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High court nixes Alex Jones’ appeal in Newtown shooting case
Headline News | 2021/04/05 03:25
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal by Infowars host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who was fighting a Connecticut court sanction in a defamation lawsuit brought by relatives of some of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Jones was penalized in 2019 by a trial court judge for an angry outburst on his web show against an attorney for the relatives and for violating numerous orders to turn over documents to the families’ lawyers. Judge Barbara Bellis barred Jones from filing a motion to dismiss the case, which remains pending, and said she would order Jones to pay some of the families’ legal fees.

Jones argued he should not have been sanctioned for exercising his free speech rights. The Connecticut Supreme Court upheld Bellis’ ruling last year.

The families and an FBI agent who responded to the shooting, which left 20 first-graders and six educators dead, are suing Jones and his show over claims that the massacre was a hoax. The families said they have been subjected to harassment and death threats from Jones’ followers because of the hoax conspiracy.

Jones, whose show is based in Austin, Texas, has since said he believes the shooting occurred.

The U.S. Supreme Court turned down Jones’ request to hear his appeal without comment.

Jones’ attorney, Norman Pattis, called the court’s decision “a disappointment.”

“Judge Bellis, and the Connecticut Supreme Court, asserted frightening and standardless power over the extrajudicial statements of litigants,” Pattis said in an email to The Associated Press. “Mr. Jones never threatened anyone; had he done so, he would have been charged with a crime. We are inching our way case-by-case toward a toothless, politically correct, First Amendment.”

Joshua Koskoff, a lawyer for the Sandy Hook families, said Jones deserved to be sanctioned for his threatening comments on his show.

“The families are eager to resume their case and to hold Mr. Jones and his financial network accountable for their actions,” Koskoff said in a statement. “From the beginning, our goal has been to prevent future victims of mass shootings from being preyed on by opportunists.”

The sanction came after Jones, on Infowars in 2019, accused an attorney for the families, Christopher Mattei, of planting child pornography that was found in email metadata files that Jones turned over to the Sandy Hook families’ lawyers. Pattis has said the pornography was in emails sent to Jones that were never opened.


Philippine Supreme Court slams killings of lawyers, judges
Headline News | 2021/03/23 22:05
The Philippine Supreme Court on Tuesday condemned the alarming number of killings and threats against lawyers and judges. One legal group has said these attacks are considerably higher under President Rodrigo Duterte compared to the past 50 years under six former presidents.

The 15-member high court asked lower courts, law enforcement agencies and lawyers and judges’ groups to provide information about such attacks in the last 10 years, in order for the court to take preemptive steps. The attacks, it said, endanger the rule of law in an Asian bastion of democracy.

“To threaten our judges and our lawyers is no less than an assault on the judiciary. To assault the judiciary is to shake the very bedrock on which the rule of law stands,” the high court said in a rare, strongly-worded censure of the attacks. “This cannot be allowed in a civilized society like ours.”

The court said it would not “tolerate such acts that only perverse justice, defeat the rule of law, undermine the most basic of constitutional principles and speculate on the worth of human lives.”

The Free Legal Assistance Group, a prominent group of lawyers, said at least 61 lawyers have been killed in the five years of Duterte’s presidency compared to at least 25 lawyers and judges slain under six presidents since 1972, when dictator Ferdinand Marcos placed the Philippines under martial law.

Lawyers’ groups said the court’s denunciation was long overdue but nevertheless welcomed it. “We have been sounding out the clarion call and providing information and concrete recommendations for the longest time,” said lawyer Edre Olalia, who heads the left-wing National Union of People’s Lawyers.

A number of lawyers who represented suspected drug dealers or were linked to the illegal drug trade were among those gunned down under Duterte’s rule. When he took office in mid-2016, Duterte launched a massive anti-drug crackdown that has left more than 6,000 mostly petty suspects dead and alarmed Western governments and human rights groups.



Court upholds Iowa man’s civil judgment in mother’s death
Headline News | 2021/03/19 22:21
There was enough evidence for a jury to conclude in a wrongful death lawsuit that an Iowa man shot and killed his mother, the state Supreme Court ruled Friday, leaving in place the jury’s $10 million award even though the man was eventually acquitted on criminal charges in her death.

The court denied Jason Carter’s appeal of the civil judgment, in which a jury found him responsible for the June 2015 shooting of his mother, Shirley Carter, at her home near Knoxville.

Jason Carter, of Knoxville, and his father, Bill Carter, have been locked in legal disputes since Shirley Carter’s death.

Bill Carter filed the lawsuit on behalf of his late wife’s estate and another son, Billy Dean Carter, in 2016. A jury found Jason Carter liable and awarded a $10 million judgment to be paid to his father and mother’s estate.

Jason Carter was charged with first-degree murder in his mother’s death, but a jury acquitted him in March 2019.

In his appeal of the civil judgment, Jason Carter claimed the judge had wrongly denied his motions to delay the civil trial, saying it should have been postponed because authorities were still investigating his mother’s death and hadn’t charged him yet. But the high court concluded in a decision written by Chief Justice Susan Christensen that “there is no rule requiring trial courts to stay civil proceedings until criminal proceedings conclude.”

Carter also disputed the civil trial judge’s decisions on subpoenas and motions to set aside the jury verdict. His motions were based in part on evidence that had surfaced in which witnesses claimed the shooting was a botched attempt by other people to steal prescription medication from Shirley and Bill Carters’ home. Jason Carter claimed such evidence may have helped him cast doubt on his liability in the civil case.

“We conclude that when viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, a reasonable mind could conclude by a preponderance of the evidence that Jason intentionally shot his mother,” Christensen wrote.

Jason Carter’s lawyer, Alison Kanne, said she and her client disagree with the court’s decision and “we remain satisfied with the fact that Jason Carter was conclusively deemed not guilty by a jury of his peers who had all of the information in front of them, which is something the civil jury did not have.”

Bill Carter’s lawyer, Mark Weinhardt, said they were reviewing the decision and would comment later. In his closing argument before the high court, Weinhardt said Bill Carter was seeking at least some measure of justice for his wife.



European court rejects case vs Germany over Afghan airstrike
Headline News | 2021/02/16 19:10
The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday rejected a complaint against Germany’s refusal to prosecute an officer who ordered the deadly bombing in 2009 of two fuel tankers in northern Afghanistan.

Scores of people died when U.S. Air Force jets bombed the tankers hijacked by the Taliban near Kunduz. The strike was ordered by the commander of the German base in Kunduz, Col. Georg Klein, who feared insurgents could use the trucks to carry out attacks.

Contrary to the intelligence Klein based his decision on, most of those swarming the trucks were local civilians invited by the Taliban to siphon fuel from the vehicles after they had become stuck in a riverbed.

An Afghan man who lost two sons aged 8 and 12 in the airstrike, Abdul Hanan, took the case to the European Court of Human Rights after German authorities declined to prosecute Klein. He alleged that Germany failed to conduct an effective investigation and that no “effective domestic remedy” to that had been available in Germany.

The Strasbourg, France-based court rejected the complaints. It found that German federal prosecutors were “able to rely on a considerable amount of material concerning the circumstances and the impact of the airstrike.”

It also noted that courts including Germany’s highest, the Federal Constitutional Court, rejected cases by Hanan. And it added that a parliamentary commission of inquiry “had ensured a high level of public scrutiny of the case.”

Wolfgang Kaleck, the head of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights who provided legal support to Hanan, said the verdict was a disappointment for the plaintiff and his fellow villagers, but noted that judges had made clear that governments have a duty to at least investigate such cases.



More protests called in Moscow to demand Navalny’s release
Headline News | 2021/02/02 23:02
Moscow braced for more protests seeking the release of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who faces a court hearing Tuesday after two weekends of nationwide rallies and thousands of arrests in the largest outpouring of discontent in Russia in years.

Tens of thousands filled the streets across the vast country Sunday, chanting slogans against President Vladimir Putin and demanding freedom for Navalny, who was jailed last month and faces years in prison. Over 5,400 protesters were detained by authorities, according to a human rights group.

One of those taken into custody for several hours was Navalny’s wife, Yulia, who was ordered Monday to pay a fine of about $265 for participating in an unauthorized rally.

While state-run media dismissed the demonstrations as small and claimed that they showed the failure of the opposition, Navalny’s team said the turnout demonstrated “overwhelming nationwide support” for the Kremlin’s fiercest critic. His allies called for protesters to come to the Moscow courthouse on Tuesday.

“Without your help, we won’t be able to resist the lawlessness of the authorities,” his politician’s team said in a social media post.

Mass protests engulfed dozens of Russian cities for the second weekend in a row despite efforts by authorities to stifle the unrest triggered by the jailing of 44-year-old Navalny.

He was arrested Jan. 17 upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Russian authorities reject the accusation. He faces a prison term for alleged probation violations from a 2014 money-laundering conviction that is widely seen as politically motivated.

Last month, Russia’s prison service filed a motion to replace his 3 1/2-year suspended sentence from the conviction with one he must serve. The Prosecutor General’s office backed the motion Monday, alleging Navalny engaged in “unlawful conduct” during the probation period.


US Supreme Court won’t take up Sheldon Silver’s case
Headline News | 2021/01/26 21:17
The Supreme Court declined Monday to take up the case of former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who is serving a 6 1/2-year prison sentence after being convicted in a corruption case.

The high court’s decision not to hear Silver’s appeal is another sharp blow to the Manhattan Democrat, who was once one of the three most powerful state officials.

Silver was ousted as speaker in 2015 and was convicted later that year. His original conviction was overturned on appeal, but he was convicted again in 2018. Part of that conviction was then tossed out on another appeal, leading to yet another sentencing in July. Silver, 76, began serving his sentence in August.

In the part of the case that survived the appeal process, Silver was convicted in a scheme that involved favors and business traded between two real estate developers and a law firm. Silver supported legislation that benefited the developers. The developers then referred certain tax business to a law firm that paid Silver fees.

Two justices, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas, said they would have heard Silver’s case.

Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that President Donald Trump was considering clemency for Silver, but ultimately no pardon or sentence reduction was granted.

Silver has been serving time at the federal prison in Otisville, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) from New York City.

Before his conviction, Silver was a giant in New York politics.

First elected to the Assembly in 1977, he became speaker in 1994, holding that position for more than two decades. For nearly half that time, during the administration of Republican Gov. George Pataki, he was the most powerful Democrat in the state.

Silver’s lawyers had asked the court to consider allowing him to serve his sentence at home because of the risk of contracting COVID-19 and dying in prison. But District Judge Valerie Caproni said issuing a sentence without prison time was inappropriate because Silver was guilty of “corruption, pure and simple.”


Biden to name Judge Merrick Garland as attorney general
Headline News | 2021/01/07 21:58
President-elect Joe Biden has selected Merrick Garland, a federal appeals court judge who in 2016 was snubbed by Republicans for a seat on the Supreme Court, as his attorney general, two people familiar with the selection process said Wednesday.

In picking Garland, Biden is turning to an experienced judge who held senior positions at the Justice Department decades ago, including as a supervisor of the prosecution of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. The pick will force Senate Republicans to contend with the nomination of someone they spurned four years ago ? refusing even to hold hearings when a Supreme Court vacancy arose ? but Biden is banking on Garland’s credentials and reputation for moderation to ensure confirmation.

Biden is expected to announce Garland’s appointment on Thursday, along with other senior leaders of the department, including former homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco as deputy attorney general and former Justice Department civil rights chief Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general, the No. 3 official. He will also name an assistant attorney general for civil rights, Kristen Clarke, the president of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, an advocacy group.

Garland was selected over other finalists including former Alabama Sen. Doug Jones and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. The people familiar with the process spoke on condition of anonymity. One said Biden regards Garland as an attorney general who can restore integrity to the Justice Department and as someone who, having worked as both a federal prosecutor and a high-level supervisor inside the agency, will enjoy the respect of nonpartisan career staff.

Garland’s confirmation prospects were solidified as Democrats on Wednesday scored control of the Senate majority by winning both Georgia Senate seats.

Garland would confront immediate challenges if confirmed, including an ongoing criminal tax investigation into Biden’s son, Hunter, as well as calls from many Democrats to pursue inquiries into President Donald Trump after he leaves office. A special counsel investigation into the origins of the Russia probe also remains open, forcing a new attorney general to decide how to handle it and what to make public.

Garland would also inherit a Justice Department that has endured a tumultuous four years and abundant criticism from Democrats over what they see as the overpoliticization of law enforcement. The department is expected to dramatically change course under new leadership, including through a different approach to civil rights issues and national policing policies, especially after months of mass protests over the deaths of Black Americans at the hand of law enforcement.



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