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Court enters default judgment in Kansas voting rights case
Legal News | 2016/10/14 06:00
A federal court clerk entered a default judgment Tuesday against Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach for failing to file a timely response to a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a state law requiring prospective voters to prove they are U.S. citizens.

It remains unclear whether U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson will give Kobach more time to respond. If the judgment stands it would apply to all voters in all federal, state and local elections — effectively ending the state's proof-of-citizenship requirement.

Kobach did not immediately return a cellphone message, but spokeswoman Desiree Taliaferro said he would comment.

Kobach faces four separate lawsuits challenging various aspects of Kansas' voter registration law. The law, which went into effect in January 2013, requires prospective voters to submit documentary proof of citizenship such as a birth certificate, U.S. passport or naturalization papers.

Kobach, a conservative Republican, has championed the proof-of-citizenship requirement as an anti-fraud measure that keeps non-citizens from voting, including immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. Critics say such requirements suppress voter turnout, particularly among young and minority voters, and that there have been few cases of fraud in the past.

"Oftentimes judges will give an attorney who has not filed something in a timely manner another chance," said Paul Davis, an attorney for the voter who brought the lawsuit. "We will have to see whether Judge Robinson is willing to do that in this case."

Kobach could ask the judge to set aside the clerk's action, possibly on grounds that include "excusable neglect," said Mark Johnson, another attorney for the voter.

But if the clerk's action stands, it means the proof-of-citizenship requirement can't be enforced, Johnson said.

The lawsuit contends the requirement violates voters' constitutional right to right to due legal process and the right to freely travel from state to state by infringing on people's ability to vote and to sign petitions. It also contends the actions Kobach has taken to verify citizenship status discriminates against people who were born or got married in other states.



Israel's Supreme Court rejects former PM Olmert's appeal
Legal News | 2016/09/29 20:11
Israel's imprisoned former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert faces an additional eight months behind bars after the country's Supreme Court rejected an appeal.

Olmert is already serving a 19-month sentence after being convicted of bribery and obstructing justice. The court this week unanimously rejected the appeal of a separate set of charges that included accepting cash-stuffed envelopes from a U.S. businessman.

He began his sentence in February. Olmert was a longtime fixture in Israel's hawkish right wing when he began taking a dramatically more conciliatory line toward the Palestinians as deputy prime minister a decade ago.

He played a leading role in Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005. He became prime minister in January 2006 after then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a debilitating stroke.



Senate confirms district court judge for New Jersey
Legal News | 2016/07/02 15:50
The Senate has confirmed President Barack Obama's nominee for the U.S. District Court for the district of New Jersey.

The vote was 92-5 on Wednesday for Brian Martinotti, who has served as a judge on the Superior Court of New Jersey since 2002. Obama nominated him to the district court post in June 2015.

Martinotti worked from 1987 to 2002 at the law firm of Beattie Padovano LLC, where he was elevated to partner in 1994. While at the firm, Martinotti also served as a councilmember for the borough of Cliffside Park from 1991 to 2002.

He was a law clerk to Judge Roger M. Kahn of the New Jersey Tax Court from 1986 to 1987.



US appeals court revisits Texas voter ID law
Legal News | 2016/06/14 20:12
A federal appeals court is set to take a second look at a strict Texas voter ID law that was found to be unconstitutional last year.

Texas' law requires residents to show one of seven forms of approved identification. The state and other supporters say it prevents fraud. Opponents, including the U.S. Justice Department, say it discriminates by requiring forms of ID that are more difficult to obtain for low-income, African-American and Latino voters.

Arguments before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals are set for Tuesday morning. The full court agreed to rehear the issue after a three-judge panel ruled last year that the law violates the Voting Rights Act.

Lawyers for Texas argue that the state makes free IDs easy to obtain, that any inconveniences or costs involved in getting one do not substantially burden the right to vote, and that the Justice Department and other plaintiffs have failed to prove that the law has resulted in denying anyone the right to vote.

Opponents counter in briefs that trial testimony indicated various bureaucratic and economic burdens associated with the law ? for instance, the difficulty in finding and purchasing a proper birth certificate to obtain an ID. A brief filed by the American Civil Liberties Union cites testimony in other voter ID states indicating numerous difficulties faced by people, including burdensome travel and expenses to get required documentation to obtain IDs.



Indiana court to hear woman's appeal of feticide conviction
Legal News | 2016/06/11 20:12
Attorneys for an Indiana woman found guilty of killing the premature infant she delivered after ingesting abortion-inducing drugs will ask an appeals court Monday to throw out the convictions that led to her 20-year prison sentence.

At issue is Indiana's feticide statute, which the defense says was "passed to protect pregnant women from violence" that could harm their developing fetus, not to prosecute women for their own abortions. The state says that law "is not limited to third-party actors" and can apply to pregnant women.

Attorneys for 35-year-old Purvi Patel will urge the Indiana Court of Appeals to reverse her 2015 convictions on charges of feticide and neglect of a dependent resulting in death. The state's attorney general's office will defend the northern Indiana jury's decision.

Patel, of Granger, was arrested in July 2013 after she sought treatment at a local hospital for profuse bleeding after delivering a 1½-pound infant boy and putting his body in a trash bin behind her family's restaurant. Court records show Patel purchased abortion-inducing drugs online through a pharmacy in Hong Kong, took those drugs and delivered a premature baby in her home bathroom.



Supreme Court rejects Blagojevich appeal in corruption case
Legal News | 2016/03/28 18:24
The Supreme Court on Monday rejected former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's appeal of his corruption convictions that included his attempt to sell the vacant Senate seat once occupied by President Barack Obama.
 
The justices let stand an appeals court ruling that found Blagojevich crossed the line when he sought money in exchange for naming someone to fill the seat. Blagojevich, 59, is serving a 14-year sentence at a federal prison in Colorado.

A federal appeals court last year threw out five of his 18 convictions and Blagojevich was hoping the Supreme Court would consider tossing the rest. His lawyers argued in an 83-page November filing that the line between the legal and illegal trading of political favors has become blurred, potentially leaving politicians everywhere subject to prosecution.

The appeal to the high court was a last slim hope for Blagojevich, who has proclaimed his innocence for years. Since his 2008 arrest and through his two trials, Blagojevich has argued he was participating in legal, run-of-the-mill politicking.

Blagojevich meanwhile is awaiting a resentencing ordered in July by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago when it ruled to toss the five convictions.

The Supreme Court hears only around 80 cases a year out of more than 10,000 requests and typically accepts cases that raise weighty and divisive legal issues.


Supreme Court will hear Samsung-Apple patent dispute
Legal News | 2016/03/21 23:20
The Supreme Court has agreed to referee a pricy patent dispute between Samsung and Apple.
 
The justices said Monday they will review a $399 million judgment against South Korea-based Samsung for illegally copying patented aspects of the look of Apple's iPhone.
   
Apple, based in Cupertino, California, and Samsung are the top two manufacturers of increasingly ubiquitous smartphones.

The two companies have been embroiled in patent fights for years.

The justices will decide whether a court can order Samsung to pay Apple every penny it made from the phones at issue, even though the disputed features are a tiny part of the product.

The federal appeals court in Washington that hears patent cases ruled for Apple.

None of the earlier-generation Galaxy and other Samsung phones involved in the lawsuit remains on the market, Samsung said.

The case involved common smartphone features for which Apple holds patents: the flat screen, the rectangular shape with rounded corners, a rim and a screen of icons.

The case, Samsung v. Apple, 15-777, will be argued in the court's new term that begins in October.



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