US judge OKs $116M ruling in deadly terror attack
Headline Legal News | 2009/05/14 16:22
A federal judge in Rhode Island has upheld a $116 million verdict against the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority over a 1996 terror attack that killed a U.S. citizen and his wife.


U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Lagueux (LAH'-guh) ruled Wednesday the defendants cannot set aside the judgment against them because they didn't respond to the accusations from the victims' family.

The lawsuit was filed in Providence by relatives of Yaron Ungar (YAH'-rohn UNG'-er) and his wife, Efrat. The Ungars were killed by Hamas gunmen near the West Bank in June 1996. Yaron Ungar also held Israeli citizenship.

The lawsuit said the Palestinian Authority and the PLO offered a safe haven to members of Hamas.

The defendants have denied responsibility.



Conservative Sessions leads court nomination fight
Headline Legal News | 2009/05/07 17:38
The top Republican in the Senate served notice on President Barack Obama Tuesday that the GOP won't rubber-stamp his choice to succeed the retiring Justice David Souter.


"The president is free to nominate whomever he likes," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "But picking judges based on his or her perceived sympathy for certain groups or individuals undermines the faith Americans have in our judicial system."

McConnell's Republicans are turning to a conservative Southerner as their point man on Obama's nominee, signaling that they won't shy away from a protracted fight despite risks of being cast as obstructionist.

Sen. Jeff Sessions' ascension as the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee comes more than 20 years after the panel rejected him for his own federal judgeship during the Reagan administration over concerns that he was hostile toward civil rights and was racially insensitive.

Coincidentally, Sessions, R-Ala., replaces Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, a moderate who was one of just two Republicans in 1986 to oppose Sessions as a U.S. district court judge. Specter left the GOP last week to become a Democrat, creating the vacancy atop the committee just as Justice David Souter announced his retirement.



Judge Upholds $100M Verdict for Mattel
Headline Legal News | 2009/04/28 18:24
A federal judge upheld a $100 million jury verdict Monday for MattelInc. in a lengthy legal battle over rights to the Bratz doll, a rivalto Mattel's Barbie.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Larson also confirmed in his ruling lateMonday that the Bratz doll — marketed by MGA Entertainment Inc. since2001 — is Mattel property. He appointed a temporary federal receiver totake control of the Bratz brand and MGA's assets.

The receiver will decide who produces the doll and under what terms,but the order authorizes the receiver to maximize profits by "sellingBratz-branded dolls and other goods through appropriate channels oftrade and distribution."

Mattel attorneys have said in court that the company is willing andable to produce Bratz dolls once receivership issues are sorted.

MGA President Isaac Larian said his company will appeal the ruling.

Mattel sued MGA in 2004, alleging that Bratz designer Carter Bryantdeveloped the concept for the pouty-lipped doll while working forMattel.

After a four-year legal dispute, a jury last year awardedMattel $10 million for copyright infringement and $90 million forbreach of contract.

After the verdict, Mattel sought to block MGAfrom ever making the Bratz dolls, and Larson ordered the company inDecember to end its sales in early 2009.

MGA argued thatretailers would not order the toys unless the court could guaranteethey would remain in stores through most of this year. MGA got areprieve in January when Larson ruled that the dolls could remain instores for the rest of the year.

He left open the possibility that Mattel or a court-appointed receiver could ultimately market the dolls this year.

A hearing is scheduled for May 18 to discuss whether the receivership should be made permanent.



Supreme Court Takes on Special Ed Case
Legal Topics | 2009/04/23 18:21
The Supreme Court is again trying to decide when taxpayers must footthe bill for private schooling for special education students.

The court will hear arguments Tuesday in an Oregon case in which alocal school district contends that students should at least givepublic special education programs a try before seeking reimbursementfor private school tuition.

Afederal appeals court sided with a high-school student identified incourt papers only as T.A. The student enrolled in a $5,200-a-monthprivate program and sought reimbursement from the Forest Grove SchoolDistrict.

The Supreme Court heard a similar case from New York in 2007, but split 4-4 on the outcome.

The case is Forest Grove School District v. T.A., 08-305.



Supermarket Mogul Guilty of Charges
Legal Topics | 2009/04/21 18:20
George Torres, a feisty entrepreneur who built a multimillion-dollargrocery store chain by catering to some of Los Angeles' poorestcommunities, was convicted of racketeering, solicitation of murder,bribery and other crimes Monday by a federal court jury.

Torres, who faces potential life imprisonment as a result of theverdict, showed no emotion when it was read. Friends and family,however, burst into tears and embraced one another outside thecourtroom of U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson.

The verdict represents a major victory forfederal authorities who charged Torres last year with running acriminal enterprise, or so-called shadow organization, to ensure thesuccess of his Numero Uno market chain.

Prosecutors' portrayal of Torres differed starkly from the52-year-old's public persona as a successful businessman andinfluential political donor.

According to prosecutors, Torres hired undocumented workers at hisstores, bribed a Los Angeles city planning commissioner and sought tohave people killed.

In one such instance, jurors concludedthat Torres arranged for the murder of a local gang member who tried toshake him down for protection money. Jose "Shorty" Maldonado wasfatally shot and his pregnant girlfriend was wounded as they walkedacross the street from Torres' main market on Jefferson Boulevard in1994.

A former associate of Torres' testified that he was present when Torressolicited the killing, and another witness admitted driving the carfrom which the shots were fired.

The jury acquitted Torres of arranging the killing of his onetimeconfidant Ignacio "Nacho" Meza, who mysteriously disappeared in 1998after supposedly stealing half a million dollars from Torres. Anotherslaying charge Torres faced was dropped by the judge during the trial.


South Korean Blogger Acquitted
Headline Legal News | 2009/04/20 18:18
A South Korean court on Monday acquitted a blogger accused of causingthe country huge financial losses by spreading misleading informationon the economy.

Prosecutors had sought an 18-month prison term for Park Dae-Sung, 30 --better known by his Internet alias "Minerva" -- while some mediafreedom groups criticised the decision to charge him.

Parkwas arrested in early January and charged with spreading online rumoursthat the government in late December ordered local banks not to buydollars as part of efforts to stabilise the won.

Prosecutorsclaimed the December posting led to dollar hoarding, forcing thegovernment hurriedly to inject two billion dollars to stabilise thecurrency market.

"Considering all the circumstances, it is hardto conclude that Park was aware the information was misleading when hewrote the postings," said Judge Yoo Young-Hyun of Seoul CentralDistrict Court.

The judge said that even if Park had realised theinformation was false, it cannot be concluded he intended to damage thepublic interest, considering the circumstances at the time or thespecial characteristics of the foreign exchange market.

Parkwrote more than 200 economic commentaries in recent months and gained amajor following after correctly predicting the collapse of USinvestment bank Lehman Brothers last September.



SEC Won't Challenge Stimulus
Areas of Focus | 2009/04/19 18:09
South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster says a lawsuit broughtagainst the state over federal stimulus money is flawed and premature.

But McMaster said in a filing with the Supreme Court on Monday that hewon't oppose the state Supreme Court taking up the challenge filed lastweek by a Chapin High School student.

McMaster says the timing may not be right to shift the issues raised in the case from a public policy debate to the courtroom.

McMaster says if the court takes the case he hopes the justices will apply principles that protect the state's rights.



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