Supreme Court rebuffs Alabama officer charged with murder
Legal Business | 2019/08/10 08:23
The Alabama Supreme Court refused Friday to intervene on behalf of a Huntsville police officer charged with murder in a 2018 shooting, sending the case back to circuit court for a potential trial.

The justices turned away an appeal by officer William “Ben” Darby in a brief ruling without explanation.

Darby was on duty when he shot and killed Jeffrey Parker, 49, on April 3, 2018. Darby contended he was acting in self-defense and shouldn’t be prosecuted, but the court refused to overturn a lower court’s refusal.

The decision means the case against Darby can continue in Madison County.

Parker called authorities threatening to kill himself with a gun, police said. Darby was one of three officers who responded and shot Parker when the man wouldn’t drop his weapon, authorities said.

An internal police review board cleared Darby of wrongdoing, but grand jurors later indicted him.

During a hearing on Darby’s claim of immunity, Darby testified he fired his weapon after Parker refused his commands to lower a gun from his own head. The defense argued Darby’s actions were to protect a fellow officer, Genisha Pegues, who was talking to Parker.



Appeal in John Steinbeck lawsuit heard in court
Court News | 2019/08/07 08:23
Both sides had another day in court Tuesday in a family battle that has been waged for decades over who controls the works of iconic author John Steinbeck.

A three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments to an appeal by the estate of Steinbeck’s late son, Thomas Steinbeck. The panel was in Anchorage to hear various cases.

Thomas Steinbeck’s estate is contesting a 2017 federal jury verdict in California that awarded more than $13 million to the author’s stepdaughter, Waverly Scott Kaffaga, whose mother was John Steinbeck’s third wife. The lawsuit said Thomas Steinbeck and his wife, Gail Steinbeck, impeded film adaptations of the classic works. A judge earlier ruled in the same case that the couple breached an agreement between Kaffaga’s late mother and Thomas Steinbeck and his late brother, John Steinbeck IV.

Neither Gail Steinbeck nor Waverly Kaffaga attended Tuesday’s proceeding.

Attorney Matthew Dowd, representing the Thomas Steinbeck estate, told the circuit judges the appeal contends the 1983 agreement was in violation of a 1976 change to copyright law that gave artists or their blood relatives the right to terminate copyright deals. The appeal also disputes the award handed up by the jury, maintaining it was not supported by substantial evidence of Gail Steinbeck’s ability to pay.

Kaffaga’s attorney, Susan Kohlmann, told the circuit judges multiple courts, including an earlier Ninth Circuit decision, have already upheld the agreement as binding and valid, and deemed it enforceable. She called the contract argument a “complete red herring.”

Dowd disagreed. He said previous decisions on the agreement didn’t completely deal with the particular issue involving the 1976 statute. He said Gail Steinbeck was not allowed to fully address the issue in court.

The appeals panel did not rule immediately on the case. Dowd earlier said he didn’t expect a decision for several months.

The judges appeared skeptical that the contract issue wasn’t adequately dealt with in previous rulings, and they questioned whether they were being asked to review another circuit court’s decision.

The judges also said the punitive damages of about $8 million awarded by the Los Angeles jury in 2017 appeared to have been decided without evidence of Gail Steinberg’s ability to pay. If that part was stricken from the award, there would still remain $5.25 million in compensatory damages, they noted.


Puerto Ricans get their 3rd governor in 6 days
Opinions | 2019/08/04 08:23
Justice Secretary Wanda Vazquez became Puerto Rico’s new governor Wednesday, just the second woman to hold the office, after weeks of political turmoil and hours after the island’s Supreme Court declared Pedro Pierluisi’s swearing-in a week ago unconstitutional.

Accompanied by her husband, Judge Jorge Diaz, and one of her daughters, Vazquez took the oath of office in the early evening at the Supreme Court before leaving without making any public comment. She then issued a brief televised statement late Wednesday, saying she feels the pain that Puerto Ricans have experienced in recent weeks.

“We have all felt the anxiety provoked by the instability and uncertainty,” Vazquez said, adding that she would meet with legislators and government officials in the coming days. “Faced with this enormous challenge and with God ahead, I take a step forward with no interest other than serving the people ... It is necessary to give the island stability, certainty to the markets and secure (hurricane) reconstruction funds.”

The high court’s unanimous decision, which could not be appealed, settled the dispute over who will lead the U.S. territory after its political establishment was knocked off balance by big street protests spawned by anger over corruption, mismanagement of funds and a leaked obscenity-laced chat that forced the previous governor and several top aides to resign.

But it was also expected to unleash a new wave of demonstrations because many Puerto Ricans have said they don’t want Vazquez as governor.

“It is concluded that the swearing in as governor by Hon. Pedro R. Pierluisi Urrutia, named secretary of state in recess, is unconstitutional,” the court said in a brief statement.


Dubai ruler, princess in London court over welfare of kids
Headline Legal News | 2019/07/30 15:36
A dispute between the ruler of Dubai and his estranged wife over the welfare of their two young children will play out over the next two days in a London courtroom amid reports the princess has fled the Gulf emirate.

The case beginning Tuesday in Britain's High Court pits Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum against Princess Haya, daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan.

The princess is believed to be in Britain, where she owns a gated mansion.

The clash between Sheikh Mohammed and Princess Haya is the latest sign of trouble in Dubai's ruling family. Last year, a daughter of Sheikh Mohammed tried to flee Dubai after appearing in a 40-minute video saying she had been imprisoned.


Democratic governor getting to shape Kansas' top court
Attorney News | 2019/07/30 15:36
A dispute between the ruler of Dubai and his estranged wife over the welfare of their two young children will play out over the next two days in a London courtroom amid reports the princess has fled the Gulf emirate.

The case beginning Tuesday in Britain's High Court pits Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum against Princess Haya, daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan.

The princess is believed to be in Britain, where she owns a gated mansion.

The clash between Sheikh Mohammed and Princess Haya is the latest sign of trouble in Dubai's ruling family. Last year, a daughter of Sheikh Mohammed tried to flee Dubai after appearing in a 40-minute video saying she had been imprisoned.


Cyprus police frees 5 Israelis, 7 held in hotel rape probe
Legal Business | 2019/07/27 10:42
A Cyprus court on Friday extended the detention of seven of the 12 Israeli teenagers initially arrested as suspects in the rape of a 19-year-old British woman.

The court ordered the suspects to remain in police custody for another six days to give investigators time to finish looking into the woman’s reported rape at a hotel in the resort town of Ayia Napa.

Defense lawyer Nir Yaslovitzh says five other suspects were released from custody on Thursday and have returned to Israel.

Lawyer Yiannis Habaris told The Associated Press that police investigators confirmed that the five released Israelis had no connection with the case. Habaris represents four suspects, two of whom were among those who were released.

Habaris said investigators connected the seven remaining suspects to the case through witness statements as well as DNA evidence which link three of the seven to the alleged victim.

The Cypriot lawyer said the suspects offered investigators certain “explanations” into their whereabouts at the time of the alleged crime.

The court heard that the alleged victim was involved in a relationship with one of the seven suspects and had sexual contact with several of the remaining six over the course of a few days, Habaris said.

Habaris said investigators may decide to take the case to trial before a criminal court if any of the seven suspects aren’t released in the coming days.

Yaslovitzh, an Israeli lawyer who represents three of the 12 Israelis, alleged the release of the five damaged the accuser’s credibility because she told police a dozen individuals sexually assaulted her.

Yaslovitzh also urged Cypriot investigators to look into the woman’s actions at the hotel where the alleged crime occurred and where she was also working.

The seven suspects again covered their faces with their shirts as they entered and exited the courthouse. They face charges of rape and conspiracy to commit rape.

Yaslovitzh had said after the initial custody hearing that all 12 Israelis had come on holidays to Cyprus in three separate groups and didn’t know each other. Some had gone on vacation prior to being inducted into the Israeli army.



Supreme Court: Trump can use Pentagon funds for border wall
Legal Topics | 2019/07/24 10:44
The Supreme Court cleared the way for the Trump administration to tap billions of dollars in Pentagon funds to build sections of a border wall with Mexico.

The court’s five conservative justices gave the administration the green light on Friday to begin work on four contracts it has awarded using Defense Department money. Funding for the projects had been frozen by lower courts while a lawsuit over the money proceeded. The court’s four liberal justices wouldn’t have allowed construction to start.

The justices’ decision to lift the freeze on the money allows President Donald Trump to make progress on a major 2016 campaign promise heading into his race for a second term. Trump tweeted after the announcement: “Wow! Big VICTORY on the Wall. The United States Supreme Court overturns lower court injunction, allows Southern Border Wall to proceed. Big WIN for Border Security and the Rule of Law!”

The Supreme Court’s action reverses the decision of a trial court, which initially froze the funds in May, and an appeals court, which kept that freeze in place earlier this month. The freeze had prevented the government from tapping approximately $2.5 billion in Defense Department money to replace existing sections of barrier in Arizona, California and New Mexico with more robust fencing.

The case the Supreme Court ruled in began after the 35-day partial government shutdown that started in December of last year. Trump ended the shutdown in February after Congress gave him approximately $1.4 billion in border wall funding. But the amount was far less than the $5.7 billion he was seeking, and Trump then declared a national emergency to take cash from other government accounts to use to construct sections of wall.

The money Trump identified includes $3.6 billion from military construction funds, $2.5 billion in Defense Department money and $600 million from the Treasury Department’s asset forfeiture fund.


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