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Pakistan court to decide on accusations against PM's family
Legal Interview | 2017/04/21 01:38
Under tight security, Pakistan's top court is to deliver a much-awaited decision on Thursday on corruption allegations against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's family which could determine his political future.

If the Supreme Court announces punitive measures against Sharif or his family members as part of the decision, it may lead to a crisis in government. In 2012, the same court convicted then-Premier Yusuf Raza Gilani in a contempt case, forcing him to step down.

Thursday's decision will be the outcome of petitions from opposition lawmakers dating back to documents leaked in 2016 from a Panama-based law firm that indicated Sharif's sons owned several offshore companies.

Sharif's family has acknowledged owning offshore businesses.

The opposition wants Sharif, in power since 2013, to resign over tax evasion and concealing foreign investment. Sharif has defended his financial record.

Information Minister Maryam Aurangzeb told reporters the government will "accept the court decision."

Naeemul Haq, a spokesman for cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, whose party is leading the petition, said the decision will be an "historic one."

Lawyer A.K. Dogar, who is not involved in the probe by the Supreme Court or the petition, said the decision could determine the political fate of Sharif.

Senior opposition politician Mehnaz Rafi, from Khan's party, told The Associated Press she hopes the decision will help recover tax money from Sharif's family and others who set up offshore companies to evade taxes. If the court finds Sharif's family evaded paying taxes, she said he should resign as he will no longer have "moral authority to remain in power."

The prime minister has insisted his father built up the family business before Sharif entered politics in the 1980s. Sharif says he established a steel mill abroad while he was exiled to Saudi Arabia by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a coup in 1999.


Airport shooting suspect due for Florida court appearance
Legal Interview | 2017/01/08 12:31
The Iraq war veteran accused of fatally shooting five people and wounding six at a crowded Florida airport baggage claim is due for his first court appearance.

Esteban Santiago is scheduled to be in Fort Lauderdale federal court Monday morning. The 26-year-old from Anchorage, Alaska, faces airport violence and firearms charges that could mean the death penalty if he's convicted.

The initial hearing Monday is likely to focus on ensuring Santiago has a lawyer and setting future dates. Santiago has been held without bail since his arrest after Friday's shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

The FBI has says Santiago flew on a one-way ticket from Alaska to Florida with a handgun in his checked bag. Agents say he retrieved the gun and emerged from an airport bathroom firing.


Justice Thomas: Honor Scalia by reining in government
Legal Interview | 2016/12/03 21:43
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is calling fellow conservatives to continue the work of the late Justice Antonin Scalia to keep the power of the courts and other branches of government in check.

Thomas tells 1,700 people at a dinner in honor of Scalia that the Supreme Court has too often granted rights to people that are not found in the Constitution. He cited the decision in 2015 that made same-sex marriage legal across the country.

Thomas said he and his longtime friend and colleague formed an "odd couple" of a white New Yorker and a black man from Georgia.

He paraphrased Lincoln's Gettysburg address to exhort the audience to "be dedicated to the unfinished business for which Justice Scalia gave his last full measure of devotion."



Court rejects challenge to Michigan's emergency manager law
Legal Interview | 2016/09/15 22:50
An appeals court on Monday rejected a challenge to Michigan's emergency manager law, saying Gov. Rick Snyder's remedy for distressed communities doesn't violate the constitutional rights of residents.

Emergency managers have exceptional power to run city halls and school districts, while elected officials typically are pushed aside for 18 months or more while finances are fixed. The most significant use of emergency management occurred in Detroit, where Snyder appointed bankruptcy expert Kevyn Orr in 2013. Orr seved for two years.

Critics who sued argued that the law violated a variety of rights — free speech, voting, even protections against slavery — especially in cities with large black populations.

The law might not be the "perfect remedy" but it's "rationally related" to turning around local governments, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a 3-0 decision.

"The emergency manager's powers may be vast, but so are the problems in financially distressed localities, and the elected officials of those localities are most often the ones who ... led the localities into their difficult situations," the court said in upholding a decision by U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh.



Supreme Court to swear in large group of deaf lawyers
Legal Interview | 2016/04/12 08:43
Mobile phones ordinarily are strictly forbidden in the marble courtroom of the nation's highest court, but the justices are making an exception next week when roughly a dozen deaf and hard-of-hearing lawyers will be admitted to the Supreme Court bar.

The lawyers will use their phones to see a real-time transcript as they take part in an April 19 swearing-in ceremony featuring the largest group of hearing-impaired attorneys ever admitted at one time to practice before the high court.

Advocates for deaf lawyers say they hope the event will encourage others with disabilities to pursue legal careers.

"We wanted to do an event that would help break down stereotypes and demonstrate clearly that deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals can achieve anything they set their minds to," said Anat Maytal, a New York lawyer and president of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Bar Association.

Nearly 4,000 lawyers join the Supreme Court bar each year, though the vast majority will never actually represent a client there. Membership requires a $200 fee, membership in a state bar for three years and sponsorship by two current Supreme Court bar members.



African-American voters see court fight as affront to Obama
Legal Interview | 2016/02/27 22:08
Watching the fight unfold between President Barack Obama and Senate Republicans over who should choose the next Supreme Court justice, Michael A. Bowden got angry at what he saw at the latest affront to the first black president.

And then his thoughts turned from Washington to his own state.

Obama won't be on the ballot this fall, but Pennsylvania GOP Sen. Pat Toomey will ? and Bowden has made defeating him in November a priority.

"This kind of thing really burns me to the core," said Bowden, a 56-year-old Air Force veteran from Philadelphia. "I've already started planting the seed in people's heads that Sen. Toomey is one of those people in lockstep with the Republicans. This could give him a wake-up call that he could be vulnerable as well."

Democrats are pressuring senators in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Hampshire, Illinois and Wisconsin to back down from their refusal to confirm or even consider Obama's nominee to succeed the late Antonin Scalia or face the consequences in November. In some states, they may get help from African-Americans who see the court battle as the latest GOP snub of Obama ? one rooted in racism, which could galvanize a crucial component of the Democratic voting bloc.



Chief justice remembers Scalia's 'irrepressible spirit'
Legal Interview | 2016/02/20 22:10
Chief Justice John Roberts on Monday remembered the late Justice Antonin Scalia as a friend and colleague of "irrepressible spirit" as the Supreme Court resumed work for the first time since Scalia's death.

"He was our man for all seasons and we will miss him beyond measure," Roberts said in brief remarks after the court's eight remaining justices took the bench.

Roberts recounted Scalia's humble roots in New Jersey, his graduation at the top of his class at Georgetown University and his stellar performance at Harvard Law School. As a top attorney at the Justice Department, Roberts said Scalia argued his first and only case before the Supreme Court in 1976.

"He prevailed, establishing a perfect record before the court," Roberts said to laughter.

Scalia became the 103rd justice confirmed to the high court in 1986, Roberts noted, and wrote 292 majority opinions for the court.

"He was also known on occasion to dissent," Roberts said to more laughter.

The high court is resuming work just two days after the justices and thousands of dignitaries, friends and family mourned his loss at a funeral Mass in Washington.

The void created by Scalia's death was visible on Monday. His chair, in its usual place to the right of Roberts, was draped in black wool crepe, which will remain until next month.

Only in late March do the justices plan to switch seats in line with their seniority on the court. Justice Anthony Kennedy is now the longest-serving member of the court, with 28 years of experience.

President Barack Obama has vowed to nominate a candidate to take Scalia's seat, but Senate Republicans, backed by their party's presidential contenders, have pledged to block anyone Obama puts forward. Republicans have said the choice should await the next president.

Scalia's sharp questioning of lawyers transformed arguments into lively sessions in which the justices sometimes seemed to be talking to each other, rather than to the lawyers arguing before them.


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