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European court: Russia's arrests of Navalny were political
Court Center | 2018/11/13 15:05
The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that Russian authorities' arrests of opposition leader Alexei Navalny were politically motivated, a decision that deals a blow to the Kremlin's dismissal of Navalny as a mere troublemaker.

Navalny hailed the ruling as an example of "genuine justice" and said it is an important signal for many people in Russia who face arbitrary detentions for their political activities.

The court's highest chamber found that Russian authorities violated multiple human rights in detaining Navalny seven times from 2012 to 2014, and that two of the arrests were expressly aimed at "suppressing political pluralism."

It ordered Russia to pay Navalny 63,000 euros ($71,000) in damages, and called on Russia to fix legislation to "take due regard of the fundamental importance of the right to peaceful assembly."

The ruling is final and binding on Russia as a member of the Council of Europe, the continent's human rights watchdog.

"I'm very pleased with this ruling — this is genuine justice," Navalny told reporters after the hearing. "This ruling is very important not only for me but also for many people in Russia who face similar arrests on a daily basis."

Russia is obliged to carry out the court's rulings, which enforce the European Convention on Human Rights , but it has delayed implementing past rulings from the court and argued against them as encroaching on Russian judicial sovereignty.

Navalny told reporters that he expects the Russian government to ignore this ruling and dismiss it on political grounds.

Navalny, arguably Russian President Vladimir Putin's most serious foe, has been convicted of fraud in two separate trials that have been widely viewed as political retribution for his investigations of official corruption and his leading role in staging anti-government protests.


Ginsburg, 85, hospitalized after fracturing 3 ribs in fall
Court Center | 2018/11/08 13:10
Eighty-five-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fractured three ribs in a fall in her office at the court and is in the hospital, the court said Thursday.

The court’s oldest justice fell Wednesday evening, the court said. She called Supreme Court police to take her to George Washington University Hospital in Washington early Thursday after experiencing discomfort overnight, court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said.

She was admitted to the hospital for treatment and observation after tests showed she fractured three ribs.

In her absence, the court went ahead Thursday with a courtroom ceremony welcoming new Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who joined the court last month. President Donald Trump and new acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker were on hand.

Ginsburg has had a series of health problems. She broke two ribs in a fall in 2012. She has had two prior bouts with cancer and had a stent implanted to open a blocked artery in 2014. She also was hospitalized after a bad reaction to medicine in 2009.

But she has never missed Supreme Court arguments. The court won’t hear arguments again until Nov. 26.

Rib fractures are common among older adults, particularly after falls. The severity depends in part on whether the ribs are cracked or broken all the way through, and how many are broken. The extent of Ginsburg’s injury was not clear.

A complete break requires making sure the two ends are in alignment, so that a sharp piece of bone doesn’t puncture nearby blood vessels or organs. Broken ribs typically heal on their own in six weeks to a month, and patients are advised to limit strenuous activity. But they can be very painful and controlling pain is key. A chief complication is pneumonia, when patients don’t breathe deeply enough or cough enough because of the rib pain.

Appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993, Ginsburg rebuffed suggestions from some liberals that she should step down in the first two years of President Barack Obama’s second term, when Democrats also controlled the Senate and would have been likely to confirm her successor.

She already has hired clerks for the term that extends into 2020, indicating she has no plans to retire. Ginsburg leads the court’s liberal wing.


Supreme Court agrees to hear Maryland cross memorial case
Court Center | 2018/11/05 06:34
The Supreme Court agreed Friday to hear a case about whether a nearly 100-year-old, cross-shaped war memorial located on a Maryland highway median violates the Constitution's required separation of church and state, a case that could impact hundreds of similar monuments nationwide.

A federal appeals court in Virginia had previously ruled against the approximately four-story-tall cross. The judges said that it "has the primary effect of endorsing religion and excessively entangles the government in religion."

But the Maryland officials who maintain the memorial told the Supreme Court that the monument's context and history show it is intended to convey a secular message of remembrance, not a religious message. They said the appeals court's decision would "compel the removal or dismemberment of a cherished war memorial that has served as a site of solemn commemoration and civic unity for nearly a century." In urging the high court to take the case, officials argued that the lower court's decision puts at risk hundreds of other monuments nationwide.

The approximately 40-foot-tall cross at the center of the case is located in Bladensburg, Maryland, about 5 miles from the Supreme Court. Sometimes called the "Peace Cross," it was completed in 1925, and it honors 49 men from the surrounding county who died in World War I. A plaque on the cross' base lists the names of those soldiers, and both faces of the cross have a circle with the symbol of the American Legion, the veterans organization that helped raise money to build it.

Today, responsibility for the cross falls to a Maryland parks commission that took over ownership and maintenance of it in 1961 because of traffic safety concerns. The massive concrete structure could be dangerous to motorists if it were to fall or crumble.


Supreme Court hopeful had DWI charge in 2009
Court Center | 2018/10/21 11:38
A candidate for the North Carolina Supreme Court pleaded guilty more than nine years ago to trespassing and driving while impaired.

The Charlotte Observer reports Republican Chris Anglin was stopped by police in Greensboro in January 2009 and charged after he registered a blood-alcohol level of 0.14, nearly twice the legal limit. The following September, he pleaded guilty.

That December, Anglin was charged with attempted breaking and entering and pleaded guilty to second-degree trespassing. On Wednesday, he attributed both cases to struggles with alcohol in his 20s.

Both incidents happened while Anglin was a student at Elon University School of Law. He said that in 2010, he sought help for his drinking problem with a lawyer-assistance program. He said he's since gotten sober.

Anglin criticized N.C. Republican Party Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse for emailing Anglin's arrest records to a listserv the GOP maintains. Anglin has feuded with the GOP since he switched party affiliation and entered the Supreme Court race.

Woodhouse has previously said Anglin "will be treated like the enemy he is," and Anglin said the GOP is acting desperate "by sending something out that occurred almost a decade ago."

Republicans have described Anglin as a Democratic plant in the race and Woodhouse said as much Wednesday, writing that "Democrats had one of their own with a very questionable background pretend to be a Republican, so they could try and fool the voters."

Republican legislators responded earlier this summer to Anglin's campaign by passing a law, which was later overturned as unconstitutional, that would have banned Anglin from listing his Republican Party on the ballot even though his opponents could list their parties.

Anglin is one of three candidates seeking a place on the court. The other candidates are Barbara Jackson, a Republican who's seeking re-election, and Anita Earls, a Democrat and longtime civil rights lawyer.


Supreme Court wrestles with case on detention of immigrants
Court Center | 2018/10/10 01:10
The Supreme Court wrestled Wednesday with a case about the government’s ability to detain certain immigrants after they’ve served sentences for committing crimes in the United States. Several justices expressed concerns with the government’s reading of immigration law.

Justice Stephen Breyer seemed perhaps the most sympathetic to the arguments of immigrants in the case. The immigrants, mostly green-card holders, say they should get hearings where they can argue for their release while deportation proceedings against them are ongoing. Breyer noted that the United States “gives every triple ax murderer a bail hearing.”

While members of the court’s conservative majority seemed more inclined than its liberal members to back the government, both of President Donald Trump’s appointees asked questions that made it less clear how they might ultimately rule.

The issue in the case before the justices has to do with the detention of noncitizens who have committed a broad range of crimes that make them deportable. Immigration law tells the government to pick those people up when they are released from federal or state prisons and jails and then hold them without bond hearings while an immigration court decides whether they should be deported.

But those affected by the law aren’t always picked up immediately and are sometimes not detained until years later. They argue that unless they’re picked up essentially within a day of being released, they’re entitled to a hearing where they can argue that they aren’t a danger to the community and are not likely to flee. If a judge agrees, they can stay out of custody while their deportation case goes forward. That’s the same hearing rule that applies to other noncitizens the government is trying to deport.

The Trump administration argues, as the Obama administration did, against hearings for those convicted of crimes and affected by the law. The government reads immigration law to say that detention is mandatory for those people regardless of when they are picked up.

Sounding sympathetic to the immigrants’ arguments, Breyer asked a lawyer arguing for the government whether he thought “a person 50 years later, who is on his death bed, after stealing some bus transfers” is still subject to mandatory detention without a hearing. But Breyer also seemed to suggest that the government might be able to hold noncitizens without bond hearings if they were picked up more than a day after leaving custody, maybe up to six months.



Supreme Court could limit execution of people with dementia
Court Center | 2018/10/04 06:24
The Supreme Court appeared willing Tuesday to extend protection from capital punishment to people with dementia who can't recall their crime or understand the circumstances of their execution.

The eight justices heard arguments in the case of Alabama death row inmate Vernon Madison, who killed a police officer in 1985 but has suffered strokes that his lawyers say have left him with severe dementia.

The high court has previously said the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment means that people who are insane, delusional or psychotic cannot be executed.

A ruling for Madison probably would mean a new hearing in state court over whether his condition renders him ineligible for execution.

Chief Justice John Roberts and the court's four liberal justices seemed most willing to rule for Madison. The other three justices, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas, are unlikely to side with Madison because they voted to allow his execution to proceed when their colleagues blocked it in January, setting up the current case.

In a reflection of the changed dynamics on the court, Roberts' vote would appear to be decisive since a 4-4 split would leave in place a state court ruling against Madison and allow Alabama to try again to execute him. The high court is down one justice, following Anthony Kennedy's retirement in July and a delay in a vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh so that the FBI can investigate allegations against him of sexual misconduct.

Kennedy had been the conservative justice most likely to vote with the liberals on death penalty cases. The court agreed to hear the appeal while Kennedy was on the bench. He had been a key voice in limiting capital punishment, having voted to bar the execution of people under 18, the intellectually disabled and those who lack a rational understanding of why they are to be put to death.



Kavanaugh's support for surveilling Americans raises concern
Court Center | 2018/09/01 13:51
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has frequently supported giving the U.S. government wide latitude in the name of national security, including the secret collection of personal data from Americans.

It's a subject Democrats plan to grill Kavanaugh about during his confirmation hearings scheduled to begin next Tuesday. Beyond his writings as an appeals court judge, some senators suspect Kavanaugh was more involved in crafting counterterrorism policies during the George W. Bush administration than he has let on.

Kavanaugh stated in past congressional testimony that he wasn't involved in such provocative matters as warrantless surveillance and the treatment of enemy combatants in the years immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

But legal experts say he could shift the court on national security issues, if he is confirmed to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Stephen Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor whose expertise includes national security and counterterrorism, cites opinions he says show Kavanaugh "is a lot less willing (than Kennedy) to look at international law as a relevant source of authority and constraint." He said on matters such as Guantanamo detention, Kavanaugh is "much more deferential to the executive branch in this context than Kennedy would have been."

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, calls Kavanaugh "incredibly well-qualified." The former U.S. trade representative and White House budget director knows Kavanaugh from their time together in the Bush administration. He said Kavanaugh "believes strongly in the Constitution" and the Bill of Rights.

"I think he's in the mainstream with regard to these issues, and frankly, I don't think it's a difference with any meaning between where he is and where the court is currently," Portman said.

Democrats facing an uphill battle in blocking Kavanaugh's nomination have focused less on his judicial counterterrorism record than whether he misled senators about his role in Bush policies while testifying in 2006 confirmation hearings.

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin and Vermont Sen. Pat Leahy are among Democrats who want to see more records from Kavanaugh's White House days, saying news media accounts after he was seated on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia raised new questions. White House spokesman Raj Shah said Durbin has been doing the misleading by taking Kavanaugh's answers out of context.


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