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A Kenyan court ruled Thursday that the government must not close the world's largest refugee camp and send more than 200,000 people back to war-torn Somalia, a decision that eases pressure on Somalis who feared the camp would close by the end of May.

Kenya's internal security minister abused his power by ordering the closure of Dadaab camp, Judge John Mativo said, adding that the minister and other officials had "acted in excess and in abuse of their power, in violation of the rule of law and in contravention of their oaths of office."

Rights groups Amnesty International, Kituo cha Sheria and the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights had challenged the government's order to close the camp, which has operated for more than a quarter-century.

Kenya's government quickly said it will appeal the ruling. "Being a government whose cardinal responsibility is first to Kenyans, we feel this decision should be revoked," spokesman Eric Kiraithe said.

The judge called the order discriminatory, saying it goes against the Kenyan constitution as well as international treaties that protect refugees against being returned to a conflict zone.

President Uhuru Kenyatta's government has not proved Somalia is safe for the refugees to return, the judge said, also calling the orders to shut down the government's refugee department "null and void."

Somalia remains under threat of attacks from homegrown extremist group al-Shabab. Some Kenyan officials have argued that the sprawling refugee camp near the border with Somalia has been used as a recruiting ground for al-Shabab and a base for launching attacks inside Kenya. But Kenyan officials have not provided conclusive proof of that.



Federal judges in New Jersey have struggled with a workload approaching 700 cases each, nearly double what's manageable, because of judicial vacancies. In Texas, close to a dozen district judgeships remain open, more than in any other state.

Senate confirmation of President Barack Obama's nominees slowed to a halt this election year, a common political occurrence for the final months of divided government with a Democratic president and a Republican-controlled Senate. The vacancy on the Supreme Court attracted the most attention as Republicans refused to even hold confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland, insisting that the choice to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February rests with the next president.

But more than 90 vacancies in the federal judiciary are taking a toll on judges, the courts and Americans seeking recourse. Obama has nominated replacements for more than half of those spots, including 44 nominees for the district court and seven for the appeals court. Yet the Senate has confirmed only nine district and appeals court judges this year — and only four since Scalia died.


A federal appeals court on Sunday opened the door for construction to resume on a small stretch of the four-state Dakota Access pipeline while it considers an appeal by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

The ruling removed a temporary injunction that halted work on the project.

The tribe had asked the U.S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to continue work stoppage on the pipeline within 20 miles of Lake Oahe in North Dakota. The court earlier ordered work to stop while it considered the motion.

In a statement, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault II said that the tribe "is not backing down from this fight."

"We will not rest until our lands, people, waters and sacred places are permanently protected from this destructive pipeline," Archambault said.

Owned by Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile project would carry nearly a half-million barrels of crude oil daily from North Dakota's oil fields through South Dakota and Iowa to an existing pipeline in Patoka, Illinois, where shippers can access Midwest and Gulf Coast markets.

The company did not immediately return an email Sunday seeking comment on the court's decision.

The pipeline passes near Standing Rock Sioux reservation land that straddles the North Dakota-South Dakota border. The tribe's protest encampment near the confluence of the Missouri and Cannonball rivers has swelled to thousands at times as demonstrators from around the country joined their cause.

Tribal and state officials also are at odds over whether sacred sites were destroyed while digging the pipeline corridor. The state archaeologist has said an inspection found no sign that the area contained human remains or cultural artifacts.



New York's highest court expanded the definition of parenthood Tuesday by ruling that former same-sex couples may seek visitation and custody of children even when they aren't the biological or adoptive parent.

The Court of Appeals decision resolves two cases of former unmarried same-sex couples in which the biological mothers kept the children and their ex-partners sought legal standing to see them. In one case, lower courts ruled the ex-partner had no standing. In the other, the ex-partner pays child support and was later granted visitation.

A 25-year-old definition of parenthood required a person seeking custody or visitation to have a biological or adoptive connection to the child. In its decision, the court said the standard had become "unworkable" in light of society's "increasingly varied familial relationships."

"Where a partner shows by clear and convincing evidence that the parties agreed to conceive a child and to raise the child together, the non-biological, non-adoptive partner has standing to seek visitation and custody under Domestic Relations Law," reads the opinion written by Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam.

New York began recognizing same-sex marriages in 2011, and children born into a marriage are considered the children of both parents. But the law was far murkier when it came to same-sex couples who had a child before the law was enacted or who have foregone marriage. Same-sex partners often found it impossible to seek visitation or custody of a non-biological child they had not adopted if the relationship ended.

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