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Stand-ins to decide who sits on West Virginia Supreme Court
Legal News | 2018/09/26 06:00
A group of judicial stand-ins representing West Virginia's Supreme Court was hearing challenges Monday to GOP Gov. Jim Justice's appointments of two Republican politicians to replace two departed justices.

Democrats have called the impeachments that imploded the state's highest court an unprecedented power grab by the West Virginia GOP. One of the petitions being heard on Monday says the choice of U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins and ex-House speaker Tim Armstead violates "the clear will of the voters" who elected Democrats to their spots on the bench.

Justice appointed Jenkins and Armstead — who resigned as speaker of the House of Delegates in anticipation of his move to the court — to serve until a Nov. 6 special election in which both men are candidates.

Also on the November ballot is attorney William Schwartz, whose petition seeks to stop Jenkins and Armstead from temporarily serving on the court. His petition also accuses Jenkins of being ineligible because he hasn't actively practiced law recently. The state constitution requires justices to be admitted to practice law for at least 10 years prior to their election.

Jenkins and Schwartz are seeking to serve the remainder of retired Justice Robin Davis' term through 2024, while Armstead hopes to finish the term of retired Justice Menis Ketchum through 2020. Both Davis and Ketchum were elected as Democrats.

Ketchum resigned before the Republican-led House voted to impeach the remaining four justices. Davis then resigned in time to trigger an election for the remainder of her term. The others await Senate impeachment trials next month, including Allen Loughry, who is suspended, and Margaret Workman and Beth Walker, who recused themselves from hearing these petitions. Temporary Chief Justice Paul T. Farrell then appointed four circuit judges to hear the challenges.

According to Schwartz's petition, Jenkins voluntarily placed his West Virginia law license on inactive status in 2014 after he was elected to the U.S. House. But Jenkins said he's been admitted to practice law in the state for more than three decades. According to the bylaws of the State Bar, an inactive status means members are admitted to practice law but aren't taking clients or providing legal counseling.


Supreme Court upholds hospital 'charity care' tax exemption
Legal News | 2018/09/23 22:57
The Illinois Supreme Court has upheld a 2012 law that sought to clarify property tax exemptions for charitable hospitals.

The court voted 7-0 in an opinion issued Thursday. It ruled on a law that allows issuing tax exemptions to hospitals when the value of the "charity care" or "free or discounted services" they provide exceed its estimated tax liability.

Constance Oswald argued in her lawsuit that the law requires issuing an exemption regardless of whether the constitutional requirements are met. The court found that the language of the law merely allows allowing an exemption in warranted cases.

Illinois Health and Hospital Association spokesman Danny Chun says the law has cleared up previous confusion and ensured financially stretched hospitals can serve their communities.


Juvenile waived to adult court in Indy doctor's slaying
Legal News | 2018/09/16 07:33
A juvenile has been waived to adult court to face charges in the fatal shooting of an Indiana University doctor and educator last year.

Online court records say 16-year-old Tarius Blade faces three felony burglary charges in the Nov. 20, 2017, slaying of Dr. Kevin Rodgers.

Blade was arrested in December along with Ka'Ron Bickham-Hurst, then 18. Court records show Bickham-Hurst has agreed to plead guilty to three burglary charges.

Two other men were arrested last month. Eighteen-year-old Nehemiah Merriweather was charged with felony murder and two counts of burglary and 17-year-old Devon Seats was charged with murder, felony murder and two counts of burglary.

The 61-year-old Rodgers was the program director emeritus of the emergency medicine residency at the Indiana University School of Medicine.



Nevada high court says execution doctor's name stays secret
Legal News | 2018/09/11 19:14
The name of the physician picked to attend a state inmate's execution can remain secret, even from drug makers suing to ban the use of their products in the twice-postponed lethal injection, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled Monday.

In a twist, lawyers for three pharmaceutical companies who won the right to obtain the name last week — and had promised to sue the doctor once they got it — told a judge in Las Vegas that they welcomed Monday's high court order.

Attorney Todd Bice, representing drug firm Alvogen, told Clark County District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez the high court decision to protect the doctor's identity, coupled with a recent sworn statement from Nevada prisons chief James Dzurenda, bolsters companies' arguments that their business would be hurt if their drugs are used.

"We aren't going to get into the identity of the doctor. We do intend to argue strongly that having your name associated with capital punishment is harmful to reputations," Bice said. "The director testified that it would be ruinous of the doctor's reputation."

Gonzalez had ruled last week that drug companies could learn the name, but it would not be disclosed to the public.


Court: Cities can't prosecute people for sleeping on streets
Legal News | 2018/09/06 06:55
Cities can't prosecute people for sleeping on the streets if they have nowhere else to go because it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, which is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court said Tuesday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with six homeless people from Boise, Idaho, who sued the city in 2009 over a local ordinance that banned sleeping in public spaces. The ruling could affect several other cities across the U.S. West that have similar laws.

It comes as many places across the West Coast are struggling with homelessness brought on by rising housing costs and income inequality.

When the Boise lawsuit was filed, attorneys for the homeless residents said as many as 4,500 people didn't have a place to sleep in Idaho's capital city and homeless shelters only had about 700 available beds or mats. The case bounced back and forth in the courts for years, and Boise modified its rules in 2014 to say homeless people couldn't be prosecuted for sleeping outside when shelters were full.

But that didn't solve the problem, the attorneys said, because Boise's shelters limit the number of days that homeless residents can stay. Two of the city's three shelters also require some form of religious participation for some programs, making those shelters unsuitable for people with different beliefs, the homeless residents said.





German court rules in broadcaster Nazi camp spat with Poland
Legal News | 2018/08/21 14:55
A German court has ruled that public broadcaster ZDF can’t be forced to post a specifically worded apology demanded by a Polish court for erroneously calling two World War II Nazi camps “Polish death camps.”

ZDF used that wording in reference to the Majdanek and Auschwitz death camps in advertising a 2013 documentary. After the Polish Embassy in Berlin objected, it changed the text to “German death camps on Polish territory.”

A Polish citizen who was a former inmate of Auschwitz and the Flossenbuerg concentration camp then launched a legal battle with ZDF, which twice apologized to him for the initial error and later published an apology.

In 2016, the plaintiff secured a ruling from a court in Krakow, Poland, ordering ZDF to post on its website for one month an apology stating that the original wording was “an incorrect formulation that distorts the history of the Polish people.” The broadcaster did publish the text from Dec. 2016 to Jan. 2017, but the plaintiff considered its compliance unsatisfactory and sought to have the Polish ruling legally enforced.

Lower German courts ruled that the verdict can be enforced in Germany. But the Federal Court of Justice said that it disagreed because the required formulation would violate the broadcaster’s right to freedom of opinion.


Zimbabwe's opposition challenges election results in court
Legal News | 2018/08/14 06:33
Zimbabwe's main opposition party on Friday filed a legal challenge to the results of the country's first election without Robert Mugabe on the ballot, alleging "gross mathematical errors" and calling for a fresh vote or a declaration that their candidate Nelson Chamisa was the winner.

The filing brings more uncertainty to a country that had hoped the peaceful vote would begin a new era but has been rocked since then by scenes of military in the streets and opposition supporters harassed and beaten.

The court now has 14 days to rule, and Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said the inauguration, once planned for Sunday for President Emmerson Mnangagwa, is "on hold' until then.

Zimbabwe's main opposition party on Friday filed a legal challenge to the results of the country's first election without Robert Mugabe on the ballot, alleging "gross mathematical errors" and calling for a fresh vote or a declaration that their candidate Nelson Chamisa was the winner.

The filing brings more uncertainty to a country that had hoped the peaceful vote would begin a new era but has been rocked since then by scenes of military in the streets and opposition supporters harassed and beaten.

The court now has 14 days to rule, and Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said the inauguration, once planned for Sunday for President Emmerson Mnangagwa, is "on hold' until then.


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