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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.



Trump visit stirs debate; massacre defendant in court
Law Firm Business | 2018/10/30 06:12
The man charged in the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre was brought into court in a wheelchair Monday, as some members of the Jewish community and others objected to President Donald Trump’s plans to visit, accusing him of contributing to a toxic political climate in the U.S. that might have led to the bloodshed.

With the first funerals set for Tuesday, the White House announced that Trump and first lady Melania Trump will visit the same day to “express the support of the American people and to grieve with the Pittsburgh community” over the 11 congregants killed Saturday in the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.

Some Pittsburghers urged Trump to stay away. “His language has encouraged hatred and fear of immigrants, which is part of the reason why these people were killed,” said Marianne Novy, 73, a retired college English professor who lives in the city’s Squirrel Hill section, the historic Jewish neighborhood where the attack at the Tree of Life synagogue took place.

Meanwhile, the alleged gunman, 46-year-old truck driver Robert Gregory Bowers, was released from the hospital where he was treated for wounds suffered in a gun battle with police. Hours later he was wheeled into a downtown federal courtroom in handcuffs to face charges.

A judge ordered him held without bail for a preliminary hearing on Thursday, when prosecutors will outline their case. He did not enter a plea.

During the brief proceeding, Bowers talked with two court-appointed lawyers and said little more than “Yes” in a soft voice a few times in response to routine questions from the judge. Courtroom deputies freed one of his cuffed hands so he could sign paperwork.


Bomb suspect set for Florida court appearance
Legal Watch | 2018/10/26 13:14
Bomb squads were called to a post office in Atlanta on Monday about a suspicious parcel, just hours before a court hearing for a Florida man accused of sending packages containing explosive material to prominent Democrats.

The FBI did not identify to whom the most recent package was addressed, but CNN President Jeff Zucker announced that a suspicious package addressed to the cable television network was intercepted Monday at an Atlanta post office.

Zucker said there was no imminent danger to the CNN Center. Another package was delivered to the cable network's New York offices last week, causing an evacuation.

The latest suspicious package comes just hours before a federal court hearing was to begin for Cesar Sayoc, 56, who faces five federal charges.

He is accused of sending bubble-wrapped manila envelopes to Democrats such as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. The packages were intercepted from Delaware to California. At least some listed a return address of U.S. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, former chair of the Democratic National Committee.



Condemned inmate's last meal includes pancakes
Top Legal News | 2018/10/25 13:15
A South Dakota inmate facing execution has received a last meal that included pancakes, waffles, breakfast sausage, scrambled eggs and French fries.

South Dakota's attorney general says the state Supreme Court has rejected two motions to stop the execution of a man who killed a prison guard in a failed 2011 escape attempt.

Attorney General Marty Jackley says there are currently no court orders to stop or delay Rodney Berget's execution, which is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Monday. One motion was filed by a woman whose son is serving a life sentence, the other by an attorney without Berget's support.

Berget is to be put to death for the slaying of Ronald "R.J." Johnson. Berget and fellow inmate Eric Robert beat Johnson with a pipe and covered his head in plastic wrap.

He's to be put to death for the slaying of prison guard Ronald "R.J." Johnson in a failed 2011 escape attempt. Berget and fellow inmate Eric Robert beat Johnson with a pipe and covered his head in plastic wrap.

Robert was executed in October 2012. Berget in 2016 appealed his death sentence, but later asked to withdraw it.


Trump Foundation lawsuit paused until higher court weighs in
Legal Watch | 2018/10/24 13:16
A New York judge on Thursday mothballed a lawsuit over President Donald Trump's charitable foundation until a higher court rules in an unrelated case whether a sitting president can be sued in state court.

State Supreme Court Justice Saliann Scarpulla commented after hearing arguments from a Trump attorney who wants her to dismiss the lawsuit brought by New York state's Democratic attorney general.

She said she'll wait to decide whether the lawsuit proceeds after an intermediate state appeals court rules whether Trump must face a defamation lawsuit brought by a 2006 contestant on "The Apprentice."

Supreme Court Appellate Division justices did not immediately rule after hearing arguments last week on claims by ex-contestant Summer Zervos, a California restaurateur, who says Trump defamed her when he called her a liar for accusing him of unwanted kissing and groping in two 2007 incidents.

Trump's lawyers, seeking to dismiss the lawsuit or delay it until he is no longer in office, say a sitting president can't be sued in state court over conduct outside official duties.

A key question will be whether a 1997 U.S. Supreme Court ruling forcing then-President Bill Clinton to face a federal sexual harassment lawsuit concerning an alleged encounter with an Arkansas state employee while he was governor applies to state courts as well.

Scarpulla said that if the state appeals judges decide that the Clinton ruling is "good law, then I think this case will continue."

The lawsuit alleged Trump and his foundation used his charity's money to settle business disputes and to boost his 2016 presidential campaign.

Brought against Trump and three of his children who serve as the foundation's directors, the lawsuit seeks $2.8 million in restitution and the dissolution of the foundation.

On Thursday, Scarpulla seemed sympathetic to some of the New York state arguments, but she repeatedly said she was required at this stage of the litigation to accept its claims as true.

Attorney Yael Fuchs, arguing for New York state, said the foundation "broke some of the most basic laws that apply" to charitable foundations when it took actions in 2016 at the direction and for the benefit of the Trump presidential campaign.

Representing Trump and his children, attorney Alan Futerfas said the state's claims were exaggerated and distorted. He suggested that even magnanimous steps taken by Trump for charitable purposes were being recast in a negative light.


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