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Idaho Supreme Court upholds grocery tax veto
Court Center | 2017/07/21 04:53
The Idaho Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's contentious veto of legislation repealing the state's 6 percent sales tax on groceries.

The high court's decision comes after 30 state lawmakers filed a lawsuit claiming Otter took too long to veto the grocery tax repeal because he waited longer than 10 days as outlined in the Idaho Constitution.

Otter, along with other top elected officials, countered he was just following a 1978 high court ruling that said the veto deadline only kicks after it lands on his desk. The lawsuit originally singled out Secretary of State Lawerence Denney because he verified the governor's veto. Otter was later named in the challenge at the Republican governor's request because he argued that it was his veto that sparked the lawsuit.

However, the justices disagreed with Otter. Nestled inside their 21-page ruling, the court overruled the previous 1978 decision — a rare move inside the courts due to a preference to follow prior judicial precedent— because they argued the Constitution clearly states the deadline starts when the Legislature adjourns for the year. That part of the Tuesday's decision will only apply to future legislative sessions and not the grocery tax repeal case nor any other prior vetoes.

"The 1978 decision did not interpret the Constitution; it purported to rewrite an unambiguous phrase in order to obtain a desired result," the justices wrote.

Otter's spokesman did not respond to request for comment, though Otter is currently hospitalized recovering from back surgery and an infection. Denney's office also did not return request for comment.

For many Idahoans, Tuesday's ruling won't result in changes at the grocery checkout line. They will continue paying the tax and the state won't be at risk of losing the tax revenue, which helps pay for public schools and transportation projects. Instead, it's the Idaho Legislature that will face dramatic changes when handling bills at the end of each session.



EU closer to sanctions on Poland over changes in judiciary
Court Center | 2017/07/19 11:54
The European Union is coming closer to imposing sanctions on Poland for the government's attempt to take control over the judiciary, a senior official warned Wednesday, but he said the bloc was still open to dialogue.

European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans spoke Wednesday in Brussels, shortly after Poland's lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to send a contentious draft law that would reorganize the nation's top Supreme Court for more work by a special parliamentary commission.

Timmermans said that the EU was closer to triggering Article 7 against Poland because its recent steps toward the judiciary "greatly amplify the threat to the rule of law" and threaten putting the judiciary "under full political control of the government." But he said that dialogue between the EU and Poland should continue while the legislation is being worked on.

The EU's Article 7 allows the bloc to strip a nation of its voting rights. Article 7 was envisioned to ensure democratic standards in EU members. It requires unanimity among all other member states.

The vote in Poland's parliament, which is dominated by the ruling Law and Justice party, was preceded by a heated debate and street protests. It was the latest in a string of conflicts over the policies of the conservative party, which won power in a 2015 election. The government is also under strong criticism from other EU leaders.

Lawmakers voted 434-6 with one abstention for the commission for justice and human rights to review and issue its opinion on the draft law, which gives politicians, not lawyers, the power over appointments to the Supreme Court and reorganizes its structure.

The head of the commission, Stanislaw Piotrowicz, said it wasn't clear when the commission would convene and when its opinion would be known. He said the number of amendments proposed by the opposition was aimed at obstructing its work.

In a heated debate Tuesday, the opposition proposed more than 1,000 amendments to the draft, which, it says, kills judicial independence and destroys the democratic principle of the separation of the judiciary from the executive power.


Pakistan's opposition calls on court to oust prime minister
Court Center | 2017/07/16 11:54
Opposition parties in Pakistan on Monday called on the Supreme Court to remove Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from office after an investigation found that he and his family possess wealth exceeding their known sources of income.

The investigation is linked to the mass leak of documents from a Panama-based law firm in 2016, which revealed that Sharif and his family have offshore accounts.

Naeem Bukhari, a lawyer for opposition leader Imran Khan, submitted the request to the court. The court has the constitutional power to disqualify someone from serving as prime minister, and is expected to rule in the coming weeks.

The Sharifs have denied any wrongdoing. Their attorney, Khawaja Haris, argued Monday that the probe was flawed. The court will resume hearing the case Tuesday.



Rob Kardashian's ex-fiancee arrives at court for hearing
Court Center | 2017/07/12 02:39
Rob Kardashian's former fiancée Blac Chyna has arrived at a Los Angeles courthouse to seek a restraining order against the reality television star.

Chyna and her attorney Lisa Bloom walked into the downtown Los Angeles courthouse Monday morning without speaking to reporters.

Bloom has accused Kardashian of cyber bullying over a series of lurid Instagram posts he made last week. The posts got Kardashian's Instagram account shut down, but he continued his attacks on Twitter. The posts became a worldwide trending topic

Kardashian and Chyna announced their engagement in April 2016 and starred in an E! reality show about their relationship. The couple split up a month later. Their daughter, Dream, was born last November.


Relatives of Slain US Troops Describe Loss to Jordan Court
Court Center | 2017/07/11 09:39
Relatives of two of the three U.S. military trainers shot dead at the gate of a Jordanian air base last year have described the pain of their loss to a military court trying the alleged killer.

The family members attended a court hearing in Jordan's capital Monday and will remain until the verdict, expected next week.

A Jordanian soldier charged with murder in the shootings faces life in prison if convicted.

The soldier, who allegedly opened deadly fire on U.S. troops at the gate, has pleaded "not guilty." The judge has said he has no ties to terrorist groups.

The defense attorney said his client fired because he feared the base was under attack The prosecutor said the defendant acted with intent, having fired dozens of rounds over several minutes.



First Opioid Court in the U.S. Focuses on Keeping Users Alive
Court Center | 2017/07/10 09:39
After three defendants fatally overdosed in a single week last year, it became clear that Buffalo's ordinary drug treatment court was no match for the heroin and painkiller crisis.

Now the city is experimenting with the nation's first opioid crisis intervention court, which can get users into treatment within hours of their arrest instead of days, requires them to check in with a judge every day for a month instead of once a week, and puts them on strict curfews. Administering justice takes a back seat to the overarching goal of simply keeping defendants alive.

"The idea behind it," said court project director Jeffrey Smith, "is only about how many people are still breathing each day when we're finished."

Funded with a three-year $300,000 U.S. Justice Department grant, the program began May 1 with the intent of treating 200 people in a year and providing a model that other heroin-wracked cities can replicate.

Two months in, organizers are optimistic. As of late last week, none of the 80 people who agreed to the program had overdosed, though about 10 warrants had been issued for missed appearances.

Buffalo-area health officials blamed 300 deaths on opioid overdoses in 2016, up from 127 two years earlier. That includes a young couple who did not make it to their second drug court appearance last spring. The woman's father arrived instead to tell the judge his daughter and her boyfriend had died the night before.

"We have an epidemic on our hands. ... We've got to start thinking outside the box here," said Erie County District Attorney John Flynn. "And if that means coddling an individual who has a minor offense, who is not a career criminal, who's got a serious drug problem, then I'm guilty of coddling."

Regular drug treatment courts that emerged in response to crack cocaine in the 1980s take people in after they've been arraigned and in some cases released. The toll of opioids and profile of their users, some of them hooked by legitimate prescriptions, called for more drastic measures.

Acceptance into opioid crisis court means detox, inpatient or outpatient care, 8 p.m. curfews, and at least 30 consecutive days of in-person meetings with the judge. A typical drug treatment court might require such appearances once a week or even once a month.


Attention on Supreme Court as justice weigh Trump travel ban
Court Center | 2017/06/26 22:49
The focus is on the Supreme Court as the high-stakes legal fight over President Donald Trump's travel ban awaits action by the justices.

The court is expected to decide within days whether the Trump administration can enforce a ban on visitors to the U.S. from six mostly Muslim countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Trump rolled out a travel ban just a week after his Jan. 20 inauguration, but lower federal courts have blocked it and a revised version — and one court also has blocked a 120-day halt on refugee arrivals in the United States.

The president casts the travel ban as critical to deterring possible terrorist attacks in the United States. Opponents say it targets Muslims in violation of federal law and the Constitution.


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