Thai court allows Thai Airways to file for reorganization
Legal Interview | 2020/09/13 22:10
Thailand’s Central Bankruptcy Court on Monday gave the go-ahead to financially ailing Thai Airways International to submit a business reorganization plan and appointed seven planners to oversee it.

A press release from the airline said the plan should be submitted to the court by the end of the year. Then, the company’s receiver will consult creditors for their input before the court approve’s the plan and appoints its administrator in early 2021. The plan will then be implemented.

Thai Airways International in May was carrying an estimated debt burden of almost 300 billion baht ($9.6 billion). Most recently, it ran up 12 billion baht ($383.3 million) in losses in 2019, 11.6 billion baht ($370.5 million) in 2018 and 2.11 billion baht ($67.4 million) in 2017.

Thailand’s Cabinet in May approved a reduction in the government’s stake in the airline to below 50% as part of the reorganization plan. That move was quickly implemented.

With the reduction in the 51% share held by the Finance Ministry, the airline lost its status as a state enterprise. The action also meant that the airline's state enterprise union was automatically dissolved.

The airline initially sought a 54 billion baht ($1.7 billion) bailout loan from Thailand’s government after virtually ceasing operations due to the coronavirus crisis. Some domestic flights have resumed, but all regularly scheduled international flights are still banned.

The airline’s auditors, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Jaiyos, last month declined to sign off on Thai Airways' financial statements for the first half of this year, saying a lack of liquidity and debt defaults prevented it from assessing its assets and liabilities.

The airline went a partial restructuring in 2015, when Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha was serving a first term as prime minister in a military government established after a coup. The airline was already deeply in debt and needed to cut loss-making routes, reconfigure its fleet and get rid of staff through attrition.

It is almost certain to cut staff, fleet and flights under any new reorganization plan.

The airline was founded in 1960 as a joint venture between Thailand’s domestic carrier, Thai Airways Company, and SAS, Scandinavian Airlines System, which sold its stake in 1977. The airline’s shares were listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand in 1991.


Florida Supreme Court orders governor to pick new justice
Attorney News | 2020/09/11 16:09
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis must pick a new Supreme Court justice because the judge he picked to fill a high court vacancy is constitutionally ineligible to serve, the court said in an order issued Friday.

The Florida Supreme Court ordered DeSantis to appoint another judge by Monday, nullifying the appointment of Judge Renatha Francis. Francis would have been the first Caribbean-American justice to serve on the court.

But the state constitution requires that a justice be a member of the Florida Bar for at least 10 years, and Francis was four months shy when DeSantis appointed her in May. At the time DeSantis acknowledged the shortfall, but said she wouldn't be sworn in until Sept. 24, the day she would meet the requirement.

The Supreme Court said that DeSantis was required to name a new justice within 60 days of the resignation of former Justice Robert Luck.

Her appointment was challenged by Democratic state Rep. Geraldine Thompson, a prominent Black state lawmaker.



Trump releases list of 20 new possible Supreme Court picks
Court Watch | 2020/09/09 23:09
Hoping to replicate a strategy long seen as key to his appeal among conservative voters, President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced he is adding 20 names to a list of Supreme Court candidates he's pledged to choose from if he has future vacancies to fill.

The list includes a trio of conservative Republican senators: Ted Cruz of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Josh Hawley of Missouri ? all buzzed-about potential 2024 Republican presidential candidates  as well as Christopher Landau, the current ambassador to Mexico, and Noel Francisco, who argued 17 cases as the Trump administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer.

“Every one of these individuals will ensure equal justice, equal treatment and equal rights for citizens of every race, color, religion and creed," Trump said as he made his announcement at the White House.

Trump tried to cast the list in contrast with judges who could be nominated if his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, wins in November, warning Biden would select “radical justices” who would “fundamentally transform America without a single vote of Congress," even though Biden has never outlined his list of potential picks and the Senate must confirm any nominee.

The release, less than two months before the election, is aimed at repeating the strategy that Trump employed during his 2016 campaign, when he released a similar list of could-be judges in a bid to win over conservative and evangelical voters who had doubts about his conservative bonafides.

The list includes a number of people who have worked for Trump's administration, including Gregory Katsas, whom Trump nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Before that, Katsas served as a legal adviser on some of the president’s most contentious policies, including his executive orders restricting travel for citizens of predominantly Muslim countries and his decision to end a program protecting some young immigrants from deportation.

Francisco, the former solicitor general of the United States, also defended Trump’s travel ban, his unsuccessful push to add a citizenship question to the U.S. census and the decision to wind down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protects hundreds of thousands of young people from deportation. He also argued that a landmark civil rights law didn’t protect gay, lesbian and transgender people from employment discrimination, a position the court ruled against 6-3 earlier this year.

Also on the list is Daniel Cameron, the Kentucky Attorney General who is currently deciding whether to criminally charge three Louisville police officers in the March shooting death of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black emergency medical technician who was killed when officers entered her apartment with a no-knock warrant during a drug investigation.


Saudi court issues final verdicts in Khashoggi killing
Court News | 2020/09/07 16:34
A Saudi court issued final verdicts on Monday in the case of slain Washington Post columnist and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi after his son, who still resides in the kingdom, announced pardons that spared five of the convicted individuals from execution.

While the trial draws to its conclusion in Saudi Arabia, the case continues to cast a shadow over the international standing of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose associates have been sanctioned by the U.S. and the U.K. for their alleged involvement in the brutal killing, which took place inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

The Riyadh Criminal Court’s final verdicts were announced by Saudi Arabia’s state television, which aired few details about the eight Saudi nationals and did not name them. The court ordered a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the five. Another individual received a 10-year sentence, and two others were ordered to serve seven years in prison.

A team of 15 Saudi agents had flown to Turkey to meet Khashoggi inside the consulate for his appointment on Oct. 2, 2018 to pick up documents that would allow him to marry his Turkish fiance, who waited outside. The team included a forensic doctor, intelligence and security officers, and individuals who worked directly for the crown prince’s office, according to Agnes Callamard, who investigated the killing for the United Nations.

Turkish officials allege Khashoggi was killed and then dismembered with a bone saw inside the consulate. His body has not been found. Turkey apparently had the consulate bugged and shared audio of the killing with the C.I.A., among others.

Western intelligence agencies, as well as the U.S. Congress, have said the crown prince bears ultimate responsibility for the killing and that an operation of this magnitude could not have happened without his knowledge.

The 35-year-old prince denies any knowledge of the operation and has condemned the killing. He continues to have the support of his father, King Salman, and remains popular among Saudi youth at home. He also maintains the support of President Donald Trump, who has defended U.S.-Saudi ties in the face of the international outcry over the slaying.


Slovakia court set to give verdict in reporter's slaying
Court News | 2020/09/04 02:51
A court in Slovakia is expected to issue a verdict Thursday in the slayings of an investigative journalist and his fiancee, a crime that shocked the country and led a government to fall.

The state prosecution has requested 25-year prison terms for three remaining defendants, one of them a businessman accused of masterminding the killings. They all pleaded not guilty to murdering journalist Jan Kuciak, and fiancee Martina Kusnirova, both aged 27.

But the trial at the Specialized Criminal Court in Pezinok, which handles Slovakia's most serious cases, might not be coming to an end, yet.

A three-judge tribunal originally was set to deliver a verdict in early August but delayed its decision, citing a need for more time.

Prosecutors submitted additional evidence on Monday. The panel could decide to postpone the verdict again to give them a chance to present the evidence in court.

Kuciak was shot in the chest and Kusnirova was shot in the head at their home in the town of Velka Maca, east of Bratislava, on Feb. 21, 2018.

The killings prompted major street protests unseen since the 1989 anti-communist Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. The ensuing political crisis led to the collapse of a coalition government headed by populist Prime Minister Robert Fico and to the dismissal of the national police chief.

Kuciak had been writing about alleged ties between the Italian mafia and people close to Fico when he was killed, and also wrote about corruption scandals linked to Fico’s leftist Smer - Social Democracy party.


High Court in London backs Virgin Atlantic's rescue plan
Court News | 2020/09/01 09:52
Virgin Atlantic’s 1.2 billion-pound ($1.6 billion) restructuring plan was approved Wednesday by the High Court in London, allowing the international airline to continue rebuilding its operations after the devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The deal, which has already been approved by creditors, must now be confirmed in the U.S. courts.

The airline announced the refinancing package in July to ensure its survival after passenger numbers dropped 98% in the second quarter. It includes 600 million pounds of support from the airline’s owners, Virgin Group and Delta Airlines, 450 million pounds of deferred payments to creditors and 170 million pounds of financing from U.S.-based Davidson Kempner Capital Management LP.

Virgin Atlantic, founded in 1984 by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, has already cut 3,550 jobs, shuttered operations at London’s Gatwick Airport and announced plans to retire 11 aircraft as it seeks to weather the slowdown in air travel. The airline says it doesn’t expect passenger volume to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023.

"Achieving this significant milestone puts Virgin Atlantic in a position to rebuild its balance sheet, restore customer confidence and welcome passengers back to the skies, safely, as soon as they are ready to travel,” the company said in a statement.

Delta invested $360 million in Virgin Atlantic in December 2012, acquiring a 49% stake in the airline. Virgin Group owns the remaining shares.

Virgin flies from London’s Heathrow Airport and Manchester to destinations in the U.S., China, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Nigeria, Israel and the Caribbean.



Huawei, ZTE lose patent appeal cases at UK Supreme Court
Court News | 2020/08/28 00:52
Britain’s Supreme Court has dismissed two appeals by Chinese telecoms firms Huawei and ZTE over mobile data patent disputes.

The disputes center on the licensing of patented technology considered essential to mobile telecoms. The patents are meant to ensure fair competition and access to technology like 4G.

In the first case, Unwired Planet, an intellectual property company that licenses patents, had brought legal action against Huawei for infringement of five U.K. patents that Unwired acquired from Ericsson.

The second appeal concerned legal action brought by another patent licensing company, Conversant Wireless, against Huawei and ZTE for infringement of four of its U.K. patents.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld lower court rulings on the cases and dismissed appeals by Huawei and ZTE.

In a statement, Conversant said the ruling was a landmark judgment that will have “significant implications worldwide” for telecommunications patent licensing.

The ruling meant that companies like Huawei cannot insist that patent holders like Conversant prove their patents in every jurisdiction of the world, which would be “both practically and economically prohibitive,” the company added.


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