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Inmate asks Arkansas high court to halt upcoming executio
Legal News | 2017/11/06 03:48
An Arkansas inmate scheduled to receive a lethal injection this week asked the state's highest court Monday to halt his execution amid his attorneys' claims that he doesn't understand why he is to be put to death.

Attorneys for Jack Greene asked the state Supreme Court to issue an emergency stay of execution. Greene is scheduled to be executed Thursday night for the 1991 death of Sidney Burnett, who was beaten with a can of hominy, stabbed and later shot.

Greene's attorneys asked for the stay while they appeal a lower court's dismissal of their lawsuit challenging an Arkansas law giving the state's top prison official the authority to determine whether Greene is competent to be executed. Greene's attorneys say he suffers from psychotic delusions, and say the inmate believes the attorneys and prison officials have conspired to torture him.

The judge who dismissed the suit said the law had already been upheld as constitutional and that she didn't have the authority to stay the execution.

The filing cited the court's decision to halt the execution of another inmate, Bruce Ward, in April over similar claims about his mental competency.

"The court should not allow the state to avoid the substantial questions presented here by executing Greene before the court can address them — as it has already committed itself to do in another case," Greene's attorneys said in Monday's filing.



'Dirty soda' Utah court battle ends with legal settlement
Court Center | 2017/11/05 02:50
Two Utah chains that sell flavor-shot-spiked "dirty sodas" have settled their court battle over the sugary concept that's grown increasingly profitable in a state where sugar is a common vice, according to court documents filed Tuesday.

Soda shops Sodalicious and Swig will pay their own expenses, court papers said. The documents offer no details of the settlement terms and attorneys for the two sides did not return messages seeking comment.

Swig had accused competitor Sodalicious of copying the trademarked "dirty" idea, down to the frosted sugar cookies sold alongside the sweet drinks spiked with flavor shots, fruit purees and cream.

Both shops are known for their soda mixology. Swig's concoctions include the Tiny Turtle, which is Sprite spiked with green apple and banana flavors.

Swig sued in 2015 for damages and an order blocking Sodalicious from using words and signs similar to theirs. A trial had been set for this week, but it was on hold during settlement negotiations.

Sodalicious fought back, saying dirty is a longtime moniker for martinis and other drinks. They said tongue-in-cheek nicknames for concoctions like "Second Wife" make their business distinctly different.

Other sodas on their menu include the Rocky Mountain High, made with cherry and coconut added to Coke.

The court fight unfolded as the sweet drinks grew increasingly popular and profitable in a majority-Mormon state where sugar is a popular indulgence.

Both shops have more than a dozen locations across Utah, and have also expanded into the suburbs of Phoenix.


US court bars Trump from reversing transgender troops policy
Legal Watch | 2017/11/02 02:47
A federal judge on Monday barred President Donald Trump's administration from proceeding with plans to exclude transgender people from military service.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled that the transgender service members who had sued over Trump's policy were likely to win their lawsuit. She directed a return to the situation that existed before Trump announced his new policy this summer, saying the administration had provided no solid evidence for why a ban should be implemented.

Trump had ordered a reinstatement of the longstanding policy that barred transgender individuals from joining the military; service members who were revealed to be transgender were subject to discharge. Under President Barack Obama, that policy was changed last year to allow transgender people to serve openly.

The Trump administration may appeal Kollar-Kotelly's decision, but for now, the proposed ban remains unenforceable under Kollar-Kotelly's preliminary injunction.

"We disagree with the court's ruling and are currently evaluating the next steps," said Justice Department spokesman Lauren Ehrsam.

She reiterated the department's view that the lawsuit was premature because the Pentagon was still in the process of reviewing how the transgender policy might evolve.

One of the attorneys handling the lawsuit, Shannon Minter of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said the ruling was an enormous relief to his clients.


Illinois to require veterans courts across the state in 2018
Legal Watch | 2017/10/30 07:02
A law passed last year requires every judicial circuit in Illinois to have a veterans treatment court starting Jan. 1.

The courts allow veterans who were honorably discharged to plead guilty to a crime in exchange for a probation sentence, The Chicago Tribune reported. The sentence requires frequent court visits and mental health or substance abuse treatment.

Veterans can also apply to have their records expunged upon completing the sentence. Those who use the courts typically face lower level felonies.

Supporters say the program will help those who risked their lives for their country.

Army veteran Gregory Parker enrolled in the Lake County Veterans Treatment and Assistance Court after his fourth drunken driving arrest resulted in a felony reckless driving charge. Parker graduated from the program in about 18 months. He's quit drinking and continues to go to therapy.

"I finally find myself enjoying things in life I've never enjoyed before," he said.

But some wonder if every community has the resources or the need for a court dedicated to veterans.

Some rural communities may only have a few veterans moving through the court system, said Michelle Rock, executive director of the Illinois Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health and Justice, which provides support for treatment courts statewide.

"We know that it may not be cost-effective for every county in the state to have one," she said.

Before the new law, Kane County officials weighed the need for a veterans court with the availability of resources and decided against offering the court, said Court Administrator Doug Naughton.

The overall court system should be improved, instead of offering one group more options, said Ed Yohnka, spokesman for the ACLU of Illinois.


Brazilian court revives case against Olympian Ryan Lochte
Court Center | 2017/10/29 14:02
Over the summer, it appeared Ryan Lochte had been cleared of criminal charges in Brazil after he was accused of fabricating a story about getting robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro during the 2016 Olympics. On Friday, a decision made by an appeals court that originally ruled the case should be dismissed was reversed, according to USA Today, which cited Brazilian newspaper O Globo. The ruling came after Rio's prosecutor's office filed its own appeal.

"I'm disappointed that they're trying to take another shot at it," Lochte's attorney Jeff Ostrow told USA Today. "I think they should just let it die because they lost and because he didn't do anything wrong. But for whatever reason, they want to try to save face and continue this charade, let them do what they gotta do and we'll continue to fight it because we believe we're right."

Ostrow said he will now attempt to halt further proceedings by filing his own legal motion. If the case continues, Lochte could once again be facing a sentence of one to six months in jail should he be convicted of a misdemeanor offense of fabrication, although he would be unlikely to serve it. The reason, according to CNBC, is that Lochte would need to be extradited to Brazil, which would require U.S. cooperation. Under agreed upon terms with Brazil, extradition only applies in the case of more serious offenses, such as murder or rape.

Lochte's alleged offense was making up a tale inspired by a confrontation between him and three other U.S. swimmers and security at a gas station. After the incident, Lochte embarked on a media tour telling the world he was robbed at gunpoint by criminals posing as Rio police. With Rio authorities trying to downplay the city's crime rate, however, Lochte's allegations sparked an investigation. Eventually security camera footage revealed Lochte's story was untrue.


Court weighing whether graffiti mecca was protected by law
Legal News | 2017/10/27 14:01
For two decades, Jerry Wolkoff let graffiti artists use his crumbling Queens warehouse complex as a canvas for their vibrant works. Artists gave the spot the name "5Pointz" — a place where all five New York City boroughs come together — but painters traveled from as far as Japan and Brazil to tag, bomb and burn at what became a graffiti mecca and a tourist destination.

But like most graffiti, it didn't last. Wolkoff whitewashed the building in 2013 then tore it down to build luxury apartment towers.

Four years later, some of the artists whose work was destroyed are in court, arguing that even though the building belonged to Wolkoff, the art was protected by federal law.

A trial that started Tuesday at a federal court in Brooklyn will determine whether the artists should be compensated for the lost work.

More than 20 artists sued Wolkoff under the Visual Artists Rights Act, or VARA, a 1990 federal statute that protects artists' rights even if someone else owns the physical artwork.

A trial that started Tuesday at a federal court in Brooklyn will determine whether the artists should be compensated for the lost work.

More than 20 artists sued Wolkoff under the Visual Artists Rights Act, or VARA, a 1990 federal statute that protects artists' rights even if someone else owns the physical artwork.

Barry Werbin, an attorney specializing in intellectual property, said the case is significant because no lawsuit under the statute has been tried by a jury before.



Court asked to decide whether to limit electronics searches
Headline News | 2017/10/26 19:40
A federal appeals court is being asked to decide whether government agents can search cell phones and laptops at airports without a search warrant.

The American Civil Liberties Union argues that warrantless searches of personal information on electronic devices are unconstitutional, and that significant privacy interests are at stake.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond hears arguments Thursday in the case of a Turkish national convicted of trying to illegally smuggle weapons parts to Turkey.

Hamza Kolsuz was arrested at Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia after agents found weapons parts in his luggage, and a judge denied his motion to suppress evidence found during a forensic search of his phone.


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