Anchorage companies, man fined for clean air violations
Attorney News | 2021/03/01 06:20
A man and two companies in Alaska have been sentenced to three years probation and a $35,000 fine for violating the Clean Air Act involving asbestos work at a shopping center more than five years ago, a judge said.

The work was performed at the Northern Lights Center in Anchorage, the former location of an REI store. Reports of potential asbestos exposure at the time closed the store for a day back in 2015, authorities said.

U.S. District Court Judge Joshua Kindred sentenced Tae Ryung Yoon, 64, on Friday to probation, fined him $35,000 and said he owes $30,000 in restitution for medical monitoring of the four workers who claimed they were exposed to asbestos, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

The owners of Yoo Jin Management Company Ltd. and Mush Inn Corp. were also sentenced after agreeing to plead guilty to a charge of violating the Clean Air Act’s Asbestos Work Practice Standards. Both companies are owned by Chun Yoo, who is in his 80s and has “serious medical conditions,” and his wife, attorney Kevin Fitzgerald said. The couple still owns the center.

The case centers on workers who said they were exposed to asbestos during improperly conducted renovations involving an old boiler room. The work was stopped when two of the workers raised concerns.

High levels of asbestos exposure can cause lung disease or cancer.

Prosecutors said in a statement that the building owners and manager relied on a contractor who was not a certified asbestos abatement contractor and “failed to inform the contractor of the possibility of asbestos in the old boiler room.”

Fitzgerald argued that an assessment indicated no evidence of asbestos when his clients bought the center in 2006. Yoon was the building’s property manager at the time.

Documents show the boilers were replaced by another company in 2012 and the old ones were removed in 2014 to make more room. Some of the workers took photos of what they thought was asbestos and emailed them to the property management company that employed Yoon.




Labor unions to hand out masks outside House sessions
Court Watch | 2021/02/24 04:03
Labor union members plan to hand out personal protective equipment outside the sports complex where members of the New Hampshire House will be meeting this week.

The 400-member House is meeting Wednesday and Thursday in Bedford, where they will sit 10 to 12 feet apart to prevent spread of COVID-19. Democrats with serious medical conditions went to court seeking remote access to the sessions, but a federal judge declined Monday to order  Republican Speaker Sherm Packard to accommodate them.

While the House will provide members with masks and hand sanitizer, members of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades and the AFL-CIO of New Hampshire also will be at the facility’s entrances with similar supplies, including mask and gloves.

One New Hampshire school is planning to hold remote learning for two weeks following the winter vacation, despite Gov. Chris Sununu’s executive order requiring schools to offer in-person instruction to all students for at least two days, starting March 8.

The decision regarding Profile School in Bethlehem, which would be in effect as of March 1, is not expected to conflict with the order, Kim Koprowski, chairperson of the school board, said Monday, the Caledonian-Record reported. The school serves students in grades 7 through 12.

“My understanding of it is there were a handful of schools in the state that are totally remote and he is trying to push those to go to two days a week,” she said. “Since we have been doing that all year, we’ve been face to face, with the exception of a remote period. You could call us hybrid. We should be good.”

A message seeking comment was left Tuesday with the state Education Department. The executive order allows schools to return to remote learning for 48 hours if necessary due to COVID-19 infections. After that, state approval would be required.

Koprowski said that although COVID-19 numbers are trending down, “they are still not at the level they were last fall before Thanksgiving and Christmas.”


Judge refuses to order remote access to New Hampshire House
Legal Topics | 2021/02/22 12:03
The New Hampshire House can proceed with in-person sessions this week without providing remote access to medically vulnerable lawmakers, a federal judge ruled Monday.

Seven Democratic lawmakers sued Republican House Speaker Sherm Packard last week arguing that holding in-person sessions without a remote option violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and the state and federal constitutions, and forces them to either risk their lives or abandon their duties as elected officials.

They sought a preliminary order requiring remote access, but U.S. District Court Judge Landya McCafferty denied their request. Without ruling on the merits of the case, she said the speaker can’t be sued for enforcing a House rule that is “closely related to core legislative functions.”

“While today’s ruling is a setback, history will judge New Hampshire House Democrats favorably for standing for public health and democracy during this pandemic,” said House Democratic Leader Renny Cushing, one of the suit’s plaintiffs. “Unfortunately, this case has exposed the callous indifference of House Republican leadership toward our most vulnerable members during the COVID-19 crisis that has taken the lives of a half a million Americans.”

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the 400-member House has met several times at the University of New Hampshire ice arena, outside on a UNH athletic field, and - after former Speaker Dick Hinch died of COVID-19 - from their cars in a parking lot. The sessions scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday will be held at a sports complex in Bedford that offers more space to spread out than the previous facilities, as well as separate entrances for members from opposing parties.

“We will continue to work with all House members to ensure that if they choose to attend any legislative meeting in person, that they can be confident that we are taking a high degree of precaution, and have extensive health and safety measures in place,” Packard said in a statement.

But Cushing said ruling makes clear that the speaker is “solely to blame for active and obvious exclusion of members of the House.”

“As we teach our children, just because you can do something does not mean you should,” he said.


Judge says lawyer who killed her son also tracked Sotomayor
Attorney News | 2021/02/20 01:45
The lawyer who killed a federal judge’s son and seriously wounded her husband at their New Jersey home last summer also had been tracking Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the judge said in a television interview.

U.S. District Judge Esther Salas said FBI agents discovered the information in a locker belonging to the lawyer, Roy Den Hollander. “They found another gun, a Glock, more ammunition. But the most troubling thing they found was a manila folder with a workup on Justice Sonia Sotomayor,” Salas said in an interview with CBS News’ “60 Minutes.” The segment is scheduled for broadcast Sunday, but a portion of the interview aired Friday on “CBS This Morning.”

Both the Supreme Court and the FBI declined to comment Friday. “We do not discuss security as a matter of Court policy,” court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said in an email.

Authorities have said Den Hollander, a men’s rights lawyer with a history of anti-feminist writings, posed as a FedEx delivery person and fatally shot 20-year-old Daniel Anderl and wounded his father, Mark Anderl, in July. Salas was in another part of the home at the time and was not injured.

Den Hollander, 72, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound the day after the ambush. Authorities believe he also shot and killed a fellow attorney in California in the days before the attack at Salas’ home.

The AP has previously reported that when Den Hollander was found dead he had a document with him with information about a dozen female judges from across the country, half of whom are Latina, including Salas.

Salas has been calling for more privacy and protections for judges, including scrubbing personal information from the internet, to deal with mounting cyberthreats. The U.S. Marshals Service, which protects about 2,700 federal judges, said there were 4,449 threats and inappropriate communications in 2019, up from 926 such incidents in 2015.

Legislation named for Salas’ son that would make it easier to shield judges’ personal information from the public failed to pass the Senate in December, but could be reintroduced this year.


European court rejects case vs Germany over Afghan airstrike
Attorney News | 2021/02/16 17:57
The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday rejected a complaint against Germany’s refusal to prosecute an officer who ordered the deadly bombing in 2009 of two fuel tankers in northern Afghanistan.

Scores of people died when U.S. Air Force jets bombed the tankers hijacked by the Taliban near Kunduz. The strike was ordered by the commander of the German base in Kunduz, Col. Georg Klein, who feared insurgents could use the trucks to carry out attacks.

Contrary to the intelligence Klein based his decision on, most of those swarming the trucks were local civilians invited by the Taliban to siphon fuel from the vehicles after they had become stuck in a riverbed.

An Afghan man who lost two sons aged 8 and 12 in the airstrike, Abdul Hanan, took the case to the European Court of Human Rights after German authorities declined to prosecute Klein. He alleged that Germany failed to conduct an effective investigation and that no “effective domestic remedy” to that had been available in Germany.

The Strasbourg, France-based court rejected the complaints. It found that German federal prosecutors were “able to rely on a considerable amount of material concerning the circumstances and the impact of the airstrike.”

It also noted that courts including Germany’s highest, the Federal Constitutional Court, rejected cases by Hanan. And it added that a parliamentary commission of inquiry “had ensured a high level of public scrutiny of the case.”

Wolfgang Kaleck, the head of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights who provided legal support to Hanan, said the verdict was a disappointment for the plaintiff and his fellow villagers, but noted that judges had made clear that governments have a duty to at least investigate such cases.

“The bombardment and the dozens of civilian deaths didn’t result in a rebuke, there’s no resumption of the criminal case,” he told reporters after the court announced its decision. “On the other hand it will be very important internationally, also in future, that the European Convention on Human Rights applies,” Kaleck said. “That’s to say, those who conduct such military operations have to legally answer for them afterward, hopefully to a greater extent than in the Kunduz case.”

A separate legal effort to force Germany to pay more compensation than the $5,000 it has so far given families for each victim was rejected last year by the Federal Constitutional Court. This civil case can still be appealed in Strasbourg.



Man who broke ankle at farm obstacle course wins appeal
Attorney News | 2021/02/14 01:58
A man who broke an ankle on an obstacle course at a pumpkin patch will get his foot inside a courthouse again.

A judge wrongly dismissed Tarek Hamade’s lawsuit against DeBuck’s Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch, the Michigan Court of Appeals said Thursday.

Hamade fractured an ankle while running across tires that were part of an obstacle course known as “Tough Farmer.” He said he was injured while stepping on a tire that was very soft at the fall attraction near Belleville.

DeBuck’s argued that the spongy tire was an open and obvious risk, a key legal standard under Michigan liability law.

“It’s an obstacle course. It’s meant to be difficult to traverse,” attorney Drew Broaddus said at a Feb. 3 hearing.

But the appeals court said the tire’s condition was not obvious.

“If they’d called it the ‘spongy tire challenge’ we might have a different case. But that’s not what it was presented as,” Judge Michael Gadola said.

Hamade’s lawsuit now returns to Wayne County Circuit Court.



Polish court rules record compensation for wrongful jailing
Court Watch | 2021/02/10 21:18
A Polish court on Monday ordered a record high compensation of nearly 13 million zlotys ($3.4 million) to a man who had spent 18 years in prison for a rape and murder of a teenager he didn’t commit.

Tomasz Komenda’s case has shocked Poland, and the right-wing government highlighted it as an example of why it says the justice system needs the deep changes it has been implementing.

Komenda, now in his mid-40s was arrested in 2000 over a 1997 rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl at a New Year’s village disco party. He was initially handed a 15-year prison term, which was later increased to 25 years, despite him protesting his innocence.

As a result of family efforts, the prosecutors reviewed the case and came to the conclusion that he couldn’t have committed the crime. Komenda was cleared after DNA tests, among other factors, showed that he wasn’t involved.

Komenda was acquitted of all charges and released in 2018, having wrongfully served 18 years of his term. He had been seeking 19 million zlotys ($5 million) in damages and in compensation.

A court in Opole ruled Monday that he should receive most of that amount — the highest ever compensation awarded in Poland. The verdict is subject to appeal.

Two other men have been convicted and handed 25-year prison terms in the 1997 case.  Komenda’s story was told in 2020 Polish movie “25 Years of Innocence. The Case of Tomek Komenda.”



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