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South Africa's Zuma must wait 3 months for court decision
Court Center | 2019/05/24 05:14
Former South African president Jacob Zuma will hear in three months' time whether corruption, racketeering and money laundering charges against him might be dropped.

Pietermaritzburg High Court judges have reserved judgment on his application for a permanent stay of prosecution. No date was announced.

Zuma was president from 2009 until 2018, when his ruling African National Congress party forced him to resign amid persistent corruption allegations. The scandal was seen as damaging the reputation of the ANC, which has been in power since the end of the harsh system of apartheid in 1994.

Public frustration over government corruption contributed to the ANC's weakest-ever election showing earlier this month, and current President Cyril Ramaphosa has apologized and vowed to crack down .

The scandals also have damaged confidence in South Africa's economy, the most developed in sub-Saharan Africa.

Zuma is accused of receiving bribes related to a 1999 arms deal. The charges were raised more than a decade ago and later withdrawn, then reinstated after a court ruled there were sufficient grounds to bring him to trial.


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.


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