'Junior' Gotti Arrested on Murder Charge
Areas of Focus | 2008/08/05 15:46
John A. "Junior" Gotti has been arrested on charges linking him to three New York murders, The New York Times reported. He is expected to be indicted on racketeering and murder-conspiracy charges over the killings, which took place nearly two decades ago. Gotti is the son of "Dapper Don" John Gotti, the late boss of the Gambino family.

Junior Gotti was arrested Tuesday morning at his Oyster Bay Cove home in New York.

In 1999 he pleaded guilty to racketeering crimes, including bribery, extortion and fraud, and was sentenced to 77 months in prison. He was released in 2005.

Junior Gotti was also tried three times on racketeering charges for allegedly plotting to kidnap Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa. He was never convicted, because the trials ended in hung juries and mistrials.


Third Circuit rules on confiscation of materials
Legal Topics | 2008/08/01 15:42
The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on Thursday affirmed a decision to dismiss claims filed by fifteen current and former inmates alleging that various employees of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections violated their constitutional rights when they confiscated inmates' legal materials. After a DOC inmate filed fraudulent liens against a state court judge, a superintendent and the DOC secretary in June 2005, the DOC banned all materials related to the copyrighting of names, the filing of liens, and filings under the Uniform Commercial Code. Upon a search of the plaintiff inmates' cells, prison officials discovered these contraband documents and subsequently confiscated all of the inmates' legal materials, including items that had not been designated as contraband. The inmates filed suit, alleging that the seizures violated the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of Due Process as well as their right to access the courts and possess publications and legal materials under the First Amendment. The Court of Appeals dismissed the inmates' Due Process claims, noting that prison officials provided the inmates with three separate opportunities to reclaim their non-contraband property following the seizures, explaining that:

[A]n unauthorized intentional deprivation of property by prison officials does not violate the Due Process Clause if a meaningful postdeprivation remedy for the loss is available.

In affirming the lower court's determination that the DOC's confiscation did not unreasonably deprive the inmates of their right to possess publications and legal materials, the Third Circuit found that:

In light of the DOC’s experience with the inmate’s June 2005 filing, which demonstrated that fraudulent UCC filings are easy to file but burdensome to remove, along with the research that informed their judgment on this policy, we conclude that the defendants’ decision to engage in preemptive action in this case was reasonable

The court dismissed the inmates' claims that the seizures blocked their access to the courts, ruling that their initial pleadings were insufficient to support a claim. The court found that "the plaintiffs’ claim rested solely on the ground that the defendants confiscated their legal materials, contraband and non-contraband alike" and did not show an actual injury or that the inmates possessed no other remedy to compensate them for their lost claims.

Jurisdictions across the country have seen an increase in the malicious filing of fraudulent liens, which can cause great hardship for the affected parties. Some experts attribute the rise in such filings to a bizarre and convoluted new scam known as "redemption", in which participants are told that every American has a "strawman" account created by the the US government. Participants pay large sums to obtain fraudulent instructions said to be grounded in the UCC. These materials claim to show how to access the government money in that strawman account, and participants are encouraged to exact financial revenge against government officials. In February, a Texas inmate was sentenced to 12 years in prison after he filed fraudulent liens against a US District Judge and Assistant US Attorney involved in the prosecution of his initial drug convictions.


United Airlines Takes on Pilots Union
Legal Topics | 2008/07/31 16:18
United Airlines wants to put an end to a pilot union's campaign to pressure the airline into reopening union negotiations by urging pilots to refuse voluntary flight assignments and to participate in an organized "sick-out," which forced United to cancel 329 flights between July 19 and July 27.

"United simply cannot afford a repeat of the summer of 2000 and its impact on the Company's customers and employees," the airline claims in Federal Court, referring to a widely publicized slowdown in 2000 that inconvenienced customers and took a toll on United's reputation.

United seeks an injunction barring the Air Line Pilots Association International and its members "from advocating or engaging in any form of job action designed to put economic pressure on United or disrupt its operations."


Bush Approves Military Death Sentence
Legal Topics | 2008/07/30 16:15
President Bush approved the death sentence of Pvt. Ronald Gray, thefirst execution by the military since 1961. The former Army cook wasconvicted by court-martial of two murders and an attempted murder,among other offenses, while serving at Fort Bragg, N.C., in themid-1980s.
    Gray had been charged with four counts of murderand eight counts of rape, and pleaded guilty to two murders and fiverapes in North Carolina state court.
    In a separateproceeding, a court-martial panel convicted him of two counts ofmurder, one count of attempted murder and a slew of other charges,including rape, forcible sodomy and robbery.
    An appeals courtfor the Armed Services rejected Gray's appeal in 1999, and Bushapproved his death sentence on Monday under the Uniform Code ofMilitary Justice.
    "While approving a sentence of death for amember of our armed forces is a serious and difficult decision for acommander-in-chief, the president believes the facts of this case leaveno doubt that the sentence is just and warranted," White House PressSecretary Dana Perino said in a statement.
    The last militaryexecution was ordered by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1957, and wascarried out by hanging in 1961. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld themilitary's use of the death penalty in 1996, but no one in the servicehas been executed since the Eisenhower administration. President JohnF. Kennedy chose to commute a death sentence to life in prison in 1962.
    Currently, six people sit on military's death row at FortLeavenworth, Kan. The president has the final say whether they live ordie.


Actor's Pet Food Co. Sues over Contamination
Legal Topics | 2008/07/29 16:11
Actor and self-professed animal lover Dick Van Patten, owner of Nature Balance Pet Foods, joined the fray of litigants suing over the massive 2007 pet-food recalls spurred by tainted wheat gluten and rice protein from China.

Wilbur-Ellis Co. continued to process contaminated shipments, which Nature Balance unwittingly distributed, the pet-food company claims in Superior Court.

The lawsuit invokes the words of Sir Walter Scott: "Recollect that the Almighty, who gave the dog to be companion of our pleasures and our toils, hath invested him with a nature noble and incapable of deceit." In the next sentence, Nature Balance points out that Wilbur-Ellis "displayed just the opposite nature and as a result pets across the country died and were sickened."

Nature Balance demands actual and punitive damages for its economic losses and severe damage to its reputation.

Van Patten starred in "Spaceballs," "High Anxiety" and numerous television shows.


Latinos Lose Bid to Redraw Ward Map in Aurora, Ill.
Areas of Focus | 2008/07/28 15:56
Latino citizens in Aurora, Ill., are not entitled to have the city ward map redrawn to favor Latino candidates, the 7th Circuit ruled.

Judge Easterbrook upheld the district court's ruling that Latino voters are not deprived of proper voting representation. Two of the 12 city aldermen are Latino, and the city's population is 33 percent Latino. However, only 16 percent of citizens of voting age are Hispanic.

Sam Gonzalez, Maria Crosby, and Mariana Correia asked for the wards to be redrawn so three of them would have predominant Latino populations. Easterbrook ruled that is not the only way for Latino residents to gain representation.

"The (plaintiffs) ignore the fact that several wards contain enough Latino citizens to produce substantial influence," Easterbrook wrote.

The judge also ruled that redrawing the map to favor one ethnic group is not fair, "as surely as a map drawn to maximize the influence of those groups at the expense of Latinos.


Rolling Stones' Copyright Holder Sues Derivative Rapper
Areas of Focus | 2008/07/25 16:28
Dwayne Carter, known as  "L'il Wayne"  to the two or three fans he has, illegally used the Rolling Stones' hit, "Play With Fire," in a "vile ... sexist and offensive" knockoff called "Playing With Fire," ABKCO Music claims in Federal Court.

ABKCO, founded by music mogul Allen Klein, says it owns most of the Mick Jagger-Keith Richards catalogue. The offending ditty is found on "Tha Carter III" album.

ABKCO cites the opening lyrics of the Stones' song: "Well, you've got your diamonds and you've got your pretty clothes / And the chauffeur drives your car / You let everybody know / But don't play with me, cause you're playing with fire" and L'il Wayne's knockoff: "So you've got so many diamonds / You wear all the finest clothes / And your grill is shining / As you're driving down the streets of gold / But you can't blame me if I set this stage on fire."

ABKCO says it hired "noted musicologist" Anthony Ricigliano, who reported that "the similarity [in the music] is apparent to even a layperson's ear." Ricigliano wrote, in a letter attached to the lawsuit, "(M)ost assuredly, the composition Playing With Fire infringes the copyright of Play With Fire."

ABKCO demands disgorgement, an accounting, punitive damages, destruction of the masters and copies, and an injunction. It is represented by Michael Kramer.

Here are the defendants: Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr. pka Lil Wayne, Nicholas Mark Warwar pka StreetRunner, Jason Desrouleux, Cash Money Records, Universal Motown Republic Group, Universal Music Group Recordings, Young Money Publishing, Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp., Warner/Chappell Music, and EMI Music Publishing.


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