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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.


Arizona court says Costco can be sued over ED drug disclosure
Court Center | 2019/05/03 00:25
The Arizona Court of Appeals has ruled that the Costco warehouse store chain can be sued for privacy violations by a Phoenix-area man because a pharmacist joked with his ex-wife about an erectile dysfunction prescription he had never picked up.

The ruling issued Tuesday revived the lawsuit the man filed after the pharmacist told his ex-wife about the prescription when she went to pick up another prescription with his approval. The man had called Costco twice to cancel the prescription before his ex-wife went to the north Phoenix store in early 2016, but the pharmacist did not do so, according to the ruling.

Attorney Joshua Carden filed the lawsuit for the man alleging a variety of violations, but it was dismissed by a trial-court judge. The Court of Appeals revived sections alleging negligence under federal health care privacy law commonly called HIPAA. The ruling potentially allows him to seek punitive damages.

The ruling is the first to say that negligence claims under HIPAA can be brought in Arizona courts, Carden said.

“If there is a big deal in the case it’s that the court went ahead and said yes to negligence claims based on HIPAA violations,” Carden said. “That’s not ever been announced in Arizona before.”

The federal health privacy law doesn’t allow individuals to sue for violations in federal court, he said, and state courts haven’t always been clear about that right.


Roggensack Re-Elected as Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief
Court Center | 2019/04/30 22:38
Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack has been re-elected to a third, two-year term leading the court.

The court announced her re-election by fellow justices Tuesday. The result was public, but the vote was done in secret and the breakdown was not announced.

Roggensack replaced Justice Shirley Abrahamson as chief justice in 2015 after voters approved a constitutional amendment giving justices the power to elect the chief justice. Prior to that it had automatically gone to the longest-serving member, who is Abrahamson.

Roggensack is one of the four majority conservative justices. Abrahamson is one of three minority liberal members.

Roggensack says in a statement that she is honored to continue serving as chief justice. She has been on the Supreme Court since 2003.

The chief justice also serves as the administrative head of Wisconsin's judicial system.


Kansas tells court broad support is reason to OK schools law
Court Center | 2019/04/14 00:58
Lawyers for Kansas told the state Supreme Court on Monday that it should sign off on a new law boosting spending on public schools and end a protracted education funding lawsuit partly because the law has broad, bipartisan support.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican, filed written legal arguments defending the new law. It contains Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly's proposal for an education funding increase of roughly $90 million a year and is aimed at satisfying a state Supreme Court ruling last year that education funding remained inadequate.

Four school districts sued the state in 2010, and their attorneys have said that the new law does not provide enough additional funding after the 2019-20 school year. Schmidt said the districts are seeking a "heckler's veto" after Kelly, many Republican lawmakers and the GOP-led State Board of Education agreed that the increase she sought would satisfy the court.

"This court should give great weight to the considered decisions of both the education officials and the people's representatives," Schmidt's written argument said. "That is particularly true here given the widespread, bipartisan consensus."

Attorneys for the four school districts asked in their own filing for the Supreme Court to order higher spending after the 2019-20 school year, give legislators another year to comply and keep the case open so that the state's actions can be monitored.


DC-area sniper shootings case to have Supreme Court hearing
Court Center | 2019/03/19 19:15
The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider Virginia’s plea to reinstate the life-without-parole sentence of a man who as a teenager participated in sniper shootings that terrorized the Washington, D.C., region in 2002.

The justices said they will take up the state’s appeal in the case of Lee Boyd Malvo, who was 17 when he and John Allen Muhammad fatally shot 10 people in Maryland, Virginia and Washington. Malvo was sentenced to life-without-parole terms in Virginia and in Maryland. Muhammad, who was 41 at the time of the shootings, was sentenced to death and was executed in 2009.

Malvo was sentenced to four life terms for crimes he committed in Virginia. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled last year that while Malvo’s life-without-parole sentences were legal when they were imposed, Supreme Court decisions that followed altered sentencing requirements for juvenile offenders.

The appeals court judges said a resentencing would determine whether Malvo qualifies as “one of the rare juvenile offenders” who can be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole because his “crimes reflect permanent incorrigibility.” They said if his crimes instead “reflect the transient immaturity of youth,” he is entitled to a sentence short of life without parole.

The Supreme Court will review that decision. As is typical, the justices did not make any comment in agreeing to hear the case, which will be argued in the fall.

Regardless of what the Supreme Court decides, it is unlikely that Malvo would get out of prison anytime soon. He isn’t currently getting a new sentencing hearing in Maryland, where he struck a plea deal and was sentenced to six life-without-parole prison terms for shootings that took place in that state.

A judge previously ruled that Malvo would not get new sentencing hearings in Maryland. Malvo, who has been serving his sentences at Red Onion State Prison in Pound, Virginia, has appealed.


Supreme Court set for case on racial bias in jury selection
Court Center | 2019/03/18 02:15
Curtis Flowers has been jailed in Mississippi for 22 years, even as prosecutors couldn't get a murder conviction against him to stick through five trials.

Three convictions were tossed out, and two other juries couldn't reach unanimous verdicts.

This week, the Supreme Court will consider whether his conviction and death sentence in a sixth trial should stand or be overturned for a familiar reason: because prosecutors improperly kept African-Americans off the jury.

The justices on Wednesday will examine whether District Attorney Doug Evans' history of excluding black jurors should figure in determining if Evans again crossed a line when he struck five African-Americans from the jury that most recently convicted Flowers of killing four people.

In overturning Flowers' third conviction, the Mississippi Supreme Court called Evans' exclusion of 15 black prospective jurors "as strong a prima facie case of racial discrimination as we have seen" in challenges to jury composition. This time around, though, the state's high court has twice rejected Flowers' claims, even after being ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court to take another look.


Court rejects Ghosn’s request to attend Nissan board meeting
Court Center | 2019/03/10 03:42
A Japanese court has rejected a request by former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn, released on bail last week, to attend the Japanese automaker’s board meeting on Tuesday.

Nissan dismissed Ghosn as chairman after his Nov. 19 arrest, but he remains on the board. The Tokyo District Court said it rejected Ghosn’s request on Monday but did not elaborate on the reasons.

It had been unclear whether Ghosn could attend the board meeting. The court’s approval was needed based on restrictions imposed for his release on bail. The restrictions say he cannot tamper with evidence, and attending the board meeting could be seen as putting pressure on Nissan employees.

Prosecutors had been expected to argue against his attendance. They were not available for immediate comment.

Ghosn has been charged with falsifying financial reports in underreporting his compensation and breach of trust in making payments to a Saudi businessman and having Nissan shoulder investment losses.

He insists he is innocent, saying the compensation was never decided or paid, the payments were for legitimate services and Nissan never suffered the losses.

Since his release on March 6 from Tokyo Detention Center on 1 billion yen ($9 million) bail, he has been spotted taking walks in Tokyo with his family, but he has not made any comments.

His attempt to exercise what his lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka, called his “duty” by attending the board meeting signals one way he may be fighting back.

Hironaka has said Ghosn will speak to reporters soon. A date for a news conference has not been announced.


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