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EU court rejects Hungary, Slovakia appeal in refugee case
Court Center | 2017/09/05 22:48
The European Union's top court on Wednesday rejected legal action by Hungary and Slovakia to avoid accepting refugees under an EU scheme, a decision seen as a victory for countries bearing the greatest burden of Europe's migrant wave.

In a long-awaited ruling, the European Court of Justice said that it had "dismissed in its entirety the actions brought by Slovakia and Hungary."

EU countries agreed in September 2015 to relocate 160,000 refugees from Greece and Italy over two years, but only around 27,700 people have been moved so far. Hungary and Slovakia were seeking to have the legally binding move annulled.

Hungary and Poland have refused to take part in the scheme, while so far Slovakia has accepted only a handful of refugees from Greece.

The refugee scheme was adopted by the EU's "qualified majority" vote — around two thirds — and the ECJ held that this was appropriate, saying the EU "was not required to act unanimously" on this decision.

The court also noted that the small number of relocations so far is due to a series of factors that the EU could not really have foreseen, including "the lack of cooperation on the part of certain member states."

Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico said he respected the court decision, but that his government still does not like the relocation scheme, which some see as a system of quotas imposed on countries by unelected EU bureaucrats in Brussels.

"We fully respect the verdict of the European Court of Justice," Fico told reporters, adding that his country's negative stance on the relocation plan "has not changed at all."

Fico said the scheme was a temporary solution. He says he believes his country doesn't face any sanctions from the EU over its stance. EU officials say the relocation of eligible asylum-seekers in Greece and Italy will continue even after the scheme ends.



S. Indiana city's mayor defends rental ordinance in court
Court Center | 2017/09/04 01:58
The mayor of a southern Indiana city is defending a rental inspection ordinance that’s resulted in thousands of dollars in fines against property owners and is the subject of a lawsuit.

Charlestown Mayor Bob Hall testified during Friday’s daylong hearing in Scott County Circuit Court that the ordinance is needed to ensure safe housing in his Ohio River community.

The News and Tribune reported the Institute for Justice sued the city of Charlestown on behalf of residents in the Pleasant Ridge neighborhood.

The nonprofit law firm’s attorneys argued during Friday’s hearing that the city broke Indiana law when it fined property owners without first giving them “reasonable time” to make repairs to return to compliance.

The group wants to block Charlestown officials from enforcing the ordinance.



Court: DirecTV owes $15M to South Carolina in tax dispute
Court Center | 2017/09/02 08:59
A court has ruled that pay-television giant DirecTV owes South Carolina nearly $15 million because of the way the company calculates its tax bill in the state.

The Post and Courier of Charleston reports the South Carolina Court of Appeals found that DirecTV revised its returns to the Department of Revenue in a way that understated how much money it collected from customers in the state over several years. The decision issued Thursday upholds a lower court ruling from June 2015.

Taxes on more than $2 billion in South Carolina subscriber fees are at stake.

The California-based company, which was acquired by AT&T in 2015, could pay the money or appeal to the S.C. Supreme Court. A DirecTV spokeswoman says the company is reviewing the court decision.



Judge refuses to end Roman Polanski sex assault case
Court Center | 2017/08/16 23:51
A Los Angeles judge on Friday denied the impassioned plea of Roman Polanski's victim to end a four-decade-old sexual assault case against the fugitive director.
 
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon ruled that Polanski must return to California if he expects to resolve the charges. The Oscar winner fled the country on the eve of sentencing in 1978.

Gordon's ruling follows a request by Samantha Geimer to end the legal proceedings. The ruling was issued on Polanski's 84th birthday and blamed the director for the fact that the case was still alive.

"Her statement is dramatic evidence of the long-lasting and traumatic effect these crimes, and defendant's refusal to obey court orders and appear for sentencing, is having on her life," Gordon wrote.

Harland Braun, Polanski's attorney, said the ruling came after the judge asked for proposals on how to resolve the case.

Polanski pleaded guilty to having unlawful sex with Geimer when she was 13. She has said he drugged, raped and sodomized her.


Court: Violence law unfair to gay South Carolina couples
Court Center | 2017/07/29 14:05
People in same-sex relationships in South Carolina should get the same legal protections against domestic violence as heterosexual couples, the state's highest court ruled Wednesday, deeming a portion of the state's domestic violence law unconstitutional.

The court was asked to weigh in after a woman tried to get a protective order against her former fiancée, also a woman, and was denied.

Current law defines "household members" as a spouse, former spouse, people with a child in common, or men and women who are or have lived together. It does not include unmarried same-sex couples.

Acting Justice Costa Pleicones, who wrote the majority opinion, said during oral arguments in March 2016 that he felt the law was "pretty clearly unconstitutional in its discriminatory impact upon same-sex couples."

In his opinion, Pleicones pointed out lawmakers have over the years addressed the definition of "household members" as covered under domestic violence protections in 1994, amending the language from "persons" living together to "male and female." In 2015, during a massive overhaul of South Carolina's criminal domestic violence law, legislators made changes including increasing penalties for offenders but left the gender-based definition intact.

The U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection Clause, the court wrote, states, "No state shall ... deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws," such as a benefit offered to one class of person but not others.

"In this case, we cannot find a reasonable basis for providing protection to one set of domestic violence victims - unmarried, cohabiting or formerly cohabiting, opposite-sex couples - while denying it to others," the court wrote.

Other states have addressed this issue since the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 decision legalizing gay marriage nationwide. The Ohio Supreme Court in 2016 adopted the use of gender-neutral references in family court cases. California and Massachusetts proactively changed language in their laws.


Texas Executes TaiChin Preyor, Who Said Lawyer Used Wikipedia
Court Center | 2017/07/27 14:06
The state of Texas executed TaiChin Preyor on Thursday night after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a last-minute appeal.

Preyor, 46, was put to death by lethal injection at a state corrections unit in Huntsville in the fatal stabbing of Jami Tackett during a drug-related robbery in 2004, The Associated Press reported. He claimed he acted in self-defense but was convicted of capital murder.

Preyor had argued that a previous attorney collaborated with a disbarred lawyer, relied on Wikipedia and double-billed his family and the court.

The attorney who handled Preyor's initial appeal was a real-estate specialist from Beverly Hills, Calif., who partnered with a man who had been disbarred for incompetence 15 years earlier — without informing the court, Preyor said in his latest motions.

"The federal habeas petition the duo filed in the District Court was so facially inadequate that it subsequently became its own ironic meme, circulated among habeas attorneys as an example of what not to do," Preyor's eleventh-hour appeal argued.

The California attorney had never appeared in a case in Texas state court, and a 2014 printout in her files showed that she did not do research about the death penalty in Texas until it was too late.

"It appears she relied on Wikpedia, of all things, to learn the complex ins and outs of Texas capital-punishment law," the motion reads.

"Her files included a copy of the Wikipedia page titled, 'Capital punishment in Texas,' with a post-it note stating 'Research' next to highlighted passages of 'habeas corpus appeals' and 'subsequent or successive writ applications.'"

Preyor's mother paid the duo $45,000 for their services, but the lawyer also billed the court for representing Preyor, the motion said.

"Preyor cannot be bound by the acts of two incompetent charlatans," the new lawyers wrote in their Supreme Court petition. The previous attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

In its response to Preyor's appeal, the state said the inmate failed to show that what his ex-lawyer did "amounts to fraud on the court." The state also said Preyor had waited too long to make his claim, which was filed two weeks before his execution.


Vietnamese activist sentenced to 9 years in prison
Court Center | 2017/07/25 16:50
A Vietnamese court on Tuesday sentenced an activist to nine years in prison on charges of producing videos that defamed the country’s leadership, in the latest crackdown on dissent.

Tran Thi Nga was convicted of spreading propaganda against the state in the one-day trial at the People’s Court in Ha Nam province in northern Vietnam, her lawyer said.

Nga, 40, campaigned against environmental pollution, police brutality and illegal land confiscation, and called for a tougher stance toward China’s assertive territorial claims in the South China Sea.

The court also imposed five years of house arrest following her prison term, lawyer Ha Huy Son said.

“I think this is an unjust verdict,” Son said. “She did not commit the crime for which she was convicted by the court.”


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