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US court weighs if climate change violates children’s rights
Law Firm Business | 2019/06/05 19:18
In a courtroom packed with environmental activists, federal judges wrestled Tuesday with whether climate change violates the constitutional rights of young people who have sued the U.S. government over the use of fossil fuels.

A Justice Department attorney warned three judges from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that allowing the case to go to trial would be unprecedented and open the doors to more lawsuits.

“This case would have earth-shattering consequences,” Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark said.

He called the lawsuit “a direct attack on the separation of powers” and said the 21 young people who filed it want the courts to direct U.S. energy policy, instead of government officials.

The young people are pressing the government to stop promoting the use of fossil fuels, saying sources like coal and oil cause climate change and violate their Fifth Amendment rights to life, liberty and property.

The judges seemed to feel the enormity of the case, which the plaintiffs’ lawyer compared in scope to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling that mandated desegregation of schools in the 1950s.

If the case moves forward, the judiciary would be “dealing with different branches of government and telling them what to do,” said Judge Andrew Hurwitz, instead of issuing court orders telling officials to stop doing something deemed unconstitutional.

The dire threat to people, particularly the young, demands such action, said Julia Olson, chief legal counsel for Our Children’s Trust, which is representing the plaintiffs.


Carnival will pay $20m over pollution from its cruise ships
Legal Interview | 2019/06/04 02:18
Carnival Corp. reached a settlement Monday with federal prosecutors in which the world’s largest cruise line agreed to pay a $20 million penalty because its ships continued to pollute the oceans despite a previous criminal conviction aimed at curbing similar conduct.

Senior U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz approved the agreement after Carnival CEO Arnold Donald stood up in open court and admitted the company’s responsibility for probation violations stemming from the previous environmental case.

“The company pleads guilty,” Arnold said six times in a packed courtroom that include other senior Carnival executives, including company chairman and Miami Heat owner Micky Arison.

“We acknowledge the shortcomings. I am here today to formulate a plan to fix them,” Arnold added

“The proof will be in the pudding, won’t it?” the judge replied. “If you all did not have the environment, you would have nothing to sell.”

Carnival admitted violating terms of probation from a 2016 criminal conviction for discharging oily waste from its Princess Cruise Lines ships and covering it up. Carnival paid a $40 million fine and was put on five years’ probation in that case, which affected all nine of its cruise brands that boast more than 100 ships.

Now Carnival has acknowledged that in the years since its ships have committed environmental crimes such as dumping “gray water” in prohibited places such Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park and knowingly allowing plastic to be discharged along with food waste in the Bahamas, which poses a severe threat to marine life.

The company also admitted falsifying compliance documents and other administrative violations such as having cleanup teams visit its ships just before scheduled inspections.

Seitz at an earlier hearing threatened to bar Carnival from docking at U.S. ports because of the violations and said she might hold executives individually liable for the probation violations.

“The concern I have is that senior management has no skin in the game,” Seitz said, adding that future violations might be met with prison time and criminal fines for individuals. “My goal is to have the defendant change its behavior.”

Under the settlement, Carnival promised there will be additional audits to check for violations, a restructuring of the company’s compliance and training programs, a better system for reporting environmental violations to state and federal agencies and improved waste management practices.


Kevin Spacey appears at court for hearing in groping case
Court Center | 2019/06/02 02:19
Sporting a gray suit and glasses, Kevin Spacey appeared Monday at a Massachusetts courthouse where a judge is set to hold a hearing in the case accusing the disgraced actor of groping a young man at a Nantucket bar in 2016.

Spacey’s appearance comes somewhat as a surprise as he was not required to attend the hearing and has stayed away from the courthouse except for a brief hearing in January, which he also tried to avoid.

The 59-year-old former “House of Cards” actor, who has pleaded not guilty to a charge of indecent assault and battery, did not comment as he walked in with his lawyers. Spacey faces up to 2 ½ years in jail if convicted.

Spacey’s attorneys have stepped up their attacks on the credibility of the man who brought the allegations. In court documents filed Friday, defense attorney Alan Jackson accused the man of deleting text messages that support Spacey’s claims of innocence.

It’s the only criminal case that has been brought against the two-time Oscar winner since his career fell apart amid a flurry of sexual misconduct allegations in 2017.

The case first came to light that year when former Boston TV anchor Heather Unruh said Spacey got her son drunk and then sexually assaulted him at the Club Car, a popular restaurant and bar on the resort island off Cape Cod.


Swedish court rules not to extradite Assange for rape probe
Law Firm Business | 2019/05/29 02:21
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should not be extradited to Sweden for a revived rape investigation, but should still be questioned in the case while he is imprisoned in Britain, a Swedish court ruled Monday,

The ruling by the Uppsala District Court doesn't mean the preliminary investigation must be abandoned, only that Assange doesn't face extradition to Sweden any time soon.

Eva-Marie Persson, Sweden's deputy director of public prosecutions, said she has not decided whether to appeal.

"I will also issue a European Investigation Order in order to interview Julian Assange," Persson said, adding that she hasn't picked a possible date for the questioning in England.

Assange's lawyer in Sweden, Per E. Samuelsson, said his client would "be happy, we are happy" to learn he won't be extradited to Sweden.

The 47-year-old Assange was evicted on April 11 from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he had been holed up with political asylum since 2012. He was immediately arrested by British police and is currently serving a 50-week sentence for jumping bail in 2012.

He is also fighting extradition to the United States, which accuses him of violating the Espionage Act by publishing secret documents hacked from the Pentagon containing the names of confidential military and diplomatic sources.


High court halts electoral map redrawing in Michigan, Ohio
Legal Watch | 2019/05/24 22:14
The Supreme Court on Friday put on hold court orders in Michigan and Ohio to redraw electoral maps that federal judges found were too partisan.

The high court action comes as it is weighing cases from Maryland and North Carolina that raise similar issues and could affect redistricting everywhere.

The brief orders from the justices do not telegraph the outcome of the redistricting cases that are expected to be decided by the end of June. They more likely reflect that whatever the court decides probably will affect rulings that struck down legislative and congressional districts in Michigan and congressional districts in Ohio.

Ohio lawmakers faced a June 14 deadline to draw new congressional districts, or have the courts do it for them. The deadline in Michigan was Aug. 1.

Judges in both states ordered new maps for the 2020 elections after they found Republicans who controlled the redistricting process in 2011 unconstitutionally created districts that essentially guaranteed continued Republican dominance for the 10 years the political maps would be used.


South Africa's Zuma must wait 3 months for court decision
Court Center | 2019/05/24 05:14
Former South African president Jacob Zuma will hear in three months' time whether corruption, racketeering and money laundering charges against him might be dropped.

Pietermaritzburg High Court judges have reserved judgment on his application for a permanent stay of prosecution. No date was announced.

Zuma was president from 2009 until 2018, when his ruling African National Congress party forced him to resign amid persistent corruption allegations. The scandal was seen as damaging the reputation of the ANC, which has been in power since the end of the harsh system of apartheid in 1994.

Public frustration over government corruption contributed to the ANC's weakest-ever election showing earlier this month, and current President Cyril Ramaphosa has apologized and vowed to crack down .

The scandals also have damaged confidence in South Africa's economy, the most developed in sub-Saharan Africa.

Zuma is accused of receiving bribes related to a 1999 arms deal. The charges were raised more than a decade ago and later withdrawn, then reinstated after a court ruled there were sufficient grounds to bring him to trial.


Brazil's supreme court votes to make homophobia a crime
Court Center | 2019/05/21 05:17
A majority in Brazil's supreme court has voted to make homophobia and transphobia crimes like racism, a decision coming amid fears the country's far-right president will roll back LGBT social gains.

Six of the Supreme Federal Tribunal's 11 judges have voted in favor of the measure. The five other judges will vote in a court session on June 5, but the result will not be modified. The measure will take effect after all the justices have voted.

Racism was made a crime in Brazil in 1989 with prison sentences of up to five years. The court's judges ruled that homophobia should be framed within the racism law until the country's congress approves legislation specifically dealing with LGBT discrimination.

Brazil's Senate is dealing with a bill to criminalize discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender with sentences of up to five years.

"Racism is a crime against flesh and blood, whether it is a member of the LGBT community, a Jew or an Afro-descendant," justice Luiz Fux said Thursday.


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