Court upholds creation of national monument in Atlantic
Court Watch | 2019/12/28 03:57
A federal appeals court on Friday upheld former President Barack Obama's designation of a federally protected conservation area in the Atlantic Ocean, a move that commercial fishermen oppose.

Fishing groups sued over the creation of Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, a 5,000-square-mile (8,000-square-kilometer) area that contains fragile deep sea corals and vulnerable species of marine life. The monument was established in 2016.

A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit last year, and the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the decision Friday.

A federal appeals court on Friday upheld former President Barack Obama's designation of a federally protected conservation area in the Atlantic Ocean, a move that commercial fishermen oppose.

Fishing groups sued over the creation of Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, a 5,000-square-mile (8,000-square-kilometer) area that contains fragile deep sea corals and vulnerable species of marine life. The monument was established in 2016.

A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit last year, and the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the decision Friday.



Connecticut courts moving notices from newspapers to website
Attorney News | 2019/12/26 17:12
The Connecticut court system will usher in the new year by moving required public notices to its website and out of newspapers, citing lower costs and the potential to reach a wider audience.

Media representatives, however, believe the move will result in fewer residents being informed of important legal matters and will be another blow to news companies already dealing with huge declines in revenues. A single public notice can cost a few hundred dollars to run in a newspaper.

It's a concept that's been debated by government officials across the country, but so far one that appears to have gained little traction amid opposition by newspapers.

“State government’s thirst for keeping information out of the public hands knows no bounds," said Chris VanDeHoef, executive director of the Connecticut Daily Newspapers Association. “Every branch of government in our state should be focused on getting information that is pertinent to the citizens of Connecticut out in as many places possible — not fewer.”

The Connecticut Judicial Branch has set up a legal notices section on its website that will go live on Jan. 2, when it ends the requirement to publish them in newspapers.

“It is expected that this will save a great deal of time and expense, and provide greater accuracy and broader notice than newspaper publication," the Judicial Branch said in a statement on its website announcing the move.

Most of the notices at issue are intended for people involved in civil and family court cases, usually defendants, who cannot be located because their current addresses are unknown. While a good portion of the publishing costs are paid for by litigants, the Judicial Branch foots the bill for a large number of people who cannot afford it, officials said.



Roberts will tap his inner umpire in impeachment trial
Legal Business | 2019/12/24 18:51
America’s last prolonged look at Chief Justice John Roberts came 14 years ago, when he told senators during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing that judges should be like baseball umpires, impartially calling balls and strikes.

“Nobody ever went to a ballgame to see the umpire,” Roberts said.

His hair grayer, the 64-year-old Roberts will return to the public eye as he makes the short trip from the Supreme Court to the Senate to preside over President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. He will be in the national spotlight, but will strive to be like that umpire — doing his best to avoid the partisan mire.

“He’s going to look the part, he’s going to play the part and he’s the last person who wants the part,” said Carter Phillips, who has argued 88 Supreme Court cases, 43 of them in front of Roberts.

He has a ready model he can follow: Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who never became the center of attention when he presided over President Bill Clinton’s Senate trial.

As Roberts moves from the camera-free, relative anonymity of the Supreme Court to the glare of television lights in the Senate, he will have the chance to demonstrate by example what he has preached relentlessly in recent years: Judges are not politicians.



High court upholds murder conviction for Albuquerque man
Court News | 2019/12/23 02:51
An Albuquerque man’s convictions in the beating and fatal stabbing of his ex-wife’s husband will stand.

Terry White is serving life in prison plus 12 years for the December 2016 death of Don Fluitt. Fluitt’s body was found in the garage of his northwest Albuquerque home amid a custody battle with his ex-wife over his then-11-year-old daughter.

White’s attorneys had argued the evidence wasn’t sufficient to convict White of first-degree murder, aggravated burglary and tampering with evidence.

The state Supreme Court disagreed in a ruling Monday, saying the evidence was overwhelming.

The justices also said the trial court properly allowed testimony from a Navajo County, Arizona, sheriff’s deputy who said he believed White was attempting to commit suicide at a truck stop in Holbrook, Arizona.

The deputy approached White after seeing a blue hose leading from the exhaust inside White’s vehicle and towels stuffed in the windows. The deputy took White into custody when he discovered White had a warrant for his arrest.

White’s attorney argued the deputy’s testimony was speculative, but the high court said the jury reasonably could have inferred that White was attempting suicide.

White was charged in Fluitt’s death after his DNA was found under Fluitt’s fingernails.


Activists cheer victory in landmark Dutch climate case
Court Watch | 2019/12/22 02:52
In a ruling hailed as an “immense victory for climate justice,” the Netherlands’ top court ruled Friday in favor of activists who have for years been seeking legal orders to force the Dutch government into cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Activists in a packed chamber of the Supreme Court in The Hague erupted into applause and cheers as Presiding Judge Kees Streefkerk rejected the government’s appeal against earlier rulings ordering the government to cut emissions by at least 25% by the end of 2020 from benchmark 1990 levels.

The Supreme Court upheld lower courts’ rulings that protection from the potentially devastating effects of climate change was a human right and that the government has a duty to protect its citizens.

Urgenda, the Dutch climate and sustainability organization that filed the original case, hailed the ruling as “a groundbreaking decision that confirms that individual governments must do their fair share to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

“I am extremely happy that the highest court in the Netherlands has confirmed that climate change is a real, severe problem and that government should do what they themselves have declared for more than 10 years is necessary, namely between 25% and 40% reduction of CO2,” Urgenda director Marjan Minnesma told The Associated Press outside the court.

Faiza Oulahsen of Greenpeace in the Netherlands called the ruling “an immense victory for climate justice.”

Reacting to the decision at his weekly press conference, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said: “I can guarantee we will do everything we can to achieve the goal.”


Saudis sentence 5 people to death for Khashoggi’s killing
Court Watch | 2019/12/22 02:52
A court in Saudi Arabia sentenced five people to death Monday for the killing of Washington Post columnist and royal family critic Jamal Khashoggi, whose grisly slaying in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul drew international condemnation and cast a cloud of suspicion over Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Three other people were found guilty by Riyadh’s criminal court of covering up the crime and were sentenced to a combined 24 years in prison, according to a statement read by the Saudi attorney general’s office on state TV.

In all, 11 people were put on trial in Saudi Arabia over the killing. The names of those found guilty were not disclosed by the government. Executions in the kingdom are carried out by beheading, sometimes in public. All the verdicts can be appealed.

A small number of diplomats, including from Turkey, as well as members of Khashoggi’s family were allowed to attend the nine court sessions, though independent media were barred.

While the case in Saudi Arabia has largely concluded, questions linger outside Riyadh about the crown prince’s culpability in the slaying.

“The decision is too unlawful to be acceptable,” Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, said in a text message to The Associated Press. “It is unacceptable.”

Agnes Callamard, who investigated the killing for the United Nations, tweeted that the verdicts are a “mockery” and that the masterminds behind the crime “have barely been touched by the investigation and the trial.” Amnesty International called the outcome “a whitewash which brings neither justice nor truth.”

Khashoggi, who was a resident of the U.S., had walked into his country’s consulate on Oct. 2, 2018, for a appointment to pick up documents that would allow him to marry his Turkish fiancee. He never walked out, and his body has not been found.

A team of 15 Saudi agents had flown to Turkey to meet Khashoggi inside the consulate. They included a forensic doctor, intelligence and security officers and individuals who worked for the crown prince’s office, according to Callamard’s independent investigation. Turkish officials allege Khashoggi was killed and then dismembered with a bone saw.


US heads to court to build Trump border wall in Texas
Court Watch | 2019/12/20 02:52
Three years into Donald Trump’s presidency, the U.S. government is ramping up its efforts to seize private land in Texas to build a border wall.

Trump’s signature campaign promise has consistently faced political, legal, and environmental obstacles in Texas, which has the largest section of the U.S.-Mexico border, most of it without fencing. And much of the land along the Rio Grande, the river that forms the border in Texas, is privately held and environmentally sensitive.

Almost no land has been taken so far. But Department of Justice lawyers have filed three lawsuits this month seeking to take property from landowners. On Tuesday, lawyers moved to seize land in one case immediately before a scheduled court hearing in February.

The agency says it’s ready to file many more petitions to take private land in the coming weeks. While progress has lagged, the process of taking land under eminent domain is weighted heavily in the government’s favor.


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