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Bolivians urge US court to restore $10M verdict on killings
Court Center | 2019/11/20 03:46
Bolivians asked a U.S. appeals court Tuesday to restore a $10 million jury verdict against a former president and defense minister of the South American nation over killings by security forces during 2003 unrest there.

Lawyers for a group of indigenous Bolivians told a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that a Florida judge was wrong to set aside last year's verdict.

The jury found against former Bolivian President Gonzalo "Goni" Sanchez de Lozada and former defense minister, Jose Carlos Sanchez Berzain. Both have been living in the U.S. after fleeing Bolivia in 2003.

We have faith that the court of appeals will see what the Bolivian people and the American jury also saw: that Goni and Sánchez Berzaín are responsible for these killings, and that justice must be done," said Teófilo Baltazar Cerro, a plaintiff whose pregnant wife Teodosia was shot and killed during the unrest.

The judges did not indicate when they would rule. In the lawsuit, relatives of eight Bolivians who died claimed the two officials planned to kill thousands of civilians to crush political opposition during civil unrest known as the "Gas War." The lawsuit was filed under the Torture Victim Protection Act, which authorizes suits in the U.S. for extrajudicial killings.

The unrest erupted in the fall of 2003 as street protests in Bolivia over use of the country's vast natural gas reserves boiled over. Demonstrators threw up street blockades of flaming debris and rubble in several places including on the outskirts of the capital of La Paz, and violent clashes between police and security forces with the civilian protesters turned deadly.

At times, government forces intent on clearing street barricades fired on demonstrators, mainly in the El Alto municipality adjacent to La Paz, leading to deaths. Other fatalities were reported in confrontations between security forces and Bolivian miners marching to the capital in support of the protesters. Many of the civilian victims were indigenous Aymara Bolivians.


Ohio Supreme Court keeps camera challenge alive
Legal News | 2019/11/20 03:45
Ohio’s Supreme Court has rejected Toledo’s motion to dismiss a challenge to how the city handles appeals of citations related to camera-captured traffic violations.

The high court recently rejected the motion to dismiss a challenge by Susan Magsig, of Woodville.

The Toledo Blade reports  Magsig received a citation alleging a camera held by a police officer caught her vehicle traveling 75 mph in a 60 mph-zone. Magsig argues Toledo violates state law by considering such appeals through an administrative hearing rather than through municipal court.

The city argues the case shouldn’t continue because a lower court’s preliminary ruling prevents enforcement of a state law giving local courts jurisdiction over all traffic violations. Magsig’s attorney says she isn’t bound by that ruling involving a legal dispute between the city and state.


Split Supreme Court appears ready to allow Trump to end DACA
Press Releases | 2019/11/16 11:49
Sharply at odds with liberal justices, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority seemed ready Tuesday to allow the Trump administration to abolish protections that permit 660,000 immigrants to work in the U.S., free from the threat of deportation.

That outcome would “destroy lives,” declared Justice Sonia Sotomayor, one the court’s liberals who repeatedly suggested the administration has not adequately justified its decision to end the seven-year-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Nor has it taken sufficient account of the personal, economic and social disruption that might result, they said.

But there did not appear to be any support among the five conservatives for blocking the administration. The nine-member court’s decision is expected by June, at the height of the 2020 presidential campaign.

President Donald Trump said on Twitter that DACA recipients shouldn’t despair if the justices side with him, pledging that “a deal will be made with the Dems for them to stay!” But Trump’s past promises to work with Democrats on a legislative solution for these immigrants have led nowhere.

The president also said in his tweet that many program participants, brought to the U.S. as children and now here illegally, are “far from ‘angels,’” and he claimed that “some are very tough, hardened criminals.” The program bars anyone with a felony conviction from participating, and serious misdemeanors may also bar eligibility.


Myanmar rejects court probe into crimes against Rohingyas
Court Center | 2019/11/13 11:48
Myanmar’s government rejected the International Criminal Court’s decision to allow prosecutors to open an investigation into crimes committed against the Rohingya Muslim minority.

Government spokesman Zaw Htay said at a Friday night press conference that Myanmar stood by its position that the Netherlands-based court has no jurisdiction over its actions. His statement was the first official reaction since the court on Thursday agreed to proceed with the case.

Myanmar has been accused of carrying out human rights abuses on a massive scale in the western state of Rakhine in 2017 during what it described as a counterinsurgency campaign.

Zaw Htay cited a Myanmar Foreign Ministry statement from April 2018 that because Myanmar was not a party to the agreement establishing the court, it did not need to abide by the court’s rulings.

“It has already been expressed in the statement that the investigation over Myanmar by the ICC is not in accordance with international law,” he told reporters in the Myanmar capital Naypyitaw.

The court’s position is that because Myanmar’s alleged atrocities sent more than 700,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh for safety, it does have jurisdiction since Bangladesh is a party to the court and the case may involve forced deportation.

Last year’s statement charged that the court’s prosecutor, by claiming jurisdiction, was attempting “to override the principle of national sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.”

The 2018 statement also said Myanmar’s position was that it “has not deported any individuals in the areas of concern and in fact has worked hard in collaboration with Bangladesh to repatriate those displaced from their homes.”

However, there still has been no official repatriation of the Rohingya, and human rights activists charge that Myanmar has not established safe conditions for their return.


As ruling nears, immigrant fights for anti-deportation act
Legal Watch | 2019/11/12 04:48
A Mexican immigrant fighting President Donald Trump’s attempt to end a program shielding young immigrants from deportation says he is nervous about the case finally being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Martin Batalla Vidal is a lead plaintiff in one of the cases to preserve the Obama-era program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and has seen his name splashed in legal documents since 2016, when he first sued in New York.

The 29-year-old certified nursing assistant at a rehabilitation clinic for traumatic brain injury in Queens, New York, has described the legal journey since then as stressful, with people sending him hateful messages. He has had to sacrifice days at work so he could go to protests, press conferences and meetings with attorneys.

Even with his worries, Batalla Vidal is hopeful immigrants like him will be able to stay in the country.

“I don’t know what is going to happen,” said Batalla Vidal, who lives with his mother, two brothers and a dog in an apartment at the border of Queens and Brooklyn. “Whatever the outcome is, we know that we have fought hard for it and we will continue fighting. I am trying to be positive.”

The nation’s highest court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the case Tuesday.

The program protects about 700,000 people, often called “Dreamers,” who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children or came with families that overstayed visas.


Gambia takes Myanmar to top UN court over Rohingya campaign
Law Firm Business | 2019/11/10 12:48
Gambia filed a case Monday at the United Nations’ highest court accusing Myanmar of genocide in its campaign against its Rohingya Muslim minority and asking the International Court of Justice to urgently order measures “to stop Myanmar’s genocidal conduct immediately.”

Gambia filed the case on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Gambia’s justice minister and attorney general, Abubacarr Marie Tambadou, told The Associated Press he wanted to “send a clear message to Myanmar and to the rest of the international community that the world must not stand by and do nothing in the face of terrible atrocities that are occurring around us. It is a shame for our generation that we do nothing while genocide is unfolding right before our own eyes.”

Myanmar officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Myanmar’s military began a harsh counterinsurgency campaign against the Rohingya in August 2017 in response to an insurgent attack. More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh to escape what has been called an ethnic cleansing campaign involving mass rapes, killings and the torching of homes.

The head of a U.N. fact-finding mission on Myanmar warned last month that “there is a serious risk of genocide recurring.”

The mission also said in its final report in September that Myanmar should be held responsible in international legal forums for alleged genocide against the Rohingya.


Justices take up high-profile case over young immigrants
Legal Watch | 2019/11/07 12:49
The Supreme Court is taking up the Trump administration’s plan to end legal protections that shield 660,000 immigrants from deportation, a case with strong political overtones amid the 2020 presidential election campaign.

All eyes will be on Chief Justice John Roberts when the court hears arguments Tuesday. Roberts is the conservative justice closest to the court’s center who also is keenly aware of public perceptions of an ideologically divided court.

It’s the third time in three years that the administration is asking the justices to rescue a controversial policy that has been blocked by several lower courts.

The court sided with President Donald Trump in allowing him to enforce the travel ban on visitors from some majority Muslim countries, but it blocked the administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

Roberts was the only member of the court in the majority both times, siding with four conservatives on the travel ban and four liberals in the census case. His vote could be decisive a third time, as well. With Congress at an impasse over a comprehensive immigration bill, President Barack Obama decided to formally protect people from deportation while also allowing them to work legally in the U.S.

But Trump made tough talk on immigration a central part of his campaign and less than eight months after taking office, he announced in September 2017 that he would end DACA.


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