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Arkansas judge blocks state from issuing birth certificates
Headline News | 2017/11/30 03:08
An Arkansas judge on Friday blocked the state from issuing any birth certificates until officials are able to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the state's birth certificate law illegally favors heterosexual parents.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox on Friday set aside his orders requiring the state and three same-sex couples go into mediation on how to fix the state law to comply with the U.S. high court's order. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge earlier this week asked the state Supreme Court to stay or lift Fox's mediation order.

"This case has been pending for over two years and it has been more than six months since the United States Supreme Court ruled the Arkansas statutory scheme unconstitutional," Fox wrote in his order. "There are citizens and residents of the state of Arkansas whose constitutional rights are being violated on a daily basis."

Fox last month had threatened to halt the issuance of birth certificates if both sides couldn't find language by Jan. 5 to be stricken from the law. Rutledge told the court this week that both sides had agreed on an order on how to comply with the high court ruling, but Fox rejected it. A spokeswoman for Rutledge said the AG's office was reviewing Fox's order and did not have an immediate comment.

In his order, Fox said he was hopeful Gov. Asa Hutchinson would have the authority to fix the birth certificate law through executive action. If the state is unable to fix the law, Fox said, the injunction would be in effect until lawmakers could address the issue. Lawmakers are not scheduled to convene again until February for a session focused on the budget. Hutchinson could call a special session.


German Court: Kuwait Airways Can Refuse Israeli Passengers
Headline News | 2017/11/18 17:52
A German court ruled Thursday that Kuwait's national airline didn't have to transport an Israeli citizen because the carrier would face legal repercussions at home if it did.

The Frankfurt state court noted in its decision that Kuwait Airways is not allowed to have contracts with Israelis under Kuwaiti law because of the Middle Eastern country's boycott of Israel.

The court said it didn't evaluate whether "this law make sense," but that the airline risked repercussions that were "not reasonable" for violating it, such as fines or prison time for employees.

An Israeli citizen, who was identified in court papers as Adar M., a student living in Germany, sued Kuwait Airways after it canceled his booking for a flight from Frankfurt to Bangkok that included a stop-over in Kuwait City.

The cancellation came a few days before M.'s scheduled departure in August 2016 when he revealed he had an Israeli passport. The airline offered to book him on a nonstop flight to Bangkok with another carrier.

The man refused the offer and filed the lawsuit, seeking compensation for alleged discrimination. He also insisted the airline should have to accept him as a passenger.

The court rejected his discrimination claim ruling that German law covers discrimination based on race, ethnicity or religion, but not nationality.

Germany's Central Council of Jews condemned the ruling, calling it "unbearable that a foreign company operating based on deeply anti-Semitic national laws is allowed to be active in Germany."

Frankfurt Mayor Uwe Becker expressed a similar view. "An airline that practices discrimination and anti-Semitism by refusing to fly Israeli passengers should not be allowed to takeoff or land in Frankfurt," Becker said.

Courts in the United States and Switzerland previously have ruled in favor of plaintiffs in comparable cases, the German news agency dpa reported.


Connecticut Governor Will Get His 6th Supreme Court Pick
Headline News | 2017/11/11 03:48
When Gov. Dannel P. Malloy makes his pick for the next Connecticut chief justice, the Democrat will have nominated six of the seven people serving on the state's highest court — a rare feat in the history of the governorship.

Lawyers and other legal affairs observers say the court is rarely partisan, focusing mostly on interpretations of state law that often result in 7-0 rulings.

Occasionally, though, a case comes along that exposes an ideological rift, as it did in a 4-3 ruling that abolished the state's death penalty in 2015 when the majority and minority criticized each other in dueling opinions. Two cases currently before the court may also expose such a rift — a lawsuit against gunmaker Remington Arms in connection with the 2012 Newtown school massacre and a lawsuit challenging the way the state funds local education.

"They're not as controversial as you see at the federal level," said Proloy Das, a Hartford-based lawyer who chairs the appellate practice group at the Murtha Cullina law firm. "Our values aren't all that different across the state."

Das and other observers say the biggest impact of the Malloy nominations may be increased diversity on the court.

Malloy-nominated Justices Richard Robinson and Raheem Mullins are black. Newly appointed Justice Maria Araujo Kahn is one of two full-time female justices, joining soon-to-be-retiring Chief Justice Chase Rogers, who was nominated by Republican former Gov. M. Jodi Rell. And Justice Andrew McDonald, also picked by Malloy, is the court's first openly gay member.


Court asked to decide whether to limit electronics searches
Headline News | 2017/10/26 19:40
A federal appeals court is being asked to decide whether government agents can search cell phones and laptops at airports without a search warrant.

The American Civil Liberties Union argues that warrantless searches of personal information on electronic devices are unconstitutional, and that significant privacy interests are at stake.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond hears arguments Thursday in the case of a Turkish national convicted of trying to illegally smuggle weapons parts to Turkey.

Hamza Kolsuz was arrested at Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia after agents found weapons parts in his luggage, and a judge denied his motion to suppress evidence found during a forensic search of his phone.


Supreme Court to consider American Express fee dispute
Headline News | 2017/10/21 14:00
The Supreme Court is taking up an appeal by 11 states that argue American Express violated antitrust laws by barring merchants from asking customers to use other credit cards that charge lower fees.

The justices said Monday they would review a ruling by the federal appeals court in New York that sided with American Express.

The case stems from a lawsuit filed by states and the Obama administration in 2010 against American Express, Mastercard and Visa. The lawsuit said that letting merchants steer customers to cards with lower fees for merchants or to other preferred cards would benefit consumers and increase incentives for networks to reduce card fees.

Visa and MasterCard entered into consent judgments in 2011 and stopped their anti-steering rules for merchants while American Express proceeded to trial.

A trial judge ruled against American Express in 2015, but the appeals court reversed that ruling last year.

The Trump administration said it agreed with the states, but still urged the Supreme Court to reject the case. The administration said the justices should let the issue percolate in the lower courts.

The 11 states that joined the appeal are Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Ohio, Rhode Island, Utah and Vermont.

Other states that were part of the original lawsuit are Arizona, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Tennessee and Texas.

The court will hear argument in Ohio v. American Express, 16-1454, during the winter.



Supreme Court opens pivotal term with Trump nominee in place
Headline News | 2017/09/25 13:56
Disputes over a wedding cake for a same-sex couple and partisan electoral maps top the Supreme Court's agenda in the first full term of the Trump presidency. Conservatives will look for a boost from the newest justice, Neil Gorsuch, in a year that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has said will be momentous.

President Donald Trump's travel ban appears likely to disappear from the court's docket, at least for now. But plenty of high-profile cases remain.

The justices will hear important cases that touch on gay rights and religious freedoms, the polarized American electorate, the government's ability to track people without search warrants, employees' rights to band together over workplace disputes and states' rights to allow betting on professional and college sporting events.

Last year, "they didn't take a lot of major cases because they didn't want to be deadlocked 4-to-4," said Eric Kasper, director of the Center for Constitutional Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. "This year, that problem doesn't present itself."

Gorsuch quickly showed he would be an ally of the court's most conservative justices, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, most recently joining them in objecting to the court's decision to block an execution in Georgia.

While justices can change over time, Gorsuch's presence on the bench leaves liberals with a fair amount of trepidation, especially in cases involving the rights of workers.

The very first case of the term, set for arguments Monday, could affect tens of millions of workers who have signed clauses as part of their employment contracts that not only prevent them from taking employment disputes to federal court, but also require them to arbitrate complaints individually, rather than in groups.


Court: State, Not Counties Accountable for Poor School Funds
Headline News | 2017/09/20 16:05
A North Carolina appeals court says students and parents still fighting for sufficient school funding decades after they were guaranteed the right to a sound, basic education should make demands of the governor and legislators, not county officials.

A divided state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that schoolchildren can't sue Halifax County commissioners over funding for the county's segregated public school districts.

Lawyers say though substandard Halifax County Schools' buildings sometimes force students to walk through sewage to reach their lockers, they get less local tax dollars than the majority white Roanoke Rapids schools.

Judges split 2-1 in ruling that local families should take their problems to Raleigh. The dissenting judge said counties can be sued since the legislature assigned them responsibility for funding buildings and supplies.



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