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Trump moves to limit asylum; new rules challenged in court
Legal Interview | 2018/11/10 23:13
President Donald Trump issued a proclamation Friday to deny asylum to migrants who enter the country illegally, tightening the border as caravans of Central Americans slowly approach the United States. The plan was immediately challenged in court.

Trump invoked the same powers he used last year to impose a travel ban that was upheld by the Supreme Court. The new regulations are intended to circumvent laws stating that anyone is eligible for asylum no matter how he or she enters the country. About 70,000 people per year who enter the country illegally claim asylum, officials said.

“We need people in our country, but they have to come in legally,” Trump said Friday as he departed for Paris.

The American Civil Liberties Union and other legal groups swiftly sued in federal court in Northern California to block the regulations, arguing the measures were illegal.

“The president is simply trying to run roughshod over Congress’s decision to provide asylum to those in danger regardless of the manner of one’s entry,” said ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt.

The litigation also seeks to put the new rules on hold while the case progresses.

The regulations go into effect Saturday. They would be in place for at least three months but could be extended, and don’t affect people already in the country. The Justice Department said in a statement the regulations were lawful.

Trump’s announcement was the latest push to enforce a hard-line stance on immigration through regulatory changes and presidential orders, bypassing Congress, which has not passed any immigration law reform. But those efforts have been largely thwarted by legal challenges and, in the case of family separations this year, stymied by a global outcry that prompted Trump to retreat.


Ginsburg, 85, hospitalized after fracturing 3 ribs in fall
Court Center | 2018/11/08 13:10
Eighty-five-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fractured three ribs in a fall in her office at the court and is in the hospital, the court said Thursday.

The court’s oldest justice fell Wednesday evening, the court said. She called Supreme Court police to take her to George Washington University Hospital in Washington early Thursday after experiencing discomfort overnight, court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said.

She was admitted to the hospital for treatment and observation after tests showed she fractured three ribs.

In her absence, the court went ahead Thursday with a courtroom ceremony welcoming new Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who joined the court last month. President Donald Trump and new acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker were on hand.

Ginsburg has had a series of health problems. She broke two ribs in a fall in 2012. She has had two prior bouts with cancer and had a stent implanted to open a blocked artery in 2014. She also was hospitalized after a bad reaction to medicine in 2009.

But she has never missed Supreme Court arguments. The court won’t hear arguments again until Nov. 26.

Rib fractures are common among older adults, particularly after falls. The severity depends in part on whether the ribs are cracked or broken all the way through, and how many are broken. The extent of Ginsburg’s injury was not clear.

A complete break requires making sure the two ends are in alignment, so that a sharp piece of bone doesn’t puncture nearby blood vessels or organs. Broken ribs typically heal on their own in six weeks to a month, and patients are advised to limit strenuous activity. But they can be very painful and controlling pain is key. A chief complication is pneumonia, when patients don’t breathe deeply enough or cough enough because of the rib pain.

Appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993, Ginsburg rebuffed suggestions from some liberals that she should step down in the first two years of President Barack Obama’s second term, when Democrats also controlled the Senate and would have been likely to confirm her successor.

She already has hired clerks for the term that extends into 2020, indicating she has no plans to retire. Ginsburg leads the court’s liberal wing.


Malaysia court to resume Kim Jong Nam murder trial on Jan. 7
Legal News | 2018/11/06 18:08
A Malaysian court on Wednesday set Jan. 7 for two Southeast Asian women charged with murdering the North Korean leader’s half brother to begin their defense, as their lawyers complained that some witnesses were unreachable.

A High Court judge in August found there was enough evidence to infer that Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, along with four missing North Korean suspects, had engaged in a “well-planned conspiracy” to kill Kim Jong Nam.

The women appeared somber but calm during Wednesday’s hearing. The trial had been due to resume Nov. 1 but was postponed after a defense lawyer fell ill.

Aisyah’s lawyers made a new application to the court to compel prosecutors to provide them with statements that eight witnesses had given to police earlier.

Her lawyer, Kulaselvi Sandrasegaram, said they were informed that one of the witnesses, the man who chauffeured Kim to the airport, had died while two Indonesian women who were Aishah’s roommates were believed to have returned to their homeland. She said they have only managed to interview two of the witnesses offered by prosecutors, while two others didn’t turn up for their appointments and couldn’t be contacted.

The witness statements taken by police are important in “the interest of justice” and to ensure that what they say to defense lawyers is consistent with what they told police, Sandrasegaram told reporters later.

Prosecutor Iskandar Ahmad said the police interviews are privileged statements and shouldn’t be made public.

Judge Azmi Ariffin said the court will make a decision on the defense application on Dec. 14. He also set 10 days from Jan. 7 through February for Aishah’s defense and 14 days from March 11 through April for Huong.

The two are accused of smearing VX nerve agent on Kim’s face in an airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 13, 2017. They have said they thought they were taking part in a prank for a TV show. They are the only suspects in custody. The four North Korean suspects fled the country the same morning Kim was killed.

Lawyers for Aisyah, 25, and Huong, 29, have told the judge they will testify under oath in their defense.

They have said their clients were pawns in a political assassination with clear links to the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and that the prosecution failed to show the women had any intention to kill. Their intent is key to concluding they are guilty of murder.


Supreme Court agrees to hear Maryland cross memorial case
Court Center | 2018/11/05 06:34
The Supreme Court agreed Friday to hear a case about whether a nearly 100-year-old, cross-shaped war memorial located on a Maryland highway median violates the Constitution's required separation of church and state, a case that could impact hundreds of similar monuments nationwide.

A federal appeals court in Virginia had previously ruled against the approximately four-story-tall cross. The judges said that it "has the primary effect of endorsing religion and excessively entangles the government in religion."

But the Maryland officials who maintain the memorial told the Supreme Court that the monument's context and history show it is intended to convey a secular message of remembrance, not a religious message. They said the appeals court's decision would "compel the removal or dismemberment of a cherished war memorial that has served as a site of solemn commemoration and civic unity for nearly a century." In urging the high court to take the case, officials argued that the lower court's decision puts at risk hundreds of other monuments nationwide.

The approximately 40-foot-tall cross at the center of the case is located in Bladensburg, Maryland, about 5 miles from the Supreme Court. Sometimes called the "Peace Cross," it was completed in 1925, and it honors 49 men from the surrounding county who died in World War I. A plaque on the cross' base lists the names of those soldiers, and both faces of the cross have a circle with the symbol of the American Legion, the veterans organization that helped raise money to build it.

Today, responsibility for the cross falls to a Maryland parks commission that took over ownership and maintenance of it in 1961 because of traffic safety concerns. The massive concrete structure could be dangerous to motorists if it were to fall or crumble.


Attorney files challenge to eastern Iowa judge appointment
Legal News | 2018/11/03 13:31
An Iowa attorney has filed documents in state court challenging the validity of Gov. Kim Reynolds’ appointment of an eastern Iowa judge.

Lawyer Gary Dickey says Reynolds failed to appoint Judge Jason Besler within 30 days as required by the Iowa Constitution.

Reynolds filed the paperwork to appoint Besler in June five days after the deadline had passed. She says she made the appointment by the deadline verbally to her chief of staff but acknowledges no documentation exists to prove it.

Dickey, who served as former Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack’s chief attorney, filed documents Thursday seeking permission of the court to challenge Besler’s appointment.

Dickey also seeks to move it from eastern Iowa, where Besler sits as a judge, to Des Moines to avoid having fellow district judges ruling on his status.

In October Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady said the governor’s word that the appointment was timely deserves respect unless resolved differently through the legal proces




S. Korea court upholds conscientious objection to military
Legal Watch | 2018/11/01 13:28
South Korea's top court ruled Thursday that South Korean men can legally reject their mandatory military service on conscientious or religious grounds without punishment.

The landmark ruling is expected to affect the cases of more than 930 conscientious objectors on trial. Hundreds of young South Korean men, mostly Jehovah's Witnesses, are imprisoned every year for refusing to serve in the military.

All able-bodied South Korean men must serve about two years in the military under a conscription system aimed at coping with potential aggression from North Korea. The court broke with its own 2004 verdict that rejecting military service because of religious faith was illegal, saying at the time that confrontation with the North made South Korea's draft an indisputable necessity.

The ruling was great news for Jehovah's Witnesses and others who call for improved individual rights and freedom of opinion in South Korea. But many conservatives are likely to criticize it, saying it inadequately considers the North Korean threat.

When South Korea's Constitutional Court ruled in June that the government must provide alternative social service for conscientious objectors by 2019, a heated debate erupted over whether it is the proper time for such a measure because North Korea's nuclear threat remains unchanged. There are also worries that some might exploit alternative service to evade the draft.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court said it quashed a lower court's sentencing of a conscientious objector to 18 months in prison. It said it ordered the lower court to review its earlier verdict. Supreme Court officials said there is little chance the lower court would not abide by the decision.

The majority opinion of a panel of Supreme Court judges is that "conscientious objection of military duty ... can be a valid reason" to avoid military service, the top court said in a statement.

"Forcing a military duty ... with criminal punishment or other punitive measures is an excessive restraint of freedom of conscience," the majority opinion read. "Free democracy can have its legitimacy when it tolerates and embraces minorities though it is run by the principle of majority rule."

Supreme Court officials said lower courts are not officially required to make the same ruling when they handle other cases of conscientious objections, but they are widely expected to do so.

Since the 1950-53 Korean War, South Korea has sent about 19,350 Jehovah's Witnesses to prison for refusing to serve in the military. In recent years, about 500-600 Jehovah's Witnesses went to prison every year and spent 18 months behind bars on average. According to the group and the Supreme Court, Thursday's ruling won't apply to 96 Jehovah's Witnesses currently in prison.


Group asks court to reject Arkansas justice's ad lawsuit
Attorneys News | 2018/10/30 13:12
A Washington-based conservative group is asking a federal court to reject an Arkansas Supreme Court justice's attempt to halt its attack ads and mailers against her.

Attorneys for the Republican State Leadership Committee's Judicial Fairness Initiative on Monday asked the court to reject Justice Courtney Goodson's request for a preliminary injunction against the ads and mailers.

Goodson is running against David Sterling, an attorney for the Department of Human Services, in next month's election. The group's filing Monday said blocking the ads and mailers would be "patently unconstitutional."

RSLC says it's spent $1.1 million so far this fall on the high court race. A state judge in the spring temporarily blocked another group's TV ad attacking Goodson through the May 22 judicial election.



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