Virginia top court to hear 'unrestorably incompetent' case
Legal Topics | 2018/10/23 03:42
More than 13 years after a 16-year-old girl was found raped and murdered, the case of the man whose DNA was found at the scene is heading to the Virginia Supreme Court.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports 46-year-old Oswaldo Elias Martinez has never stood trial in Brittany Binger's 2005 death. Deemed incompetent because he can't speak or hear, he's been held in jail and mental hospitals.

Martinez's lawyers want his capital murder charge dismissed. Their filing says the state law used to hold him permits detention only for "medical" treatment to restore competency.

The state tried to teach Martinez sign language to assist in his defense. Commonwealth's Attorney Nate Green says someone "unrestorably incompetent" who's charged with capital murder and poses a danger must continue along the restoration process.


Poland: Top court judges return from forced retirements
Court News | 2018/10/22 10:42
Several Supreme Court judges in Poland have returned from government-imposed retirements after the European Union's top court ordered their reinstatements.

Dozens of supporters greeted the six judges as they headed into the Supreme Court building on Monday, ready to resume work.

Some 20 of the court's judges were forced to retire in July after a new law took effect that lowered the retirement age for justices to 65 from 70.

The change is part of a judicial overhaul by Poland's conservative ruling party. EU leaders are challenging it in the European Court of Justice, which on Friday issued an injunction suspending the forced retirements.

Supreme Court First President Malgorzata Gersdorf was among the judges returning to work. She says the court's order was a "kind of win" for the judges.



EU court orders Poland to reinstate Supreme Court judges
Attorney News | 2018/10/21 10:42
The European Union's top court ordered Poland on Friday to immediately stop applying a law that lowered the retirement age for Supreme Court judges, forcing some 20 off the bench.

The interim injunction from the European Court of Justice also obliges EU member Poland to reinstate the judges who had to retire early after the law took effect in July. It lowered the age limit for Supreme Court service from 70 to 65.

The powerful leader of Poland's conservative ruling party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, said Poland would observe EU law, but not whether the government would comply with the order. He also said the government would do all it could to "defend our state interest."

The European Commission, the EU's executive branch, asked for the injunction while the Court of Justice considers its challenge to the age cap as a violation of EU laws on judicial independence and the right to a fair trial. A ruling in the main proceedings is expected later.

Supreme Court judges, arguing the forced retirements are an infringement of Poland's Constitution, also have sought the European court's opinion.

Kaczynski's Law and Justice party has made overhauling the judicial system a key focus since it came to power in 2015. The government maintains that removing justices who were active during Poland's communist era will make the courts more efficient and fairer.

Among the evidence Court of Justice Vice President Rosario Silva de Lapuerta cited in the order was "a profound and immediate change in the composition of the Supreme Court" since the disputed law went into force. Along with the retirements, an increase in court seats from 93 to 120 created more than 44 vacancies, and President Andrzej Duda has filled at least 27 of them, Lapuerta said.



Court to hear case over ID of Texas execution drug supplier
Court News | 2018/10/20 20:50
The Texas Supreme Court has reversed itself and granted the state's request to review a case dealing with the disclosure of an execution drug supplier that officials have fought for years to keep secret.

The Texas Supreme Court on Friday approved the state's appeal asking that it review a lower court's order that the state's prison agency must identify its execution drug supplier.

In June, the court had denied the state's request to review the ruling by Texas' 3rd Court of Appeals.

The case stems from a lawsuit seeking to identify the supplier Texas used in two 2014 executions. A measure was signed into law the next year allowing the state to keep future supplier records secret. Oral arguments in the case have been set for Jan. 23.



Maldives court overturns prison term for ex-president
Attorney News | 2018/10/19 10:51
A high court in the Maldives on Thursday overturned a prison sentence for the country's former strongman, who had been jailed for not cooperating with a police investigation into allegations he was trying to overthrow the government.

The court set aside the jail term of one year, seven months and six days imposed by the Criminal Court on ex-President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Maumoon was jailed in June for not handing over his cellphone to investigators after being accused of being part of a plan to overthrow his half-brother, outgoing President Yameen Abdul Gayoom. Maumoon was among dozens of political opponents and officials jailed by Yameen during his five-year rule after trials criticized for alleged lack of due process.

Yameen lost last month's presidential election to joint opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. The court ruled Thursday that the lower court did not follow correct trial procedures.



Supreme Court hopeful had DWI charge in 2009
Attorney News | 2018/10/18 16:23
A candidate for the North Carolina Supreme Court pleaded guilty more than nine years ago to trespassing and driving while impaired.

The Charlotte Observer reports Republican Chris Anglin was stopped by police in Greensboro in January 2009 and charged after he registered a blood-alcohol level of 0.14, nearly twice the legal limit. The following September, he pleaded guilty.

That December, Anglin was charged with attempted breaking and entering and pleaded guilty to second-degree trespassing. On Wednesday, he attributed both cases to struggles with alcohol in his 20s.

Both incidents happened while Anglin was a student at Elon University School of Law. He said that in 2010, he sought help for his drinking problem with a lawyer-assistance program. He said he's since gotten sober.

Anglin criticized N.C. Republican Party Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse for emailing Anglin's arrest records to a listserv the GOP maintains. Anglin has feuded with the GOP since he switched party affiliation and entered the Supreme Court race.

Woodhouse has previously said Anglin "will be treated like the enemy he is," and Anglin said the GOP is acting desperate "by sending something out that occurred almost a decade ago."

Republicans have described Anglin as a Democratic plant in the race and Woodhouse said as much Wednesday, writing that "Democrats had one of their own with a very questionable background pretend to be a Republican, so they could try and fool the voters."

Republican legislators responded earlier this summer to Anglin's campaign by passing a law, which was later overturned as unconstitutional, that would have banned Anglin from listing his Republican Party on the ballot even though his opponents could list their parties.

Anglin is one of three candidates seeking a place on the court. The other candidates are Barbara Jackson, a Republican who's seeking re-election, and Anita Earls, a Democrat and longtime civil rights lawyer.


Georgia high court won't stop vote on creation of new city
Court News | 2018/10/16 23:23
Georgia's highest court on Monday declined to stop voting in a referendum on whether a new city of Eagle's Landing should be created from part of the existing city of Stockbridge.

The General Assembly passed two acts that were signed by the governor earlier this year to create Eagle's Landing from land that is currently part of Stockbridge combined with unincorporated parts of Henry County. The proposed city's creation must be approved by local voters, but Stockbridge residents who live outside the boundaries of the proposed city won't get a say.

Opponents, including the Stockbridge mayor, say creation of a new city would take a significant amount of city's land and tax revenue and harm the Stockbridge's ability to pay municipal bond obligations.

Proponents of a new city say they want to secure better city services, increase property values and attract high-end businesses. But opponents say race is a factor. About 20 miles (30 kilometers) southeast of Atlanta, Stockbridge is predominantly black, while the city of Eagle's Landing would have a higher proportion of white residents.

Stockbridge sued the Henry County elections director and members of the county commission and asked a judge to declare that the acts setting up the referendum violated the state Constitution. The judge declined, and the city appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court, which heard arguments in the case last week.



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