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New Mexico high court rules on privacy for banking records
Legal Watch | 2020/06/20 17:27
Prosecutors can obtain a person’s banking records using a warrantless grand jury subpoena without violating the individual’s right to privacy under New Mexico’s Constitution, the state Supreme Court has ruled.

In a unanimous decision Thursday, the justices concluded that a district court properly allowed the use of five years of personal financial records as evidence in a pending criminal case against a Taos couple facing charges of tax evasion and other finance-related offenses.

The high court rejected the married couple’s argument that the state’s Constitution provided greater privacy protections for their financial records than offered under the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. The couple contended that a court-authorized warrant should have been required to obtain bank records.

The justices adhered to a decadesold legal doctrine established by the U.S. Supreme Court that people have no constitutionally protected privacy interest in the financial account records they voluntarily share with third parties.


Court rejects Trump bid to end young immigrants’ protections
Court Center | 2020/06/18 00:25
The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected President Donald Trump’s effort to end legal protections for 650,000 young immigrants, the second stunning election-season rebuke from the court in a week after its ruling that it’s illegal to fire people because they’re gay or transgender.

Immigrants who are part of the 8-year-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program will retain their protection from deportation and their authorization to work in the United States ? safe almost certainly at least through the November election, immigration experts said.

The 5-4 outcome, in which Chief Justice John Roberts and the four liberal justices were in the majority, seems certain to elevate the issue in Trump’s campaign, given the anti-immigrant rhetoric of his first presidential run in 2016 and immigration restrictions his administration has imposed since then.

The justices said the administration did not take the proper steps to end DACA, rejecting arguments that the program is illegal and that courts have no role to play in reviewing the decision to end it. The program covers people who have been in the United States since they were children and are in the country illegally. In some cases, they have no memory of any home other than the U.S.


Tennessee Supreme Court delays second execution due to pandemic
Headline News | 2020/06/14 16:52
The Tennessee Supreme Court on Friday issued a stay of execution for a second death row inmate because of the coronavirus pandemic. Byron Black's execution was scheduled for Oct. 8, but the court moved it to April 8, 2021.

Attorneys for the 64-year-old Black had said the pandemic made it impossible to have a hearing on whether Black is competent to be executed. They also wrote that the health crisis is interfering with his ability to prepare for a clemency request.

The court also extended until January Black's deadline for a petition alleging incompetence. The previous deadline was next month. "The stay will help protect guards, witnesses, attorneys representing the prisoners, attorneys for the State, and everyone else involved in these cases," said Kelley Henry, supervisory assistant federal public defender.

Henry said Black has mental defects and medical issues. "For the court to evaluate Mr. Black's competency, it would need to hear from mental health experts who are out of state and can't travel to Tennessee to examine Mr. Black in the prison at this time," Henry said. "The stay in Mr. Black's case was absolutely necessary."

Tennessee's attorney general opposed Black's motion to delay his execution. Attorney General Herbert Slatery wrote in Supreme Court filings that attorneys for Black and another inmate who sought a stay, Harold Nichols, were speculating about future public health conditions in their delay requests.

Black was convicted by a Nashville court of murdering his girlfriend Angela Clay and her daughters Latoya, 9, and Lakesha, 6, at their home in 1988. Prosecutors said he shot the three during a jealous rage. Black was on work release at the time for shooting and wounding Clay's estranged husband.



UConn student fugitive in court on murder charge, police say
Legal Watch | 2020/06/12 23:53
A University of Connecticut student, who police say used a machete to kill a man, fatally shot a high school acquaintance, and then spent six days as a fugitive,  will be arraigned Friday on murder and other charges, authorities said.

Peter Manfredonia, 23, will be arraigned in Rockville Superior Court in the May 22 death of Ted DeMers in nearby Willington, Connecticut, Trooper Josue Dorelus said at a news briefing.

It was not clear whether Manfredonia has an attorney who could comment on his behalf about the charges. Manfredonia is accused of killing DeMers, 62, and seriously wounding another man in the machete attack.

Two days later, police say, Manfredonia stole a truck and guns and fatally shot high school acquaintance Nicholas Eisele, 23, in Derby, Connecticut. He is being held on a $5 million bond. He is charged with murder, criminal attempt to commit murder, assault, home invasion, kidnapping with a firearm, robbery, larceny, stealing a firearm and assault on an elderly person.

State police said further charges will be filed in Eisele's death and the kidnapping of Eisele's girlfriend, who was later found unharmed in New Jersey.


International Criminal Court condemns US sanctions order
Legal Watch | 2020/06/11 23:52
The International Criminal Court has condemned the Trump administration’s decision to authorize sanctions against court staff, saying it amounted to “an unacceptable attempt to interfere with the rule of law and the Court’s judicial proceedings.”

An executive order by U.S. President Donald Trump announced Thursday authorizes sanctions against ICC staff investigating American troops and intelligence officials and those of allied nations, including Israel, for possible war crimes in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Trump’s order would block the financial assets of court employees and bar them and their immediate relatives from entering the United States.

The court, which has 123 member states, said in a statement released early Friday that it “stands firmly by its staff and officials and remains unwavering in its commitment to discharging, independently and impartially, the mandate” laid down in its founding treaty, the Rome Statute.

It said an attack on the Hague-based court also constitutes “an attack against the interests of victims of atrocity crimes, for many of whom the Court represents the last hope for justice.”

O-Gon Kwon, president of the court’s management and oversight mechanism, the Assembly of States Parties, also criticized the U.S. measures.

“They undermine our common endeavor to fight impunity and to ensure accountability for mass atrocities,” he said in a statement. “I deeply regret measures targeting Court officials, staff and their families.”

The Hague-based court was created in 2002 to prosecute war crimes and crimes of humanity and genocide in places where perpetrators might not otherwise face justice. The U.S. has never been an ICC member.


German far-right party wins court case against minister
Headline News | 2020/06/09 16:27
Germany's top security official violated the rights of a far-right party by posting remarks criticizing it on his ministry's website, the country's highest court ruled Tuesday.

The Alternative for Germany party, known as AfD, whose anti-migration and anti-establishment stance helped it get into the German parliament in 2017, is currently the largest of several opposition parties.

Its case against Interior Minister Horst Seehofer stems from an interview that his ministry posted on its website in 2018, in which he decried a broadside by AfD against President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. AfD had accused Steinmeier of drumming up support for a “radical left-wing event” after he backed a left-wing punk group's anti-racism concert, and the party sought to debate his budget in parliament.

Seehofer described AfD's behavior as “undermining the state” and asserted that “they stand against this state. They can say 1,000 times that they are democrats ... this is highly dangerous for our state.”

The Federal Constitutional Court found that parties must be allowed to compete on an equal footing. Presiding Judge Andreas Vosskuhle said the legitimacy of the government's public relations work “ends where advertis ing for or exerting influence against individual parties or people in political competition begins.”

The court found that the government is entitled to defend itself publicly against criticism of its policies using official channels, but should avoid comments that have no substantial link to the criticism and are “distorting or disparaging.”

The verdict has no direct consequences for Seehofer. The interview was taken down from his ministry's website a little over two weeks after it was posted there.



Alaska Supreme Court justices call for system improvements
Legal Watch | 2020/06/07 23:28
The justices of the Alaska Supreme Court have called for improvements within the judicial system to ensure equitable and fair treatment for people of color. The four justices posted a letter online Friday saying there needs to be systematic improvements for African Americans, Alaska Natives and other groups.

The letter is addressed to “Fellow Alaskans” and signed by Chief Justice Joel Bolger and Justices Daniel Winfree, Peter Maassen and Susan Carney. Justice Craig Stowers retired June 1, and his seat has not yet been filled.

The justices referred to the ongoing social unrest sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. Floyd, 46, a black man, died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while he was handcuffed and lying on the ground. His death prompted protests across the U.S. and around the world against police brutality and racial injustice.

“As we watch events unfolding in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, we are saddened to see again that the ideals on which our society is founded are far from the reality of many people’s lives,” the letter said.

The justices said they must “provide an accessible and impartial forum” for cases. “We recognize that too often African-Americans, Alaska Natives, and other people of color are not treated with the same dignity and respect as white members of our communities," the justices wrote. “And we recognize that as community members, lawyers, and especially as judicial officers, we must do more to change this reality.”

They wrote that there needs to be a continued effort to make the court system “reflect the community that we serve." The justices said they would continue to work with the court's advisory Fairness and Access Commission and outreach programs such as The Color of Justice.


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