Court to hear challenge to Winona County's sand mining ban
Legal Topics | 2018/05/05 08:58

Winona County, Minnesota's only county to ban the mining of silica sand for use by the oil and gas industry in hydraulic fracturing, goes to court Monday to defend the ban.

Minnesota Sands LLC, which holds extensive mineral rights in southeastern Minnesota, is challenging the legality before the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Here's a look at the ban and key issues before a three-judge panel:

The Winona County Board adopted the ban in 2016 after public hearings that drew large crowds. The Land Stewardship Project spearheaded a 17-month grassroots campaign, citing risks to public health, air and water; damage to the scenic landscape of southeastern Minnesota; the impact on roads from heavy truck traffic and the loss of farmland.

Minnesota Sands LLC sued, arguing it was an unconstitutional restraint on interstate commerce and it made worthless the company's mineral rights leases on nearly 2,000 acres of land in the county. The company says the silica sand there is worth between $3.6 billion and $5.8 billion. Winona County District Judge Mary Leahy rejected those arguments last November, so the company appealed.


Analysis: Voter ID Fight Testing Court as Much as New Law
Court Watch | 2018/05/05 08:57
The Arkansas Supreme Court's decision to allow the state to enforce its voter ID law in this month's primary while justices consider whether the measure is unconstitutional sets up a test over Republican lawmakers' efforts to reinstate a law struck down four years ago. More importantly, it will show how much the state's highest court has changed since 2014.

Justices last week put a hold on Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray's decision to block the law's enforcement, meaning voters will have to show photo identification before they cast a ballot in the May 22 primary. Early voting for the primary begins Monday. Republican advocates of the law said the Supreme Court's decision to put the law on hold will avoid creating confusion.

"The stay issued this afternoon provides needed clarity for Arkansas voters and election officials," Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said in a statement shortly after the high court's ruling.

The 6-1 order from the court — only Chief Justice Dan Kemp would have denied the request to halt Gray's ruling — didn't elaborate on the reason for the stay. Both sides are set to begin filing briefs in the appeal of Gray's ruling in June, likely ensuring the legal fight will last throughout the summer.

"We are disappointed for the voters in Arkansas that the Arkansas Secretary of State and the Attorney General continue to want to enforce an unconstitutional Voter ID law," Jeff Priebe, an attorney for the Little Rock voter who challenged the measure, said after the ruling.

The decision creates a scenario similar to 2014, when a Pulaski County judge struck down Arkansas' previous voter ID law but put the ruling on hold and allowed it to be enforced in the primary that year.

The state Supreme Court ultimately came down against the 2013 voter ID law, striking it down weeks before the general election in 2014. Opponents of the law were able to point to nearly 1,000 votes in the primary that year that weren't counted because of the photo ID requirement.

The latest law is aimed at addressing a secondary reason some justices raised while striking down the previous voter ID law. The court unanimously struck down Arkansas' law, with four of the court's seven justices saying it violated the state's constitution by adding a qualification to vote. But three of the justices cited a different reason, saying the law didn't garner the two-thirds vote needed in both chambers of the Legislature to change voter registration requirements.



Raptors president fined $25K for walking on court to yell
Attorney News | 2018/05/03 08:57
eveland Cavaliers to verbally confront officials for reversing a call.

The league announced the fine Sunday. It stems from an incident that occurred Saturday night during the Raptors' 105-103 loss to the Cavaliers.

Toronto had been called for 14 fouls in the first half, compared with eight for Cleveland. The Raptors were irate that what had appeared to be a Serge Ibaka basket and potential free throw was downgraded to a foul with no basket and no free throw.

All-Star DeMar DeRozan, coach Dwane Casey and his assistants all screamed at the referees.

Game 4 is Monday night in Cleveland. Toronto, which is trailing the series 3-0, needs a win to stay alive in the Eastern Conference semifinal.


Law firm hired to investigate economic development agency
Court News | 2018/05/01 19:11
The Oregon Department of Justice has hired a law firm to investigate allegations of discrimination and mismanagement at the state's economic development agency, Business Oregon.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that in an anonymous letter to Gov. Kate Brown earlier this month, a group of employees described hostile working conditions and accused leadership of gender bias and misusing taxpayer funds. The letter asked the governor to undertake an investigation and said the employees had retained Portland labor attorney Dana Sullivan "to help ensure employment rights are protected as a result of this complaint."

The Justice Department will be supervising the probe. Its agreement with the Portland office of Perkins Coie provides for a maximum cost of $50,000. The budget could go quickly, as the firm's partners command $525 to $630 an hour, and paralegals and associates bill out at $150 to $445 an hour.

The agreement specifically directs Perkins Coie to undertake "an attorney-client privileged investigation," meaning the Justice Department or Business Oregon could try to exempt the findings from disclosure under public records law. It also says the law firm could be called on to provide legal advice to the DOJ, the governor's office or the "benefitting agency" - Business Oregon.

The Justice department did not respond to questions about the agreement, whether it would make the findings public or whether that decision would be made by Business Oregon.


Arkansas officials ask court to keep voter ID law in place
Court News | 2018/05/01 19:10
Arkansas officials asked the state's highest court on Monday to allow them to enforce a voter ID law in the May 22 primary despite a judge blocking the measure and calling it unconstitutional.

Secretary of State Mark Martin asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to put on hold a Pulaski County judge's ruling preventing the state from enforcing the 2017 law requiring voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot. Martin asked the high court for a ruling by noon Friday, noting that early voting for the primary begins May 7.

"Here, the trial court has changed the rules in the middle of the election," Martin's filing said. "An immediate stay is necessary; any further delay will harm the state."

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray sided with a Little Rock voter who sued the state and had argued the law enacted last year circumvents a 2014 Arkansas Supreme Court ruling that struck down a previous voter ID measure.

An attorney for the Little Rock voter said he hoped the court would not halt the ruling, noting evidence that nearly 1,000 votes weren't counted in the 2014 primary because of the previous voter ID law that was struck down later that year.


Bakery appeals to UK Supreme Court in gay-rights cake case
Legal Business | 2018/04/29 09:11
A bakery owned by a Christian family asked Britain's Supreme Court on Tuesday to overturn a ruling that it discriminated against a gay customer for refusing to make a cake supporting same-sex marriage.

Ashers Baking Co. in Northern Ireland refused in 2014 to make a cake iced with the "Sesame Street" characters Bert and Ernie and the slogan "Support Gay Marriage."

The owners argued they were happy to bake goods for anyone, but could not put messages on their products at odds with their Christian beliefs.

After the customer filed a lawsuit that received backing from Northern Ireland's Equalities Commission, lower courts ruled that the bakery's refusal was discriminatory.

Judges from the London-based Supreme Court heard the bakery's appeal at a special sitting in Belfast that is due to continue Wednesday.

David Scoffield, lawyer for the bakery's owners, argued Tuesday that the family should not be compelled to create a product "to which they have a genuine objection in conscience."


Man tests positive for drugs while appearing in Pierre court
Legal Interview | 2018/04/28 02:11
A Rapid City contractor has tested positive for drugs while in a Pierre court pleading guilty to assault.

The Capital Journal reports that 30-year-old Jesse Lange pleaded guilty to felony assault of a worker for the grain bin business Lange operates with his father. His attorney, Brad Schreiber, says there was an element of self-defense in the motel room altercation last year.

But state Judge Mark Barnett, watching Lange, asked a court official to get a urine test kit and said Lange appeared high. An official said the test was positive for meth and ecstasy.

Lange's guilty plea couldn't be accepted, and he was jailed for violating the conditions of his bond for the assault charge. Barnett says another arraignment could be held once the drugs have left Lange's system.

Supreme Court turns down appeal in exotic swine case

The Michigan Supreme Court has turned down an appeal in a dispute over exotic pigs in the Upper Peninsula.

A Marquette County judge in 2016 said 10 pigs violated state restrictions on Russian boars and should be destroyed. The appeals court affirmed that decision, and the Supreme Court won't intervene.

The Department of Natural Resources designated Russian boars and other exotic swine as an invasive species. The state says they've escaped from hunting ranches and small farms and ravaged the environment.

Lawyers for game ranch owner Greg Johnson of Negaunee Township say the pigs can be traced to domestic breeds.


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