Prominent Chinese rights lawyer tried in closed proceedings
Attorney News | 2018/12/26 17:48
The trial of a prominent human rights lawyer began in northern China on Wednesday with about two dozen plainclothes officers stationed outside a courthouse and at least one supporter taken away by police.

Reporters, foreign diplomats and supporters were prevented from approaching the municipal court in Tianjin city where lawyer Wang Quanzhang was being tried. Wang's wife, Li Wenzu, was kept from attending the proceedings by security agents who had blocked the exit of her apartment complex since Tuesday.

Li told The Associated Press by phone Wednesday that Liu Weiguo, Wang's government-appointed lawyer, confirmed the trial had started. But he did not tell her whether it was now over or whether a verdict had been reached.

The court said in a statement on its website that it "lawfully decided not to make public" the trial hearings because the case involved state secrets. A decision will be announced at a future date, the court said.

Wang is among more than 200 lawyers and legal activists who were detained in a sweeping 2015 crackdown. A member of the Fengrui law firm, among the most recognized in the field broadly known in China as "rights defending," he was charged with subversion of state power in 2016. He has been held without access to his lawyers or family for more than three years.

Fengrui has pursued numerous sensitive cases and represented outspoken critics of the ruling Communist Party. Wang represented members of the Falun Gong meditation sect that the government has relentlessly suppressed since banning it as an "evil cult" in 1999. Group leaders have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms and ordinary followers locked up as alleged threats.


Cancer the latest health woe for resilient Justice Ginsburg
Legal Topics | 2018/12/25 07:44
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is resting in a New York hospital following surgery to remove two malignant growths in her left lung, the third time the Supreme Court’s oldest justice has been treated for cancer and her second stay in a hospital in two months.

Worries over Ginsburg’s health have been a constant of sorts for nearly 10 years, and for liberals, particularly in the last two. Ginsburg, the leader of the court’s liberal wing and known to her fans as the Notorious RBG, has achieved an iconic status rare for Supreme Court justices.

If she did step down, President Donald Trump would have another opportunity to move a conservative court even more to the right. “Wishing Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg a full and speedy recovery!” Trump tweeted after the court’s announcement Friday.

But Ginsburg has always bounced back before, flaunting her physical and mental fitness. After past health scares, she has resumed the exercise routine popularized in a book written by her personal trainer and captured in a Stephen Colbert video. Weeks after cracking three ribs in a fall at the Supreme Court in November, the 85-year-old Ginsburg was asking questions at high court arguments, speaking at a naturalization ceremony for new citizens and being interviewed at screenings of the new movie about her, “On the Basis of Sex.”

Ginsburg will remain in the hospital for a few days, the court said. She has never missed arguments in more than 25 years as a justice. The court next meets on Jan. 7.

While it’s hard to refer to good luck and cancer diagnoses in the same breath, this is the second time for Ginsburg that cancerous growths have been detected at an apparently early stage through unrelated medical tests.

The nodules on her lung were found during X-rays and other tests Ginsburg had after she fractured ribs in a fall in her Supreme Court office on Nov. 7, the court said. In 2009, routine follow-up screening after Ginsburg’s colorectal cancer 10 years earlier detected a lesion on her pancreas. Doctors operated and removed the growth they’d previously spotted, plus a smaller one they hadn’t seen before. The larger growth was benign, while the smaller one was malignant.


Myanmar court hears appeal of convicted Reuters journalists
Court News | 2018/12/24 15:45
A court in Myanmar has heard an appeal filed by lawyers for two Reuters journalists sentenced to seven years in prison on charges of illegal possession of official documents, a case that has drawn worldwide criticism and attention to the crisis that drove members of the Muslim Rohingya minority to flee the country.

The court announced a ruling would be issued next month after submissions were made Monday by both the prosecution and lawyers for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who said they were framed by police but were convicted in September.

The journalists had been reporting last year on the brutal crackdown by security forces on the Rohingya in Myanmar's Rakhine state. Some 700,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh to escape the violence of a government counterinsurgency campaign.



NC court: Counties not responsible for school underfunding
Legal Business | 2018/12/22 19:23
North Carolina's top court says the state is responsible, not the counties, when schools are so underfunded that some children don't get the constitutionally required sound basic education.

In a decision issued Friday, the state Supreme Court ruled against parents and children in Halifax County, who contended county commissioners haven't fairly distributed tax money, hurting some students.

The Supreme Court decision says only the state has "the power to create and maintain a system of public education." The case was the first to address whether local governments have a duty to provide every child an opportunity to receive a sound basic education. In a landmark 1997 case known as Leandro, the court determined the state has that duty.

The ruling upholds an earlier decision by the state Court of Appeals.



Fight over report on Wynn allegations back in court Jan. 4
Headline Legal News | 2018/12/21 03:23
The fight over a Massachusetts Gaming Commission report on allegations of sexual misconduct against former casino mogul Steve Wynn will be back in a Nevada courtroom next month.

Clark County District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez on Thursday set a Jan. 4 court hearing on whether to extend an order blocking the report's release. It details an investigation into how Wynn Resorts handled the allegations and could affect whether the company keeps a gambling license for a $2 billion casino and hotel set to open near Boston in June.

Wynn has denied allegations of misconduct and sued last month to keep the report from going public. He argued that it contains confidential information obtained from his attorneys, which is protected by attorney-client privilege.

Wynn resigned from his company in February, and his name has been stripped from the new casino. It is now called Encore Boston Harbor.

Wynn Resorts attorney Patrick Byrne said Thursday that the company supports the investigation and is cooperating with Massachusetts regulators.

Ahead of the January hearing, Wynn's attorneys are negotiating with Wynn Resorts and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission over what interviews and documents his lawyers can review to determine if they're privileged.

The Nevada judge is expected to rule on areas where the attorneys can't agree.

The gaming commission's attorney, Michael Rawlins, questioned how much access Wynn should be given and whether the ex-mogul's lawyers would seek to review even more elements of the unpublished report.

Rawlins said in court Thursday that the commission wants to move forward quickly but "we do not want to open the investigative files of a law enforcement agency to the curious eyes of the person whose behavior is the subject of the investigation."

Judge Gonzalez said she understood why the commission was reluctant to share its information but that some documents needed to be disclosed to determine whether Wynn's attorney-client privilege was violated.



Spain court grants $1.7 billion compensation for oil spill
Court News | 2018/12/20 17:23
Spain's Supreme Court has ruled that the captain and the insurer of the Prestige oil tanker must pay more than 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion) in compensation for Spain's biggest environmental disaster, when the vessel sank in 2002.

The court said in a statement Thursday that captain Apostolos Mangouras and The London Owners Mutual Insurance Association shall pay the damages to Spain, France and authorities in Spain's Galicia region, as well as to another 269 companies, communities and individuals affected by the spill.

The tanker sprang a leak and sank off northwest Spain, polluting a long stretch of coastline and ruining the area's rich fishing grounds. Years of legal challenges slowed the compensation process.



Human rights court rules against Greece in Sharia law case
Legal Business | 2018/12/19 18:06
Greece violated a prohibition on discrimination by applying Islamic religious law to an inheritance dispute among members of the country's Muslim minority, the European Court of Human Rights ruled Wednesday.

The court, based in the eastern French city of Strasbourg, ruled Greece violated the European Convention on Human Rights by applying Sharia law in the case, under which a Muslim Greek man's will bequeathing all he owned to his wife was deemed invalid after it was challenged by his sisters.

The man's widow, Chatitze Molla Sali, appealed to the European court in 2014, having lost three quarters of her inheritance. She argued she had been discriminated against on religious grounds as, had her husband not been Muslim, she would have inherited his entire estate under Greek law.

The European court agreed. It has not yet issued a decision on what, if any, penalty it will apply to Greece.

"Greece was the only country in Europe which, up until the material time, had applied Sharia law to a section of its citizens against their wishes," the court said in its ruling.

"That was particularly problematic in the present case because the application of Sharia law had led to a situation that was detrimental to the individual rights of a widow who had inherited her husband's estate in accordance with the rules of civil law but who had then found herself in a legal situation which neither she nor her husband had intended."

Molla Sali's husband had drawn up his will according to Greek law, and both a first instance and an appeals court initially ruled in her favor in the dispute with her sisters-in-law. But further court decisions ruled that inheritance issues within the Muslim minority had to be dealt with under Islamic religious law, and the will was deemed invalid.


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