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Russian court extends arrest for American accused of spying
Legal Watch | 2019/05/19 05:18
A Russian court on Friday extended the arrest for a former U.S. Marine charged with espionage, who complained in court about abuse in custody.

Paul Whelan was arrested at the end of December in a hotel room in the Russian capital of Moscow where he was attending a wedding. He was charged with espionage, which carries up to 20 years in prison in Russia.

Whelan denies the charges of spying for the U.S. that his lawyers said stem from a sting operation. Whelan’s lawyer has said his client was handed a flash drive that had classified information on it that he didn’t know about.

The court ruled Friday to keep the Michigan resident, who also holds British, Irish and Canadian citizenship, behind bars for three more months.

Whelan told reporters in court that he has been threatened and subjected to “abuses and harassment” in prison.

“I haven’t had a shower in two weeks. I can’t use a barber, I have to cut my own hair,” a visibly agitated Whelan said from the defendant’s dock. “This is typical prisoner of war isolation technique. They’re trying to run me down so that I will talk to them.”

Andrea Kalan, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, said Friday that they are disappointed with the ruling, arguing there is “no evidence of any wrongdoing.”



Residents sue Tennessee city over code violations court
Law Firm Business | 2019/05/16 20:59
Residents of Nashville, Tennessee, are suing to close the city's environmental code enforcement court, saying it was improperly implemented and unfairly affects poor citizens.

The Tennessean reports the lawsuit was filed Tuesday against the city and state Attorney General Herbert Slatery. The court has collected just over $1.8 million in fines since 2008. The lawsuit focuses on a state constitution provision that says local acts or laws targeting a specific county must include provisions approved by the local legislative body.

The code enforcement court was created by state lawmakers in 1993. In 1994, the City Council voted to enable the court's creation. However, the provision says local acts that don't include the council vote are void, thereby negating the council's later vote.



NC’s highest court hears arguments about Blackbeard flagship
Legal Watch | 2019/05/16 04:00
A lawsuit over the rights to photos and video from the wreckage of the pirate Blackbeard’s flagship is still winding its way through North Carolina courts, four years after the legal conflict began.

The New Bern Sun Journal reports the state Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday about the ownership issue. The state’s highest court will decide which lower court should hear the case next.

A Florida-based company found the wreckage of the Queen Anne’s Revenge off the North Carolina coast in 1996. Intersal contends the state breached a contract giving the company some exclusivity to images.


An Intersal attorney argued the case should be heard in Business Court, where monetary damages can be awarded. State lawyers argue the case qualifies only for administrative court, where they say it’s been settled.


Feds: US Supreme Court should turn down 'Bridgegate' appeal
Top Legal News | 2019/05/14 04:01
The U.S. solicitor general's office has recommended that the U.S. Supreme Court not hear the appeal of two convicted defendants in the "Bridgegate" case, nudging the four-year legal saga of New Jersey's most famous traffic jam toward a conclusion.

"Further review is not warranted," the brief filed late Wednesday said. The Supreme Court is expected to decide whether to hear the case by the end of its term next month.

Bridget Kelly and Bill Baroni want the court to hear the appeal of their 2016 convictions for causing gridlock near the George Washington Bridge to punish a mayor for not endorsing their boss, former Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

Christie wasn't charged, but the revelations from the scandal and conflicting accounts of when he knew about the plot combined to sabotage his 2016 presidential aspirations.

Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff at the time of the 2013 lane realignments in the town of Fort Lee, and Baroni, deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, had their sentences reduced this spring after a federal appeals court tossed some convictions last fall. Kelly petitioned the Supreme Court to consider the rest of the convictions, and Baroni joined in the appeal.

They argued that while their actions may have been ethically questionable, they weren't illegal because neither derived personal benefit, and the Port Authority, which operated the bridge, wasn't deprived of tangible benefits as a result of the scheme.


Apps cost too much? Court allows suit adding to Apple’s woes
Headline News | 2019/05/12 04:04
Consumers can pursue a lawsuit complaining that iPhone apps cost too much, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday, adding to Apple’s woes that already include falling iPhone sales and a European investigation.

The lawsuit could have major implications for the tech giant’s handling of the more than 2 million apps in Apple’s App Store, where users get much of the software for their smartphones. While most of those apps are free to download, some impose fees for people to use the software and subscribe to the services.

In those cases, Apple charges a commission of 30%, a practice that the lawsuit contends unfairly drives up the price for the apps. Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote the majority opinion that agreed the antitrust lawsuit can move forward in a lower court.

The court’s four liberal justices joined Kavanaugh, one of President Donald Trump’s two high court appointees, to reject a plea from Apple to end the lawsuit at this early stage. The decision did not involve the merits of the suit.

Apple argues it’s merely a pipeline between app developers and consumers, and that iPhone users have no claims against Apple under antitrust law and a 1977 Supreme Court decision. Tens of thousands of developers create the software and set the price, Apple says.

“We’re confident we will prevail when the facts are presented and that the App Store is not a monopoly by any metric,” Apple said in statement issued in response to Monday’s ruling. The lawsuit could take years to wind to its conclusion.



Supreme Court says 1 state can’t be sued in another’s courts
Legal Watch | 2019/05/11 04:05
The Supreme Court decided Monday that one state cannot unwillingly be sued in the courts of another, overruling a 40-year precedent and perhaps, foreshadowing an argument over the viability of other high court decisions.

The outcome left one dissenting justice wondering “which cases the court will overrule next.”

The justices divided 5-4 to end a long-running dispute between California officials and Nevada inventor Gilbert Hyatt.

Hyatt is a former California resident who sued California’s tax agency for being too zealous in seeking back taxes from him. Hyatt won a judgment in Nevada courts.

But Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court’s conservative justices that the Constitution forbids states from opening the doors of their courts to a private citizen’s lawsuit against another state. In 1979, the high court concluded otherwise.

The four liberal justices dissented, saying they would have left alone the court’s decision in Nevada v. Hall. Justice Stephen Breyer said there are good reasons to overrule an earlier case, including that it is no longer workable or a vestige of an otherwise abandoned legal doctrine.

But Breyer said that justices should otherwise adhere to the principle of stare decisis, Latin for to stand by things decided.



News attorneys: Opioid distribution data should be public
Headline News | 2019/05/07 17:28
Attorneys for news organizations argued Thursday that the U.S. public should be allowed to see federal data about how prescription opioids were distributed as the nation’s overdose crisis was worsening.

They urged a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati to overturn a lower court judge’s denial of access to the information. The judges will rule later.

“The value of transparency here is great,” said Karen C. Lefton, an Akron, Ohio, attorney representing The Washington Post. The data concerns “a public health crisis” that affects many more people than a typical case, she said.

The data is a key piece of evidence in hundreds of lawsuits filed by state and local governments against companies that make and distribute the drugs. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration database details the flow of prescription painkillers to pharmacies, showing the number and doses of pills.

A Justice Department attorney told the judges releasing the data would compromise investigations.

“This is an issue of really critical importance to the United States and DEA,” said government attorney Sarah Carroll. Making the information public, she said, “would tip defendants off to the scope of DEA investigations.”

Cleveland-based U.S. District Judge Dan Polster, who is overseeing more than 1,500 of the lawsuits, had ruled in July 2018 that the information cannot be made public. He said that doing so would reveal trade secrets. The Post and the HD Media newspaper chain, which had asked the court for the data, then appealed to the federal circuit.

The appellate judges raised a number of questions about Polster’s orders keeping the data secret and hundreds of filings in the case that are under seal.

Judge Eric Clay said it seemed that the secrecy in the case had “just gone overboard.” He told Carroll, of the Justice Department, that “just saying” cases would be compromised seems inadequate.


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