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Judge to pick battlefield for court fight over Manson's body
Legal News | 2018/01/18 02:48
Charles Manson orchestrated murders in his adopted hometown of Los Angeles, served time in a state prison in Corcoran and died in a hospital in Bakersfield.

The legal battle for his body or possessions could land in any of three California counties where those cities are located as friends and purported kin wage a court fight Friday that includes nasty accusations about profiteering off the death of the cult leader.

At least three parties have staked claims to collect Manson's body from the Kern County morgue two months after he died and take control of any assets, which could include potentially lucrative rights to the use of his image and songs he wrote and any other property.

"It's a circus show," said a frustrated Ben Gurecki, one of two pen pals who hold dueling wills allegedly signed by Manson. "It's despicable that I'm still sitting here 60 days later and I can't get my friend cremated."

But first a Los Angeles Superior Court judge must decide which court takes up the separate issues of Manson's remains and his estate.

A Florida man, Jason Freeman, claims he's a grandson and the rightful heir and that the killer left no will. He's been challenged in Los Angeles by Michael Channels, another pen pal and collector of Manson memorabilia, who holds a will bearing what appears to be Manson's signature and names him as executor and sole beneficiary.

Gurecki, who like Channels also sells Manson mementos to fans of so-called murderabilia, has filed a will with the Kern County coroner's office bearing Manson's purported signature. It names Gurecki as executor and leaves everything to his "one living child," Matthew Lentz, a Los Angeles musician. Lentz and Gurecki have yet to file the will in court.


Ohio crime victims' rights issue could face court challenge
Legal News | 2017/11/09 03:50
A civil rights group is weighing a legal challenge to the crime victim rights amendment passed by Ohio voters.

An ACLU of Ohio spokesman said Wednesday the organization is watching to see how Marsy's Law is implemented across Ohio.

Issue 1 amends the Ohio Constitution to give crime victims and their families the same rights as the accused, including notice of court proceedings, input on plea deals and the opportunity to tell their story.

The issue was approved in all 88 counties Tuesday and received nearly 83 percent support statewide. A second ballot issue aimed at curbing skyrocketing drug costs lost in a landslide with nearly 80 percent opposition.

The ACLU argues the victim rights amendment will erode due process rights. Montana's high court declared Marsy's Law unconstitutional last week.



Inmate asks Arkansas high court to halt upcoming executio
Legal News | 2017/11/06 03:48
An Arkansas inmate scheduled to receive a lethal injection this week asked the state's highest court Monday to halt his execution amid his attorneys' claims that he doesn't understand why he is to be put to death.

Attorneys for Jack Greene asked the state Supreme Court to issue an emergency stay of execution. Greene is scheduled to be executed Thursday night for the 1991 death of Sidney Burnett, who was beaten with a can of hominy, stabbed and later shot.

Greene's attorneys asked for the stay while they appeal a lower court's dismissal of their lawsuit challenging an Arkansas law giving the state's top prison official the authority to determine whether Greene is competent to be executed. Greene's attorneys say he suffers from psychotic delusions, and say the inmate believes the attorneys and prison officials have conspired to torture him.

The judge who dismissed the suit said the law had already been upheld as constitutional and that she didn't have the authority to stay the execution.

The filing cited the court's decision to halt the execution of another inmate, Bruce Ward, in April over similar claims about his mental competency.

"The court should not allow the state to avoid the substantial questions presented here by executing Greene before the court can address them — as it has already committed itself to do in another case," Greene's attorneys said in Monday's filing.



Court weighing whether graffiti mecca was protected by law
Legal News | 2017/10/27 14:01
For two decades, Jerry Wolkoff let graffiti artists use his crumbling Queens warehouse complex as a canvas for their vibrant works. Artists gave the spot the name "5Pointz" — a place where all five New York City boroughs come together — but painters traveled from as far as Japan and Brazil to tag, bomb and burn at what became a graffiti mecca and a tourist destination.

But like most graffiti, it didn't last. Wolkoff whitewashed the building in 2013 then tore it down to build luxury apartment towers.

Four years later, some of the artists whose work was destroyed are in court, arguing that even though the building belonged to Wolkoff, the art was protected by federal law.

A trial that started Tuesday at a federal court in Brooklyn will determine whether the artists should be compensated for the lost work.

More than 20 artists sued Wolkoff under the Visual Artists Rights Act, or VARA, a 1990 federal statute that protects artists' rights even if someone else owns the physical artwork.

A trial that started Tuesday at a federal court in Brooklyn will determine whether the artists should be compensated for the lost work.

More than 20 artists sued Wolkoff under the Visual Artists Rights Act, or VARA, a 1990 federal statute that protects artists' rights even if someone else owns the physical artwork.

Barry Werbin, an attorney specializing in intellectual property, said the case is significant because no lawsuit under the statute has been tried by a jury before.



Court nixes class-action status for TGI Friday's drink suit
Legal News | 2017/10/12 13:58
A lawsuit accusing restaurant chain TGI Friday's violated consumer fraud laws with its drink pricing can't go ahead as a class action that could have included millions of members, but a similar case involving Carrabba's Italian Grill restaurants can, New Jersey's state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

Debra Dugan sued TGI Friday's after she was charged one price for a drink at the bar and a higher price at a table in 2008. The restaurant didn't list drink prices on its menus, according to the lawsuit.

A lower court in 2012 granted class-action status to anyone who ordered unpriced drinks at 14 of the company's restaurants in New Jersey from 2004 through 2014. TGI Friday's had estimated that could have amounted to as many as 14 million customers, according to court filings. But the plaintiffs disputed that figure.

According to the lawsuit, TGI Friday's conducted research that showed that customers spent an average of $1.72 less on drinks if the prices were displayed than if the prices weren't displayed. The lawsuit sought to prove that that amount could be considered a loss for anyone who had ordered a drink at the restaurants. Wednesday's 5-1 ruling rejected that argument, but said individual claims could still proceed.




NC appeals court restores man's lawsuit against wife's lover
Legal News | 2017/09/06 15:47
A jilted husband's lawsuit against a doctor accused of stealing his wife's love can proceed after a North Carolina appeals court ruled Tuesday that the husband can continue suing the spouse's lover, seeking damages.

The state Court of Appeals decision resurrects a lawsuit that a trial judge had thrown out in Forsyth County, whose seat is Winston-Salem. The judge ruled that state law violates a person's constitutional free speech and free expression rights to engage in intimate sexual activity and expression with other consenting adults.

North Carolina is one of only about a half-dozen states that still allow lawsuits accusing a cheating spouse's lover of alienation of affection and criminal conversation.

"These laws were born out of misogyny and in modern times are often used as tools for enterprising divorce lawyers seeking leverage over the other side," Judge Richard Dietz wrote in the unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel. Nevertheless, such lawsuits "are designed to prevent and remedy personal injury, and to protect the promise of monogamy that accompanies most marriage commitments."

The court said Marc Malecek filed the lawsuit after his wife, a nurse, had an affair in 2015 with Dr. Derek Williams, a physician at the hospital where the woman works. Williams challenged the laws as unconstitutional, citing a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision voiding a Texas law outlawing homosexual acts because liberty meant allowing adults to make their own decisions about conduct.

Williams argued that the state laws "target extra-marital intimacy or sex because the State disapproves of expressing that intimacy while married to someone else," Dietz wrote.

The largest alienation award in state history was in 2011, when a Wake County judge awarded $30 million to the former wife of a Raleigh business owner. The ex-wife had sued the businessman's current spouse.

About 200 lawsuits alleging alienation are filed each year in North Carolina, but the potential liability is raised in virtually every divorce case that involves infidelity, Raleigh divorce attorney Lisa Angel said in an interview.

"People who are suffering a divorce as a result of an affair, there's a lot of economic damage. It's not that hard to make the case, as the court is making it clear here, that there's injury to a person when this happens," Angel said.



Dispute over rights to Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan goes to court
Legal News | 2017/08/30 14:55
Tom Clancy's widow wants a court to rule that the author's estate is the exclusive owner of the rights to his famous character Jack Ryan.

News media outlets report that Alexandra Clancy's lawsuit says that the author's estate should be the sole beneficiary of any posthumous books featuring the character who was first introduced in "The Hunt for Red October."

Alexandra Clancy is suing the personal representative of Clancy's estate, J.W. Thompson Webb, for allowing other entities to profit from posthumous book revenues. Clancy's first wife, Wanda King, is a partial owner of those other entities.

The lawsuit says: "Tom Clancy made Jack Ryan; and in a sense, Jack Ryan made Tom Clancy."

The lawsuit was filed in the Circuit Court in Baltimore. Tom Clancy died in 2013.



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