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Court: Compliance reached in education funding case
Legal Watch | 2018/06/12 07:17
A long-running court case over the adequacy of education funding in Washington state has ended, with the state Supreme Court on Thursday lifting its jurisdiction over the case and dropping daily sanctions after the Legislature funneled billions more dollars into public schools.

The court's unanimous order came in response to lawmakers passing a supplemental budget earlier this year that the justices said was the final step needed to reach compliance with a 2012 state Supreme Court ruling that found that K-12 school funding was inadequate. Washington's Constitution states that it is the Legislature's "paramount duty" to fully fund the education system. The resolution of the landmark case in Washington state comes as other states like Arizona, Oklahoma and Kentucky are now responding to calls for more money to be allocated to education.

The state had been in contempt of court since 2014 for lack of progress on that ruling, and daily sanctions of $100,000 — allocated specifically for education spending— had been accruing since August 2015.

"Reversing decades of underfunding has been among the heaviest lifts we've faced in recent years and required difficult and complex decisions, but I'm incredibly proud and grateful for all those who came together on a bipartisan basis to get this job done," Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in a written statement.

Over the past few years, lawmakers had put significantly more money toward education costs like student transportation and classroom supplies, but the biggest piece they needed to tackle to reach full compliance was figuring out how much the state must provide for teacher salaries. School districts had paid a big chunk of those salaries with local property-tax levies, something the court said had to be remedied.

In November, the court said a plan passed by the Legislature last year — which included a statewide property tax increase earmarked for education — satisfied its earlier ruling, but justices took issue with the fact that the teacher salary component of the plan wasn't fully funded until September 2019. This year, lawmakers expedited that timeframe to Sept. 1, 2018.

Democratic House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan said that the court's order was a relief, though he noted that legislative debates over education funding aren't over. Sullivan said there is more work to be done on areas like special education, as well as recruiting and retaining teachers.



Egypt refers 28 to criminal court for forming illegal group
Legal Watch | 2018/06/11 14:16
Egypt's chief prosecutor has referred 28 people to a criminal court on charges including forming an illegal group aiming to topple the government.

Sunday's statement by prosecutor Nabil Sadek says the suspects face an array of additional charges, including inciting violence and disseminating false news.

The statement says the suspects formed an illegal group, "The Egyptian Council for Change," to incite against the state and its institutions.

It says only nine of the 28 suspects are in custody. No date has been set for the trial. Egypt has intensified a long-running crackdown on dissent since President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's re-election in March.

The arrests are part of a wider crackdown on dissent since the 2013 military ouster of an elected Islamist president following mass protests against his one-year divisive rule.


Spanish court nixes terrorism accusation in Basque incident
Legal Watch | 2018/06/01 20:56
Spain's National Court has sentenced seven men and a woman to between two and 13 years in prison for beating up two police officers and their girlfriends, but rejected the prosecutors' argument that the defendants should face terror charges.

The call for terror charges caused outrage at the trial because the incident took place two years ago in an area of northern Spain with a strong Basque identity.

The Basque region is trying to put behind it decades of violence at the hands of armed separatist group ETA, which killed more than 800 people, including police, before giving up its armed campaign in 2011.

The court said in sentencing Friday that terrorist intent was not proven and that the accused did not belong to a terrorist organization.



Romania: Court tells president to fire anti-graft prosecutor
Legal Watch | 2018/05/29 06:57
Romania's top court on Wednesday told the country's president to fire the chief anti-corruption prosecutor, widely praised for her efforts to root out high-level graft, but a thorn in the side of some politicians.

The move angered some Romanians. More than 1,500 people gathered in protest in Bucharest, the capital, and hundreds rallied in the western cities of Timisoara and Sibiu calling the court "a slave" of the ruling Social Democratic Party.

The constitutional court ruled in a 6-3 vote that there had been an institutional conflict after President Klaus Iohannis disagreed with the justice minister's assessment that National Anti-Corruption Directorate Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi should be dismissed on grounds of failing to do her job properly.

In his February report calling for her dismissal, the minister, Tudorel Toader, said she was authoritarian, claimed that prosecutors falsified evidence and asserted that the number of acquittals was too high. He also said she had harmed Romania's image in interviews with foreign journalists. Kovesi later refuted his accusations.

Under her leadership, the agency has successfully prosecuted lawmakers, ministers and other top officials for bribery, fraud, abuse of power and other corruption-related offenses.

Kovesi's departure would be a blow to the agency, respected by ordinary Romanians, the European Union and the U.S. The court will explain its ruling later.



Judge allows Palin's son therapeutic court for proceedings
Legal Watch | 2018/05/19 06:58
The eldest son of former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin will go through Alaska's therapeutic court system in a criminal case accusing him of assaulting his father last year at the family home.

State District Judge David Wallace on Tuesday approved Track Palin's request to formally transfer his case to Veterans Court, which gives eligible veterans the option of enrolling in mental health treatment programs instead of a traditional sentence.

The judge also barred the media from using cameras or other recording devices during that proceeding after Track Palin's attorney filed a motion seeking to prohibit or limit media access. Wallace said he will formally rule on the matter later.

The motion to limit media access was filed Friday by Track Palin's attorney, Patrick Bergt, in an effort to ensure the case does not become a distraction to other veterans in the system.

Veterans Court program rules say veterans opt in by agreeing to plead guilty or not guilty to at least one charge.

Bergt declined to say if his client is making such a plea to get into the program, adding he can't comment on specifics of the case.


Court program in Dona Ana County focuses on veterans
Legal Watch | 2018/05/03 06:58
A new court program has opened in Dona Ana County that focuses on the substance abuse and mental health issues facing military veterans who have been charged with non-violent crimes.

Las Cruces Sun-News reports that the first hearing in the 3rd Judicial District Court's Veterans Treatment Court program was held on Wednesday.

It's the first veterans court program in southern New Mexico

The judicial district already has other "problem-solving courts," such as a drug court for juveniles and adults that tries to help rehabilitate repeat offenders whose offenses are driven by substance abuse.

Veterans participating in the new program will be given individualized treatment and counseling programs that run an average of 14 months or longer.



Czech court: Attacker on Petra Kvitova taken into custody
Legal Watch | 2018/04/29 06:59
A Czech Republic court has ruled a suspect in a knife attack on two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova be taken into custody.

Zuzana Buresova, a spokesperson for the county court in the city of Prostejov, says the court issued the ruling on Thursday. Buresova declined to give any further details.

Police have not commented yet, and declined to confirm the man's arrest, citing an ongoing investigation.

After the attack in her home in Prostejov in December 2016, Kvitova had surgery on injuries to her playing left hand.

It took her more than five months to recover.

In a message to local media from Paris, where she is getting ready for the French Open, Kvitova called it "good news."



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