WVa AG's help sought in Supreme Court impeachment appeal
Court Watch | 2019/01/05 07:21
Three months after a ruling halted the impeachment process involving most of West Virginia's Supreme Court justices, the state Senate president is seeking a second opinion.

Senate President Mitch Carmichael said Friday at the annual Legislative Lookahead forum he's asked state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey to look into handling a possible appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Carmichael, a Republican, is still steamed at a panel of state Supreme Court stand-ins that ruled impeachment efforts of the justices were a violation of the separation of powers doctrine. The process was officially derailed when the presiding judge didn't show up to Justice Margaret Workman's trial in the state Senate in light of the court's ruling blocking it.

"We believe it is totally, completely wrong," Carmichael said. The acting justices ruled the Senate lacked jurisdiction to pursue Workman's trial and later applied the decision to trials involving justices Robin Davis and Allen Loughry, who had petitioned the court to intervene.

Davis retired after the House approved impeachment charges against her. Loughry resigned after being convicted of felony fraud charges in federal court.



High court to take new look at partisan electoral districts
Court Watch | 2019/01/04 21:21
The Supreme Court is plunging back into the issue of whether electoral districts can be too partisan.

Disputes have arisen in cases involving North Carolina's heavily Republican congressional map and a Democratic congressional district in Maryland, and the justices said Friday they will hear arguments in March.

The high court could come out with the first limits on partisan politics in the drawing of electoral districts, but also could ultimately decide that federal judges have no role in trying to police political mapmaking.

The court took up the issue of partisan gerrymandering last term in cases from Wisconsin and the same Maryland district, but the justices failed to reach a decision on limiting political line-drawing for political gain.

Justice Anthony Kennedy had said he was open to limits. He has since retired, and Justice Brett Kavanaugh has taken Kennedy's seat. He has no judicial record on the issue.

The court again has taken one case in which Democrats are accused of unfairly limiting Republicans' political power and one in which Republicans are the alleged culprits. The court also has the entire North Carolina congressional map before it, but only the one Maryland district.

In both cases, however, lower courts have found that the party in charge of redistricting — Republicans in North Carolina, Democrats in Maryland — egregiously violated the rights of voters in the other party.


Son of ex-Nissan head Carlos Ghosn predicts court surprises
Opinions | 2019/01/03 07:21
The son of former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn said in an interview published Sunday that people will be surprised when his father, detained since Nov. 19 for allegedly falsifying financial reports, recounts his version of events to a Tokyo court on Tuesday.

Anthony Ghosn, 24, told France's Journal du Dimanche that his father — who will remain detained until at least Jan. 11 — will get 10 minutes to talk at the hearing, being held at his own request.

"For the first time, he can talk about his version of the allegations against him," Anthony Ghosn said in the interview with the weekly paper Journal du Dimanche. "I think everyone will be rather surprised hearing his version of the story. Until now, we've only heard the accusers."

The son has no direct contact with his father, and gets information via lawyers. He said his father, who for decades was a revered figure in the global auto industry, has lost about 10 kilograms (22 pounds) eating three bowls of rice daily, but he reads books and "he resists."

Ghosn refuses to cave in, said his son, contending that he would be freed from detention if he admitted guilt to the prosecutor.


Court extends detention for Nissan ex-chair Ghosn by 10 days
Legal Business | 2019/01/01 05:55
Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn will be detained at least through Jan. 11, the Tokyo District Court said Monday, as the once revered auto industry figure faces allegations that have marked a stunning downfall.

Ghosn, who led Nissan Motor Co. for two decades and helped save the Japanese automaker from near bankruptcy, was arrested Nov. 19 on suspicion of falsifying financial reports. He also faces a breach of trust allegation, for which his detention had been approved previously through Jan. 1.

The Tokyo District Court said in a statement that it had approved prosecutors' request for a 10-day extension.

Ghosn has been charged in the first set of allegations, about under-reporting Ghosn's pay by about 5 billion yen ($44 million) in 2011-2015.

Those close to Ghosn and his family say he is asserting his innocence as the alleged underreported amount of money was never really decided or paid, and Nissan never suffered any monetary losses from the alleged breach of trust.

It is unclear when Ghosn may be released on bail. Tokyo prosecutors consider Ghosn, a Brazilian-born Frenchman of Lebanese ancestry, a flight risk.

In Japan, formal charges can mean a suspect will get detained for months, sometimes until the trial starts, because of fears of tampered evidence.

Another Nissan executive, Greg Kelly, was arrested on suspicion of collaborating with Ghosn on the under-reporting of income and was freed Dec. 25 on 70 million yen ($635,600) bail after more than a month of detention.

Kelly said in a statement released through his lawyers he had suffered while in detention because of his neck ailment and hoped to get medical treatment. He also said he was innocent and hoped to regain his reputation.

"I expect that the trial will start soon. I have not been involved in alleged false entry. I believe my innocence will be revealed in the trial," Kelly said.

Falsifying financial reporting is a serious crime in Japan, with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, a 10 million yen ($89,000) fine, or both. But some experts are puzzled that the allegations against Kelly and Ghosn are about underreporting income from Nissan. Nissan is in charge of filing such financial reports, not individual executives.

Past cases of companies and officials getting charged in Japan with falsifying such reports tend to be about misrepresenting company profits or other numbers that relate to the overall operations of the business, not executive compensation.


Low-key days at Supreme Court may be ending soon
Court News | 2018/12/31 21:55
The Supreme Court began its term with the tumultuous confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, followed by a studied avoidance of drama on the high court bench — especially anything that would divide the five conservatives and four liberals.

The justices have been unusually solicitous of each other in the courtroom since Kavanaugh's confirmation, and several have voiced concern that the public perceives the court as merely a political institution. Chief Justice John Roberts seems determined to lead the one Washington institution that stays above the political fray. Even Roberts' rebuke of President Donald Trump, after the president criticized a federal judge, was in defense of an independent, apolitical judiciary.

The next few weeks will test whether the calm can last. When they gather in private on Jan. 4 to consider new cases for arguments in April and into next term, the justices will confront a raft of high-profile appeals.

Abortion restrictions, workplace discrimination against LGBT people and partisan gerrymandering are on the agenda. Close behind are appeals from the Trump administration seeking to have the court allow it to end an Obama-era program that shields young immigrants from deportation and to put in place restrictive rules for transgender troops.


Gun law, hurricanes added to Florida courts' workload
Attorney News | 2018/12/28 21:55
Florida's new gun law is keeping courts busy, and the state Supreme Court also says lawsuits over hurricane disputes could be on the rise.

The Florida Supreme Court said Friday 100 petitions a month have been filed statewide to try to keep guns out of the hands of people at risk to themselves and others. The Legislature passed new gun restrictions in March following a school shooting in Parkland that left 17 dead.

The court also said to watch out for a rise in claims related to Hurricanes Irma and Michael, particularly involving indebtedness and contracts. Irma affected nearly the entire state in 2017, and Michael devastated communities from Mexico Beach to the Georgia border in October.

The court said four additional circuit court judges are needed next fiscal year, including one in the circuit that covers counties hit by Michael.




Missouri death row inmate asks US Supreme Court to intervene
Court Watch | 2018/12/27 21:56
A Missouri death row inmate who lost substantial brain tissue during a surgery plans to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review his case, saying his planned execution by lethal injection could subject him to severe pain.

The Columbia Daily Tribune reported Thursday that Ernest Lee Johnson plans to argue that the loss of brain tissue could mean he has seizures and severe pain in reaction to Missouri’s execution drug.

Johnson was sentenced to death for killing three convenience store workers during a Columbia robbery in 1994.

Johnson’s appeal is moving through lower courts. But Johnson’s attorneys plan to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene because the high court is currently considering a similar case of another Missouri death row inmate with a rare medical condition that causes blood-filled tumors.

Both argue complications with their conditions and the execution drug could lead to cruel and unusual punishment.


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