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Court blocks 'millionaire tax' question from state ballot
Court Center | 2018/06/19 00:54
Massachusetts' highest court on Monday struck down a proposed "millionaire tax" ballot question, blocking it from going before state voters in November and ending advocates' hopes for generating some $2 billion in additional revenue for education and transportation.

The Supreme Judicial Court, in a 5-2 ruling, said the initiative petition should not have been certified by Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey because it violated the "relatedness" clause of the state constitution that prohibits ballot questions from mingling unrelated subjects — in this case, taxing and spending.

The proposed constitutional amendment — referred to by its proponents as the "Fair Share Amendment," would have imposed a surtax of 4 percent on any portion of an individual's annual income that exceeds $1 million. The measure called for revenues from the tax to be earmarked for transportation and education.

Writing for the majority, Associate Justice Frank Gaziano said a voter who supported the surtax but opposed earmarking the funds for a specific purpose would be left "in the untenable position of choosing which issue to support and which must be disregarded."

The justices offered hypothetical examples of voters who might support spending on one priority but not the other, such as a subway commuter with no school-age children.

The measure had been poised to reach voters in November after receiving sufficient support from the Legislature in successive two-year sessions. But several business groups, including the Massachusetts High Technology Council and Associated Industries of Massachusetts, sued to block it.

The court's ruling was a devastating blow for Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition of labor unions, community and religious organizations that collected more than 150,000 signatures in support of the millionaire tax.


USCIS Efforts Lead to Prison Sentence for Fremont Business Owner
Court Center | 2018/06/16 00:54
Kondamoori, 56, of Incline Village, Nev., and Sandhya Ramireddi, 58, of Pleasanton, in a 33-count indictment filed May 5, 2016.  The indictment contains charges in connection with the submission of fraudulent applications for H-1B specialty-occupation work visas.

“USCIS is committed to combatting instances of fraud, abuse and other nefarious activities threatening the integrity of our nation’s immigration system,” stated USCIS San Francisco District Director John Kramer. “This sentencing sends a strong message to anyone thinking about circumventing or violating our rule of law.”

Venkat Guntipally pleaded guilty on April 24, 2017, at which time he admitted that he and his wife founded and owned DS Soft Tech and Equinett, two employment-staffing companies for technology firms. In addition, Guntipally admitted that between approximately 2010 and 2014, he and his wife, together with others, submitted to the government more than one hundred fraudulent petitions for foreign workers to be placed at other purported companies.  The end-client companies listed in the fraudulent H-1B applications either did not exist or never received the proposed H-1B workers.  None of the listed companies ever intended to receive those H-1B workers.  The scheme’s intended purpose was to create a pool of H-1B workers who then could be placed at legitimate employment positions in the Northern District of California and elsewhere.  Through this scheme, Venkat Guntipally, along with his co-conspirators, gained an unfair advantage over competing employment-staffing firms, and the Guntipally’s earned millions in ill-gotten gains.  Venkat Guntipally also admitted that he and his codefendants obstructed justice, including by directing workers to lie to investigators and by laundering money. 


Supreme Court: Son can sue father over hunting accident
Court Center | 2018/06/08 23:54
A Minnesota man has taken a lawsuit against his father all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court. And, dad is just fine with that.

The Supreme Court this week clarified a state law on public access for hunting, clearing the way for Corey Ouradnik to sue his father, Robert Ouradnik, over a deer hunting accident.

Corey Ouradnik broke both legs when he fell from a tree stand on the family's hunting land near Hinckley in 2012 when he was 29. His recovery took multiple surgeries and left Ouradnik with a six-figure medical bill.

The Star Tribune reports his attorney, Matt Barber, says the lawsuit is all about recovering insurance money. He says Minnesota requires people who are injured to sue the person who injured them if they hope to recover a payment.


The Latest: Colorado governor announces Supreme Court pick
Court Center | 2018/05/19 06:57
Gov. John Hickenlooper has named Carlos Samour to the Colorado Supreme Court, filling a vacancy left by Chief Justice Nancy Rice's imminent retirement.

Samour, a judge in the 18th Judicial District in Arapahoe County, is best known for presiding over the Aurora theater shooting trial in 2015.

Samour was raised in El Salvador, where his father was also a judge. Hickenlooper said his family fled the country when Samour was 13 because his father feared retaliation for finding a military official guilty.

"His father was ousted from his judicial position and his home was riddled by bullets because his father chose to faithfully apply the laws of that country," said Hickenlooper, a Democrat.

Samour was chosen from three nominees after Rice in March announced her plans to retire at the end of June. She will have served more than four years as chief justice, nearly 20 years on the court and about 31 years total as a judge in Colorado.

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Wednesday plans to announce his choice to fill a vacancy on the Colorado Supreme Court.

Earlier this month, a judicial nominating commission gave the governor three judges to choose from, after Chief Justice Nancy Rice announced her retirement.

The nominees are Maria Berkenkotter, the former chief judge of the 20th Judicial District in Boulder County; Karen Brody, a judge in the 2nd Judicial District in Denver County; and Carlos Samour, a judge in the 18th Judicial District in Arapahoe County.


UK Supreme Court declines appeal from parents of ill toddler
Court Center | 2018/04/20 20:03
Britain’s Supreme Court declined Friday to hear an appeal from a mother and father who want to take their terminally ill toddler to Italy for treatment instead of allowing a hospital to remove him from life support.

The decision is another setback for the parents of 23-month-old Alfie Evans, who have been engaged in a protracted legal fight with Alder Hey Children’s Hospital over their son’s care.

The Supreme Court decision means an earlier Court of Appeal ruling will stand. Justices in that court upheld a lower court’s conclusion that it would be pointless to fly the boy to Rome for treatment.

Alfie is in a “semi-vegetative state” as the result of a degenerative neurological condition that doctors have been unable to definitively identify. Earlier court rulings blocked further medical treatment and ordered the boy’s life support to be withdrawn.

In appealing the rulings, Alfie’s parents, Tom Evans, 21, and Kate James, 20, argued their son had shown improvement in recent weeks. But doctors said his condition was irreversible.

Pope Francis prayed Sunday for Alfie and others who are suffering from serious infirmities.

It was the second time the pope offered his views about a case involving a terminally ill British child. In July, Francis spoke out on behalf of Charlie Gard, who died a week before his first birthday from a rare genetic disease after his parents fought in court to obtain treatment for him outside of Britain.


Constitutionality of murder conviction upheld by high court
Court Center | 2018/04/20 20:02
The South Dakota Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of a man's conviction for killing his 4-year-old son.

Forty-four-year-old Chris Miller was sentenced to life in prison for the death of his son, Jacob Miller, and an additional 50 years for aggravated assault in January 2013.

Attorney General Marty Jackley says the Supreme Court found Miller failed to show his attorney was ineffective and that the jury selection process was flawed.

Court sides with sanctuary cities in fight over grants

A federal appeals court in Chicago has ruled that President Donald Trump's administration cannot withhold public safety grants from cities that don't cooperate with its immigration enforcement policies, agreeing with a temporary injunction imposed earlier this year by a lower court judge.

The decision by a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Thursday says the administration exceeded its authority in establishing new conditions for cities to qualify for the grants.

The administration in July imposed a condition that cities receiving public safety grants must agree to inform federal agents when immigrants in the country illegally are about to be released from police detention.

All three judges agreed to the injunction Thursday, but one judge said it should be for Chicago only and not nationwide.


Trump's personal attorney has dropped a pair of libel suits
Court Center | 2018/04/19 03:03
President Donald Trump's personal attorney dropped a pair of libel lawsuits against BuzzFeed and investigation firm Fusion GPS amid the stir caused by an FBI search of the lawyer's files.

Michael Cohen had sued in New York City over publication of the unverified dossier detailing alleged ties between Trump and Russia. He dropped the suits late Wednesday amid a separate legal battle over the seizure of documents and electronic files from his home, office and hotel room last week in a federal investigation of possible financial fraud.

The dossier claims that Cohen met with Russian operatives in Europe for a meeting to "clean up the mess" over disclosures of other Trump associates' reported ties to Russia.

Cohen's attorney, David Schwartz, said Thursday the decision to abandon the suits was difficult.

"We believe the defendants defamed my client, and vindicating Mr. Cohen's rights was - and still remains - important," he said in a statement. "But given the events that have unfolded, and the time, attention and resources needed to prosecute these matters, we have dismissed the matters, despite their merits."

In a statement, BuzzFeed called the suit against it meritless.

"Today's news suggests that Donald Trump's personal lawyer no longer thinks an attack on the free press is worth his time," it said.

Fusion GPS said in a statement that it welcomed Cohen's decision.

"With his decision, it appears that Mr. Cohen can now focus on his many other legal travails," it said.


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