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Idaho high court considers defamation lawsuit
Top Legal News | 2018/09/21 05:58
The Idaho Supreme Court heard arguments Friday in a case that could determine whether individuals have the right to sue if they think a journalist implied — but didn't outright say — something defamatory.

The issue arose in a lawsuit brought last year by former teacher James Verity against USA Today and television stations in Idaho and Oregon after they reported on the results of a national investigation into teacher licensing. The investigation found that teachers who had a license revoked in one state were often able to move to another state to be licensed there.

Verity lost his Oregon teaching license after he was disciplined for having inappropriate sexual contact with an 18-year-old student. He was later was granted an Idaho teaching license.

Verity says the news coverage wrongly implied that he was danger to female students, that he misled Idaho officials and that he committed a crime by having sex with a student. The news organizations say their reporting was accurate.


South African court says marijuana use in private is legal
Top Legal News | 2018/09/18 19:35
South Africa's top court says adults can use marijuana in private.

The Constitutional Court on Tuesday upheld a provincial court's ruling in a case involving Gareth Prince, who advocates the decriminalization of the drug.

Prince says cannabis should be regulated in the same way as alcohol and tobacco. Government authorities have said cannabis is harmful and should be illegal.

The top court says an adult can cultivate cannabis in "a private place" as long as it is for personal consumption in private. It says the right to privacy "extends beyond the boundaries of a home."

The court says it would be up to a police officer to decide if the amount of marijuana in someone's possession is for dealing or personal consumption.



Court: British surveillance violates European law
Top Legal News | 2018/09/16 02:33
Europe's human rights court handed a partial victory Thursday to civil rights groups that challenged the legality of mass surveillance and intelligence-sharing practices exposed by American whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that some aspects of British surveillance regimes violated provisions in the European Convention on Human Rights that are meant to safeguard Europeans' rights to privacy.

Specifically, the court said there wasn't enough independent scrutiny of processes used by British intelligence services to sift through data and communications intercepted in bulk.

The ruling cited a "lack of oversight of the entire selection process" and "the absence of any real safeguards."

The court's seven judges also voted 6-1 that Britain's regime for getting data from communications service providers also violated the human rights convention, including its provisions on privacy and on freedom of expression.

But the ruling wasn't all bad for British spies. The court said it is "satisfied" that British intelligence services take their human rights convention obligations seriously "and are not abusing their powers."

The court also gave a green light to procedures British security services use to get intelligence from foreign spy agencies, saying the intelligence-sharing regime doesn't violate the convention's privacy provisions.




Nevada Supreme Court taking up execution case
Top Legal News | 2018/08/10 13:34
The Nevada Supreme Court has stepped in to decide whether drug companies can try to stop the state from using their medications in a twice-postponed lethal injection of a condemned inmate who wants to die.

A state court judge in Las Vegas cancelled hearings Thursday following an order late Wednesday from six of the high court's seven justices.

Supreme Court intervention had been sought by the state attorney general's office regarding the execution of Scott Raymond Dozier.

The judge had planned to hear drugmaker Sandoz's request to join a bid by Alvogen and Hikma Pharmaceuticals to prevent Nevada from using their products in a three-drug combination never before tried in any state.

A Nevada death-row inmate whose execution has been postponed twice says the legal fight over his fate is taking a tortuous toll on him and his family and he wants his sentence carried out.

Scott Raymond Dozier told The Associated Press that the state should, in his words, "just get it done, just do it effectively and stop fighting about it."

Dozier's comments in a brief prison telephone call on Wednesday came a day before a third drug company is due to ask a state court judge in Las Vegas to let it join with two other firms suing to block the use of their products in executions.

The companies say they publicly declared they didn't want their products used in executions and allege that Nevada improperly obtained their drugs.



Rebel Wilson back in Australian courts in defamation appeal
Top Legal News | 2018/07/12 05:36
Rebel Wilson has applied to Australia's highest court to increase the comic actress's payout from a defamation case against a magazine publisher.

The 38-year-old, best known for parts in the "Pitch Perfect" and "Bridesmaids" movies, was awarded in September an Australian record 4.6 million Australian dollars ($3.5 million) in damages.

A Victoria state Supreme Court jury found that that German publisher Bauer Media defamed her in a series of articles in 2015 claiming she lied about her age, the origin of her first name and her upbringing in Sydney.

But three judges on the Court of Appeal last month upheld an appeal by Bauer and slashed Wilson's payout to AU$600,000 ($454,000).

The appeal court ruled that the trial Judge John Dixon should not have compensated Wilson for film roles, including "Trolls" and "Kung Fu Panda 3," which she testified she had lost due to the damage the articles had done to her reputation.

She was also ordered to pay 80 percent of Bauer's legal costs in mounting its appeal.

Wilson lodged an application to the High Court late Wednesday to restore Dixon's ruling. The High Court registry made the court documents public on Thursday.

The Court of Appeal overturned Dixon's finding that Wilson's career had been on an "upward trajectory" before the articles, instead saying the judge had given "a picture of the plaintiff's career trajectory that significantly overstated its success and ignored its hiccups."

According to court documents, Wilson's lawyers will argue Dixon was correct, and that he was also correct in finding the articles caused a "huge international media firestorm" affecting Wilson's career and reputation.

The lawyer will also argue the Court of Appeal was wrong in concluding Wilson needed to prove economic loss by showing a project had been canceled.


State appeals court reinstates California's right-to-die law
Top Legal News | 2018/06/14 00:55
A state appeals court has reinstated — at least for now — California's law allowing terminally ill people to end their lives.

The Fourth District Court of Appeals in Riverside issued an immediate stay Friday putting the End of Life Option back into effect. The court also gave opponents of its decision until July 2 to file objections.

The law allows adults to obtain a prescription for life-ending drugs if a doctor has determined that they have six months or less to live.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia declared the law unconstitutional last month, stating that it had been adopted illegally because lawmakers passed it during a special Legislative session called to address other matters.

Ottolia didn't address the issue of whether it's proper for people to end their lives. Right-to-die advocates hailed Friday's action.

"This stay is a huge win for many terminally ill Californians with six months or less to live because it could take years for the courts to resolve this case," Kevin Díaz, national director of legal advocacy for Compassion & Choices, said in a statement.

"Thankfully, this ruling settles the issue for the time being, but we know we have a long fight ahead before we prevail."

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who had asked the appeals court to stay Ottolia's ruling, also praised the decision.

"This ruling provides some relief to California patients, their families, and doctors who have been living in uncertainty while facing difficult health decisions," Becerra said. "Today's court ruling is an important step to protect and defend the End of Life Option Act for our families across the state."


High Court Rules in Dispute Over Immigrant Teen's Abortion
Top Legal News | 2018/06/06 06:56
The Supreme Court ruled Monday in a case about a pregnant immigrant teen who obtained an abortion with the help of the ACLU, siding with the Trump administration and wiping away a lower court decision for the teen but rejecting a suggestion her lawyers should be disciplined.

The decision is about the teen's individual case and doesn't disrupt ongoing class action litigation about the ability of immigrant teens in government custody to obtain abortions. The justices ruled in an unsigned opinion that vacating a lower court decision in favor of the teen, who had been in government custody after entering the country illegally, was the proper course because the case became moot after she obtained an abortion.

Government lawyers had complained to the Supreme Court that attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union didn't alert them that the teen's abortion would take place earlier than expected. The administration said that deprived its lawyers of the chance to ask the Supreme Court to block the procedure, at least temporarily. The Trump administration told the court that discipline might be warranted against the teen's attorneys. The ACLU said its lawyers did nothing wrong.

The Supreme Court said it took the government's allegations "seriously" but the court declined to wade into the finger-pointing between the sides.

"Especially in fast-paced, emergency proceedings like those at issue here, it is critical that lawyers and courts alike be able to rely on one another's representations. On the other hand, lawyers also have ethical obligations to their clients and not all communications breakdowns constitute misconduct," the justices wrote in a 5-page opinion, adding that the court "need not delve into the factual disputes raised by the parties" in order to vacate the decision for the teen.

The teen at the center of the case entered the U.S. illegally in September as a 17-year-old and was taken to a federally funded shelter in Texas for minors who enter the country without their parents. The unnamed teen, referred to as Jane Doe, learned while in custody that she was pregnant and sought an abortion. A state court gave her permission, but federal officials — citing a policy of refusing to facilitate abortions for pregnant minors in its shelters — refused to transport her or temporarily release her so that others could take her for the procedure.

The ACLU helped the teen sue the Trump administration, and after a federal appeals court sided with her, the government was preparing to ask the Supreme Court to step in and block the procedure, at least temporarily.

But the teen, allowed out of the shelter by court order, had an abortion first, about 12 hours after a court gave her the go-ahead. In response, the Trump administration, in a highly unusual filing with the Supreme Court, cried foul. The ACLU has defended its attorneys' actions, saying government lawyers made assumptions about the timing of the teen's abortion.


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