Trump, GOP states ask appeals court to kill ‘Obamacare’
Legal Topics | 2019/05/03 07:09
Taking a harder line on health care, the Trump administration joined a coalition of Republican-led states Wednesday in asking a federal appeals court to entirely overturn former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law — a decision that could leave millions uninsured.

Congress rendered the Affordable Care Act completely unconstitutional in 2017 by eliminating an unpopular tax penalty for not having insurance, the administration and GOP states told the court.

The “Obamacare” opponents hope to persuade the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to uphold U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor’s ruling late last year striking down the law.

If the ruling is allowed to stand, more than 20 million Americans would be at risk of losing their health insurance, re-igniting a winning political issue for Democrats heading into the 2020 elections. President Donald Trump, who never produced a health insurance plan to replace “Obamacare,” is now promising one after the elections.

The Trump administration acknowledged it had changed positions in the case. Early on, the administration argued that only certain key parts of the ACA, such as protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions, should be invalidated. But it said other important provisions such as Medicaid expansion, subsidies for premiums and health insurance markets could continue to stand.

Wednesday, the administration said it had reconsidered in light of O’Connor’s ruling. “The remaining provisions of the ACA should not be allowed to remain in effect — again, even if the government might support some individual positions as a policy matter,” the administration wrote in its court filing.



Wisconsin court says gun site not liable in spa shooting
Headline Legal News | 2019/05/01 16:16
The state Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit Tuesday alleging a firearms website that enabled a man to illegally purchase the pistol he used in a mass shooting at a suburban Milwaukee spa six years ago is liable in the killings, ruling that federal law grants the site operators immunity.

The court ruled 5-1 that the federal Communications Decency Act protects Armslist LLC, a firearms classifieds website. The act absolves website operators of any liability resulting from posting third-party content.

Radcliffe Haughton’s wife, Zina Daniel Haughton, had taken out a restraining order against him that prohibited him from possessing a firearm. But he bought a semi-automatic pistol and ammunition in October 2012 from a person he met through Armslist.com, according to court documents.

The next day he opened fire at Azana Salon & Spa in Brookfield, where his wife worked. He killed her, two of her co-workers and wounded four others before he took his own life.

According to court documents, Haughton used an Armslist.com function that allowed him to bypass ads from licensed dealers, enabling him to avoid a background check.

The lawsuit filed in 2015 alleged Armslist’s operators should have known that the design of the site enabled illegal gun purchases. But Chief Justice Pat Roggensack, writing for the majority, said Tuesday that if a website’s features can be used lawfully the act immunizes the operators from liability when third parties use the sites unlawfully. Therefore all that’s left is to consider the site a publisher, triggering immunity under the act, she said.

“Regardless of Armslist’s knowledge or intent, the relevant question is whether (the) claim necessarily requires Armslist to be treated as the publisher or speaker of third-party content,” Roggensack wrote. “Because it does, the negligence claim must be dismissed.”

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley was the lone dissenter. She accused the majority of allowing Armslist to hide behind the federal law and called the decision a “manufactured interpretation” of the lawsuit’s arguments.


EPA reaffirms glyphosate safe for users as court cases grow
Legal Business | 2019/04/30 23:16
The Environmental Protection Agency reaffirmed Tuesday that a popular weed killer is safe for people, as legal claims mount from Americans who blame the herbicide for their cancer.

The EPA’s draft conclusion Tuesday came in a periodic review of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. The agency found that it posed “no risks of concern” for people exposed to it by any means — on farms, in yards and along roadsides, or as residue left on food crops.

The EPA’s draft findings reaffirmed that glyphosate “is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”

Two recent U.S. court verdicts have awarded multimillion-dollar claims to men who blame glyphosate for their lymphoma. Bayer, which acquired Roundup-maker Monsanto last year, advised investors in mid-April that it faced U.S. lawsuits from 13,400 people over alleged exposure to the weed killer.

Bayer spokesmen did not immediately respond Tuesday to an email seeking comment.

Nathan Donley, a scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity environmental group, said the agency is relying on industry-backed studies and ignoring research that points to higher risks of cancer.


Slovak court rejects to ban parliamentary far right party
Legal Interview | 2019/04/28 23:15
Slovakia's Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a request by the country's prosecutor general to ban a far-right party that has 14 seats in the country's parliament.

In his request filed two years ago, Jaromir Ciznar said the far-right People's Party Our Slovakia is an extremist group whose activities violate the country's constitution and its goal is to destroy the country's democratic system.

But the court ruled the prosecutor general failed to provide enough evidence for the ban. The verdict is final.

"The ruling has clearly showed that our party is legitimate and democratic," party chairman Marian Kotleba said on Monday. He said it was "a political trial."

The prosecutor's office didn't immediately comment. Kotleba's supporters applauded in the court room while the opponents unveiled a banner in front of the court that read "Stop Fascism."

The party openly admires the Nazi puppet state that the country was during World War II. Party members use Nazi salutes, blame Roma for crime in deprived areas, consider NATO a terror group and want the country out of the alliance and the European Union.

If granted, it would have been the first ban on a parliamentary party.

There is a precedent, though. In 2006, the same court banned a predecessor of People's Party, the neo-Nazi Slovak Togetherness-National Party, also led by Kotleba.


Kansas court bolsters abortion rights, blocks ban
Legal Business | 2019/04/26 15:59
Kansas’ highest court ruled for the first time Friday that the state constitution protects abortion rights and blocked a first-in-the-nation ban on a common second trimester method for ending pregnancies.

The state Supreme Court’s ruling represented a big victory for abortion rights supporters in a state with a Republican-controlled Legislature hostile to their cause. It comes with other, GOP-controlled states moving to ban most abortions in direct challenges to the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortions across the nation.

The Kansas decision prevents the state from enforcing a 2015 law that could have greatly limited second trimester abortions. But even worse for abortion opponents, the ruling clears the way for legal challenges to a string of abortion restrictions approved in recent years by state lawmakers under past Republican governors.

The court said vague language protecting “equal and inalienable rights” in the first section of the Kansas Constitution’s Bill of Rights grants a “natural right of personal autonomy” that includes the right to “control one’s own body.” Because that right is independent of the U.S. Constitution, Kansas courts could strike down restrictions that have been upheld by the federal courts.

“This right allows a woman to make her own decisions regarding her body, health, family formation, and family life — decisions that can include whether to continue a pregnancy,” the court’s unsigned majority opinion said.

Justices ruled 6-1 on the language in state constitution. Justice Caleb Stegall, the only appointee of a conservative Republican governor, declared in his dissenting opinion that the ruling “fundamentally alters the structure of our government” to “arbitrarily grant a regulatory reprieve” for abortion.

The ruling immediately prompted abortion opponents to call for amending the state constitution. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, who took office in January, is a strong abortion-rights supporter, but the Legislature still has solid anti-abortion majorities.

“The liberal, activist Supreme Court showed just how out of touch they are with Kansas values,” Senate President Susan Wagle, a conservative Wichita Republican, said in a statement issued minutes after the decision. “We understand that life is sacred, beginning at conception, and we must always stand and defend the most vulnerable among us, the unborn.”


Canada privacy watchdog taking Facebook to court
Attorney News | 2019/04/25 23:00
Canada's privacy czar said Thursday that he is taking Facebook to court after finding that lax practices at the social media giant allowed personal information to be used for political purposes.

A joint report from privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien and his British Columbia counterpart said major shortcomings were uncovered in Facebook's procedures. It called for stronger laws to protect Canadians.

The commissioners expressed dismay that Facebook had rebuffed their findings and recommendations. Facebook insisted it took the investigation seriously. The company said it offered to enter into a compliance agreement.

The Canadian report comes as Ireland's privacy regulator is investigating Facebook over the company's recent revelation that it had left hundreds of millions of user passwords exposed.

The Canadian probe followed reports that Facebook let an outside organization use an app to access users' personal information and that some of the data was then passed to others. Recipients of the information included the firm Cambridge Analytica.

The app, at one point known as "This is Your Digital Life," encouraged users to complete a personality quiz but collected much more information about those who installed the app as well as data about their Facebook friends, the commissioners said.

About 300,000 Facebook users worldwide added the app, leading to the potential disclosure of the personal information of approximately 87 million others, including more than 600,000 Canadians, the report said.


Myanmar court rejects appeal of jailed Reuters reporters
Legal Business | 2019/04/23 15:42
Myanmar’s Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the final appeal of two Reuters journalists and upheld seven-year prison sentences for their reporting on the military’s brutal crackdown on Rohingya Muslims.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo earlier this month shared with their colleagues the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting, one of journalism’s highest honors. The reporters were arrested in December 2017 and sentenced last September after being accused of illegally possessing official documents, a violation of a colonial-era law.

The court did not given a reason for its decision, which was quickly decried by rights advocates.

“Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo should never have been arrested, much less prosecuted, for doing their jobs as investigative journalists,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for New York-based Human Rights Watch. “Sadly, when it comes to media freedom, both Myanmar’s military and the civilian government seem equally determined to extinguish any ability to question their misrule and rights violations.”

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who are being held in a prison in Yangon, were not present for the ruling, but their wives were. Kyaw Soe Oo’s wife, Chit Su, broke down in tears when the ruling was read.



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