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British cybersecurity expert pleads not guilty to US charges
Top Legal News | 2017/08/09 23:08
A British cybersecurity researcher credited with helping curb a recent worldwide ransomware attack pleaded not guilty Monday to federal charges accusing him of creating malicious software to steal banking information three years ago.

Marcus Hutchins entered his plea in Wisconsin federal court, where prosecutors charged him and an unnamed co-defendant with conspiring to commit computer fraud in the state and elsewhere. Authorities arrested the 23-year-old man on Aug. 2 at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, where he was going to board a flight to his home in Ilfracombe, England. He had been in Las Vegas for a cybersecurity convention.

Hutchins is free on $30,000 bail, but with strict conditions. His bond has been modified so that he can stay in Los Angeles near his attorney and travel anywhere in the U.S., but Hutchins is not allowed to leave the country. He is currently staying at a hotel in Milwaukee.

He was also granted access to use a computer for work, a change from an earlier judge's order barring him from using any device with access to the internet. Hutchins' current work wasn't detailed at Monday's hearing. The next hearing in the case was set for Oct. 17.

Hutchins' attorney, Adrian Lobo, hasn't responded to several phone messages left by The Associated Press over the last week.

The legal troubles Hutchins faces are a dramatic turnaround from the status of cybercrime-fighting hero he enjoyed four months ago when he found a "kill switch" to slow the outbreak of the WannaCry virus. It crippled computers worldwide, encrypting files and making them inaccessible unless people paid a ransom ranging from $300 to $600.

Prosecutors allege that before Hutchins won acclaim he created and distributed a malicious software called Kronos to steal banking passwords from unsuspecting computer users. In addition to computer fraud, the indictment lists five other charges, including attempting to intercept electronic communications and trying to access a computer without authorization.

The indictment says the crimes happened between July 2014 and July 2015, but the court document doesn't offer any details about the number of victims. Prosecutors have not said why the case was filed in Wisconsin. The name of Hutchins' co-defendant is redacted from the indictment.


Court: Detained immigrant children entitled to court hearing
Top Legal News | 2017/07/09 09:39
Immigrant children who cross the border without their parents have the right to a court hearing to challenge any decision to detain them instead of turning them over to family in the U.S., a federal appeals court said Wednesday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said two laws passed by Congress did not end the right to a bond hearing for unaccompanied immigrant children who are detained by federal authorities.

Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children fleeing gang and drug violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have entered the U.S. in recent years.

Federal officials place the vast majority of them with family in the U.S., who care for the minors while they attend school and while their cases go through the immigration court system.

But the Department of Human Services has the authority to hold children in secure facilities if they pose a danger to themselves or others or have committed a crime. Some have spent months in detention.

Immigration advocates estimate the size of the group in secure custody at several hundred children and say bond hearings allow them to understand why they are being held and challenge their detention.

"If you don't give kids transparency and a clear finite date when their detention will end you see all kinds of psychological effects," said Holly Cooper, co-director of the Immigration Law Clinic at the University of California, Davis.

Cooper represented plaintiffs in the legal fight over the bond hearings. The 9th Circuit ruling cited a declaration from one teenager who was held for 16 months, mostly at a juvenile detention center in Northern California. The teen, referred to only by his first name, Hector, said federal officials provided no explanation for his continued detention, and he received no hearing before an immigration judge. He was eventually released to his mother.

The Obama administration argued that two laws — one approved in 2002 and the other in 2008 — did away with the bond hearing requirement in a 1997 court settlement by giving the human services department all authority over custody and placement decisions for unaccompanied children.

The Department of Justice said in a 2016 court filing that immigration judges "are not experts in child-welfare issues and possess significantly less expertise in determining what is in the best interest of the child" than human services officials.


Indiana high court to rule on Lake Michigan beach ownership
Top Legal News | 2017/07/02 09:40

The Indiana Supreme Court will decide who owns the land immediately adjacent to Lake Michigan.

Don and Bobbie Gunderson claim their land on Lake Michigan extends to the water’s edge, meaning no one can access the beach by their house without permission, the (Northwest Indiana) Times reported.

The state said it owns the land in a trust for all residents up to the “ordinary high-water mark.” The line is generally defined as the mark on the shore where the presence of water is continuous enough to distinguish it from land through erosion, vegetation changes or other characteristics.

The state was granted the land at statehood in 1816, said Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher. He said the state must control beach erosion, which it can’t do effectively if nearby homeowners are allowed to claim the beach as their own.

The high court’s order granting transfer of the case vacates a 2016 state Court of Appeals ruling that established an unprecedented property-sharing arrangement between the state and lakefront landowners. All parties involved with the case agreed the appellate court’s decision was unsatisfactory and asked the state Supreme Court to rule on the matter independently.

Justices will receive written briefs and likely hear oral arguments later this year before issuing a decision, likely in 2018.

The decision will determine if visitors can walk, sunbathe and play on Lake Michigan beaches located between the water and privately owned properties next to the lake.



Supreme Court limits ability to strip citizenship
Top Legal News | 2017/06/27 22:51
The Supreme Court on Thursday limited the government's ability to strip U.S. citizenship from immigrants for lying during the naturalization process.

The justices ruled unanimously in favor of an ethnic Serb from Bosnia who lied about her husband's military service.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court that false statements can lead to the revocation of citizenship only if they "played some role in her naturalization."

The court rejected the position taken by the Trump administration that even minor lies can lead to loss of citizenship.

The woman, Divna Maslenjak, and her family were granted refugee status in 1999 and settled near Akron, Ohio, in 2000. She became a citizen in 2007.

She initially told immigration officials her husband had not served in the Bosnian Serb military. That was a lie, she later conceded, and lower courts upheld a criminal conviction against her. The conviction automatically revoked her citizenship, and she and her husband were deported in October.


Trump admin asks Supreme Court to restore travel ban
Top Legal News | 2017/06/03 01:48
The Trump administration has asked the Supreme Court to restore the ban on travel to the U.S. from citizens of six Muslim-majority countries.

Per Reuters: "The administration filed two emergency applications with the nine Court justices seeking to block two different lower court rulings that went against Trump's March 6 order barring entry for people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days while the U.S. government implements stricter visa screening."

Last week, an appeals court in Richmond upheld the block on Trump's order. Chief Judge Roger Gregory ruled that it, "speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination." There have been conflicting rulings on the order, and on Trump's earlier attempt to implement the ban, as it has worked its way though the courts.



Austrian court: ex-Croatian general guilty of embezzlement
Top Legal News | 2017/04/17 01:40
An Austrian court has found a former Croatian general guilty of embezzling millions of euros and sentenced him and an associate to two years in prison.

The court in the southern city of Klagenfurt determined Wednesday that the ex-general, Vladimir Zagorec, and Guenter Striedinger were involved in diverting loans from the now-defunct Hypo Alpe Adria Bank. Striedinger was a bank board member.

Judge Michaele Sanin said the damages caused by the two amounted to over 17 million euros ( $18 million.)

The bank was nationalized to prevent bankruptcy in 2009 and its assets are being sold to pay off creditors.

Lawyers for both men say they are appealing the verdict and sentence.

A third man whom the court did not name also was found guilty and given a suspended prison term.




Trial court election changes considered by North Carolina House
Top Legal News | 2017/02/19 02:17
Some Republicans are set on returning all North Carolina state judicial elections to being officially partisan races again.

A law quickly approved in December during a special election directed statewide races for Supreme Court and Court of Appeals to become partisan starting in 2018. Now the state House scheduled floor debate Wednesday on legislation extending that to local Superior Court and District Court seats next year, too.

Having partisan races means candidates run in party primaries to reach the general election. Unaffiliated candidates could still run but would have to collect signatures to qualify.

Judicial races shifted to nonpartisan elections starting in the mid-1990s in part as an effort to distance judicial candidates from politics. But Republicans today say party labels help give voters some information about the candidates.


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