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Supreme Court examines Kentucky's medical review panels
Attorneys News | 2018/08/09 13:34
After Ezra Claycomb was born with severe brain damage and cerebral palsy, his mother considered filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. But in 2017, Kentucky's Republican-controlled legislature passed a law requiring all such lawsuits first be reviewed by a panel of doctors.

The law gave the panel nine months to issue an opinion on whether the lawsuit is frivolous — yet section 14 of Kentucky's Constitution says every person has access to the courts "without ... delay."

Claycomb's parents sued to block the new law, making Kentucky the latest state to have its medical review panels challenged in court.

A circuit judge agreed the law was unconstitutional. But Republican Gov. Matt Bevin appealed that decision to the state Supreme Court, which heard arguments Wednesday.

"This is a modern day version of the poll tax," said attorney J. Guthrie True, who represents Claycomb in a lawsuit he says has class action status to represent all patients. "This has one purpose, and that is to obstruct the courthouse door."

Matthew Kuhn, an attorney for the governor, said the state Constitution's ban on delaying access to the courts only applies to the court system itself. It does not apply to the legislature, which he says has the power to impose rules on the court system. He noted Kentucky has other laws that limit when people can file lawsuits. For example, heirs wanting to sue the executor of an estate must wait at least six months after the executor has been appointed before they can do so. Kuhn says that law has never been challenged.

Kuhn said the medical review process is helpful because it gets the two sides talking before a lawsuit is filed, which could jumpstart settlement discussions. It also makes sure both sides have all the evidence collected before they go to a judge.



SC Supreme Court to decide if elected sheriff is qualified
Attorneys News | 2018/08/04 04:25
Clarke Stearns has been working as sheriff for more than 18 months in McCormick County, but it's still up in the air whether he is qualified to be the county's top lawman.

Stearns' Democratic opponent in the 2016 election, J.R. Jones, sued him within a month after his victory, saying Stearns never served as a law officer in South Carolina and therefore didn't meet the requirement of being a certified officer in the state.

Stearns' lawyers have successfully argued so far that his 30 years certified as a law enforcement officer in Virginia are more than enough to cover the qualification to be sheriff and he also got his certification in South Carolina after the election.

After a lower court judge ruled against Jones, the lawsuit is now going before the state Supreme Court. Jones' lawyer Charles Grose, told The Index-Journal of Greenwood the Supreme Court has expedited the case.

Stearns, a Republican, received 57 percent of the vote in the 2016 election.

Both sides said they have sent their briefs to the South Carolina Supreme Court and are ready for the justices either to rule or set a time for arguments.

Under South Carolina law , sheriffs must be at least 21 years old, a citizen of the United States, a registered voter and have a year of experience as a certified officer if they have a four-year college degree.


City attorney criticizes law used to arrest Stormy Daniels
Attorneys News | 2018/07/19 13:56
An Ohio city attorney has recommended that the state law police cited to arrest porn actress Stormy Daniels should not be enforced.

In a memo to the city's police chief, Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein says Wednesday that future charges filed under that law will not be prosecuted. Klein has also dismissed charges brought against two other employees arrested with Daniels.

The law states dancers at "sexually oriented" businesses are prohibited from touching customers and vice versa.

Klein says the law is "glaringly inequitable" because its applicability depends on how regularly the employee performs. He also says employees who touch police are not in violation because on-duty public officials are not legally considered patrons.

Daniels' lawyer says he applauds Klein's decision. Messages seeking comment were left Wednesday for Columbus police.


Suspect in 1988 killing of Indiana girl, 8, appears in court
Attorneys News | 2018/07/14 05:35
A judge has given prosecutors until Thursday to formally charge a man who's being held in the 1988 slaying of an 8-year-old Indiana girl.

Fifty-nine-year-old John D. Miller of Grabill was arrested Sunday on preliminary murder, child molesting and criminal confinement charges in the abduction, rape and killing of April Marie Tinsley.

The Fort Wayne girl's body was found three days after her April 1988 abduction in a ditch about 20 miles (32 kilometers) away.

Court documents say Miller's DNA matches DNA recovered from Tinsley's underwear. WANE-TV reports Miller appeared Monday morning before an Allen County judge, who gave prosecutors 72 hours to formally charge Miller in the killing.

He's being held without bond. It wasn't clear if Miller has a lawyer who could speak on his behalf.


UK Supreme Court criticizes Northern Ireland abortion laws
Attorneys News | 2018/06/07 06:55
Britain's Supreme Court on Thursday criticized Northern Ireland's strict anti-abortion laws but dismissed a legal challenge.

A majority of the court decided that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which initiated the case, did not have the standing to bring the challenge to the abortion law. The court dismissed the case without taking action.

The justices went on to say, however, that a majority finds Northern Ireland's abortion prohibitions "disproportionate" and that they violate European human rights laws.

That part of the ruling gave hope to abortion rights activists seeking to liberalize Northern Ireland's laws. Strict Northern Ireland laws that prohibit abortions in cases of pregnancy as a result of incest or rape, and in cases when the fetus has a likely fatal abnormality, have drawn scrutiny since the Republic of Ireland voted overwhelmingly in May to repeal its own strict laws.

When Ireland replaces the constitutional ban with more liberal legislation after a debate in parliament, Northern Ireland will be the only remaining region in Britain and Ireland to outlaw the procedure.

Rosa Curling, from the law firm Leigh Day that helped bring the legal challenge, called the court's ruling "a momentous day for women in Northern Ireland" and said it is now up to British Prime Minister Theresa May to take action to ease the laws.

She said May has an obligation to make sure the U.K. government is "now longer acting unlawfully by breaching the human rights of women across Northern Ireland."

However, the fact that the Supreme Court dismissed the case because of doubts about the Human Rights Commission's right to bring it means the judges' views on the anti-abortion laws do not have legal force, which is reassuring for abortion foes.


Congressional Dems take Trump to court over foreign favors
Attorneys News | 2018/06/03 06:55
Lawyers representing nearly 200 Democrats in Congress plan to argue in federal court Thursday that President Donald Trump is violating the Constitution by accepting foreign state favors without first seeking congressional approval.

The case argues that the president has received foreign government favors, such as Chinese government trademarks for his companies, payments for hotel room stays and event space rentals by representatives of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and proceeds from Chinese or Emirati-linked government purchases of office space in Trump Tower.

Ethics experts say the constitutional emoluments clause was created by the Founding Fathers to ensure that government officials act with the interests of the American public in mind instead of their own pocketbooks. Since then, it has been applied to the lowest of government of officials up to the president without a court challenge.

"This argument on Thursday will essentially put to the test the proposition that no one is above the law, not even the president," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat who is leading the effort. "He's thumbed his nose at the plain text and in doing so he's thumbed his nose at the American people."

Unlike prior presidents, Trump chose not to divest from his assets and he remains the owner of the Trump Organization, a sprawling business empire with 550 entities in more than 20 countries that include branded hotels, golf courses, licensing deals and other interests. His Washington, D.C., hotel just steps from the White House has become a magnet for foreign governments, including groups tied to Kuwait, Bahrain, Turkey, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.



Detroit-area couple in court over control of frozen embryos
Attorneys News | 2018/06/02 06:55
A Detroit-area woman seeking custody of as many as 10 frozen embryos is asking a judge to appoint a guardian over them while she clashes with her former partner for control.

Gloria Karungi and Ronaldlee Ejalu have a daughter who has sickle cell disease. Karungi believes if she can bear another child with one of the embryos, bone marrow cells from that sibling could potentially cure the girl's blood illness.

But Ejalu must give his consent, according to a contract with an in vitro fertilization clinic, and he's not interested. Karungi and Ejalu never married and are no longer together.

Oakland County Judge Lisa Langton last year said she didn't have the authority to wade into the embryo dispute; she was simply determining financial support and parenting time for the couple's daughter. But the Michigan appeals court sent the case back to Langton for more work, including an evidentiary hearing if necessary.

Karungi "wants to cure her daughter and is seeking the embryos to that end. ... Without the embryos coming to term, that child has no ability to be cured," the woman's attorney, Dan Marsh, said in a court filing.

Ejalu's lawyer, Dan Weberman, said he'll argue again that a Family Division judge has no role in what's basically a contract quarrel. He also said it's misleading for Karungi to claim that cells from a sibling are the only cure for the 7-year-old girl.

"They want to paint a picture like she's on her death bed," Weberman told The Associated Press. "She's in school. She's a happy girl. She gets treatment once a month."

Ejalu no longer believes that using frozen embryos is a good idea.

"He doesn't feel ethically that a life should be created for human tissue harvesting. That's somewhat mind-boggling," Weberman said.

Under orders from the appeals court, Langton on June 20 again will hear arguments on whether she has jurisdiction over contested property held by unmarried parties. But in the meantime, the judge has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday on Karungi's request to have a lawyer appointed as guardian over the embryos.


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