US appeals court upholds Maryland assault weapons ban
Court News | 2017/02/24 08:17
Maryland's ban on 45 kinds of assault weapons and its 10-round limit on gun magazines were upheld Tuesday by a federal appeals court in a decision that met with a strongly worded dissent.

In a 10-4 ruling, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., said the guns banned under Maryland's law aren't protected by the Second Amendment.

"Put simply, we have no power to extend Second Amendment protections to weapons of war," Judge Robert King wrote for the court, adding that the Supreme Court's decision in District of Columbia v. Heller explicitly excluded such coverage.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, who led the push for the law in 2013 as a state senator, said it's "unthinkable that these weapons of war, weapons that caused the carnage in Newtown and in other communities across the country, would be protected by the Second Amendment."

"It's a very strong opinion, and it has national significance, both because it's en-banc and for the strength of its decision," Frosh said, noting that all of the court's judges participated.

Judge William Traxler issued a dissent. By concluding the Second Amendment doesn't even apply, Traxler wrote, the majority "has gone to greater lengths than any other court to eviscerate the constitutionally guaranteed right to keep and bear arms." He also wrote that the court did not apply a strict enough review on the constitutionality of the law.


High court ruling limits international reach of patent laws
Legal Topics | 2017/02/24 08:16
The Supreme Court on Wednesday sided with California-based Life Technologies Corp. in a patent infringement case that limits the international reach of U.S. patent laws.

The justices ruled unanimously that the company's shipment of a single part of a patented invention for assembly in another country did not violate patent laws.

Life Technologies supplied an enzyme used in DNA analysis kits to a plant in London and combined it with several other components to make kits sold worldwide. Wisconsin-based Promega Corp. sued, arguing that the kits infringed a U.S. patent.

A jury awarded $52 million in damages to Promega. A federal judge set aside the verdict and said the law did not cover export of a single component.

The federal appeals specializing in patent cases reversed and reinstated the verdict.

Patent laws are designed to prevent U.S. companies from mostly copying a competitor's invention and simply completing the final phase overseas to skirt the law. A violation occurs when "all or a substantial portion of the components of a patent invention" are supplied from the United States to a foreign location.

Writing for the high court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the law addresses only the quantity of components, not the quality. That means the law "does not cover the supply of a single component of a multicomponent invention," Sotomayor said.

Only seven justices took part in the ruling. Chief Justice John Roberts heard arguments in the case, but later withdrew after discovering he owned shares in the parent company of Life Technologies.


Court: Florida Docs Allowed to Ask Patients About Guns
Areas of Focus | 2017/02/23 09:17
A federal appeals court has cleared the way for Florida doctors to talk with patients about whether they own guns.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that key provisions of a 2011 law that restricted such speech violate the First Amendment.

Three-judge panels of the same court had issued conflicting rulings in a long-running challenge to the law brought by 11,000 medical providers and others. The case has become known as Docs vs. Glocks.

Backed by Gov. Rick Scott, the law prohibited doctors from asking patients about gun ownership unless it was medically necessary. Doctors say asking about guns is a safety issue and could save lives.

While ruling that much of the law violates free-speech rights, the court said some parts could remain in place.


Court: Missouri not required to name execution drug's source
Headline Legal News | 2017/02/22 16:17
A Missouri appellate court has ruled that the state's prison officials aren't obligated to publicly reveal the source of the drug used to execute prisoners.

The appellate court's Western District decided Tuesday to overturn a 2016 trial court ruling that found the state wrongly withheld documents that would identify pharmaceutical suppliers, The Kansas City Star reported.       

The appeals court agreed with the state that a law that protects the identity of the state's execution team applies to those who supply the execution drug pentobarbital.

Major drug companies for the past several years have refused to allow their drugs to be used in executions. Missouri and many other active death penalty states refuse to disclose the source of their drugs, though the sources are widely believed to be compounding pharmacies ? organizations that make drugs tailored to the needs of a specific client. Those pharmacies do not face the same approval process or testing standards of larger pharmaceutical companies.

The appeals court ruling said that disclosing the identities of "individuals essential to the execution process" could hinder Missouri's ability to execute the condemned.

Several states also are facing legal challenges to lethal injection practices. Just last month, a federal judge found Ohio's latest lethal injection procedure unconstitutional while Texas sued the Food and Drug Administration over execution drugs that were confiscated in 2015. In Oklahoma last year, a grand jury criticized state officials charged with carrying out executions, describing a litany of failures and avoidable errors.



Trial court election changes considered by North Carolina House
Court News | 2017/02/21 16:17
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.


UK court says income threshold for foreign spouses is lawful
Headline Legal News | 2017/02/20 16:18
Britain's Supreme Court says the government is entitled to set a minimum-income threshold for people wanting to bring foreign spouses to the country, a measure introduced to ensure immigrants won't draw on public welfare funds.

But the court says the way the rules have been implemented is unlawful.

Since 2012, Britons who want to bring spouses from outside the European Union to the U.K. must earn at least 18,600 pounds ($23,000) a year.

Several people who were rejected under the rules took the government to court, arguing the law breached their right to a family life.

The judges ruled Wednesday that the income requirement was lawful but had been implemented in a "defective" way.

They said authorities must consider the welfare of children and whether applicants have other funding sources.


Serbs warn Bosnian Muslim bid at UN court revives old wounds
Attorney News | 2017/02/18 16:18
A decision by Bosnia's Muslim leader to revive a wartime genocide lawsuit against Serbia at the United Nations' top court has rekindled divisions that led to the 1992-95 war, the top leaders of Serbia and Bosnian Serbs warned on Wednesday.

The bid to appeal a 2007 ruling by the International Court of Justice that cleared Serbia of committing genocide in Bosnia, also dealt a major blow to postwar reconciliation and Bosnia's survival as a multi-ethnic state, Serb officials said.

"Our relations have been pushed backward 25 or 22 years," Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said. "The little trust we built over the years ... is now gone."

Bakir Izetbegovic, the Muslim Bosniak member of Bosnia's tripartite presidency, has initiated the appeal despite a lack of consent from his Croat and Serb counterparts in the presidency.

"Izetbegovic closed the door for Bosnia and its perspective and switched the lights off," said Milorad Dodik, the president of Republika Srpska, the Serb mini-state within Bosnia.

Bosnian Serb leaders have threatened to walk out of joint Bosnian institutions in protest, which would further fuel tensions in the fragile, ethnically divided state.



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