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UN court hears appeal in Serbian lawmaker's acquittal
Lawyer Blogs | 2017/12/08 03:10
A prosecutor urged U.N. judges Wednesday to overturn the acquittals of a prominent Serbian ultranationalist on atrocity charges, saying that a failure to do so would inflict lasting damage to the legacy of the groundbreaking war crimes tribunal.

Prosecutor Mathias Marcussen told a five-judge appeals panel that the 2016 acquittals of Vojislav Seselj on nine war crimes and crimes against humanity charges were so deeply flawed that they must be reversed or a new trial ordered.

"Justice has not been done," Marcussen said. He argued that the three-judge trial bench that found Seselj not guilty at the end of his marathon trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia made critical errors of fact and law and failed to properly evaluate all the evidence.

At trial, prosecutors accused Seselj of crimes including persecution, murder and torture and demanded a 28-year sentence for his support of Serb paramilitaries during the region's bitter, bloody wars in the early 1990s. Prosecutors argue that Seselj's actions were part of a plan to drive Croats and Muslims out of large areas of Croatia and Bosnia that leaders in Belgrade considered Serb territory.

Marcussen said that allowing Seselj's acquittals to stand would be "not only an affront to the victims of the alleged crimes, it would also seriously undermine the credibility" of the tribunal and the institution called the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals which has been established to deal with appeals and other legal issues left pending when ad hoc tribunals like the Yugoslav court close their doors for good.

A tribunal that prosecuted cases arising from Rwanda's genocide has already closed and the Yugoslav tribunal formally shuts down at the end of December. Seselj's appeal is being handled by the new mechanism.

Seselj, now a Serbian lawmaker, did not attend Wednesday's hearing. Judges gave him 10 days to respond in writing after he receives a transcript of the hearing.


Top German court strengthens intersex identity rights
Lawyer Blogs | 2017/11/12 03:50
Germany’s highest court has decided that people must be allowed to be entered in official records as neither male nor female, saying in a ruling published Wednesday that authorities should create a third identity or scrap gender entries altogether.

The Federal Constitutional Court ruled on a case in which a plaintiff, identified by advocacy group Dritte Option only as Vanja, born in 1989, sought to have their entry in the birth register changed from “female” to “inter/diverse” or “diverse.”

Officials rejected the application on the grounds that the law only allows for children to be registered as male or female, or for the gender to be left blank.

The plaintiff argued that that was a violation of their personal rights. In a three-year legal battle, Vanja provided courts with a genetic analysis showing the plaintiff has one X chromosome but no second sex chromosome. Women have two X chromosomes, while men have one X and one Y chromosome.

The supreme court found that the law protects sexual identity, which has a “key position” in how individuals perceive themselves and are perceived by others. It said that “the sexual identity of those people who can be assigned neither to the male nor the female sex is also protected,” and said the constitution also protects them against discrimination because of their gender. The government has until the end of 2018 to draw up new rules.



Court likely to question if Trump's travel ban discriminates
Lawyer Blogs | 2017/05/16 06:19
For the second time in a week, government lawyers will try to persuade a federal appeals court to reinstate President Donald Trump's revised travel ban — and once again, they can expect plenty of questions Monday about whether it was designed to discriminate against Muslims.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled arguments in Seattle over Hawaii's lawsuit challenging the travel ban, which would suspend the nation's refugee program and temporarily bar new visas for citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Last week, judges on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments over whether to affirm a Maryland judge's decision putting the ban on ice. They peppered Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall with questions about whether they could consider Trump's campaign statements calling for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., with one judge asking if there was anything other than "willful blindness" that would prevent them from doing so.

Monday's arguments mark the second time Trump's efforts to restrict immigration from certain Muslim-majority nations have reached the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit.

After Trump issued his initial travel ban on a Friday in late January, bringing chaos and protests to airports around the country, a Seattle judge blocked its enforcement nationwide — a decision that was unanimously upheld by a three-judge 9th Circuit panel.


Not guilty pleas entered for accused in Canada polygamy case
Lawyer Blogs | 2017/04/18 01:39
The trial of two Canadian men from a fundamentalist sect that allows men to have multiple wives opened Tuesday with not guilty pleas being entered on charges of practicing polygamy.

Winston Blackmore and James Oler each face one count of polygamy. Both men have served as bishops for the religious settlement of Bountiful, British Columbia which follows the teachings of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints, often referred to as the FLDS.

Oler is accused of having four wives. He pleaded not guilty. Blackmore remained mute and Justice Sheri Ann Donegan said a not guilty plea would be entered on his behalf. Blackmore is accused of marrying 24 women over 25 years.

Blackmore's lawyer, Blair Suffredine, said outside court his client chose to say nothing for religious reasons.

"He doesn't want to deny his faith. He doesn't feel guilty," Suffredine said. "The technical way around that is don't say anything and they'll enter the plea not guilty."

Special prosecutor Peter Wilson told the court his case includes marriage records seized from the church's Yearning for Zion Ranch in Texas, which were used in 2010 to sentence leader Warren Jeffs to life in a U.S. prison for sexually assaulting two young girls.


UK court says income threshold for foreign spouses is lawful
Lawyer Blogs | 2017/02/19 02:17
Britain's Supreme Court says the government is entitled to set a minimum-income threshold for people wanting to bring foreign spouses to the country, a measure introduced to ensure immigrants won't draw on public welfare funds.

But the court says the way the rules have been implemented is unlawful.

Since 2012, Britons who want to bring spouses from outside the European Union to the U.K. must earn at least 18,600 pounds ($23,000) a year.

Several people who were rejected under the rules took the government to court, arguing the law breached their right to a family life.

The judges ruled Wednesday that the income requirement was lawful but had been implemented in a "defective" way.

They said authorities must consider the welfare of children and whether applicants have other funding sources.


Circus operator agrees to plea deal in tent collapse
Lawyer Blogs | 2017/01/02 12:31
Court records show a Florida-based circus operator has agreed to a plea deal following a tent collapse in New Hampshire in 2015 that killed two people and injured dozens.

The Caledonian-Record in Vermont reports details of the plea deal involving Sarasota-based Walker International Events weren't made available.

The company had previously pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of operating without a license and to misdemeanor counts alleging it hadn't complied with state standards. Corporations can face fines and sanctions on criminal convictions.

The company, now out of business, agreed to pay federal safety fines and settled some lawsuits.

Forty-one-year-old Robert Young and his 6-year-old daughter, Annabelle, of Concord, Vermont, died when a storm with 75 mph winds blew through the Lancaster Fairgrounds, toppling the tent.


Supreme Court in holding pattern, awaiting ninth justice
Lawyer Blogs | 2016/10/01 20:11
The Supreme Court is set to begin its new term as it ended the last one — down one justice and ideologically deadlocked on a range of issues.
 
The absence of a ninth justice since Antonin Scalia's death in February has hamstrung the court in several cases. It's forced the justices to look for less contentious issues on which they're less likely to divide by 4-4.

It could be several months, at least, before the nation's highest court is again operating at full strength.

How the presidential election turns out will go a long way toward determining the judicial outlook of the ninth justice, the direction of the court and the outcome of several cases already being heard and others that probably will be at the court soon.

A rush hour commuter train crashed through a barrier at the busy Hoboken station and lurched across the waiting area Thursday morning, killing one person and injuring more than 100 others in a grisly wreck that renewed questions about whether long-delayed automated safety technology could have prevented tragedy.

People pulled chunks of concrete off pinned and bleeding victims, passengers kicked out windows and crawled to safety and cries and screams could be heard in the wreckage as emergency workers rushed to reach the injured in the tangle of twisted metal and dangling wires just across the Hudson River from New York City.

The New Jersey Transit train ran off the end of the track as it was pulling in around 8:45 a.m., smashing through a concrete-and-steel bumper. As it ground to a halt in the waiting area, it knocked out pillars, collapsing a section of the roof.



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