California parents face new charges in kids' torture case
Headline Legal News | 2018/02/24 06:23
A Southern California couple suspected of starving and shackling some of their 13 children pleaded not guilty Friday to new charges of child abuse.

David and Louise Turpin previously entered not-guilty pleas to torture and a raft of other charges and are being held on $12 million bail.

Louise Turpin also pleaded not guilty to a new count of felony assault.

Louise Turpin, dressed in a blouse and blazer, looked intently at more than a dozen reporters in the courtroom. David Turpin, wearing a blazer, tie and black-rimmed glasses, kept his eyes on the judge during the hearing. Both said little except to agree to a May preliminary hearing.

The couple was arrested last month after their 17-year-old daughter escaped from the family's home in Perris, California, and called 911. Authorities said the home reeked of human waste and evidence of starvation was obvious, with the oldest sibling weighing only 82 pounds.

The case drew international media attention and shocked neighbors who said they rarely saw the children, who appeared to be skinny, pale and reserved.

Authorities said the abuse was so long-running the children's growth was stunted. They said the couple shackled the children to furniture as punishment and had them live a nocturnal lifestyle.

The children, who range in age from 2 to 29, were hospitalized immediately after their rescue and since then Riverside County authorities, who obtained temporary conservatorship over the adults, have declined to discuss their whereabouts or condition.

Attorneys representing the adult siblings told CBS News, however, that the seven are living at Corona Medical Center, where they have an outdoor area for sports and exercise, and are making decisions on their own for the first time.

Pennsylvania congressional map battle lands in Supreme Court
Legal Business | 2018/02/23 14:23
A request by Republican leaders in the Pennsylvania Legislature to stop a new congressional map from being implemented is now in the hands of the nation's highest court.

The filing made late Wednesday asked Justice Samuel Alito to intervene, saying the state Supreme Court overstepped its authority in imposing a new map.

More litigation may follow, as Republicans are considering a separate legal challenge in federal court in Harrisburg this week.

The state Supreme Court last month threw out a Republican-crafted map that was considered among the nation's most gerrymandered, saying the 2011 plan violated the state constitution's guarantee of free and equal elections.

The new map the state justices announced Monday is widely viewed as giving Democrats an edge as they seek to recapture enough U.S. House seats to reclaim the majority.

House Speaker Mike Turzai and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati said the state's highest court made an unprecedented decision.

"The Pennsylvania Supreme Court conspicuously seized the redistricting process and prevented any meaningful ability for the Legislature to enact a remedial map to ensure a court drawn map," they wrote in a filing made electronically after business hours.

The challenge adds uncertainty as candidates are preparing to circulate nominating petitions to get their names on the May primary ballot.

A spokesman for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, responding to the lawmakers' filing, said Wolf was "focused on making sure the Department of State is fully complying with the court's order by updating their systems and assisting candidates, county election officials and voters preparing for the primary election."

It is the third time in four months that Turzai and Scarnati have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to put a halt to litigation over the 2011 map they took leading roles in creating.

Alito handles emergency applications from Pennsylvania and the other states covered by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Justices have the authority to deal with these applications on their own, or they can refer the matter to the entire court.

In November, Alito turned down a request for a stay of a federal lawsuit, a case that Turzai and Scarnati won in January.

Supreme Court sides with Chicago museum in terror case
Court News | 2018/02/22 14:24
The Supreme Court is preventing survivors of a 1997 terrorist attack from seizing Persian artifacts at a Chicago museum to help pay a $71.5 million default judgment against Iran.

The court ruled 8-0 Wednesday against U.S. victims of a Jerusalem suicide bombing. They want to lay claim to artifacts that were loaned by Iran to the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute more than 80 years ago.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote for the court that a provision of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act does not support the victims' case. That federal law generally protects foreign countries' property in the U.S. but makes exceptions when countries provide support to extremist groups.

The victims, who were wounded in the attack or are close relatives of the wounded, argued that Iran provided training and support to Hamas, which carried out the attack. Iran has refused to pay the court judgment.

The federal appeals court in Chicago had earlier ruled against the victims. The Supreme Court affirmed that ruling Wednesday.

The artifacts in question are 30,000 clay tablets and fragments containing ancient writings known as the Persepolis Collection. University archeologists uncovered the artifacts during excavation of the old city of Persepolis in the 1930s. The collection has been on loan to the university's Oriental Institute since 1937 for research, translation and cataloging.

Courts: Bail reform working, but sustainable funding needed
Areas of Focus | 2018/02/18 14:07
The number of defendants being held before trial since New Jersey overhauled its bail system last year dropped by 20 percent, but the judge overseeing the program says it faces financial difficulties.

A report submitted last week by Judge Glenn Grant, who runs the state's court system, also shows the program faces financial difficulties because it relies on court fees instead of a "stable sustainable funding stream."

Proponents say the reforms championed by former Republican Gov. Chris Christie keep violent offenders detained until trial while providing poor, low-level defendants the opportunity to be freed.

But critics — including some lawmakers, law enforcement officials and the bail bond industry — say it has led to the quick release of some who weren't deemed a threat but were soon re-arrested on new charges.

The data shows 44,319 people were issued complaint warrants in New Jersey last year. Prosecutors sought to have 19,366 defendants detained until trial, but only 8,043 of those people were ordered held.

That means the state's pretrial jail population dropped by 20 percent from January 2017 to January 2018, and by 35 percent from January 2015 to January 2018.

At least two lawsuits have been filed seeking to overturn the changes, including one from a group backed by reality TV star Dog the Bounty Hunter.

Maldives court delays reinstating pro-opposition lawmakers
Court Watch | 2018/02/16 14:07
The Supreme Court of the Maldives delayed its order Sunday reinstating 12 pro-opposition lawmakers ahead of a key parliamentary sitting, the latest political turmoil to roil the island nation.

Opposition lawmaker Ahmed Mahloof said the government may call for important votes at a parliamentary sitting Monday to extend a state of emergency or dismiss two Supreme Court judges who have been arrested on allegations of corruption.

President Yameen Abdul Gayoom's ruling party may have lost a majority in the 85-member parliament if the 12 lawmakers were to be allowed to participate Monday.

The Maldives has faced upheaval since Feb. 1, when the Supreme Court ordered the release of Yameen's imprisoned political opponents and the reinstatement of 12 lawmakers sacked after they sided with the opposition.

The prisoners include Mohamed Nasheed, the country's first president elected in a free election, who could have been Yameen's main rival in his re-election bid later this year.

After days of conflict with the judiciary, Yameen declared a 15-day state of emergency and had the country's chief justice and another Supreme Court judge arrested on bribery allegations.

Inmate in landmark Supreme Court case denied parole
Areas of Focus | 2018/02/14 14:07
A 71-year-old Louisiana inmate whose case led to a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision on juvenile-offender sentences was denied parole Monday, more than a half-century after he killed a sheriff's deputy at age 17.

A three-member panel from the state parole board voted 2 to 1 to keep Henry Montgomery imprisoned. The hearing was his first chance at freedom since his conviction decades ago and a vote to free him would have had to be unanimous. Montgomery now must wait another two years before he can request another parole hearing.

The Supreme Court's January 2016 decision in Montgomery's case opened the door for roughly 2,000 other juvenile offenders to argue for their release after receiving mandatory life-without-parole sentences.

Montgomery has served 54 years in prison for shooting East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff's deputy Charles Hurt in 1963, less than two weeks after Montgomery's 17th birthday. Last June, a state judge who resentenced Montgomery to life with the possibility of parole called him a "model prisoner" who seemed to be rehabilitated.

Montgomery's lawyers said he has sought to be a positive role model for other prisoners, serving as a coach and trainer for a boxing team he helped form at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.

But the two parole board members who voted against Montgomery questioned why he hadn't accessed more prison programs and services that could have benefited him. One of the panelists, Kenneth Loftin, also said he was disappointed in some of Montgomery's statements during the hearing but didn't elaborate.

James Kuhn, the other board member who voted against Montgomery, noted that the Louisiana Sheriffs' Association submitted a statement opposing his release.

"One of the things that society demands, and police officers certainly demand, is that everyone abide by the rule of law. One of the rules of law is you don't kill somebody, and when you do there's consequences," Kuhn said.

GOP to take new congressional map to court
Legal Topics | 2018/02/13 14:08
Republicans say they’ll go to federal court this week to try to block new court-ordered boundaries of Pennsylvania’s congressional districts from remaining in effect for 2018’s elections.

Top Senate Republican lawyer Drew Crompton said Monday a separation of powers case will form the essence of the GOP’s argument. Crompton won’t say whether Republicans will go to a district court or the U.S. Supreme Court or what type of legal remedy they’ll seek.

But the case will involve making the argument the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures and governors, not courts, the power to draw congressional boundaries.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court wouldn’t stop the state court’s order to redraw congressional districts. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf calls the new map an effort to remedy the state’s unfair and unequal congressional elections.

Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is applauding the new boundaries of congressional districts being imposed by the state Supreme Court.

Wolf said in a statement Monday that Pennsylvanians “are sick and tired of gerrymandering.” He calls the court’s map an effort to remedy the state’s unfair and unequal congressional elections.

Wolf had backed the Democratic-majority state high court’s ruling last month to throw out Pennsylvania’s district boundaries. Republicans have won 13 of Pennsylvania’s 18 seats in three elections under the invalidated map, although statewide elections are often closely contested.

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