Western powers warn Kosovo on changing war crimes court law
Court News | 2018/01/04 10:42
Five western nations have warned Kosovo against repealing or amending a law on a war crimes court, saying it would suffer negative consequences "in international and Euro-Atlantic integration."

A statement Thursday from the nations — the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Italy — said they were "deeply concerned by ongoing efforts to undermine the work of the Specialist Chambers." It called on Kosovo politicians and lawmakers "to abandon any thought of repealing or re-negotiating any aspect of the law ... (because that) calls into question Kosovo's commitment to the rule of law."

In December, a group of Kosovo lawmakers tried to amend the law, seeking to extend its jurisdiction over Serbs, their former adversaries in the 1998-1999 war for independence. The court now has jurisdiction only over potential war crimes suspects who were Kosovo citizens.

"(This move) puts the interests of certain individuals above the interests of Kosovo society. We condemn such a move," the nations said.

Kosovo detached from Yugoslavia following a three-month NATO air war in 1999 to stop a bloody Serbian crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatists. It then declared unilateral independence from Serbia in 2008, a move recognized by 114 states but not by Serbia.

The court law was passed in 2015 as a result of U.S. and European pressure on Kosovo's government to confront alleged war crimes that the Kosovo Liberation Army committed against ethnic Serbs.




Top Connecticut court cases in 2018 involve Newtown, Skakel
Headline Legal News | 2018/01/03 10:43
The Connecticut Supreme Court is expected to issue decisions and hear arguments in a variety of notable cases in 2018, including a newspaper’s quest for documents that belonged to the Newtown school shooter and Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel’s appeal of his murder conviction.

The Hartford Courant and the state Freedom of Information Commission are appealing a decision by a lower court judge, who ruled in April that state police don’t have to release documents that belonged to shooter Adam Lanza. The commission had ordered state police to release the documents.

The 20-year-old Lanza shot his mother to death at their Newtown home before killing 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012. He killed himself as police arrived at the school.

The materials requested by the Courant include a spreadsheet ranking mass murders and a notebook titled “The Big Book of Granny,” which contains a story Lanza wrote in fifth grade about a woman who has a gun in her cane and shoots people and another character who likes hurting people, especially children.

Lawyers in the case did not return messages seeking comment. Andrew Julien, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Courant, declined to comment.


Spanish court reviews custody of ex-Catalan vice president
Court News | 2018/01/02 10:43
A Spanish court is reviewing an appeal by former Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras against his jailing as he awaits formal charges over possible rebellion, sedition and embezzlement in the restive region's recent drive for independence from Spain.

A panel of three Supreme Court judges will decide Thursday on whether to keep Junqueras in custody or grant bail, which would ease the way for him to take his oath as a regional lawmaker and possibly become the new Catalan leader.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy deposed Catalonia's government after separatist legislators passed a declaration of independence from Spain in late October.

Pro-secession parties, including a ticket led by the fugitive ousted president Carles Puigdemont and the left-republican party led by Junqueras, won back most seats in fresh elections last month.




Judge Rejects Request for New Vote in Virginia House Race
Areas of Focus | 2018/01/02 10:41
A federal judge on Friday rejected a request for a new election that might have forced a 50-50 split in Virginia's House of Delegates, calling ballot mistakes cited by Democrats a "garden-variety" problem that doesn't merit federal intervention.

Democrats had hoped a new election in the 28th District would provide an opportunity for an even split in the chamber, which is now on track to be controlled by a 51-49 GOP majority.

Democrats cited state election officials who said 147 voters received the wrong ballot before Republican Bob Thomas beat Democrat Joshua Cole by only 73 votes.

It is the second defeat in as many days for Democrats. On Thursday, election officials broke a tie vote in another House district by drawing names from a bowl, and picking the Republican.

It is the second time Ellis has rejected a request to intervene in the race. Last month he rejected a request to issue a temporary restraining order that would have barred state elections officials from certifying Thomas as the winner. In both rulings, Ellis said he was leery of interjecting federal courts into a state elections process.


State high court won't hear Mateen Cleaves sex assault case
Legal Business | 2017/12/28 10:43
The Michigan Supreme Court has declined to review a judge's decision to reinstate sexual assault charges against former Michigan State basketball star Mateen Cleaves.

The state's high court on Wednesday joined three Michigan Court of Appeals judges, who in August denied Cleaves' request. Earlier, Genesee County Judge Archie Hayman reinstated the case against Cleaves, who faces charges including unlawful imprisonment and second-degree criminal sexual conduct.

The case is expected to return to county court for trial. Cleaves is accused of assaulting a woman after a charity golf event and a visit to a Flint-area bar in 2015.

Defense attorney Frank Manley says he remains "confident" Cleaves will be "vindicated."

Cleaves, a Flint native, led Michigan State to the NCAA basketball championship in 2000 and played for four NBA teams.



Top German court rejects ex-Auschwitz guard's prison appeal
Headline Legal News | 2017/12/26 10:44
Germany's highest court said Friday it has thrown out a bid by a 96-year-old former Auschwitz death camp guard for a reprieve on serving his sentence as an accessory to murder.

Oskar Groening was convicted in July 2015 of being an accessory to the murder of 300,000 Jews and sentenced to four years in prison. A federal court rejected his appeal against the conviction last year.

Groening has remained free during a dispute over his fitness for prison. Prosecutors argued that he is fit to serve time so long as there is appropriate medical care, and regional courts threw out appeals against their decision.

Germany's Federal Constitutional Court said it has now rejected a complaint arguing that Groening's fundamental right to life and physical safety was being violated. In the ruling dated Dec. 21 and released Friday, it said it saw no constitutional reason to question the lower courts' rulings.

The supreme court noted that German law allows for prison sentences to be interrupted if a detainee's health deteriorates significantly.

It wasn't immediately clear when Groening will be formally summoned to start serving his sentence, but he isn't expected to go to prison before the new year.



Ohio court to hear big online school's funding case Feb. 13
Legal Business | 2017/12/22 10:43
The Ohio Supreme Court will hear arguments in February over the state's efforts to recoup $60 million from one of the nation's largest online charter schools.

The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow is challenging how officials tallied student logins to determine that the virtual school was overpaid for the 2015-16 school year.

The state says that ECOT didn't sufficiently document student participation to justify its funding and could owe millions more from 2016-17.

The court has scheduled oral arguments in the case for Feb. 13.

The e-school has said it could be forced to close in early 2018, in the middle of the school year, if the court doesn't intervene. ECOT said such a closure would affect almost 12,000 students and eliminate more than 800 jobs.


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