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Trump nominates White House lawyer to important court seat
Opinions | 2017/09/12 16:07
President Donald Trump has tapped one of his own White House attorneys for a judgeship on one of the most important federal appeals courts, opening the door for confirmation hearing questions about the legal controversies that dominated the first seven months of Trump's presidency.

Gregory Katsas was nominated Thursday to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Katsas, the deputy White House counsel, was a former Justice Department official under President George W. Bush. A biography on the White House's website says he has argued more than 75 appeals, including the constitutional challenge to President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act before the Supreme Court.

He would replace the libertarian-leaning Judge Janice Rogers Brown, who retired this summer. The court is influential, in part because of its role in adjudicating many of the orders and laws put forth by the administration. It is sometimes called America's second highest court because it can be a stepping stone to the Supreme Court just a few blocks away.

Katsas, once a law clerk to Justice Thomas, has served in high-ranking Justice Department roles, including as head of the civil division that has responsibility for defending the administration's policies against court challenges. He is part of the steady stream of Jones Day law firm partners who have flowed into the Trump administration, including White House counsel Don McGahn.

So many Jones Day attorneys work in the White House that the counsel's office issued a blanket ethics waiver for them so that they can maintain contact with their former colleagues without running afoul of ethics provisions. The firm's lawyers continue to represent members of the Trump campaign outside the White House.



French Designer Wins Court Case in Dispute with Brad Pitt
Opinions | 2017/08/18 23:51
A French lighting designer has won a $600,000 court ruling in a dispute with Brad Pitt over a grandiose re-design of the chateau in Provence that he and Angelina Jolie shared.

But designer Odile Soudant isn’t stopping there. She says her business went under because of Pitt’s refusal to pay for costly architectural reveries, and she’s now fighting for the intellectual property rights to the Chateau Miraval’s lighting design.

Pitt’s representatives argue the project was late and over-budget and the design was Pitt’s brainchild – not hers.

Soudant’s legal actions are the latest challenge for Pitt, who is in protracted divorce proceedings with Jolie.

The couple stayed at the chateau when she gave birth to their twins in nearby Monaco in 2008, launched a wine venture from its vineyards and married there in 2014.



Idaho Judicial Council accepting applications for high court
Opinions | 2017/05/01 13:35
An opening on the Idaho Supreme Court won't be filled through an election but through an application process.

Supreme Court Justice Daniel Eismann announced earlier this year he will retire in August — 16 months before the end of his current six-year term.

Because Eismann is stepping down early, the Idaho Judicial Council will solicit applications and recommend up to four names to the governor for appointment instead of waiting until the 2018 election, The Spokesman-Review reported. Idaho's Supreme Court positions are nonpartisan.

It's a merit-based process that had been used primarily to replace outgoing justices until this past year when former Idaho Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones announced he would retire at the end of his term.

"I would never have been on the court if the only avenue was to go through the Judicial Council and be appointed by the governor," said Jones, 74, who was twice elected Idaho attorney general. "It just didn't even occur to me as a possibility, because if you've been involved in the political arena, you probably at one time or another have stepped on the toes of whoever ends up being governor."

Eismann joined the state's highest court in 2001 after successfully running against incumbent Justice Cathy Silak. That election was the first time in 68 years that a sitting supreme court justice had been ousted in an election.

He caused a stir when he decided to announce his election campaign at a Republican Party event in eastern Idaho. He has since become one of the most outspoken justices, known for his tough questioning and advocating for specialty courts throughout Idaho.


Man who escaped from Rhode Island prison to appear in court
Opinions | 2017/01/02 12:32
A man who escaped from a Rhode Island prison and was on the run for five days before being captured in Massachusetts is scheduled to make an initial appearance before a federal magistrate judge.

James Morales escaped from the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls last Saturday and was captured Thursday in Somerville. Authorities believe he may have tried to rob two banks before he was caught.

Morales is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Providence on an escape charge.

Authorities say Morales escaped New Year's Eve by climbing a basketball hoop, cutting through a fence and climbing th brough razor wire. It took hours for correctional officers to notice.

The 35-year-old former Army reservist was being held on charges he stole 16 guns from a U.S. Army Reserve Center in Worcester.



Suspected people smuggler charged in Australian court
Opinions | 2016/10/02 20:11
An Iranian citizen extradited from Indonesia was charged in a Sydney court on Thursday with attempting to smuggle 73 asylum seekers by boat to Australia.

Mohammad Naghi Karimi Azar, 56, on Wednesday became the eighth suspected people smuggler to be extradited from Indonesia to Australia since 2008, a government statement said.

Azar was charged in Sydney Central Local Court with 43 counts of people smuggling, an offense that carries a minimum five-year sentence and a maximum of 20 years.

He appeared by video from a Sydney police station.

Court documents allege Azar facilitated the passage of 73 men, women and children between 2011 and 2013. His lawyer, Archie Hallas, told the court that Azar had spent the last two and a half years in an Indonesian jail.

Azar did not apply for bail. Hallas told the court his client needed time to read the 100-page prosecution case against him. Azar is to appear in court next on Oct. 5.

Outside the court, another lawyer for Azar, Sayar Dehsabzi, told reporters his client intended to plead not guilty.

Dehsabzi said Azar told him he was a refugee registered with the United Nations and had fled Iran in fear of persecution because he was a member of an ethnic minority.



California Supreme Court to consider suit over Yelp review
Opinions | 2016/09/24 06:01
The California Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to consider a lawsuit that Yelp.com warns could lead to the removal of negative reviews on the popular website.

The seven-member court voted unanimously Wednesday to take up an appeal by Yelp of a lower court ruling upholding an order requiring Yelp to remove posts against a San Francisco law firm.

Yelp wants the Supreme Court to overturn the ruling, saying that if it's allowed to stand, it will open the door for businesses to force the company to remove critical reviews.

Dawn Hassell, the law firm's managing attorney, says the business review website is exaggerating the stakes of her legal effort. She says it aims only to remove from Yelp lies by a former client that a judge determined were defamatory, not just negative.

Hassell referred comment Wednesday to her attorney, Monique Olivier, who said in a statement she was not surprised the Supreme Court has taken up the case given the "amount of attention" it has received.

"This case is not one of a 'bad review' " she said. "It is a case where a court adjudicated statements to be defamatory after receiving and reviewing evidence about the falsity of those statements."

Aaron Schur, Yelp's senior director of litigation, said the company looked forward to explaining to the court "how the lower court's decision is ripe for abuse, contradicts longstanding legal principles, and restricts the ability of websites to provide a balanced spectrum of views online."


Stepmom of scalded boy who died pleads guilty to murder
Opinions | 2016/09/12 06:58
A woman accused of holding her 4-year-old stepson in a scalding bath, covering his burns and not getting him medical care before he died was sentenced to at least 18 years in prison after pleading guilty to murder and other charges on Thursday.

A Warren County judge sentenced Anna Ritchie to 18 years to life in prison after she changed her plea from not guilty.

Ritchie was arrested after the March death of Austin Cooper. A detective said Ritchie told police that she put Austin's legs in extra-hot water as punishment because he didn't like baths and that she tried to hide his burns.

Her attorneys had tried unsuccessfully to have evidence from her interview with Franklin police detectives excluded from the case.

County Prosecutor David Fornshell alleged that Ritchie held Austin in extra-hot water for 20 to 25 minutes as he struggled, then put him to bed wearing pajamas and socks to cover his bleeding feet and burned skin, his arms cut where her fingernails had grasped him. His father found him dead in his crib more than 16 hours later, Fornshell said.



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