Supreme Court to take up LGBT job discrimination cases
Court News | 2019/04/21 22:42
The Supreme Court is taking on a major test of LGBT rights in cases that look at whether federal civil rights law bans job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The justices said Monday they will hear cases involving people who claim they were fired because of their sexual orientation and another that involves a funeral home employee who was fired after disclosing that she was transitioning from male to female and dressed as a woman.

The cases will be argued in the fall, with decisions likely by June 2020 in the middle of the presidential election campaign. The issue is whether Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination, protects LGBT people from job discrimination. Title VII does not specifically mention sexual orientation or transgender status, but federal appeals courts in Chicago and New York have ruled recently that gay and lesbian employees are entitled to protection from discrimination. The federal appeals court in Cincinnati has extended similar protections for transgender people.

The big question is whether the Supreme Court, with a strengthened conservative majority, will do the same. The cases are the court's first on LGBT rights since the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who authored the court's major gay rights opinions. President Donald Trump has appointed two justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

The justices had been weighing whether to take on the cases since December, an unusually long time, before deciding to hear them. It's unclear what caused the delay.


Accuracy at core of Supreme Court case over census question
Court News | 2019/04/19 22:42
Justice Elena Kagan’s father was 3 years old when the census taker came to the family’s apartment on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn, New York, on April 10, 1930.

Robert Kagan was initially wrongly listed as an “alien,” though he was a native-born New Yorker. The entry about his citizenship status appears to have been crossed out on the census form.

Vast changes in America and technology have dramatically altered the way the census is conducted. But the accuracy of the once-a-decade population count is at the heart of the Supreme Court case over the Trump administration’s effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

The justices are hearing arguments in the case on Tuesday, with a decision due by late June that will allow for printing forms in time for the count in April 2020.

The fight over the census question is the latest over immigration-related issues between Democratic-led states and advocates for immigrants, on one side, and the administration, on the other. The Supreme Court last year upheld President Donald Trump’s ban on visitors to the U.S. from several mostly Muslim countries. The court also has temporarily blocked administration plans to make it harder for people to claim asylum and is considering an administration appeal that would allow Trump to end protections for immigrants who were brought to this country as children.

The citizenship question has not been asked on the census form sent to every American household since 1950, and the administration’s desire to add it is now rife with political implications and partisan division.


Supreme Court asked to void Louisiana abortion clinic law
Attorney News | 2019/04/18 17:31
A Louisiana abortion clinic is asking the Supreme Court to strike down regulations that could leave the state with just one clinic.

A divided high court had previously agreed to block the law pending a full review of the case.

An appeal being filed with the court Wednesday says the justices should now take the next step and declare the law an unconstitutional burden on the rights of women seeking an abortion. The Louisiana provision is similar to a Texas law the court struck down in 2016.

If the justices agree to hear the Louisiana case, as seems likely, it could lead to a decision on the high-profile abortion issue in spring 2020, in the midst of the presidential election campaign.

The case presents a swirling mix of the changed court’s views on abortion rights and its respect for earlier high court decisions.

Louisiana’s law requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The justices said in 2016 that a Texas law provided “few, if any, health benefits for women.”

But the composition of the court has changed since then. President Donald Trump has put two justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, on the court. Kavanaugh replaced Justice Anthony Kennedy, who voted to strike down the Texas law. Trump had pledged during the campaign to appoint “pro-life” justices, and abortion opponents are hoping the more conservative bench will be more open to upholding abortion restrictions.

Louisiana abortion providers and a district judge who initially heard the case said one or maybe two of the state’s three abortion clinics would have to close under the new law. There would be at most two doctors who could meet its requirements, they said.

But the appeals court in New Orleans rejected those claims, doubting that any clinics would have to close and saying the doctors had not tried hard enough to establish relationships with local hospitals.

In January, the full appeals court voted 9-6 not to get involved in the case, setting up the Supreme Court appeal.

In February, the justices split 5-4 to keep the law on hold. Chief Justice John Roberts, a dissenter in the 2016 case from Texas, joined with the court’s four liberal justices to temporarily block the Louisiana measure.


Nissan ex-chair Ghosn appeal on extended detention rejected
Court News | 2019/04/17 00:32
Japan's top court said Thursday it has rejected an appeal by former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn's lawyers against his extended detention after his fourth arrest on allegations of financial misconduct.

The decision upholds the extension of his detention through April 22 that was approved Monday by the Tokyo District Court.

The Supreme Court ruling was made Wednesday and conveyed to foreign media on Thursday.

Ghosn was first arrested in November and charged with under-reporting his retirement compensation and with breach of trust. He was released March 6 on bail, but was arrested again on April 4 on fresh allegations and sent back to detention.

Rearresting a suspect released on bail, which is allowed only after indictment, is rare and has triggered criticism of Japan's criminal justice system, in which long detentions during investigations are routine.

Ghosn, who led Nissan for two decades and is credited with turning around the company from near-bankruptcy, has denied any wrongdoing.

In a separate legal maneuver, the Tokyo District Court has rejected an appeal by Ghosn's lawyers questioning prosecutors' confiscation of video of security camera installed at Ghosn's apartment, Kyodo News reported Thursday. The court did not respond to calls after office hours.

Last week, Nissan's shareholders voted to remove Ghosn from the company's board.

In his video statement filmed before his arrest and released by his lawyers April 9, Ghosn accused some Nissan executives of plotting against him over unfounded fears about losing their autonomy to their French alliance partner Renault SA.


6 appear in court on charges they sent mosque attack images
Legal Business | 2019/04/15 16:37
Six people appeared in a New Zealand court Monday on charges they illegally redistributed the video a gunman livestreamed as he shot worshippers at two mosques last month.

Christchurch District Court Judge Stephen O’Driscoll denied bail to businessman Philip Arps and an 18-year-old suspect who both were taken into custody in March. The four others are not in custody.

The charge of supplying or distributing objectionable material carries a penalty of up to 14 years imprisonment. Arps, 44, is scheduled to next appear in court via video link on April 26.

The 18-year-old suspect is charged with sharing the livestream video and a still image of the Al Noor mosque with the words “target acquired.” He will reappear in court on July 31 when electronically monitored bail will be considered.

Police prosecutor Pip Currie opposed bail for the 18-year-old suspect and said the second charge, involving the words added to the still image, was of significant concern.

New Zealand’s chief censor has banned both the livestreamed footage of the attack and the manifesto written and released by Brenton Harrison Tarrant, who faces 50 murder charges and 39 attempted murder charges in the March 15 attacks.


High court declines to take Pennsylvania rap artist’s case
Court Watch | 2019/04/14 23:37
The Supreme Court is declining to take the case of a Pennsylvania rapper who was convicted of threatening police officers in one of his songs.

The high court declined on Monday to take the case of Jamal Knox, known as Mayhem Mal. In 2012, he and rapper Rashee Beasley were arrested by Pittsburgh police on gun and drug charges. A song they later wrote about the arrest contains phrases including “Let’s kill these cops cuz they don’t do us no good.”

Both were charged with terroristic threats and other crimes.

Knox argued that the song was protected by the First Amendment, but he was ultimately convicted and sentenced to one to three years in prison. Pennsylvania’s highest court upheld his convictions.


Texas’ high court keeps execution drug supplier secret
Legal Topics | 2019/04/13 23:38
A supplier of Texas’ execution drugs can remain secret under a court ruling Friday that upheld risks of “physical harm” to the pharmacy, ending what state officials called a threat to the entire U.S. death penalty system.

The decision by the Texas Supreme Court, where Republicans hold every seat on the bench, doesn’t change operations at the nation’s busiest death chamber because state lawmakers banned the disclosure of drug suppliers for executions starting in 2015.

A lawsuit filed a year earlier by condemned Texas inmates argued that the supplier’s identity was needed to verify the quality of the drugs and spare them from unconstitutional pain and suffering. Lower courts went on to reject Texas’ claims that releasing the name would physically endanger pharmacy employees at the hands of death-penalty opponents.

Now, however, the state’s highest court has found the risks valid and ordered the identity of the supplier to stay under wraps.

“The voters of Texas have expressed their judgment that the death penalty is necessary, and this decision preserves Texas’ ability to carry out executions mandated by state law,” Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement.

The court deciding that a “substantial” risk of harm exists appeared to largely hinge on an email sent to an Oklahoma pharmacy in which the sender suggested they enhance security and referenced the bombing of an Oklahoma City federal building in 1995.

“I’m speechless with the absurdity of them relying on that singular fact to close, to keep in secret how Texas essentially carries out its execution,” said Maurie Levin, a defense attorney who helped bring the original lawsuit.

The availability of execution drugs has become an issue in many death penalty states after traditional pharmaceutical makers refused to sell their products to prison agencies for execution use. Similar lawsuits about drug provider identities have been argued in other capital punishment states.


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