India’s Supreme Court strikes down law that punished gay sex
Opinions | 2018/09/09 03:01
India’s Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a colonial-era law that made gay sex punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a landmark victory for gay rights that one judge said would “pave the way for a better future.”

The 1861 law, a relic of Victorian England that hung on long after the end of British colonialism, was a weapon used to discriminate against India’s gay community, the judges ruled in a unanimous decision.

“Constitutional morality cannot be martyred at the altar of social morality,” Chief Justice Dipak Misra said, reading the verdict. “Social morality cannot be used to violate the fundamental rights of even a single individual.”

As the news spread, the streets outside the courthouse erupted in cheers as opponents of the law danced and waved flags.

“We feel as equal citizens now,” said activist Shashi Bhushan. “What happens in our bedroom is left to us.”

In its ruling, the court said sexual orientation was a “biological phenomenon” and that discrimination on that basis violated fundamental rights.

“We cannot change history but can pave a way for a better future,” said Justice D.Y. Chandrachud.

The law known as Section 377 held that intercourse between members of the same sex was against the order of nature. The five petitioners who challenged the law said it was discriminatory and led to gays living in fear of harassment and persecution.

Jessica Stern, the executive director of the New York-based rights group OutRight Action International, said the original law had reverberated far beyond India, including in countries where gay people still struggle for acceptance.

“The sodomy law that became the model everywhere, from Uganda to Singapore to the U.K. itself, premiered in India, becoming the confusing and dehumanizing standard replicated around the world,” she said in a statement, saying “today’s historic outcome will reverberate across India and the world.”

The court’s ruling struck down the law’s sections on consensual gay sex, but let stand segments that deal with such issues as bestiality.


Court: No review of 100-year sentence for attempted murders
Legal Business | 2018/09/07 17:02
A Louisiana court is refusing to review the case of a 31-year-old man who is serving 100 years for the attempted murder of two people.

Houma Today reports the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal Wednesday denied a review of Joshua Dean’s case.

The Houma man was convicted in 2008 of wounding two people in separate drive-by shootings.

Prosecutors described the shootings as random acts of violence. One victim was shot in the shoulder and another was shot in the back and paralyzed from the waist down.

Dean was sentenced to 50 years in prison on both counts to run consecutively.

He’s currently serving out his sentence at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.



Senator asks court to declare Duterte arrest order illegal
Legal Topics | 2018/09/06 15:53
A Philippine senator who has taken refuge in the Senate to avoid an arrest order by President Rodrigo Duterte asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to declare the order illegal and called on the military to defy it.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, Duterte's fiercest critic in Congress, told the high court in a petition that Duterte's proclamation voiding his 2011 amnesty for links to failed coup attempts and ordering his arrest was baseless.

"Their basis for this proclamation is a big lie," Trillanes told reporters in the Senate building, where he has remained since Duterte's order was made public Tuesday. "It's bogus, they only wanted to pin me down for being a critic of Mr. Duterte."

Known for his temper and outbursts against critics, Duterte has openly expressed anger against Trillanes, who has accused him of large-scale corruption and involvement in illegal drugs. Duterte has repeatedly denied the allegations.

The standoff has unfolded while Duterte is on a visit to Israel and Jordan. He is scheduled to fly home on Sunday.

The Department of Justice said Duterte voided Trillanes's amnesty because the senator did not file a formal amnesty application and admit guilt for his role in past coup attempts.



Court: Cities can't prosecute people for sleeping on streets
Headline Legal News | 2018/09/05 23:58
Cities can't prosecute people for sleeping on the streets if they have nowhere else to go because it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, which is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court said Tuesday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with six homeless people from Boise, Idaho, who sued the city in 2009 over a local ordinance that banned sleeping in public spaces. The ruling could affect several other cities across the U.S. West that have similar laws.

It comes as many places across the West Coast are struggling with homelessness brought on by rising housing costs and income inequality.

When the Boise lawsuit was filed, attorneys for the homeless residents said as many as 4,500 people didn't have a place to sleep in Idaho's capital city and homeless shelters only had about 700 available beds or mats. The case bounced back and forth in the courts for years, and Boise modified its rules in 2014 to say homeless people couldn't be prosecuted for sleeping outside when shelters were full.

But that didn't solve the problem, the attorneys said, because Boise's shelters limit the number of days that homeless residents can stay. Two of the city's three shelters also require some form of religious participation for some programs, making those shelters unsuitable for people with different beliefs, the homeless residents said.

The three-judge panel for the 9th Circuit found that the shelter rules meant homeless people would still be at risk of prosecution even on days when beds were open. The judges also said the religious programming woven into some shelter programs was a problem.


Louisiana Supreme Court upholds life sentence in beating
Legal Topics | 2018/09/05 06:58
The Louisiana Supreme Court has upheld a life prison term for a man convicted of severely beating another man at a convenience store five years ago after telling the victim he was in the “wrong neighborhood.”

Donald Ray Dickerson, of Baton Rouge, was found guilty in 2015 of second-degree battery in the attack on David Ray III, of St. Francisville. Ray was hospitalized with a broken eye socket, broken nose and other injuries.

Dickerson was sentenced to life behind bars, deemed a habitual offender. The Advocate reports he has prior convictions for armed robbery, simple robbery and purse snatching.

Dickerson claims his conduct did not amount to second-degree battery and his sentence is unconstitutionally excessive. An appeals court disagreed, and the Louisiana Supreme Court on Friday let that ruling stand.


Rancorous, partisan start for Kavanaugh high court hearin
Court Watch | 2018/09/03 20:58
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh declared fervently at his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday the court "must never, never be viewed as a partisan institution." But that was at the end of a marathon day marked by rancorous exchanges between Democrats and Republicans, including dire Democratic fears that he would be President Donald Trump's advocate on the high court.

The week of hearings on Kavanaugh's nomination began with a sense of inevitability that the 53-year-old appellate judge eventually will be confirmed, perhaps in time for the first day of the new term, Oct. 1, and little more than a month before congressional elections.

However, the first of at least four days of hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee began with partisan quarreling over the nomination and persistent protests from members of the audience, followed by their arrests.

Strong Democratic opposition to Trump's nominee reflects the political stakes for both parties in advance of the November elections, Robert Mueller's investigation of Trump's 2016 campaign and the potentially pivotal role Kavanaugh could play in moving the court to the right.

Democrats, including several senators poised for 2020 presidential bids, tried to block the proceedings in a dispute over Kavanaugh records withheld by the White House. Republicans in turn accused the Democrats of turning the hearing into a circus.

Trump jumped into the fray late in the day, saying on Twitter that Democrats were "looking to inflict pain and embarrassment" on Kavanaugh.

The president's comment followed the statements of Democratic senators who warned that Trump was, in the words of Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, "selecting a justice on the Supreme Court who potentially will cast a decisive vote in his own case."

In Kavanaugh's own statement at the end of more than seven hours of arguing, the federal appeals judge spoke repeatedly about the importance of an independent judiciary and the need to keep the court above partisan politics, common refrains among Supreme Court nominees that had added salience in the fraught political atmosphere of the moment.


Chaos marks start of Kavanaugh confirmation hearing
Areas of Focus | 2018/09/02 20:58
Quarreling and confusion marked the start of the Senate's confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Tuesday, with Democrats trying to block the proceedings because of documents being withheld by the White House. Protesters also disrupted the proceedings.

In his opening remarks released ahead of delivery, Kavanaugh sought to tamp down the controversy over his nomination, which would likely shift the closely divided court to the right. He promised to be a "team player" if confirmed, declaring that he would be a "pro-law judge" who would not decide cases based on his personal views.

But Democrats raised objections from the moment Chairman Chuck Grassley gaveled the committee to order. They want to review 100,000 documents about Kavanaugh's record being withheld by the White House as well as some 42,000 documents released to the committee on a confidential basis on the eve of the hearing, along with others not sought by Republicans on the committee.

"We have not been given an opportunity to have a meaningful hearing on this nominee," said Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., made a motion to adjourn.

Grassley denied his request, but the arguments persisted.

More than a dozen protesters, shouting one by one, disrupted the hearing at several points and were removed by police. "This is a mockery and a travesty of justice," shouted one woman. "Cancel Brett Kavanaugh!"

Grassley defended the document production as the most open in history, saying there was "no reason to delay the hearing. He asked Kavanaugh, who sat before the committee with White House officials behind him, to introduce his parents, wife and children.

"I'm very honored to be here," Kavanaugh said.

With majority Republicans appearing united, it's doubtful the hearings will affect the eventual confirmation of President Donald Trump's nominee. But they will likely become a rallying cry for both parties just two months before the midterm elections.

Kavanaugh declared he would be even-handed in his approach to the law.

"A good judge must be an umpire, a neutral and impartial arbiter who favors no litigant or policy," Kavanaugh said in prepared opening remarks. "I am not a pro-plaintiff or pro-defendant judge. I am not a pro-prosecution or pro-defense judge."

"I would always strive to be a team player on the Team of Nine," he added.

The Supreme Court is more often thought of as nine separate judges, rather than a team. And on the most contentious cases, the court tends to split into two sides, conservative and liberal. But the justices often say they seek consensus when they can, a


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