Court asks judges to respond to Louisiana sheriff's claims
Court Watch | 2016/09/26 15:24
A federal appeals court on Monday asked two judges to respond to a petition by a Louisiana sheriff who claims another judge was improperly removed from his criminal case without explanation.

A letter from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says Chief Judge Dee Drell of the Western District of Louisiana and U.S. District Judge Donald Walter in Shreveport are "invited" to file written responses by Oct. 6. The appeals court also asked two federal prosecutors to respond to Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal's arguments.

Ackal's attorney, John McLindon, argued in a court filing Friday that U.S. District Judge Patricia Minaldi's mysterious removal from the sheriff's case violated court rules and apparently was done without her consent earlier this year.

McLindon also is challenging Walter's decision to hold the trial in Shreveport instead of Lafayette, where the case originated.

The letter from the 5th Circuit doesn't specify what issues the judges and prosecutors should address in their responses to Ackal's petition. The letter indicated that they discussed the matter by telephone on Monday morning.

Ackal awaits trial next month on charges over the alleged beatings of jail inmates. Nine former employees of the sheriff's office already have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with the Justice Department's civil rights investigation.

Minaldi originally was assigned to preside over the high-profile cases against the sheriff and 11 of his subordinates. But Drell abruptly reassigned the cases to Walter in March, two days after Ackal's indictment. Drell didn't give a reason for the switch in his one-sentence orders.

Four days before Minaldi's removal from the cases, she was in the middle of accepting guilty pleas by two former sheriff's deputies when a prosecutor cut her off mid-sentence and asked to speak to a defense attorney. Then, after a short break and private discussion with the attorneys, Minaldi adjourned the March 7 hearing in Lake Charles without giving a reason on the record.


Court gives fertilizer dealers a reprieve from policy change
Press Release | 2016/09/24 15:23
A court ruling has given farm fertilizer dealers a reprieve from a federal policy change that some say would unfairly burden the industry.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration policy change announced last year would regulate retail dealers of farm fertilizer such as anhydrous ammonia under the same standards as manufacturers. It came after a deadly explosion at a Texas plant in 2013.

The Agricultural Retailers Association and The Fertilizer Institute say the change would affect 3,800 fertilizer retailers nationwide, costing them more than $100 million. The two organizations sued a year ago.

The change was to take effect this coming Saturday. But a federal appeals court has ruled that OSHA can't implement it without going through a formal rule-making process.



California Supreme Court to consider suit over Yelp review
Headline Legal News | 2016/09/23 15:23
The California Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to consider a lawsuit that Yelp.com warns could lead to the removal of negative reviews on the popular website.

The seven-member court voted unanimously Wednesday to take up an appeal by Yelp of a lower court ruling upholding an order requiring Yelp to remove posts against a San Francisco law firm.

Yelp wants the Supreme Court to overturn the ruling, saying that if it's allowed to stand, it will open the door for businesses to force the company to remove critical reviews.

Dawn Hassell, the law firm's managing attorney, says the business review website is exaggerating the stakes of her legal effort. She says it aims only to remove from Yelp lies by a former client that a judge determined were defamatory, not just negative.

Hassell referred comment Wednesday to her attorney, Monique Olivier, who said in a statement she was not surprised the Supreme Court has taken up the case given the "amount of attention" it has received.

"This case is not one of a 'bad review' " she said. "It is a case where a court adjudicated statements to be defamatory after receiving and reviewing evidence about the falsity of those statements."

Aaron Schur, Yelp's senior director of litigation, said the company looked forward to explaining to the court "how the lower court's decision is ripe for abuse, contradicts longstanding legal principles, and restricts the ability of websites to provide a balanced spectrum of views online."



European court dismisses case brought by Srebrenica families
Court News | 2016/09/22 15:22
During the 1995 Srebrenica massacre who had appealed a decision by Dutch prosecutors not to file criminal charges against three Dutch officers for alleged complicity in the deaths.

The European Court of Human Rights rejected the case Thursday, saying that Dutch authorities "had sufficiently investigated the incident and given proper consideration to the applicants' request for prosecutions."

The relatives have long been trying to hold Dutch troops who served as U.N. peacekeepers during the fall of Srebrenica criminally responsible.

Bosnian Serb forces led by Gen. Ratko Mladic overran the U.N. enclave in Srebrenica in July 1995 and killed some 8,000 Muslim men and boys. It was Europe's worst massacre since World War II.



Bosnian Serbs vote in referendum banned by top court
Legal Topics | 2016/09/21 15:22
Bosnian Serbs on Sunday voted in a referendum banned by the country's constitutional court, risking Western sanctions against their autonomous region and criminal charges against their leaders.

The vote was whether to keep Jan. 9 as a holiday in Republika Srpska, commemorating the day in 1992 that Bosnian Serbs declared the creation of their own state, igniting the ruinous 1992-95 war. It comes despite the top court's ruling that the date, which falls on a Serb Christian Orthodox religious holiday, discriminates against Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic Croats in Bosnia.

Authorities said turnout was between 56 and 60 percent. Preliminary results after 30.76 percent of the ballots were counted say 99.8 percent of the voters were in favor of the holiday.

The vote has raised tensions and fears of renewed fighting as Bosniaks and Croats see the referendum as an attempt to elevate the Serb region above the country's constitutional court. It is also a test for a more serious referendum that Bosnian Serb leaders have announced for 2018 — one on independence from Bosnia.



DC gun law gets hearing before Washington appeals court
Headline Legal News | 2016/09/20 15:22
An appeals court will hear challenges to a District of Columbia law that places tough requirements for gun owners to get concealed carry permits.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is hearing arguments Tuesday in two cases involving the law, which requires people who want to carry a gun in public to show a "good reason to fear injury" or another "proper reason" to carry the weapon. Reasons might include a personal threat, or a job that requires a person to carry or protect cash or valuables. Lower court judges have disagreed on whether the law is constitutional.

The hearing is the latest in a long-running tussle over the city's gun laws. Eight years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the city's ban on handguns, leading the city to rewrite its gun laws. City law now requires residents to register guns kept at their homes or businesses; more than 16,500 guns have been registered, according to police.

Anyone who wants to carry a weapon outside the home needs a separate concealed carry license. The police department said last week that 89 people have been granted concealed carry permits and 374 have been denied.

In March, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly sided with the city and declined to issue a preliminary injunction halting the enforcement of the law requiring a "good reason" or "proper reason" for anyone who wants to carry a gun in public. Kollar-Kotelly said opponents had not shown that their lawsuit was likely to be successful. She noted that appeals courts in other parts of the country had approved of laws in New York, New Jersey and Maryland that are similar to the District of Columbia's.


Court rules man treated for mental illness can have a gun
Court News | 2016/09/19 15:22
A Michigan man who can't buy a gun because he was briefly treated for mental health problems in the 1980s has won a key decision from a federal appeals court, which says the burden is on the government to justify a lifetime ban against him.

The Second Amendment case was significant enough for 16 judges on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to participate. Cases usually are heard only by three-judge panels.

Clifford Tyler, 74, of Hillsdale said his constitutional right to bear arms is violated by a federal law that prohibits gun ownership if someone has been admitted to a mental hospital.

In 1985, Tyler's wife ran away with another man, depleted his finances and filed for divorce. He was deeply upset, and his daughters feared he was a danger to himself.

Tyler was ordered to a hospital for at least two weeks. He subsequently recovered, continued working for another two decades and remarried in 1999.

"There is no indication of the continued risk presented by people who were involuntarily committed many years ago and who have no history of intervening mental illness, criminal activity or substance abuse," Judge Julia Smith Gibbons wrote in the lead opinion.

The court on Thursday sent the case back to the federal court in Grand Rapids where the government must argue the merits of a lifetime ban or the risks of Tyler having a gun.

Gibbons suggests Tyler should prevail, based on his years of good mental health.



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