Top 10 legal cases that made headlines in 2017

Updated: Dec. 27, 2017 at 3:10 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - From travel bans to bump stocks to gay wedding cakes, 2017 was a big year for court cases and proceedings that made headlines.

President Donald Trump, in his first year, saw many challenges to his attempted policies.

Some of which are already on the way to the Supreme Court.

Noted Cleveland civil rights attorney Avery Friedman has given us his "Top 10 Legal Events of 2017."

10. WANT TO BE A  FEDERAL JUDGE? WATCH OUT FOR MOTION SICKNESS – Motions in limine are granted by trial judges every day in insure fairness. When a nominee never even heard of a motion in limine, that signals big trouble. Call EMS! The December, 2017 federal court nomination appearance of Matthew Pedersen, who had never even been in court, by White House Counsel Dan McGhan, crushed by a Trump-supporting U.S. Senator John Kennedy from Louisiana, the new poster child for our system of checks & balances. Motion in limine? What's that? What an embarrassment! To quote U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, " Hoo-boy!" Indeed. The nomination was withdrawn on Dec. 18.

9. WHAT IS A FAMILY? – A June 2017 travel ban for those applying to enter the country included a legally bizarre and unprecedented definition of family, insofar as who "counted," as proposed by the Trump Administration: No. 1 – Son-in-law? Yes (of course), No. 2 – Grandma? No, No. 3 – Daughter-in-law? Yes. Granddaughter? No. Not a chance of passing the constitutional due process floor, just who came up with this? See why it's easy for a federal court to knock this out.

8. BUMP STOCKS – That's the device that turns a traditional firearm into an automatic weapon. In October 2017, Stephen Paddock fired 1,100 rounds into a country music festival crowd in 10 minutes. Covered by the Second Amendment? Will they be banned? Will Congress enact legislation requiring airports or hotels who have different security to guard against it? Who's accountable for the carnage?

7. LET THEM NOT EAT CAKE – Is the Supreme Court really taking seriously those two little plastic guys on top of a wedding cake? Baker Jack Phillips has lost every step of the way in wanting to know exactly what those gay customers are going to do with the cake he's baking after it leaves his shop! He wants "religious freedom" to reject selling the cake, but really wants to keep his license to sell to the public. Betty Crocker will have to wait until next year to find out.

6. THE CONFIRMATION OF NEIL GORSUCH – Trump's first Supreme Court vacancy substituted one conservative for the late Antonin Scalia's seat, another conservative. With intellectual rigor and a libertarian bent, the prospects of 5-4 decisions on American social policy portend to recur ... until a likely retirement of one of at least three sitting justices right now in 2018. Gorsuch is unlikely to be a stand-alone like Scalia or Thomas. Watch for a wild card role.

5. THE TRUMP PARDON OF SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO FOR CRIMINAL CONDUCT - If you're not part of the American majority, the president's message on race has been loud and clear. Beyond federal courts' findings of nauseatingly racial-motivated traffic stops and a disregard for federal court orders, a President Pardon No. 1 from Arpaio's overt discrimination and flagrantly ignoring a federal court order explains which Americans do not count. It also flies in the face of the rule of law. "Toughest?" Hardly.

4. RECUSAL BY ATTORNEY GENERAL/APPOINTMENT OF SPECIAL COUNSEL - Legally unprecedented, wildly unexpected, but required. Sessions couldn't have run a campaign, then investigated intelligence-confirmed Russian meddling. And there is no straighter arrow, Republican or Democrat, that Robert Mueller. Despite recent partisan bluster, everyone knows it. There is no such crime as collusion, but there's a very serious one called obstruction. If the President would have deferred to his Acting Attorney General instead of openly admitting he fired Jim Comey because of the Russian investigation, if you measure his witty remark by half, you've got a handle on what may be the biggest legal story of 2018. We'll wait and see.

3. CHARLOTTESVILLE – Nothing isolated about the murder of a counter protester. This had been building long before the alt-right's August, 2017 protest, fueled by the very reason the President pardoned Joe Arpiao. A Virginia judge certified first degree murder charges against in December.

2. MICHAEL FLYNN – From the Mueller substitution appointment, to the troddingly careful Mueller investigation of Flynn, to the grand jury presentment, to the plea, to Flynn likely singing so much he'll wind up in the Canary Hall of Fame, does 2018 promise Trump Pardon No. 2? Even if so, the beans spilled from the plea agreement will also be revealed in 2018 and it won't be pretty. Yes, it was Flynn who led the chant "Lock her Up" at the July, 2016 convention, but it will be 2018 that will see the former Trump National Security Advisor going through what he wished for, never dreaming at the time it would be he.

1. UNCONSTITUTIONAL EXECUTIVE ORDERS & TWEETS - Ill-conceived travel bans, restricting military service based on orientation, trying to stop funds to sanctuary cities and states, all basically failing to pass constitutional muster by a virtual mile. Consistent bad legal advice, the commonality of consistent losses had mostly to do with either a misunderstanding or disregard of basic American constitutional principles. The Supreme Court has granted very limited review so most of the slams against the president will stand.

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