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Free Speech Is Starting to Dominate the US Supreme Court's Agenda
Top Legal News | 2017/11/17 17:52
To get the Supreme Court's attention these days, try saying your speech rights are being violated.

Whether the underlying topic is abortion, elections, labor unions or wedding cakes, the First Amendment is starting to dominate the Supreme Court's agenda.

The court on Monday granted three new speech cases, including a challenge to a California law that requires licensed pregnancy-counseling clinics to tell patients they might be eligible for free or discounted abortions. The nine-month term now features six cases, out of 44 total, that turn on the reach of the Constitution's free speech guarantee.

Several will be among the term's most closely watched. They include a high-profile fight over a Colorado baker who refuses to make cakes for same-sex weddings and a challenge to the requirement in some states that public-sector workers pay for the cost of union representation. Both of those cases offer the prospect of ideological divides that could put the court's five Republican appointees in the majority, backing free speech rights.

Free speech also plays a central role in what could be a watershed case involving partisan voting districts. The court's liberals could join with Justice Anthony Kennedy to allow legal challenges to partisan gerrymanders for the first time. During arguments in October, Kennedy suggested those challenges would be based on the First Amendment's protections for speech and free association.

The free speech clause has had a special resonance with the court's conservative wing under Chief Justice John Roberts. The court invoked the First Amendment in the landmark 2010 Citizens United decision, which said corporations could spend unlimited sums on political causes. Writing for the five-justice majority, Kennedy equated federal spending restrictions with using "censorship to control thought."

The court has also backed speech rights with more lopsided majorities in cases involving violent video games, depictions of animal cruelty, abortion-clinic buffer zones and anti-homosexual protesters.



Court agrees to take on US-Microsoft dispute over emails
Top Legal News | 2017/10/22 14:01
The Supreme Court agreed Monday to take on a major dispute over the government's authority to force American technology companies to hand over emails and other digital information sought in criminal probes but stored outside the U.S.

The justices intervened in a case of a federal drug trafficking investigation that sought emails that Microsoft keeps on a server in Ireland. The federal appeals court in New York said that the emails are beyond the reach of a search warrant issued by an American judge.

The Trump administration and 33 states told the court that the decision is impeding investigations into terrorism, drug trafficking, fraud and child pornography because other courts are relying on the ruling in preventing U.S. and state authorities from obtaining information kept abroad.

The case is among several legal clashes that Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft and other technology companies have had with the government over questions of digital privacy and authorities' need for information to combat crime and extremism.

Privacy law experts say the companies have been more willing to push back against the government since the leak of classified information detailing America's surveillance programs.

The case also highlights the difficulty that judges face in trying to square decades-old laws with new technological developments. In urging the high court to stay out of the case, Microsoft said Congress needs to bring the law into the age of cloud computing.

In 2013, federal investigators obtained a warrant under a 1986 law for emails from an account they believe was being used in illegal drug transactions as well as identifying information about the user of the email account.


Ex-SKorea leader Park complains about extension of detention
Top Legal News | 2017/10/19 14:00
Jailed former South Korean President Park Geun-hye called herself a victim of "political revenge" in her first public remarks since her high-profile corruption trial began in May, news reports said, as her lawyers resigned Monday in an apparent protest over the court's decision to extend her detention.

The moves appeared to be aimed at applying pressure on the court and rallying her small number of conservative supporters in a development that could intensify a political divide and delay the trial.

The Seoul Central District Court said Park's seven lawyers resigned collectively Monday, three days after it approved an additional six-month arrest warrant for her. Court officials said they will appoint lawyers for Park if her lawyers do not reverse their decision or Park doesn't name a new defense.

A verdict had been expected possibly before the end of the year. If Park has new lawyers, the trial is likely to be delayed because they will need to become familiarized with a massive amount of court and investigation documents, reportedly estimated at more than 100,000 pages.

Park, who was removed from office and arrested in late March, faces a range of corruption and other charges that could lead to a lengthy prison term. Among the key charges are that she colluded with a longtime friend to take tens of millions of dollars from companies in bribes and extortion.

During a court session Monday, Park reiterated her innocence, saying she hopes she will be the last person to suffer "political revenge" orchestrated in the name of justice. She also described her past months of detention as a "wretched and miserable time," and said she had never abused her power or accepted illicit requests for favors while in office, Yonhap news agency reported.

Other South Korean media carried similar reports about Park's comments. The Seoul court said it couldn't confirm them, while calls to her former main lawyer were not answered.

Park denied most of the allegations many times before her March arrest, but Monday's comments were her first in court since her trial started.



Egypt court orders detention of 24 minority Nubians 15 days
Top Legal News | 2017/09/21 16:05
A lawyer says an Egyptian court has ordered the detention of 24 Nubians for 15 days pending investigation for participating in a protest earlier this month. Nubians are an ethnic minority.

Moustafa el-Hassan says Wednesday's decision comes after prosecutors appealed an earlier decision to release them on bail. Their release, which was ordered on Tuesday, had not been finalized.

They were arrested after setting out on a march in the southern city of Aswan to demand their right to return to their ancestral land around the lake formed by the Aswan High Dam. Charges include illegal protest, receiving funds from foreign sources and blocking public roads.

Nubians trace their roots back to an ancient civilization on the Nile. They have been forcibly displaced four times in the last century.


Palestinian court extends activist's detention by 4 days
Top Legal News | 2017/09/17 16:07
A Palestinian court has extended the detention of a prominent activist who criticized the autonomy government of President Mahmoud Abbas.

Farid al-Atrash, the lawyer of Issa Amro, said Thursday that the court had extended his client's detention for four days.

He says Amro is being held under a recent edict that allows the government to crack down on social media critics. In a Facebook post, Amro criticized the detention of a local journalist who called for Abbas' detention.

"This is a black day in the history of the Palestinian judicial system and for Palestinian freedom of expression," al-Atrash said.

Amro was detained on Monday and has been on a hunger strike since then. Amro, 35, also faces charges in an Israeli military court. His trial is to resume in October.


Indian court sentences 2 men to death in 1993 Mumbai blasts
Top Legal News | 2017/09/12 16:06
An Indian court on Thursday sentenced two men to death and two others to life in prison for a series of bombings that killed 257 people in Mumbai in 1993. A fifth man was given 10 years in prison.

The five men were convicted earlier of criminal conspiracy and murder in the planting of 12 powerful bombs in cars, scooters and suitcases around India's financial capital.

The sentencing ended a second trial related to the bombings. An initial trial ended in 2007 with more than 100 people convicted, of whom 11 were sentenced to death and the rest to various terms in prison.

Ujjwal Nikam, the main prosecutor, said he could not ask for a death sentence for Abu Salem, a prime suspect, because he was extradited from Portugal to India in 2005 after the Indian government pledged he would not be given the death penalty, a key requirement in extradition proceedings in Europe.

He fled India after the bombings and was later arrested by police in Portugal.

The Mumbai court sentenced Salem to life in prison after finding him guilty of transporting weapons from Gujarat state to Mumbai ahead of the blasts. These included AK-56 assault rifles, ammunition and hand grenades.

Prosecutors said the bombings were an act of revenge for the 1992 demolition of a 16th century mosque by Hindu nationalists in northern India. That triggered religious riots in parts of India, leaving more than 800 dead, both Hindus and Muslims.

The blasts targeted a number of prominent sites in Mumbai, including the stock exchange, Air India building, hotels, a cinema and shopping bazaars.

Prosecutors said the attack was masterminded by underworld kingpin Dawood Ibrahim. India accuses Pakistan of sheltering Ibrahim, a charge Islamabad denies. India says he has been living in Karachi, Pakistan's financial hub, after fleeing from Mumbai, and has asked Pakistan to hand him over to face trial in India.



Hailey attorney named to Idaho District Court bench
Top Legal News | 2017/08/12 23:08
Central Idaho attorney Ned Williamson has been named the new judge in Idaho's 5th District Court.

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter selected Williamson, a Hailey resident, to replace recently retired Judge Robert Elgee in Blaine County.

The Times-News newspaper reports Williamson served as a deputy prosecutor in both Canyon and Blaine counties before opening his private law practice in 2001. Williamson was one of four candidates submitted to Otter for the judgeship.

Otter said Williamson's local experience will serve him well on the bench. Williamson said he's honored by the selection and will dedicate himself to being a fair and impartial judge.


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