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Carnival will pay $20m over pollution from its cruise ships
Legal Interview | 2019/06/04 02:18
Carnival Corp. reached a settlement Monday with federal prosecutors in which the world’s largest cruise line agreed to pay a $20 million penalty because its ships continued to pollute the oceans despite a previous criminal conviction aimed at curbing similar conduct.

Senior U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz approved the agreement after Carnival CEO Arnold Donald stood up in open court and admitted the company’s responsibility for probation violations stemming from the previous environmental case.

“The company pleads guilty,” Arnold said six times in a packed courtroom that include other senior Carnival executives, including company chairman and Miami Heat owner Micky Arison.

“We acknowledge the shortcomings. I am here today to formulate a plan to fix them,” Arnold added

“The proof will be in the pudding, won’t it?” the judge replied. “If you all did not have the environment, you would have nothing to sell.”

Carnival admitted violating terms of probation from a 2016 criminal conviction for discharging oily waste from its Princess Cruise Lines ships and covering it up. Carnival paid a $40 million fine and was put on five years’ probation in that case, which affected all nine of its cruise brands that boast more than 100 ships.

Now Carnival has acknowledged that in the years since its ships have committed environmental crimes such as dumping “gray water” in prohibited places such Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park and knowingly allowing plastic to be discharged along with food waste in the Bahamas, which poses a severe threat to marine life.

The company also admitted falsifying compliance documents and other administrative violations such as having cleanup teams visit its ships just before scheduled inspections.

Seitz at an earlier hearing threatened to bar Carnival from docking at U.S. ports because of the violations and said she might hold executives individually liable for the probation violations.

“The concern I have is that senior management has no skin in the game,” Seitz said, adding that future violations might be met with prison time and criminal fines for individuals. “My goal is to have the defendant change its behavior.”

Under the settlement, Carnival promised there will be additional audits to check for violations, a restructuring of the company’s compliance and training programs, a better system for reporting environmental violations to state and federal agencies and improved waste management practices.


Wisconsin court says gun site not liable in spa shooting
Legal Interview | 2019/04/27 05:40
The state Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit Tuesday alleging a firearms website that enabled a man to illegally purchase the pistol he used in a mass shooting at a suburban Milwaukee spa six years ago is liable in the killings, ruling that federal law grants the site operators immunity.

The court ruled 5-1 that the federal Communications Decency Act protects Armslist LLC, a firearms classifieds website. The act absolves website operators of any liability resulting from posting third-party content.

Radcliffe Haughton’s wife, Zina Daniel Haughton, had taken out a restraining order against him that prohibited him from possessing a firearm. But he bought a semi-automatic pistol and ammunition in October 2012 from a person he met through Armslist.com, according to court documents.

The next day he opened fire at Azana Salon & Spa in Brookfield, where his wife worked. He killed her, two of her co-workers and wounded four others before he took his own life.

According to court documents, Haughton used an Armslist.com function that allowed him to bypass ads from licensed dealers, enabling him to avoid a background check.

The lawsuit filed in 2015 alleged Armslist’s operators should have known that the design of the site enabled illegal gun purchases. But Chief Justice Pat Roggensack, writing for the majority, said Tuesday that if a website’s features can be used lawfully the act immunizes the operators from liability when third parties use the sites unlawfully. Therefore all that’s left is to consider the site a publisher, triggering immunity under the act, she said.



Unions in court over laws limiting Wisconsin governor, AG
Legal Interview | 2019/03/23 02:25
Laws passed by the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature during a lame-duck session in December that weakened powers of the Democratic governor and attorney general were back before a circuit judge Monday, less than a week after another judge struck them down as unconstitutional.

Republicans appealed last week's ruling, and the state appeals court could rule as soon as Monday on that request to immediately reinstate the laws and put last week's ruling on hold.

Gov. Tony Evers moved quickly after last week's order to rescind 82 of former Republican Gov. Scott Walker's appointments that the state Senate confirmed during the lame-duck session. And Attorney General Josh Kaul, at Evers' order, moved to withdraw Wisconsin from a multi-state lawsuit seeking repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act, a power taken away from him during the lame-duck session.

The judge last week ruled that the laws were illegally passed because the type of session lawmakers used to meet in December was unconstitutional. Republicans called themselves into "extraordinary session" to pass the bills, but Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess said there was no basis in state law to call such sessions.

The attorney for Republican lawmakers, Misha Tseytlin, argued that the ruling jeopardizes the validity of thousands of other laws passed during extraordinary sessions.

That case was brought by the League of Women Voters and other groups.

The lawsuit being heard Monday was filed by a coalition of five unions. They argue that the laws violate the state constitution's separation of powers doctrine because they take power from the executive branch and transfer them to the Legislature.

Republicans counter that the laws are constitutional and ensure a proper balance of power between the executive and legislative branches.

The case is being heard by Dane County Circuit Judge Frank Remington. The judge held oral arguments on Monday, beginning the proceedings by informing all the parties that he's already drafted a written decision but wanted clarifications. He blocked off the entire day for the hearing.


Veterans court may be collateral damage in immigration fight
Legal Interview | 2019/03/15 02:25
Three decades ago, Lori Ann Bourgeois was guarding fighter jets at an air base. After her discharge, she fell into drug addiction. She wound up living on the streets and was arrested for possession of methamphetamine.

But on a recent day, the former Air Force Security Police member walked into a Veterans Treatment Court after completing a 90-day residential drug treatment program. Two dozen fellow vets sitting on the courtroom benches applauded. A judge handed Bourgeois a special coin marking the occasion, inscribed with the words “Change Attitude, Change Thinking, Change Behavior.”

The program Bourgeois credits for pulling her out of the “black hole” of homelessness is among more than three dozen Oregon specialty courts caught in a standoff between the state and federal government over immigration enforcement.

The Trump administration in 2017 threatened to withhold law enforcement grants from 29 cities, counties or states it viewed as having “sanctuary” policies that limit cooperation with federal immigration agents. Today, all those jurisdictions have received or been cleared to get the money, except Oregon, which is battling for the funds in federal court.

The Veterans Treatment Court in Eugene and 40 other specialty courts, including mental health and civilian drug programs, risk losing all or part of their budgets, said Michael Schmidt, executive director of Oregon’s Criminal Justice Commission, which administers the money.

The commission has managed to keep the courts funded through July, Schmidt said. Unless the Trump administration relents or is forced by court order to deliver the money, or the Oregon Legislature comes up with it, the commission must make “horrible, tough decisions” about where to make the cuts, Schmidt said.

Speaking in her small office in the Eugene courthouse, specialty courts coordinator Danielle Hanson said if the veterans court budget is cut, the vets would have to start paying for drug treatment, and they would be deprived of housing resources and travel funds to go to residential treatment facilities as far as 330 miles (530 kilometers) away. Some veterans might even be turned away.


Japan court OK's Nissan ex-Chairman Ghosn's release on bail
Legal Interview | 2019/03/06 03:45
A Tokyo court approved the release of former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn on 1 billion yen ($8.9 million) bail on Tuesday, rejecting an appeal by prosecutors to keep him jailed, a lawyer for the auto executive said.

He could be freed as soon as Wednesday morning, according to Japan's Kyodo News.

Jean-Yves Le Borgne, Ghosn's French lawyer, said a court issued a late-night ruling rejecting prosecutors' appeal of the initial ruling. Le Borgne cautioned that prosecutors still had leeway to file new charges as they had done once before.

Ghosn said in a written statement that he is grateful for his family and friends who had stood by him "throughout this terrible ordeal."

He said he is "innocent and totally committed to vigorously defending myself in a fair trial against these meritless and unsubstantiated accusations."

The former head of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Motors alliance has been detained since he was arrested on Nov. 19. He says he is innocent of charges of falsifying financial information and of breach of trust.

His Japanese lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka, is famous for winning acquittals in Japan, a nation where the conviction rate is 99 percent.

Hironaka said the legal team "proposed concrete ways showing how he would not tamper with evidence or try to flee."

Hironaka said Monday that he had offered new ways to monitor Ghosn after his release, such as camera surveillance. Hironaka also questioned the grounds for Ghosn's arrest, calling the case "very peculiar," and suggesting it could have been dealt with as an internal company matter.

In Japan, suspects are routinely detained for months, often until their trials start. That's especially true of those who insist on their innocence.

The 1 billion yen bail set by the court was relatively high but not the highest ever in Japan.

Among the conditions for Ghosn's release were restrictions on where he can live, his mobile phone use, as well as a ban on foreign travel and contact with Nissan executives, according to Kyodo News.


Oregon's high court: Developers can't offset harm to farmers
Legal Interview | 2019/03/02 03:46
The Oregon Supreme Court has ruled that negative impacts on Oregon's farmers from non-farm development can't be offset by making payments.

The Capital Press reported Friday that the court also ruled this week that it's not enough for a development to avoid taking away agriculturally-zoned land. A project also can't change costs or agricultural practices for farmers.

The ruling settles a lawsuit filed over a planned expansion of a landfill in Yamhill County that would affect nearby farms and orchards.

Waste Management, the owner of the Riverbend Landfill, is reviewing the Oregon Supreme Court's ruling.



Court to rule on car rental tax imposed in Maricopa County
Legal Interview | 2019/02/17 01:41
The Arizona Supreme Court is scheduled to release a decision Monday in a challenge of a car rental tax surcharge imposed in Maricopa County to pay for building a football stadium and other sports and recreational facilities.

The state’s highest court said last year that it would review a lower court’s ruling that concluded the surcharge is legal.

Attorneys for car rental companies had argued that a constitutional provision meant the surcharge revenue can be used only to build and maintain roads.

The surcharge partially funds the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority. The agency uses the money to help pay off bonds for the stadium where the Arizona Cardinals play, along with baseball spring training venues and youth sports facilities.


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