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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.



Court: Drug users can be jailed for relapsing on probation
Legal News | 2018/07/13 05:35
In a case that has attracted national attention, Massachusetts' highest court ruled Monday that judges in the state have the authority to order people to remain drug free as a condition of probation and under some circumstances order a defendant jailed for violating the drug-free requirement.

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled unanimously that such a requirement does not violate the constitutional rights of people with substance use disorder or unfairly penalize them because of a medical condition beyond their control.

The court ruled in the case of Julie Eldred, who was jailed in 2016 after she tested positive for the powerful opioid fentanyl days into her probation on larceny charges. Eldred, who has severe substance use disorder, spent more than a week in jail after relapsing until her lawyer could find a bed for her at a treatment facility.

Eldred's lawyer argued before the high court in October that her client's substance use disorder made her powerless to control her desire to use drugs, and that jailing her effectively criminalized relapse - which often happens in the recovery process.

But the justices said the defendant's claims were based partly on untested science.

"Nor do we agree with the defendant that the requirement of remaining drug free is an outdated moral judgment about an individual's addiction," wrote Associate Justice Barbara Lenk. "The judge here did not abuse her discretion by imposing the special condition of probation requiring the defendant to remain drug free."

The court called the actions of two district court judges and the state probation department "exemplary." The justices noted that Eldred had admitted to police that she had stolen to support her drug habit.

Most addiction specialists - including groups such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse and American Society of Addiction Medicine - view substance use disorder as a brain disease that interferes with a person's ability to control his or her desire to use drugs.


Demonstrators force Fox crew from Supreme Court broadcast
Legal News | 2018/07/10 09:36
Fox News' Shannon Bream said the network had to move a planned live broadcast indoors after she and her crew felt threatened by demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday following President Donald Trump's nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.

People shouted obscenities at Bream and her crew, crowded around and touched crew members as they prepared to air Fox's 11 p.m. Eastern hour from the location two hours after the nomination, she said.

"I've been in the middle of many protesters and signs and chanting and we all do our jobs," Bream said Tuesday. "But last night had a different feel to it."

Bream said Fox felt specifically targeted, although she said other reporters had a difficult time with the crowd. Disturbed by the scene, Fox executives made the decision to move to a nearby studio. Bream had been at the court for several hours, doing live reports during several programs.

The incident on an emotional political night exposed Fox News to a threatening atmosphere frequently faced by reporters at other news organizations at Trump rallies. CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta recently described how an elderly woman swore at him and tried to get him to leave one of Trump's recent rallies.

Bream, who has covered the Supreme Court for 11 years, said that often during demonstrations security separates demonstrators from the press with barricades, but they weren't on duty Monday night. She recalled only one other similar situation, but that happened during daylight hours.



Man charged in bike path killings speaks in court of 'Allah'
Legal News | 2018/06/20 07:01
The man charged with murdering eight people on a New York City bike path and injuring many more spoke out in court Friday over a prosecutor's objection, invoking "Allah" and defending the Islamic State.

Sayfullo Saipov, 30, raised his hand to speak immediately after U.S. District Judge Vernon S. Broderick set an Oct. 7, 2019 date for the Uzbek immigrant's trial.

Earlier, he had pleaded not guilty through his lawyer to the latest indictment in the Oct. 31 truck attack near the World Trade Center. A prosecutor said the Justice Department will decide by the end of the summer whether to seek the death penalty against Saipov, who lived in Paterson, New Jersey, before the attack.

Speaking through an interpreter for about 10 minutes, Saipov said the decisions of a U.S. court were unimportant to him. He said he cared about "Allah" and the holy war being waged by the Islamic State.

At the prompting of Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Houle, Broderick interrupted Saipov to read him his rights, including that anything he said in court could be used against him.

"I understand you, but I' m not worried about that at all," Saipov said.

"So the Islamic State is not fighting for land, like some say, or like some say, for oil. They have one purpose, and they're fighting to impose Sharia (Islamic law) on earth," he said.

After Saipov spoke more, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Beaty interrupted him to object that the judge was letting Saipov make the kind of statement publicly that special restrictions placed on him in prison would otherwise prevent, including discussing "terrorist propaganda."

The judge said he believed Saipov was nearing the end of his remarks and let him finish before warning him that he was unlikely to let him speak out in court again in a similar manner. Saipov, though, would be given a chance to testify if his case proceeds to trial and, if convicted, could speak at sentencing.

Saipov thanked the judge for letting him speak but added at one point: "I don't accept this as my judge."

Prosecutors had been seeking an April 2019 trial date. Houle said the families of the dead and the dozens who were injured deserve a "prompt and firm trial date."

"The victims here are anxious now when that trial is going to be," she said. "The public deserves a speedy trial, and the surviving victims deserve to know when that trial is going to be."

Defense lawyers have said the government should accept a guilty plea and a sentence of life in prison without parole to provide victims' families and the public with closure.



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