High court to hear appeal in Newtown school shooting case
Court News | 2017/11/10 03:09
Lawyers are set to ask the Connecticut Supreme Court to reinstate a wrongful death lawsuit against the maker of the rifle used in the 2012 Newtown school massacre.

Justices are scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday in an appeal by a survivor and relatives of nine people killed in the shooting.

They're trying to sue Remington Arms, the North Carolina company that made the Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle used to kill 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Gunman Adam Lanza's mother legally purchased the rifle.

A lower court judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying federal law shields gun makers from most lawsuits over criminal use of their products.

The company denies the lawsuit's allegations that it violated state law by selling such a dangerous weapon to the public.


Top German court strengthens intersex identity rights
Headline Legal News | 2017/11/09 03:10
Germany’s highest court has decided that people must be allowed to be entered in official records as neither male nor female, saying in a ruling published Wednesday that authorities should create a third identity or scrap gender entries altogether.

The Federal Constitutional Court ruled on a case in which a plaintiff, identified by advocacy group Dritte Option only as Vanja, born in 1989, sought to have their entry in the birth register changed from “female” to “inter/diverse” or “diverse.”

Officials rejected the application on the grounds that the law only allows for children to be registered as male or female, or for the gender to be left blank.

The plaintiff argued that that was a violation of their personal rights. In a three-year legal battle, Vanja provided courts with a genetic analysis showing the plaintiff has one X chromosome but no second sex chromosome. Women have two X chromosomes, while men have one X and one Y chromosome.

The supreme court found that the law protects sexual identity, which has a “key position” in how individuals perceive themselves and are perceived by others. It said that “the sexual identity of those people who can be assigned neither to the male nor the female sex is also protected,” and said the constitution also protects them against discrimination because of their gender. The government has until the end of 2018 to draw up new rules.



Human rights group accuses Guatemalan courts of delays
Headline Legal News | 2017/11/07 03:10
An international human rights group says Guatemalan courts are foot- dragging on high-profile cases and threatening the work of the country's prosecutors and a U.N. anti-corruption commission.

Human Rights Watch analyzed eight major cases that have bogged down and concluded the courts are undermining the anticorruption work by taking too long to process appeals and pretrial motions. In a report released Sunday, the group accuses the courts of trying to run out the clock on prosecutions by keeping defendants from ever making it to trial.

Among the cases is a customs fraud scandal that allegedly sent kickbacks to then President Otto Perez Molina and Vice President Roxana Baldetti. They resigned and were jailed to await trial, but more than 100 defense filings have delayed the trial.

Perez Molina and Baldetti, who resigned in 2015, both deny the charges against them.

Daniel Wilkinson, managing director of the Americas division at Human Rights Watch, said Guatemala has made progress on holding officials accountable for abuses of power, but still needs to "move forward and close those circles with trials." "The strategic defense (of those accused) was always to delay the cases," Wilkinson said.

The report notes a pattern in which pretrial proceedings drag on as defense lawyers appeal court decisions and file petitions seeking the recusal of judges.

"The repeated filing of such petitions has brought many key prosecutions to a standstill, and lawyers are not effectively sanctioned even when filing petitions that are manifestly frivolous," Wilkinson said.


Telescope permit decision appealed to Hawaii Supreme Court
Legal Business | 2017/11/03 16:19
Opponents of a giant telescope planned for a Hawaii mountain are appealing the state land board's approval of the project's construction permit.

Richard Wurdeman, an attorney representing some of the opponents, filed a notice of appeal with the state Supreme Court on Monday.

The board in September approved a construction permit for Thirty Meter Telescope. Opponents of the $1.4 billion project say it will desecrate land sacred to Native Hawaiians while supporters say it will provide educational and economic opportunities.

The opponents appealed directly to the state Supreme Court because of a law that allows certain contested-case hearing decisions to bypass the Intermediate Court of Appeals.

Kealoha Pisciotta, one of the leaders fighting the telescope, says other participants opposing the project are expected to also file appeals this week.



Michigan health chief back in court in Legionnaires' case
Court Watch | 2017/11/02 23:19
Testimony is resuming in a criminal case against Michigan's health director, who is accused of keeping the public in the dark about Legionnaires' disease during the Flint water disaster.

Nick Lyon is charged with involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office. A judge must decide whether there is enough evidence to send him to trial. The case picks up again Wednesday.

Judge David Goggins hasn't heard testimony since Oct. 6. That's when urban affairs adviser Harvey Hollins said he told Gov. Rick Snyder about a Legionnaires' outbreak a few weeks before the governor made it public in January 2016.

Hollins' testimony contradicts what Snyder has said publicly. Nonetheless, the governor is sticking to his timeline.

Lawyers for Lyons say it's all irrelevant in the case against him.


US court bars Trump from reversing transgender troops policy
Attorney News | 2017/11/01 23:19
A federal judge on Monday barred President Donald Trump's administration from proceeding with plans to exclude transgender people from military service.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled that the transgender service members who had sued over Trump's policy were likely to win their lawsuit. She directed a return to the situation that existed before Trump announced his new policy this summer, saying the administration had provided no solid evidence for why a ban should be implemented.

Trump had ordered a reinstatement of the longstanding policy that barred transgender individuals from joining the military; service members who were revealed to be transgender were subject to discharge. Under President Barack Obama, that policy was changed last year to allow transgender people to serve openly.

The Trump administration may appeal Kollar-Kotelly's decision, but for now, the proposed ban remains unenforceable under Kollar-Kotelly's preliminary injunction.

"We disagree with the court's ruling and are currently evaluating the next steps," said Justice Department spokesman Lauren Ehrsam.

She reiterated the department's view that the lawsuit was premature because the Pentagon was still in the process of reviewing how the transgender policy might evolve.

One of the attorneys handling the lawsuit, Shannon Minter of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said the ruling was an enormous relief to his clients.



Illinois to require veterans courts across the state in 2018
Court News | 2017/10/30 15:31
A law passed last year requires every judicial circuit in Illinois to have a veterans treatment court starting Jan. 1.

The courts allow veterans who were honorably discharged to plead guilty to a crime in exchange for a probation sentence, The Chicago Tribune reported. The sentence requires frequent court visits and mental health or substance abuse treatment.

Veterans can also apply to have their records expunged upon completing the sentence. Those who use the courts typically face lower level felonies.

Supporters say the program will help those who risked their lives for their country.

Army veteran Gregory Parker enrolled in the Lake County Veterans Treatment and Assistance Court after his fourth drunken driving arrest resulted in a felony reckless driving charge. Parker graduated from the program in about 18 months. He's quit drinking and continues to go to therapy.

"I finally find myself enjoying things in life I've never enjoyed before," he said.

But some wonder if every community has the resources or the need for a court dedicated to veterans.

Some rural communities may only have a few veterans moving through the court system, said Michelle Rock, executive director of the Illinois Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health and Justice, which provides support for treatment courts statewide.

"We know that it may not be cost-effective for every county in the state to have one," she said.

Before the new law, Kane County officials weighed the need for a veterans court with the availability of resources and decided against offering the court, said Court Administrator Doug Naughton.

The overall court system should be improved, instead of offering one group more options, said Ed Yohnka, spokesman for the ACLU of Illinois.


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