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Supreme Court addresses question of foreign law in US courts
Headline News | 2018/06/13 17:56
The Supreme Court says United States federal courts should consider statements from foreign governments about their own laws but do not have to consider them as binding.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for a unanimous court that federal courts should give "respectful consideration" to what foreign governments say. But she wrote that federal courts don't have to treat what they say as conclusive.

Ginsburg said the appropriate weight given to a government's statement in each case will depend on the circumstances, including the clarity, thoroughness and support for what a government says.

The Thursday ruling came in a case that involves two U.S.-based purchasers of vitamin C, one in Texas and the other in New Jersey, and vitamin C exporters in China.




Woman accused of dismembering roommate appears in court
Headline News | 2018/06/12 07:16
A San Francisco woman looked composed and lucid as she made her first court appearance on Friday on a murder charge accusing her of killing and dismembering her roommate, whose body parts prosecutors say were discovered in plastic bags at their home.

Lisa Gonzales, 47, was in an orange jail suit with her hands cuffed behind her back during the brief appearance with her attorney. She answered a question from the judge, but she did not enter a plea. Her arraignment was continued until June 14.

Police arrested Gonzales on Saturday after her 61-year-old roommate was reported missing. Police discovered the victim's severed arms and legs in a maggot-filled storage container, according to prosecutors.

Gonzales told police that her roommate refused to move out, and the two of them argued on May 15, a San Francisco prosecutor said in a court filing. She told investigators she thinks she "flipped," but she didn't have a "real recollection" of what happened, Adam Maldonado said in the filing.

Outside court, Gonzales' public defender, Alex Lilien, said his client was a hardworking, single mother and had taken the victim, Maggie Mamer, in after Mamer said she had been evicted by unscrupulous landlords. He said he didn't have details about his client's mental health.

"She's charged with murder, and she's being portrayed as a monster in the media — and that's distressing," he said. "She's concerned about her family."

Mamer had lost her home and "fallen on hard times" when Gonzales in August 2017 offered her a room, Maldonado said in the court filing. They agreed on $400 a month as rent. But after items around the home began to get misplaced or broken, Gonzales told Mamer in April to move out in 30 days or face eviction, the prosecutor said.

Lilien said Friday that Gonzales did not know Mamer well when she let her move in, and that Mamer had a history of not paying rent.


Greek court limits travel for Turkish officer seeking asylum
Headline News | 2018/04/18 03:04
Greece's highest court has imposed severe restrictions on the movements of one of eight Turkish servicemen who have applied for asylum in Greece after fleeing Turkey following a failed 2016 coup there, while he waits for a decision on his asylum application.

The Council of State ruled that the officer will remain at an undisclosed address, must appear daily at a local police station and cannot obtain travel documents until his asylum application is determined in May.

Courts had initially granted him asylum, but suspended the decision following a Greek government appeal.

The eight helicopter crewmen, who deny involvement in the attempted putsch, have become a bone of contention in increasingly souring Greek-Turkish relations. Turkey demands they be returned as coup plotters, but Greek courts have rejected the extradition requests.



Facing death penalty, school shooting suspect in court
Headline News | 2018/03/15 11:29
Now formally facing the death penalty, the suspect in the Valentine’s Day school shooting that killed 17 people in Florida is headed for a court appearance Wednesday on a 34-count indictment.

An arraignment hearing is set for 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, whose attorneys say he will plead guilty to all charges if the death penalty is not pursued in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre. But Broward County State Attorney Michael Satz on Tuesday filed formal notice that prosecutors will indeed seek capital punishment.

Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, whose office is representing Cruz, has said there were so many warning signs that Cruz was mentally unstable and potentially violent, and that the death penalty might be going too far.

In an email Tuesday, Finkelstein said Cruz is “immediately ready” to plead guilty in return for 34 consecutive life sentences.

“We are not saying he is not guilty but we can’t plead guilty while death is still on the table,” Finkelstein said.

If Cruz does not enter a plea himself — known as standing mute before the court — a not guilty plea will likely be entered on his behalf by Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer to keep the legal process moving along, his attorneys have said.

In every case, there is always the possibility of a plea deal. The only other penalty option for Cruz, if convicted, is life in prison with no possibility of parole.

Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jamie Guttenberg died in the shooting, was angry the state decided to pursue the death penalty, noting how tortuously long capital punishment cases last.


TransCanada doesn't have to pay landowner attorneys
Headline News | 2018/03/10 12:31
The developer of the Keystone XL pipeline doesn't have to reimburse attorneys who defended Nebraska landowners against the company's efforts to gain access to their land, the state Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The high court's ruling resolves a dispute that was triggered when TransCanada Inc. filed eminent domain lawsuits against 71 Nebraska landowners in 2015, only to drop them later amid uncertainty over whether the process it used was constitutional.

"We conclude that none of the landowners established that they were entitled to attorney fees," Chief Justice Michael Heavican wrote in the opinion.

Omaha attorney Dave Domina argued that TransCanada owes his clients about $350,000 to cover their attorney fees. Domina said the landowners clearly asked for representation in the eminent domain cases, and TransCanada should pay their attorney fees because the company effectively lost those cases.

A TransCanada attorney, James Powers, argued that the landowners failed to prove that they actually paid or were legally indebted to Domina or his law partner, Brian Jorde.

"We're pleased the Nebraska Supreme Court agreed with our legal position," Powers said Friday. Domina said he respected the decision but was disappointed for his clients.


Greek court postpones decision in Turkish extradition case
Headline News | 2018/02/08 07:44
A Greek court postponed ruling Tuesday on a Turkish extradition request for the second of nine Turkish citizens alleged to be left-wing militants and arrested in November, days before an Athens visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Naci Ozpolat, 48, a Turkish citizen of Kurdish origin, is wanted by Turkey on charges of assisting a terrorist organization. He attended the hearing the court ended up adjourning until March 6, saying it needed more information from Turkey.

The nine suspects were arrested for alleged links to the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front, which Turkey, the United States and the European Union have deemed a terrorist organization.

Turkey has charged them with terrorism-related offenses, forgery, arms and explosives possession and resisting arrest. All deny the charges.

A Greek court last week rejected a similar extradition request for the first of the nine on grounds he had been granted refugee status in France. The court said he was at risk of facing torture or other inhumane treatment if he were returned to Turkey.


Court allows Pennsylvania to redraw GOP-favored district map
Headline News | 2018/02/07 15:44
Justice Samuel Alito, who handles emergency appeals from Pennsylvania, rejected the request from GOP legislative leaders and voters to put on hold an order from the state Supreme Court intended to produce new congressional districts in the coming two weeks.

The Pennsylvania high court ruled last month that the current map of 18 districts violates the state constitution because it unfairly benefits Republicans.

The decision comes just four days before the Republican-controlled Legislature's deadline for submitting a replacement map for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf to consider. So far, there has been a notable lack of bipartisan movement on getting such a deal.

Pennsylvania's congressional delegation has been 13-5 in favor of Republicans during the three election cycles since the GOP-drawn 2011 map took effect, and experts have said those 13 seats are several more than would have been produced by a nonpartisan map.

Democrats have about 800,000 more registered voters than Republicans and hold all three elected statewide row offices, but Republicans enjoy solid majorities in both chambers of the Legislature.

Under the process laid out two weeks ago by four of the seven Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices, all Democrats, the Legislature has until Friday to approve a new map, after which Wolf will have until Feb. 15 to decide whether to endorse it and submit it to the justices.

Senate Republican Leader Jake Corman said Monday he's had "zero" discussions with Wolf and legislative leaders about new district boundaries and could not guarantee he will meet the deadline.

The state Supreme Court said it expects new districts to be in place by Feb. 19, and the new map is expected to be in play for the May 15 congressional primaries.



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