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Ex-West Virginia Supreme Court justice set for sentencing
Legal Watch | 2019/02/13 10:17
A former West Virginia Supreme Court justice who had a $32,000 blue suede couch in his office and was at the center of an impeachment scandal is due in federal court for sentencing for using his job for his own benefit.

Allen Loughry is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Charleston.

Loughry was found guilty of 11 of the 22 charges at his October trial. Most of the charges involved mail and wire fraud involving his personal use of state cars and fuel cards. The judge last month threw out a witness tampering conviction.

Prosecutors are seeking a sentence above the guideline range of 15 to 21 months along with a fine between $7,500 and $75,000.

In a memorandum Monday, prosecutors said Loughry had an "unbridled arrogance" as a Supreme Court justice. They said Loughry's testimony exposed him as a liar and he has shown no remorse for his conduct.

"Corruption is a cancer that erodes the public's confidence in the government and undermines the rule of law," the memorandum said.

Loughry, who wrote a 2006 book while he was a Supreme Court law clerk about the history of political corruption in the state, was removed as chief justice last February. He was then suspended from the bench in June and resigned in November.

At trial, Loughry denied he benefited personally from trips he took when he became a justice in 2013. He said he used state-owned vehicles made available to the justices for what he said was a variety of reasons, including public outreach.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Wright said records showed Loughry took a government car to a wedding, four signings for his book, and "loads it up with Christmas presents" to visit relatives. A neighbor testified she saw Loughry pack presents in a car with a state government license plate around the holidays.

Loughry also was convicted of lying to federal investigators by saying he was unaware about the historical significance and value of a $42,000 state-owned desk that he had transferred to his home. He returned the desk and a green leather couch owned by the state after media reports about it.


Court case to tackle jails' medication-assisted treatment
Legal Watch | 2019/02/12 18:17
The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine started making its case in federal court on Monday against the ban on medication-assisted treatment in county jail amid the opioid crisis.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills recently lifted the Maine Department of Corrections' ban on medication-assisted treatment. The ACLU's lawsuit filed in September argued that it's unconstitutional and harmful for Maine jails to prohibit such treatment.

Madawaska resident Brenda Smith sued, asking to continue using medication-assisted treatment to keep her opioid use disorder in remission. Smith, who is expected to report to Aroostook County Jail this year, testified Monday in U.S. District Court in Portland during a court case that is expected to last all week.

Smith wept on the stand while describing how access to the medicine is critical to stabilizing her life. ACLU lawyers said they will spend the week making the case that such access is a constitutional issue, as well as a protected right under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

"It makes me feel normal, like I'm a normal human being," Smith said.

Smith's lawsuit against the jail comes at a time when jails and prisons across the country are starting to provide addiction medications to inmates, as resistance from long-skeptical corrections officials appears to be loosening amid the national drug epidemic.

Attorneys for the jail have pushed back at the idea that a ban on medically assisted treatment is a violation of a prisoner's rights. Attorney Peter Marchesi, an attorney representing the jail Monday, has previously said medical staff members at the jail have the ability to manage prisoners' withdrawal symptoms.

Monday's court action also included an expert witness, Dr. Ross MacDonald, who has overseen medical care for New York City's jail system. The medical literature supports medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder, and it's important to have that option available to prisoners, he said.



Spain's courts put to test by trial of Catalan separatists
Headline News | 2019/02/10 18:35
Spain is bracing for the nation's most sensitive trial in four decades of democracy this week, with a dozen Catalan separatists facing charges including rebellion over a failed secession bid in 2017.

The proceedings, which begin Tuesday, will be broadcast live on television and all eyes will be focused on the impartiality of the Spanish Supreme Court.

Catalonia's separatists have attacked the court's credibility in the run-up to the trial, saying it is a puppet of the Spanish government and any ruling will be a political one that has been decided in advance.

"In reality, it's democracy itself that will go on trial," Oriol Junqueras, one of the accused, wrote from jail in reply to questions sent by The Associated Press. "We are before a trial which, through a partial investigation full of falsities and irregularities, criminalizes a political option and an ideology."

But Supreme Court president Carlos Lesmes dismisses that notion, saying the trial is the most important since Spain's transition to democracy in 1977 after the death of dictator Gen. Francisco Franco.

"This is a trial following the highest standards set by the European Union," Lesmes recently told a group of journalists.



Liberals eye 2020 takeover of Wisconsin Supreme Court
Court Center | 2019/02/08 18:37
Wisconsin liberals hope to take a key step this spring toward breaking a long conservative stranglehold on the state's Supreme Court, in an election that could also serve as a barometer of the political mood in a key presidential swing state.

If the liberal-backed candidate wins the April 2 state Supreme Court race, liberals would be in prime position to take over the court when the next seat comes up in 2020 — during a presidential primary when Democrats expect to benefit from strong turnout.

The bitterly partisan court, which conservatives have controlled since 2008, has upheld several polarizing Republican-backed laws, none more so than former GOP Gov. Scott Walker's law that essentially eliminated collective bargaining for public workers.

If liberals can win in April and again in 2020, they would have the majority until at least 2025.

"It is absolutely critical we win this race," liberal attorney Tim Burns, who lost a Wisconsin Supreme Court race in 2018, said of the April election. "It does set us up for next year to get a court that's likely to look very differently on issues of the day like voters' rights and gerrymandering."

The court could face big decisions on several partisan issues in the coming years, including on the next round of redistricting that follows the 2020 Census, lawsuits challenging the massive Foxconn Technology Group project backed by President Donald Trump, and attempts to undo laws that Republicans passed during a recent lame-duck session to weaken the incoming Democratic governor before he took office.


Man accused of kidnapping Wisconsin girl to appear in court
Law Firm Business | 2019/02/06 19:15
A man accused of kidnapping a 13-year-old Wisconsin girl and killing her parents is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday for a preliminary hearing.

Jake Patterson, 21, is accused of killing James and Denise Closs on Oct. 15 and kidnapping their daughter , Jayme Closs, from their Barron home. Jayme escaped on Jan. 10, after 88 days.

Patterson is expected to be in the courtroom Wednesday, according to Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald. The purpose of a preliminary hearing is to determine whether there's grounds for a trial. Both sides can present evidence.

According to the criminal complaint, Patterson told investigators he knew Jayme "was the girl he was going to take" after he saw her getting on a school bus near her home. He made two aborted trips to the family's home before carrying out the attack in which he killed Jayme's mother in front of her.

In the days that followed, thousands of people volunteered to search for Jayme. Investigators believe Patterson hid Jayme in a remote cabin in Gordon, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) north of Barron, before she escaped and got help from a woman walking her dog.

Jayme told police that on the night she was abducted, she awoke to her dog's barking, then woke her parents as a car came up the driveway. Her father went to the front door as Jayme and her mother hid in a bathtub, according to the complaint. Jayme told police she heard a gunshot and knew her dad had been killed.


Appellate judge announces run for Supreme Court seat
Legal Watch | 2019/02/06 03:16
An appellate judge has announced he will run for a spot on the Kentucky Supreme Court days after Justice Bill Cunningham retired.

Kentucky Court of Appeals Judge Christopher "Shea" Nickell told The Paducah Sun that he is running in November's election for the vacant seat, which represents the First Supreme Court District encompassing 24 counties in western Kentucky. The winner of the general election will serve the rest of Cunningham's current term ending in 2022.

Gov. Matt Bevin will appoint a temporary justice to the seat until November, but Nickell did not submit his name for consideration. He says that would have required him to step down from the appeals court.

Nickell practiced law for 22 years before he became an appellate judge.


Ginsburg makes 1st public appearance since cancer surgery
Court Center | 2019/02/05 03:17
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is making her first public appearance since undergoing lung cancer surgery in December.

The 85-year-old Ginsburg is attending a concert at a museum a few blocks from the White House that is being given by her daughter-in-law and other musicians. Patrice Michaels is married to Ginsburg’s son, James. Michaels is a soprano and composer.

The concert is dedicated to Ginsburg’s life in the law.

Ginsburg had surgery in New York on Dec. 21. She missed arguments at the court in January, her first illness-related absence in more than 25 years as a justice.

She has been recuperating at her home in Washington since late December.

Ginsburg had two previous bouts with cancer. She had colorectal cancer in 1999 and pancreatic cancer in 2009.

The justice sat in the back of the darkened auditorium at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

The National Constitution Center, which sponsored the concert, did not permit photography.

James Ginsburg said before the concert that his mother is walking a mile a day and meeting with her personal trainer twice a week.

The performance concluded with a song set to Ginsburg’s answers to questions.

In introducing the last song, Michaels said, “bring our show to a close, but not the epic and notorious story of RBG.”


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