High Court overturns city mandate on construction projects
Attorney News | 2019/09/20 12:50
A divided Ohio Supreme Court has upheld a state law invalidating a Cleveland requirement that public construction contractors hire city residents for a portion of work on projects.

A 2003 Cleveland ordinance mandates that residents must perform 20% of the total hours on public construction projects over $100,000.

The GOP-controlled Legislature approved a bill in 2016 stripping local governments of the ability to impose such residency requirements on contractors. The high court on Tuesday sided with the state in a 4-3 decision.

Mayor Frank Jackson says the city will ask the Court to reconsider the ruling immediately.

Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley says the ruling is an attack on "the ability of cities to help life people out of poverty and establish careers.



Buffalo Chip takes quest to become town before Supreme Court
Attorney News | 2019/09/17 12:51
The South Dakota Supreme Court will once again hear oral arguments in Buffalo Chip's quest to become a municipality, after a lower court ruled in February that the popular motorcycle rally campground near Sturgis must be dissolved as a town.

The Rapid City Journal reports that oral arguments are scheduled for Sept. 30.

Attorneys for the state have argued that Buffalo Chip was improperly incorporated in 2015 because it had fewer than 100 legal residents or 30 voters, as was required by law at the time. The city of Sturgis has also opposed Buffalo Chip's incorporation for years.

Buffalo Chip officials have argued that the area had more than 30 voters.

Kent Hagg, an attorney representing the campground, said the case could come down to the difference between the words "and" and "or." He said the law in place in 2015 required municipalities to have at least 100 residents "or" 30 voters. In 2016, the state Legislature changed the law to require municipalities to have at least 100 residents "and" 45 voters.

Hagg said about 53 voters listed the Buffalo Chip as their address of record in 2015.

The campground fills with thousands of visitors during the Sturgis motorcycle rally, but has few, if any, year-round residents.

In February, Fourth Circuit Judge Gordon Swanson ruled that the town must be dissolved. The city has said in a statement that the judge's decision was based on common sense and plain language of the law. "It would not make sense for the Legislature to authorize the incorporation of a municipality with no residents."



New justice formally joins Virginia Supreme Court
Court News | 2019/09/10 16:48
The Virginia Supreme Court has a new justice.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports Teresa Chafin, previously a judge on the Virginia Court of Appeals, formally joined the court Friday in a special session in Abingdon.

The General Assembly elected her in February. Chafin is the sister of state Sen. Ben Chafin, who lobbied on her behalf but didn't vote when the Senate confirmed her 36-0.

Chafin will serve a 12-year term. She's filling a vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Elizabeth McClanahan.



New Orleans judges seek review of court fees conflict ruling
Headline Legal News | 2019/09/10 16:47
State criminal court judges in New Orleans have asked a federal appeals court to reconsider its finding that they have a conflict of interest when deciding whether some defendants can pay fines and fees.

The fines and fees in question partially fund expenses of the New Orleans Criminal District Court.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month upheld a federal district judge who said the New Orleans judges must provide a “neutral forum” for determining whether a defendant can pay. The judges have asked, in a filing dated Friday, that the court grant a rehearing in the case. It’s unclear when the appeals court will rule on the request.



Attorneys: Court seat puts Montgomery in far different role
Court News | 2019/09/07 23:49
Attorneys say Gov. Doug Ducey's appointment of now-former Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery to the Arizona Supreme Court puts Montgomery in a new role that could silence his public advocacy on policy issues.

Montgomery for years has been a power-broker at the Arizona Legislature on criminal-justice issues while being an outspoken critic of marijuana legalization.

Ducey, in announcing his fifth appointment to the state high court, said he's confident that he picked a justice who will interpret the law, not someone to write it.

Arizona's judicial conduct code limits what judges can do off the bench, and attorneys interviewed by the Arizona Capitol Times said it'd be a departure from tradition for Montgomery to continue his past advocacy now that he's on the bench.

Danny Seiden, a former Ducey aide who once served as a special assistant county attorney to Montgomery, said Montgomery is now in a "less powerful" position as a justice compared to an elected county attorney.

"Prosecutors have a ton of power in the process," Seiden said. "That's why they're elected, that's why they have to face the people and stand for their charging decisions and policymaking role in the process. But when you're a judge, you really just interpret statutes . You don't make policy."

Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona, said it'd be a departure from tradition for Montgomery to do otherwise.

"I assume that there was this separation of powers and they should not play a role in lobbying," Soler said.

But Montgomery's background creates questions how he'll behave as a justice, Soler said.

"Justices need to be fair and impartial, and I think that during the last nine years he's really shown that he lets his personal biases drive his prosecutorial practices and policies, so I think that's certainly going to be a big question for us ? is he going to be fair and impartial?" she said.

Republican attorney Kory Langhofer said it will be telling to see how Montgomery navigates issues like criminal justice reform.

"I strongly suspect that his views on criminal justice are deeply held and will come through in his jurisprudence. But I think his judicial philosophy on other political matters about which he's expressed very strong opinions may be less predictable," Langhofer said.


Cock-a-doodle-doo! French rooster crows over court win
Legal Interview | 2019/09/06 23:49
Maurice the rooster can keep crowing, a French court ruled Thursday, as it rejected a complaint from neighbors who sued over noise nuisance.

Maurice’s case and several other lawsuits against the sounds of church bells, cow bells, cicadas and the pungent smells from farms have prompted a national debate over how to protect rural culture from the encroachment of expectations that are more associated with urban areas.

Maurice’s owner, Corinne Fesseau, will be able to keep the rooster on the small island of Oleron, off France’s Atlantic coast, the court decided. The frustrated neighbors are considering an appeal.

The rooster owner’s lawyer, Julien Papineau, told The Associated Press that Fesseau “is happy. She cried when I when I told her the court’s decision.”

Maurice’s dawn crowing is exasperating Fesseau’s neighbors, a retired couple who moved to the island two years ago. They asked the court to make the animal move farther away, or shut up.

Instead, the judge in the southwest city of Rochefort ordered them to pay 1,000 euros ($1,005) in damages to Fesseau for reputational harm, plus court costs.

“That made my clients feel very bad,” their lawyer Vincent Huberdeau said. He said Fesseau intentionally put her chicken coop close to her neighbors’ window and then turned Maurice into a cause celebre for rural traditions, and that the judge went too far in punishing the plaintiffs instead.

Their case also backfired in the court of public opinion, at least locally. More than 120,000 people signed a petition urging authorities to leave Maurice alone ? and a “support committee” made up of roosters and hens from around the region came to support his owner during the trial in July.

“The countryside is alive and makes noise ? and so do roosters,” read one of their signs.

The ruling may spell good news for a flock of ducks in the Landes region of southwest France, where a trial is underway between farmers and neighbors angry over the creatures’ quacks and smell.

Authorities also ruled against residents of a village in the French Alps who complained in 2017 about annoying cow bells, and an effort last year to push out cicadas from a southern town to protect tourists from their summer song also failed.

Since Maurice’s tale came to light, some French lawmakers have suggested a law protecting the sounds and smells of the countryside as part of France’s rural heritage.


‘The Supreme Court Is Not Well. And the People Know It.’
Attorney News | 2019/09/04 23:50
The Supreme Court as we once knew it?as a national institution that could at least sometimes stand apart from partisanship?died last year. The ongoing fight over its corpse spilled into public view last week.

On Thursday, 53 United States senators?every member of the Republican caucus?wrote a “letter” to the clerk of the Supreme Court assuring the justices that the Republican Party has their back. The Democrats, the senators told the Court, pose “a direct, immediate threat to the independence of the judiciary.”

The spat is about guns. The Court has granted review in a Second Amendment case entitled New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. City of New York, New York, which (nominally) tests an obscure New York City ordinance governing how firearms owners could?note the past tense?travel with their weapons.

Under city law as it was when the case began, New Yorkers with a “premises” license had to keep their guns in their homes at all times, except when being taken to a licensed target-shooting facility for practice and training. But those facilities had to be in New York City itself. “Premises” licensees could not put their guns in their trunk and drive out of town for any reason?not to go to a gun range, not to compete in a shooting match, not to take the guns to a second home.


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