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Court: Compliance reached in education funding case
Legal Watch | 2018/06/12 07:17
A long-running court case over the adequacy of education funding in Washington state has ended, with the state Supreme Court on Thursday lifting its jurisdiction over the case and dropping daily sanctions after the Legislature funneled billions more dollars into public schools.

The court's unanimous order came in response to lawmakers passing a supplemental budget earlier this year that the justices said was the final step needed to reach compliance with a 2012 state Supreme Court ruling that found that K-12 school funding was inadequate. Washington's Constitution states that it is the Legislature's "paramount duty" to fully fund the education system. The resolution of the landmark case in Washington state comes as other states like Arizona, Oklahoma and Kentucky are now responding to calls for more money to be allocated to education.

The state had been in contempt of court since 2014 for lack of progress on that ruling, and daily sanctions of $100,000 — allocated specifically for education spending— had been accruing since August 2015.

"Reversing decades of underfunding has been among the heaviest lifts we've faced in recent years and required difficult and complex decisions, but I'm incredibly proud and grateful for all those who came together on a bipartisan basis to get this job done," Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in a written statement.

Over the past few years, lawmakers had put significantly more money toward education costs like student transportation and classroom supplies, but the biggest piece they needed to tackle to reach full compliance was figuring out how much the state must provide for teacher salaries. School districts had paid a big chunk of those salaries with local property-tax levies, something the court said had to be remedied.

In November, the court said a plan passed by the Legislature last year — which included a statewide property tax increase earmarked for education — satisfied its earlier ruling, but justices took issue with the fact that the teacher salary component of the plan wasn't fully funded until September 2019. This year, lawmakers expedited that timeframe to Sept. 1, 2018.

Democratic House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan said that the court's order was a relief, though he noted that legislative debates over education funding aren't over. Sullivan said there is more work to be done on areas like special education, as well as recruiting and retaining teachers.



Woman accused of dismembering roommate appears in court
Headline News | 2018/06/12 07:16
A San Francisco woman looked composed and lucid as she made her first court appearance on Friday on a murder charge accusing her of killing and dismembering her roommate, whose body parts prosecutors say were discovered in plastic bags at their home.

Lisa Gonzales, 47, was in an orange jail suit with her hands cuffed behind her back during the brief appearance with her attorney. She answered a question from the judge, but she did not enter a plea. Her arraignment was continued until June 14.

Police arrested Gonzales on Saturday after her 61-year-old roommate was reported missing. Police discovered the victim's severed arms and legs in a maggot-filled storage container, according to prosecutors.

Gonzales told police that her roommate refused to move out, and the two of them argued on May 15, a San Francisco prosecutor said in a court filing. She told investigators she thinks she "flipped," but she didn't have a "real recollection" of what happened, Adam Maldonado said in the filing.

Outside court, Gonzales' public defender, Alex Lilien, said his client was a hardworking, single mother and had taken the victim, Maggie Mamer, in after Mamer said she had been evicted by unscrupulous landlords. He said he didn't have details about his client's mental health.

"She's charged with murder, and she's being portrayed as a monster in the media — and that's distressing," he said. "She's concerned about her family."

Mamer had lost her home and "fallen on hard times" when Gonzales in August 2017 offered her a room, Maldonado said in the court filing. They agreed on $400 a month as rent. But after items around the home began to get misplaced or broken, Gonzales told Mamer in April to move out in 30 days or face eviction, the prosecutor said.

Lilien said Friday that Gonzales did not know Mamer well when she let her move in, and that Mamer had a history of not paying rent.


Egypt refers 28 to criminal court for forming illegal group
Legal Watch | 2018/06/11 14:16
Egypt's chief prosecutor has referred 28 people to a criminal court on charges including forming an illegal group aiming to topple the government.

Sunday's statement by prosecutor Nabil Sadek says the suspects face an array of additional charges, including inciting violence and disseminating false news.

The statement says the suspects formed an illegal group, "The Egyptian Council for Change," to incite against the state and its institutions.

It says only nine of the 28 suspects are in custody. No date has been set for the trial. Egypt has intensified a long-running crackdown on dissent since President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's re-election in March.

The arrests are part of a wider crackdown on dissent since the 2013 military ouster of an elected Islamist president following mass protests against his one-year divisive rule.


Supreme Court: Son can sue father over hunting accident
Court Center | 2018/06/08 23:54
A Minnesota man has taken a lawsuit against his father all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court. And, dad is just fine with that.

The Supreme Court this week clarified a state law on public access for hunting, clearing the way for Corey Ouradnik to sue his father, Robert Ouradnik, over a deer hunting accident.

Corey Ouradnik broke both legs when he fell from a tree stand on the family's hunting land near Hinckley in 2012 when he was 29. His recovery took multiple surgeries and left Ouradnik with a six-figure medical bill.

The Star Tribune reports his attorney, Matt Barber, says the lawsuit is all about recovering insurance money. He says Minnesota requires people who are injured to sue the person who injured them if they hope to recover a payment.


Swedish court: Ghana international to be jailed, deported
Law Firm Business | 2018/06/08 23:54
A Swedish court has sentenced a Ghana international to 32 months in prison after Kingsley Sarfo was found guilty of two cases of rape of an under-aged girl.

The Malmo District Court says the 23-year old Sarfo, a midfielder with top Swedish club Malmo FF, had sexual intercourse with a 14-year-old girl in an apartment and in a public toilet.

The court on Friday also ordered Sarfo to pay 150,000 kronor ($17,260) in compensation to the girl, adding he should be deported after jail and banned from returning to Sweden for a 10-year period.

Safro has said his contract with Malmo FF, which he joined in 2016, would be terminated if found guilty. The club said it would comment after next week's board meeting.



Court upholds Phoenix law over same-sex wedding invitations
Lawyer Blogs | 2018/06/08 06:54
An Arizona appeals court on Thursday upheld a Phoenix anti-discrimination law that makes it illegal for businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples because of religion.

The ruling comes days after the U.S. Supreme Court sided with a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The high court found Monday that a Colorado civil rights commission showed anti-religious bias when it ruled against Jack Phillips for refusing to make the cake at his Masterpiece Cakeshop.

The decision, however, did not address the larger issue of whether a business can invoke religious objections to refuse service to gay and lesbian people.

In the Arizona case, the state Court of Appeals sided with the city in a lawsuit first brought in 2016 by a wedding invitation business, saying the ordinance is constitutional and does not violate freedom of religion or speech.

"We have previously found that eliminating discrimination constitutes a compelling interest," Judge Lawrence Winthrop wrote, adding that "antidiscrimination ordinances are not aimed at the suppression of speech, but at the elimination of discriminatory conduct."

The court said if Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, owners of Brush & Nib Studio, "want to operate their for-profit business as a public accommodation, they cannot discriminate against potential patrons based on sexual orientation."

Attorney Jonathan Scruggs of Alliance Defending Freedom, who represented the women, said they intend to appeal the decision to the Arizona Supreme Court.


UK Supreme Court criticizes Northern Ireland abortion laws
Attorneys News | 2018/06/07 06:55
Britain's Supreme Court on Thursday criticized Northern Ireland's strict anti-abortion laws but dismissed a legal challenge.

A majority of the court decided that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which initiated the case, did not have the standing to bring the challenge to the abortion law. The court dismissed the case without taking action.

The justices went on to say, however, that a majority finds Northern Ireland's abortion prohibitions "disproportionate" and that they violate European human rights laws.

That part of the ruling gave hope to abortion rights activists seeking to liberalize Northern Ireland's laws. Strict Northern Ireland laws that prohibit abortions in cases of pregnancy as a result of incest or rape, and in cases when the fetus has a likely fatal abnormality, have drawn scrutiny since the Republic of Ireland voted overwhelmingly in May to repeal its own strict laws.

When Ireland replaces the constitutional ban with more liberal legislation after a debate in parliament, Northern Ireland will be the only remaining region in Britain and Ireland to outlaw the procedure.

Rosa Curling, from the law firm Leigh Day that helped bring the legal challenge, called the court's ruling "a momentous day for women in Northern Ireland" and said it is now up to British Prime Minister Theresa May to take action to ease the laws.

She said May has an obligation to make sure the U.K. government is "now longer acting unlawfully by breaching the human rights of women across Northern Ireland."

However, the fact that the Supreme Court dismissed the case because of doubts about the Human Rights Commission's right to bring it means the judges' views on the anti-abortion laws do not have legal force, which is reassuring for abortion foes.


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