Organized labor case goes in front of Supreme Court
Areas of Focus | 2018/02/27 06:58
The Supreme Court is hearing arguments in a case that could deal a painful financial blow to organized labor.

All eyes will be on Justice Neil Gorsuch Monday when the court takes up a challenge to an Illinois law that allows unions representing government employees to collect fees from workers who choose not to join. The unions say the outcome could affect more than 5 million government workers in 24 states and the District of Columbia.

The court split 4-4 the last time it considered the issue in 2016. Gorsuch joined the court in April and has yet to weigh in on union fees. Organized labor is a big supporter of Democratic candidates and interests. Unions strongly opposed Gorsuch's nomination by President Donald Trump.

Illinois government employee Mark Janus says he has a constitutional right not to contribute anything to a union with which he disagrees. Janus and the conservative interests that back him contend that everything unions representing public employees do is political, including contract negotiations.

The Trump administration is supporting Janus in his effort to persuade the court to overturn its 1977 ruling allowing states to require fair share fees for government employees.

The unions argue that so-called fair share fees pay for collective bargaining and other work the union does on behalf of all employees, not just its members. People can't be compelled to contribute to unions' political activities.


Court leaves black judge on case against white officer
Court News | 2018/02/24 06:24
The Alabama Supreme Court is refusing to make a black judge quit the case of a white police officer charged with murder in the shooting death of a black man.

The justices without comment Friday turned down a request from officer Aaron Cody Smith of the Montgomery Police Department.

Smith is charged in the shooting death two years ago of 58-year-old Greg Gunn, who authorities say was walking in his neighborhood when Smith shot him.

Defense attorneys sought a new judge based on social media posts of Circuit Judge Greg Griffin, who wrote about being stopped by police because he is black.

Griffin refused to step aside and accused the defense of injecting race into the case. Smith's lawyers appealed.


Delay in Nevada gun buyer law draws protests at court debate
Areas of Focus | 2018/02/24 06:24
A lawyer seeking a court order to enforce a Nevada gun buyer screening law that has not been enacted despite voter approval in November 2016 blamed the state's Republican governor and attorney general on Friday for stalling the law.

"For either personal or political reasons," attorney Mark Ferrario told a state court judge in Las Vegas, Gov. Brian Sandoval and GOP state Attorney General Adam Laxalt "chose to stand back and really do nothing."

Nevada Solicitor General Lawrence Van Dyke countered that the law was fatally flawed as written because it requires Nevada to have the FBI expend federal resources to enforce a state law.

"State officials here have not tried to avoid implementing the law," Van Dyke said. "They have negotiated (and) talked with the FBI, and the FBI said no, four times."

Clark County District Court Judge Joe Hardy Jr. made no immediate ruling after more than 90 minutes of arguments on an issue that drew about 25 sign-toting advocates outside the courthouse calling for enactment of the measure.

"The people have spoken," said protest speaker Peter Guzman, president of the Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce. "To deny that voice is to deny democracy."

Some speakers, including Democratic state Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui, cited the slayings of 58 people by a gunman firing assault-style weapons from a high-rise casino shot into an concert crowd on the Las Vegas Strip last Oct. 1. Jauregui was at the concert.

Others pointed to gun-control measures being debated nationally following a shooting that killed 17 people last week at a school in Parkland, Florida.

In the courtroom, Ferrario referred to what he called a "movement toward increasing gun checks," while the Nevada law has stalled.

"This loophole that the citizens wanted to close remains open because the governor has failed to take appropriate action," the plaintiffs' attorney said.

Sandoval spokeswoman Mari St. Martin dismissed the accusations as "political posturing." She said the initiative specifically prohibits the state Department of Public Safety from handling background checks, leaving "no clear path forward" to enactment.


California parents face new charges in kids' torture case
Headline Legal News | 2018/02/24 06:23
A Southern California couple suspected of starving and shackling some of their 13 children pleaded not guilty Friday to new charges of child abuse.

David and Louise Turpin previously entered not-guilty pleas to torture and a raft of other charges and are being held on $12 million bail.

Louise Turpin also pleaded not guilty to a new count of felony assault.

Louise Turpin, dressed in a blouse and blazer, looked intently at more than a dozen reporters in the courtroom. David Turpin, wearing a blazer, tie and black-rimmed glasses, kept his eyes on the judge during the hearing. Both said little except to agree to a May preliminary hearing.

The couple was arrested last month after their 17-year-old daughter escaped from the family's home in Perris, California, and called 911. Authorities said the home reeked of human waste and evidence of starvation was obvious, with the oldest sibling weighing only 82 pounds.

The case drew international media attention and shocked neighbors who said they rarely saw the children, who appeared to be skinny, pale and reserved.

Authorities said the abuse was so long-running the children's growth was stunted. They said the couple shackled the children to furniture as punishment and had them live a nocturnal lifestyle.

The children, who range in age from 2 to 29, were hospitalized immediately after their rescue and since then Riverside County authorities, who obtained temporary conservatorship over the adults, have declined to discuss their whereabouts or condition.

Attorneys representing the adult siblings told CBS News, however, that the seven are living at Corona Medical Center, where they have an outdoor area for sports and exercise, and are making decisions on their own for the first time.



Pennsylvania congressional map battle lands in Supreme Court
Legal Business | 2018/02/23 14:23
A request by Republican leaders in the Pennsylvania Legislature to stop a new congressional map from being implemented is now in the hands of the nation's highest court.

The filing made late Wednesday asked Justice Samuel Alito to intervene, saying the state Supreme Court overstepped its authority in imposing a new map.

More litigation may follow, as Republicans are considering a separate legal challenge in federal court in Harrisburg this week.

The state Supreme Court last month threw out a Republican-crafted map that was considered among the nation's most gerrymandered, saying the 2011 plan violated the state constitution's guarantee of free and equal elections.

The new map the state justices announced Monday is widely viewed as giving Democrats an edge as they seek to recapture enough U.S. House seats to reclaim the majority.

House Speaker Mike Turzai and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati said the state's highest court made an unprecedented decision.

"The Pennsylvania Supreme Court conspicuously seized the redistricting process and prevented any meaningful ability for the Legislature to enact a remedial map to ensure a court drawn map," they wrote in a filing made electronically after business hours.

The challenge adds uncertainty as candidates are preparing to circulate nominating petitions to get their names on the May primary ballot.

A spokesman for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, responding to the lawmakers' filing, said Wolf was "focused on making sure the Department of State is fully complying with the court's order by updating their systems and assisting candidates, county election officials and voters preparing for the primary election."

It is the third time in four months that Turzai and Scarnati have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to put a halt to litigation over the 2011 map they took leading roles in creating.

Alito handles emergency applications from Pennsylvania and the other states covered by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Justices have the authority to deal with these applications on their own, or they can refer the matter to the entire court.

In November, Alito turned down a request for a stay of a federal lawsuit, a case that Turzai and Scarnati won in January.


Supreme Court sides with Chicago museum in terror case
Court News | 2018/02/22 14:24
The Supreme Court is preventing survivors of a 1997 terrorist attack from seizing Persian artifacts at a Chicago museum to help pay a $71.5 million default judgment against Iran.

The court ruled 8-0 Wednesday against U.S. victims of a Jerusalem suicide bombing. They want to lay claim to artifacts that were loaned by Iran to the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute more than 80 years ago.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote for the court that a provision of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act does not support the victims' case. That federal law generally protects foreign countries' property in the U.S. but makes exceptions when countries provide support to extremist groups.

The victims, who were wounded in the attack or are close relatives of the wounded, argued that Iran provided training and support to Hamas, which carried out the attack. Iran has refused to pay the court judgment.

The federal appeals court in Chicago had earlier ruled against the victims. The Supreme Court affirmed that ruling Wednesday.

The artifacts in question are 30,000 clay tablets and fragments containing ancient writings known as the Persepolis Collection. University archeologists uncovered the artifacts during excavation of the old city of Persepolis in the 1930s. The collection has been on loan to the university's Oriental Institute since 1937 for research, translation and cataloging.


Courts: Bail reform working, but sustainable funding needed
Areas of Focus | 2018/02/18 14:07
The number of defendants being held before trial since New Jersey overhauled its bail system last year dropped by 20 percent, but the judge overseeing the program says it faces financial difficulties.

A report submitted last week by Judge Glenn Grant, who runs the state's court system, also shows the program faces financial difficulties because it relies on court fees instead of a "stable sustainable funding stream."

Proponents say the reforms championed by former Republican Gov. Chris Christie keep violent offenders detained until trial while providing poor, low-level defendants the opportunity to be freed.

But critics — including some lawmakers, law enforcement officials and the bail bond industry — say it has led to the quick release of some who weren't deemed a threat but were soon re-arrested on new charges.

The data shows 44,319 people were issued complaint warrants in New Jersey last year. Prosecutors sought to have 19,366 defendants detained until trial, but only 8,043 of those people were ordered held.

That means the state's pretrial jail population dropped by 20 percent from January 2017 to January 2018, and by 35 percent from January 2015 to January 2018.

At least two lawsuits have been filed seeking to overturn the changes, including one from a group backed by reality TV star Dog the Bounty Hunter.


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