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Court asked to stop suit against prosecutor in man's death
Court Center | 2017/11/23 03:08
A lawyer for Baltimore's top prosecutor asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to dismiss a lawsuit by five police officers who claim she maliciously prosecuted them in the death of a black man gravely injured in custody.

Assistant Attorney General Karl Pothier told the three-judge panel that as a prosecutor, Marilyn Mosby has immunity from the lawsuit filed by officers who were charged but later cleared in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray. Pothier urged the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a judge's decision to allow parts of the lawsuit to go to trial.

"A prosecutor's protective cloak of absolute immunity is not so easily removed," Pothier said.

Lawyers for the officers, however, said Mosby acted as an investigator — not simply as a prosecutor — and is therefore not immune from the lawsuit.

Gray, 25, died on April 19, 2015, from a fatal spinal injury suffered in a police van, prompting days of widespread protests and rioting. While tensions were still smoldering in Baltimore, Mosby charged six officers in Gray's arrest and death, an announcement that brought celebrations in the streets.

Three were ultimately acquitted and Mosby dropped the remaining cases.

On Wednesday, Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III grilled the officers' lawyers about why they should be allowed to sue Mosby for bringing criminal charges against them and holding a news conference to announce the charges.

"What we're talking about here is muzzling prosecutors who have publicly expressed grounds for prosecuting police officers," said Wilkinson, who repeatedly raised his voice while questioning the officers' lawyers.


'Dirty soda' Utah court battle ends with legal settlement
Court Center | 2017/11/05 02:50
Two Utah chains that sell flavor-shot-spiked "dirty sodas" have settled their court battle over the sugary concept that's grown increasingly profitable in a state where sugar is a common vice, according to court documents filed Tuesday.

Soda shops Sodalicious and Swig will pay their own expenses, court papers said. The documents offer no details of the settlement terms and attorneys for the two sides did not return messages seeking comment.

Swig had accused competitor Sodalicious of copying the trademarked "dirty" idea, down to the frosted sugar cookies sold alongside the sweet drinks spiked with flavor shots, fruit purees and cream.

Both shops are known for their soda mixology. Swig's concoctions include the Tiny Turtle, which is Sprite spiked with green apple and banana flavors.

Swig sued in 2015 for damages and an order blocking Sodalicious from using words and signs similar to theirs. A trial had been set for this week, but it was on hold during settlement negotiations.

Sodalicious fought back, saying dirty is a longtime moniker for martinis and other drinks. They said tongue-in-cheek nicknames for concoctions like "Second Wife" make their business distinctly different.

Other sodas on their menu include the Rocky Mountain High, made with cherry and coconut added to Coke.

The court fight unfolded as the sweet drinks grew increasingly popular and profitable in a majority-Mormon state where sugar is a popular indulgence.

Both shops have more than a dozen locations across Utah, and have also expanded into the suburbs of Phoenix.


Brazilian court revives case against Olympian Ryan Lochte
Court Center | 2017/10/29 14:02
Over the summer, it appeared Ryan Lochte had been cleared of criminal charges in Brazil after he was accused of fabricating a story about getting robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro during the 2016 Olympics. On Friday, a decision made by an appeals court that originally ruled the case should be dismissed was reversed, according to USA Today, which cited Brazilian newspaper O Globo. The ruling came after Rio's prosecutor's office filed its own appeal.

"I'm disappointed that they're trying to take another shot at it," Lochte's attorney Jeff Ostrow told USA Today. "I think they should just let it die because they lost and because he didn't do anything wrong. But for whatever reason, they want to try to save face and continue this charade, let them do what they gotta do and we'll continue to fight it because we believe we're right."

Ostrow said he will now attempt to halt further proceedings by filing his own legal motion. If the case continues, Lochte could once again be facing a sentence of one to six months in jail should he be convicted of a misdemeanor offense of fabrication, although he would be unlikely to serve it. The reason, according to CNBC, is that Lochte would need to be extradited to Brazil, which would require U.S. cooperation. Under agreed upon terms with Brazil, extradition only applies in the case of more serious offenses, such as murder or rape.

Lochte's alleged offense was making up a tale inspired by a confrontation between him and three other U.S. swimmers and security at a gas station. After the incident, Lochte embarked on a media tour telling the world he was robbed at gunpoint by criminals posing as Rio police. With Rio authorities trying to downplay the city's crime rate, however, Lochte's allegations sparked an investigation. Eventually security camera footage revealed Lochte's story was untrue.


Indiana courts see changes with new e-filing system
Court Center | 2017/10/14 13:58
Electronic filing is transforming the way Indiana's judicial system works.

Fifty-five of the state's 92 counties have adopted mandatory electronic filing for most new criminal and civil lawsuits over the past 15 months, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported. The state's appellate division has also adopted the electronic system.

The Supreme Court's Office of Court Technology says more than 2.1 million documents have been electronically filed in the state since July 1, 2016.

E-filing makes judges and lawyers more efficient and improves court services for Indiana residents, said Justice Steven David. Non-confidential court documents are also available online.

E-filing has been adopted quickly through the state because may counties are using the same case management system called Odyssey, said Justice Mark Massa.

The system is paid for by a $20 automated record keeping fee that's attached to every case filed in Indiana court.

"It's the best deal for counties," Massa said. "It carries with it state funding of that technology and that support, and we're getting closer and closer to that complete statewide coverage with each passing year."

The system also allows the judicial branch to generate comprehensive data about crimes, courts, dispositions, children in need of services, protection orders and other information that the legislative and executive branches need when enacting new laws, David said.

"In the old days, you might get data from one court and try to extrapolate, or determine if that court is representative of the rest of the state or not, and that's no longer the case," David said.



Elliott's fast start fades with Cowboys as court looms again
Court Center | 2017/09/30 13:57
Ezekiel Elliott pretended to wipe his face with a towel following his signature "feed me" gesture to celebrate his first touchdown.

The star Dallas running back got to hand the ball to his mother twice on his second score after the original TD ruling was reversed, with his mom kissing his facemask on the exchange that counted from her spot on the front row of a field-level box behind the end zone.

Those happy moments were gone after a 35-30 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, the day before a federal appeals court hearing that could result in the lifting of an injunction that is allowing Elliott to play as he fights the NFL's six-game suspension stemming from a domestic case in Ohio.

Elliott said he wasn't sure if he would attend Monday's arguments before the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. If the three-judge panel moves quickly and grants the NFL's emergency request to overrule a Texas judge's injunction, he could be sitting as early as next weekend at home against Green Bay.

"I'm not talking about it," Elliott said when asked how the looming hearing might affect his upcoming week.

In the first half against the Rams (3-1), it sure looked as if Elliott would have plenty of reasons to smile despite the looming hearing. He had a 10-yard scoring catch and a 1-yard plunge after the initial sprint for the pylon from the 2 was called a score and overruled on replay.

Last year's NFL rushing leader had 56 yards at halftime and another 41 yards receiving. The Cowboys led 24-16 and had scored on all four possessions.


Court asked to dismiss cases tied to ex-drug lab chemist
Court Center | 2017/09/22 09:04
A petition is asking the highest court in Massachusetts to dismiss every case connected to a former state chemist who authorities say was high almost every day she went to work at a state drug lab for eight years.

The state's public defender agency is a party to the petition filed Wednesday before the Supreme Judicial Court by two women whose drug possession convictions are tied to evidence handled by chemist Sonja Farak.

Farak pleaded guilty in 2014 to stealing cocaine from the state crime lab at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She worked at the lab between 2005 and 2013.

The women say the state failed to notify them of Farak's misconduct even after her conviction, depriving them of the opportunity to challenge their convictions.



Trump nominates White House lawyer to important court seat
Court Center | 2017/09/08 06:39
President Donald Trump has tapped one of his own White House attorneys for a judgeship on one of the most important federal appeals courts, opening the door for confirmation hearing questions about the legal controversies that dominated the first seven months of Trump's presidency.

Gregory Katsas was nominated Thursday to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Katsas, the deputy White House counsel, was a former Justice Department official under President George W. Bush. A biography on the White House's website says he has argued more than 75 appeals, including the constitutional challenge to President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act before the Supreme Court.

He would replace the libertarian-leaning Judge Janice Rogers Brown, who retired this summer. The court is influential, in part because of its role in adjudicating many of the orders and laws put forth by the administration. It is sometimes called America's second highest court because it can be a stepping stone to the Supreme Court just a few blocks away.

Katsas, once a law clerk to Justice Thomas, has served in high-ranking Justice Department roles, including as head of the civil division that has responsibility for defending the administration's policies against court challenges. He is part of the steady stream of Jones Day law firm partners who have flowed into the Trump administration, including White House counsel Don McGahn.

So many Jones Day attorneys work in the White House that the counsel's office issued a blanket ethics waiver for them so that they can maintain contact with their former colleagues without running afoul of ethics provisions. The firm's lawyers continue to represent members of the Trump campaign outside the White House.


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