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Judge, calm in court, takes hard line on splitting families
Court Center | 2018/07/23 13:55
U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw appeared conflicted in early May on whether to stop families from being separated at the border. He challenged the Trump administration to explain how families were getting a fair hearing guaranteed by the Constitution, but also expressed reluctance to get too deeply involved with immigration enforcement.

"There are so many (enforcement) decisions that have to be made, and each one is individual," he said in his calm, almost monotone voice. "How can the court issue such a blanket, overarching order telling the attorney general, either release or detain (families) together?"

Sabraw showed how more than seven weeks later in a blistering opinion faulting the administration and its "zero tolerance" policy for a "crisis" of its own making. He went well beyond the American Civil Liberties Union's initial request to halt family separation — which President Donald Trump effectively did on his own amid a backlash — by imposing a deadline of this Thursday to reunify more than 2,500 children with their families.

Unyielding insistence on meeting his deadline, displayed in a string of hearings he ordered for updates, has made the San Diego jurist a central figure in a drama that has captivated international audiences with emotional accounts of toddlers and teens being torn from their parents.

Circumstances changed dramatically after the ACLU sued the government in March on behalf of a Congolese woman and a Brazilian woman who were split from their children. Three days after the May hearing, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the zero tolerance policy on illegal entry was in full effect, leading to the separation of more than 2,300 children in five weeks.



1-year-old goes to court to get reunited with family
Court Center | 2018/07/07 06:41
The 1-year-old boy in a green button-up shirt drank milk from a bottle, played with a small purple ball that lit up when it hit the ground and occasionally asked for "agua."

Then it was the child's turn for his court appearance before a Phoenix immigration judge, who could hardly contain his unease with the situation during the portion of the hearing where he asks immigrant defendants whether they understand the proceedings.

"I'm embarrassed to ask it, because I don't know who you would explain it to, unless you think that a 1-year-old could learn immigration law," Judge John W. Richardson told the lawyer representing the 1-year-old boy.

The boy is one of hundreds of children who need to be reunited with their parents after being separated at the border, many of them split from mothers and fathers as a result of the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance policy." The separations have become an embarrassment to the administration as stories of crying children separated from mothers and kept apart for weeks on end dominated the news in recent weeks.

Critics have also seized on the nation's immigration court system that requires children — some still in diapers — to have appearances before judges and go through deportation proceedings while separated from their parents. Such children don't have a right to a court-appointed attorney, and 90 percent of kids without a lawyer are returned to their home countries, according to Kids in Need of Defense, a group that provides legal representation.

In Phoenix on Friday, the Honduran boy named Johan waited over an hour to see the judge. His attorney told Richardson that the boy's father had brought him to the U.S. but that they had been separated, although it's unclear when. He said the father, who was now in Honduras, was removed from the country under false pretenses that he would be able to leave with his son.

For a while, the child wore dress shoes, but later he was in just socks as he waited to see the judge. He was silent and calm for most of the hearing, though he cried hysterically afterward for the few seconds that a worker handed him to another person while she gathered his diaper bag. He is in the custody of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department in Arizona.


Wisconsin court to rule on conservative professor's firing
Court Center | 2018/07/06 06:41
The Wisconsin Supreme Court is set to rule on whether Marquette University was correct to fire a conservative professor who wrote a blog post criticizing a student instructor he believed shut down discussion against gay marriage.

John McAdams sued the private Catholic school in 2016, arguing that he lost his job for exercising freedom of speech.

Marquette says McAdams wasn't fired for the content of his 2014 post, but because he named the instructor and linked to her personal website that had personal identifying information. The instructor later received a flood of hateful messages and threats.

The court heard arguments in April. The ruling expected Friday has been eagerly awaited by conservatives who see universities as liberal havens and by private businesses that want control over employee discipline.



Prosecutor to press court to release church abuse report
Court Center | 2018/07/02 07:49
Pennsylvania's highest court is being pressed to publicly release a major grand jury report on allegations of child sexual abuse and cover-ups in six of the state's Roman Catholic dioceses.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro will ask the court to swiftly decide lingering legal issues before it, his office said Friday. He expects to make that request Monday.

"The people of Pennsylvania have a right to see the report, know who is attempting to block its release and why, and to hear the voices of the victims of sexual abuse within the Church," Shapiro said in a statement.

The state Supreme Court is blocking the release of the report as the result of legal challenges filed under seal by people apparently named in the report. The court has declined to make those filings or dockets public, or name the people who filed the challenges.

The Supreme Court's chief justice, Thomas Saylor, declined comment through a spokeswoman, and lawyers for the unnamed people challenging the report did not respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, seven news organizations, including The Associated Press, on Friday filed a motion to intervene in the case in a bid to argue that the court should release the report, contending that it is required by law. If the court decides it needs more time to consider the legal challenges, it could immediately order the report's release with only those parts that are in question shielded from view, lawyers for the news organizations wrote.

The court also should be consistent with practice in other grand jury matters and make public the filings and dockets in the case, with redactions if necessary, the news organizations wrote.

Victim advocates have said the report is expected to be the largest and most exhaustive such review by any state. The grand jury spent two years investigating allegations of child sex abuse in the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton, churches with some 1.7 million members.


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.


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