Colorado Supreme Court hears high-stakes oil and gas lawsuit
Court Watch | 2018/10/15 23:24
An attorney for six young people who want the state to impose tougher safeguards on the energy industry told the Colorado Supreme Court on Tuesday that the law requires regulators to protect public health from the hazards of drilling.

A lawyer for the state countered that regulators acted properly when they rejected a request for stronger health protections on the grounds that they did not have the authority to impose them.

The justices heard oral arguments in the high-stakes case but did not say when they would rule.

The case revolves around how much weight energy regulators should give public health and the environment — a contentious issue in Colorado, where cities often overlap lucrative oil and gas fields and drilling rigs sit within sight of homes and schools.

The six young plaintiffs in the case asked the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission, which regulates the industry, to enact a rule that would require energy companies to show they would not harm human health or the environment before regulators issued a drilling permit.

The commission responded that it did not have that authority. Commission members said Colorado law required them to balance public safety with responsible oil and gas production.

Colorado Solicitor General Frederick R. Yarger, representing the attorney general's office, told the Supreme Court that the commission correctly interpreted state law to mean it must consider other factors in addition to public health.


Former FIFA official Makudi at court for ban appeal hearing
Areas of Focus | 2018/10/15 23:24
Former FIFA executive committee member Worawi Makudi is at the Court of Arbitration for Sport challenging his ban for forgery ahead of a Thailand soccer federation election.

Makudi said outside the court on Thursday he was "very confident. I didn't do anything wrong."

The former Thai federation president appealed against a 3 1/2-year ban by FIFA that expires in April 2020. He was also fined 10,000 Swiss francs ($10,100).

FIFA's ethics committee found him guilty of forgery, falsifying documents, and not cooperating with investigators. Makudi was alleged to have altered federation statutes before his 2013 re-election campaign.

He was convicted in a Bangkok criminal court, though said on Thursday that case was resolved in his favor.

"You know very clearly that the court in Thailand already decided I won the case, OK?" he said.

Makudi was a long-time ally of Qatar's Mohamed bin Hammam when sitting on FIFA's ruling committee for 18 years until 2015. He was voted out by Asian federations.


New campaign seeks support for expanded Supreme Court
Areas of Focus | 2018/10/14 23:24
A couple of liberal Harvard law professors are lending their name to a new campaign to build support for expanding the Supreme Court by four justices in 2021.

The campaign, calling itself the 1.20.21 Project and being launched Wednesday, also wants to increase the size of the lower federal courts to counteract what it terms "Republican obstruction, theft and procedural abuse" of the federal judiciary. This includes the recent near party-line confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh that cemented a conservative majority on the Supreme Court.

It is premised on Democratic victories in next month's elections and the 2020 presidential contest that could leave Democrats in charge of Congress and the White House in 2021, a possibility but by no means a sure thing. Additional justices nominated by a Democrat could change the court's ideological direction.

Harvard professors Mark Tushnet and Laurence Tribe are joining an effort being led by political scientist Aaron Belkin. He was a prominent advocate for repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that prohibited LGBT people from serving openly in the military.

The Kavanaugh confirmation was the culmination of a process that started with Republicans blocking many of President Barack Obama's nominees to lower courts and then refusing to consider his Supreme Court nomination of Judge Merrick Garland in 2016, Belkin said. President Donald Trump's victory in November 2016 allowed him to fill the high court vacancy with Justice Neil Gorsuch.


Manhattan DA drops part of Weinstein case
Legal Business | 2018/10/12 07:21
Manhattan’s district attorney dropped part of the criminal sexual assault case against Harvey Weinstein on Thursday after evidence emerged that cast doubt on the account one of his three accusers provided to the grand jury.

The development was announced in court Thursday with Weinstein looking on.

The tossed charge involves allegations made by one of the three accusers in the case, Lucia Evans, who was among the first women to publicly accuse Weinstein of sexual assault.

In an expose published in The New Yorker one year ago Wednesday, Evans accused Weinstein of forcing her to perform oral sex when they met alone in his office in 2004 to discuss her fledgling acting career. At the time, Evans was a 21-year-old college student.

Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon told the judge that prosecutors wouldn’t oppose dismissal of the count in the case involving Evans. She insisted the rest of the case, involving two other accusers, was strong.

“In short, your honor, we are moving full steam ahead,” she said.

Weinstein’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, told the judge he believed Evans had lied both to the grand jury and to The New Yorker about her encounter with Weinstein. He also said he believed a police detective had corruptly attempted to influence the case by keeping a witness from testifying about her misstatements.


Supreme Court wrestles with case on detention of immigrants
Legal Business | 2018/10/11 16:19
The Supreme Court wrestled Wednesday with a case about the government’s ability to detain certain immigrants after they’ve served sentences for committing crimes in the United States. Several justices expressed concerns with the government’s reading of immigration law.

Justice Stephen Breyer seemed perhaps the most sympathetic to the arguments of immigrants in the case. The immigrants, mostly green-card holders, say they should get hearings where they can argue for their release while deportation proceedings against them are ongoing. Breyer noted that the United States “gives every triple ax murderer a bail hearing.”

While members of the court’s conservative majority seemed more inclined than its liberal members to back the government, both of President Donald Trump’s appointees asked questions that made it less clear how they might ultimately rule.

The issue in the case before the justices has to do with the detention of noncitizens who have committed a broad range of crimes that make them deportable. Immigration law tells the government to pick those people up when they are released from federal or state prisons and jails and then hold them without bond hearings while an immigration court decides whether they should be deported.

But those affected by the law aren’t always picked up immediately and are sometimes not detained until years later. They argue that unless they’re picked up essentially within a day of being released, they’re entitled to a hearing where they can argue that they aren’t a danger to the community and are not likely to flee. If a judge agrees, they can stay out of custody while their deportation case goes forward. That’s the same hearing rule that applies to other noncitizens the government is trying to deport.

The Trump administration argues, as the Obama administration did, against hearings for those convicted of crimes and affected by the law. The government reads immigration law to say that detention is mandatory for those people regardless of when they are picked up.

Sounding sympathetic to the immigrants’ arguments, Breyer asked a lawyer arguing for the government whether he thought “a person 50 years later, who is on his death bed, after stealing some bus transfers” is still subject to mandatory detention without a hearing. But Breyer also seemed to suggest that the government might be able to hold noncitizens without bond hearings if they were picked up more than a day after leaving custody, maybe up to six months.


Top French court to rule on faulty breast implant scandal
Legal Topics | 2018/10/10 23:38
France's top court is ruling Wednesday in a case that may require some 1,700 women around the world to pay back compensation they received over rupture-prone breast implants.

The decision is the latest in a years-long legal drama that has potential implications for tens of thousands of women from Europe to South America who received the faulty implants, which were made with industrial-grade silicone instead of medical silicone. The scandal helped lead to tougher European medical device regulations.

France's Court of Cassation is ruling Wednesday in one of multiple legal cases stemming from the affair. The case concerns German products-testing company TUV Rheinland, which was initially ordered to pay 5.7 million euros (currently $6.5 million) damages to the women.

The manufacturer of the implants, French company Poly Implant Prothese, or PIP, was convicted of fraud. But the bankrupt manufacturer couldn't pay damages to the women, who suffered from often painful, leaky implants — so they sought compensation from TUV Rheinland instead, arguing it should have never certified the product in the first place.

An appeals court in Aix-en-Provence later found the Germany company was not liable for the faulty implants, and ordered women to pay back the damages in 2015. TUV Rheinland lawyer Cecile Derycke says the company has paid 5.7 million euros ($6.5 million) overall to the women involved in this case, many in Colombia but also around Europe and elsewhere.

The case is now at the Court of Cassation, which will decide whether to uphold the appeals ruling or send it back for new legal proceedings. Lawyer Derycke argues that TUV Rheinland is being unfairly held responsible for PIP's wrongdoing.

Lawyer Olivier Aumaitre, representing thousands of women with the implants, argues that if no one is held responsible, then Europe's consumer product certification system is meaningless.

While 1,700 women will be directly affected by Wednesday's ruling, it could have fallout for thousands of others who joined other lawsuits seeking damages from TUV Rheinland.


Polish leader appoints top court judges, against ruling
Headline Legal News | 2018/10/10 23:35
Poland's president swore in 27 new Supreme Court judges Wednesday, stepping up the conflict over control of the judiciary and ignoring another top court that said the appointments should be suspended pending an opinion by European Union judges.

Andrzej Duda appointed judges to the civil and penal chambers of the court as well as to its new chamber of extraordinary control, according to his top aide, Pawel Mucha. Reporters were not allowed to witness the ceremony.

"We are implementing another stage of the reform of the justice system that is so important to us," Mucha said, adding: "We are acting in the public interest."

The new judges are part of the sweeping changes that the ruling conservative Law and Justice party has been applying to the justice system since winning power in 2015. It says that judges active during the communist era, before 1989, must be replaced. Many of the court's judges have been forced to retire early under a new law that put their retirement age at 65, from the previous 70.

But critics say the changes violate the constitution and are putting Poland's courts under the party's political control. They also say Duda is acting against the supreme charter and warn he may be brought to account before a special tribunal.

The former head of the Constitutional Tribunal, designed to try actions by politicians, Andrzej Zoll, said Duda must be "brought to account in the future," saying his actions are against the rule of law and could lead to anarchy.


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