminal justice system, not the fat to be trimmed.
     To tell the governor and other lawmakers, please visit sfpublicdefender.org/save-peremptory-challenges/
     Jeff Adachi is the San Francisco Public Defender.

     An inmate's lawsuit has ended racial segregation in Arizona prisons, where until an historic ruling Monday prisoners were housed and assigned jobs based on race, and barbers had to use separate tools to cut the hair of black, Latino and Native American inmates. 

     The International Megan's Law bill signed by President Barack Obama on Monday requiring sex offenders to be identified on their passports is already being challenged in court. 

     California trial court workers and court reporters on Monday lined up in fierce opposition to what they see as efforts to centralize the way courts are run and replace human court personnel with machines.

     New York's high court is back to full strength after a ceremony Monday instituting a new chief judge, coupled with confirmation for the court's newest associate judge.

     After a year of high-profile political scandals in South Dakota, Gov. Dennis Daugaard introduced a bill he hopes will help the state government clean up its act.

     Dozens protested Monday outside the jail where a black woman died after a struggle with sheriff's deputies that involved four shocks by a stun gun.

     Minnesota should put $1 billion budget surplus to use combating terror recruitment in the home of the largest Somali population in the United States, Democratic lawmakers said, calling for the state to octuple funding.

     Chemicals illegally stored at a Chesapeake Energy waste treatment facility in Wyoming exploded, burning and permanently disfiguring two men, they claim in Federal Court. 

     An Ohio man claims in court that Adrien Broner, the current World Boxing Association super lightweight champion, knocked him out after losing thousands on bets placed on bowling matches. 

     The University of Texas at Austin is trying to revoke the Ph.D. of a graduate for alleged scientific misconduct without authority to do so and through an unfair process, the scientist claims in court. 


     Top officials at the University of Kansas allowed student leaders to cut the budget of The University Daily Kansan in half to punish it for an editorial criticizing the student election process, the newspaper's editors claim in court. 

     The lead plaintiff behind a 2015 class action over Regulation 1585, a California law regarding sales taxes on cellphone purchases, refiled the suit.

 

     Russian courts should preside over claims that Lukoil drove Archangel Diamond into bankruptcy with a project to develop diamond-mining operations in Russia's Archangelesk region, the 10th Circuit affirmed. 

     New Yorkers brought a federal class action against Dunkin' Donuts over the sales tax it charges on pre-packaged coffee, noting that unheated food and deli coffee are exempt in the state. 

     A former police chief in Hoboken, N.J., refiled retaliation claims against Mayor Dawn Zimmer in state court, three months after his federal suit failed. 

     Side air bags in 2011-12 Nissan Frontier pickups deploy without reason, endangering the occupants, a class action claims in Superior Court.

     The Seventh Circuit affirmed a 10-year prison sentence for Kevin Trudeau because his weight-loss book violated his settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. 

     Curt Menefee, broadcaster for nonparty Fox NFL Sunday, owes his former manager Octagon Inc. its 10% commission since he extended his contract with Fox in August 2015, and punitive damages, Octagon claims in Superior Court.

     A federal judge refused to dismiss D.C. police officer Jorge Alma's retaliation claim against Mayor Muriel Bowser. 

     The artist whose drawing graces the cover of the exclusive Wu-Tang album bought by Martin Shkreli joined shareholders and former business partners suing the pharmaceutical bad boy with a federal action of his own Monday. 

     The Pennsylvania Senate will vote Wednesday on removing embattled Attorney General Kathleen Kane, now that the state Supreme Court refused to reinstate her law license. 

     Philip Morris and other cigarette makers will soon be required to make public statements about the health effects of smoking, after a federal judge called the companies' rewrite request "ridiculous." 

     A legal battle over the copyright to the song "Happy Birthday to You" has settled for $14 million, paving the way for a declaration that the song is in the public domain. 

     A federal judge must review whether her speedy trial error was serious enough to free a felon from a 10-year sentence for illegal gun possession, the Second Circuit ruled Tuesday. 

     The Fourth Circuit remanded a Second Amendment challenge to a Maryland law restricting assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, ruling that a lower court used the wrong scrutiny standard. 

     The largest-circulation weekly community newspaper in Boston will not publish a new issue this week, or ever again, after losing its appeal of a wrongful-termination case.


     Like many elderly people, Sherry Lynn Cunnison used a walk-in Jacuzzi to help soothe her aching body, but a defective plug made hers a death trap, her family claims in court. 


     A federal judge on Monday ended the three-and-a-half year legal feud between the Justice Department and Congress over Justice's response to the Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal. 

     Prosecutors say the wife of a dead ISIL leader helped hold American citizen Kayla Mueller captive from her 2013 kidnapping until her death less than two years later. 

     A criminal defense expert continued to hammer away at a now-deceased attorney's representation of Adnan Syed, who was convicted and given a life sentence in the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend.

     A federal judge pared down a subcontractor's lawsuit against four top cellphone carriers stemming from a long-overdue infrastructure upgrade to Washington, D.C.'s Metro system.  

     The New York City police officer on trial for shooting an unarmed black man to death lost his composure on the stand Monday as the closely watched trial drew to a close.

     Calling an appeal between California environmentalists and federal agencies over expired water contracts a "bizarre position," a Ninth Circuit panel Tuesday encouraged the parties to mediate the issue instead.

     The United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organization has agreed to a first-ever global standard to cap emissions from aircraft, the European Commission said Tuesday.


     The suspected link of Zika virus to birth defects has women's health advocates calling for the repeal of strict abortion laws in Latin America, and has even brought criticism of the continent's powerful Catholic Church.

     Several health aid workers and a Liberian family were unfairly quarantined by Connecticut's governor following the 2014 Ebola outbreak, a lawsuit alleges. 

     Texas cannot stop Syrian refugees from entering and living in the state because it's a political issue that is not up to the states or federal courts, a federal judge ruled Monday. 


     The "hazing, culling and slaughter" of up to 900 of Yellowstone National Park's wild bison will carry on as scheduled, a federal judge ruled. 


     New York's mayor clamped down on safety regulations days after a five-story-tall crane toppled to the snowy streets of Tribeca, killing a Wall Street trader and injuring four others on Friday.

     Five legal secretaries sued the Clark County prosecutor in Washington, claiming his anti-union sentiments caused him to press them to say that a jocular email was a violent threat to shoot him. 

     A San Diego church sued the California Department of Managed Health Care over a requirement it cover abortions in its employee health care plans. 

     A federal judge who refused to certify a class of nonliturgical Protestant chaplains accusing the U.S. Navy of discrimination declined Tuesday to reinstate dismissed plaintiffs. 


     The United States wants Warm Springs (Ore.) Police Sgt. Lonny McEwen arrested on a charge of selling marijuana, for $100 an ounce, in a federal criminal complaint. 


     Live Nation need not face federal antitrust claims regarding its supposed monopolization of then music-concert industry, the Fourth Circuit ruled.