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Haiti protest derides Dominican court ruling
Press Releases | 2013/12/09 22:30
Hundreds of protesters gathered Friday to criticize a recent court decision in the Dominican Republic that could strip the citizenship of generations of people of Haitian descent living in the neighboring country.

The crowd peaked at about 2,000 people but thinned out during the march uphill to the Dominican Embassy to protest the decision passed two months ago by that country's court. The demonstrators urged people to boycott travel to the Dominican Republic.

Riot police set up metal barricades on a major thoroughfare that block protesters from reaching the district where the diplomatic mission is located.

The ruling has been met with sharp objection, from Caribbean leaders to the United Nations. On Friday, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights became the latest international entity to oppose the court decision, calling on the Dominican government to take urgent measures to guarantee the rights of those people affected.

Advocacy groups estimate 200,000 people, many of them of Haitian descent, could lose their Dominican citizenship because of the court ruling. Dominican officials say only about 24,000 would be affected.


Nevada Supreme Court upholds ethics laws
Press Releases | 2013/12/02 21:24
The Nevada Supreme Court upheld the state's ethics laws on Wednesday while backing the censure of a Sparks councilman for his 2005 vote on a casino project involving his former campaign manager.

In a 5-2 opinion, justices rejected arguments from Sparks Councilman Michael Carrigan that the conflict of interest laws are overly vague and violate constitutional protections of right of association.

Chief Justice Kris Pickering, writing for the majority, said the law serves to ensure that public officers "avoid conflicts between (their) private interests and those of the general public whom (they) serve."

At issue was whether a catch-all phrase in Nevada law extending defined voting prohibitions — such as in matter involving family members, business partners or employers — to any other substantially similar relationship is vague and unconstitutional.

Carrigan was censured by the state Ethics Commission for voting on the Lazy 8 hotel-casino project. Carlos Vasquez, a lobbyist for the project, had served as Carrigan's campaign manager free of charge and placed media ads for the campaign at cost, according to court documents. He also lobbied for the project before the Sparks City Council.

The Lazy 8 was backed by one-time developer and Nevada political powerhouse Harvey Whittemore, who was convicted this year in federal court on felony charges related to illegal campaign contributions made to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.


Supreme Court Will Take up New Health Law Dispute
Press Releases | 2013/11/29 18:34
The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to referee another dispute over President Barack Obama's health care law, whether businesses can use religious objections to escape a requirement to cover birth control for employees.

The justices said they will take up an issue that has divided the lower courts in the face of roughly 40 lawsuits from for-profit companies asking to be spared from having to cover some or all forms of contraception.

The court will consider two cases. One involves Hobby Lobby Inc., an Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts chain with 13,000 full-time employees. Hobby Lobby won in the lower courts.

The other case is an appeal from Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., a Pennsylvania company that employs 950 people in making wood cabinets. Lower courts rejected the company's claims.

The court said the cases will be combined for arguments, probably in late March. A decision should come by late June.

The cases center on a provision of the health care law that requires most employers that offer health insurance to their workers to provide a range of preventive health benefits, including contraception.

In both instances, the Christian families that own the companies say that insuring some forms of contraception violates their religious beliefs.

The key issue is whether profit-making corporations can assert religious beliefs under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act or the First Amendment provision guaranteeing Americans the right to believe and worship as they choose. Nearly four years ago, the justices expanded the concept of corporate "personhood," saying in the Citizens United case that corporations have the right to participate in the political process the same way that individuals do.

"The government has no business forcing citizens to choose between making a living and living free," said David Cortman of the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Christian public interest law firm that is representing Conestoga Wood at the Supreme Court.



International court summit debates Africa issues
Press Releases | 2013/11/22 18:14
The International Criminal Court's vexed relationship with Africa took center stage Wednesday on the opening day of the annual summit of its 122 member states.

The prosecutions of Kenya's president and his deputy have plunged relations between the world's first permanent war crimes court and the African Union to the deepest point in the court's 12-year history.

Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto is on trial for allegedly fomenting violence in the aftermath of his country's 2007 elections, and President Uhuru Kenyatta is due to go on trial in February on similar charges. Both men insist they are innocent.

"The court is facing a test of its veracity and its effectiveness," Kenya's Foreign Affairs Minister Amina Mohamed told delegates. "This meeting must come up with practical solutions to the challenges facing the court and the entire Rome Statute system."

The Rome Statute is the court's founding document, and one of its provisions is that heads of state do not enjoy immunity from prosecution.

But the African Union argues that Ruto and Kenyatta's trials should be delayed because Kenya needs its leaders to help fight al-Shabab terrorists in neighboring Somalia and at home.


High court reverses pot conviction over evidence
Press Releases | 2013/11/11 22:10
The Montana Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed the conviction of a Beaverhead County man for criminal distribution of dangerous drugs, saying he was convicted based on insufficient evidence.

The court ruled in a 4-1 decision that state prosecutors presented the testimony of just one witness, who said Anthony James Burwell provided her with marijuana in exchange for baby-sitting his two daughters while he went to work in summer 2011.

Jennifer Jones told authorities that the night before she was supposed to baby-sit, she and Burwell smoked a bowl of a substance she said was marijuana, describing it as "green with orange hairs," according to the opinion written by Chief Justice Mike McGrath.

Jones identified Burwell in a list of "people to narc on" that she wrote while in police custody, McGrath wrote. She gave a vague description of the man and said he lived next door to her friend, according to the opinion.

Officers concluded Jones was referring to Burwell, found that he had a medical marijuana card and charged him in October 2011. He was convicted in district court and sentenced to 10 years, with five years suspended.

"Officers never searched Burwell's residence, never attempted a controlled buy and never discovered any marijuana in his possession," McGrath wrote.

No expert analyzed Jones' description of the substance, no other witnesses backed her testimony and she did not describe the effects of the substance, McGrath wrote.

The evidence was insufficient to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the substance was a dangerous drug, the chief justice wrote.

Justice Jim Rice dissented, saying that the majority opinion ignores significant circumstantial evidence and that it was up to the jury that convicted Burwell to determine the facts.

Burwell acknowledged that he did not pay Jones cash for baby-sitting and that Burwell and his son were medical marijuana cardholders permitted to grow the drug at home, Rice wrote.

"The testimony here, of a lay witness identifying marijuana from prior experience with the drug, along with the confirming circumstantial evidence, is sufficient to establish the identity of the substance," Rice wrote.


Court-martial date set in Naval Academy case
Press Releases | 2013/11/04 22:07

A court-martial has been scheduled for February for a U.S. Naval Academy student accused of aggravated sexual assault.

Midshipman Josh Tate appeared at an arraignment Monday at the Washington Navy Yard.

The court-martial is scheduled to begin Feb. 10. The case stems from an April 2012 party at an off-campus house in Annapolis. The alleged victim had been drinking heavily and has testified that she cannot remember having sex with Tate.

Another student also faces a separate court-martial in the case. It is scheduled for Jan. 27. Midshipman Eric Graham is charged with abusive sexual contact.

If you are facing trial by court-martial, you also have the right to hire an experienced civilian defense attorney to represent and defend you. It is your career and future that is at stake and it is important that you have an experienced attorney who will advocate aggressively on your behalf. Please contact Las Vegas Military Defense Attorneys.


PG&E starts pipeline shutdown under court order
Press Releases | 2013/10/07 17:37
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. says it will comply with a judge's order and shut down a natural gas pipeline after safety issues were raised.

The utility said Sunday it believes the pipeline is safe despite an engineer's email questioning the safety of the 83-year-old line's welds. PG&E said it could take until Tuesday to safely shut down the line and seamlessly switch its customers to another line.

A judge ordered the line shut down after San Carlos city officials discovered the email and declared a "state of emergency."

The email said PG&E's records incorrectly show the line containing a newer, more reliable weld than it actually has.

PG&E said state-of-the-art tests show the line is safe and that it was shutting the line only because of the court order.


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