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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.


Filing period opens for West Virginia Supreme Court seat
Legal News | 2018/08/06 21:24
The filing period has begun for a special election for the West Virginia Supreme Court.

The filing period for the unexpired seat of former Justice Menis Ketchum started Monday and runs through Aug. 21. The special election will be held concurrently with the Nov. 6 general election.

Candidates must be at least 30 years old, residents of West Virginia for at least five years and admitted to practice law for at least 10 years.

Ketchum announced his retirement last month. He had two years remaining in his term.

Last week prosecutors said Ketchum has agreed to plead guilty in federal court to one count of wire fraud stemming from the personal use of state-owned vehicles and fuel cards. He faces a plea hearing and up to 20 years in prison.



Iowa woman promoted to nation's lone all-male Supreme Court
Legal News | 2018/07/30 04:27
Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds on Wednesday promoted a female district judge to the Supreme Court in Iowa, the only state where all of its current justices are men.

Susan Christensen will be the first woman on Iowa's high court in roughly eight years. The appointment doesn't require confirmation by lawmakers for Christensen to take the bench.

During brief remarks from her formal office at the state Capitol, Reynolds praised Christensen's background, which most recently includes being a district court judge in the Fourth Judicial District in southwest Iowa. She previously worked as an assistant county attorney and a district associate judge.

Reynolds prefaced Christensen's announcement by saying that Iowans need "judges who understand the proper role of the courts within our government. Judges who will apply the law, and not make it."

The last woman to serve on the Iowa Supreme Court was Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, who lost her retention election in 2010. Ternus was part of a unanimous decision in 2009 that effectively legalized same-sex marriage in the state. Groups opposing same-sex marriage then led a successful campaign to get Ternus and two other justices voted out of the court.


Tennessee abortion change vote case appealed to high court
Legal News | 2018/07/24 06:55
Opponents of a state constitutional amendment that passed in 2014 to allow tougher abortion restrictions are appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court after a circuit appellate court denied a recount.

The appeal in the Amendment 1 case was filed earlier this month.

A 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals opinion in January said the state's vote tabulating method was reasonable and true to the meaning of the state constitution and didn't infringe on plaintiffs' voting rights.

The order overturned an April 2016 district court ruling that sided with eight voters that sued the state by ordering the recount. The judge called Tennessee's vote-counting unconstitutional and fundamentally unfair. The recount was put on hold pending the appeal.

Tennessee officials have said they followed their longstanding practice of counting amendment votes.


Court says convicted serial rapist should be released
Legal News | 2018/07/17 22:34
A convicted serial rapist should be allowed to be released into the community under supervision, the Minnesota state Court of Appeals ruled Monday, saying the state did not prove by clear and convincing evidence that Thomas Duvall should remain in treatment.

Department of Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper said Monday that she will appeal the provisional discharge of Duvall, in a case that once set off a political firestorm as lawmakers were considering changes to the state's treatment program for sex offenders.

"I have grave concerns about this decision," Piper said in a statement. "Three experts have previously testified that Thomas Duvall is not ready for life in the community and that he presents far too great a risk to public safety. I share that view and will exhaust every possible avenue of appeal."

Duvall, 62, has spent the last 30 years locked up for the violent rapes of teenage girls in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1987, he bound a Brooklyn Park girl with an electrical cord and raped her repeatedly over several hours while hitting her with a hammer. He was civilly committed as a psychopathic personality in 1991 and sent to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program.

Duvall has been in treatment since 2001 and was diagnosed as a sexual sadist. He has been in the final stages of the program since 2010, living outside the security perimeter at the facility in St. Peter, going on regular supervised community outings, volunteering at a thrift store, attending community support groups and preparing for transition into the community.



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