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Court says Guantanamo documents should be released
Top Legal News | 2008/08/22 15:36
A British court ordered Foreign Secretary David Miliband on Thursday to disclose secret documents that could prove critical to the defense of a Guantanamo Bay detainee who claims he was tortured while in U.S. custody on terrorism charges.

Miliband now has a week to decide whether to comply with the order to release of the documents pertaining to Binyam Mohamed's detention. The British government has argued the release of the documents could compromise national security, and it could appeal the court order.

The High Court made the ruling in the case of Mohamed, who was captured in Pakistan in April 2002 and accused of conspiring with al-Qaida leaders to attack civilians. His lawyers say the British government is withholding information about his treatment in U.S. custody which is critical to his hope of receiving a fair trial.

"The information held by the foreign secretary is not merely necessary, but essential, if Binyam Mohamed is to have his case fairly considered," Judge John Thomas wrote in the 75-page judgment.

Mohamed claims he was transferred illegally from Pakistan to Morocco after his arrest and alleges he was tortured during his 18 months in detention. Neither the United States nor Britain has disclosed any information about his time in custody until he arrived at Guantanamo Bay in 2004.



Urban League Challenges Illinois School Funding
Top Legal News | 2008/08/21 14:09
Poor schools in Illinois suffer the nation's second-largest funding gap with wealthy districts because of the state's unconstitutional school funding formula that disparately hurt black and Latino students, the Chicago Urban League claims in Cook County Court.

As a result, poor and minority students face financial crises that force them into larger classes in poorly maintained facilities; programs for music, arts and sports have been slashed; and students are denied a "high quality" elementary and secondary education guaranteed under the Illinois Constitution, the complaint states.

Despite its great capacity for raising revenue and its obligations under the Illinois Constitution to take "primary responsibility" for school funding, the State over-relies on local property taxes to finance schools, states the complaint against the State of Illinois and the State Board of Education.

Plaintiffs, the Chicago Urban League and the Quad County Urban League, are represented by Lisa Scruggs with Jenner & Block.


Ninth Circuit rules on 'no-fly' list
Legal Watch | 2008/08/20 14:07
The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled Monday that those placed on the government's "no-fly list" can challenge their inclusion on the list in federal district courts. The issue came before the court in a case brought by a woman on the list, in which a district court had ruled that it lacked jurisdiction because of a law exempting Transportation Security Administration orders from federal trial court review. Reversing the decision, the Ninth Circuit held that the Terrorist Screening Center which actually maintains the list is a subsection of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is therefore subject to review by the district courts:
Our interpretation of section 46110 is consistent not merely with the statutory language but with common sense as well. Just how would an appellate court review the agency’s decision to put a particular name on the list? There was no hearing before an administrative law judge; there was no notice-and comment procedure. For all we know, there is no administrative record of any sort for us to review. So if any court is going to review the government’s decision to put Ibrahim’s name on the No-Fly List, it makes sense that it be a court with the ability to take evidence.
The court also held that the woman could not bring two related claims because they were “inescapably intertwined” with TSA orders. The San Francisco Chronicle has more.

In July, the US terror watchlist, which includes the no-fly list, was criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union for being too large, containing inaccuracies, and lacking safeguards to prevent the unnecessary targeting of passengers for additional security screenings. In March, the US Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General issued a report saying that FBI had submitted inaccurate information to the list, that the information was rarely reviewed before its submission, and even if discrepancies become apparent they were often left unchanged. In response to the audit, FBI Assistant Director John Miller said that the agency was working with the DOJ and other partner agencies to "ensure the proper balance between national security protection and the need for accurate, efficient, and streamlined watchlist processes."


Sixth Circuit Upholds Nudity Ban in Ohio
Court Center | 2008/08/19 14:27
Ohio's prohibition on nudity and sexual activity at establishments where alcohol is served is not unconstitutional, the 6th Circuit ruled.

The district court had issued an injunction preventing the enforcement of the Ohio Liquor Control Commission's Rule 52.

J.L. Spoons Inc., the owner of a group of Ohio strip clubs, had claimed that Rule 52 violated its First Amendment rights, because some artistic dance performances may be found to violate the rule.

Judge Siler overruled the district court, stating that the rule is not unconstitutionally over-broad.

"Persons desiring to perform mainstream works of art involving nudity and sexual activity may do so in an establishment that is not licensed to sell liquor," Siler wrote. "Mainstream works of art that merely suggest sexual activity will not be burdened."


Second Circuit Protects Plaintiff's Anonymity
Legal Watch | 2008/08/18 15:27
A woman who filed a lawsuit for physical and sexual assault should be allowed to remain anonymous, the 2nd Circuit ruled in a question of first impression.

Judge Cabranes found that the district court improperly dismissed the plaintiff's case due to her refusal to give her name.

While plaintiffs usually must state their names to give the opposition a chance to mount a defense, Cabranes ruled that the district court stuck to the letter of the law without considering whether plaintiff had a legitimate need to keep her identity hidden.

"The district court did not balance the plaintiff's interest in proceeding anonymously against the interests of the defendants and the public," Cabranes wrote.


Penner Law Firm, LLC Principal Real Estate Attorney Acquires License to Practice in Massachusetts
Firm News/Connecticut | 2008/08/15 21:03
Penner Law Firm is pleased to announce that its principal real estate attorney, Scott Penner, is now licensed to provide legal services in Massachusetts. Since 2006, Penner Law Firm has performed real estate closings in Massachusetts through its associate relationships with real estate attorneys. Penner Law Firm will continue to utilize its associate real estate attorney relationships to handle title and real estate transactions on behalf of individuals and lenders. In addition to Massachusetts, Penner Law Firm also employs attorneys licensed to practice in Connecticut, New York, Delaware, Georgia and South Carolina.

Mr. Penner believes that becoming licensed in Massachusetts will enable the firm to provide legal services more efficiently. It will also open up the practice to include probate law, estate administration, will preparation and title insurance services. "Although we have had great success utilizing our Massachusetts real estate attorney relationships for the past few years, it is my belief that by conducting our business entirely in-house we will be able to streamline our current operations so that everything from contract negotiations to the actual real estate settlement will be as smooth as possible."

The desire to maintain an "exceptional level of client service" is also a number one priority for Mr. Penner. "Due to the complex and delicate nature of certain legal matters such as drafting wills, probate administration, and representing executors and other fiduciaries in estate matters, our customers are looking for a firm they can trust and work closely with. Now that we can operate independently in Massachusetts, Penner Law Firm will have complete accountability and our clients will be better served as a result."


9th Circ. upholds denial of Oregon domestic partnership
Legal Watch | 2008/08/15 14:12
The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled on Thursday that Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury did not violate the constitutional rights of voters who signed a petition to hold a referendum on a state law establishing same-sex domestic partnerships. Bradbury struck over 200 signatures from the petition after officials found that many of the signatures did not match those on voter registration cards. He then announced that the petition was approximately 100 signatures short of the required number. Voters were not permitted to contest the decision by introducing extrinsic evidence, and so signators brought suit, alleging violations of due process and equal protection guarantees. The Ninth Circuit held that any burden placed on the plaintiffs' fundamental right to vote was minimal and held that there had been no constitutional violations:
The Secretary’s procedures already allow chief petitioners and members of the public to observe the signature verification process and challenge decisions by county elections officials. The value of additional procedural safeguards therefore is negligible, and the burden on plaintiffs’ interests from the state’s failure to adopt their proposed procedures is slight at most.
Plaintiffs had unsuccessfully asserted that Oregon was required to provide them with an opportunity to "rehabilitate" the stricken signatures, and also argued that the lack of uniform statewide rules for verifying referendum signatures violated Bush v. Gore.

The US District Court for the District of Oregon ruled in February that the domestic partnership law should be allowed to take effect after it was suspended last December. Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski signed the bill into law last May after it was passed by the Oregon House and the Oregon Senate. The law would have taken effect on January 1 of this year had there been no lawsuit.


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